Back in late August, Mrs. T, Baby T1.0, Baby T2.0, my parents, and I went to New York City for nine days. I have meant to write up a trip report and provide travel tips on visiting New York City with young kids for fellow parents but I have been busy. I suppose late is better than never right?
This was my second time in New York City. I visited NYC back in 1997 with my parents and my brother. As a teenager back then, I thought NYC was a scary and sketchy city. Every day we were there, we heard ambulances zipping through the streets with sirens blasting. We didn’t feel particularly safe walking around major tourist attractions like Times Square and Central Park back then.
Maybe because I have travelled to many different cities since 1997, and I am a more seasoned traveller, but my latest visit to New York City gave me a completely different perspective. I felt that the city was very safe, people were friendly and helpful, and I enjoyed walking around the city, even late at night. Safety was never a concern for me, even with two little kids in tow.
Air travel tips with young kids
Both Baby T1.0 and Baby T2.0 started flying since they were little. For NYC, this would have been the ninth airplane trip for Baby T1.0 and the seventh airplane trip for Baby T2.0. Although they are experienced little flyers, we still utilize some helpful strategies to keep them entertained during flights. Here are some air travel tips that we utilized for our New York trip:
- Ask the kids to bring a small teddy bear of their choice. Make sure whatever they picked can fit in a backpack
- Have each kid pack their own backpacks to be carried onboard
- Have a picture book and some crayons available for each kid.
- Prepare some snacks. Prior to the trip, let the kids decide and pick out snacks they’d like. For us, we picked out three healthy options and let them choose.
- Before the trip, I loaded a few kids videos from Youtube like PAW Patrol and Dinosaur Trains on my smartphone. These videos were considered as last resort in case we ran out of onboard entertainment.
- I also installed a couple of LEGO games on my phone in case both kids want to play games. We have a strict rule that the LEGO games are only when we are flying.
- While on board, let the kids decide which kids appropriate movies/cartoons/shows to watch.
- Make sure to bring headphones/headsets for the little ones.
When it came to seating, we had the option to sit 2 and 2 or 3 and 1. We opted for the 3 and 1 options where I sat with the kids and Mrs. T sat in the same row but across the aisle from us. It worked out great. Both kids kept themselves busy throughout the flight and it was easy to keep them entertained. If the kids were younger and needed more help, the 2 and 2 seating arrangement would have been a good idea.
Things to do & see in New York with young kids
Like our trip to Japan and Taiwan earlier this year, we didn’t jam-pack our daily itinerary. We wanted to have ample time, so the kids could play whenever necessary. Therefore, we kept a slow pace in terms of checking out attractions in New York City. Here are some attractions that the kids (and Mrs. T and I), particularly liked.
- Times Square: We stayed at a hotel that was about a 15-minute walk from Times Square. The close proximity allowed us to check out Times Square both at night and during the day. There were a lot of people at night, so we had to pay particular attention when walking around with two little kids. Both kids really enjoyed the gigantic billboards and the street performers that dressed up as PAW patrol characters, Optimus Prime, Bumble Bee, Frozen characters, Pikachu, and other various movie characters.
- Bryant Park: Le Carrousel in Bryant Park was a hit with both kids. They rode the carousel once each but wanted more. The park was a really nice play for the kids to run around as well.
- Statue of Liberty: Before the trip, we borrowed a few books about the Statue of Liberty from the local library. By reading these books, both kids were very interested to see the Statue of Liberty in person. By booking tickets ahead, we were able to walk up to the pedestal, which provided a really nice view of NCY from the water (unfortunately, tickets to the crown were fully booked months ahead).
- Bella Abzug Park Playground: this playground was located on 35th Ave and Hudson Blvd E, close to the Vessel. The playground was great because it had gates all around, so we were able to easily keep an eye on the kids.
- The High Line: this probably was the highlight of our trip. We all loved walking on the High Line and seeing New York from above the street. There were many cool artworks and green spaces along the 1.45-mile-long elevated linear park.
- Intrepid Sea, Air & Space Museum: We were able to get on and explore a submarine and an aircraft carrier, which we all really enjoyed. Not to mention checking out different types of airplanes. Because it was the 50th year of the Apollo 11 moon landing, Space Shuttle Enterprise was on display. Having always wanted to be an astronaut as a young kid, I had way more fun seeing Space Shuttle Enterprise than my kids. Ha!
- Children’s Museum Of Manhattan: Whenever we visit a city, we usually visit that city’s children’s museum to allow the kids to be kids. We weren’t going to make New York an exception. Baby T1.0 and Baby T2.0 explored Children’s Museum of Manhattan freely and really like the Dora and Diego exploration area of the museum.
- Central Park: we visited Central Park many times during our nine-day visit. Heckscher Playground within the park was particularly fun for the kids. The Lake was very nice to check out. The favourite attraction in Central Park for both kids was the Belvedere Castle.
- M&M World: Lots and lots of M&M’s. Do I need to say more?
- FAO Schwarz: FAO Schwarz is located next to the Rockefeller Plaza. Before going to this toy store, I thought it would be the same store as the one in Home Alone 2 but it wasn’t. Having said that, FAO Schwarz was HUGE and both kids had a lot of fun walking around the store looking for toys. To avoid temper tantrums, it might be a good idea to agree on a spending amount for each kid before entering the store and allow he/she to pick out a toy to purchase.
Kids friendly places to eat in New York
There were many amazing restaurants in New York City, but we were quick to find out that restaurants were way more expensive than Vancouver, especially considering the exchange rate. Here in Vancouver, a restaurant with two dollar signs ($$) on Google Maps would cost around $25 CAD per person. In New York, a restaurant with two dollar signs on Google Maps would cost around $30 USD (~$40 CAD) per person.
Being somewhat of foodies ourselves, we didn’t want to skip going out for food for the sake of saving money (no more next time syndrome!). To keep expenses reasonable, we avoided ordering appetizers and desserts from time to time. Here are some restaurants that we really enjoyed:
- Eataly: Eataly is more than an Italian grocery store. It is an Italian food experience which included groceries, prepared Italian foods, sit-down restaurants, bars, cafes, wine shops, etc. The pizza and pasta from Eataly were absolutely amazing. We bought bread, prosciutto, cheese and ate them in a park for couple of lunches. We bought similar items a few days later and ate them for dinner in our hotel room while watching TV. Since we don’t have TV’s at home, both kids thought the TV dinner was a real treat!
- Momofuku Noodle Bar: Not the cheapest place to eat but the ramen and pork buns were AMAZING! The kids and I devoured the pork buns within minutes, and we had to order a second portion because it was SO good!
- Gotham West Market: We stumbled upon this place when we visited Intrepid Sea, Air & Space Museum. There were many eateries this market, so everyone in the family could pick and choose what they want to eat.
- Chelsea Market: This was the place to be if you want to try many different types of food. Baby T1.0 loves the hot dog from Dickson’s Farmstand Meats. I particularly enjoyed the seafood chowder from Lobster Place. Baby T2.0 enjoyed the soft-serve sesame tahini ice cream from Seed + Mill. Mrs. T really liked the fresh vegetarian sushi from Beyond Sushi. We wished that we could have visited Chelsea Market multiple times on this trip!
- Hell’s Kitchen Area: There were many affordable restaurants in the Hell’s Kitchen area. Walking up and down 9th Ave from around 36th Street all the way to Central Park (~57th Street), you will come across something that you like.
- Milk Bar: Not exactly a lunch or dinner place but after seeing Christina Tosi on Master Chef and Chef’s Table we knew we had to check out Milk Bar. The place, although quite expensive, did not disappoint! The cereal and cookie composite ice cream were delicious. We didn’t order the Milk Bar Pie (it used to be called Crack Pie, but I guess they changed the name for marketing reason) because Mrs. T signed up for a Milk Bar class. Since the class was on a weekday with a low attendance rate, Mrs. T came back to the hotel with two Milk Bar Pies and a handful of truffles. When I tried the Milk Bar Pie for the every first time, I couldn’t stop eating it! I ended up having three slices of this delicious pie within 10 minutes. I totally understood why it used to be called Crack Pie!
- Pret A Manger: This chain store is all over NYC. Pret A Manager offers ready-made sandwiches, coffee, soups, and salads. It was a great place to grab a quick bite.
Tips for parents travelling in New York with kids
We all had an amazing time in New York but we certainly looked up for some tips before our New York trip. Some tips were useful, some weren’t as useful. Here are some tips for parents travelling in New York with young kids or toddlers that we found particularly useful for us:
- Explore the city on foot: We walked A LOT while in New York. One day we walked from 36th Street all the way to Central Park and back with our two kids. Another day we walked from the Strawberry Fields in Central Park (72nd St) all the way up to Belvedere Castle (~81st St), then walked all the way down to Columbus Circle by 58th Street. We thought about walking all the way back to our hotel on 36th Street but decided to take the subway instead as both kids were clearly exhausted. Exploring New York City on foot was great because we got to see so many different things that we wouldn’t otherwise if we were to travel via the subway. Walking everywhere also helped to burn off the excess energy that the kids had.
- Carry a water bottle around: It was ridiculously hot in New York City when we visited so it was a good idea to stay hydrated throughout the day. By carrying a water bottle around, we also avoided buying bottled water and creating unnecessary plastic waste.
- Book Sightseeing Pass: We booked the sightseeing flex pass prior to our trip which allowed us to check out two attractions and use the hop-on-hop-off bus tours for 72 hours. The bus tours were great because we were able to check out downtown and uptown and get off when we wanted to (Sightseeing Pass link here).
- Obey traffic laws: There were a lot of cars so it was important to obey all traffic laws. Never jaywalk, look both ways when crossing the streets, and never assume cars would stop for you, even if you had the walk signal! And remember to hold hands if your kids are small! When we were walking around the city, Mrs. T and I would each hold onto one of the kids. We got separated walking around Times Square and it was good that we had agreed on a meeting spot in case we got separated.
- Wear comfortable shoes: Nobody wants to deal with blisters during a vacation so make sure everyone, especially your kids, is wearing comfortable shoes.
- Pack snacks: Kids get hungry fast when they are running around. To avoid hangry kids, always pack snacks!
- Use the subway: Since the fare was $2.75 per ride, we only took the subway for longer distances. For shorter distances, we walked.
Years ago, I would have toured New York City at a super-fast pace and see as many attractions as I could. Having kids have changed my attitude toward travel significantly. Touring New York City at a slower pace was much more enjoyable. We saw a lot of attractions and enjoyed some great food. Sure we didn’t see EVERYTHING we wanted to see but that is totally OK. We would love to go back to New York City in the future and explore the city more.