You know those glamorous city people who walk in heels, pop in and out of the subway like fairies, know the best chic but inexpensive places to eat and use words like “uptown” and “on the east side” and “ferry” as fluid parts of their vocabulary? I am not those people. I am a somewhat bedraggled mother of four tourist trying to keep her four children together in the bustle of the big Apple. A non-expert walking around NYC with kids. I am not chic. I live in knock off burks from Kohl’s and I have no clue what I’m doing most of the time. I’m not a paper map reader by nature and I can never seem to find my wallet at the bottom of my bag let alone keep track of our metro card, room key, bellhop ticket, museum passes, bandaids snacks and general necessities. Toss me into NYC and…
I’m not sure what you even get- at worst a woman looking like a hot mess, at best a Mama totally holding her own with four great kids seeing the heck out of one of the coolest cities on the east coast.
I’m not an expert. I’m not a pro. I don’t even think we saw a sliver of what NYC has to offer. But if you are curious about our itinerary or interested in any advice I have- this post is for you.
Before I get into the details I have to say… our four girls really rose to the occasion for this trip. They walked, they listened, they were patient. We had our fair share of crankiness and tired legs but besides Olive having a few moments these girls were amazing little city travelers. Gracie’s Garmin has over 24,000 steps logged every night! That’s a lot of miles walked for these little babes.
As for myself I think I managed ok. This was a true business trip for Brandon so he was out the door of our hotel by 7am and back around 6. My parents only live 1.5hrs or so away from NYC so they joined us for a bit which was great. But those few days completely on my own in the city with the kids were tough, no way to sugar coat that. Even though I was tired and got a little sunburned and had to carry multiple children and push heavy strollers and do all the things, I wanted to make the most of our time so I did the best I could.
Affiliate links used for product recommendations. The things I’ve linked are tried and true family favorites. –
Four Days in NYC With Kids
8am – left Philly to drive into NYC.
10am – arrive at Central Park. Street parking. Laduree for pastries. Play on the playground, climb the rocks, watch the remote control boats. Eat a picnic lunch.
12:30pm – check in to hotel Millennium Hilton Downtown (stunning views of the 9/11 memorial area, Oculus, and city at night, indoor pool, great location for walking to Brooklyn Bridge and Statue of Liberty ferry).
1:30pm – walk to China Town for Taiyaki ice cream fish cones (expect a line on weekends, the sell out of their famous pancakes before 2pm but they don’t sell out of the fish shaped cones.
3pm – walk back to hotel area to see the 9/11 museum and memorial.
5pm – get ready for dinner, walk to the South Street Seaport area and have dinner at the Italian restaurant il Brigante. Excellent Italian, highly recommend. Teeny tiny space though. Compact foldable stroller was appreciated.
8pm – back to hotel for a drink then bed (and GOT finale for Mom and Dad!) marvel at incredible city views.
6:30am – explore the Oculus
8am – walk to breakfast at George’s (reliable diner food- very traditional breakfast options, upstairs seating, plenty of room)
10am – walk to The Brooklyn Bridge and walk across! There were a lot of slushee stands and fresh fruit on the bridge – bring cash.
11:30am – back to hotel to grab baby carrier (very necessary)
12pm – walk to Battery Park For Statue of Liberty
1pm – Board ferry and head to Liberty Island for pedestal tour and sightseeing.
3:30pm – walk back to hotel, play and walk outside.
4pm – swimming!
6pm – dinner by the water at Brookfield place. Restaurant: PJ Clarke’s (oysters, burgers, calamari, salmon, Mac and cheese. Outdoor seating but plenty of indoor seating too and no wait. Right on the water with a view of sunset!)
7:30pm – walk by the water and watch sunset
8:30pm – back to hotel.
*Statue of Liberty tours to the crown sell out MONTHS in advance. Plan accordingly!
7am – leave hotel and hop the subway to Grand Central Station. PACKED but we wanted to get out of the hotel and get moving.
8am – walk to breakfast, Pret A Manger bagels and croissants (they’re everywhere in NYC, just a little cafe like Panera or Starbucks, on every corner).
9am – walk to the MoMA
10-12pm – explore MoMA and kids art lab area
12:30 – walk to Time Square, M&M store, naked cowboy, smoothies
1:30 – walk for 45 minutes before deciding to take the subway back to the Trade Tower area.
3pm – swimming!
5:30pm – Daddy comes back and we hop the subway to Central Park area for pizza dinner. Restaurant: Motorino, Upper West Side. highly recommend!
8pm – gelato at Amorino around the corner
9pm – back on the subway
10pm – bed.
6am – wake up and get ready to go.
7am – subway to 42nd street for USS Intrepid breakfast and fleet week reception.
8am-11am explore Intrepid museum
11am – walk to Time Square, find MUJI (right by New York Times building). Get expensive fresh fruit from the fruit stand.
11:30am- subway back to Brookfield place, walk around and explore.
1pm – pack and checkout of hotel.
1:30pm – lunch at Charley’s (chicken burrito with chips and salsa, grilled cheese with fries, burger with fries, salads) perfect for everyone! Ate in our hotel lobby.
2:30pm – meet Daddy and tour BNY Mellon building
3pm – Starbucks stop
4pm – start drive home.
11:30pm – HOME.
In no particular order….
- Save two maps of the city on your phone- a street map and a subway map. For whatever reason my husband and my phone wouldn’t populate accurate directions with any app we tried- Waze, google maps, NYC subway. They straight up did. not. work. They never populated and didn’t keep up with their navigation. Reading the MAP was so much easier and more reliable.
- Decide your most important “activities” and work backward. For the girls and I we most wanted to see the Statue of Liberty and the MoMA. Everything else was icing on the cake. So we did things near the MoMA and did things near the statue during those outings which worked out great!
- If you can find a hotel with a pool- take advantage. Walking around NYC with kids can be so exhausting even just mentally from needing to be alert and aware and pay attention. It was awesome to let the kids jump in and play in the water even for half an hour after a crazy stressful day of directed walking and seeing. They NEEDED that chill time to just play and be free.
- Ask questions ask questions ask questions. If you’re like me and alone in NYC with kids for the first time, it’s easy to get lot of confused. But it’s much easier to just ask someone than get completely off track with directions or dining or anything else. People are more than willing to help! There also seem to be police everywhere (sadly) who give excellent help and advice.
- Pack easy to grab snacks – for us that meant a whole case of applesauce pouches, granola bars, bananas and gummies. A case of water is helpful as is a box of juice pouches.
- If your kids are old enough give them a record keeping job- have them take pictures with a Polaroid (we have a few of these cameras – the bundles that come with film are totally worth it) or keep all flat/paper mementos for a travel journal (pack clear tape, a hole punch and washi tape!).
- Double check the bag policy for every place you are visiting. Some sights do not allow backpacks (statue of liberty is one of them) so just plan accordingly! Easier to bring a tote or a bag where the backpack straps fully remove than to get a locker and stow all your stuff although that’s easy to do, just an extra step. I thought I’d be fine with my backpack that has a shoulder strap and just wear it as a tote but I wasn’t allowed to bring it in.
- You can use the emergency exit doors in the subway if you are pushing a stroller or many children through to the other side. Even if the alarm sounds it’s ok!! Just push the stroller to the emergency door, swipe your metro card through the turnstiles, go through, and zip around to open then door and get the stroller. It’s in full view at all times and usually right next to the swipe entry.
- Getting around NYC with kids is easiest by subway. If you have to take the subway at rush hour times fold your stroller up in advance or you’ll never get on. At one point I was wearing the baby, carrying the folded up stroller, holding Sally’s hand, holding Gracie’s hand and watching Lilly holding the pole by herself amidst a SEA of people. It was fine but just prepare yourself lol
- Decide for yourself if your kids can or cannot do things. I read a lot about not bringing children into the 9/11 memorial but I’m SO glad we went. It really touched them and even though it was hard to explain and made us all sad (the tears just poured out of me ugh) it was clearly a huge teaching moment for all of us and a part of our history so worth sharing. The museum itself does a really excellent job of sectioning off areas that could be too graphic or emotional for younger audiences. Just skip those parts. If we had had time to do the Jewish Heritage Museum that would’ve been really interesting too.
- Make sure you have a stroller that folds up small if you’re planning to walk around NYC with kids. Restaurants are tight, subways are tight, hotel rooms can be small. We are forever obsessed with our babyzen yoyo and I swear it’s worth it’s weight in gold. It fits in the overhead bin if you are flying, can tuck under a bed in your hotel too, slide under the seat on a bus at Disney’s world … I need to write a post about this stroller all by itself! We love it that much, ha.
If you have other recommendations for people traveling to NYC with kids, drop them in the comments below! We by no means saw everything there is to see but it was a fun first family trip. I think we’ll be back over the holidays for a show or two and some Christmas festivities.
Love this post? Check out our family trip to Costa Rica!