Worth the Trip: Two Days in New York City with Kids

Worth the Trip: Two Days in NYC with the Kids. Over April Vacation, we spent two days in NYC. We have our NYC family itinerary for you below. The kids had never been before, and it had been since college since myself or my husband had been. We love museums and theater, and we wanted to take the kids to see some favorite spots. Here is how we spent our time and what was worth the price, the crowds, and the time spent.

 

American Museum of Natural History

There is so much to see here! We couldn’t have seen it all in one day, and we didn’t add on any special exhibit or film or planetarium tickets. However, there were films and other exhibits to see. I would definitely check out the website before you go to plan your day based on the interests of the kids.

Know what you want to see before you get there and look at a map! It would have been too bad to miss out on the fossil and dinosaur exhibits on the top floor because we were too tired. We ended up sitting on a bench to regroup because we were overwhelmed with the size of the building, and we studied the map and made a priority list of what to see. Navigation is not intuitive in this museum!

Our kids favorite exhibits were the fossils, the gems, and the dioramas best. There is a food court, but we ate at food trucks in Central Park across the street from the museum.

Museum Tip: We watched Night at the Museum before we went. It was like a scavenger hunt looking for Dexter the monkey, Rexy the TRex, Theodore Roosevelt and the Easter Island Statue / Dum Dum Gum Gum (from the film).

American Natural History Museum

 

Central Park

We entered the park right across from the museum. There were large rocks, winding paths and a castle with pretty sweeping views of the park. The castle is definitely worth checking out if you are close enough to it. It also abuts the “turtle pond” where we did catch sight of a few turtles too. We enjoyed the views and the girls enjoyed running around the paths and discovering “hidden benches” behind large boulders. (This is much more familiar to them than larger cities and metros. They were in their element.)
A wonderful park employee at the castle told us there were 21 playgrounds! We found one near the museum, but it was definitely geared toward younger kids. My 9 year old was disappointed. We decided to move on from the park, so we didn’t get a sense of the other playgrounds.

Central Park Turtle Pond

Broadway Tickets

The nine year old and I went to Wicked. I bought tickets a week in advance on the Today Tix app. We paid $140 per ticket for Mezzanine Level, second row. The seats were fabulous; we could see the whole stage perfectly. The show was unbelievable – I love theater and so does my kid. They mark the show as recommended 8+ and I think that is right on. Some of the storyline was a bit over her head – and I should have shown her all of Wizard of Oz before going to the show. My five year old would have struggled with sitting still for nearly three hours and would have had a hard time following the plot.

A friend took his kids 9 and 6 to Lion King on Broadway (coincidentally the same night), and he said it was appealing to the whole family.

Broadway Tip: Discount tickets can also be purchased in the middle of Times Square at the TCKTS booth for 20-50% off the cost of the same day tickets. But you can’t be guaranteed that the show you want to see has available tickets. Tuesdays – Thursdays have the most availability and the highest chance of discounted tickets.

The Top of the Rock

While we were at the show, my husband took the youngest to Rockefeller Center to the “Top of the Rock.” This was a good choice for my husband and my five year old because she was free (under six is free). It was something for them to do after five when a lot of museums are closed. And she was excited by the idea of being taller than all the New Yorkers and tourists below and see the city. She liked hearing about the sites – pointing out Central Park, our hotel, the Statue of Liberty, and the World Trade Center site.

Ellen’s Stardust Diner

As a way to get the five year old a little theater show, we did breakfast at this popular touristy spot. The diner is usually quite busy, but we went at 8:30 in the morning and had no wait. We enjoyed breakfast with dazzling singing performances. The “Stardusters” as they call themselves are waiters, chefs and hostesses at the restaurant but pause their restaurant duties, to take the stage and sing popular songs and songs from musicals. Our favorite was their interpretation of “Be Our Guest” which was very interactive and ended with confetti! It was a very fun spot for a meal, but would be a terrible place for conversation because of the noise!
The 1950s diner theming is really fun and the food is pretty good too. When asked what the little kid would tell people about her trip, she said eating at the place with the singing people, so it was a hit with the kids for sure!

MET Cloisters

We got off the Metro and walked through Fort Tryon to reach this museum. It was a pleasant walk through the park. This is not the MET main building but rather a second building. One pass gets you into both for the same rate. Kids 2-12 are free.

It looks like a castle when you approach and the architecture throughout is from 12 and 13th century monasteries and chapels in Europe. The kids enjoyed hearing historical stories and imagining the people who created the art throughout.

We saw the famous Unicorn Hunt Tapestries and the kids loved the cloister gardens. I would say this is for families who really love art, history and architecture. It is not designed to be interpreted for children, although they do run children’s programming the first Saturday of the month. We did spend two hours here and we all got a lot out of it.

MET Cloisters

After, we walked across the street to Tryon Public House restaurant which was delicious and had a good selection of kid’s meals.

MET Tip: Make sure to take the metro to Fort Tryon Park and not the next stop up. Although it looks a bit further on the map, you will not have to climb steep hills and stairs to reach the museum.

Travel Logistics 

We drove to Stamford, CT where there is a large parking garage with a reasonable daily rate for parking. Then we took the train to Grand Central Station in NY. We bought round trip tickets which were good for return during off peak hours the following day. (Peak hours are week days 4-8). This ended up being a scramble, so if you are not sure what time you are returning, it could be worth paying the peak price so as not to stress about return times.

From Grand Central Station, we took the metro shuttle to Grand Central Station ($2.80 per person per trip on the metro).

Metro Tip: If you plan to ride 6 or more times per person, the math works out that it is a savings to do the seven day unlimited pass for each person in your group. (Cost $34 per person) We rode six times over the course of our trip, so we would have broken even (just about) if we had done the unlimited pass. We did not use Uber, Lyft or Taxi Service at all. Also, bring hand sanitizer!
Other
Van Levens was on a list of the best ice cream in New York. This made it as a to do item, and although a kiddie size ice cream was $7 or so, it was delicious ice cream!

We popped into the M&M store with some time to kill before our Wicked show. In hind sight, shopping in New York is tough without clear expectations of purchasing and budget with the kids. Things, as one can imagine, are incredibly expensive in Times Square. But everything is also bright and fun and everywhere, so it is extra appealing to children. The store is very cute and you can design your own M&Ms (which we did not do). And you can make your own mix of colors and types in bags by the 1/2 pound (which we did do).

Weird Facts about NYC: We picked up this book at the Natural History Museum but it can be bought anywhere I’m sure. Our oldest enjoyed reading us wild information about the city throughout our stay.

To do next time! 

Ferry Boat to Ellis Island & Statue of Liberty
MET main building
New York Public Library
More time in Central Park
Shopping at FAO Schwartz & The Lego Store
Another Broadway Play (maybe The Lion King)
The Strand Bookstore (because I cannot stay away from an iconic bookstore)

Have you traveled to New York City with Kids? What did we miss? What should we absolutely do next time? What would you add to your New York City family itinerary?
Looking for more things to do with the family? Check out our calendar!

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