The Statue of Liberty, Times Square, Broadway Shows, Central Park and a whole bunch of amazing museums are just a few of the reasons New York City should be on every family’s bucket list! Read on to plan your trip today…
The ULTIMATE Guide to New York with Kids
How to Get There:
Traveling to New York City is simple as they are a major tourist destination (over 26 million expected to visit this year) so flights are frequent. In fact, there are more than a hundred air carriers servicing the New York area from all over the country and the world, including American Airlines, Delta, JetBlue, and United.
The two main airports are John F. Kennedy International Airport (JFK) and LaGuardia Airport (LGA). They are both located in Queens and are equally great options. JFK tends to have more flights as they serve more airline carriers but I would fly into whichever has a better deal if it were me.
You can also take a train to New York (we rode Amtrak actually from Washington DC and it was great! You can read Ella’s story on the Amtrak blog here). Here are a few of the train services that travel to New York: Amtrak, NJ Transit, Long Island Rail Road, and Metro-North Railroad.
If you are driving into New York you can google directions. Just be aware that parking is very difficult within the city. It is best to use a site like BestParking.com to compare rates and locate places to park.
Once you arrive you will find that getting around NYC is pretty easy.
New York has a great subway, metro and bus system that can get you almost anywhere you want to go. You can find more information about their services, costs etc… here. We found this to be convenient and cost effective means of getting where we needed to go.
Uber, LYFT and Taxis are all available and easy to track down when you need to get from point A to point B and don’t want to deal with the metro.
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Depending on where you are staying many hotels are within walking distance to the major sites as well. I love strolling with the kids. It burns their energy and we discover all sorts of fun things along the way. However, I have found that walks are best early in the day before the kids are tired. It is no fun to be dragging your kid along whining the whole time 😉
Where to Stay:
New York has a plethora of lodging options. Everything from luxury hotels to AirBnB’s and budget chains. You will have no problem finding a room that is for sure! However, many options are rather small. Not too mention the larger chains tend to treat you like you are just a number rather than a guest. If you are like me and prefer a smaller, more intimate place to call home while you are away than you absolutely MUST check out Hotel Beacon in the Upper West Side.
The Hotel Beacon NYC is one of those hotels that I will never stray from. It fits on my list of great hotels alongside Grand Wailea in Maui, Terranea in California and The Hotel Nicholas in Prague. Just one of those gems of a hotel that is doing everything right!
Hotel Beacon is located next to the famous Beacon Theater, just a short walk to both the American Natural History Museum, Central Park & more!
Their suites are spacious and gorgeously decorated. Plus, they come with a fully equipped kitchen! Pair that with the fact that Fairways Market and Trader Joe’s are nearby and you will see why this place is hard to beat!
Read my full review of our stay and take a peek into our room here. Or check current rates at NYC hotels on Tripadvisor below.
Things To Do:
Before heading to New York I highly recommend you check out the NYC Go website and more specifically their kids section. Here you will find tons of advice on where to stay, sample itineraries and discounts on activities & tours.
Here are the Top 10 Things the Munchkins Enjoyed in NYC
1. The Ride NYC-
We have been on our fair share of bus tours throughout the years. HOWEVER… This is NOT your typical bus tour! In fact, it’s rather the opposite. I will adamantly proclaim that this is THE BEST BUS TOUR EVER!!!
Picture a tricked out bus complete with hydraulics, stadium seating and a ton of gorgeous flat screen tvs. With a host that is funny enough to rival the likes of the best late night television talk show hosts and then pour in some crazy surprise guests. I’m talking dancing, singing, laughter, and tears of joy. This is one tour you absolutely CANNOT miss! It was not only the best tour we took in New York… and the BEST BUS TOUR we have EVER taken!!!
Find more information about The Ride on their website
*Also watch for their deals on Travelzoo Too!
2. Central Park-
No visit to NYC is complete without a trip to America’s first public park. Central Park is one of the most famous and beloved urban parks in the world. Central Park is massive. Inside you can find a zoo, a conservatory garden, a castle, boathouse and of course playgrounds and plenty of room for the kids to run wild. It’s also the perfect place to escape the chaos of people, honking taxi’s and cars that cover the city day and night.
As wonderful as this park is I think it would be best visited by families during the day. It is completely enormous and was meant for people to literally get lost in it. So… it may not be the best place to be after dark.
Find more info on Central Park here.
3. 9/11 Memorial & Museum-
I wasn’t sure how the kids would react to the 9/11 memorials or the museum. The attacks occurred before they were born and even though I know we mention it (and they cover it a bit at school) I knew they would have lots of questions.
Standing at the base of where the building fell on that tragic day was deeply saddening. To think of all the innocent lives lost, the first responders that never made it out… memories just came flooding back through my mind. I am not going to lie. It was HARD.
The kids could feel the mood and they grew somber. As expected the questions came pouring out. Thankfully the 9/11 museum was right there. What better way to give the kids the answers they needed than by visiting the exhibits?
The kids were able to view the television footage, stand before one of the fire trucks that were mangled and melted on that horrible day. It really helped them understand why all the adults around them were upset. They learned a lot that day and handled it incredibly well.
Olivia our 2-year-old was obviously too young but our four older munchkins range from 8-13 years old and I would totally recommend the museum for that age group.
You can get more information by visiting the museum website here, or if you are so inclined you can also make a donation here.
Tip- The 9/11 Museum is part of the CityPass. Get more information on their discount services here.
4. Empire State Building-
The Empire State Building is world famous In fact, Cornell researchers analyzed millions of Flickr photos and concluded that the Empire State Building is the most photographed building in the world back in 2011!
The Empire State Building is located in the center of Midtown Manhattan. Their 86th and 102nd-floor observatories are open to visitors (for a fee) enabling anyone to score incredible 360° views of New York City and beyond.
I enjoyed snapping some amazing skyline views of the city and the kids enjoyed taking an elevator up to the 86th floor and looking out. They were able to spot the Brooklyn Bridge, Statue of Liberty and More!
We visited late in the afternoon and we didn’t have to queue for long. We were able to get our tickets, get up the elevator and take pictures all within about an hour.
My only complaint is $26 bucks per kid adds up quick especially when you have a big family. It might be hard to justify as the kids liked the building but not nearly as much as I did.
Tip- The Empire State Building is also part of the CityPass (see above).
5. Rockefeller Center –
This iconic area of Manhattan is home to many NBC hit shows such as Saturday Night Live, The Today Show & Jimmy Fallon. Not to mention the awesome Radio City Music Hall, the rink at Rockefeller, the Channel Gardens, Top of the Rock Observation Deck and tons of dining and shopping too!
We enjoyed taking in the sights and strolling around the shops. We walked through the Lego store and were mesmerized by the lego version of New York City- it’s spectacular! The kids also loved taking turns having their photo taken in the famous red chair from the hit show The Voice at the NBC Studio Store.
The area around Rockefeller is bustling and lively. There are plenty of great shops + places to sit down and eat, grab a coffee or enjoy a sweet treat! It makes a great stop in the evening as the lights make this area feel somewhat magical!!!
6. Big Bus Hop On/ Hop Off Tours-
I have mentioned before how much we enjoy Hop On/ Hop Off Bus Tours. As per our usual routine the first full day we had in New York we hopped on a Big Bus. The tour took us all around the main sights. We were able to get a peek at 5th Avenue, the Flat Iron District, The Empire State Building & More. We rode the bus until we got to the 9/11 Memorial where we hopped off and enjoyed the memorial and the museum (as I mentioned above).
What I love about the Hop On/ Hop Off Bus Tours is 1) it’s relaxing, 2) it helps us better understand the area and where things are located and 3) it gives us a chance to learn some fun facts about the area, its history + interesting stories about each of the main tourist sites from the live guide on board.
For more information about Big Bus Tours check out their website here.
7. Statue of Liberty-
a “MUST DO” for first timers in New York no doubt is getting to see the Statue of Liberty. Now there are many expensive tours offering to take you to see our Lady Liberty. But, you can save a ton of money by skipping the expensive tours and instead of hopping on the FREE Staten Island Ferry.
This was excellent advice as the ferry runs 24 hours a day and drives right past Lady Liberty on its route to Staten Island. You simply take the subway to Bowling Green or South Ferry then hop on the ferry for a free ride across New York Harbor.
The ferry is massive and so there is no long lines or tight spaces. We pushed the stroller right on the boat and Olivia was able to walk around the inside area the whole time. There are views from the inside spaces via large windows or you can opt to walk on the decks for a close-up.
Learn more about the Staten Island Ferry here.
8. Madame Tussaud’s-
Can you believe we have never been to the famous wax museum? It’s kind of funny because we run into Madame Tussaud’s on many of our travels but it has never made its way into our itinerary until we visited New York.
The kids had a blast taking pictures next to their favorite Hollywood stars (well… their replicas that is) they went back in time and onto movie sets like Wizard of Oz and ET, compared their heights to the likes of Lebron James and more.
The kid’s favorite thing about Madame Tussaud’s though was the Marvel area. The figures in that section were by far the kid’s favorites. They especially loved the enormous Hulk! After taking photos with their favorites we entered the 4D theater where we enjoyed an awesome Marvel show- with a few added thrills I might add 😉
We spent way more time in the wax museum than I would have ever expected to and for that reason I would definitely urge you to put this one on your list!
For more information about Madame Tussaud’s check out their website here.
9. American Natural History Museum-
Want to meet Rexy and Dum Dum?? I bet your kids do! Which is why the Natural History Museum is a super fun place to take the kids. Not to mention the obvious fact that this museum is also educational.
Plan several hours and pack snacks because this is one gigantic museum. Besides chasing down every display from the movie “Night at the Museum” the munchkins also enjoyed the space show- Dark Universe and the Dinosaurs Among Us exhibit.
After you finish up at the museum I recommend grabbing some street food and heading over to relax in Central Park across the street. There is a playground at the entrance of the park on the far left side of the museum. It is gated and has plenty of things for the kids to climb on as well as plenty of benches for parents to rest their tired bodies on. Perfect combo!
Learn more about the Natural History Museum here.
Tip- The American Natural History Museum is part of the CityPass. Get more information on their discount services here.
10. Times Square-
What used to be a place where no one would dream of taking a child, Times Square is now quite the mecca for kids and their wild imaginations.
Here they will love checking out the giant M&M store where they can taste tons of varieties of M&M’s, find out what M&M personality they are with the “Color Mood Analyzer”- ha! And, take a photo with the candy coated Statue of Liberty.
Other fun stops include the Hershey’s Chocolate World store and the insanely huge Disney Store on 45th street. The whole family will enjoy strolling around, enjoying the lights and grabbing a bite to eat too!
Find more about visiting Times Square with Kids from NYC Go here.
Ella and I were lucky enough to see Matilda when we were in New York and it was absolutely amazing!!! The cast had tons of talented child actors that completely blew me away. Ella loved getting dolled up and sitting in the old theater. This was a highlight for sure and we would love to come back for more.
Tip- TKTS has discounted theater tickets and they are the only discounted tickets I would recommend purchasing. Their booths offer same day evening appearances or next day matinee show times.
12. Watch a Game at Madison Square Garden-
The boys went with their dad to a Knicks game at the Madison Square Gardens (also home of the New York Rangers). They came back saying everyone should have the chance to see a game in that arena. Known as the “World’s Most Famous Arena” located in the heart of New York City this place makes you feel alive!!!
Check game schedules and concert showing information here.
Where to Eat:
Shake Shack- I rarely eat beef so hamburgers are clearly not my thing. However, Shake Shack blew me away. Their burger was cooked to perfection, their fries were delicious and their black and white shake was irresistible.
I recommend you go to their original location in Madison Square Park where you can order from the window and enjoy eating your delicious meal in the open air of the park.
Soup Man- we may or may not have force fed episodes of Seinfeld (#FunniestShowEVER) to our kids before our trip to New York. So, you can bet they were excited when we showed up at the inspiration for the Soup Nazi episodes, “The Original Soupman”. The trip was mostly based on being funny… however, the soups ended up being absolutely AMAZING!!!
N O • S O U P • F O R • Y O U . . . We trained them well… And honestly the soup was delicious!! Owen claimed he agrees with Jerry- the soup trumps the girl 😂😂😂 . . . #Seinfeld #SoupNatzi #thisisnewyork #NYC #travelgram #instatravel
A photo posted by Mama Munchkin ✈️ Travel Writer (@global_munchkins) on
With each soup you also receive a piece of baguette, an orange and a Lindt truffle. Sounds odd but it pairs perfectly with the soup creating the perfect little lunch or dinner.
Fun Fact- We heard that the cast of Seinfeld once visited “The Original Soupman” after the Soup Nazi episodes had become so popular. But, the man who the Soup Nazi was inspired by came out and yelled at Jerry Seinfeld for ruining his business (even though he gained incredible fame from it?) and kicked Seinfeld out of his store. Not sure if that is really true… but I sure hope it is. Hilarious!
IndiaKitch- this Indian version of Chipotle quickly became a favorite of ours while we were in New York. We couldn’t get enough of their Chicken Tikka and homemade naan bread. The quality of this food is on par with any nice Indian restaurant I have been to + the prices can’t be beaten!
Doughnut Plant- I spent about 6 months and took several classes to learn how to make amazing doughnuts so I am pretty particular when it comes to eating them. I was most pleasantly surprised when we stopped in at the Doughnut Plant and devoured some of their amazing doughnuts.
They do an amazing job offering up freshly baked artisan doughnuts that taste as good as they look. They are open all day so they make a perfect breakfast or dessert!
There are a heap of different places where you can taste amazing pizza in New York.
Our favorites include Di Fara Pizza (named America’s BEST Pizza Joint by TimeOut.com) where the dough is made fresh several times per day. Joe’s, a Greenwich Village institution, the pizza restaurant inside Eataly for a traditional pie and the obvious choice- Grimaldi’s (pictured above).
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Have you Visited New York? What were your favorite places to go or things to do?? Let me know in the comments below.
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