Are you thinking about traveling to New York City? Here is a post I hope will be helpful as you plan your travel adventure.
Our family did a 5 day, 4 night trip to the Big Apple in October 2018. At the time our four kids (2 boys, 2 girls) were ages 6-12. Before we jump in, here are some of the basics for this particular trip.
- Stayed in an Airbnb in Park Slope in Brooklyn. We discovered New York is not very fond of Airbnbs and has regulations about them we have not encountered in other places. We could not find a legal Airbnb in Manhattan. We ended up loving our stay in a legal Airbnb in Brooklyn in the Garden Apartment of a Brownstone and getting away from the crazy rush of the city each evening. We also had friends that lived a mile away and enjoyed time with them and feeling somewhat local.
- Flew into LaGuardia Airport. Easy in, easy out. Super quick through security. No problems. (But we did travel middle of the afternoon instead of peak travel times.)
- Used Uber. It was our first time to use Uber. We absolutely loved it. Super quick pickups. On the way back to the airport it was a tight squeeze getting all six of us and our luggage into the vehicle, but otherwise all good.
- Used subway. We frequently rode the subway to get from Brooklyn to Manhattan. Avoid rush hour. We didn’t time it right one weekday evening and got to stand sandwiched in the subway car for about 30 minutes. Hated that feeling! Otherwise, the subway was a great option. We had at least two experiences of people asking for money on the subway. So, don’t be surprised if some guys jump on and start singing. It’s all part of the adventure of visiting NYC. We also had a lady give up her seat for me to be able to sit down with my six year old. People were kinder in NYC than the reputation they have.
- Walked a lot. Though we used Uber, the subway, and even the bus one time, we did a whole lot of walking. Wear comfortable shoes, and don’t forget to make sure the kids are wearing some as well.
- Brought winter coat. Coming from the South where it wasn’t that cold yet, I wasn’t sure if we should bring the winter coats or just jackets. However, we’ve been on enough trips where we wished we had brought warmer coats, so I opted for the winter coats. Glad we did! It’s chilly in NYC in late October.
Now for the 23 Places My Family Visited in NYC:
Day 1 (Saturday for us)
- Friends’ home. Much of the day was spent traveling, but we enjoyed catching up with friends over NYC pizza for dinner. If you know someone in the city, I highly recommend reconnecting. It’s enjoyable to visit the home of a local and hear how they enjoy life in the Big Apple.
Day 2 (Sunday)
- Empire State Building. We only took in this massive building from the outside, but it was one of my favorite stops. Louie Giglio says that “If the earth were a golf ball, Betelguese would be the height of six Empire State Buildings on top of each other.” So, we brought a golf ball from Georgia and took a picture of it with the Empire State Building. That was one awesome visual lesson for the family on how amazing our Creator is.
- New York Public Library (Stephen A. Schwarzman Building). We just did a quick stop in the children’s section (the rest wasn’t open yet). This was especially good for my 10 year old who was feeling a little overwhelmed by NYC. Atlanta (where we live) is a big city but seems like a small, quaint town compared to NYC! Finding a quiet nook can help calm frazzled nerves.
- Top of the Rock (Rockefeller Center). If you go to NYC without going to the top of a tall building to take in the city from a bird’s eye view, I think you are greatly missing out. For this trip, we chose Top of the Rock. (My husband has previously gone to the top of the Empire State Building and enjoyed it.) Top of the Rock is a bit pricey (NYC just is), but it’s worth it. However, I was surprised (and mildly irritated) that my six-year-old didn’t care much for the experience (there were a lot of fellow tourists, and by this point she was tired of the crowd…and made her feelings clearly known). Oh well! Go see the view anyway! And try to have more patience with your children than I did!
- Starbucks at Rockefeller. My daughter turned 10 while we were in NYC. One way we celebrated double digits was letting her get her first ever coffee. So, there at the bottom of the Rock, she was formally introduced to the wonderful world of coffee at Starbucks. Coffee is awesome, but experiencing it for the first time in the heart of NYC while watching people ice skate outside Rockefeller is even more memorable.
- The Lego® Store at Rockefeller® Center. The boys can’t get enough of Legos. This was a highlight for them. Meanwhile, I was just across the way at Starbucks sipping coffee with my daughter.
- Central Park. My kids love parks, and so Central Park was a big hit all around. The Trump Tower and The Plaza Hotel were on the way between Rockefeller Center and Central Park, so we acknowledged them as we passed but that was about it. There’s simply not enough time to do everything.
- Central Park Zoo. We love zoos, and this smaller zoo gave just enough animal encounters to satisfy but not take up too much of our time. We had considered going to the Bronx Zoo, but it didn’t fit our schedule well, so this was a nice supplement. I recommend watching a sea lion feeding. (My husband and I did go to Bronx Zoo on a prior trip and greatly enjoyed).
- Central Park Carousel. This was a quick nostalgic stop enjoyed by both children and parents. I had ridden it back in high school, and I found it sentimental to be back with my four kids.
- Times Square. The amount of people and energy and excitement in Times Square is unparalleled in my experience. So, I wanted my kids to see it firsthand. We showed up about 7pm and the place was packed though the night was young. After taking it all in from the outskirts, we started our walk across the plaza in the sea of people. I was excited. Here we were at Times Square as a family! But seconds later, I was clutching my six year olds’ hand and questioning the wisdom of our choice. I felt anyone could snatch her, and she would immediately be lost in the immense crowd. We finally made it to the other side and to the subway station. I’m glad we saw Times Square, but I’d encourage you just to enjoy it from the outskirts with young kids and not wade through the crowd.
Day 3 (Monday)
- Local Diner. We needed to recuperate from all the walking and adventures of the previous day and so took it a little slow this morning. We finally made it to a local diner in Brooklyn for breakfast. We felt almost local since no tourists were there.
- Intrepid Sea, Air & Space Museum. I’m not sure how many people go to NYC for this, but we thoroughly enjoyed touring the aircraft carrier and submarine. We almost didn’t wait in line for the submarine. We were hungry and wanting to get food. But my husband ended up having a work call, so we waited in line while he talked. So glad we did. The submarine was an awesome experience.
- American Museum of Natural History. This isn’t really my type of stop, but we had studied ocean creatures this year in science in our homeschool program, and the museum had a life-size replica of a blue whale. I wanted to see it if at all possible. So, after our other adventures, we booked it to the museum. We arrived shortly before closing time and were able to go in for free! We headed straight to the blue whale exhibit and were blown away by the size of the largest creature known to ever exist on earth. I’m sure there were many other interesting things to see as well, but the blue whale is about all we had time for this trip.
- Reservoir at Central Park. Yes, we went to Central Park again! There is much to explore there (and our kids love it). This time we enjoyed the beautiful view at the Reservoir. For people who are feeling a bit overwhelmed with the pace of NYC, this is a great little escape spot.
- Starbucks in Brooklyn. Yes, we enjoyed Starbucks again. This location was in quiet, family-friendly Park Slope near our Airbnb though. We were celebrating that we had just survived the 30 minute insanely packed subway ride from Manhattan during rush hour. Find something else to do in Manhattan and return to Brooklyn well after the rush!
Day 4 (Tuesday)
- 9/11 Memorial and Museum. We got up early, took a Uber, and were at Ground Zero by 9am. I’m glad we made the effort because the museum was quite empty when we arrived giving the place an even more sacred feeling. By the time we left it was pretty crowded. We had debated about going since we had younger kids and were unsure if it would be to much for them to experience. However, since we were both in our 20s and newlyweds when 9/11 happened, we wanted to go. I am very thankful we opted to see it despite our reservations. The people who created the memorial and museum did such an incredible job honoring the victims and yet educating those who enter. We have talked much about 9/11 with our kids, and I am glad they can now better understand that part of our country’s history.
- World’s Largest Chick-Fil-A. So this, once again, might be one of those stops not on everyone’s top 10 places to go to in NYC. However, this stop was high on my husband’s list. We live in Atlanta where Chick-Fil-A originated. We love the food. And it was in the vicinity. So, we made sure to dine at this five story Chick-Fil-A. We weren’t disappointed.
- Statue of Liberty. This was for the kids. I’m all about the Statue of Liberty, but I was fine seeing her for free from a distance on the Staten Island Ferry as I had done on my high school senior trip. But the kids wanted to go up close and personal. So, we did it for them. Turns out, I am super glad we did. We chose the Pedestal Reserve ticket coming from New York. Security is crazy long for this adventure (understandably). Make sure you know which line is for reserved tickets and don’t waste time waiting in the incredibly long other line for those who are willing to wait 2+ hours to purchase tickets on-site to see Lady Liberty. (However, I was moved to see that many people honoring our country.) We went on a blue-sky day and had amazing views of the city from the monument and learned a lot in the museum. (The new museum at the Statue of Liberty was being built while we were there and is scheduled to open in May 2019. So your experience will probably be even better than ours.) We didn’t end up having time to get off at Ellis Island but that was included in our ticket price as well. Like I said, you have to pick and choose when you visit New York.
- One World Trade Center. We made our way back to Ground Zero area to meet up with someone we knew who could take us to the “sky lobby” on the 64th floor for tenants and their guests. My husband really wanted to do this; however, I personally felt we didn’t need to do a repeat of seeing NY from the top of a tall building. However, after making my opinion heard, I went along with his choice. Once again, I am super glad I followed someone else’s interest. This was a highlight of the trip. The tenant-only floor was blessedly quiet and away from all tourists and provided an amazing view of the city. From this quiet perch we were able to watch the sunset on our last night in this one of a kind city.
- African Burial Ground National Monument. It was after hours when we walked by, but we purposely stopped by and saw as much as we could. This was important for me especially as I have been studying African-American history since fall 2017.
- West New Malaysia Restaurant in Chinatown. A friend at church from Malaysia occasionally travels to NYC to visit relatives and recommended this authentic restaurant to us. Absolutely delicious! We highly enjoyed this off the beaten path restaurant. We had the address and still could not find it without asking for help. We had walked right past the alley where it is located.
- Stargazing with the Amateur Astronomers Association of New York on The High Line. My 8-year-old son loves astronomy. I happened upon this event while researching for the trip and so marked it down as a maybe. So glad we were able to squeeze this in.
Day 5 (Wednesday)
- Prospect Park. We only had a little bit of time before catching our flight back South. We met up again with our friends, enjoyed amazing donuts, and strolled through Prospect Park.
Going to NYC with the whole family was an absolute blast. I was quite nervous beforehand but so thankful we went anyway. I hope this post has helped give you some direction as you consider having your own adventure in one of the most amazing places on earth. Let me know if you have any questions. Happy Planning!
Already been to NYC? Where did you enjoy going?