A Comprehensive Guide for Families Travelling to New York
What’s that we hear? You’re bringing the entire family to New York for a vacation? Congratulations! New York is a family-friendly place with a plethora of things to do, see and experience and they look all the more exciting through the eyes of a child. Read on for more advice on planning your trip, navigating the city, and everything else you need to make the trip memorable, one that the family will look back on with fondness.
Top 15 Places to Visit in New York
As one of the most exciting cities in the United States and the world, New York has a plethora of family fun to offer. You’ll need an abundance of time if you want to do it all, so we have narrowed down the list to the top 10 places to visit in New York for families.
Children’s Museum of the Arts
New York is a city of museums, but this museum is unlike the rest as it’s for children. Aside from the thousands of brightly-coloured drawings and paintings made by kids, the 10,000 feet area is full of endless hands-on workshops and kid-centric activities, more than enough for your children to let their curiosity and creativity run wild.
Drop by during summer and let the little ones join a few of the numerous programs that provide them with an avenue to express their creative and artistic selves.
One World Observatory
It was a close contest between the Empire State Building and One World Observatory, but in the end, we went with the latter. Take adventurous kiddos high up to get a glimpse of New York from a different perspective. They will love being on one of the fastest elevators and also in one of the world’s tallest buildings.
One World Observatory not only offers visitors a unique viewing experience, but it’s also an excellent place for families to spend countless hours interacting with the city. On the way to the 102nd floor is a variety of educational and interactive activities that focus on technology and visual arts.
Any visit to New York is incomplete without dropping by Central Park, the country’s first public park. The park is massive, and in it, you will find a boathouse, a zoo, a conservatory garden, and an endless number of playgrounds for children to explore. They might get a scrape or two but will have memories to last a lifetime.
Various activities in Central Park were created with children in mind. Depending on the season, a few notable ones worth the time are Tisch Children’s Zoo, Belvedere Castle’s Henry Luce Nature Observatory, Central Park Carousel, and ice skating.
American Museum of Natural History
Home to the most extensive collection of dinosaurs, you could easily spend a whole day at the American Museum of Natural History as little ones get lost in exploration. One of the museum’s highlights is the Discovery Room, where children aged between 5 and 12 can get a closer look and have a hands-on experience with specimens and artefacts. They can create their very own collection of minerals or hunt for animals in a replica of the African baobab tree.
Another interesting feature is the Hayden Planetarium. Also considered one of the best planetariums in the country, the planetarium has two observatories that take guests on spectacular virtual journeys. You get plus points if your children are big fans of Night at the Museum.
New York Botanical Garden
Famed for its superb exhibitions, the New York Botanical Garden is an excellent place for children, regardless of the season. The Everett Children’s Adventure Garden is a must-see as it offers more than just greens and flowers. Tiny tots can run through a maze, climb copious amounts of boulders, and take a closer look at plant life at the Pond Pavilion. In addition to a pond, the 12-acre landscape has a meadow and woodland.
Several exploration programs for kids are available all year round. Don’t miss the Holiday Train Show if you visit in the winter.
Brooklyn Bridge Park
Located along the East River, the world-class waterfront park has plenty of fun for the whole family, scattered throughout the different sections that contain six refurbished piers, all brimming with playgrounds. Don’t miss the iconic carousel at Empire Fulton Ferry, the slide Mountain Playground at Pier 6, and roller-skating with the kids at Pier 2.
Don’t forget to take time to admire the gorgeous views of the Manhattan skyline after enjoying all the activities and filling your stomach with delicious food.
Statue of Liberty and Ellis Island
As cliché as it may sound, you’ve never been to New York if you haven’t seen Lady Liberty up close. Plus, the Ellis Island Immigration Museum is a must. Remember to head to Ellis Kid to see the interactive exhibit so that the kids can imagine what it was like to immigrate to the United States.
There is an audio tour created especially for children aged 6 to 10 that takes place on the pedestal of Lady Liberty while children at least 4 feet can climb to the top of Lady Liberty’s crown.
Intrepid Sea, Air, and Space Museum
Another famous New York City attraction, the Intrepid Sea, Air, and Space Museum is where you can let the children’s imagination take flight as they learn the history of American travel.
Aside from the different aircraft that have a special place in history, the museum offers a variety of programs and activities, as well as indoor and outdoor exhibits, throughout the year that aims to educate, entertain, and engage children. With so many things to see, you should spend at least half a day in the museum.
One of the best places in New York to visit during winter, Bryant Park has an ice skating rink that opens as early as 8 in the morning until as late as 10 in the evening. Block a spot for the kids so they can skate ahead of time and enjoy a cup of hot cocoa.
Kids Week takes place annually and is full of fun, kid-friendly outdoor activities primarily designed for children ages 4 to 6. However, everyone is welcome, even adults! The whole family can enjoy afternoons with a slew of activities, including puppet shows, science projects, magic and music.
Madison Square Garden
Synonymous with the city of New York, Madison Square Garden is a treat for sports and music fans. The city’s oldest active sporting facility also happens to be one of the busiest music venues in the world and hosts hundreds of events annually. If you’re in luck, you might just be able to watch a concert or see the New York Rangers play.
You can glimpse the Garden with a 60-minute guided tour that will take you to the luxury suites, backstage areas, and the iconic concave ceiling.
Radio City Music Hall
The largest theatre in the world at the time of its opening in December 1932, Radio City Music Hall has a seating capacity of almost 6,000 and is one of the most recognizable entertainment sites in the world. It hosts hundreds of events and receives more than 2 million visitors annually. The Hall offers daily Backstage tours that give people a closer look at the venue.
Explore the beauty and the history of Radio City Music Hall in the 60-minute guided tour. You’ll visit The Roxy Suite, also known as the secret apartment, see the art deco masterpieces, and see exclusive views of the auditorium, all while listening to the colourful history of the Hall, as told by the knowledgeable host.
Some people may tell you to avoid Times Square but it’s undeniable that it is part and parcel of New York. Yes, it’s filled with overpriced items, huge crowds, and chain restaurants, but there’s it’s also one of the most visited spots in New York, and it’s a must for tourists.
However, you might want to avoid going there during rush hour or the day. Times Square at night is like daylight and you’ll be surprised that your photos will come out better. At nighttime, Times Square is lit up like Christmas and it’s a sight to see!
9/11 Memorial and Museum
A monument to human courage, dignity, and sacrifice, the 9/11 Memorial honours the people who perished during the attack that happened on September 11, 2001, and February 26, 1993. The memorial is free to the public and is open seven days a week. The museum, however, is only open five days a week and has an admission fee.
Tickets must be purchased in advance for timed visits. Various tours can be purchased up to 6 months in advance. Children under the age of 7 get free admission, however, a ticket is still required for entry to monitor the capacity.
Grand Central Terminal
More popularly known as Grand Central Station, this Beaux-Arts building is a famous landmark and has been featured in various movies and TV shows such as Just My Luck, The Bone Collector, and Carlito’s Way. First opened in 1913, it is a terminal for both the train and subway stations. One of its most beautiful features is the Grand Staircase where you can stop and look out over the concourse.
The spectacular ceiling has been restored and showcases an etherial scene. Inside the terminal are a variety of restaurants and retail shops.
More geared toward the adults in the family, Fifth Avenue is one of the most popular shopping streets in the US where you will find flagship stores such as Tiffany, Cartier, Bergdorf-Goodman, and Saks Fifth Avenue. However, even non-shoppers will still enjoy a walk along the avenue.
Top 10 Places to Eat Out in New York
We’re pretty confident that your stomachs will be rumbling after visiting all of the must-see places in New York. Next on the agenda is glorious food, so we have compiled a list of the best places to dine in when in the city that never sleeps.
A diner with a twist and a few locations in New York, nothing beats eating at its landmark location on Cheesecake Corner. Once you step through the doors, you’ll see memorabilia and a full-service bar. Customers will be delighted with their expansive menu for breakfast, lunch, and dinner. The bakery is still operating and serves unforgettable Danish and freshly baked rolls throughout the day.
Some of the most popular items on the menu that you need to try are cheesecake, deli sandwiches, steakburgers, chicken, ribs, and fish. They have an under-12 Junior menu featuring food that kids will especially love, such as grilled cheese and chicken fingers.
Be transported back in time in this 50’s diner, complete with twirling stools and chrome. If you’re feeling adventurous and want to make the experience as authentic as possible, you can come decked in 50’s retro attire too. Fill your stomachs with dressed chips, hot dogs, sandwiches, root beer floats, soft-serve ice cream, heavily seared smash burgers, and whipped-cream topped shakes.
You’ve never been to Harlem Shake unless you’ve tried their signature shakes. Don’t worry. They thought of the parents too so beers and mimosas are available.
Home to some of the city’s best pancakes, Bubby’s has offerings that will delight adults, kids, and the kids in all of us. With an endless list of kid-friendly dishes such as bacon mac ‘n cheese, burgers, and crispy chicken biscuits, it’s easy to see why many families go to Bubby’s to satisfy their hunger. No one does it better than Bubby’s in classic American cooking.
An insider tip for families travelling to New York, no meal is complete in Bubby’s without tasting their famous pies. After all, the eatery started as a pie company in 1990. There’s a lot to choose from, but a few crowd favourites are Peanut Butter Chocolate, Local Apple, Key Lime, and Michigan Sour Cherry.
Brooklyn Farmacy & Soda Fountain
There’s plenty to keep kids interested when visiting Brooklyn Farmacy & Soda Fountain. A longtime New York staple, it’s housed in a former apothecary store that dates a few centuries back. It opened its doors to customers in 2010 and has since become a prominent feature of the Big Apple, loved by locals and tourists alike.
With an extensive food offering, you can never go wrong when dining there with the family. A few things to look forward to are homemade sodas, pastries, sandwiches, and of course, milkshakes,
Famous for their imaginative take on the classic pizza, Roberta’s is where you go if you want to try something new and unconventional. Excite your taste buds with unique pizza flavours with funny names such as Cheesus Christ, Bee Sting and Li’l Stinker. They also have salads, burgers, ribs, sandwiches, and desserts.
Share a classic pizza with the family, or better yet, be adventurous with your selection. Don’t even worry if your child is a picky eater because kids can create their pizza with over 20 toppings.
Eddie’s Sweet Shop
The oldest ice cream parlour in the city where time stands still, Eddie’s Sweet Shop was opened in 1909 on a busy corner of Metropolitan Avenue. This anachronistic diner has soda pulls, twirling stools, and red leatherette upholstery. Adults and children love the interiors. The variety of ice cream flavours served with generous amounts of toppings and syrups is something that nobody can ever complain about.
A must-try is the gigantic classic sundae with homemade whipped cream, hot fudge, and a cherry. Order the white chocolate classic sundae and thank us later.
Alice’s Tea Cup
An excellent option for families with little girls, going to Alice’s Tea Cup is like being given the once-in-a-lifetime chance to join the Hatter’s Tea Party. The whimsical teahouse is just a short walk away from Central Park Zoo, the perfect place for a meal after exploring the park! The restaurant offers breakfast, brunch, lunch, and dinner. In addition, they have afternoon tea, as well as a menu for kids.
Remember to make a reservation if you’re visiting during busy times or if you want to be seated immediately.
Carmine’s Italian Restaurant
Widely considered the best Italian restaurant in all of New York that offers exceptional value for money, Carmine’s is famous for its enormous portions and flavourful food. There are two restaurants in New York, one located on the Upper West Side and another in Times Square. The latter is the busier of the two and there is always a wait regardless of the time of year, so make reservations to walk right in.
Their Kids Menu is perfect for children aged eight and younger. Aside from the traditional pasta dishes, they have various flavours for more adventurous palates.
Ellen’s Stardust Diner
Just right outside Times Square on Broadway, Ellen’s Stardust Diner boasts immensely talented servers who serenade diners with a variety of Broadway tunes. Admittedly, the food isn’t as spectacular as the other places on this list but the entertainment alone gives families enough reasons to come back again and again. Don’t worry about seating as the performers walk around the restaurant as they sing.
Consider visiting during breakfast hours when it’s not as crowded. Keep in mind that they don’t accept reservations. Avoid going on Sundays, Saturdays, and Wednesdays, as it usually gets quite busy during lunch hours.
This 130-year-old Jewish deli serves non-Kosher food and is the home of arguably one of the best hotdogs in town. The selection of sliced meats, which includes tongue, turkey, corned beef, and pastrami, to name a few, will make your mouth water and are both equally delicious whether in hand-carved heaps or on a sandwich. Pick from a range of sodas to compliment your sandwich, and oh, did we mention that pickles are free?
Things to Do as a Family
New York City is full of activities and interesting places. It offers something for everyone, from shows to festivals and exhibits. We have scoured through the endless list of things to do in New York as a family to come up with the most exciting options.
Big Bus Hop-On Hop-Off Tours
One of the best things to do in New York with the family is explore it through hop-on, hop-off tours. The city is a whirlwind of constant activity, and it can be challenging to navigate for first-timers. Visit all the iconic landmarks with a bus tour. Skip the stress of consulting your maps, finding your way through crowded subways and walking the streets on your own. These bus tours are a great way to discover the city, enjoy panoramic views, and save hours of your time.
There is a wide variety of bus tours to choose from. Pick one that ticks off all your boxes and goes to all the places you find most interesting.
Visit Governors Island
To experience New York like no other, a trip to Governors Island is a must. The former military base is only 800 yards away from Manhattan, is easily reachable by ferry, and offers family fun! Aside from the endless number of play zones and play structures ripe for exploration, hammocks are available for those who would like to kick back and relax.
Adults, as well as kids, can enjoy 5 miles of bike lanes. All the running around, playing, and walking can quickly leave you hungry but don’t worry; numerous food trucks offer a variety of delicious food. Or you can do what some locals do and bring a picnic.
Take the Staten Island Ferry
Yes, the Staten Island Ferry is present in every guidebook and listicle about the Big Apple, but there’s a reason that its spot is well-deserved. Offering unrivalled views of the city’s famed harbour and the iconic Statue of Liberty, the one-way trip that lasts under 30 minutes is short enough to hold your little one’s rapt attention but long enough to admire the beautiful vistas.
Aside from the sights, another reason that makes the Staten Island Ferry a must is that you pay absolutely nothing for the ride. Yup, it’s FREE! Position yourself on the left side of the ship to get excellent views of both the Statue of Liberty and Ellis Island.
Enjoy the rides at Luna Park
This amusement park by the beach welcomes thousands, especially during summer. Take the family here for the time of their lives. The plethora of rides will give everyone endless thrills. While younger kids might want to concentrate on the swings and the carousel, older children and adults can make a beeline for the Cyclone, the wooden rollercoaster that’s been making everyone scream and shout with fear and excitement for more than 90 years.
Don’t forget to try the fried clams on the boardwalk and Nathan’s hotdog on Surf Avenue. You won’t regret it!
Browse through an endless array of toys at FAO Schwartz
If there’s one thing that kids love and can’t live without, it’s toys! Make their dreams come true by bringing them to this iconic toy store. It may be a children’s store, but we’re confident even adults can let out the child in them at FAO Schwartz. It’s the perfect side trip when you go to the Central Park Zoo.
The store has just recently been brought back to life after closing in 2015. One of its most memorable pieces is the giant piano which has been featured in the movie Big.
Delight booklovers at the New York Public Library
One of the city’s most beloved landmarks, the New York Public Library’s main branch is renowned for Patience and Fortitude, the two marble lions that stand guard at the entrance of the building. Perfect for families who love reading, you can let your inner geek run free as you spend countless hours browsing through shelves of books. Architecture lovers will find the magnificent ceilings more than admirable.
There’s a myriad of things to do in the surrounding area, as it’s packed with bakeries, boutiques, and quirky shops.
Discover the magic of moviemaking at the Museum of the Moving Image
Take the whole family to this museum devoted to all things about the development of moving pictures, and together marvel at how moviemaking has come a long way, from its humble beginnings to the fantastic and realistic effects of today. Parents will be just as intrigued as their kids when they see the various exhibits that include projectors, cameras, video games, sound recording equipment, and old-fashioned telly sets.
Visitors get the chance to show off their skills at vintage console and arcade games, dub their voice-over dialogue from a film, and try being puppeteer.
Drop by Brooklyn Bridge
Brooklyn Bridge is a must whenever in the Big Apple. Get ready to snap hundreds of photos on this walkway perched high above the East River, which boasts stunning vistas of Wall Street’s skyscrapers. Start on the Brooklyn side to get the best views, and remember to stay left so you can get excellent souvenir photos of the entire family with the famous skyline as a background.
If going during summer, remember to bring along a bottle of water and ensure your phone and cameras have enough batteries for the endless picture-taking.
Take chocoholics to the Max Brenner Chocolate Bar and Restaurant
Be ready to give in to an array of gooey and flavourful chocolate temptations when you step into Max Brenner. Throw caution to the wind and order as much as you like. It’s the perfect reward for well-behaved toddlers. They have an exhaustive menu of hot chocolates, and the mac ‘n cheese always gets a thumbs-up from the kids.
Don’t forget to try the O.M.G. Chocolate Chunk Cookie topped with whipped cream, melted chocolate, and berries, one of their bestsellers.
Catch a Disney musical production at the New Amsterdam Theatre
The theatre has been operating since 1903, making it one of the oldest on Broadway. Frozen, Aladdin, Mary Poppins, and The Lion King are only a few of the theatre productions. Enter its hallowed halls and see a wide array of marble sculptures that feature scenes from varying Shakespearean plays, characters from Hans Christian Andersen and Aesop’s Fables, and Wagner’s Operas.
Don’t worry if you can’t catch any show. They have group tours that cost only a few dollars headed by experienced guides who’ll tell you interesting facts, and perhaps hear a spooky ghost story or two.
See a Broadway show
Check which kid-friendly Broadway plays or musicals are available during your visit and see one. It’s an experience unlike any other, and it’s going to be particularly special for a child who loves such shows and musicals. Be aware though that theatres have a minimum age for attendance and the majority of shows, that age is six.
Nevertheless, you should check show and theatre specifics before purchasing tickets to avoid disappointment. Remember to buy early as tickets usually sell out far in advance.
Go ice skating at Rockefeller Center
Don’t worry if you can’t go ice skating in Bryant Park during winter because if you’re visiting in the cooler months from October until April, you can ice skate at Rockefeller Center. It’s best to arrive early as skating is on a first-come-first-served basis and the queue can get quite long, more so during the winter holidays.
Make a reservation through the VIP igloo to skip the lines and save time. Aside from ice skating, they also have other dining packages on offer.
Try the famous bagels
Have you ever been to New York if you have never tried the bagels? Don’t worry if one of the family members is gluten intolerant because they have a gluten-free version too. The perfect breakfast in New York, it’s traditional to have your bagel with smear and/or lox. Get it with coffee and you’re on your way to becoming a real New Yorker.
Safety and Security
A melting pot of culture and a vibrant metropolis, New York City is constantly on the list of the top ten most visited cities in the world, and for a good reason too; it has a vibe all its own. Travelling to the Big Apple is on everyone’s bucket list but going to a city as busy as New York with children in tow, although a lot of fun, can be an ideal condition for many safety concerns.
You can put your worries to bed as New York is one of the safest cities in the world, constantly under the watchful eyes of the vigilant but friendly police force. Aside from being prepared and pragmatic, follow these simple tips for peace of mind.
Always be aware of your surroundings
You have to be conscious of your environment, regardless of wherever you are. Parents who are distracted by their children make easy targets for thieves. They don’t attack right away. They watch you across the street to find out where you keep your money. Make your cards and funds inaccessible so you don’t end up becoming a victim.
Consider taking a purse that can be worn across the body and keep things out of your back pockets. Remember that street performances often attract pickpockets, so pay attention to the people around you.
Make good use of the buddy system
The buddy system works well when travelling to unfamiliar places, especially massive cities. Ensure someone is in charge of specific people, especially when walking around the city. Siblings can buddy up with each other, but parents should keep their eyes open for children who wander off or get distracted easily.
Plan your route before heading out
New York is great for walking. However, it is also one of the busiest, so the streets are often packed. The kids can easily get lost in a sea of people so take a few wise precautions. Only walk on main pathways and streets and always look for the intersection when crossing. Pay attention to signals, be on the lookout for oncoming traffic and be doubly careful when going out at night.
Plan your route before heading out and refrain from making last-minute changes. Be conscious of landmarks and cross streets that will help you get back to your accommodations easily. When lost, seek out a police officer or ask shopkeepers to help you find your way.
Book accommodations ahead of time
Not booking accommodations ahead of time can result in scrambling to find a roof over your head. When vacationing in New York with the family, your priority is to find a safe place to call your temporary home. Read reviews and research the neighbourhood where your hotel is before making reservations because some areas are not as secure as others, but more on that later.
Picking a hotel over alternative options, especially for a family, is much safer considering hotels have 24-hour security, a secured Internet connection, and rooms with a safe. Go straight to your hotel after you land and never open your door without knowing who is on the other side.
Be careful when taking the subway
Taking the subway is an excellent option for families who want to explore the city because it is efficient and affordable. However, you should only purchase MetroCards from approved vendors in the station, and when waiting for your ride, always stand behind the yellow line and mind the platform gap.
The train takes you anywhere in the Big Apple but be careful when figuring out where you should stop. Nearly every train car has maps you can consult if unsure, but we recommend carrying your subway map and checking it ahead of time. Should you find yourself at the wrong stop, you can wait for the next train and get back on.
Avoid certain areas in the city
As mentioned earlier, there are specific neighbourhoods in New York City that are best to avoid. Explore the Lower East Side and Alphabet City with caution. Other areas that still struggle with high crime rates and are notorious for mugging are Hells’ Kitchen, Brownsville, and Hunts Point.
The good thing is that these places aren’t tourist hotspots but if you venture into any of them, be sure to do so during the daytime and know precisely where you are heading.
Be careful when taking taxis
Whatever you do, never get into an unmarked taxi. New York City taxis are easily identifiable; they have the ubiquitous yellow colour with a light on the roof that displays the driver’s medallion number. The hood of the taxi should also have the ID number. If you can’t see any of these things, move on and wait for another cab. Uber and Lyft are also available, but are not regulated, so it’s best to use them with caution. Remember that it is customary to tip drivers, and refusing to do so might lead to an altercation.
Lastly, don’t let the small things stress you out
New York is a thrilling city to visit, and the last thing you want is to worry about every little thing that can go wrong. There’s no fun in that so, learn to relax! The Big Apple is a friendly city full of beautiful people who are more than happy to help tourists. Thanks to technology, it’s now easier to plan your vacation and find your way through the use of interactive maps. With common sense and these safety tips, you’ll enjoy New York.
However, should you find yourself the victim of a crime, don’t hesitate to report it to the New York City Police Department by calling them at 311. You can also call 911 for emergencies.
Health and Medical, Emergencies, Insurance
Nobody expects to get injured or sick while on vacation. Unfortunately, it happens more frequently than people think, especially where children are involved. A medical emergency is an unexpected or sudden illness or injury that can cause serious harm if left untreated. Some of the most common medical emergencies while travelling are:
- Fractures from falls
- Cardiovascular problems
- Pulmonary/Respiratory problems
When you have a medical emergency while in New York, the first thing you should do is call local emergency services, for New York that number is 911.
Hospitals in New York
For non-emergency medical situations where you need to see a doctor, you can go to any hospital or clinic in New York. You can find a list of hospitals here. The state has a total of 277 hospitals, of which 64 are government and 4 are private hospitals. 77 of these hospitals have helipad facilities. The biggest hospital in New York is Mount Sinai Hospital in New York City with a capacity of 1144 beds.
New York is the most densely populated city in the US, so it’s no wonder that the Big Apple has the most number of hospitals within its city limits. New York City has 11 public hospitals and 11 acute care hospitals.
Getting travel insurance
Exciting, isn’t it, getting ready for your big trip to New York with the family? It is easy to get lost amid preparations that you forget important things, such as taking out travel insurance. Medical emergencies overseas can be extremely costly.
With travel insurance that includes emergency medical benefits, you will have peace of mind. Paying for losses will no longer be an issue because your medical and dental emergencies are covered. Emergency medical transportation benefits will take care of transportation to the nearest hospital. Furthermore, it can cover the cost of getting you home too.
Call 911 if you have a life-threatening condition or have a serious injury. You can also call the same number when you find yourself in immediate danger or are a witness to a crime in progress.
Despite the changing climate, New York is a popular destination throughout the year. Although you’ll find the most pleasant weather from May to mid-June, the prospect of having a ‘White Christmas’ in the city that never sleeps is an idea that thrills a lot of people, that’s why it’s also a popular winter destination.
New York’s weather frequently changes and throughout the year there is moderate rainfall. The city occasionally experiences heatwaves in the summer but it gets very cold during winter and even into early spring. The most pleasant temperatures tend to happen in June, July, August, and September. Typically, the wettest month is April, the warmest is July and the driest is October.
Winter is from December to February and is cold with average temperatures just above freezing. In addition, snowfalls are frequent and can result in real snowstorms. Snowstorms are typical of the country’s northeast part and tend to severely hamper conditions for days on end at times.
January is the coldest month of the year with the regions near the Adirondacks almost frigid while the regions near the Catskills mountains and Hudson Valley are in the average range of -11°C.
Spring is from March to May and while the weather continues to be unstable, it’s normal for warm days to alternate with cold weather. Don’t be surprised though because it can still snow in March until early April. April is when you see the trees and plants slowly coming back to life after the departure of the sometimes frigid winter. However, by May the temperature becomes more delightful, albeit with the occasional cold days or a bit of rain.
May is considered an excellent month to visit New York with sunshine that lasts up to 8 hours. Sunny days are aplenty throughout the state. However, do not rule out precipitation that comes mostly in the form of light showers that don’t linger for long.
Summer in New York is hot, more so in July and August. However rainy and cool days can alternate with hot days and it is not unusual to experience thunderstorms in the afternoon. July is the hottest month of the year with average high temperatures of 23°C to 29°C. August is also a hot month and many parts of the state have temperatures above 32°C. Sunny days abound with sunshine that lasts for 9 hours.
Fall is from September to November and compared to the other seasons, it’s more stable and milder, at least in the first part. Early September is still humid and hot with sunshine and thunderstorms in the afternoon. The weather becomes mild until the middle of October. During the second half of the month, you’ll start to feel the first cold days.
October is when the first fall foliage starts to showcase its colours and it’s singularly magnificent in upstate New York where you will see a diverse landscape made up of mountains, streams, meadows, rivers, and lakes. The first snowfall may happen in November. Fall in New York has a moderate amount of rainfall but it isn’t as frequent compared to spring.
Best time to visit
Knowing the best time to visit New York is a critical aspect of vacation planning. Imagine the perfect weather, with fewer crowds and cheap rates. Magical, isn’t it? New York is one of those destinations where a lot happens no matter the season, so here’s more on when is the best time to go there.
Best time to visit overall – Fall Season
People agree that the best time to visit is during fall or the months from late September up to early November, mainly because the weather is fantastic, crowds have thinned out considerably, and prices have dropped. In addition to that, the fall colours make the city even more beautiful.
The weather is nice and perfect for strolling outdoors, although there may be some days when you need a light jacket. No bones about it, New York is an expensive city, but hotel prices are much lower during fall compared to the summer months, and you are well away from Thanksgiving and New Year’s which can be costly too.
The best fall colours peak during late November, perfect for seeing the foliage in Fort Tyron Park, Prospect Park, and Central Park.
Another great time to visit – Spring Season
New York in spring is another great time to visit as the city slowly wakes up from its cold, winter slumber. Flowers start to bloom, and you’ll see bare trees gradually coming to life with leaves beginning to shoot up. The spring season begins in April and lasts through early June.
That being said, there can be a few rainy days during spring, so when you go out for a stroll, you might want to take a light jacket and an umbrella with you.
Japan may be synonymous with cherry blossoms, but New York also has cherry blossoms that tend to bloom at the end of March or the beginning of April, signalling the start of warmer months. Some of the best places for viewing cherry blossoms are the Brooklyn Botanical Garden, Central Park, and Roosevelt Island.
Tourist numbers are still not that high during this time, queues are shorter, and weekday attractions are not that full to the brim. The weather is pleasant, and everywhere you look, the views are spectacular. Considered the shoulder season, events and festivals start seeing a spike in crowd numbers.
Best time to visit for low prices – Winter Season
The best time to visit the city varies from one traveller to another. If the definition of best to you is cheapest, January to February are the best months because they have excellent combinations of discounts and low prices on flights, hotels, musicals and shows.
However, winter in New York can be eternally long and bleak, but the city looks magical after a fresh snowfall, especially Central Park and neighbourhoods with brownstones. Taking beautiful photographs during this time is easy but if the snow is too deep, the city can grind to a halt. Should you come during winter? Only if you are ready to brave the cold, and remember that good winter boots are beyond essential.
The average hotel price in the city is about $300 per night, but that can easily fall to about $190 per night during this low tourism period. Likewise, when it comes to flights, the cheapest time to purchase is from early January until early March. January to March is also the best time for dining out, and Broadway shows are not only more affordable, but much easier to come by. Restaurant Week takes place in the 2nd half of January, and provides deep discounts on food too.
Worst time to Visit – Summer Season
The city can be glorious during the summer months, but on the other hand, it can be scorching hot and unbearably humid. New York is a city of contradictions during this time. On the one hand, there is a profusion of festivals, outdoor dining, rooftop parties, and events that you’ll have difficulty deciding which one to join if you’re there for only a few days.
On the other hand, the soaring temperatures can make your time in the city miserable. Waiting for a subway on the platform can make you sweat profusely, and getting on subway cars without air-conditioning is an entirely different story. Exploring parks and outdoor spaces are agonising to do, and you’ll find yourself often visiting museums and doing indoor activities just to escape the sun.
However, because the children are out of school, summertime is hugely popular with families, making it a costly time to visit. Rest assured though, that there is plenty to keep parents and children entertained during this time.
What to Wear and Pack
A hot destination for all kinds of travellers from all over the world, New York City is a place where you can do all sorts of things. Planning and packing for your trip to the Big Apple depend on the weather and the activities you’ll be doing.
Always check the weather forecast before you start planning your wardrobe. Once you know the weather, you can then focus on sorting out the items of clothing you need for your trip.
New York is notorious for weather changes
In New York, it is not uncommon to be hot one day and cold the next so start with a base of everyday pieces such as shirts, denim jeans, and skirts. Based on the time of the year, you can then swap out a few things. More on the seasonal wear later.
Comfortable shoes are a life-saver
When in New York, you’re expected to do a substantial amount of walking to explore its wonders. You’ll be traipsing through cobblestones streets, running up and down stairs, getting on the subway, and navigating through uneven and cracked sidewalks. Uncomfortable shoes can result in painful blisters, so make sure that the family has comfortable flats, durable boots, sandals, or sneakers, depending on the weather. Heels are appropriate for evening dinners nearby your hotel or when you take a cab.
Don’t be overly casual
Compared to the rest of the country, people in New York tend to dress up more so if you want to blend in and look more like a local when out and about, you’d want the family to look not only comfortable but well put-together too. However, you should never sacrifice comfort for fashion.
Essentials for every season
Spring in the city is tantamount to chilly mornings and evenings that are even colder. However, it’s the prettiest season because you’ll see colourful flowers and a background of the ubiquitous yellow taxis and towering skyscrapers. It’s a sight unlike any other. However, the weather can be fickle and just like autumn, we recommend layers. What’s appropriate to wear in weather like this? Think pants, skirts, cardigans, lightweight shirts, sweaters, rain jackets, and blazers.
If going to New York during the summer months or from June to August, remember that it’s hot and humid. Pack light clothing and lightweight materials such as shorts, t-shirts, and sundresses. Cotton is a perfect material. Summer is the time for a myriad of outdoor festivals and concerts so don’t forget to lather on the sun cream, wear your sunglass, and a sunhat.
When travelling to the city in autumn, think layers. Autumn weather has mild temperatures and breezes but the temperature can also drop without warning. A lightweight scarf, jacket, long-sleeved tops, and jeans would make a great ensemble for sightseeing. However, take note that temperatures can significantly plunge once the sun sets so when going out during the evening, make sure to bring warmer and thicker jackets.
It goes without saying that winters in New York can be bitterly cold. However, there are times when it is clear and crisp. An integral part of the family’s winter wardrobe are gloves, hats, winter coats, scarves, and boots. During bitterly cold winter days, you’ll need thermal underclothes, especially for children when spending a great deal of time outdoors.
Other essentials to pack
Aside from other clothes, there are other necessities that families can’t do without when going to New York City. We’re rounded up a few.
Baby carrier to stroller
Most families will likely be travelling around the city by public transport so families with small toddlers or babies should bring baby carriers or prams. Note that not all subway stations have lifts. You should also bring the pram when exploring the city on foot. The city is easily navigable with prams and it’s quite handy for when you’re at the airport.
Portable booster seat
Useful for both the subway, taxi, and car hires, a portable booster seat is a great essential to add to your packing list. It keeps the little ones safe during taxi rides and airport transfers.
Collapsible water bottle
Do your bit in saving the environment and ensuring that everyone is well-hydrated through the entire day of sightseeing by taking collapsible water bottles. it can be easily packed and whipped out when you see refilling stations.
It doesn’t matter what time of the year it is, it can abruptly rain in New York and you don’t want to be caught outside with the kids without any protection from the rain showers. Opt for a compact umbrella that can be tucked easily into your daypack.
Without your doctor’s notes, it can tricky to get replacements for your drugs, especially overseas. Doctors in New York tend to be more expensive too, so pack your medicines carefully. Aside from your prescription, you might also want to include diarrhoea and motion sickness medicines, antacids, decongestants, and antihistamines.
Mosquitoes are not uncommon in the city, especially during the hot summer months. Bug spray is an essential that should be added to your packing list. You might also look into bringing mosquito patches.
No self-respecting traveller should be caught without an adapter. The standard electrical voltage in New York is 100V and the standard sockets in the city and the whole of North America are two-prong. Depending on where you are coming from, you may need a travel adapter.
Sun cream is another must, regardless of the season. You might not realize it but even on cloudy days, the sun can be intense and when you’re visiting the city for the first time, you’ll be spending a great amount of time outdoors. You’ll need protection.
Ask parents anywhere and they will tell you that Ziploc bags are lifesavers. You can use them to store snacks, small toys, crayons, dirty clothes, shampoo bottles, and many more. Make sure you have some in your case.
You’re probably going to use Google Maps frequently to navigate the busy streets of New York and your camera to take hundreds of photos. Remember to take your power bank with you when going out because using data can easily drain your phone’s battery.
Regardless of where you’re headed, it’s always a great idea to have a hand sanitiser in your bag, with or without children. There are occasions when you can’t wash your hands before snacking or when you’re on public transport. With the hand sanitiser tucked in your bag, everyone can clean their hands when they need to.
The city and the people
The most populous city in the United States, New York is a centre of finance, entertainment, and politics, and is one of the world’s major global cities, together with Tokyo, London, and Paris. It has an unrivalled collection of museums, media outlets, galleries, and stock exchanges.
New York City is in the state of New York and comprises five boroughs; namely, Manhattan, Queens, the Bronx, Brooklyn, and Staten Island. All of the boroughs, except one, have populations that exceed a million.
The city is a melting pot, with a large population of immigrants from more than 180 countries who help make it one of the most cosmopolitan global cities. Aside from foreigners, the city is also tantalising to Americans because of its diversity, culture, and energy.
The city is home to more Fortune 500 companies than any other place in the US, New York is also the centre of various service sector industries in the country, such as publishing, journalism, and mass media. Seventh Avenue has earned the nickname “Fashion Avenue”, while Manhattan’s Madison Avenue is synonymous with the advertising industry. Approximately 90% of the diamonds imported to the US pass through the city. Most of these diamonds are handled in what is referred to as the city’s Diamond District.
Historically, it developed largely in part to the New York Harbour, considered one of the finest ports in the world. Expanded in 1819, the port gave the city a tremendous advantage over other ports in the US such as those in Boston and Philadelphia. However, since the 1950s, the majority of the shipping activities have shifted to Port Newark-Elizabeth Marine Terminal in New Jersey.
New York is famous for being active and fast-paced, just think of the idiom, “in a New York minute” which means “right away”. The residents of the city are called New Yorkers and the nickname most used for the city is the “Big Apple”.
Notorious for its traffic but also famous for its well-designed subway, more than half of its residents, which includes professionals and the middle class, don’t own vehicles and commute to work via the public transportation system. New York has a pedestrian culture, very much unlike the car culture that dominates other big cities in the country.
Tourism and recreation
Tourism is a major industry, evident in the hundreds of attractions littered throughout the city. An average of 39 million tourists annually, most of them visiting the Empire State Building, Radio City Music Hall, the Statue of Liberty, Wall Street, United Nations, and the Brooklyn Bridge, to name a few.
The city has more than 25,000 acres of parkland but the most famous is Central Park. It has been featured in movies and television shows alike. New Yorkers, as well as tourists, like to go there for relaxation and recreation.
The city’s Theatre District is not only active; it is also influential. Times Square in Manhattan serves as the centre of the country’s theatre industry and is one of the attractions tourists all over the world travel for. Considered to be of the highest quality, it is considered at par with London’s West end theatre district. However, don’t let the name fool you, the theatres on Broadway are not located on Broadway Street.
Colleges and universities
Aside from being the country’s financial centre, New York is also a centre of academic medicine. NYU Medical Center and Columbia-Presbyterian Medical Center, as well as their medical schools, are in the city. Rockefeller University and Weill Cornell Medical College also call Manhattan their home. Some of the country’s top art and design schools and including Parsons of School Design, the Fashion Institute of Technology, and the School of Visual Arts.
New Yorkers are passionate about baseball and with two teams, the New York Mets and the New York Yankees, they have double the chance of getting into the World Series championship. New York City is the only one in the US that has more than a single team in baseball, ice hockey, basketball, and football.
You’ll never be disappointed if you love museums and come to New York. Most of the city’s museums are located along what is known as Museum Mile on Fifth Avenue and some of the most popular are the Museum of Modern Art, the American Museum of Natural History, the Metropolitan Museum of Art, and Guggenheim Museum.
Aside from museums, the city has a plethora of symphony, opera, and dance performances. Lincoln Center for the Performing Arts is the largest of its kind and is home to a dozen different companies, including the New York City Ballet and the New York Philharmonic.
What are New Yorkers like?
New York is home to many races and ethnicities but the four largest ethnic groups in New York City are Whites, Hispanics, Asians, and African-Americans. Half of New Yorkers speak another language aside from English and more than 200 languages are spoken in the city.
New Yorkers are typically busy people who are always in a rush so it’s no surprise that most visitors to the city think that they are rude. One thing is for sure though, they are brusquer that people from the Midwestern.
If asking for directions, avoid people who are on their phones or who have headphones on because they are busy and probably won’t be too receptive. Look for someone who isn’t preoccupied and ask your question straight away.
Getting around the city
Various transportation options are available in New York City but the easiest ways of getting around are walking, taking advantage of the public transport system, or taking taxis when the need arises.
The subway is an affordable way of getting around the city and when you have a baby carrier, going on the subway is as easy as going without a baby. However, you should avoid rush hour as it can be a challenge to get crammed in with crowds with a baby or kids in tow.
Prams are helpful too, however, take note that not all stations have lifts. Most of them have stairs and that can make manoeuvring a pram complicated. You might end up having to carry the pram up and down plenty of stairs and that’s not a good start to your New York sightseeing plans.
If you have the strength and the patience to carry a pram up and down the stairs, plan your route and check the list of accessible subway stations. Remember that handholding and vigilant supervision are a must to prevent little ones from wandering away and getting lost. Pay attention to your stop to prevent zooming past your intended station.
Your first step in using the subway as well as the buses of the city is to get yourself a MetroCard and put in a minimum value of $5.50. Automated machines in subway stations allow you to top up your MetroCard. Use your bank card, credit card, or cash, and Bob’s your uncle, you have just topped up your MetroCard. Another option is the unlimited MetroCard which allows users to ride as often as they want within a specific period.
Transfer for free from subway to bus or vice versa within two hours of using your MetroCard. However, this no longer applies if you leave the subway station through the turnstile and get on a different subway line.
One of the most convenient ways of getting around the city is by taking a taxi. The city’s fleet of yellow taxis is available 24 hours a day and hotel doormen can hail a cab for you but remember that it is customary to tip at least a dollar for his service. All taxis accept cash, prepaid, debit, and credit cards. Remember to board and exit the taxi curbside.
It’s legal to travel in a taxi throughout the city without car seats, so if you prefer to use one, you can either bring your own car seat or hire a taxi that already has one. In addition to taxis, other popular app-based options are also available, such as Lyft and Uber.
They come with car seats but they are the forward-facing variety that’s suitable for children aged 12 months and over. Companies such as Kidmoto and Black Lane have taxis with car seats but they are more expensive. Kidcar is an airport transport service that guarantees car seats for kids.
Buses are not the best modes of transportation if you have babies because they don’t allow open prams. However, there may be times when you have no other choice but to take the bus. Just remember the rules and take a baby carrier instead.
Easy, accessible, and inexpensive, the Metropolitan Transportation Authority, also known as the MTA New York Transit, has a fleet of almost six thousand buses. A great way to see the five boroughs, buses operate 24 hours a day, seven days a week. You can make navigating the system more straightforward by downloading the MTA’s official app MYmta and having it ready before you arrive in the city.
Hundreds of tourist bus companies operate in the city and they are an excellent way to see the city with children. Some of them offer an unlimited daily pass which allows passengers to hop on and hop off throughout the day at their leisure. There’s no pre-arranged itinerary so you can go as you please. Lastly, children love double-decker buses, so it’s a win-win.
New York is a waterfront city and is home to an extensive ferry system. You can safely get downtown, and uptown by ferry. Furthermore, you can get to Brooklyn, Staten Island, New Jersey, Queens, and the Bronx by ferry.
The family will have an enjoyable and relaxing journey that also offers breathtaking views as a bonus. Being on a ferry also allows everyone to see the city from a different perspective. The Staten Island Ferry is a staple of many sightseers with a route that’s been used since 1905. The NYC Ferry is a city-wide network with multiple stops. It cost the same as a subway ride and children below 44” don’t have to pay.
Lastly, NY Waterway operates commuter ferries between various points in New Jersey and Manhattan. They have sightseeing cruises too.
Renting a car is the least preferred mode of seeing the city because not only is it expensive, traffic can be slow too. If you’re planning to drive around New York, use Google Maps to help you navigate the roads and make sure you know where to park. A website you can use to compare parking locations and rates is bestparking.com. In addition, some apps that allow booking a parking spot in advance such as SpotHero.
The Roosevelt Island Tram operates like buses and subways but it travels in cable 250 feet above the East River and it goes only to Roosevelt Island from Manhattan and back. The little ones might recognize it from that unforgettable scene in the 2002 movie Spider-Man. You can use your MetroCard to enjoy this scenic trip.
Biking is a healthy and environmentally-friendly way to get around the city. However, it is not recommended for families with small children. It is much more appropriate for families with teenagers. You can hit the city on two wheels on cycling hotspots such as Prospect, Riverside, and Central Parks. Check routes using Ride the City and have a look at Transportation Alternatives for resources on biking. Furthermore, the NYC Department of Transportation has a downloadable bike map, as well as a biking guide.
Of course, one of the best and most popular ways of getting around the city is walking. Again, just like biking, this may not be feasible for families with little kids, especially those not used to walking long distances. However, the city is fairly flat, which makes exploring it on foot a possibility.
Be aware that locals will be walking around the city too and New Yorkers move quickly. They tend to get irritated by tourists who move slowly, especially those who don’t have situational awareness. Be mindful of your surroundings and don’t stop in the middle of busy sidewalks to take pictures.
Hold the hands of little ones when walking the streets and look both ways when crossing as traffic may come from the right or left on a one-way street. Do not assume that cars will stop for you even if there is a Walk signal and lastly, have a plan in case you become separated and discuss it with the family.
A Few More Trips for Your Trip to New York
Before we close this guide, here are a few more tips which you’ll find valuable during your trip to New York with the family.
Check if restaurants have an “A” rating
Diarrhoea is a common problem when travelling and trying out new food. When in New York, only eat at restaurants which have an A rating from the NYC Health Department. A non-A rating means that the restaurant does not possess a clean kitchen or have had infractions on their cleanliness rating. Street food, however, does not have ratings so use your judgment when evaluating the quality of food.
Give New York enough time
New York is massive and the city alone is so big that you need to spend a minimum of 3 days to fully enjoy the main attractions. If you want to explore the city without being rushed, 5 days is more appropriate but if you have more time, make it 7. This way, you’ll have more time to see the outer boroughs too.
Don’t obsess about the main tourist attractions
You don’t need to do everything just for the sake of doing it. A lot of people go to New York overwhelmed and they are compelled to see and do all the major attractions, but even people who live in New York will be the first to tell you that you will NEVER see everything. Instead, you should consider what you actually want to see rather than ticking off a list some people posted on the Internet.
You don’t have to empty your bank account to afford a New York vacation with the family. If you do your research ahead to know which museums you can get into with a suggested donation, where to stay that is both safe and affordable, and when is the best time to book your tickets, you could end up even being under your budget.