Three Days in NYC with Toddlers.
I have a love, hate relationship with NYC. I love all the things there are to do in the city. I hate how crowded it always feels. I love all the architecture. I hate all the smells. I love all the languages I hear walking down the street. I hate how expensive everything is. In conclusion, I never want to live in NYC but I enjoy a visit every now and then.
We flew into LaGuardia, the airport is nothing special, but has a 4 million dollar renovation headed its way that will make things much better. We hired a car service to take us to our hotel. It usually costs about as much as a cab and includes the tip and tolls, plus you do not have to worry about traffic.
My mom, who lived in NYC for a bit, likes to stay in Times Square. It puts you close to all the theater stuff and is central to the city. We stayed at the Renaissance, Time Square. Here comes that Love/Hate NYC stuff. The Renaissance has decent size rooms for NYC. The rooms at the end of the hall are smaller due to building shape. The hotel is literally in Times Square so the views are great, but the noise and lights are right outside your window. The curtains mostly blocked everything out, but there was some residual light and noise that made its way through.
I loved that every day we were able to walk to where we wanted to go. I did not like the crowds that were constantly gathered outside our hotel at all hours. The tour buses leave from just outside the hotel. Even in the morning, when Times Square is at its calmest, there are tours and people selling tours from the moment you walk out the door. I just would not stay in this location if it were up to me.
Alright, so we spent two full days and two half days in the city.
On our first half day we walked around in Times Square and let the kids soak in the chaos. We headed over to the Disney Store where they have a parade and every piece of Disney merchandise that you could imagine. Our kids love looking in stores like this and hardly ever ask for anything, so visiting is a very pleasant activity. The Disney Store also has an area where you can color and watch Disney movie and tv clips, this was a big hit with the kids.
We walked straight down 46th Street to the Intrepid Sea, Air & Space Museum. They are reciprocal member with the Denver Museum of Nature and Science, so our admission was free and we were able to use the very short member line. The Intrepid is free for Active Duty Military, but not their families. We spent two hours here. The kids were really into it, but we ran up against dinner time. We went right to the Flight Deck, so the kids could see the airplane.
The kids favorite part was heading up to the Bridge. We loved that from the bridge you can see a Gemini Space Capsule with its raft inflated hanging from the ships crane.
We headed back across the street to Daisy May’s BBQ for a delicious and quick dinner. The food was great. The serving size was ample. You cannot get any tap water here though, so plan to order a drink or buy a bottled water. We, luckily, had just filled all the water-bottles at the Intrepid.
We walked a bit more down the river to catch the NY Waterway Ferry to Hoboken, NJ. This high speed ferry takes about 10 min to get you across the river. The kids loved every minute of the ride, both ways. Hoboken will afford you some of the most amazing views of NYC. The pier was full of food trucks, so we walked around and surveyed options for desert. We finally settled on Amanda’s Bananas, banana soft serve.
Sunday was our day in Central Park. We grabbed breakfast at a classic NYC dinner, The Evergreen. It was small, fast and delicious. The staff was not terribly polite but not rude, exactly what you want for your NYC breakfast. I had a great breakfast sandwich.
We worked our way down to the park hitting highlights like Radio City Music Hall, Rockefeller Center, St. Patrick’s Cathedral and the Plaza, before we reached Central Park. The fountains at Rockefeller Center turned out to be the most surprising entertainment for the three-year old. He loved running around and looking at them all.
Central Park was a full day adventure. . The central park app listed in “Apps for NYC” post , was a huge help. The audio guides were fun for the adults and gave us a ton of information, plus they are all recorded by famous New Yorkers. We walked around the park a bit such that we arrived just in time for the zoo’s opening. You can buy an “all access” ticket online and skip the line. We did not want all the bells and whistles so we did have to wait in a line for tickets.
The Central Park Zoo is small but well done. It took us about two hours to cover the whole zoo, including the Children’s Zoo and the Sea Lion feeding. The Zoo does not allow re-entry so plan your visit carefully. The Sea Lion feeding was a highlight. There is ample seating and every seat around the enclosure affords a good view.
We picked up lunch in the Plaza Food Hall. Every option here looked delicious. Our group of 6 chose three different places to pick up from. Our food ranged from a gourmet sandwiches to sushi to lobster rolls. Seating is limited. We got the food to go and headed across the street, back into the park, plopped on a bench and dug in. The food was great and the shade by the Pond was the perfect place to enjoy our meal.
The after lunch quest was to hit a few playground and enjoy the walk in between. The Heckscher Playground was our first find. In the summer this play castle is full of watery moats to run around in. We removed H’s shoes and let him free. He had a blast running through the water and climbing all the rocks. There are more traditional offerings like swings and slides here as well, but he had eyes only for the castle.
The carousel is next on the list. You do have to pay for every person in your party, even though little ones have to be accompanied. The ride is long though and the carousel always pleases.
We walked to The Dairy, which now serves as one of the Park’s Visitors Center. We walked down The Mall to the lake. The kids loved all the buskers. They constantly wanted to just stop and watch, we were happy to oblige.
We headed back toward Columbus Circle, as it was nearly 3pm! We passed the Adventure Playground, which is undergoing a renovation. The adjacent tot lot is open though. The kids loved climbing this mountain and easily played for 30 min.
We walked back up Broadway to our Hotel for a bit of downtime before dinner at a Pizza Place. It fit the bill for feeding us, but service was slow. The pizza was fine, but not great. H had been asking to go into the M&M store, so we obliged on our way home. He thought it was great and we bought him $0.89 worth of M&M from the candy wall as a treat.
Monday morning we ate breakfast at the Hotel. There is no club level, so Gold and higher are given vouchers for the restaurant, otherwise breakfast here will run you $22.
There was no one in Times Square, so we stopped for a few pictures. I grabbed a coffee at the largest Starbucks I have ever been inside and we walked down tenth to where the Highline begins on 34th.
The Highline is the highlight of the trip for me. This elevated park accentuates all the things I love about NYC, while minimizing all the negatives. This is the perfect walk with kids. The littles were able to walk on their own most of the time without me worrying. In parts it does become crowded, but we just asked the kids to stay close. The views are amazing.
The highlight for the kids was the Pershing Square Beams. This exposed area of the beams that hold up the Highline are now a park. The kids can crawl under and on them. There is a secret room that pops up in a garden. There are periscopes. Currently the play area also looks into a construction area full of cranes, bulldozers and flatbed trucks.
The kids also loved discovering the fountain where they could make the woman spit the water. Watching the birds and butterflies flit from flower to flower. Playing in the water just past Chelsea Market.
You know H loves his trains. Most of the Highline leaves one, if not more, of the tracks visible. There are sections with switches for the kids to use. We spent most of our walk pretending we were trains on a mission to do assorted things.
We reached Chelsea Market around eleven and headed down the stairs to check out the market. This is the “coolest” feeling place I’ve been in a while. We loved exploring all the stores, many of which were handing out samples. We grabbed a few things to go and sat back up on the high line in the market area for lunch. There are a variety of vendors up there including a taco truck that we picked for lunch.
The Highline ends at The Whitney’s new building. The Whitney is part of the Blue Star Museum program this summer, so we went in to check it out. We went right up to the observation deck. It was a great way to view part of the Highline from above. You can also see all the way out to the Statue of Liberty. We walked through a few galleries, but decided to head somewhere more child friendly. (See pictures from our highline adventure here.)
We walked down to SoHo where we popped into the Children’s Museum for the Arts. If you have a child over five, this place is a must! Our little kids loved it, but the crafts they were doing for the 5 plus were just so cool! (Silk screening, clay bar, stamp making, watercolors.) Our little ones loved the tot art room. They had paint, markers, foam, chalk, dot markers, play dough and flubber out at different stations. There are also large foam blocks, magnetic tiles and legos available at stations. We alternated between this art room and the large rubber ball room for several hours. (The ball room is times by age, so your child won’t end up in there with seven year olds. We did have to do a bit of policing, but the other tot parents were just as vigilant about keeping the big kids out. In a perfect world they would have a staff member up here monitoring.)
With just a bit of time left before we needed dinner we hit up the NYC Fire Museum, another of the Blue Star Museums. H was really entertained here as well. He loved the small dress up section. There were uniforms for adults to try on as well, which kept us all quite amused. He loved seeing the old trucks. Upstairs there are old buckets and hats. It was the perfect quick indoor stop to kill some time.
Many of the restaurants in SoHo are openly not child friendly. Most say on their webpage or say when you call to make a reservation. We hit up Joe’s in Greenwich. It was everything NYC pizza is supposed to be, probably why it is consistently ranked as one of the best in the city. We rolled in at 5pm and did not have to wait. They only take cash here, but they do have an ATM inside.
We fit in an NYC Subway ride on our way home. H was tired and the subway was crowded, but it seemed like we should not leave NYC without getting on the subway.
Tuesday was our last half day before embarking on the boat. We had breakfast at the hotel and walked to the Empire State Building. We didn’t go up, but we did pop into the Starbucks on the ground floor. You can see the interior of the building while waiting for your coffee.
Next stop was the New York Public Library. The Rose Reading Room was, unfortunately, closed for renovation. They have a wonderful children’s section though. H loved picking out some books to read. They typically have Winnie the Pooh and some of his friends out to view, but the day we visited we got to see a few original Mary Poppins things.
Exiting out of the front of the New York Public Library we took a spin on the Bryant Park Carousel.
We walked a few more blocks to Grand Central Station. My train obsessed kiddo was in heaven. He watched trains come in and out of the station. We grabbed lunch in the food hall and stood in the middle of the station and watched people move around us.
We walked a few blocks back to our hotel grabbed our stuff and hopped into our waiting car to take us to the Brooklyn Cruise Terminal. It was a great trip in New York. I can honestly say I was sad to leave.
Here are a few photos from the trip.