Travel: NYC with Kids

Hi, I’m back again with some tips on one of America’s greatest cities: New York City. We even got to explore a bit of upstate New York, so I’m giving you a taste of each and loading you up with helpful info. New York can be a tricky one, so hit me up with any questions.

I LOVE Manhattan. I moved there when I was 17 for college and I’ll snag any opportunity to go back. My NYU roommates are starting families and I love getting our kids together and seeing how we’re creative humans choosing to take on motherhood in different ways. It’s inspiring!

I’ve done New York twice with my traveling tot. Last year when he was 9 months and again at almost 2 and I can tell you that New York is not for the faint of heart.

If your family is looking for a chill, relaxing vacation, stay away from Manhattan! But, if you love the fast paced energy of a big city and you think your kids inherited that gene, then go for it!   New York is the adult version of Disneyland. It’s the Las Vegas strip on steroids minus the casinos, but with the best of everything at your finger tips. With that being said, its gonna cost you a pretty penny to play on this playground. Prepare and surrender yourself to that and you’ll enjoy yourself so much more. I constantly have to remind my hubs of this one! (Or read Kara’s post about how to do NYC in 1 day on a budget… otherwise plan to splurge a bit!)

Ideally we really try and pack efficiently on our NYC trips. A small suitcase & the super lightweight umbrella stroller.

Caption: See, I told you we’re efficient packers. –yeah right! The gray backpack with wheels is for the carseat (highly recommend if you are an avid traveler) and the cammo bag is loaded with Capt. Evil shirts Steve sells after his shows. And I obviously need a massive suitcase for potential shopping expeditions!

Quick TIP: if you’ve got a little one, always travel with a thin blanket rolled up in your bag. In NYC it’s great to block out over stimulation for stroller naps and nice to have handy for a diaper change emergency because bathrooms are hard to come by.  If your little one is still content to let you wear them, a baby backpack is definitely the easiest way to get around. As an added bonus, I think I sweat out five pounds walking around with my little guy strapped to me the 1st time.

Both times we’ve done NYC as a family it’s been in the sweltering heat of the summer!

There is tons to do and public transportation can get you anywhere, but the subway is insanely hot and you are walking everywhere in some intense humidity, a sweaty mess lugging around all the crap you need for a toddler. I have no idea how NYC bloggers get beautiful photos of themselves and their families, because I’m pretty much a stinky hot mess the whole time! So my suggestions is go in the spring or fall if you can.

If you are up for the adventure, it’s an amazing city to explore and Central Park offers something for everyone. It’s home to the Central Park Zoo, several children’s playgrounds, rowboat rentals and horse drawn carriage rides. Central Park is huge so decide on what attractions you most want to hit and know where you are going (Google maps helps and if you’re walking, put it on walk mode). Our plan was to take Garrett for his first carousel ride. We caught a cab to the park, but got dropped off in the entirely wrong place and found ourselves walking for an hour, before we came to the Victorian Gardens Amusement Park. It’s a great option for preschoolers with smaller rides, but not the original carousel we were looking for.

When we finally found it we were soaked in sweat, but both agreed the expressions on Garrett’s face made it totally worth it. It started our love affair with carousels all over the country.  While your here you can check out Heckscher Playground and the zoo is close by too. We ended up using all our time trying to find the carousel!

It’s also fun sailing the remote controlled boats at Conservatory Water and grabbing a bite in the nearby boathouse cafe. If your child has a longer attention span, but you are not quite sure they are ready for a broadway show, try a puppet show at the Marionette Theater located in the Swedish Cottage. They offer affordably priced shows daily during the summer.

And if your family loves carousels as much as mine, by far one of the coolest I’ve ever come across is the Seaglass Carousel in Battery Park. It’s a work of art. My pictures don’t do it justice, but if your littles can stay up past dark, it’s magical. It’s definitely a New York site I’d hit again.

While you are hanging around Battery Park you can catch the Staten Island ferry. Insider TIP: it’s FREE and will get you a close view of the Statue of Liberty without the hefty tour boat price tag.

This time around, I wanted Garrett to be able to run around and explore but we needed to keep cool too. So he headed to Hudson River Park’s Pier 25. It’s got water, sand, swings and plenty to climb all gated in Tribeca. I also think I spotted some model moms here!

I’m always up for a children’s museum, so we had to hit Manhattan’s. I’ve gotten spoiled, getting to visit children’s museums all over the country and I had high expectations for this one. It’s good, but we visited on a rainy day so it was packed and I found the 5 floors with long elevator lines made scoping everything out a little trickier.  In my opinion the appeal of this museum is that it’s in the Upper West Side, which is a fabulous neighborhood to stroll. Within blocks of the museum you can have any kind of food your heart desires from Indian, to Thai, to Chinese, to Poke, to Ramen. You can even grab a sweet treat at Treat House and make a full afternoon of it.

No matter what age your children are, car seat or not, if you are sticking to the NYC metro area I’m going to strongly recommend NOT renting a car. Let me explain:

Rental Cars in NYC are way more expensive than lots of other cities. We rented a car because we would be traveling between Manhattan and Steve’s gigs in West Nyack. But the convenience of having a car is stressful. You are fighting traffic, street parking is often an issue, and garages are ridiculously expensive. And part of the New York City experience is taking public transportation.

You don’t need a car seat on subways, buses, cabs or most Ubers, depending on the driver’s discretion. If you’re traveling super light, there is even a train from the airport where you can then transfer to the subway to get to where your staying. That being said, a cab is pricier, but exponentially easier. I’d cab it to your landing pad, and then use the metro or a ride share app to avoid higher cab fair while your exploring.

A couple of Insider Tips here:  

Uber is usually nicer and less expensive than a cab and has replaced most cabs. But Via is a great option if you don’t mind sharing your ride. Rides in Manhattan anywhere south of 125th St will cost you $5 plus an additional fee per +1. The app just tells you what street corner near you to meet your driver. If your traveling on a budget, but want to avoid the sweltering heat of the subway or just prefer to experience the city above ground, this is an option worth considering.  

If you do decide to take a car into Manhattan, parking apps like ParkWhiz and SpotHero are super helpful in finding the best price near your destination. You can even reserve and pre-pay for your spot. All of these apps are constantly changing their pricing and technology, so do a little research to figure out which is best at the time of your trip.

 I’m obviously a strong proponent for family travel and taking your kids everywhere, but for me New York was easier when we could just strap Garrett to our stomach and didn’t have to worry about him darting into NYC traffic. At almost two, he’s too little to handle all the walking and too heavy to be carrying like a Sultan in his stroller up and down subway steps. He’s also not quite old enough to appreciate the amazing things NYC has to offer like the the Statue of Liberty or sit through a broadway show. -If he did, I’m dying to take him to the Gazillion Bubble Show! (Score discounted tickets at TKTS or TodayTix).

So we choose to spend a couple of days in Manhattan, then head to West Nyack for Steve’s shows in the countries 2nd largest shopping mall –You know I wasn’t gonna pass that up!

If you are an East Coaster, West Nyack is a great staycation that feels like a world away from NYC and it’s just a 45 minute drive. It’s lined with huge green trees, gorgeous old victorian coastal homes, and offers cool views of the Hudson River.

The comedy club is located in the massive Palisades Center which in addition to offering all the shopping my heart desires, it offers so much to keep families entertained. It houses a movie theater, a bowling alley, a go-cart race track, a carousel and there is even a ropes course in the mall that is noted as the world’s tallest but still offers a mommy and me ropes course for the younger set. My son’s absolute favorite was Billy Beez. This place is the Taj Mahal of indoor play spaces. We spent A LOT of time here before showtime. I know some folks find indoor play spaces kinda repulsive, but this one is pretty rad even for the naysayers. It has trampolines, slides galore, a sports court, and multiple spaces designated for the little ones.  

Of course, I couldn’t only show my child the inside of a shopping mall. (Or could I?)  We did a lot of swimming in the hotel pool and ventured out to explore quaint downtown Nyack and the playground in Village of Nyack Memorial Park. The playground here has sweet log cabins and super high slides. There’s also a water play area and skate park. From here you’re a stroll to Main St. lined with boutiques & restaurants.

If your kids are up for a hike, Nyack Beach State Park is great. While it’s not the most ideal beach to get in the water, it does offer a 2 mile riverfront pathway that takes you to the base of Hook Mountain and offers cool views. It’s a lovely spot for a picnic and you can fish here.

We’d planned to return to Manhattan for a few days before hopping on a plane, but we were already feeling like the city had kinda chewed us up and spit out. We were tired, it was really hot, and the hubs really needed some down time before his next gig. So with 2 days off and a car to get us anywhere, we packed our bags and hit the road. I’ll tell you all about it in my next post!

Continue following our traveling circus on Instagram too!