A New York City Family Guide
Now I'll preface with I am certainly no travel guide - But maybe that's why this works? While we love traveling and seeing new places, there will always be a few destinations that we keep close to our heart and revisit as often as possible.
New York is one of those places. We've now done it six times with children and there are still so many things left on our to do list.
So I thought I'd give you a little insight as to how we spent our most recent two trips in NYC. I started writing this last summer after our August trip - forgot to post and after being asked again this year in my DMs I thought I’d update it and actually post it this year!
How we got there...
On a plane obviously, well I say obviously, you can get a boat, and one day I would LOVE to take that option... but for now it's the skies for us! We flew Manchester to Newark on United last year, more tips on flying with children here. I’d also suggest looking at flying through Dublin, which we did this year. We have done this a couple times and it makes it a lot easier, you clear customs and immigration IN Dublin, meaning when you hit the ground in NY you get off the plane, grab your bags and go.
You can fly into Newark, JFK or wherever else you fancy but really consider how you get into the city.
The train from Newark to Penn Station is... colourful. I may sound like a snob here, and I can only apologise, but I would NOT recommend this route from the airport. We did it years ago when it was just Peter and I, and thought, well it was ok and, we saved a few bucks so it was fine. However this time it seemed less romantic, it was over-crowded, dirty and frantic. Being jet lagged, laden with luggage, buggies and three young children we just felt stressed and unsafe. Book an uber or a big yellow cab. You're welcome.
Where we stayed...
The Roger. (last year)
Ok here's the thing. Before you go and have that third baby there are a few things people don't tell you. Like booking a hotel room for more than four people is impossible, pretty much all over the world. It doesn't matter if you're happy for the kids to share a bed, or one is in a cot or you book a suite, most rooms have a maximum capacity of four. Four. We've been stuck paying for an extra room more than once and it sucks. The kids fight over who sleeps with who, one parent ends up in a room with a sleeping child watching crap on the television texting the other and realising too late the bag with the toothbrushes is in the other room, down the hall.
Now back to the hotel. The Roger is lovely, really beautiful styling, great location, comfy beds, small, friendly lobby with a happy hour and the premier double rooms are great for a family of five, ahem, I mean four ;) who are happy to share beds.
Previously we've stayed in The W and the Kimpton. Next time I'd love to stay in a Kid&Coe flat for living like a New York.
This year we tried somewhere new, we had actually booked elsewhere and this was a last minute rearrange, Peter found a great deal and cancelled our other booking - boy was I glad. This was a gem.
As we have done NYC a few times we were keen to stay in another side of town. This area around Wall Street is calmer and quieter in August and provides a different experience.
The main attraction of this hotel is the view. Out of our generous sized room we could see the Brooklyn Bridge, East River, Statue of Liberty and all of New York Harbour. Rooms come with a telescope, perfect for seeing all the boats move around the harbour and a close up of Lady Liberty herself. (I believe we were actually given an accessible room - and I it’s worth asking for - if the hotel has the rooms and they aren’t being used by those who need, most will cater for you, it meant we had extra space in the bathroom and room by the door to park the buggy.)
Where we ate...
I am incredibly lucky to have my cousin Kat who lives in NY with her gorgeous kiddos and hubby, who knows food and gives THE best recommendations, so if a New Yorker recommends these, well you know! I haven’t listed many as it really depends where you stay and what you like but some of my favourites are…
Eataly. Ok so you could also count this as a 'what we did' it's spectacular in here, like a giant mall of Italian goodies, there are restaurants, stalls, a stuff your own cannoli bar, gelato cart etc... You get the picture! We chose to eat at Manza, food was good, wine list extensive and while they didn't have a children's menu, they were happy to cater for the kids, we ordered a large bowl of spaghetti with tomato sauce for them to share, with a side of meatballs and veg. It's also incredibly bustling, (read loud) not stuffy so you feel relaxed if the kids make a peep! I had the pappardelle and Peter the steak. There are a few Eatalys in New York, check what they’ve got available at the one you’re going to. The World Trade Centre one is smaller but we still got great pastries and coffee for breakfast one morning.
Bubby's in Tribeca. Crab Cakes Benedict... need I say more?! This place is too good. It's another family friendly find but know they do not allow buggies (strollers) inside. They have a park outside where you can leave them, this didn't bother me but I mention it as it upset another family who came in at the same time. Highlights are children menus and colouring as well as a totally adorable photo booth in the basement.
Clinton Street Bakery. Get here before it opens, as it gets busy then enjoy the spiked drinks and huevos rancheros.
Juliana's in Brooklyn. Great pizza and a relaxed environment. They do not take reservations and get really busy, be prepared to wait or avoid peak times.
Shake Shack. Blown your holiday budget already? Or don’t want to waste your precious NYC time sitting around eating? Pop into a Shake Shack, an American institution (no it’s not just a McDonalds!) and feed the fam up with burgers, dogs and milkshakes - then get those legs moving to burn off all the cals.
Hotel Picnic. When it all gets too much do not underestimate the power of a simple picnic. Tired? It's raining? Jet lag? Toddler Meltdowns? Whatever the reason sometimes it's easier to keep it relaxed. Find yourself a Trader Joes, a Whole Foods, nip to Eataly, grab a takeaway, a bottle of wine, some chocolate, WHATEVER you want, and throw on the hotel tv. You're on holiday!!
What we did...
Rockefeller Centre - Significantly cheaper than the Empire State Building and debatably better views! It will cost $36 for adults, $30 for children and under 6's are free, we didn't bother with the VIP access and queuing was minimal! (Less than 5 minutes in all cases) We booked online the same day we visited, you're given an arrival time and security is quick and painless. Elevators are well staffed, clean and organised. One side has spectacular views of Central Park and from the other you'll see the Empire State building. Yes, this is basically going up a building to see the view and I'll admit the kids thought it was super cool for 10 minutes and then were asking for the next activity, but if you wanted to make this more interactive for kids, why not create a list of all the things to find and tick them off as they spot them?
I realised after we had left they have a cool app to download, and use while you're there, if you go and try it out, let me know?
Central Park - yep, Probably an obvious one. I think it's worth mentioning though, because if you go with adults, young children, grumpy teenagers or by yourself this is always going to be a winner. It's a beautiful park and there is always something on, rent bicycles, enjoy the live music, climb the rocks or just people watch (a personal favourite!)
Brooklyn Bridge - Ok it might be the Sex in the City fan in me but I always wanted to walk the Brooklyn Bridge. Well only half way, have a romantic smooch and then go back to the city ;) And the first time we did it that's as far as we got, saw the views, got the picture, and then turned back. Well I can tell you now that would be a serious mistake! With the development of DUMBO (Down Under the Manhattan Bridge Overpass) you had best keep walking until you get into Brooklyn. It's not only the views that get even more spectacular, there are restaurants, lemonade stands, museums and a stunning park greet you, all with the Manhattan skyline in sight. After a big gulp of lemonade, a wander through the park and a little swing, the ferry back is a fun (and cheap!) way of getting back to Manhattan if you don't fancy walking back.
A little thought though - if you go in July/August, expect it to be hot and busy! Aim for early morning (starting before 9am) or later when it cools down. There's a great pizza place Brooklyn end which I've mentioned above and you could always uber back to Manhattan if it gets too late to take in the bright lights in the city. I've also been asked how 'child friendly' this is... it is worth saying for anyone who doesn't know, the walking path is separate and a little elevated above the road so no worries of kiddies accidentally veering into a car, although the cyclists occasionally get mouthy if you wander into their lane!! The path on and off the bridge is safe and away from cars although on the Brooklyn end there is a set of steps.
Washington Square Park - another great place to burn some off some steam with the kids.
The Highline what a treat. We spent an entire morning here, wandering the garden, splashing in the water features, checking out the art and spectacular views on this city garden on disused railway track. Best bit? It’s free!
Little tip, make sure you empty little bladders before embarking on this one - toilets were few and far between.
Bryant Park if you’re this way do wander through, it’s not big but full of all the culture and activities squeezed into a city block. Check their summer schedule to see live performances, juggling sessions and more. Or sit at the grill and consume an entire jug of margaritas .. your choice.
My best advice for travelling anywhere with children is try to relax, the day may not go perfectly to plan and that’s ok. Some of our best memories have been made in the spontaneous and unplanned moments! Make sure you allocate time for those little ones to have free play and allow for 4x as many toilet breaks as you need and them to be able to walk 1/4 of what you would.
Let me know if you think I missed anything? I hope that was helpful!