Big Apple Tips :: Traveling to New York City with Kids

Travel is back, baby! At least, it is for us.

When my daughter heard I’d had my second vaccine shot, she immediately asked, “When are we going to New York?”

Posing in front of an I love New York sign at LaGuardia
Posing in front of an I love New York sign at LaGuardia

If you’re like us and planning a long delayed (or recently planned) trip to the Big Apple, here are a few tips and tricks we picked up along the way to help you have a successful trip.

Pre-Trip Prep for Travel to New York CIty

Buy tickets early. While New York is open for business, there are still capacity- and space- restrictions for many of the popular activities.

Bring your masks and vaccine card. You’ll need your mask for your flight and for any transportation you’ll take, so keep a fresh one handy. For indoor locations and restaurants, masks are typically optional for those who have been vaccinated. While the family-friendly places we went did not ask for proof of vaccination, if you have a vaccine card, it’s a good idea to have it ready.

Update your apps. The easiest way to get around New York is through a ride-sharing app, like Uber or Lyft. Take time to update your ride-sharing apps and any others you may be using. The night before our flight, I went ahead and made sure my Uber app was up-to-date (my last ride was 2019). However, any pride I felt at my forethought was dashed by the end of day one when I was unable to call an Uber because the bank account I used was locked due to unusual activity. So, also be sure to…

Update your bank and credit cards. Let them know you’ll be out of town, so you don’t get locked out of your account.

Playing in the Ball Pit at The Color Factory in New York
Playing in the Ball Pit at The Color Factory in New York

Things To Do in NYC with Kids

My daughter is almost seven, which is about the right age for a trip like this. Younger kids can also get a lot of New York, but I wouldn’t recommend it for toddlers because there is too much walking and too many distractions.

First of all, know that The Color Factory is a MUST. This immersive experience is fun for everyone. It’s creative, interactive, and best of all, ends with a giant ball pit. Be sure to buy your tickets beforehand and plan to arrive at least five minutes before your appointed time. Also know that everyone will likely be hungry and a little tired at the end, so plan a lunch or early dinner afterwards to allow everyone to recharge.

The 9/11 Memorial & Museum is a beautiful and emotional place. It’s also the perfect place to introduce young kids to an important event in our country’s history that might be hard to otherwise comprehend. If you don’t want to do the museum itself, just wandering the pavilion and viewing the reflecting pools is still a very satisfying experience.

Next to the Memorial, is the World Trade Center Oculus. Besides being stunning to look at, there are also shops and events held there throughout the week. Check the calendar before you visit to see if there is something you and your crew would be interested in.

About two blocks from the 9/11 Memorial is Brookfield Place. This hidden gem has shops, restaurants, snacks, and coffee. We stopped at the For Five Café for cookies and a caffeine pick-me-up. Brookfield Place also has outdoor seating on the river if you need to rest, and often hosts events. You can also take a nice stroll down the river where you can see the Statue of Liberty or take a boat ride.

For kids experiencing New York for the first time, seeing Times Square is always a treat. For a unique (and cooler) spin on this tradition, go after dark. Put on your pajamas, grab an Uber, and just drive through to see the lights.

And for a low-key (and free) activity, be sure to visit one of the parks. Central Park is best known, but if you find yourself in Brooklyn, be sure to visit Prospect Park. On a pretty day, you can bring a picnic and a ball, and just let the kids play.

Eating pasta at Eataly in New York
Eating Pasta at Eataly in New York

Eating, Drinking, & Shopping Local in NYC

New York is an excellent place to introduce picky palates to broader food options (or at least get them to eat a wider variety of buttered noodles). It’s also a great chance to shop unique specialty stores and shops.

We ate outdoors at Il Patio di Eataly, next to the 9/11 Memorial. My daughter had “the most delicious noodles ever” and ordered seconds. Eataly is a bit of a splurge, but it was worth it for us. It also only serves Italian fare, so know that if your kids want a Sprite, they’ll get to try an Italian lemon soda instead!

For coffee, one of my favorite places to visit was The Hungry Ghost. There are several locations throughout the area, and each serves up a wonderful coffee or specialty drink. It was also there that I had an honest-to-goodness celebrity sighting!

We also got the chance to visit the Little Things Toy Store in Park Slope, Brooklyn. A bit out of the way if you’re staying in Manhattan, but this little shop had a wonderful selection of toys and we were able to pick up cool train toys for little brother.

More “NYC with Kids” Tips & Tricks

Between walking and ride sharing, you do not need to take the subway. However, if you do want to take a ride, plan ahead. Get the app and study the map for destinations. Even the locals agree it can be confusing. Also, be prepared for lively comments from the kids. My daughter’s first impression of the subway? “It smells like a bathroom.”

Keep your phone charged, and bring a mobile charger if possible. If not, it is possible your ride-share driver may be able to charge your phone in their car.

Finally, be prepared to be flexible in how to pay for things. Due to COVID, some places are still cashless. And while most places take credit cards, many places will also take ApplePay or other forms of electronic pay. It might be worthwhile to set up an account beforehand, just to give yourself more paying options.

Born in south Louisiana, Caroline is an Air Force veteran who, after living in San Angelo, San Antonio, Abilene, and other places, finally made her way to north Texas in July 2020. Married to her (usually) favorite Aggie since 2006, she gets to be mom to CeCe (6) and Bubba (2), and frequently wonders “what in the world have I gotten myself into?” After spending many years with a global consulting firm, Caroline now works for UT Dallas as a Program Manager in Executive Education. Caroline is an award-winning humor writer, an avid/rabid LSU fan, terrible housekeeper, and a holiday-baking show connoisseur. She is also a certified coach that owns her own business, CKH Coaching, supporting fellow veteran women manage their transition back to the civilian world. You can learn more at CKHCoaching.com

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