Help me plan a 2-day trip to New York with my wife and young children.
March 25, 2010 1:27 PM   Subscribe

Help me plan a 2-day trip to New York with my wife and young children.

My wife and I will be taking our 7-year-old daughter and 5-year-old son to New York City for 2 days early next week. We'll be staying at a hotel in Secaucus with the expectation of taking the 320 bus into Manhattan each morning.

I have been trying to research our options since the trip came together a day or so ago, and the possibilities seem just about endless! Please help me plan the visit.

I have fun kids with typical interests. Some mix of shopping, museum-going, kid-friendly non-chain dining, and simple gawking at the tall buildings is what I envision.

Our only requirement is a trip to the American Girl store on Fifth Avenue for our daughter. To balance that out for our son, I thought we might consider visiting the Scholastic Store, which looks to be in lower Manhattan, or the Toys R Us store near Time Square.

I went to the American Museum of Natural History on my first visit to New York at about my son's age, and I think my kids would like to see the dinosaur bones, too. Central Park in general would be fun. The American Girl store segues naturally to Rockefeller Center, which would also be neat. Is Top of the Rock worth it? (The City Pass overall seems a bit excessive, given our time frame and kids' ages.)

The kids will poop out at some point and some non-walking time, in the form of a carriage or tour bus ride, might be fun.

We anticipate many more trips to New York in future months and years, and understand that we don't have to do it all on our first trip... but we do want the first trip to be memorable. If you have suggestions or recommendations - for specific things to do, web sites to visit, guidebooks to buy or borrow, or ways to structure the trip so as to not completely wear out the kids - I'd be very grateful.
posted by cheapskatebay to Travel & Transportation around New York, NY (19 answers total) 9 users marked this as a favorite
Some kids seem to think the subway is cool, especially if they can stand at the end of it and look through the window at the tunnel receding...
posted by dfriedman at 1:38 PM on March 25, 2010

Be sure to also read these AskMes for ideas/suggestions:
Fun things for kids in NY?

Granddaughter visiting NYC.

NYC Tourist Filter.
I suggest Serendipity for a meal and visits to Dylan's Candy Bar, FAO Schwarz and the Sony Wonder Technology Lab.
posted by ericb at 1:39 PM on March 25, 2010 [1 favorite]

Also, consider the American Museum of History's Rose Planetarium.
posted by ericb at 1:43 PM on March 25, 2010

*American Museum of Natural History's...*
posted by ericb at 1:43 PM on March 25, 2010

I work in the same plaza as the hotel you're probably staying in - be prepared for your bus rides to take much longer than the posted times for the 320.
posted by Threeway Handshake at 1:52 PM on March 25, 2010

Take the 1 down to South Ferry and ride the Staten Island Ferry both ways. The ride is free, and you'll get a great view of the city and its harbor.
posted by TrialByMedia at 2:20 PM on March 25, 2010

Definitely the American Museum of Natural History. Don't miss the butterfly conservatory! (Be warned, I think every exhibit in the museum ends in a gift shop if my memory served me correctly).

If you have the time, the Bronx Zoo is fantastic, but it could easily take up your entire day.
posted by inertia at 2:38 PM on March 25, 2010 [1 favorite]

Books of Wonder is a bookstore with just kids and young adult books. Alternately, the Strand Bookstore has a children's books area on the 2nd floor with cheaper prices though not as broad a selection. (Both might be too far south for your first trip, though. BoW is on 18th street between 5th & 6th, The Strand is between 12th & 13th streets on Broadway.)

If you hit Central Park, perhaps the Central Park Zoo?
posted by fings at 2:39 PM on March 25, 2010

Its worth noting that NYC public schools will be on spring break starting the 29th, so you'll probably have to compete with more other families than usual at most kid-specific attractions. NYC independent schools are already on break, but it'll overlap with the time you're here.
posted by blaneyphoto at 4:56 PM on March 25, 2010

Governer's island is NYC's best kept secret. It's an enormous park off the, uh, coast of Manhattan. You can hop a FREE! ferry from the terminal. Once you're there you can ride/rent bikes, sit in the sun, wander around an old fort, look at some cool old houses, grab a snack. It was totally my favorite thing to do when I lived in NYC. There are also usually some kind of activities going on, but they change frequently- Check the website. Last year they had free minigolf.
posted by GilloD at 5:05 PM on March 25, 2010 [1 favorite]

its hard for a first trip to NYC to not be memorable - the city is such. I would do the cab instead of the subway - especially with 4 people - it won't get that much more expensive for travel within the city. As for attractions, madame tussaud's is fun for kids, stores in and around times square (M&M, toysrus, nintendo etc.)
posted by cusecase at 5:13 PM on March 25, 2010

(Former Governors Island resident here) GilloD's suggestion is a good one, but do check the website - I don't think they open the island to the public until May.
posted by blaneyphoto at 7:13 PM on March 25, 2010

My daughter was 8 when I first took her to NYC for a short visit. We were able to buy same day tickets from the TKTS discount ticket booth in Times Square and saw Beauty & the Beast at the Lunt Fontanne Theater. The show was FANTASTIC - far superior to anything we could have seen at home. You may not be able to catch the same show, but there are usually several choices appropriate for kids. We also explored Central Park - we were in search of the fountain that is seen in many movies (Stuart Little, Enchanted) - we found it!
posted by kbar1 at 9:38 PM on March 25, 2010

A Curious George exhibit has just opened.
posted by brujita at 11:16 PM on March 25, 2010

The American Girl store is a little bit crazy -- you might want to consider splitting up for the day and sending one parent and son to another attraction while one parent and daughter do their thing at American Girl. The Museum of The City of New York is great for kids too and often overlooked I think.

Also something you might want to consider doing: since NYC has so many different types of people it thus has many different kinds of food. I don't know what it is like where you live but if there aren't a lot of ethnic restaurants around maybe you and the kids can pick a cuisine that sounds intriguing to everyone (Ethiopian!? Vietnamese?!) and go try something new and different. Even if you all hate the food it'll be an adventure and maybe you can get a geography/culture lesson out of it. Besides, you're never more than five feet from a slice of pizza in NYC so you don't have to worry about going hungry if your international dinner doesn't work out.
posted by blue_bicycle at 7:26 AM on March 26, 2010

Forgot to mention: can be a good resource for finding the aforementioned restaurants.
posted by blue_bicycle at 7:26 AM on March 26, 2010

Natural History museum is fairly close to the Children's Museum of Manhattan (as well as Central Park, which is always popular and has your carriage rides), and the Scholastic Bookstore is very close to the Children's Museum of the Arts. For me, these trips often go better if I can pair stuff up.

Along those lines, there's a very good pizza place, Patsy's Pizzeria, across 60th Street from Dylan's Candy Bar.
posted by troywestfield at 9:16 AM on March 26, 2010

Response by poster: Thanks, everyone! This is great stuff. Much appreciated.
posted by cheapskatebay at 1:38 PM on March 26, 2010

Response by poster: Just wanted to let everyone know that we had a GREAT trip. Our time in New York was condensed into one day... we opted to forego the monsoon conditions today and, instead, we visited the NJ Aquarium in Camden on our return trip south.

Our Monday in New York was very busy, however: we took the bus from Secaucus to Times Square, rode an indoor Ferris wheel inside the Toys R Us store, took a cab to see the dinosaurs and a planetarium show at the American Museum of Natural History, and walked from 79th St. all the way back to 41st Street (a long walk for kids this young!), criss-crossing midtown Manhattan all the while. On our lengthy afternoon stroll, we enjoyed walking through Central Park and also making stops at Dylan's Candy Bar, the American Girl Store and a return trip to Toys R Us (to actually buy some toys). Pizza for dinner, natch. The kids would probably tell you that their favorites were the toy shopping... and swimming in the hotel pool!

I very much appreciate everyone's ideas and suggestions. Serendipity is on our list for next time and, if the weather cooperates, so would be the Staten Island Ferry.
posted by cheapskatebay at 4:20 PM on March 30, 2010 [1 favorite]

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