New York City is a fun three-night getaway for families. Even young school-age children will recognize many landmarks from movies, television, and books. This Guide to New York City with Kids is packed full of attractions and sights you won’t want to miss, great hotel options, and delicious places to eat, giving you all the information you need to plan a fun and kid-friendly New York City vacation.
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A New York City With Kids Travel Guide
My oldest son fell in love with New York City on our first visit, which resulted in many more trips to the city that never sleeps. NYC is not always thought of as a family vacation spot, but it definitely is! There are endless things to see and do, each corner of this city brings a new adventure, packed full of landmarks, museums, parks, shopping, food, and fun. Here are my favorite things to do and eat in Manhattan.
Where to Stay in NYC with Kids
The New York Marriott Downtown is one of our favorite kid-friendly hotels in NYC. We have stayed here multiple times and the service and cleanliness are always consistent. The rooms are standard size, which is considered large when talking about a budget-friendly hotel in the heart of New York City!
The Marriott Downtown offers a modern feel, clean and comfortable rooms, great views, a beautiful lobby, an on-site restaurant, a Starbucks location, and a store.
Best of all it is close to so many attractions and landmarks, making it easy to get around with kids. The hotel is located directly across from the 9/11 memorial, a few blocks from Battery Park and the Ferries to the Statue of Liberty and Ellis Island.
Getting Around NYC with Kids
Beyond the downtown area, the Marriott Downtown was only a $5-$10 taxi ride to Central Park, Times Square, and Rockefeller Center. If your children are older the subway system is a quick and safe travel option that can get you anywhere you want to go in the city and is very affordable, however with little kids in tow sometimes a quick taxi ride is worth a few extra dollars.
Walking to your destinations is another great way to take in the city if your kids can manage, plus it can make nap time in a stroller easier. Ask the hotel concierge for a map and for help navigating the way the city is set up, once you learn how the city blocks are laid out you will be able to navigate NYC like a pro.
Kid-Friendly Places to Eat in New York City
Breakfast is an easy meal to make affordable even for a large family in a city as big and pricey as Manhattan. You can bring easy hotel room options like cereal and granola bars or head to one of the many deli’s for a more hearty breakfast and grab a breakfast sandwich, coffee, fruit, and pastry for a filling and affordable option.
Fun Kid-Friendly Lunch and Dinner Options
Ellen’s Stardust Diner: Offers your usual diner menu with a side of entertainment. The waitstaff are styled in retro fashions and sing-show tunes!
Benihana: If your kids like hibachi as much as mine do, this is the place for you! Watch the chef create an amazing onion volcano that will wow your whole party.
S’MAC: Who doesn’t love macaroni and cheese? Well, this place takes Mac & Cheese to another level with insanely unique Mac & Cheese meals. Plus, they are very affordable.
Joe’s Pizza: New York City pizza speaks for itself!
Sweets Spots the will Leave Your Kids Speechless
DŌ Cookie Dough Confections: Because eating cookie dough is everyone’s favorite part of making cookies.
Serendipidy 3: A bit of a splurge but their Frozen Hot Chocolate is unforgetable
Dylan’s Candy Bar: This one had my son’s eyes popping out of his head in amazement, 3 floors of delicious sweetness that you can take home with you.
Must-See Attractions in New York City for Kids
Times Square New York City
Midtown is home to Times Square, a must-see for any first time visitor. Walking into Times Square is like standing in the midst of a neon fireworks display. It doesn’t matter what time of the day or night you visit Times Square, the energy is still vibrant and you will definitely want to hang onto your little ones because Times Square can be extremely crowded. We usually grab a hot dog and sit outside to people watch and pop in a couple of the must see stores, like Hamilton: The Store, The M&M Store, The Disney Store, and Hershey’s to name a few. Plus this is the perfect spot to grab all your I Love NYC suvineers.
One thing to watch out for as an NYC newbie is the large group of people in costumes offering to take pictures with tourists. They do this for tips and can get very aggressive at times. On one of our trips when Aidan was little I knew I wouldn’t be able to get down the street without him screaming for Spiderman, as I tried to grab a quick interaction and pictures about 10 more characters approached to jump in the picture and then proceeded to ask where their tips were.
To unwind from the adventure that is Times Square, take a short stroll down to Bryant Park and enjoy a yummy ice cream, sit on the grass, and let the kids ride a beautiful french classical style carousel with colorful animals and cabaret music.
The Statue of Liberty
Seeing The Statue of Liberty is another iconic New York City experience. There are several helicopter tours that will show you the statue from the air, however, we always opt for the ferry service which is a quick boat ride to both Liberty Island and Ellis Island so that you can get out and explore. The ferry does have a screening area similar to security at the airport, so the lines can get long especially during the high tourism months.
Rockefeller Center is another NYC Staple that everyone will enjoy. Early risers might enjoy a walk toward Rockefeller Center to catch the “Today Show” broadcast, beginning around 7:00 a.m., or head over to the NBC store at Rockefeller Center and buy tickets for the NBC tour, where you can see how a real TV news studio and the “Saturday Night Live” set.
A favorite for my family is visiting Top of the Rock at Rockefeller Center! You’ll head 70 floors up to a 3 level observation deck to capture breathtaking views of central park and the city in every direction. However, my kids love the laser lights playroom the best.
If you are visiting Rockefeller Center during the fall or winter months, visiting the ice skating rink goes without saying. Every Home Alone 2 fan will understand that, but Manhattan is extra special around the holidays, and ice skating around a ginormous Christmas Tree is definitely magical.
The best place to escape the hustle and bustle of New York City with kids is in Central Park. You can let the kids run on the trails, enjoy the playgrounds, climb the rocks, have a picnic, and even explore the Central Park Zoo. The zoo is a small attraction with about a dozen exhibits, some climbing structures, and a 4D theater, this is a perfect attraction for the younger kids in your family.
More New York City Travel Tips
- Theater-going families can take advantage of the “Tkts” booth right in the center of Times Square, where day-of-performance tickets sell at a discount.
- Shopping is easy in Midtown. FAO Schwartz, American Girl, and Nintendo stores are all within walking distance
- Although New York is notorious for small, pricey hotel rooms, Midtown offers a variety of lodging, some with relatively larger rooms or suites that will suit a family.
- Try sightseeing during the day and opting for budget-friendly takeout for dinner on some nights
- Visit the Empire State Building, an art deco landmark and a symbol of New York City, at dusk and watch as night falls and lights begin to twinkle!
New York City is unlike any other city in the world, and it can be an amazing adventure for kids of all ages. I hope you have a blast planning your next trip with the kids to New York City!