Planning a trip to NYC, and thinking about taking the kids? This quick itinerary will spare you the planning, keep everyone entertained and won’t break the bank (NYC can be pricey, friends!)
Where to Stay
This itinerary pretty much depends on a Manhattan stay, as all of the activities listed here happen in and around Lower Manhattan. But don’t think you have to spend their college savings to get a hotel! We stayed in this Airbnb, and what it lacked in charm it certainly made up for in having a second bedroom!
Am I wrong to think that is a unicorn-level situation in Manhattan?
It was also within walking distance to everything mentioned below, apart from our short subway jaunt to Times Square. Win!
Day One: The Oculus & Battery Park
We arrived mid afternoon, so after settling into our Airbnb we popped out to explore the neighborhood. This led us to Battery Park, a lovely spot to explore with kids.
Right on the water, Battery Park has some cool historical sites (more on that in a moment) and if the weather is bad there is a super swank mall right there that would be cool for perusing.
We were hungry enough to have dinner early, which meant that we snagged a table at a waterside restaurant with no wait. In hindsight, it was a bit of a fancy choice for a family dinner, but we were still getting our bearings.
After dinner we walked over to the Oculus. The Oculus is, in reality, a subway station. What is appears to be is President Snow’s presidential palace from the Hunger Games. Constructed after 9/11, it is an incredible structure and also a great place to explore.
Day Two : 9/11 Museum & Broadway
We decided to spend this morning at the 9/11 Museum & Memorial. We had heard that it would take about 3 hours to get through, and that was a fair estimate for us. I would caution parents of younger children that the museum itself is an accurate portrayal of what happened that day and therefore fairly graphic at times.
Buy tickets the night before you go, as they’ll assign you a time to arrive. When we arrived at 9 AM (opening time) it was fairly chaotic with people trying to push ahead in line. Take a deep breath before you go- inside is such a massive space that it doesn’t feel crowded at all.
The museum is totally worth the visit. My husband & I both got a bit teary-eyed at times and we weren’t the only ones- sniffles can be heard throughout the exhibit. Perhaps because she wasn’t alive at the time, but the visit didn’t seem to impact my stepdaughter in the same way.
That afternoon we had tickets to see Aladdin on Broadway! We bought these tickets before we left for New York, and I’m so glad we did. It was an amazing experience in the New Amsterdam theatre, and it was so fun to sing along to all of the songs we know so well from the movie.
Day Three: Museum of the American Indian & Tour of the Statue of Liberty + Ellis Island
We didn’t have any plans for the morning of day 3 and we woke up to rain. We considered the Museum of Natural History but knew it would be incredibly crowded, so after a quick search decided to visit the Museum of the American Indian.
This museum has a lot going for it! #1: It is set in a gorgeous building (my stepdaughter asked if we were walking into Hogwarts!) #2: The exhibits are beautiful, including the permanent exhibit of artifacts from all of the major indigenous groups of the Americas and #3: It’s free! (and after being in NYC for a few days this was lovely!)
After lunch we headed back to Battery Park for our tour with Jerry through Airbnb experiences. Jerry is from the city and is a college student who knows his stuff- you can snag tickets to the Statue of Liberty & Ellis Island on your own, but you’ll miss out on some valuable info! Plus, it’s fun being with folks from around the world on your tour.
We met at Castle Clinton (an old fort to defend Manhattan from the Brits!) in Battery Park, and hopped on the ferry with Jerry. When we arrived to the Liberty Island, he walked us through the back entrance and straight up into the museum- something we couldn’t have done on our own. We learned all about the history of the statue and the island, and then hopped another ferry to continue on to Ellis Island.
Ellis Island was the highlight for me, and what I had been looking forward to the most. Walking through the arrivals & registration rooms, learning about how people came here from Europe and what they met when they arrived, it was all so amazing.
Day Four: The Brooklyn Bridge
Waking up to sun, we decided to use our remaining hours walking across the iconic Brooklyn Bridge. It took us about an hour and fifteen minutes to cross and come back, the perfect amount of time before we had to check out of our Airbnb.
Where We Ate
Ninja Sushi: This place was so kitschy & fun. When you arrive, you’re taken down in an elevator to the ninja’s dungeon. All of the waiters are dressed like ninjas, and they embrace it. They become the ninjas. More than once I was “hi-ya’ed!” and scared out of my mind before eating my delish sushi. My stepdaughter loved every minute, and I could hear other kids around losing their minds with joy.
Joe’s Pizza: A 1-minute walk from our Airbnb, this is a New York institution. You’ll see photos of famous folks all over the walls.
Dead Rabbit Grog & Grocery: Kids are only allowed in half of this space, but we got in no problem. It was a windy, cool day, and the food was warm and delightful.
Leo’s Bagels: When we arrived here for lunch there was a line out the door, and… worth it. They have all the bagels, all the lox, all the schmear you need. It’s a grab and go situation as seating is extremely limited.