We’ve just returned from the most amazing trip to America, starting with 3 nights in New York City. I’ve been to New York twice in my child-less past, and it’s one of my favourite places, but I wasn’t sure what to expect taking a four-year-old and two-year-old as part of a big group of 12 of us…! We wanted to make sure we made the most of the short time we had there, and really packed our days – we averaged 20,000 steps a day and were utterly exhausted by the end of the trip!
As we had already done New York together a few times, there were a lot of parts that we didn’t feel the need to do again – such as Ground Zero. We’re also not hugely into designer shopping, or visiting places from movies, so we (and by we I mean, I came up with a list of ideas and Steven planned the logistics) packed in an itinerary with the things we were excited about and that we thought the kids would enjoy too. I thought I’d share this itinerary for 3 nights in New York in case you find yourself in a similar position.
Our first day involved a lot of walking. We didn’t want to wrangle a pushchair around the city, so we both wore a child each using our Tula carriers which is my biggest tip. It’s a lot of walking, and a lot of steps up and down the subways, so a carrier is really useful. I also felt a lot safer keeping my babies close, and they could see what was going on, so much better than if they were in a carrier. I got the Tula Preschool carrier for my 4-year-old so we could carry him on our backs and both boys fell asleep several times in them.
My husband had seen a picture of the Vessel on Reddit and I’ll be honest, I wasn’t at all that excited about it, but the rest of the day was stuff I was desperate to dom and so I was happy to visit the weird-looking little building with him, but actually, it was really cool! I believe you can usually walk up the stairs but (thankfully!) it was closed to set up for an event, so we just got to look at it but even the boys thought it was cool. It was early-ish morning and not at all busy, so we got the kids out of the carriers and let them run around and stretch their legs while they could, and we refuelled with a Starbucks. I probably wouldn’t go out of my way to see The Vessel, but it was on the way to where we were going next, so it was cool to have a look.
The Chelsea Highline
This is genuinely one of my favourite places in the world. A converted train track, high above Manhatten, has been made into a garden, full of beautiful art and plants. I just cannot tell you the feeling that this brings my soul. The greenery is more established than it was when we first came, back in 2018 and there were people leading drawing classes, or just sat watching the world go by. It’s really lovely and my kids loved spotting the sculptures, and the visiting bees and butterflies. We used it as a way to get to the next destination, which I would hugely recommend, but be aware that in the winter they don’t always have the whole thing open, depending on the weather.
The Chelsea Market
If you love to support local, shop small and enjoy an artsy seen (and/or delicious food) you have to visit the Chelsea Market. This is a haven of gorgeous stalls, with so much to check out from vinted or upcycled clothing, to art prints and handmade jewellery. The first time we came, Steven bought me a gorgeous necklace that was a heart shape with a little key cut out, and he had the key on a bracelet – V cute/cheesy. Over the years they’ve both been misplaced and we’ve often spoken of replacing them. Sadly, the stall didn’t have the same charms, but I was able to use some dollars gifts from my colleagues on my last day of work, to make a bracelet with Steven, Ruben and Indiana’s initials on, which was really lovely. We also go some stunning art prints to go in the house too.
We also got some food! A vegan pizza (AKA, pizza without cheese – America was surprisingly a bit rubbish for vegan food) which we ate in the sun. Such a gorgeous place and somewhere I will make time for on every NYC trip.
Little Island Park
Another Reddit find, this is new since we last came and is essentially a weird (but wonderful) little park floating on big concrete pillars above the Hudson River. This is a beautiful, very modern park, with loads of places to walk and explore. They have loads of cool events, although nothing we were able to see in the short time we were there, but there were some cute hidden gems, like the little floor pad that made a sound when you stepped on it.
One thing I will say, is that it referenced “The Playground” a few times, so me and the boys were looking for some swings and a slide. We finally asked a member of staff who told us that that’s what they call the Hub in the middle which mainly had food stalls. Which was lovely of course, but we kept telling the kids there was a playground to find!
That said, they had a lovely time just exploring. There are little interactive moments, beautiful views and loads of stunning plants. Plus clean toilets and drinking fountains. This would be a wonderful space to read, or do yoga.
Museum of Icecream
We spent most of the day with Steven’s parents, while his sister, her husband and their 4 kids went shopping in Times’ Square. In the evening, his sister and niece went to watch &Juliet (v jealous!) and Steven, his brother in law, is dad and one of his nephews went to watch the New York Nicks. That left me and my two, Steven’s Mum and 2 of his nephews (the eldest and youngest) to explore the Museum of Icecream!
It was hard to find somewhere that we would all enjoy, with the youngest being 2 and the eldest child being 17, so this felt like a bit of a leap of faith but it was absolutely worth it.
It’s hard to explain what exactly the Museum of Icecream is. Part art exhibition, part photo op, with free food along the way and spaces to play. Each room offered a different treat, from ice cream, to cotton candy and there were vegan options at every station too. There was a room set up like a subway station, one set up like a party, one with a huge slide, a history of ice cream and a playground. The piece de resistance was a huge ball pit where the balls were in fact huge sprinkles. Very cute. Even my mother-in-law liked it here! It was $44 per person when we went (plus taxes) and I also bought myself a cheeky cocktail in the first room. Ruben bought a fluffy unicorn from the giftshop (he named it Jerry. Felt apt) and Indie got a squishy unicorn (which he named Rainbow. My kids are naming genius’). Its not somewhere you’d need to go more than once but it was a nice way to spend an evening.
Top tip: The Nike store has some lovely toilets. Of course, Roo needed a wee before we could get into the Museum of Icecream and the Nike store was the closest place with a loo we could use,
Ellen’s Stardust Diner
We’ve been to New York twice and had never made it to Ellen’s Stardust Diner, and after going for the first time, we will absolutely be back. We got there at about 8am and there was no queue at all – we walked straight in.
We were worried that this might have been a little cheesy but actually it was amazing and I teared up several times. If you don’t know the concept, the waiters and waitresses take it in turns to sing show tunes while they serve. There was a wonderful mix of light-hearted tunes (Bo Burnham’s White Woman’s Instagram for a start) and more heartfelt ballads (I cried at Journey to the Past from Anastasia) and it was just so fun! The idea is that all the singing wait staff are training to be on Broadway, and Ellen’s has a scholarship fun which goes towards singing, dancing and acting lessons for them, which I thought was really cool.
Vegan-wise we didn’t have a huge lot of choice. We got the boys tater tots (which were v salty but delish!) and we had the vegan yoghurt and fresh fruit. It would have been nicer with some granola but it was still good. I also had a Mimosa and a coffee and Steven had 2 coffees.
The meal cost around $100 and it was honestly fully worth it. Even if you are not a big musicals fan, I would still recommend it because the atmosphere is electric.
The Staten Island Ferry
It’s so weird to me that the Statue of Liberty is so small and far away from the actual Island of Manhatten. But she’s gotta be seen, and the best way we’ve found to do that (for free!) is to jump on the Staten Island Ferry which goes straight past it. We’ve never gone over the Liberty Island, and I don’t feel like we’ve missed out. The ferry takes about 30 minutes and gives the most stunning views across to the skyline, without costing a single dime. The kids loved the novelty of being on a boat too.
This was one of the solely vegan places in NYC and despite there being several branches in the UK, we’ve never been, so we made a pilgrimage across to Nolita. The decor was so cool, and the freedom of being able to order anything off the menu meant that we basically rolled out of there with very full tummies.
We got the Crispy Chick’n, the Patty Melt (and grilled “cheese”) with 2 vegan beef pattys, onion and sauce and skinny fries. We got the kids hotdogs and they loved them too. I’ll deffo be hunting this place down next time we are in London.
This is a store that we saw online and thought looked fun. It’s… fine. It was nice enough to have a look around but it was a lot of designer, boujee stuff (with no price tags…) that just went above my head. There was a slide but the boys were both too comfy in the carrier, and overall it was just okay.
We headed over to Brooklyn at this point – somewhere we haven’t been able to explore as much as we would like, but one of Steven’s clients suggested a cute park and it was a lovely time!
This park was so cool! It stretched 35 acres and there was just so much going on! People were playing all sorts of sports (including a fun game involving a ball and a mini trampoline?!), and having picnics and there were loads of gazebos with people celebrating birthdays and playing music. It was just bustling, and although we only spent an hour or so there, I could see spending a full day there if we could! There was a great playground (one of many!) that the boys really enjoyed, although I will say, it’s as hot as balls and so the metal bits were not ideal!
The Empire State Building
Going up the Empire State Building is somehow something we have never done! It feels like an obvious tourist draw but we’ve just never gotten around to it until this time. We paid $44 per adult (kids under 6 are free!) to get to the 86th Floor Observatory and we timed it perfectly.
This is my biggest Empire State Building tip: Book for a little before sunset (give yourself plenty of time to get up there, you have to queue some, and there is plenty to look at before you get up there) so you can see the sun setting on the horizon as well as experiencing it at night. You really get the best of all views this way and it’s more than worth the money.
We didn’t bother going up to the 102nd floor and didn’t feel like we missed much, but I will say it was really busy up there, so it can be hard to get a spot to look out at. You get a 360-degree view across Manhatten and it really is breathtaking.
We briefly took the boys into Times Square, just to say that we had. What feels fun and exciting as two young adults, is kinda terrifying with two children! A knock-off Spiderman was trying to lure Ruben over to cuddle him, and Indie was very confused by the ominous Mickey Mouse with human hands. I will say that you need to keep a tight hold of your kids, because if they get a photo with one of the possessed-looking characters, you’ll be expected to pay.
Central Park – Pedicab Tour
On our last day, we weren’t flying out to Florida until later in the afternoon, so we wanted to fit in Central Park, but didn’t have a lot of time and our feet were very sore. We grabbed one of the Pedicabs at the entrance and as it was 10am, our wonderful host kindly did us a $300 tour for $100. Later in the day when they’re super busy, I imagine you wouldn’t be able to haggle, but no one else was using the service at this point, so we told her how much time we had and what our budget was and she was happy to do it.
I cannot recommend this enough. We got to see so much of the park, including places we’ve never seen before (and we have been several times) and learnt so many facts. She tailored a lot of the tour to the fact that we are British, but also pointed out where different films had been shot (I was v excited to see the pond from Stuart Little!), and stopped once or twice for little photo ops. Our host was so friendly, so knowledgable and it really was such a pleasant way to spend the only hour we had in the park. I would probably recommend doing a tour like this before spending some free time in Central Park in the areas you like – you just cannot cover ground like this on foot, and we tried to do a cute bike ride around there one summer and almost died.
You can pre-book these tours if you’re organised enough, but we did it on a whim and it was fantastic.
Although we did 3 nights, we really only had two full days, as we were travelling on the others, so I think we did well to fit so much in. There are endless things to do in New York and I’m already wanting to go back – as are the boys. They’re obsessed with yellow taxis and seeing the Empire State Building.
Top tips for visiting New York City with kids
- If they’re still little, I would absolutely recommend using a carrier. A pushchair is just too cumbersome, and their little legs won’t keep up with all the walking.
- When using the subway, use a contactless card to get through the barriers. You’ll save so much more time than getting a travel card or ticket each time
- Utilise Citymapper on your phone. It will tell you the quickest way to get everywhere, including which subway to get and how long you’re on it for. I navigated our little group from our hotel to the Museum of Icecream, with ease that I do not usually possess.
- Use the Highline to get between places if you can. It’s less busy and a much more pleasant walk.
- Head to the Empire State Building about 40-30 mins before sunset to see the views in the daylight, as the sun is setting and in all their nocturnal glory!