Tuesday 8 August 2023

Visiting New York City with Kids!

 You might not think that NYC would be a suitable holiday destination for young kids but let me tell you, there is so much to keep them amused and we had such a fun holiday when we visited last year!

Because we were only going for 5 full days, I wanted to plan as much as we could to maximise our time. I'll admit it was rather overwhelming at first but I joined a few Facebook groups, did lots of research online and eventually came up with a plan. One top tip if you are going is, group things together in location. Sounds simple but you don't want to be visiting the Empire State Building and then have to dash downtown to the 911 Museum and back up to Times Square after! Splitting the days up into "areas" really helped me come up with an itinerary. 

You'll find that it is quite expensive to eat out in NYC - do your research and don't head for the tourist traps in Time Square. We didn't have a massive budget and we're not really into fancy restaurants so for us it was easier to grab thing on the go. Cheap pizza slices can be found everywhere, but we also found the Amazon shops quite good value for lunch bits. I also took a big bag of snacks from home so that I didn't have to keep buying food every time the kids said they were hungry (very often) and this worked well. 

Another top tip would be to buy one of the passes that are available - you can save lots of money if you are planning on visiting lots of attractions. Shop around because they all vary in price and have different options. We went with a 5 day New York Pass which cost around $779 for us all. Certain attractions needed to be prebooked but our pass gave us unlimited visits per day so we could squeeze as much in as possible. When I got home I tallied up our attractions and the pass saved us over $400! 

Here's what we got up to: 

Day 1 - LDN to NYC 

We flew out with Virgin from London Heathrow and landed at JFK mid afternoon. We decided to use public transport to get from the airport so we used a combination of the Airtrain and Subway. Much cheaper than taxi and relatively simple. There are tons of videos on Youtube to help you plan your trip - definitely recommend watching a few so you know what tickets to buy and where to get on/off. 

It was a short walk from the Subway station to our hotel - we stayed the Hilton Midtown which is located about 10 minutes from Times Square. We got lucky with our room - we were given an upgrade so had a lovely big corner room on the 13th floor with huge windows and views across to Central Park. 

Everyone was pretty knackered by this point but we spent a couple of hours exploring the area. Times Square was certainly an assault on the senses! It is everything you see on TV and more - it is busy, bright and smelly and not somewhere I felt particular safe to be honest. But you can't come to NYC and not see Times Square at night can you?! 

Jetlagged in Times Square

Day 2 - Empire State Building/Chelsea Market/High Line/Intrepid Museum/Harbor Lights Cruise

Jet lag meant that Erin was wide awake at 330am so that was fun  -thank goodness for ipads and snacks bought from home!! We headed out early (not 330am early mind) and headed to our first attraction of the week - Empire State Building. This building is iconic and I was so excited to visit but unfortunately weather was not on our side. It was thick fog at the top and we literally couldn't see a thing! Still a fun visit though - we loved the displays inside and there are plenty of things to see on the way up. 

What a view!

 From here we walked down 5th Avenue (with a quick stop in the Lego store of course), past the famous Flat Iron building and towards Chelsea. Next stop on our itinerary was Chelsea Market, a foodies paradise and considered one of the world's greatest indoor food and retail marketplaces. So many options and it was hard to pick one but we had hotdogs from Berlin Currywurst which were amazing. The market was decorated for Halloween and looked so spooky and festive!

Chelsea Market at Halloween

After our hotdogs we headed up to the High Line which was right outside the Chelsea Market exit. The High Line is a public park built on a historic freight line, elevated above the streets on Manhatten's West Side. This is definitely a must see if you're visiting - it's a great way to see the City  and despite the hustle and bustle below, it was actually very peaceful and tranquil. There is are lots of art installations along the walk, plus lots of places to sit an watch the world go by. 

Walking the High Line

We followed the High Line all the way to the end at 34th Street and then hopped down to ground level where we headed for our next destination, The Intrepid Sea, Air and Space Museum. This was available on our New York pass and was a great way to spend a couple of hours. There was lots to explore including the aircraft carrier USS Intrepid and Space Shuttle Enterprise. 

The Intrepid Museum

Our final stop for the evening was Harbor Lights Circle Line Cruise. Again, this was included on our NY Pass and it was something we were really looking forward to. It was a chance to see the City from a different perspective and the New York skyline was amazing to see as the sun went down. Unfortunately the weather wasn't on our side and whilst we started the boat trip on the top deck, I soon took the kids to sit downstairs in the dry whilst we left Paul upstairs on photo duty! The cruise was two hours long and took us right past the Statue of Liberty which was definitely a moment to remember. She is so iconic and it took my breath away seeing her lit up in front of me. The kids actually fell asleep on the cruise - the 330am start to the day definitely took it's toll but they did well to last so long! 


Step Count: 24,462 and 10.15 Miles 

Day 3 - Statue of Liberty/Ellis Island/Battery Park/Seaport/Dumbo/Brooklyn Bridge

Another busy day planned and we were up early and on the subway by 830am making our way down to The Battery. (Or Battery Park as it was once known as). From here we hopped on the ferry which took us over to Liberty Island. This was included in our NY Pass and one of the attractions that we had pre-booked. It gets very busy so pre-booking is essential, especially if  you want to get on the early ferries like we did. It was another foggy start to the day so when we arrived on the Island, the visibility wasn't great but it did clear eventually leaving us with fab views of Lady Liberty! We all really enjoyed the museum and learnt a lot. The kids picked up a rangers activity sheet and enjoyed completing this - at the end they got a sticker and a badge so it was well worth doing. 

Statue of Liberty - Liberty Island

From Liberty Island we hopped on another ferry which took us across to Ellis Island. This was on my must-do list and I wasn't disappointed. It was so interesting reading about the immigrants who arrived in America and walking through the Great Hall was gave me a real sense of what it would have been like back in the day. Ellis Island was really great for the kids - there were lots of interactive displays plus they got another rangers activity sheet which helped them understand the history. 

Great Hall - Ellis Island

We spent a couple of hours exploring the National Immigration Museum and decided to head back to Manhatten when it started to get really busy. We had to wait a little while for a ferry back but by the time we were making our way across the harbour, the mist had completely cleared leaving blue skies and stunning views across to the City. And the sun came out! 


Back at Battery Park we let the kids have a go on the famous Seaglass Carousel and then let them run some energy off in a nearby park whilst we enjoyed the sunshine. Although our itinerary was quite packed, it's so important to have some downtime with children and they thoroughly enjoyed the time in the park! 

Seaglass Carousel 

From here we headed into the Financial District and made our way to Pier 17, picking up some snacks and cold drinks on the way. I'd read that Pier 17 had great views across to the Brooklyn Bridge and the views were actually even better than I'd imagined! We found a really cute pumpkin arch there too and we took some really great photos with the bridge in the background.

Overlooking the Brooklyn Bridge at Pier 17

Our next destination was Dumbo (Down Under the Manhattan Bridge Overpass) so we caught a ferry across the river and soon we were standing in front of the iconic Dumbo photo location that everyone flocks to. We didn't quite make it in time for sunset but it was a great photo spot nonetheless. We had a little look around the area but we didn't stay too long as the kids were beginning to flag and it was starting to get dark. Instead we made our way up to the Brooklyn Bridge and headed back over to Manhattan. The bridge is just over a mile long and gives you amazing views of the City.....bear in mind though that there are no toilets on there. We spent the entire length of the walk listening to the kids saying they needed a wee desperately! 

The famous DUMBO photo

After a quick loo break and leg rest in a nearby starbucks, we took the Subway back to Midtown and the kids were asleep within seconds after another jam packed day. 

Step Count: 21,678 and 9.01 Miles

Day 4 - Ghostbusters Firehouse/9/11 Memorial/Financial District/Grand Central Station/Marvel Walking Tour/New York Public Library/Top of the Rock

We started the day by jumping on the Subway and heading to Tribecca where we located the Ghostbusters Firehouse. It's a fully functioning firehouse and the fireman are happy to pose for photos. We love the Ghostbusters films so it was great to see it in real life - not sure what the fireman thought when the kids rocked up in their Ghostbusters costumes though! 

Breakfast was next on the agenda and we stumbled across Zuckers where we had some amazing bagels. It was really busy with locals so we knew we had found a good spot! 

After a quick costume change for the mini ghostbusters we walked to the nearby 9/11 Memorial and Museum. We weren't able to go into the Museum as it was way too busy but we spent some time looking at the memorial. I found it quite emotional seeing all the names (nearly 3000) inscribed in bronze around the two huge pools of water. It's hard to get your head around what happened that day and the sheer size of the memorial was sobering. 

From here we heading towards the Financial District and spotted lots of famous sights including the NY Stock Exchange and the Fearless Girl sculpture. And of course we had to have a photo touching the famous Charging Bull's balls! 


Fearless Girl sculpture at the New York Stock Exchange

Grand Central Terminal was next on the agenda and it was much bigger than I expected. It's one of those places that just feels so familiar after seeing it in so many films. The architecture is stunning and we spotted the famous four faced clock - once rumoured to have been worth $20 million! 

Grand Central Terminal

Our next destination was a quick stop off for a late lunch - we grabbed some bits from a nearby Amazon Go store. These shops are really clever, you scan the app on your phone as you walk in and then just take what you need. No scanning, no queuing - IT JUST KNOWS!! 

After lunch we were ready for our next activity - a Marvel/DC Walking Tour. This was booked through our NY Pass and we thought it sounded quite interesting. Our tour guide was really knowledgeable and it was great to see so many filming locations, especially the Chrysler Building which is instantly recognisable!

When the tour finished we decided to walk back to our hotel via the New York Public Library, another famous filming location for Ghostbusters, and lots more. They were about to close so we weren't able to have a look round but it was handy for a loo stop and a quick break to rest our now very achy feet.

New York Public Library

From here we walked down 5th Avenue - despite being absolutely exhausted, the kids were eager to spend some more pocket money so we did pop in a few shops. We discovered Five Below which was perfect for the kids - everything was under $5 and they had a great selection of toys and snacks. 

We were intending to go straight back to our hotel after the shops but we walked past the Rockefeller Center and decided to do the Top of The Rock observation deck. This was included in our NY Pass and we picked a great time to visit, there were no queues and we went straight in. Being after dark, I wondered what the views would be like but seeing the City all lit up was incredible. Definitely a "wow, am I really here" moment!

The view from the Top of the Rock

Step Count: 23,957 and 9.97 Miles

Day 5 - Central Park/Zoo/American Museum of Natural History

Today was our last full day and we had lots planned, but we started off with pancakes in a nearby cafe. We definitely underestimated the size of the portions, I thought Elliot was going to pop! 

Bellies full, we headed towards Central Park, another iconic location on our itinerary. We picked the perfect day for it - we had totally blue skies which made the Autumn colours really stand out. The park looked stunning and around every corner was another instagram worthy spot for photos. 

Fall in Central Park

There are so many recognisable spots in the park and we were especially keen to find the famous Gapstow Bridge which was featured in Home Alone 2. 

Gapstow Bridge, Central Park

Central Park Zoo was a spontaneous visit but I'm so glad we decided to go in, it might be small in size but the variety of animals and their enclosures was fantastic. We particularly loved seeing the grizzly bears - we were able to view them through the glass panels and it was amazing to see them close up. One of them was having a snooze in the sunshine and she looked so cute! 

Grizzly bear - Central Park Zoo

We were also quite surprised to see puffins - I've only ever seen one in the wild here in the UK so to see a load of them swimming about in a big tank was lovely. They are much smaller then I thought!

We probably spent around 2 hours in the Zoo - we had a good look around the enclosures, we watched a fun short film in the 4-D theatre and we even spotted the famous musical Delecorte Clock

Sea Lion in Central Park Zoo

The next few hours were spent exploring the park - it really was such a beautiful day and the Autumn colours were so vibrant. We loved hearing the busker in Strawberry Fields, we bumped into William Shakespere near The Mall, we watched skaters on Wollman Rink, we ate hotdogs in Sheep Meadow, we climbed the multiple bedrocks and admired the view, we people watched at Bethesda Terrace and we walked til our feet ached! We also stumbled upon a number of playgrounds which the kids loved playing in. 

Central Park is massive and I underestimated just how huge it is - you could easily spend the entire day there exploring! We spent about 6 hours exploring and only saw a small portion of it. 


Bow Bridge, Central Park

Our last stop of the day was the American Museum of Natural History. Having recently watched Night at the Museum, the kids were super excited to look round but due to the sheer size of it we were only able to have a quick visit. We used our New York Pass to gain entry but as it was within an hour of closing, it was free to visit anyway. 

The museum has over 45 exhibition halls but with just one hour to explore we headed straight for the dinosaurs which is something we are all interested in. The T-Rex fossil that dominates the Hall of Saurischian Dinosaurs is an impressive sight to see and of course, very familiar from the Night at the Museum films! We were also able to have a good look around the mammal halls where we found lifesize and realistic mammals of every size and description. This section was brilliant and it was a shame we had to whizz through so quickly.



We got kicked out of the museum at closing time and we had dinner in a nearby pizza restaurant followed by an Uber back to our hotel. A long, but very fun day and we all slept like logs. 

Step Count: 19,987 and 8.29 Miles

Day 6 - Times Square/Hudsons Yard/The Edge/Madame Tussards/Home

Our final day and with our flight not leaving until the evening we had plenty of time in the morning to pack in some more sightseeing. We decided to visit Edge which is the tallest outdoor skydeck in the Western Hemisphere and a fairly new attraction in NYC. The weather was clear and bright so we knew we'd have a much better view than The Empire State Building! 

We headed for the Subway via Times Square and we stumbled upon a zombie flashmob dancing to Thriller. Such a cool thing to see and it made my whole trip!

Zombie Flash Mob - Times Square

Times Square

Edge is located at Hudsons Yard which was a short subway ride from Times Square. We had prebooked our ticket slot and it was relatively quick to get in. It takes less than a minute to reach the 100th floor and before you know it, you are faced with a 360 degree view of New York City in all it's glory. 

The views are stunning and you can see all the way down the Hudson River towards One World Observatory and even the Statue of Liberty in the distance. You can see Central Park, The Empire State Building and so much more. The angled glass gives the best view of down below and if you have no fear of heights you will love the glass floor area! 

Looking 100 floors down!

After a quick lunch at Shake Shack we jumped back on the Subway and headed back to Times Square. We had a little bit of time before we needed to check out of our hotel so we decided to make the most of it and cram in another attraction. We decided to check out Madame Tussards as we were so close and it really was a whistlestop visit! It wasn't really my cup of tea but the kids really enjoyed it and would probably say it was one of their favourite things we did. 

Meeting P.O.T.U.S at Madame Tussards

We headed back to the hotel via Target and the Nintendo store and soon it was time to make our way back to the airport. Again we took the Subway and Airtrain and it was a really straight forwarded and budget friendly way of travelling to JFK.

Step Count: 18,771 and 7.8 Miles

Final Thoughts

We had such a great time in New York City and I feel that we definitely made the most of our time there! The New York Pass was brilliant, not only did it save us money but it meant we could visit a multitude of places, some that we might not have considered normally. 

Budgetwise I don't think we overspent whilst there. We were sensible with food choices and stocking up on drinks and snacks from cheaper places such as Amazon store and Duane Reade was a good option. Places like 7-11 and Mcdonalds are really handy for cheap soft drinks when you're out and about, we loved the huge slushies in 7-11. We found alcoholic drinks to be very pricy and you would definitely need to take this into consideration if you're planning on visiting a few bars while there. 

We found the Subway really convenient and didn't feel unsafe. Yes it was smelly and had some unsavoury looking characters but overall it was fine and definitely helped us get around quicker. Google maps made it very easy to head in the right direction and we liked being able to just tap our phones to buy tickets. 

We found NYC to be really family friendly and would definitely recommend it as a child friendly destination, It was certainly a memorable holiday and has set the bar high for our next trip! 







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