After months of on and off-again planning, our trip to the States (mid-June) was finally booked! This gave us only a few weeks to plan our trip!
After applying for our ESTA visas, which were approved immediately, we planned the logistics of our trip, breaking downs the cities we wanted to visit.
We chose to book our flights with the new Primera airlines service from the UK which included a direct flight to New York and return flight back to the UK from Toronto. The itinerary between those dates took us more than a minute to plan. We brainstormed a few ideas, including hiring a car and driving across the East Coast and heading south to Florida, but the timings and duration of the trips wouldn’t have worked with the kids. We also considered flying to the Caribbean, but the flight costs were double what we paid to get to the States!
After careful consideration and with the kids in mind, we went with the following itinerary. Action-packed but still totally manageable!
- New York
- Washington (via AMTrak train from Newark)
- Chicago (via a Spirit flight from Baltimore airport)
- Toronto (via a Porter Airlines flight from Chicago)
- Niagara falls (1.5 hour drive from Toronto)
- London Stanstead
First Stop: New York
We took the 6.45pm flight on Wednesday evening from Birmingham, UK and arrived at Newark airport at 10.45pm NYC time, the boys slept pretty much 7 out of 8 hours of the flight. Flight times are really important to us, the better the kids sleep, the more control we have over their schedules! (I’ll tell you about that another time!)
A taxi from Newark airport to Manhattan costs approx. $65, and will take around 30-45 minutes, there are other modes of transport you can consider, but we stuck to an Uber, as its reliable, often safer and a fixed price without a meter basis
Where did we stay?
We stayed in the heart of Manhattan, at W hotel Times square. The W has fast become one of our favourite brands of hotels to stay in, from the service to the comfort, it’s always on point and even though it’s not typically a family hotel, they looked after us, and the kids too. There are cheaper options in and around Times Square where much of the action is. It does feel safer with a higher police presence and more people around as NYC can seem a bit unnerving for first-timers.
How to get around NYC with children?
I highly suggest a stroller/pushchair (for each child!) as there is a hell of a lot of walking to do, especially if you are planning to explore Manhattan. Although the subway helped us during the day, for longer distances we didn’t need to worry about the boys complaints about all the walking – especially as we were covering 15km a day! When we didn’t use the subway and the walking was too far, Uber was our go-to option, as well as NYC Yellow cabs too. Uber in NYC have car seat option cars which were very useful; we also did carry our portal back-pack car seat from Trunki – an awesome new invention.
What to do in NYC?
Typically, as you do in NYC, we did all of the popular tourist hot spots, but as the husband and I had been before we left a few things out. What is there to do? Here’s a quick checklist of what did.
- Times Square
Famous neon lights and flashing screens of Manhattan, it’s always buzzing, full of people from all backgrounds, live street performers and feels like you’re in the US of A.
- NY Yankees Baseball Game
Tickets are as cheap as $10 and games do last around 3 hours, you don’t need to be on time or stay for the whole game. The stadium has other stuff going on than just the game, including a little play area the kids, snacks, as well as a sit-down restaurant and museum. The game might not be everyone’s cup of tea but the experience is worth it.
- Central Park and Zoo
The iconic Central park is a landmark not to miss, the boys had an amazing time, running through the park, exploring all the playgrounds and the mini-lakes and activities all over. We spent an entire day in the park and also visited the NY Zoo located on the South East corner, which includes a children’s zoo and 4D ride (a good rainy option!)
- Empire State Building
Tickets to go to the top of Empire state building are available online, and once at the observation deck there are amazing views of the city. The queues can be long but a sunset visit will give you memories to cherish.
- Children’s Museum
The boys had a great time at the children’s museum, exploring lots of play areas on each floor for different ages. There are crafts activities, science experiments, Lego and storytelling!
A Broadway show in New York is a must. The husband and I had already seen Lion King on a previous trip to NY, so this time we chose to watch a Disney classic that the kids have watched time and time again: Aladdin. We booked in advance online, which is slightly pricier than if you buy it from the box office itself. However, booking in advance gives you more options on seating to ensure that you get a good view which may not always be guaranteed. The show itself was totally worth it; the boys and I laughed and were both totally engrossed which was surprising considering it was their first theatre visit.
- Brooklyn Bridge & DUMBO
DUMBO, Down Under the Manhattan Bridge Overpass, is a new hipster neighborhood in Brooklyn, NY. The best thing about it? It has beautiful views of Brooklyn Bridge, one of the must-see tourist spots. Brooklyn itself isn’t for everyone, but a walk across the bridge and a stop in DUMBO should definitely be on your list.
- Statue of Liberty
The Husband and I did this on our previous visit, but since the boys don’t know about this classic tourist spot, we decided to just show it to them from afar this time round. It is definitely worthwhile seeing if you haven’t done New York before, you MUST book way in advance especially if you want to get up to the crown of Lady Liberty, it will take up most of the day.
- Grand Central Station
If your kids have ever seen the movie Madagascar, they may be familiar with the scene in Grand Central Station. The station is beautiful, and the boys were equally amazed when we took a train there. They instantly recognized the movies scene and loved being there for real! The station itself has an amazing ceiling with high walls and great artwork, there is even a café there for you to sit and take in the buzz.
A few of the places we ate at:
Halal Guys Foodcart
Burgers by Honest Chops
Cookie Do NYC
A few more places that we would recommend:
- The MET
The Metropolitan Museum of Art has so much to offer kids and their families, it’s worth checking online to see the activities that they are holding for kids whilst you’re there!
- NYC One World Observatory
The one world observatory is an observation deck, at the top of the new trade centre, it provides unique, panoramic views of New York City, its most iconic sites, and surrounding waters. Check the website for opening times to the general public.
- New York public library
If you’re into books and beautiful spaces, this is one place worth checking out.
- Rockefeller center
Another viewing deck, with beautiful views. Which we did last time round and left out on this trip, but the views are beautiful, if you don’t go to check out the views, then the building and surrounding is worth checking out.
- Guggenheim Museum
Confession: I’m not that into art, but the architecture of the building is worth the visit.
To explore more things to do in New York, check out Trip Advisor! It’s where I get most of my inspo from!