I know I've written a ton about our trip to NYC, but I've had a lot of requests for tips for traveling to the big city with our family. We definitely had several people shocked that we were taking the kids there, but we've been plenty of times before and it's a fantastic place to show your children!
We spent a weekend there, from Friday afternoon until Sunday. I'm going to take you step by step through the trip, so if this is something you've been considering, you can duplicate it!
We drove in from the New Jersey side and decided that our first stop before entering Manhattan, was Liberty State Park. It's the closest that you can get to the Statue of Liberty, without crossing the water, great place to let the kids run and play and a gorgeous city view, even when a storm is rolling in.
From there, we crossed into Manhattan and decided to splurge on dessert before dinner. Holey Cream makes the famous donut ice cream sandwich and we were ready for a sugar high!
The original plan, was to then stop at John's Pizzeria, which is our favorite pizza in the city. We were a bit later getting in than we anticipated, so we decided that we would just go to our hotel, check in and have it delivered. Well, they don't deliver quite that far, so we went with Little Italy Pizza and it was pretty good. Not John's, though, so if we were doing it again, we would have picked it up on our way to the hotel.
We stayed at the Omni Berkshire Place, which is located in midtown at 52nd and Madison, and is walking distance from Central Park. That is one of our requirements in staying in the city, since we love to get up and go walk over there. The hotel is absolutely beautiful and our room was a traveling family's dream. They have an Omni Kids program, which gave our boys little backpacks with crayons and paper, a fun straw, a card matching game and more. Callan played that matching game a ton on our trip!
Travel Tip: Parents should always have a balcony. Because nothing is better after a long day of traveling and being a tourist, than to put your babies to sleep and sip a glass of wine on the terrace. This view happens to make that even 1000 times better.
Our room had a spacious bedroom, where we could easily fit the pack-n-play (this is THE BEST travel one), our suitcases and still had plenty of moving room.
There was also a large living area with a desk and tv, perfect for us early risers to hang out in while we waited on the snoozers in the next room.The morning view, looking down on Madison Ave, was just as good as the lit up night one.
Once we were all up, we headed over to Central Park. They boys rock climbed, ran and played. The park is filled with hidden little playgrounds, a carousel and even a zoo. You could literally spend all day there!
We limited our time to about an hour and headed off for some food. I grabbed a coffee from Le Pain Quotidien (58th St and 7th Ave) as we walked, then we ducked into Fresh & Co for a late breakfast. Their food is all from organic, sustainable, local farms and is really delicious!
The next stop was Times Square! This was high on our boys lists of things to see. So sad that FAO Schwartz and Toys R Us are gone, though.
Times Square Tip: You will see lots of characters that don't look quite like the original ones. Your kids will want their picture with them and then they'll demand you pay. You know, after you already got the picture. My advice? Skip it. You won't know what to do with the photos of the 'not quite normal' Mario and Luigi after your trip.
Hershey's Chocolate World is still there! We went in, got free samples and then the boys filled souvenir mugs full of chocolate. It smells amazing in there and they have everything chocolate you can imagine.
Subway time! You can't see too much of the city, simply by walking. You can take a cab, but we had strollers and bags and I think the Subway is fun. Of course there are some strange people, but aren't there everywhere? Haha. We got on the red line at Penn Station and took it all the way to Clark St. in Brooklyn. Kids are free and you'll just need a 1 way ticket for the adults.
Subway Stroller tip: One of you go through the turnstile closest to the handicap door. Then, slide the other person's ticket and spin the turnstile once more. Once you're through, open the handicap door so the stroller pushing parent can walk through.What's in Brooklyn, you ask? Brooklyn Bridge Park is so much fun. There is a huge green space, food, drinks and tons of special events. There's also a water fill up station, so don't throw out your empty bottles, just refill them there!
If you're in the mood for a photo op, head over to Dumbo's Rainbow wall at Fleet Alley. It's beautiful!
There's sure to be a hot dog cart on the way, so you can grab a quick bite. Everyone needs to eat a "Dirty Water Dog" at some point on the trip. New Yorkers have theirs with sauerkraut and mustard.
Oh, and huge pretzels, too!
Now it was time to walk the Brooklyn Bridge! I have to admit, it was scarier than I expected, as well as crowded. But, it's absolutely beautiful!
The bridge is just over 1 mile, so we were all a bit pooped afterwards. After watching some fun street dancing we took the Brooklyn Bridge City Hall Subway (there's an elevator in a cute little building in the middle of the park) on the green line to 51st Street. We were glad to get back to the hotel to put our feet up for a bit!
Since our car was in the valet, it's walk, cab or Subway. The hotel has a restaurant, but it had just closed for renovations while we were there. It will be Bob's Steak & Chop House in September '16 and I hope to get back to try it!
At the recommendation of the hotel, we walked just a couple blocks to Papillon Bistro. It feels very much like a bar inside, but they have some outdoor seating that is perfect for kids! Their food was delicious and they had a good sized wine menu, as well.
Side note: If you're going to NYC sans babies, go to Jean-Georges in the Trump Hotel. We went the day we got engaged and again for our 5th Anniversary. It will set you back a bit, but worth every penny!
Just a couple blocks away from the Omni Berkshire, is Ess-A-Bagel. If you have a NYC bagel on your list of things to eat in the city (which you should!) here's where you're headed for breakfast! They do only have a couple choices of cream cheese...not!
You can order online, which I recommend, since it is a popular joint. Their iced coffee was a winner, too.
Sunday morning is your time to drive in the city. It's the most quiet time and you can drive 4 miles in less than 15 minutes instead of an hour! We checked out of the hotel and drove down to Battery Park. Or you could have a cab bring you down. You can park and walk around to see a good view of the Statue of Liberty, as well as walk to see the 9/11 Memorial, Wall Street and the Charging Bull statue near the NY Stock Exchange. The new One World Trade Center is down there and is home of the One World Observatory, which is on the 100-102 floor of the building. It's open 7 days a week and you can buy tickets to go up for a great view of the city.
Side note: Strollers must be folded up while using the elevators or escalators at the observatory. You can open them once you get to the top, but you may want to pack lightly that day!
Other areas that I think are fun to drive through, but not necessary to walk, are China town and Little Italy. Walking 5th Ave is also fun, just more shopping geared than child fun! The best parts of 5th are very close to the Omni, so you could always get off the Subway a stop early and walk up. Or check it out on your Sunday drive.
Next stop, some NY baseball! We happen to be NY Mets fans and love going to Citi Field for a game. This will take you out of Manhattan and into Queens, so we did everything we wanted to do before we crossed the Hudson. Sunday's are family days at the stadium, which means there is a giveaway of some sort and after the game, the kids get to run the bases! My husband totally freaked out that he got to carry our baby around and actually be on the field. It's quite a cool experience!
Shake Shack is a very popular NY burger joint and you can eat it right at the stadium! The line is usually long, so divide and conquer. Bathroom trips, seeing Mr. Met and checking out the gift shops should all be done while someone is standing in line, so we split time doing that.
After our afternoon game, it was about 5pm. We packed a ton of fun into 1 weekend and I can't wait to do it again!
Still nervous about the big city? Or any big city for that matter? Here are some tips.
Make a plan. Just like any city, there are some more dangerous areas. As you can tell from my pictures, we didn't get into them. Make a plan of where you're going and don't venture too far off the path. I don't really like going out when it's too dark, either. We made a lot of our plans while sitting at a restaurant, so that we weren't standing on the street corner all confused.
Don't look like a tourist. There are a ton of families that live in New York. They go out all the time with their kids, strollers and purses. But, they aren't standing still, staring into the sky with their cameras, fanny packs around their waist and cash in their pockets. Just be smart. Don't take out a huge map, use your phone discreetly. Pack your valuables deep in your diaper bag/purse, so they can't be easily grabbed. We absolutely take our camera and are snapping pictures, but try to do it where it isn't mobbed with people or in a suspect area.
Obey the traffic signs. Wait for the crosswalk! The cab drivers are not going to stop for you to cross the street when it's not your turn, or if you're jaywalking. If you drive into the city, you'll understand. It takes awhile to drive anywhere!
We've been to New York City many times and have never had a problem. I think it's great to show your kids as much of the world as possible, so get out and explore!