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NYC is a place we are very familiar with. Both Dave and I grew up in North Jersey (him in Jersey City just across the river) and most of our family still lives there so we visit several times a year. Unlike other places, there wasn’t much to research since I was super familiar with the city, subway, etc. so Milana and I headed on a mom-daughter trip for a quick 3 full days (4 nights). Milana has been several times already, but mainly on day trips from when we visited family. Our main reason for going this time was because she kept asking to see the Statue of Liberty, so I had to make it happen. If you’re looking for kid friendly things to do in New York City, read on!
WHERE TO STAY IN NYC WITH KIDS
There are a ton of family friendly hotels in New York City, and really it’s hard to recommend just one. We stayed at the Courtyard Marriott Times Square West which was in an awesome location. I used points for the room, making it free. We flew JetBlue to JFK using points and home from LGA on Southwest, using points again, making this a super inexpensive trip.
Things to note:
-While we don’t use a stroller, there were several places I couldn’t imagine pushing one through the crowds. I also didn’t see elevators/escalators at some subway station so if you bring one, make sure it’s something you can fold and carry without issues.
-Ubers that picked us up required Milana to have a booster and we did. So if you plan on using them, bring an appropriate car seat!
-Very surprisingly, a lot of places were cash only! That was a huge shock and something I don’t remember from years of going there so keep that in mind if you use cc for purchases. Read the signs before purchasing or dining!
GETTING AROUND NYC WITH KIDS
Wondering how to get around New York City with kids? Of course, the most popular forms of transportation is going to be the subway. However, after not visiting the city for a few years, I had forgotten just how awful the NYC subway is! Sure, it’s convenient but the same issues we had while living there still exist. The people were rude, pushy (don’t let those getting off get off first without trying to push their way on) and it smelled awful. We ended up walking a lot more than planned and it turned out to be quite nice!
We used Uber a few times as well, it was a much more pleasant experience and I was glad to have my travel booster with me for the rides.
Milana’s first subway ride/visit to the city:
THINGS TO DO IN NYC WITH KIDS
There are so many kid friendly activities and things to do in New York City, you will easily fill your days from morning til night! New York City is a very family friendly city, with kid friendly attractions all over the city.
One of the most popular things in NYC is Central Park. There are so many things to do in Central Park! From wandering around and just enjoying the calm in such a busy city, to exploring the many playgrounds Central Park has lots to offer for families with kids of all ages.
I knew we were going to be visiting the Statue of Liberty, so I booked tickets in advance (well 2 weeks in advance since this trip was booked somewhat last minute!). I highly recommend booking in advance, as they were sold out when we arrived. Milana loved seeing the statue up close and now has an idea of some of the history behind it.
Since we took the ferry to the statue from Battery Park, we had to check out the Seaglass Carousel while there. This is better at night with all the lights, but I didn’t want to come back to that area yet again so we did it in the daytime. This is so much fun, Milana rode twice!
We also visited the American Girl store. We have one in LA that I think is much better than NYC but she wanted to see it so we did.
One of the coolest things we did was visit Gulliver’s Gate, an interactive miniature world filled with landmarks from all over the world. Milana loved this place and recognized many cities that she has been to from all over the world. If you only do one thing, I highly recommend this. She still talks about it!
Times Square is probably the most popular tourist attraction. Definitely not my favorite but Milana asked to see it so we went one day so she can see it. I used to love the Toys R Us there, it was huge and had multiple levels and even a ferris wheel. It’s definitely missed!
My favorite neighborhood in the city is Union Square. This is where I spent lots of time when we lived there and it’s still exactly like I remember! Take your kids to Union Square park (one of the better city playgrounds) and stop at the Whole Foods across the street for some picnic food.
Washington Square Park is also nice, especially in the summer since kids are allowed to play in the fountain.
We also walked around Chinatown but only because we were were already there for dim sum. NYC’s Chinatown is honestly not our favorite, but they do have some good dining options!
We also walked around the Lower East Side after having dinner in the area. We found a cute little playground and some good restaurants.
WHERE TO EAT IN NYC WITH KIDS
Ah, food! One of our favorite parts of traveling. Really, on this trip, I just wanted some things we haven’t been able to get (good anyway!) on the West Coast. So we didn’t go out of our way to find good food. New York city has lots of family and kid friendly restaurants so you are bound to find something that satisfies even the pickiest of eaters.
Normally I have a long list of places we must go to, however we have been to all our favorites multiple times so I didn’t really plan much food. We did eat a late lunch/early dinner at Whole Foods twice so not as much dining out as usual. I know we had to have bagels with taylor ham, something I miss dearly from Jersey! West Coast bagels are awful and they have no idea what taylor ham is. Much to my delight, one of the best bagel places was just 2 blocks from our hotel-Best Bagels. The line is out the door, even on a Monday, but so worth the wait! We ate breakfast here every single day.
I remember driving into the city for Gray’s Papaya hot dogs with friends in the middle of the night and not much has changed. There are now more locations throughout the city, one being less than 2 blocks from our hotel. Still the best and cheapest hot dog in the city, much better than the carts and Milana agreed!
We did have one hot dog from the cart just so she tried it, but it wasn’t very good.
Another thing I miss on the West Coast is the pizza. We ordered pizza to the hotel one night using Uber Eats (from Joe’s Pizza) and it was so good!
The Meatball Shop (several locations) used to be a favorite too, and Milana loves meatballs so we went one day for an early dinner. She loved the pasta with meatballs and I tried a few different meatballs and all were really good! The buffalo chicken were my favorite.
If you go to Washington Square Park, walk the 2 minutes to Pommes Frites. We used to go here years ago and it’s still the same. Awesome fries with a ton of sauce options.
And of course, we love dim sum! We went to the Golden Unicorn on a Sunday morning and the wait was super long. We waited nearly an hour but it was so worth it! They have traditional push carts however if you know what you like, it’s best to just ask the waiter to bring it as the room is huge and there aren’t many carts walking around. We go to dim sum at least twice a month at home and are very familiar with the food so this was the perfect place for us. And they had really cute piggie buns filled with custard, which Milana loved!
For dessert one day, we went to Max Brenner. We used to go here when we lived nearby and then Vegas got a location but that didn’t last very long. Still the same with some yummy chocolate desserts. They have food too, but I wouldn’t come here for food..just come for some chocolate!
We also tried New Territories (near the Meatball shop on the Lower East Side) and had the unicorn shake.
And Dylan’s Candy Bar. We have one in LA but ours doesn’t have the restaurant portion. The desserts here are huge and really good!
We had a super fun mom-daughter trip and will be back since we visit family in North Jersey quite often.