I really admire people who not only manage to travel with their kids but to do it on a reasonable budget (because let’s be real, it’s easy to do amazing vacations if money is no option!). Sarah is just such a person. She just amazes me with how she is able to plan fabulous trips for her family. This year, she went to New York City with her husband and her two boys. But it wasn’t the first time she’d done this — it was the 5th time she and her husband went with the kids! I asked her if she could share some tidbits from her trip and she generously agreed! In this first part, she focuses in on Midtown New York City.
I fell I love with New York city on my very first visit. I was overwhelmed by the sights, sounds and tastes of this amazing city. I have now visited a total of 9 times, and I don’t think it will ever be enough!
My first trips to NY were with the husband. We spent our time enjoying the theatre, art galleries, parks and the food! We knew we would love to come back with our kids one day! That day came when our boys were 5 1/2 and 3. Since that first visit, we have been 5 times with our boys and I have been asked many times “what do you do there with kids?” I find it a funny question as though it is a city void of children! In fact, it is a city with millions of young residents and even more little tourists, and there are TONS of family-friendly activities!
The best way to plan your time in NYC is to break your days down by what section of the city you will be in. So, I will first suggest KID-FRIENDLY things to do in MIDTOWN and in Part 2 of this series, I will offer ideas for DOWNTOWN. I hope this may inspire your family to take a bite out of the Big Apple!
#1: CENTRAL PARK is one of our favorite place to spend time in NY. This beautiful 843 acre park extends between 59th and 110 Streets and has 38 million visitors a year!
There are 21 playgrounds in total, our favorite of which is the Heckscher Playground (CP South at 7th Ave). This almost 3 acre large park has all the usual playground attractions, along with a water feature and giant rocks for climbing. It also has great washroom facilities and is completely fenced in, which is a huge bonus for parents!
The Central Park Zoo is another great spot for children! Located near the southeast corner of the park, it is a great way to spend a few hours! (If your kids are fans of the Madagascar Movies they will love visiting here!) It’s amazing to stand admiring polar bears and sea lions, with the Manhattan skyline as your background.
Another of our favorite spots in Central Park is the Swedish Cottage Marionette Theatre. For a very reasonable price, you can see a marionette puppet show in this charming theatre (W 79 Street). It is a great spot with young children as the shows aren’t very long and appeal to a young audience. Reservations are recommended.
Other great spots not to miss in Central Park are: Belvedere Castle & Turtle Pond (W 79th Street), The Mall (aka the literary walk) and the Bethesda Terrace (mid-park at 72nd Street), The Carousel (mid-park at 64th Street, fun for kids and adults!), The Bow Bridge (west side of the park at 72nd Street), The Gapstow Bridge (east side of the park at the pond near 59th street & 5th avenue), The Conservatory Waters (featured in the book, Stuart Little, East 74th Street)
The park is very big and there is a lot to see but everything I mentioned is in the South end of the park and can easily be reached on foot, even with small legs! I recommend bringing a MAP as there are not a lot of directional signs within the park. If you have older kids, you can also rent bikes (helmet, lock and map of park included) which is a great way to see other sections of this massive park!
My family has walked the length of the park with our boys (50 blocks!) I managed this with a little pre-planning. I made a “scavenger hunt” before our trip, and had them look for various statues, bridges etc. and check them off their list — this kept them motivated and walking!
#2: NATURAL HISTORY MUSEUM: on the West side of the park at 79th street- if you plan to visit just one museum during your stay, this is the one! It is a perfect spot for children with lots to see. It is also the location used in the movie “Night at the Museum”. You can walk to it through the park, or there is a subway station directly underneath as well.
#3: TOP OF THE ROCK: 30 Rockefeller Plaza. 70 floors up you can enjoy and open air, 360 degree view of the city, including Central Park. By far, my favorite view! Rockefeller Centre is also a nice area to explore, even when the skating rink is closed.
#4: STORES: Some stores that kids just love are …
- F.A.O. Schwartz-located on 5th Ave near the park entrance this is a stop the kids will love! Make sure to head upstairs so the kids can have a turn on the floor Piano (featured in the movie “BIG”)
- The LEGO STORE– located 620 5th Ave (Rockefeller) this is a must see for LEGO lovers of all ages!!
- American Girl Place– 609 5th Avenue- if you have girls who have dolls (which I don’t) you may want to stop by.
- Nintendo World-101 Rockefeller Plaza- for all the gamers…. worth a sneak peek!
#5: TIMES SQUARE: visit at night when the lights are bright! This is a very busy spot so if you have little ones, a stroller may come in handy! Be sure to stop in at the big TOYS R US and ride the Ferris Wheel!
#6: BROADWAY: there are many family friendly shows to see (Lion King, Newsies, Annie & Matilda to name a few)…… tickets are expensive but can be bought for less at the TKTS booths. However, if there is a show you have your heart set on seeing, I recommend pre-booking your tickets from home. Personally, I have found it to be worth every penny!
#7: ROOSEVELT ISLAND TRAM: for the price of a subway ride, it is a fun aerial tram ride and great view 250 ft above the East River. (59th St and 2nd Ave)
#8: EMPIRE STATE BUILDING: 350 5th avenue. To avoid the long lines, I recommend going at the supper hour. If you only want to go to the top of one building, I prefer Top of the Rock, but the Empire State Building is also something special to behold, both the building and the views from the top!
#9: SS INTREPID: 46 St & 12th Ave- Hudson River- Aircraft carrier Sea, Air & Space Museum/Space Shuttle Museum. My husband and son visited this National Historic Landmark and loved it!
#10: MOMATH: a new hands on museum 11 E 26th Street. If you have kids that enjoy Science and Math, this is a fun spot to spend a few hours, especially on a rainy day!
There are many places in Mid Town that are worth “popping in” if you are in the area. You can visit Grand Central Station to see the beautiful architecture or stop by and see all the flags flying at the United Nations. You can pop into the beautiful New York Public Library or peek in the windows at Tiffany’s on 5th Avenue. Or take a few moments to admire the gorgeous lobby of the Plaza Hotel or the Chrysler Building. Plus, if you’re looking for a little break or a picnic spot, there’s Bryant Park at 41W 40th Street, which is lovely for a relax. And all of these things don’t cost a penny!
Sarah McCormack is a Ottawa mother of two boys and talented family photographer. She and her husband have traveled extensively with their children and I’m grateful for theses NYC tips as well as those she shared for Great Wolf Lodge on Coffee with Julie. Thanks Sarah!