New York City is what made me fall in love with the East Coast. I still remember my first visit to the city as a young girl from San Diego. Everything seemed so foreign and exciting! The theatre, Little Italy, the skyscrapers, the New York accent, the sophisticated shops of 5th Avenue, and the unique smells. It was all seared in my memory forever.
As parents, my husband and I love to bring our children to the city. They are still awestruck every time we visit and discover something new to love. One trip it was the Empire State Building; another it was Ellis Island; then Dylan’s Candy Bar. The last trip, it was the 30-foot Wii screen at Le Parker Meridien. New York does everything in a grand style.
New York with kids requires a new approach. If you attempt to drag your kids on an adult-focused itinerary, everyone will be miserable. I recently heard a couple complaining about how they bought their daughter a toy, but then she wanted to go back to the hotel to play with it. Kids are kids no matter where they are. Parents may be missing the days of art galleries, late-night dinners and music, but most of these things are still doable when you balance them with kid-focused activities like playing in Central Park, visiting the M&M store, or riding the largest indoor Ferris wheel at Toys-R-Us.
Here’s a look into my little black book of favorite websites, articles and guides:
Journeywoman, a popular blogger, takes her kids to NYC.
Travel for Kids has a great list of books to read before you go.
Traveling Mamas has a well-organized list with unique ideas.
WeJustGotBack.com’s NYC Insider Guide is excellent and thorough.
TripAdvisor’s printable city guide is a high-level overview in a well-organized format.
Trekaroo has a long list of activities for kids in New York.
Articles, Events and Lists
Travel & Leisure used to have a family magazine, and this dated article is still one of my favorites: Secret NYC.
Toddler-Friendly Attractions on About.com
New York City high-level overview and theatre updates.
Context Travel is outstanding, a good value and will enhance any city experience. They offer group and custom tours led by subject experts (I book tours with them whenever they are available). In NYC, they offer a family tour of the Met, chocolate tours, architecture tours, tours of Brooklyn, the Village, Jewish cuisine and culture, and the list goes on.
Art Smart. Do you love to visit the cultural sites, but are not sure how to involve your kids? Try Art Smart, a group that puts together custom tours for your family.
Viator always offers a good starting point for a list of unique activities.
Century 21 is not to be missed if you like designer clothes at ridiculously low prices. They have amazing kids’ clothes that are usually boutique-only lines for a fraction of the normal price (example: a True Religion skirt for my daughter at $15). I always drag my family here.
Le Parker Meridien
After planning all the great places to visit, you will need to figure out where to stay. New York City hotels tend to have small rooms and big prices, which is why, when you find a great family spot, you have to spread the word. In the city, it’s important to choose a hotel that offers your family a retreat from the chaos, is comfortable, and has a bit of entertainment for kids. We have a few family hotels in New York listed on Ciao Bambino; however, I want to highlight Le Parker Meridien.
The restaurants, pool and games were a perfect fit for my kids. They happened to have “the best” Burger Joint in New York, which was ideal because I have one child who only eats hamburgers. This place, marked by a small neon hamburger sign, is tucked behind velvet curtains, revealed only by the line that snakes into the lobby of the hotel. Once inside the dimly lit and packed diner, your choices are simple: hamburger or cheeseburger, Bass Ale, French fries and brownies. Skip the brownies, but the burgers are worth a trip, even if you’re not staying at the hotel.
After eating, we ventured up to the 40th story for a swim in the pool, which overlooks Central Park. You also have the option of ordering food — perfect if you’re beat or don’t want to manage kids in a restaurant.
The next day, we discovered Norma’s at the hotel too. Known for brunch, it was perfect for my hungry crew. Bring both patience and an appetite! The food is creative, fresh and delicious.
We capped off our hotel stay with some time on a 30-foot Wii screen that you rent by the hour. All four of my kids were contained, active and having fun! Le Parker Meridien would not be my first choice for a romantic getaway, but with kids, it hits the mark.
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Editor’s Note: Photos by Nancy Solomon.