New York Vacation for Families

More about NY: Guided Tours of Manhattan


New York isn’t the classic city for family holidays, but a trip to the US isn’t complete without a visit to New York. Any family member of any age will be impressed with the huge, busy city, its amazing variety, its tall buildings and its many sights to see. No one can remain indifferent to this lively city. Some hate it, but others are enchanted by it and return again and again.

 

New york view from Rockefeller center

 

Duration of Visit

The optimal stay time for a family in New York is three to five days. In this time period you will not get to see all that the city holds, of course, but you will definitely be able to see its main attractions, especially those intended for kids as well.

 

 

Transportation

New York is the only city in which I don’t recommend families to rent a car. The roads are busy and congested every hour of the day and driving is difficult and scary even if you know the city well, so it is especially so for tourists who don’t know their way around. On top of that, it is incredibly difficult to find parking in the city. Since most of the city’s attractions are concentrated in a fairly small area of Manhattan, you can get around just fine on foot and with public transport and taxis.

For families, especially ones with young children, the most comfortable (and not necessarily expensive) way to get around is by taxi, particularly for short distances. Cab fares in the city are affordable and while riding you get to see the city instead of going underground for the subway, having to bother with maps and changing trains. You should take the subway at least once for the the experience, but do not do this during rush hour: 8:00AM-9:30AM and 5:00PM-6:30PM. There are many cabs driving around the city (12,000!) but remember that during rush hour it’s hard to catch one. A light at the front of the taxi means it’s not taken. It is customary to add a 15-20% tip on top of the cab fare. Yellow cabs are the only licensed taxis – don’t take any others!

 

Boat Tour

A fun way to see Manhattan’s views is by boat tour. Circle Line Cruise offer two and a half to three hour tours around Manhattan, allowing a great view of New York’s big, busy harbour and the city’s skyline. Tours are on from March to December.

The most cost-effective boat ride is the Staten Island Ferry, which goes between Manhattan and Staten Island. During the ferry ride you will pass by beautiful views including the statue of liberty, ships in the harbour and the skyscrapers of Manhattan. And the price? Hard to believe, but it is free! 

 

Foot Tour

A popular and inexpensive way to tour the city is by foot. This is the best way to get a sense of the city’s enormous scale. Walk between skyscrapers, visit museums and shops and discover the city for yourselves at your own pace. When you get tired of walking, catch a cab back to your hotel. Keep your children close and keep an eye on them! It’s easy to lose a child among the vast crowds walking through the city.

 

Recomended Hotels in New York:

Hyatt Place New York
A 3 star Hotel Just 5 minutes’ walk from the Empire State Building, offers free Wi-Fi, a corner sofa, refrigerator, work desk and coffee making are included in each room.  

Hotel Belleclaire
A 4 star Hotel in Manhattan’s Upper West Side, 3 blocks from Central Park. Free Wi-Fi. 

The New Yorker Hotel
Historic Midtown Manhattan 4 star hotel located 2 minutes’ walk from Madison Square Garden and opposite Penn Station. Times Square and the Theater District are 10 minutes’ walk away. Free Wi-Fi . 

Bedford Hotel
3 star hotel located 3-minute walk to Grand Central Station, offering easy access to Manhattan shopping and dining. Flat-screen cable TV and desk along with a safe. Each room is equipped with a microwave, refrigerator and coffee maker. free Wi-Fi. 

TRYP by Wyndham Times Square South
3 star hotel. Located 5-minute walk from Penn Station. Free Wi-Fi.

 

View Points

The two most famous symbols of New York, both offering a great view of the city from different vantage points, are:

Empire State Building:

This is one of the tallest buildings in the world, built in an art deco style. It was completed in 1931 and has since been one of the city’s symbols and a must-see tourist attraction. Its top 30 floors are lit up every evening, all year round. The lights change on special occasions: On Christmas it is lit up in red and green, red white and blue on national holidays, etc. There is an open viewing platform on the 86th floor and another, closed viewing platform on the 102nd floor. The view is breathtaking! On clear days, you can see up to 80 kilometres away. On the second floor of the building is a huge simulator called New York Sky Ride, which simulates flying through the New York sky and seeing its most famous landmarks. Fly into Wall Street, ride a roller coaster in Coney Island and even visit the famous toy store, FAO Schwarz. Highly recommended!
The Empire State Building is located on 5th Avenue, on the corner of 34th Street.

 

Rockefeller Centre -TOP OF THE ROCK

This is one of my favorite view point. From the 70 floor you get great view of the central park and also you can see the Empire State Building erecting in front of you.

This is a large block of 19 buildings full of businesses, offices, restaurants and entertainment sites. In its center, between all the skyscrapers, is a small square with flags from all over the world. In the winter, this is a popular site for ice-skating. Toward Christmas, an enormous Christmas tree is set up in the square and lit up beautifully. In the summer, orchestras play there and and the space is used for dancing. The most famous part of the centre is Radio City Music Hall, a huge theatre for concerts and other musical entertainment. There are hour-long guided tours of Rockafeller Centre available.

 

 

The Statue of Liberty:

The Statue of Liberty is located on a small island south of Manhattan. It was a present from the French people to the people of America, as a sign of continued friendship between the two peoples. The statue is 50 metres tall, holding a torch in one hand and a book in the other. It has been standing since 1886 and has since greeted millions of immigrants arriving at the land of opportunity. You can get to the island via a ferry that leaves from Battery Park. There is another ferry from Jersey City in New Jersey that leaves every 45 minutes. A narrow 354-stair staircase will take you to the top of the statue. In the busy summer months the climb can take as long as three hours due to the long lines. You can certainly pass on the climb and the long lines and simply see the statue from below. The view of Manhattan from the island and during the ferry ride is breathtaking.

The Statue of Liberty

 

 

Brooklyn Bridge

This is also have a very good view point of the sky line of new york especialy at sunset. The bridge itself is impressing and have special lanes for pedestrians and bike lane.

Brooklyn Bridge New york skyline from Brooklyn Bridge

 

Museums

Museum lovers can spend many days visiting the numerous impressive museums of New York. The following museums are the biggest and most well-known ones in the city and, most importantly, are suitable for the whole family. Most are in the heart of Manhattan, at the centre of the touristy area. You can spend many hours in each of these.

 

Discount Tickets:

New York CityPASS

 

American Museum of Natural History:

This is one of the most famous museums in the world. Its exhibits show the development of the earth, its animals, people, plants and minerals. The permanent exhibitions are: The people of Asia, people of Africa, people of Mexico, people of the Pacific Ocean, Native Americans, dinosaurs, mammals of Asia and Africa, bugs, reptiles and birds, minerals, precious stones, and meteorites. The museum has an IMAX theatre, a planetarium and a special room for children’s activities and games. If you plan to visit only one museum in the city, visit this one.

American Museum of Natural History

 

American Museum of the Moving Image:

This museum is all about the art, technology and history of film. Most of the exhibits allow the visitors to personally and actively experience the movie-making process, allowing the visitor to go behind the scenes, edit film, and try on outfits from famous movies. Highly recommended. You can easily spend a whole day at this museum. The place also has a theatre where many movies are screened (some animated) and TV shows are hosted, featuring famous directors and actors. The shows’ theme changes every weekend.

Intrepid Museum:

This museum is actually an aircraft carrier from WWII and the Vietnam War that is pernmamently docked at the Hudson River at dock 86. On the ship and around it is a wide display of aircrafts, spacecrafts and rockets.

Children’s Museums

There are two excellent children’s museums in New York: one relatively new the Children's Museum of Manhattan, and the second is Brooklyn Children’s Museum which was the first children’s museum in the world. The museums are based on a ‘hands on’ principle where kids get to touch and play with all the exhibits. They are suitable for families with children ten and under.

Sony Wonder Technology Lab:

An interactive science and technology museum which focuses on communication technologies.

Ellis Island Immigration Museum:

Ellis Island was where early immigrants to the US arrived between the years of 1892 and 1924. Over 24 million immigrants arrived at the island, but only 16 million of them got to enter their new homeland and stay there. Today, the remains of the buildings where the immigrants lived on the island still stand. The Island has an immigration museum which shows the process these immigrants to the US had to go through. It is very impressive and interesting! The island is not far from the statue of liberty and can be reached by ferry from Battery Park. Entry to the museum is free; however, the ferry ride is not. I recommend combining your visit to Ellis island with a visit to the statue of liberty.

Madame Tussauds

Anyone who has not visited the famous museum in London can visit the excellent New York branch. The museum contains over 200 wax figures of famous people from all over the world, as well as some interactive displays – including the Chamber of Horrors.

New York City Fire Museum

This museum displays an impressive collection of fire vehicles and devices for putting out fires that have been used over the ages. Children tend to love this one.

Metropolitan Museum of Art

The biggest and most well-known museum in the city, it is visited by over 2 million people a year. The museum has 18 sections, among them: exhibits of some of the most famous paintings in the world, costumes, musical instruments, sculptures, mosaics, ceramics and many others. The exhibits come from every corner of the world, including Egypt, Greece, Rome, China, and of course the US. The museum has an impressive sculpture garden which is a great attraction for every age. I don’t recommend visiting on a Sunday, as that is the museum’s busiest day.

 

New York has many other famous art museums: The Museum of Modern Art (MoMA), the Guggenheim Museum, The Cloisters, and many other interesting museums. However, one museum of art will likely be enough for most members of the family.

 

Parks and Zoos:

Even though New York is a busy city full of huge buildings, it is a very green place! 17% of it, to be exact. It is full of parks, zoos, and gardens.

Central Park:

This is the largest and most famous park in New York. It lies in the heart of busy Manhattan. The parks 843 acres include fountains, lakes, grassy lawns, trails, and sculptures. I recommend visiting the park on weekends, when it is busy and lively and full of people and activities. The main attractions of the park are: Belvedere Castle, which overlooks a beautiful view and houses a discovery centre for kids; the historic carousel; the zoo; the Delacorte Theatre, which hosts a Shakespeare festival every year; a puppet show (mostly on weekends); a skating rink which is open all year round – for ice skating in the winter and for roller-blading and minigolf in the summer; and a wildlife conservation centre, which displays animals in their natural environment.
Free guided tours by the Manhattan National Park Rangers take place in the park every weekend. The tours are one hour to 90 minutes long (not recommended for young children). On weekdays there are trolley tours through the park, several times a day. Another nice way to tour the park is in a horse-driven carriage. You can also rent a bike and a pedal boat for use in the lakes.
Visiting the park at night is not recommended!

New York Aquarium:

The aquarium is on the shore of Coney Island and houses thousands of fish, sharks, whales, dolphins and other sea animals. The place also holds sea lion shows and ‘electric eels’. In the summer there are also dolphin shows. Every day you can watch penguin and shark feedings.

Bronx Zoo:

This is New York’s main zoo and is one of the biggest zoos in the world. It has over 600 species of animals. In order to see most of it, you should spend a full day there. The animals are in their natural habitats. Don’t miss the elephants, seals, the world of darkness, the butterfly garden and the monkey house. You can go on camel tours – highly recommended! You can travel through the zoo via monorail, train, and cable car (for an extra fee). The zoo also has a ‘children’s zoo’ (closed in the winter) which costs extra as well.

New York Botanical Garden:

Very impressive gardens, some of the biggest in the world. They are divided into 25 zones, some closed and some open. The place also has an adventure park for children, which includes mazes and animals. A small train tours between the gardens. There are also tours on foot. On weekends there is a transportation service from the Metropolitan and the Museum of Natural History to the garden.

Brooklyn Botanical Garden:

The most notable areas of this garden are the tropical gardens, the Japanese gardens and the Bonsai museum.

Flushing Meadows – Corona Park:

This park has hosted two world fairs and today it houses a zoo, a science centre, an ice skating rink, a museum with the biggest model of New York in the world (835,000 buildings), bike trails, the Queens botanical gardens, tennis courts (where the US Open takes place), playgrounds, a lake where you can rent a pedal boat, and more. The park is located in Queens.

 

Broadway Tickets at TicketNetwork

 

Other Attractions

South Street Seaport:

This is the historic seaport of New York, which was active mostly in the 19th century. All the buildings in the place have been restored and old boats are permanently docked there, open to the public. The seaport has shops, galleries, restaurants and street performances. It is a lovely place to walk around. It also has a museum – the South Street Seaport Museum – which has galleries and models of ships. Tour boats leave the seaport several times a day.

South Street Seaport

 

United Nations Headquarters:

Its buildings and gardens are full of statues and other works of art. The main building is an impressive glass structure. A limited number of entry tickets to UN gatherings are given out for free on a first come, first serve basis. There are guided tours of the place every day between the hours of 4:45 and 9:15 every half hour. The tour is 45 minutes long. Children under 5 years are not allowed on the tour.

New York Stock Exchange:

This is the biggest and most important stock exchange in the world. You can watch the lively stock exchange activities from the balcony on the second floor. The building also has a gallery which displays the history of the American economy. The New York stock exchange is open to visitors Monday to Friday from 9:15AM to 4:00PM. The number of visitors is limited so I recommend arriving early. Suitable only for older children. Entry is free, cameras not allowed.

New York Stock Exchange

 

Trump World Tower:

An impressive-looking 68 story building with walls made of glass. It was built by Donald Trump. The building has fancy apartments and many prestigious shops. On the ground floor is a beautiful lobby made of pink marble where there are coffee shops, greenery and fountains.

 

Chinatown:

The Chinatown in the south of Manhattan is roughly nine blocks in size. It is full of Chinese souvenir shops, restaurants, tea houses, Chinese book stores and interesting herb shops. It is decorated with traditional Chinese wall murals and pagodas. Sundays are the busiest days. On Chinese New Year, colourful parades with fire-breathing dragons march down the streets.

 

Toy Stores

The most famous toy store in New York and one of the most famous in the world is the FAO Schwarz toy store on 5th Avenue. It has been featured in several Hollywood films. The store design and its selection are amazing, but everything is very expensive – better for window shopping. This store is a must see for anyone travelling with children. It has a comics section, a barbie museum, a whole floor of stuffed toys and much more. Your kids won’t want to leave. Convince them to look here and buy elsewhere. There is a big Toys R Us nearby, in Herald Centre.

 

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