Tips for Traveling to New York City with Kids

We get tons of questions from New Orleans moms about the best places to travel with kids. Over the years our team of writers has done everything from road trip to Arkansas, to renting a cabin in Tishomingo state park to living at the beaches in Pensacola for weeks on end. We are all about sharing family traveling tips whether your next adventure from New Orleans is to the coast, Disney or the mountains! There is a list of drivable destinations from New Orleans for every budget here. And if you end up staying right here in New Orleans, we have dozens of ideas for kid-friendly outings in New Orleans, too! Thinking about traveling to New York City with your kiddos? Here are some tips and must-see attractions for your trip! 

Tips for Traveling to New York City with Kids

 

After many years of dreaming about a New York City vacation around the holidays, I finally made it happen. I had not been to the Big Apple in 20 years and was really looking forward to taking my two daughters to see the Christmas decorations and enjoy the splendor of NYC for the holidays. I wasn’t sure exactly how easy or challenging a trip like this would be for just a mom and kids, so I invited two of my best friends and their daughters to join us on a fun-filled four-day vacation. It was nothing short of MAGICAL!

Our group of daughters ranged from ages 5-13. Altogether, there were 8 of us traveling to NYC the week after Thanksgiving. (We opted for the in-between time after the Macy’s Day Parade and before the more crowded weeks around Christmas.) Because of our larger group, we opted for a five-bedroom townhouse in the Upper East Side so that we could all stay together in one space. This was slightly cheaper than three hotel rooms and allowed us to have a living room to play in and a small kitchen to make breakfast, coffee, etc. It worked out perfectly for us, and I was able to communicate with my Airbnb host several times before our vacation.

In our planning, we discussed what one thing each family was really wanting to do so that we could make sure we scheduled it in our priority activities. There is so much to do in NYC that you just can’t do it all in one weekend. (Don’t worry, we’ll be back!) Also, we knew that we wanted to plan a leisurely trip so that there were plenty of breaks and downtime for the kids to hang out together, relax, and play. We even had a full-on dance party in the townhouse one night (while the moms enjoyed a glass of wine in pajamas) — it was perfect!

Our goal was to plan and book one major activity or event per day and then play it by ear the rest of the time. Here are some of the things we did and how it worked out for us:

Aladdin on Broadway – this show was simply amazing and entertaining for all ages. I would highly recommend it to anyone, boys or girls, of any age. The genie was absolutely fantastic and the magic carpet truly seems to float. This was my 8-year-old’s favorite thing!

The Rockettes Christmas Spectacular – a multi-media, fully engaging show of singing, dancing, 3D elements, magical flying objects, Santas everywhere, streamers falling from the sky, and the most beautiful nativity scene ever. Simply the best. I cannot express how fantastic the Rockettes show was. It’s worth a trip to NYC just to see them; this was MY favorite!

The Color Factory – located in the precious neighborhood of SoHo, this multi-sensory museum of color history and exploration is just so fun! Plus there are treats along the way, which is a nice added touch. The museum promotes play and engages all ages – we had a blast! The last stop of this progressive museum (you move from room to room as you experience each section) was a giant ball pit. It sounds a little silly, but we all jumped in, and we had a blast!

Double Decker Bus Tour – the kids didn’t enjoy the history and explanations as much as I did (they were also tired by this point), but you can use the bus tours to get around the island. We made a stop at Battery Park to take a picture of the Statue of Liberty. The traffic gets pretty tight in the afternoon/evening, so it can be slower moving than earlier in the day.

Rockefeller Plaza – the giant Christmas tree is a beautiful sight. You can also make reservations to go ice skating (which we didn’t get to do because of the rain). In this same area are shopping highlights like FAO Schwartz and the American Girl Doll store. Both are equally retail and experience and well worth the trip.

Times Square – is very near Rockefeller Plaza and fun to see the giant displays and advertisements playing on the buildings. The giant M&M store is nearby and so much fun to visit!

Shopping on 5th Avenue – while we didn’t go into all the luxury stores, we did take an afternoon shopping trip down 5th Avenue, which my daughters (8 and 13) really enjoyed. Some highlights were the multi-story H&M, the LEGO store where you can make custom LEGO people, and the beautiful display on the Saks building. Everything is decorated so beautifully during the holidays that you can just walk up and down the street enjoying the sights.

There is so much that we didn’t get to visit during our quick trip. We have a running list of what to visit next time:

  • The Metropolitan Museum of Art
  • Chinatown/Little Italy
  • Central Park
  • The 9/11 Memorial
  • The Empire State Building
  • The Sports Pier
  • Hudson Yards
  • Macy’s

We did our best to balance an exciting, fun-filled trip, but also give our kids rest time so that they could fully enjoy the activities we had planned. We have a long list of things we want to do next time we visit NYC. Now that I know how easy it is to get around and how safe I felt with my kids (stay in well-lit, populated areas always!), I will certainly be back. We were all so proud of how well our daughters did with navigating the city, having to do some walking, and just enjoying the trip in general. It was a trip of a lifetime, and I am so thankful we got to experience it as a mother-daughter group with my closest friends!

Other Random Tidbits:

  • We took Ubers most of the time (account for a lot more time than you think to travel one mile!)
  • One subway attempt was a good experience and your iPhone map will explain to you most of what you need to know, but it was still tricky and we had to ask for directions.
  • A few times I had to ask someone for help/directions, and it was fine. Everyone I talked to was friendly and helpful.
  • There are kids everywhere in NYC! With so many family-friendly activities, you’ll see families with kids of all ages in the city.
  • If your kids are a little older, getting from place to place by walking is actually easier. But know your audience: it’s not worth making everyone miserable if little legs can’t make it.
  • The food is amazing! Everything we ate was superb! If you can get to a Serendipity Restaurant, make a reservation and have dessert!
Rachel Harris Ledet
A New Orleans native and entrepreneurial mom, Rachel maintains a daily balance of running her own marketing firm, 30|90 Marketing, managing her kids’ schedules, and maintaining an active extracurricular life including teaching dance, volunteering, and instructing a digital marketing class at UNO. Rachel lives in Mandeville with her best friend and husband Lenny, daughters Addison and Amelia, stepson Luke, and new baby Tucker. With a growing family and a million balls in the air, Rachel keeps things light by continuously learning, spending time with amazing friends, blogging, finding any route to a concert or outdoor festival, and planning her next getaway with her husband. A sense of humor can get you through almost anything, so she tends to surround herself with fabulous and very funny people.

1 COMMENT

  1. That NYC trip sounds phenomenal. I was about the age of your kids the first time my family went to NYC. I still remember things that I saw on that trip, vividly in fact. Everything yall did looked great besides that dumb Times Square, but at least yall visited the MnM store in Times Square, which would be enjoyable for the kiddos. Fun read, thanks for sharing.

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