If you’re planning a NYC family vacation, this is the best place to start planning! From What To Do With Kids in NYC, to Where to Eat in NYC with Kids, and Where to Stay – we have everything you need for planning the ultimate NYC Family Vacation in our Ultimate Guide to NYC with Kids!
Everything You Need to Plan a Trip to NYC with Kids
NYC is one of our family’s favorite travel destinations.
It has so many wonderful attractions for every member of the family – from the best restaurants, amazing cultural landmarks and exhibits, museums, kids’ activities, and more! We usually try to stay in New York for at least a week to soak up as much as we can before we have to leave.
We really like to jam pack our days while travelling, but we only have one or two “priorities” per day. I schedule other things into our day and know where other fun things to do are (relative to where we will already be) but they are flexible. For example, my daughter ended up loving the two Children’s Museums we explored in NYC so we stayed longer and skipped some optional things I had researched as back-ups.
However, those extra plans come in handy when something just doesn’t live up to the expectations. (I don’t know why I thought my 6 year old would like the Museum of Natural History, but I’m glad I knew where the castle was in Central Park – and that there was good pizza and ice cream within walking distance of the museum when her hour of interest was up!)
Two important things to consider in your planning is that there is a LOT of walking in NYC and it experiences extreme weather. It gets super humid in the summer, and the winters can be cold and icy. If travelling in the summer, bring a misting water bottle with you and plan lots of down time and breaks. In the winter, bundle up and have extra money for cabs on days when it’s just too cold to walk anywhere.
NYC is one of the few places I will still agree to put Ella in a stroller. My feet were so swollen within the first two days of our first trip that I couldn’t get my shoes back on! (Combination of too much walking and lots of humidity.) So – invest in some cute, comfortable shoes. You’ll thank me later.
Below, you’ll find overviews for our favorite hotels, activities, and places to eat. I also have several more blog posts that go deeper into each category which I link to where appropriate. Please do not hesitate to comment with any questions you run into while planning your family’s NYC vacation!
Pin this post for your future NYC Family Vacation Planning.
Where to Stay in NYC with Kids
We have stayed at two hotels in NYC and I still have a bucket list of NYC hotels to stay at!
We loved our stays at Langham Place NYC in Midtown and The Watson in the Hell’s Kitchen area. I still would love to stay at The Carlyle, Waldorf Astoria, The Plaza and The Jane – all completely different experiences, I’m sure, but they are all NYC legends.
Langham NYC is a luxury hotel located right on Fifth Avenue, just doors down from the Empire Tower and close to so many NYC landmarks. They have a variety of packages, we opted for the American Girl package and it was an absolutely first class stay.
We also stayed at the Watson (an under-the-radar hotel) mainly because it is a rare find for an NYC hotel: it has a pool and it’s under $700! Our nights averaged $225 and it had a rooftop pool perfect for summer weather. Other than that the amenities are quite standard, but you kind of have to suspend your “normal rating system” for NYC hotels. You are in one of the most expensive cities in the world and it’s all about location, location, location. For $225 I can stay at a 4-star hotel in Chicago or Orlando, but in NYC, you’re lucky to get 3 stars for that price.
There are often pools at the hotels just outside of NYC – in Brooklyn or New Jersey – but after travelling for 7 years with kids, I think staying in close proximity to the attractions you intend to visit is important. Travelling for 30-45 minutes outside of the city might not seem so bad when you’re booking your trip (or on that first morning), but after dragging you and your tired kids back to the hotel and falling into bed, exhausted and dirty from wandering the city all day, you’ll be cursing whoever thought it was a good idea to stay “just outside the city.”
(Brooklyn is perhaps the exception since there is plenty to do there – but if you are planning to be mostly in Manhattan, make sure you’re at least close to the subway line.)
However, if you have experience booking Air B&Bs, I have friends who swear by it for NYC with kids. (Keep in mind, they are officially banned in the city and you may run into some issues.)
What to Do with Kids in NYC
First, you need to check out my MEGA LIST of 100 Things to Do in NYC with Kids. Obviously we didn’t do everything on the list, but every item has been researched to ensure that it will be worth a visit.
I also highly recommend looking into a CityPass (at least for the adults in your party) if you plan to visit three or more of the attractions they cover. The Empire State Building alone is $57 without the Express Pass – $85 with it:
- The Empire State Building (the express pass is much-needed on a weekend! We walked past the general admission line and it looked like it would take 3 hours easily to get through – while the Express Pass got us up to the top in less than 20 minutes)
- American Museum of Natural History
- Metropolitan Museum of Art
- Top of the Rock OR Guggenheim
- Statue of Liberty & Ellis Island OR Circle Line Sightseeing Cruise
- 9/11 Memorial & Museum OR Intrepid Air, Sea & Space Museum
For more in-depth details of our favorite things to do in NYC with kids, check out our 100 Things to Do in NYC.
Where to Eat in NYC with Kids
I did an entire post on my favorite foodie spots in NYC with kids that goes into a lot more detail, but in general you want to plan to be flexible if this is your child’s first big city trip. NYC is hard on my legs – and it’s one of the few cities that I will agree to a stroller for my six year old. And if you’re travelling in the summer, expect heat, humidity – and crankiness!
Planning for low-key meals, at locations like Eataly or Chelsea Market allows you to not be ruled by reservations or require the kids to have their best table manners at every meal.
Of course, you’re in New York and will probably want to eat at a couple of nice restaurants – but try to make early reservations and not overload those days. If something is considered a “hot spot” (like Black Tap was when we visited) you might want to skip it. Nothing tastes good enough to wait in line for an hour or two with kids… Nothing.
I also had great luck booking popular restaurants for a lunch reservation – it’s cheaper, the kids are more likely to be in a good mood, and it’s often less crowded.
We also had a really awesome experience taking a Chelsea Market food tour through Foods of NY Tours. They are equal parts informative and delicious – plus you meet other foodie travellers in a relaxed setting and work off a bit of those calories as you walk!
The spots we hit up included:
- Takashi – yakiniku (individual hibatchi) restaurant and a favorite of Anthony Bourdain’s
- Big Gay Ice Cream – several locations and an NYC staple, expect lines but a delicious treat at the end!
- Shake Shack – several locations, don’t expect to be satisfied with any other burger after eating one of these! And definitely grab a frozen custard to finish off your meal.
- The Bagel Shop – home of the rainbow bagel, there are now two locations so you don’t need to trek to Brooklyn. These are very sweet, dessert-like, and should be shared!
- Alice’s Tea Cup – three locations, all whimsical and fun brunch or lunch spots inspired by the Lewis Carrol book
- Lalo’s Cafe – that memorable scene from When Harry Met Sally was filmed here
- Bagels & Co – amazing bagels and the best ever garlic and herb cream cheese
- Osteria Morini – authentic Italian dishes
- Dominique Ansel Bakery – home of the cronut and other French pastries
- Maman – a sweet lunch spot, the homemade OREOs are must-tries
- Sarabeth’s Central Park West – several locations, this is the restaurant that started it all when it comes to brunch!
- Black Tap – home of the original freak shake and some crazy burger concoctions
- Her Name is Han – amazing family-friendly Korean restaurant near 5th avenue
- Magnolia – banana pudding, cupcakes, you can’t go wrong at this cult classic
- Serendipity 3 – made famous by the eponymose movie, the frozen hot chocolate is a must-try
- Eataly – a market with several Italian restaurants, shops, and a few dessert spots, too
- Becco – conveniently located in the theatre district
- Chelsea Market – so many delicious shops and stalls, plan to spend a couple hours here
- Ample Hills Creamery – several locations, voted the best ice cream in NYC, definitely try the Ooey Gooey Butter Cake
- Creamline – located in Chelsea Market, definitely try the deep fried OREOs for dessert
- The Tuck Shop – located in Chelsea Market, prepare for some delicious meat pies
- Dickson’s Farmstand Meats – located in Chelsea Market,
- Cappone’s – located in Chelsea Market,
- Oppa – Korean BBQ located in Gainesvoort Market
NYC is one of our family’s favorite vacation destinations and there is so much to do with kids in the city that never sleeps!