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It’s absolutely impossible to visit every attraction that NYC has to offer. With so many options, it’s challenging to figure out which ones are best when traveling with a family. On our recent trip to New York, we packed in as many things as possible, and enjoyed most of them. Here’s what we did:
Things to Do in NYC With Kids
My son loves anything to do with transportation, so I knew he’d enjoy the Intrepid, a former aircraft carrier which now houses artifacts and exhibits. There are several different pass options, depending on how much you want to see and spend. Since we were only going to spend a few hours, we chose the general admission ticket, which includes the Intrepid Museum, and the Growler Submarine. My kids loved walking around the Intrepid, and especially liked checking out the flight deck. For a short trip, the general admission ticket is perfect.
I’ve already done a full review of the Circle Line tour – you can find that post here. I highly recommend it!
I first visited the American Museum of Natural History when I was a child, and knew my kids would love it. We arrived in the afternoon on our first day in NYC, and found the museum to be incredibly crowded. After purchasing our tickets, we moved past the main floor and were pleasantly surprised to see that the exhibit halls weren’t too crowded. The kids absolutely loved the museum – especially the Hall of Asian Mammals, the temporary Google doodle exhibit, and the Hall of Ocean Life. We also purchased tickets to the Penguin IMAX movie, and thoroughly enjoyed it. You could easily spend the day at the museum – although we only had a few hours.
The Discovery Center in Times Square offers a number of temporary exhibits that are great for families. During our stay a few years ago, we visited the Art of the Brick exhibit (which has since moved on). It certainly wasn’t cheap, but it was absolutely worth the trip. I purchased the tickets in advance, and selected the earliest arrival time possible. We waited in line for a few minutes, then headed downstairs to the exhibit. The Discovery Center does a great job controlling crowds, and my kids not only enjoyed the exhibit, but were inspired to create their own Lego art when we returned home. Overall, we were only at the exhibit for about an hour, so you can definitely fit this in with other activities.
Both of my kids were desperate to visit Central Park – my daughter because it’s a frequent hot spot on the TV show Jessie, and my son because the zoo is home to Tango, who he read about in the book Tango Makes Three. We made our way there after the Discovery Center, and had a difficult time finding the zoo within the park. There are almost no signs directing tourists. So, if you are planning on visiting the zoo, make sure your cab drops you off in just the right spot.
Despite the challenge finding the zoo, we really enjoyed our visit there. I purchased the basic admission ticket along with tickets to the Madagascar-themed 4D movie, and was able to do almost everything in about 3 hours. We spent a lot of time in the penguin exhibit – my son’s favorite animal.
I learned about MoMath through some friends who recommended it. I have a full review here.
The Empire State Building and Top of the Rock
We visited both the Empire State Building and the Top of the Rock. I compare both of them in this post.
The Art and Whimsy of Mo Willems
This temporary exhibit is taking place through September 25, 2016 at the New York Historical Society. My kids loved taking the tour (narration by Mo himself is offered via headphones) through Mo’s work and inspiration. When you are finished, your admission fee also covers the rest of the museum. We especially enjoyed the DiMenna Children’s History Museum.
See a Show
If your kids are old enough, consider taking them to a Broadway show. I have some tips in this post.
Go to Popular Restaurants
Gray Line NYC
I mentioned that I enjoyed most of what we did. The Gray Line Hop On Hop Off bus was the exception. I’ve loved the Gray Line in other cities, but was really disappointed with the experience in NYC. The buses were absolutely packed, the quality of guides was inconsistent, and the staff wasn’t particularly friendly. After purchasing a voucher online, we headed to the Times Square area to pick up the tickets. I waited in a LONG line staffed by one employee who was more interested in chatting with his coworker than helping guests (no idea why the coworker wasn’t also helping behind the counter).
We did both the Uptown and Downtown Loop. Our first guide hardly uttered a word – not much of a guide at all. The second guide was better, but peppered her narration with constant shills for both TripAdvisor reviews and tips. But the third guide was great – she was helpful, friendly, and knowledgeable. Because of the inconsistency though, I can’t recommend Gray Line NYC (but will continue to recommend them in other cities).
If you are planning to visit NYC with kids, I recommend the following hotels. These are hotels that I have personally stayed in, so there may be others that are great as well. Please note that while I was hosted at two of these hotels (the Omni, Ritz-Carlton, and the Staybridge Suites), all opinions are my own.
Omni Berkshire Place – I love Omni hotels (tip – join their free club for free beverage delivery in the morning) and this one has great service and is conveniently located.
Hilton Midtown – this large hotel is conveniently located and has nice-sized rooms (for NY standards)
Staybridge Suites Times Square – if you need a little more space for your family, this is a great option. They also offer free breakfast!