Last week, we visited New York City for the first time in ten years and for the first time with children. We arrived at Penn Station at 6pm on a Friday afternoon and trekked with two small suitcases and two children (so, one child and one case apiece to keep track of) to Times Square and our hotel at 8th Avenue and W 48th Street. Monday morning we made the reverse walk, this time with C on her dad’s shoulders and G trotting along beside me, un-phased by the throng of tourists and New Yorkers.
That morning at the hotel, watching their dad pack while I wrestled clothes onto us all, the girls cried “Nooooo! But we love New York!” when we explained it was time to go home. Turns out, my girls are city mice.
What does one do with just 48+ hours in New York, and with young kids?
- Catch a show. Even if you’re not me (I admit that I have twice made trips to London specifically to see a play) this should be obvious, right? A trip to New York without taking advantage of their theatres is legit inconceivable. You don’t have to have tickets to the hottest production to see something amazing, new, hilarious, traditional, or strange—or all of the above. One of the best plays I’ve ever seen (The Goat, or Who is Sylvia, starring Sally Field) was purchased 10 minutes before curtain as a reduced price, last-minute ticket release. Children love the theatre. Take them to a show!
- Take a boat ride. We opted to take our kids to the Statue of Liberty. It was the girls’ first trip to New York, so the statue was a must-visit, kid-friendly landmark for us. Also, in light of the upcoming election, G has been hearing a lot about immigration on the playground at school (Think 7 year olds don’t argue about Donald Trump vs Hillary Clinton? Think again…), so you better believe we pointed out Ellis Island, read Emma Lazarus’s quatrain, and talked about the importance of immigration in our family and our country. A trip to the Statue of Liberty really only needs to be undertaken once, but I would definitely recommend seeing New York from the water one way or another. Similar to San Francisco, it’s a towering city limited by very specific space constraints. The city skyline viewed from the water makes it real.
- Play in Central Park! This falls under the category of travel priorities I never had before having children. I’ve been to New York three or four times before and never took more than a quick stroll through the park because I was always off to the next big thing. Successful (by which I mean, enjoyable and somewhat disaster-free) travel with kids necessitates time set aside for play. This means they get to pick some of the itinerary. It also means seeking out and stopping at local parks. We parked ourselves for two hours at this playground near Columbus Circle at the southern tip of Central Park and watched as the girls explored. It was relaxing. It was fun. And the upshot is, both girls got all their energy out and built up a huge appetite, enabling us to have a drama-free meal at a no-kids-menu class of restaurant that night.
- EAT. I know some parents feel the need to find “family-friendly” restaurants to take their children to. I just…don’t. I don’t make mac n’ cheese or corn dogs every night for dinner at home, so my kids don’t need those things when we eat out. A few places we ate that I would recommend to anyone: Grom Gelateria (There is a Grom in Trento, so we made a point of going twice); Café Luxembourg (Authentic French food on the Upper West Side. I’m pretty sure we were surrounded by locals.). La Bonne Soupe (Discovered on my first trip to NYC, and we return every time. A fixed price meal of soup, bread, salad, dessert and wine or beer for $22. It cannot be beat. The girls shared a croque monsieur.).
And those are my tips for a weekend in New York with kids. Ready, set, go!!!