On the surface, New York City can seem like a tricky destination for family vacations. And in some ways, it’s true. The size, intensity, and general crowdedness of New York can be stressful for anyone, and particularly for those toting around youngsters for the sake of family amusement! But there are also great aspects to a family holiday in New York. Despite the aforementioned qualities, there are innumerable attractions that will appeal to parents and children alike. Additionally, bringing the kids gives you a perfect excuse to enjoy some of the more standard “tourist attractions,” often ignored by traveling adults, but spectacular nonetheless.
If this sounds interesting, then here’s my look at five activities and attractions any family visiting New York would be foolish to miss!
When you hear the term “observation deck” in connection to New York City, the first thing that comes to mind is probably the Empire State Building, once the tallest building in New York and still arguably the world’s most famous skyscraper. And naturally, its observation deck is stunning. British Airways describes the effect as part of its page on traveling to New York, stating that “from 1,050 feet up on the Observatory of this iconic building, the vista will take your breath away.” That’s true for kids and adults alike.
But I’d also note that the Empire State Building no longer features the only must-see observation deck in the city. The new World Trade Center—specifically, One World Trade Center—has also opened an observatory, complete with a 360-degree view of the city below and various dining options for visitors. This is a great family stop, because adults will appreciate the significance of the structure while kids will enjoy the raw fascination of its height and views.
New York City is full to bursting with exceptional museums, and this one usually doesn’t quite top the list. For most adult tourists, preference goes to the Metropolitan Museum for its status as one of the grandest in the world; the MoMA for its chic design and modern art; or even the Cloisters for pure atmospheric beauty. If you happen to have kids who appreciate art (and can stay on the quiet side!), go ahead and keep these on your list. The Met in particular has so much space and so many exhibits that anyone can find something to enjoy there.
But if you’re looking for full family fun, the kids are probably going to love the American Natural History Museum. As stated at NY.com’s page on the museum, there are “42 permanent exhibits and several temporary ones covering everything in creation….” In other words, if you can imagine it—be it an artifact, a scientific display, a historical account, etc.—it’s in the American Natural History.
This is an exceptionally broad category, as there are literally hundreds of famous restaurants dotted throughout New York City. Some are fancy, some are casual, some are owned by world-famous chefs, and some were so successful originally that they’ve become chains. Oh, and they also cover just about every type of international cuisine on the planet!
Timeout can help you narrow it down with its list of great family restaurants in New York, but I’d recommend a few places in particular: the Carnegie Deli (a famous shop with signed celebrity photos all over the walls that will serve you a foot-tall deli sandwich), 5 Napkin Burger (one of the best burger places you’ll ever try, and a perfect blend between trendy and casual), and Eataly (a sort of Italian restaurant complex fun for the kids and packed with great pizza).
Stadium visits are somewhat limited depending on when you’re visiting New York City, but the fact is some of the city’s sports venues are so incredible and/or historic, they’re necessary to visit even if you’re not a big sports fan.
At this point, the most historic venue in the city is undeniably Madison Square Garden in midtown Manhattan, and the great thing about the Garden is that when the Knicks aren’t playing basketball there are plenty of concerts and visiting sporting events that keep the place open. Yankee Stadium is also worth a look (though as I mentioned, the Bronx can be a trek), even if the current stadium, built in 2009, is essentially a new age model of the previous one. And, if you’re looking for a newer venue, the Barclays Center in Brooklyn is a blast for any event, and also happens to be situated in a fun area with some great restaurants and entertainment surrounding it.
Attractions like these make for a pretty busy family vacation, but also one the kids will never forget!
Written by a special contributor for The Working Mom’s Travels. Perfect timing, really, as I’m considering a fall trip to New York City with Lucia!