Planning a family trip to New York can seem daunting, so we asked family travel expert Erin Bender, from the popular blog Travel With Bender, for her first-hand advice on how to take a bite out of the Big Apple … with kids.
So you found a great deal on flights to New York? Excellent! Perhaps you’ve never been before, or you visited before children arrived on the scene. Is there a place for your family in New York?
Here’s my recommended way to spend a fun weekend getaway with the kids in the exhilarating heart of New York.
New York skyline at sunset
Arrive at the airport and make your way into Manhattan to check into your hotel. Our favorite family-friendly hotels include:
Walk along 7th Ave. towards Times Square, with a quick detour to 8th Ave. for a $1 slice of cheese pizza from 2 Bros Pizza. Soak up the craziness that is Times Square. Stick little ones in a stroller or keep a hold of small hands, as this is the busiest area of New York.
New York’s iconic huge pizza slices!
If it’s not too late, take the kids to M&M’s World to try hundreds of different colored candies and meet the costumed characters. A stone’s throw away is the Hershey Store, which is also worth a smell and taste. And if you are really adventurous, you can walk 1.4 miles east to Dylan’s Candy Bar store on 3rd Ave. to gaze at hundreds of varieties of candy (and try a few, of course).
Return to your hotel for a good night’s rest, because tomorrow you will be clocking up quite a few steps on your FitBit.
The bright lights of Times Square at night
Start the day off with The Ride. It’s, hands-down, the best tour you can do in New York and an ideal way to get your bearings in the big city, while keeping the kids contained. Plus, it’s great fun! The Ride is a fusion of entertainment, comedy, theatre, music and sightseeing. You will be chauffeured around in a multi-million dollar bus checking out classic New York City sites while interacting with street performers and local residents.
Discovering New York’s streets on The Ride
If possible, try to avoid Times Square for lunch. Many restaurants here are designed to turn over large amounts of food and guests at the expense of quality. I recommend heading a few blocks west to Hell’s Kitchen, or further afield for an unforgettable feast. Choose from an iconic Reuben sandwich, spicy Thai, mouthwatering Mexican, authentic Korean, or dozens of other cuisines.
There are so many ways to spend a leisurely afternoon in New York. For a budget-friendly option, catch the free Staten Island ferry from Battery Park, which sails past the Statue of Liberty. Or, for an up-close experience, catch a paid ferry to Ellis Island and Liberty Island, and don’t forget to capture a selfie with Lady Liberty herself.
Statue of Liberty – even more spectacular in real life
Another idea is to wander around Central Park. In winter, try your hand (or foot) at ice-skating. In summer, fly a kite or sail a toy boat. You could also stroll through Central Park Zoo or take a horse-drawn carriage ride.
Lastly, scale the Empire State Building or Rockefeller Center. Both offer amazing city views, but we found the kids enjoyed Top Of The Rock in Rockefeller better because it wasn’t as busy and there is ample seating for tired legs.
View of Midtown and Downtown from Top of the Rock
It’s time to catch one of the most famous musicals in the world. Take the kids to Broadway to see The Lion King or any number of world-class shows. You can’t help but be entertained and awed.
If theatre is not your style, consider a New York Knicks basketball game at Madison Square Garden or a Yankees baseball game.
Watching the New York Knicks in Madison Square Garden
Start out early this morning at the American Museum of Natural History. Resist the temptation to spend all day here. Regardless of how long you stay, it just won’t be enough time to see everything. Attempt to shortlist favorite areas beforehand and make a b-line to those parts of the museum first. From the Easter Island head (seen in A Night At The Museum) to the T-Rex bones in the Hall of Saurischian Dinosaurs, everyone in the family will adore this place.
Tip: Download the free Explorer app to navigate the museum like a seasoned pro.
Easter Island head in American Museum of Natural History
It’s quite possible that it’s time to pack your bags and head home. But if not, make the time to visit the Children’s Museum Of Manhattan (CMOM). It’s the perfect place to let the kids blow off steam with educational play and for you to sit down and catch your breath before that flight home.
Other Handy Tips
If you aren’t pushing a stroller, then the subway system is the easiest way to get around Manhattan. Up to three children shorter than 44 inches can ride free with a paying adult. And you can save $.25 per ticket by using a reloadable MetroCard (available for purchase from most subway stations). Taxis and Uber can also be cost effective when you travel in a group of 3 or 4.
CityPass offers a discount of 40% on 6 popular New York attractions. An easy way to save money and skip some of the ticket queues.
With so much to pack into one whirlwind weekend, it helps to plan ahead. But there’s no doubt that your family will remember this trip to New York forever. Big or small, young or old, New York City knows how to capture the heart, mind and soul.
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