The city seen from the Queensboro Bridge is always the city seen for the first time, in its first wild promise of all the mystery and the beauty in the world.― F. Scott Fitzgerald, The Great Gatsby
There is no other city like New York. Though Paris will always be my favorite, I’m lucky to live just 30 minutes outside of Manhattan and over the years have learned a thing or two about enjoying the city with children.
A few tips:
New York is not dangerous. Please do not wear your backpack on your front, you look silly and no one is going to take your stuff. New Yorkers are some of the nicest people you will ever meet, happy to help with directions, take a photo for you and give advice.
New Yorkers move fast, get out of their way. The only time you will meet a crabby New Yorker is if you are walking three or more across the sidewalk and taking your sweet time. Things can get ugly, move fast, single file.
Get a CityPass if you plan to visit some of the big tourist sights. You will save money and it gets you to the front of the line at several locations.
Where to stay:
Finding the right hotel. Finding a family friendly hotel room is easy using the Preferred Family website that has vetted various properties. Looking for connecting rooms, cribs, babysitters?. Our friends at Preferred Family understand what families want and need when they travel and manage a collection of 260 and growing certified hotels and resorts worldwide at PreferredFamily.com where families can research and book travel. All hotels in the collection meet Preferred Family Certification standards based on their age-specific offerings for children in five categories: hotel amenities, facilities, programs, services, and entertainment. I wrote about how to use their planning site when Preferred Family launched last year. On my bucket list in the Preferred Collection is the Mark Hotel. They even offer bespoke custom designed McClaren strollers. Now that is an amenity.
Get treated like a VIP. Introducing, iPrefer’s points-based loyalty program: The other great news is that iPrefer, Preferred Hotel Group’s points-based loyalty program, is giving families a compelling reason to join their membership program to earn points and travel benefits at more than 500 independent hotels and resorts worldwide — of which more than 200 are Preferred Family Certified. Families that join the program start earning status, special benefits, and points from their very first stay and have the flexibility and freedom to choose the reward that works best for them, whether they want to redeem their points for free stays, dining, spa services, and more.
Some of my favorite hotels are part of the program, The Sanctuary in Kiawah Island, Casa de Campo in the Dominican Republic and the Woodstock Inn in Vermont. Get the list of participating properties and more benefit details on the iPrefer page on PreferredFamily.com.
Taxi: Getting around the city can be tricky if you are a mom who really likes your child strapped in to a car seat. I had a hard time getting over this and have to admit I finally succumbed to holding my babies on my lap in the taxi. All the city moms do it. I was still a nervous wreck every time.
Pedi Cab: This is my favorite way to see New York with kids, not surprisingly, also the most expensive. You can smell the street hot dogs and hear the cabbies yelling at each other while a very muscular bicyclist whips you through the traffic. The prices are posted on the side, it looks cheap but they charge you by the person and streets vs blocks. Streets are closer together than you think and the $$ add up quickly. Still? Totally worth it.
Subway: Though the subway seems scary, it’s the safest form of travel, especially for families. You can get a stroller on, there is no danger of a traffic accident, it’s cheap and it’s fast. It can be confusing, I have an easier time navigating trains in foreign countries than I do the subway. A great app is the Kickmap. Download it before you go and don’t be afraid to ask for help, any New Yorker will gladly help you find your way.
Uber: These are for hire cars that you request using the app. Download Uber and you will not be trying to hail a taxi, which can be impossible after say a Broadway show.
Top 5 Things to Do With Kids in New York City:
1. Central Park Like a Local.
Cities are fun for grownups: shopping, dining out, seeing shows. For kids, it can feel like a lot of walking and waiting. Luckily, Central Park just happens to be, well, centrally located. Just north of Bergdorf’s and west of all that the fab boutique shopping on Madison Avenue, Central Park is the perfect oasis for everyone. The children’s area of the park was specifically designed to have a variety of attractions placed next to each other making it easy for kids to enjoy:
Hekscher Playground: This wonderland is almost two acres of swings, slides, climbing walls and water features. This is where city moms bring their kids to play. It’s clean, safe, has restrooms and plenty of shade.
Wollman Rink/Victoria Gardens: In the winter, you can don your ice skates and work on your figure eight’s followed by a mug of hot cocoa. In summer, the area is transformed in to a pint-sized amusement park. Victoria Gardens has rides that are just the right size for the stroller set. The roller coaster is almost thrilling, but kids over 13 might roll their eyes at you, but that doesn’t mean they aren’t enjoying it, photos don’t lie.
Alice in Wonderland Statue: This statue is described as being “for children and meant to be climbed on”. This charming bronze depiction of Alice and her zany friends is also an excellent spot for mom and dad to rest while the kids explore.
Central Park Zoo and Children’s Zoo: Just around the corner from the playground are penguins, puffins and sea lions just waiting for your visit. The Tisch Children’s Zoo is next-door and hugely popular for the littlest of visitors. Here children can get close to goats, sheep, a cow and a Vietnamese pot-bellied pig.
2. See the city-but NOT on a double decker bus:
Circle Line Boat Tours: The Circle Line boat tours leave from 42nd street near the Intrepid Museum. The shorter cruise is 75 minutes and will take you past the Statue of Liberty and let you view the Empire State Building and Ellis Island. If you have a little more time you can take the full island tour for two-and-a-half hours and see 101 sites. The boats pass each attraction twice, so if you miss your phot-opp on the way down, you have a second chance on the way back. The Intrepid Sea Air and Space Museum is a great, and convenient, stop either before or after your cruise.
3. Toys and candy
Skip the madness of the world’s largest Toys R Us in Times Square and a visit to the nearby M&M store. Take your brood uptown, literally and figuratively to FAO Schwartz and Dylan’s Candy Bar.
FAO Schwarz This iconic toy store earned its fame in the Tom Hanks movie “Big.” The life-size keyboard is on the second floor and ready for your child’s rendition of chopsticks played with two feet. I know it’s totally cheesy, but it’s also totally fun. You can even book a private tour for an hour before the store is open to the public.
Dylan’s Candy Bar: This sugar laden heaven is just a few blocks from FAO Schwarz and better enjoyed after toy shopping. FAO is exciting enough without the sugar high. Dylan’s Candy Bar is the brain child of Dylan Lauren, daughter of Ralph. This three-story confection features 7,000 types of candy from around the world. It’s been the backdrop for shows such as “Gossip Girl,” “Project Runway” and “Cake Boss.”
4. Broadway with Kids
There are a lot of spectacular Broadway shows that kids will love, Disney has made more than a few. Currently Newsies is the boys’ fave, I really need to find a little girl who wants to go to Cinderella with me. The ticket prices can be steep, try the TKTS booth or think outside the Broadway box and head to my all time favorite theater for family friendly shows.
New Victory Theater: On famed 42nd Street is a theatrical gem not widely known outside of Manhattan. This is more than just simply children’s theater; these are fabulous performances that can be enjoyed by kids of all ages. The theater staff boast they won’t stage a show that isn’t enjoyed by the adult programming directors as much as it is by young patrons. All of this fabulousness can be had for as little as $14 per ticket.
5. The Top of the Rock or the Empire State Building:
There is a reason that these are some of the most popular tourist attractions, they are truly iconic. A trip to New York isn’t complete with a ride to the top of the Empire State Building, who doesn’t love that scene from “An Affair to Remember”?. If you’re not a patient line waiter, and who is, you can buy your way to the front. If you are planning on seeing several attractions, a CityPass can save you money and get you to the front of the line. While the view from the Top of the Rock isn’t quite as spectacular as the Empire State Building’s, Rockefeller Center is more conveniently located and chances are your kids won’t know the difference. The NBC studio tour is actually a lot of fun also and there’s a good wine bar across the street.
This post was sponsored by Preferred Family. All advice is my own. I have been working with Preferred Family for years and feel confident in their family programs or I wouldn’t recommend them. This post is part of a series of posts, if you are headed to Europe this summer, check out CiaoBambino’s advice.