A Tourist’s Guide to New York: The Family Edition
New York passed the test.
We wanted to bring our kids there for the first time and went into it with equal parts excitement and hesitation. They have lived their short lives in a very sheltered southern California suburb and taxis honking, crowds walking, and garbage trucks barreling down the streets in the middle of the night are all completely foreign concepts that only exist in the pages of their picture books. We knew it would be tiring for them. We knew it would involve a lot of patience. We knew that Kai – at almost 4 years old – probably wouldn’t even remember this trip in the years to come. But we knew he would experience it in the moment. We knew they would be wide-eyed with excitement. We knew they would come home with so many stories and memories and NYPD police car toys…that we had to go.
And it was perfect.
They embraced every inch of that city. Every honk, every crowd, every garbage truck (though admittedly, not all the smells that came with them). We went into it without many agendas, no sense of schedule. We had a few things we knew we wanted to show them, but we had plenty of time to do it and allowed ample hours each day for nothing but roaming the streets and exploring. We didn’t panic about bed times or routines or missing anything. We gave them rest stops and snacks and water and continued on our way when everyone was ready. We ran and played and stopped every police man we saw, because that’s what 4-year-olds do on their first trip to New York. My daughter became a pro at hailing taxis and my son is a subway-rider extraordinaire now…a far cry from his cozy little car seat in our suburban SUV.
And we loved it all.
Here is where we ate, drank, stayed and played:
Conrad New York – this spacious, all-suite hotel in the Financial District is our new go-to for family stays in the city. The rooms are huge by New York standards, the quiet location by the waterfront was picturesque and serene (complete with playground right across the street) and the service was fantastic. We also had a really lovely dinner in Atrio, their restaurant downstairs, and appreciated the in-room Nespresso machine and super modern amenities.
Bar Pitti – this has become a regular stop for us on the New York train. Love the al fresco eating in the heart of the West Village.
Big Gay Ice Cream – this new cult-favorite ice cream emporium is colorful and cool and the signature Salty Pimp cone is not to be missed.
Le Pain Quotidien – another easy favorite in the city and conveniently located right across the street from our hotel which made it easy to grab breakfast before we started our day.
Eataly – always on our list and the rooftop Birreria was surprisingly kid-friendly for an early Friday night dinner. The Lego store is right next door so I recommend you pick up a few little things in there to keep your kids busy while you soak up the views, the charcuterie and the wine. Don’t forget to stop by the gelato bar on your way out. Hazelnut is the way to go.
Isabella’s – we stumbled upon this Upper West Side locals spot for brunch when we saw – and gasped – at the line at Shake Shack across the street. It was a much better fit for us – complete with mimosas, eggs benedict and a loud, bustling environment that was perfect for my loud, bustling kids.
Cantine Parisienne – we found this café when we went to check out its neighbor, Egg Shop, and again balked at the wait. This cool, airy French bistro ended up being a very pleasant surprise with (more!) mimosas and a Croque Monsieur that rivaled the ones I’ve had in Paris.
Bubby’s – my husband’s colleague from work recommended this down-home hotspot in Tribeca and it did not disappoint. The fried chicken and waffles made up for all the walking we did that day and the promise of the brightly-lit, rotating pie display kept my kids on their best behavior throughout the meal.
The Standard Grill – this hipster haven ended up being surprisingly comfortable and cool. Good food (the mussels were perfection), good wine and a lively lunchtime atmosphere that was the perfect final outing before we hit the airport.
Jacques Torres – we picked up some chocolate chip cookies from this Grand Central chocolate haven for the plane ride home…and they were worth the hype.
The Strand – we popped into this world-famous book shop on Friday evening to find it jammed with literary lovers of all ages. The perfect spot for Little D. She loved roaming its aisles and picking out books and signature Strand trinkets.
Pace Gallery – I have my sister to thank for this stop. I don’t typically associate art galleries with kids but she insisted we pop into the David Hockney exhibition at Pace and it ended up being a great little visit. A quick one, but a good one.
The Highline – walking this busy park in the sky with two excited littles wasn’t exactly stress-free but it was lovely, nonetheless. If you were one of the people trying to enjoy a quiet Friday afternoon in the sun with your book and my kids were jumping and dancing and yelling on the bench next to you, my apologies.
Statue of Liberty – this was at the top of my kids’ must-see list and my mom suggested that we do a boat tour around Lady Liberty instead of battling the crowds to see her up-close. It was the right move. We did a one-hour Circle Line tour that gave us plenty of up-close time (she is even more beautiful than I remember…am sure my kids will feel the same way in 20 years) as well as a fun, educational tour of Manhattan’s west side and downtown.
Central Park – always my favorite spot in the city. We went on a glorious Saturday morning and just wandered through the park, stopping here and there. Not rushing to anywhere and taking in the amazing fall foliage and wide open spaces.
Museum of Natural History – I don’t think you’re allowed to go to New York with your kids without visiting the Museum. It was fun for an afternoon (I wouldn’t plan to be there all day) and the dinosaurs were definitely the highlight for my littles. Oh, and the gift shop, of course.
Freedom Tower – the Freedom Tower and World Trade Center Memorial was only blocks away from our hotel and if you haven’t seen it yet, it’s a beautiful tribute to 9/11 that shouldn’t be missed. For the kids as well. We had to be sensitive with our words as we explained the entire thing to Little D (Kai only cared about the police men who were monitoring the area, obviously) but I am so glad we did so that this incredible chapter of the city’s history won’t be lost on her.
Battery Park – walking down to Battery Park from the Freedom Tower gives you a fun glimpse into the cobble-stoned streets of Wall Street and leads you to a perfect waterfront park where your kids can let off some steam and see the Statue of Liberty in the distance.
New York Public Library – my kids had to see the lions so we braved the mid-town crowds at lunchtime to take a peek and a picture. I would have loved to take them inside but we were pressed for time at this point…which obviously means we will just have to go back.
Thank you for a memorable weekend, New York. We (all of us!) will be back soon! xx