Since our family moved to New York, I’ve received countless emails, tweets and questions for my recommendations about where to go and what to do if you’re coming to New York City.
While NYC may not come to mind as one of the prime spots for family vacations, there is so much to do and see in the city that is perfect for kids and families. I’ve been jotting my notes down for the past month and am finally putting it together for you all. These are all the spots I like to take my family and friends when they are visiting.
WHERE TO STAY
When people ask me where they should stay during their visit, I immediately follow up with “well, what do you want to do while you’re here?” Sit down with a map and circle all the things you would like to do and places you would like to see – monuments, museums, restaurants, playgrounds – and then try to find a hotel located close to all those things. That way, you’re not burning fare on taxi rides, subways or Lyfts.
Generally, I recommend this hotel because it is centrally located and walkable to typical tourist attractions most visiting families want to see, like Central Park, Broadway, Rockefeller Center and Times Square. Plus, if you book far enough in advance, it’s not too expensive (for New York standards!).
If I am unfamiliar with any area, or I want to see if a specific hotel I’m interested in is worth my money, I always, always, always check the reviews and photos on Google, TripAdvisor and Yelp. (Yes, I typically do check all three.) This gives me a good idea as to whether I’d like to book that hotel. Some of the reviews can be harsh, but if it’s in a good part of town and looks clean, I’m more inclined to book.
HOW TO GET AROUND
Before I moved to the city, I was so hesitant and nervous to ride the subway. But as I got used to it, oh my heavens, it’s SO easy, inexpensive and FAST! Traffic is normally always awful in the city, so the subway is our go-to option. If you are an iPhone user, open your maps app (not to be confused with the google map app), type in the location you’d like to go and click the blue “directions” button. It will automatically populate with the driving directions and travel time. But, there are also walk, transit and ride options at the bottom of your screen that you can click. I use the transit button ALL THE TIME. It tells me what subway station is closest to me, what trains to take, when to get off and number of stops to get to your destination. It is the app I use the most in the city! It’s also helpful for walking directions. Just be sure to double check the directions before you’re pounding the pavement and in the heart of the city because odds are, your cell signal will be bouncing off the buildings around you and won’t work as well.
If you are uncomfortable taking the subway, Lyft is generally cheaper than Uber, from the handful of times I’ve compared my experiences. I like these options much better than taxis because there is no exchange of physical money; it is automatic. However, keep in mind that both Uber and Lyft charge extra fees during “busy” times of day. If you’re not in a rush, try a rideshare through those apps. It’ll take longer because you’re essentially sharing the ride with a few extra passengers, but it does end up being cheaper in the long run.
Lyft also just launched a carseat option! So, if you are traveling with small children and don’t want to bring your big car seat from home, use this option! You are provided a carseat for a minimal extra charge and the convenience factor cannot be beat. (This is a forward facing carseat offered; infant, rear-facing seats are not provided.)
Hailing a cab is generally quick and painless, but depending on the time of day, you might not be able to get one. I’ve only used a cab once since living here.
WHAT TO DO
I could write for days on what to do in New York City! There is so much to do and see. Odds are you won’t have time to do it all, so be picky and do only what you’re dying to do…and then plan another trip to the city!
- The Statue of Liberty: We took our kids here and loved our experience! We went to the actual island with purchased tickets this past summer. If you want to see it for free, take the Staten Island Ferry and it’ll float right by.
- World Trade Center Memorial and Museum: The memorial is free, but going into the museum and getting a tour of One World Trade Center is not. It’s pretty somber and sad, but still fascinating.
- New York City Library: It is just a beautiful building to see!
- Central Park: It’s so iconic! I’d recommend renting bikes for 2-3 hours so you can peddle around to see the important landmarks within the park: Sheep’s Meadow, Bow Bridge, Bethesda Fountain, the Boathouse, Belvedere Castle and more!
- Rockefeller Center: This is super fun for families, particularly if you’re a morning person and want to be in the TODAY Show audience that waves and cheers outside. Also, at Christmastime, you can go skating on the rink at Rockefeller
- Top of the Rock: This has the best views of the city and especially of the Empire State Building. Buy your tickets a few days in advance for either early in the morning for very few crowds, or find out when sunset is to get gorgeous photos!
- Empire State Building: I love visiting this building because of Sleepless in Seattle. They also have great views of the city!
- Broadway Show: I’ve never been to a show that has disappointed! They are all so good. Look for the ticket booth under the red stairs in Times Square for discounted tickets for some shows.
- Times Square: So iconic and a must see.
- Brooklyn Bridge: From the Brooklyn end, you get great views of Manhattan. The bridge is one mile long.
- Chelsea Market: It’s super fun to visit food shops and restaurants, all in one place. Plus, they film a lot of Food Network shows here on the upper levels.
- Washington Square Park: The arch and fountain are picturesque. In the summer, you can play in the fountains (which is what I did with my kids this past summer).
- The Friends Apartment Building: I recommend you only visit this spot if you totally love Friends...like I do.
- Seinfeld Restaurant: My husband is a Seinfeld LOVER. So, this is a fun, quick stop.
- Lincoln Center/Juilliard: They offer pretty inexpensive shows and ballet performances here!
- Radio City Music Hall: There are so many different performances that take place here! Check the online schedule.
- Grand Central Station: This offers a gorgeous backdrop for photos, and it’s always hustling and bustling.
- Eataly: This is a fun stop for purchasing imported Italian foods and eating amazing pasta and gelato!
- Flatiron Building: This is such an iconic New York City building! And down the street from the Empire State Building, too!
WHERE TO EAT
Again, I could go on and on about what you should be stuffing your faces with while you’re visiting this city. But, here’s where we love to eat:
- Cheese Samples from Murray’s Cheese Shop (Greenwich Village)
- Magnolia Bakery Banana Pudding (Lots of locations!)
- Macarons from Laduree (Soho)
- Drinking Chocolate from Bouchon Bakery (Midtown)
- Macaroni and Cheese from Max Brenner (Gramercy Park)
- Warm chocolate peanut butter cookies (or chocolate chip!) from Levain Bakery (Upper West Side)
- Frozen Hot Chocolate from Serendipity (Midtown East/Upper East Side)
- Margherita Pizza with Pepperoni added on and Cannoli from Juliana’s (Brooklyn)
- Killer Bee Pizza from B-Side Pizza and Wine Bar (Hell’s Kitchen)
- Pad Thai and Steamed Chicken and Shrimp Dumplings from OBAO (Hell’s Kitchen)
- Salty Pimp Ice Cream Cone from Big Gay Ice Cream (Greenwich Village)
- Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough Cone from DO (Greenwich Village)
- Pastrami on Rye from Katz Deli
- Burgers, Cheese Fries and Concretes from Shake Shack (Lots of locations!)
- Any donut from Doughnut Plant (Lower East Side or Midtown/Times Square)
- Brioche Donuts (!!!) from Dough (Flatiron District)
- Rainbow Bagels from The Bagel Shop (Brooklyn)
- Original Cheesecake from Junior’s (Times Square)
- Liege Waffle with Nutella and ice cream from Waffles and Dinges (Lots of locations!)
- Hot Dogs from Grey’s Papaya (Upper West Side)
- Hot Potato Chips with Blue Cheese Fondue from The Smith (Lots of Locations!)
- Tutti Frutti mini donuts from The Doughnuttery (in Chelsea Market)
- Black and White Cookies from William Greenberg (Upper East Side)
- Hazelnut, Almond, Chocolate or Lemon gelato from Amorino (3 locations)
I can’t wait to hear about your travels! Where are your favorite places to stay, visit and eat while in the city? For more tips from me, visit LaurensLatest.com!