New York City Travel Guide (with kids!)

New York City Travel Guide (with kids!)

We traveled to NYC with all four of our children four years ago. Our youngest child was only one year old at the time. I made a photo album of that vacation and any time she looked through it, she was so sad that she didn’t remember being there. She saw herself in the photographs, mainly in our Ergobaby carrier on my back, but the memories weren’t within her. She regularly asked about going back and my answer was always, we will go again soon! “WHEN MOMMY?????!”

Fast forward four years. She is now five years old and the fabulous opportunity to take her presented itself. My oldest three children were going to be at camp for two weeks and my husband was in Africa during that same time frame. I knew I would most likely never have this same chance again to have her all to myself for two full weeks, so I took advantage of the time and booked our flights (we flew Spirit Airlines) and hotel for a great deal via Travelocity the week before we left. It was, without a doubt, more wonderful than I could have possibly imagined or hoped for. I am excited to share the places we hit! I created a Travel Necessities list as well that features my MUST HAVE travel items so you can conveniently shop them all in one place. Traveling with children can be fun, trust me!

Let’s get to it…

Day 1: We stayed at the Park Lane Hotel at 36 Central Park S — can’t beat the location. Walking to most of our destinations was very important to me, not only because it saves money, but primarily because I personally think it gives a true feel of the city far more so than being in a taxi or on the subway! So, when selecting our hotel I was very intentional about where it was in relation to where I wanted to take her.

Our first stop after we dropped our bags off at our hotel was Blacktap Midtown. I first heard of their Crazyshakes a couple of years ago when they went viral on the internet, and this lady never misses out on a good dessert so checking it off our list was a must. She went with the Cotton Candy option and I chose the Churro Choco Taco, mainly because it had Cinnamon Toast Crunch around the outside and if you don’t think that’s the best cereal on the planet, well we can’t be friends anymore.

I never plan too much for the first day of any trip as there can always be unforeseen travel delays, tiredness after flights and dealing with airport craziness, or who knows what else, so the rest of the day was easy. (Day 2 all bets are off and we hit the ground running…) We took a Pedicab through Central Park to the Met (she LOVED the ride, and although I had originally planned to walk, this was much more enjoyable and relaxing), strolled down 5th Avenue with a stop at the Billie Johnson playground, and grabbed some food at Pret to eat in bed in our pj’s in front of a movie.

Relaxing in the Pedicab on the way to the Met.

Relaxing in the Pedicab on the way to the Met.

Day 2: Friday was major. So much to do, so little time! I love having a pretty packed schedule to adhere to (as you’ll see from the screenshot of my Notes at the bottom) but still do allow room for flexibility. We got up and walked to Alice’s Tea Cup Chapter II for breakfast complete with fairy wings and making a wish under fairy dust as we walked in. They have an enormous selection of teas, several very enjoyable for kiddos. She went with the waffle and I had the Eggs Benedict on savory ham and cheese scones. Yummy!!

From Alice’s Tea Cup we walked to the Central Park Zoo to arrive for the 10am opening. I was concerned (well, not concerned…just had some thoughts going around in my mind) that she would be disappointed it wasn’t the Brooklyn Zoo aka where the animals from the Madascar movies reside, and also that she would be very underwhelmed as our Fort Worth Zoo is one of the best in the United States.

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No concern necessary! It was WONDERFUL. They had a great selection of animals to see that were nowhere to be found back home in Texas. We saw several new species of birds, snow monkeys and snow leopards, and made sure to be present for the 11:00am sea lion feeding which was comparable to Sea World. What a show! Definitely plan your zoo visit around this so your kids can enjoy the experience.

We walked from the zoo to Bergdorf’s for lunch and instead of going the usual route of lunch at the 7th floor cafe, we hit up Palette on the beauty level, Ashley Longshore’s new dream child that was more bedazzled than I could have ever hoped for. The chairs were upholstered in varying shades of glitter vinyl with sequin backs, her OUTSTANDING art covered every square inch of the walls, and the placemats were hysterical. It was a fun stop. We perused the beautiful floors of Bergdorf’s afterwards before making a quick stop by Gucci to play with the sunglasses, then walked back to the hotel for a little snooze.

Frozen was on the docket for the evening (hence our earlier required nap…which frankly we were both thrilled about), and on our way there we stopped at Magnolia Bakery (to have dessert as our first dinner course) and FAO Schwarz in Rockefeller Center. She was not interested in going to the top of the Rock, but we did this with all of our kids during our last trip to NYC and they loved it. We did a little shopping at J.Crew as well, which was excellent planning on my part since we still had to walk all the way to Frozen and who doesn’t love carrying extra bags around? There are great pizza parlors on pretty much every block, so on our way to the theater we picked up a ginormous slice of pizza and ate it in line for the show while we waited for the doors to open.

Frozen was delightful and Elsa’s Let It Go makeover moment was FABULOUS. They did specifically ask that we not sing along but who could actually help themselves for that song? I might have jumped in a bit as Anna and Prince Hans were finishing each other’s sandwiches as well because #loveisanopendoor. Very strangely, cupcakes and pizza weren’t the most filling of dinner choices, so when we left the show at 10:30pm a sensible stop for fresh out of the oven Auntie Anne’s pretzels was necessary. We came to the conclusion that sleep was for crazies and ate our pretzels in bed while watching the Secret Life of Pets, finally turning out the lights around 12:30am.

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Day 3: It was 7:04am and she was eating M&M’s for breakfast in bed. I had wanted to grab a rainbow bagel, but it was easier to just jump on the subway straight to Battery Park rather than getting off solely for a bagel stop, so M&Ms it was! She was most looking forward to this day for two reasons: Seeing the Statue of Liberty was her number one NYC must-see request, and she was just about to lose her mind over excitement about going on the subway. Neither disappointed! After red lipstick was applied, we made our way down to the dock and hopped on the ferry to see Lady Liberty.

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This was a special moment to share with her. I am glad we went out to the island, as when we were last here I only took my oldest three to view the Statue of Liberty from the edge of the park. It is impossible to grasp the size from that far away; this was much more impactful for her than it otherwise would have been had we not decided to go on the ferry.

We stopped by the new SeaGlass Carousel once we were back to Battery Park and she enjoyed it but was slightly underwhelmed after several visits to the rides at Six Flags here. It was only $5 and children can ride by themselves, so I would consider doing it again in the future.

We walked to the 9/11 Memorial and I couldn’t explain to her what it was without crying. My birthday is September 11, and I will never forget the morning of the attacks. I was excited about turning 17 that day, September 11, 2001. I was getting ready for school — sitting on my vanity stool putting on lip gloss, occasionally glancing at the Today Show on the little 12” screen of the TV in my room behind me. I heard the news anchor say an airplane had hit the World Trade Center and my eyes glanced up to the mirror, looking at the reflection of the screen, seeing the nearly black smoke pouring out of the side of the building. I turned around to actually look at the TV and wondered if my parents were watching downstairs. I went to the den where they did have it on, and we were all standing there watching as the second plane hit. Before that moment, there was still the discussion on the news and between us of it being an accident. But then…the collision of plane two…I had never seen anything like it. Tears are in my eyes as I type this. I remember the scream of the news anchor. My hands went straight to cover my mouth as I gasped. It was a feeling of sickness and fear and sadness and horror that I had never felt the combination of before. Being at the memorial brought up so many other memories of that day, the horrific footage of people jumping out of the windows, and of course, the towers crashing down. It made me realize the importance of sharing this with my children so they understood — and I finally understood why my grandfather always cried when he told me about Pearl Harbor. If you do not live through something, it is difficult to pass on the emotion and experience of the moment. The 9/11 Memorial is a POWERFUL tribute to the victims and that day, and I cannot more highly encourage you to allow your children to have the chance to see it and gain a deeper understanding of what happened. I am very thankful I took her and look forward to taking my others in the future.

We prayed for the families of all of those that lost their lives on 9/11, took some deep breaths and shifted gears so we could continue on and head to lunch. My all time favorite restaurant in NYC is Bagatelle. Not because it is super fancy (the ambiance is great). Not because the food is the best in the world (comes close). But because I have special memories here with friends (there may or may not have been dancing on the booths and tables) and the vibe is SO. MUCH. FUN. Think…restaurant that slowly shifts into a nightclub ;) We arrived around noon so the music wasn’t loud yet and the fast crowd hadn’t arrived, but it felt so good to be back. The food is truly fantastic though (the gnocchi is comparable to that which I have had in Rome) and the service is amazing. You will definitely need a reservation, try to get a spot on the patio, and plan to stay for at least several hours. If you do take your kids, dinner would not be the most appropriate of meals for them given the scene that it can quickly become, so stick with lunch for sure. Just as a side note, some of my other favorite NYC eats are the Waverly Inn, Le Bilboquet (both more adult), Shake Shack, and Eataly (great for kids).

Next stop was the Gazillion Bubble Show which was absolutely delightful. The parents enjoyed it as much as the kids! I have never seen so many bubbles and the adults were trying to reach up and pop the big ones floating over our heads by the end right along side all of the children. It was only an hour long and a very fun activity.

She had been asking for ice cream out of the street trucks since we first set foot in the city and since all standards had gone out the window at the M&M’s for breakfast moment, I decided another yes was in order and I am so glad I did, as I was able to snap what became my favorite photo of us from the trip.

NYC ice cream

We stopped at 99c Pizza on the walk home because every single location received 4+ stars on Yelp, and it seemed like a dream to feed the two of us for less than $3. The pizza was yummy and fit the bill quite nicely! We wrapped up with an early night FINALLY so we would be as refreshed in the morning as possible and ready to travel home.

KIDDING! I tried to wrap up with an early night, was very proud that we were in our pajamas before 6 and watched a movie in bed, but when the movie was over, of course she was hungry. I’m sorry actually her words were, “If I don’t eat something I will definitely die!!!” We had blown through the Larabars I brought to keep in my handbag for snacks as we walked around, so we got dressed again and headed next door to the Plaza Food Hall. This was one of my favorite stops last time we were all in NYC, and I am glad I was able to take her. Plus, ending the night with froyo covered in marshmallows, Nerds and gummy bears, and a warm Nutella crepe was way better than a lame, sugar-free, 7:30pm bedtime. The sugar rush she experienced afterwards was lovely as well.

Day 4: Cue the tears! This trip was truly wonderful, so connecting, rejuvenating, and special for the two of us to spend together and I did not want it to end. If at all possible, I try to avoid booking really early flights so that rushing out the door is avoided. Try to end the trip on a high note, not moments slathered in stress! We weren’t due to leave for the airport until around 11am, so we walked just a couple of doors down to Sarabeth’s for breakfast (reservations are a must) and sat outside. Perfection! Everything on the menu is delicious, especially the Four Flowers juice.

We still had plenty of time before we needed to head to the airport, so we decided to take one last stroll through Central Park to smell the flowers. We stopped at the Heckscher Playground, which is my personal favorite as there is so much to do! Swings, slides, castles, sand, open green space, rocks to climb — something for every age and every child.

It was the perfect ending to a perfect trip. Below, I included our basic schedule that I had jotted down in my Notes on my iPhone so I could quickly glance at what I had planned for the day. A few things were switched around or skipped, but it was nice to have the reference handy so every step was streamlined.

As far as a travel wardrobe, we packed LIGHT — only taking one carry on each. Being comfortable and stylish are musts for me, so I brought my Tea Skirts, J.Crew t-shirts, and my favorite Golden Goose high tops. See below for specific links to each item.

Day 1 Outfit: Shirt / Skirt / Sneakers / Sunglasses. Not current: Prada handbag. Dior bracelet.

Day 2 Outfit: Shirt / Skirt / Necklace / Sunglasses. Not current: Prada handbag.

Day 3 Outfit: Skirt / Necklace / Sunglasses / Sneakers. Not current: J.Crew t-shirt.

The sunglasses are one of the best buys of my life. I have the real Gucci version found here, and while Gucci does not make them (as far as I know) in the pink and yellow colorway I took to NYC, they are comfortable, fun, and for $12.99, I won’t cry if I lose them…as I would with my real version. The Amazon version also now comes in the more authentic looking red/black/green colorway.

Ok so tell me, what are your favorite NYC places?! What did we leave off? Sights to see, places to eat, stores to shop — tell me ALL of your secrets because I am ready to go back for another round.

xoxoSF.