New York! The Ultimate Guide To A Family Friendly Vacation
Updated: May 1
Are you looking to plan your next New York City visit? This was our first visit as a family and we were long overdue, 14 years to be exact! It was my daughters first visit to the Big Apple and we wanted to make sure it was a memorable visit. We wanted to introduce her to all the city's major attractions as well as some local family friendly sites. Not to mention, introduce her to some must-eat places in New York. We splurged on some things while saving on others in order to stay within our budget. If you're looking to create a similar experience, I'm excited to share with you some fun family outings, good eats, ways to save money with CityPASS, and our hotel recommendation while visiting the city, The Langham New York. This visit took much planning and research which is why I'm excited to save you the time by sharing this New York City family friendly guide.
How To Save Money On Major City Attractions
I don't know about you, but I'm always looking for ways to save money while still being able to do everything on our to do list while vacationing. That's why I'm so excited to share CityPASS ! With one simple purchase, CityPASS allows you to save time and money when booking some of NYC best tourist attractions. You simply make your CityPASS purchase and you'll receive an email where you will be able to directly choose & book your desired attractions, date, and time. For New York, there are 2 different options.
New York CityPASS- 5 Attractions or
New York C3- 3 Attractions
Both options can save you up to 38-40% on some of New York's top attractions! That's an awesome saving if you ask me. We used the New York C3 passes and chose the 3 attractions I'll mentions down below but with the C3 passes you will have 11 different attractions to choose from. To see all the attractions available and compare the 2 CityPASS options, head on over the the CityPASS website https://www.citypass.com/new-york-comparison
Statue Of Liberty
This is an iconic visit you cannot miss when visiting New York City. This was the whole reason my daughter wanted to visit New York City. With our CityPASS ticket, we were able to take City Cruises Ferry to the grounds of the Statue of Liberty and Ellis Island, stand in the shadow of the Statue of Liberty herself for pictures, explore the Statue of Liberty Museum, and learn about the rich history of Immigration that was once the nation's busiest immigration inspection station. It was a fascinating and educational experience and one that everyone should experience.
•Reservations are required, the earlier the better.
•Check in lines do get long, even with reservation. Arrive 1 hour before your departure time to allow for airport-level security screening and boarding.
•Food is available on ferry and on Island
•Ferry departs from Battery Park
Empire State Building
The NEW Empire State Building provides a whole NEW way to see New York. This new and improved building was new to us all. With iconic views and a new museum featuring 12 interactive exhibits, this global icon offers breathtaking 360-degree, open-air views from its famous 86th Floor Observatory. Now available is the option to upgrade to the 102 floor observatory, which we decided to pass on. The open air views from the 86th floor were incredible enough and such a special way to see the city.
•I recommend booking a 5 or 6pm visit to view both day and night views. They are both equally beautiful and unique.
•Bundle up because it can get very cold and windy during the winter
Have you ever walked on a glass floor hovering 100 floors above the streets? Or walked on the highest outdoor sky deck in the Western hemisphere? We did for the first time while visiting this amazing attractions and it was such a thrilling experience. We got to walk on a suspended platform in mid-air giving us the feeling of floating in the sky with amazing 360 degree views, plus walking on glass and being able to see 100 floors down the street was so exciting. The outdoor deck is made of frameless glass panels boldly angled outward for an even more thrilling experience. Not only did we get to experience all this and take some awesome pictures but you can find a bar, gift shop and restaurant inside. Plus, the beginning of this experience is found inside The Shops in Hudson Yards so you can even do some shopping before or after your experience.
Right in front of The Shops you will find some beautiful and larger than life art pieces that are definitely worth a visit.
Affordable Family Friendly Places To Visit
This has got to be the most affordable, picturesque, and family friendly visit in New York City. For only $3 a person and free for our kiddo (kids under 12 year of age ride free) we purchased a round trip ticket and caught the ferry on 10 South Street to Governors Island. The quick 10 min ride dropped us off at the island and picked us up right back at the same location we were dropped off. There was no need to schedule our return time, at time of purchase. We were free to catch any ferry back as long as it was before the last ferry which left at 6pm. We stayed there for about 4 hours but honestly we could have used more time. There was so much to see and do! We explored and read about the Island's history while admiring some historic buildings, rented bikes (which we rode around the Island), played in Slide Hill where we went down NYC 3 story longest slide, and had a lovely meal from one of their vendors while we took in the beautiful views. I can't emphasize this enough, this is a must when visiting New York. You can see a lovely view of the city and even the Statue Of Liberty. You can read more on Governors Island here
•Passengers can ride free on Saturdays and Sunday before noon!
•Food is a bit expensive inside the Island so bring your own picnic and enjoy it in any of the picturesque picnic areas.
•The Island is huge so highly encourage a bike rental if it's your first time visiting and are limited on time.
This is another family friendly and extremely affordable attractions. Overlooking the Brooklyn Bridge and right next to the East River is where you will find this classic 3-row machine with 48 exquisitely carved horses and two superb chariots. For only $2.00 a person you can ride this beautiful carousel protected by glass and set in the beautiful Brooklyn Bridge Park. After you ride the Carousel you can get some ice cream and lunch just walking distance from the Carousel. Eat it at their designated tables or do as many others were and bring a blanket to enjoy a picnic. The views are beautiful so you will not want to leave. https://janescarousel.com/
This charming park found in the heart of Manhattan between W 42nd St and 6th Street is a must visit. We met some friends at this green and lush park nestled in its canyon of skyscrapers. We enjoyed a free game of ping pong, a carousel ride, some lunch from one of their food kiosks Wafels & Dinges and even witness a free juggling show. There were several other food kioks and even a sit down restaurant. See everything there is to do here!
Want to feel like a kid at a candy store? Found in the heart of Time Square, head inside to personalize your own NYC M&M's or find everything you could possibly imagine with the M&M logo. Who wouldn't enjoy this store!
Visit at night to get the full experience. See the lights brighten up the sky and take some pictures that scream NYC.
World Trade Center
This beautiful 9/11 memorial is set where the Twin Towers once stood. Having learned all about this tragic even at school, it was important for us to have our daughter visit and pay respect to all who lost their lives. There's a museum but we choose to skip that visit this time.
Tip: Mondays, the museum has free access after 3pm!
I never understood the hype around Central park until our most recent visit. The sky was blue with just the right amount of clouds to give us an absolute gorgeous backdrop. We splurged a little and took a pedicab tour around the park...I had no idea it was so big and there was so much to see. If you are going to splurge on an activity, I'd highly recommend you do it on this. It was like a museum on wheels and we enjoyed this so much more then we thought we would. There are tons of companies online but we decided to rent one right at the park, you will find tons of pedicabs offering "the best prices", you'll have tons of options to choose from. We had a fantastic driver/tour guide who showed us many of the popular Central Park sites and allowed us to get off to explore and take some pictures. At the end he even dropped us off at our hotel. Give yourself at least 3-4 hours to really enjoy the park. It's absolutely beautiful.
Rockefeller Center Roller Skating
This rollerskating rink is found at the heart of NYC between
50th and 49th Streets at the Rockefeller Plaza. We arrived at 10:30 am and it was the perfect way to avoid the crowds that started arriving by the time we were leaving. Our ticket allowed us to skate for an hour while we enjoyed the music and the sights. Adult prices starting at $20 and kids 6-16 starting at $12. Keep in mind there will be a $10 skate rental fee for everyone who doesn't bring their own skates. Open April 2022 - October 2022. To learn more or purchase your tickets head on over to their website here
We knew we wanted our daughter to experience her first broadway show in New York City and there were tons of shows to choose from. We decided to go with a classic and something a little different. Tickets were not cheap, we purchased them ahead of time through NYC.com and it was a very easy transaction. However, we later learned we could have saved money by using The TKTS discount booth right in the heart of times square. If you don't necessarily have your heart set on a particular show and are flexible with dates and time, I think this is a great idea. You can read all the details here!
This show was fantastic! It had us all laughing and entertained with all its fun on stage effects and witty comedy. It does contain some sexual references and inappropriate language for little ears at times but it wasn't anything we were too concerned about. My 10 years old daughter didn't catch on to the sexual references and the language wasn't anything she hasn't already heard. We all left raving about the music and just overall performances. This was my daughters favorite from the 2 we watched.
Wicked is such a classic and one my husband and I had watched many moons ago when we first came to NYC. I was sure this would be my daughter's favorite but surprisingly it wasn't! I don't know if it was because it was a lot slower with less effects then Bettlejuice but I could tell she could have definitely passed on this. Maybe for older kiddos? There were lots of other kids around us in the audience and they all seemed to have the same expression.
I don't know about you, but when I think of travel I always think of new foods and restaurants to try. It's a big part of the travel experience. That's why I found it important to add some amazing restaurants to try while visiting the Big Apple. From sit down restaurants to some great eats on the go. Take a look at the list!
This is a New York staple and one we have not missed every time we visit New York. It absolutely never disappoints and my daughter agreed. Their pastrami on rye is by far the best I've ever tried. Be prepared for a line because locals and travelers alike know just how amazing Katz's is. Every order is freshly cut and prepared right in front of you, doesn't get any fresher than this. Katz's Delicatessen
205 East Houston Street (corner of Ludlow St) New York City, 10002
When you think New York you think pizza and this pizza place is as close to Italian pizza as I've ever had outside of Italy. The cheese, the pepperoni, its smoky-crusted coal oven baked dough, it's all just so delicious and far superior than others. During our visit, we actually visited twice because we simply couldn't get enough of it. Once you try it you'll know exactly what I'm talking about. It's America's First Pizzeria and they have been doing it right for years. https://www.firstpizza.com/
I don't know what it is but these hotdogs are delicious. Definitely worth the trip to get 1 or 2 or 3 of these. Don't let their storefront fool you, it's not fancy and a little run down but their dogs are so tasty. My daughter loved the chili dogs and I absolutely loved ketchup, mustard, sauerkraut, onions, and relish on mine. Their onions are in a tomato sauce that give it a unique tangy taste I could not get enough of. Also, make sure you try their tropical drinks.
This is the true meaning of dinner and a show right on Time Square. One minute the waitstaff was taking our food order and the next she was on stage performing a broadway number. It was really fun to watch. Best part, the singing waitstaff is very talented. We saw some amazing performances while we enjoyed our burger and fries. The food isn't amazing but it's good. We waited an hour in line to get inside and we hear that's the norm but the wait was absolutely worth it. They don't take reservations so seems like the wait is inevitable. We all had such a fun time cheering our favorite singers and even singing along. Highly recommend for some burgers, a shake and a fabulous show the whole family will enjoy. https://www.ellensstardustdiner.com/
We knew we had to have bagels and we found a popular New York bagel shop that did not disappoint. The bagels were soft and doughy with tons of delicious choices. My absolute favorite was the smoked salmon with chives cream cheese and capers. For a sweeter option the blueberry was also amazing. We also tried the traditional eggs, bacon and cheese and it was also a hit. Told you we loved them. We paid them a visit a few times during our visit. https://www.ess-a-bagel.com/
You can find the location we visited on 108 W and 32nd street. Mornings can be busy but if you go a little later in the morning you will let the morning rush pass.
Del Frisco's Double Eagle Steakhouse
We had a lovely Easter lunch at this classic American Steakhouse. The place was beautiful, great location, and food was amazing. We definitely splurged a little as we usually expect to do so at a steakhouse but it was well worth it. If you are looking for a nice sit down Steakhouse experience we highly recommend this one.
I'll be honest, I wasn't thrilled about having burgers from a chain restaurant but we found ourselves right in front of a Shake Shack and kept hearing how delicious their burgers were. We went for it and I must say we enjoyed them. Are they the best we've had?, no BUT it's a good, quick and affordable meal you can enjoy when exploring the city.
Wafels & Dinges
Find some fun delicious waffle options and toppings any kid and kid at heart will enjoy. We enjoyed ours at Bryant park with some coffee and hot chocolate. Great waffles and fun topping.
We knew having comfort and style after a fun filled day of adventuring out in New York was an absolute must, which is why we are thrilled that we had the opportunity to stay at this luxury 5 star hotel, The Langham New York. This stunning hotel is located in the heart of 5th Ave and is conveniently located to many of New York's must visit attractions. Close enough to all the fun, but far away from all the noise and traffic of Time Square. From the moment we arrived we were blown away by the outstanding service, beautiful decor and spacious room. After our fun but busy days we knew we would be getting back to our room to comfy slippers, water, and robes all waiting for us to unwind. I really can't rave enough about the staff who took the time to make our stay extra special and memorable with some awesome recommendations and a warm and friendly smile.
We stayed in a Deluxe room on the 6th floor with a king bed and the option of requesting an additional bed, which we did for my daughter. The room was very spacious, which can be hard to find in NYC. There was Floor-to-ceiling windows that opened to let in some fresh air. The window had a great view of the city with a partial view of the Empire State Building! Great spot to sit and people watch while enjoying that first sip of coffee. There was a 32-inch flat-screen television, a mini fridge and a Nespresso coffee maker in the room. The bathroom was also just as amazing! The luxurious marble bathroom had a double vanity, deep soaking tub and separate glass rainfall shower. Plus, a television built into the bathroom mirror!
We were treated to a lovely Breakfast in Bed for Easter from their award-winning Michelin-starred restaurant Ai Fiori. The food was delicious and we even had a special visit from the Easter Bunny himself. That's part of that superb service I was mentioning earlier!
Reservations for Dinner to their fine French and Italian cuisine restaurant found on The Langham New York Hotel's second floor, is highly encouraged. We didn't have the opportunity to dine at the restaurant but we did walk up to take a look and it looked absolutely amazing.
What's the verdict? We highly recommend this hotel for your next New York City Vacation. It absolutely surpassed all our expectations and more. Did you know you can experience The Langham's legendary hospitality for yourself at any of their luxurious properties across the globe? See where else you can find these luxurious properties here
Hotel Address: 400 Fifth Avenue, New York, NY 10018
Hotel Website: The Langham New York Fifth Avenue
Most recently the NYC subway has been a huge topic of discussing with safety being its main focus. Like in any big city always be aware of your surroundings and if something doesn't look or feel right, don't hang around to find out and immediately go the other way. We took to subway to every single place mentioned in this blog. We navigated the New York City Subway using Apple maps as well as Google maps but we leaned towards using Apple maps more frequently because it was a lot more detailed and descriptive. You can also download the app NYC Subway, however the ads can get annoying. Also, you can always ask the hotel front desk before heading out and they are always willing to help figure out a map.
We had a vision of what our NYC trip would be like and I'm very happy with how it all turned out. We ventured and ate our way around the city falling more in love with the city than we already were. We made some wonderful family memories and my hope is that this guide will help facilitate your travel planning for your next family vacation to the Big Apple.
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Talk to you later!