A very large part of learning/growing through travel is having fun wherever you go as a family. That’s usually easier at a resort or on a cruise where the kids’ clubs, lazy rivers, and themed group activities do the heavy lifting of entertaining the kids. Any immersive exploration of a city or country takes a more targeted game plan. City vacationing requires flexibility, a solid understanding of the transportation situation where you are and your best walking shoes.
Having lived in NYC for over 15 years, I thought I knew everything there was to know about the city. Then I became a mom, and had to learn the city from the vantage point of a stroller and tiny toddler feet. It made me appreciate some of the classic aspects and discover new ways to introduce a small human to the big city!
Here are my ‘best of nyc’ with kids. Given that my love of food guides me, I suggest incorporating these tips in your itinerary, and you’ll be able to enjoy specific activities to bond as a family while you sightsee and enjoy the city. These suggestions are all for a spring/summer visit.
**Take the East River Ferry up and down Brooklyn and Manhattan and to Governor’s Island. It should not be missed. Take the Staten Island Ferry to see the Statue of Liberty.
Manhattan (Above 42nd Street)
Tavern on the Green (Central Park West) - decadent American fare: steak and potatoes, pasta, cocktails. The kid’s menu can rival several 3 and 4 star restaurants. I wish more restaurants followed their lead and create kid’s menus that respect the palate of children beyond chicken fingers and French fries. A visit to the restaurant can follow an afternoon in Central Park or at the Museum of Natural History or the Metropolitan Museum of Art. I highly recommend all the sides. All of them!
You can walk it off in the park after you’ve consumed the magical desserts!
Recommended attractions: Bronx Zoo - yes, it’s a trek but absolutely worth it. FAO Swartz, it’s not the original but its still fun and there’s the BIG piano!
Recommended Attractions: MOMA, Summer theater in the park, Dylans candy bar, Alice’s teacup, Intrepid Museum,
Los Tacos No. 1 (Chelsea Market) - While we are on the subject of incredible Mexican food, in my humble opinion, any taco or open faced quesadilla from Los Tacos No. 1 can go up against the best taquerias from LA. It’s that good! Simple perfection is everything on the menu. There are no seats at any of the locations. You stand up and inhale the goodness with large bites with complete abandon. It will be hard not to go back for seconds.
Eataly (Flat Iron) - This 50,000 square foot billboard for all good Italian food, both cooked and uncooked. There is a large marketplace, six restaurants (including one on the rooftop), several cafes, and a gelato counter! The specialty gourmet food items are unique and bring an authentic Italian piazza experience to the middle of NYC. It’s a great stopping point if you’re crisscrossing Manhattan. There is a great playground in Madison Square Park where you can enjoy your gelato.
If there is a chance for a date night during your trip, get reservations at:
Eleven Madison Park (Madison Park)- the team here does an impeccable job of making you feel like the most valuable guest, the food is worth every Michelin and NYT star and the experience will be unforgettable for all the right reasons. I can still taste the superb strawberry gazpacho I first ate 10 years ago.
Recommended attractions: Broadway shows, especially Disney productions, the 5th avenue branch of the New York Public Library,
Manhattan (Below 23rd Street)
Balthazar (Soho) - the food is consistently tasty and the buzz and decor makes you feel like you’re in Saint Germain de Pres. It’s classic French breakfast, lunch, and dinner. My favorites have always been the croissants, pain du chocolat, trout, oysters and steak frites. The kids can enjoy the Parisian feel and a short walk west on Spring street afterwards brings you artisanal ice cream, La Durée macarons and the Vesuvio playground.
Cuba (Greenwich Village) - Tasty ropa viejo, classic mojitos, empanadas that flake perfectly are all part of the Cuba recipe that draws you in and makes you not want to leave! My favorite bartender, Eduardo, has been there for more than 17 years. He’s a legend. The staff is so accommodating and welcomes you like family. It’s one block from Washington Square Park so you can relax and people watch while the kids run around the fountain. Kids will love the empanadas, tostones, and the dishes are large enough to share.
Big Gay Ice Cream (East Village) - this is for excellent ice cream with the most creative names! My fave, the Bea Arthur.
Breads Bakery (Union Square) is worth a stop while visiting the Union Square park and connecting at this major subway hub. The babka is second to none. There is good coffee too. Relax a while! There are 2 more locations uptown.
Honorable mention: Prune, if it ever reopens.
Loving food in the time of Covid can be a hashtag, and outdoor dining is my preferred and only way to eat out currently. I can’t wait to go back after the vaccine and lounge outside just because al fresco dining is tres chic! Brooklyn has several notable restaurants that do it so well. You’ll have a good time and can explore the different characters of the various Brooklyn neighborhoods: Fornino Rooftop (Brooklyn Bridge Park), Brooklyn Crab (Red Hook), Calexico (Greenpoint), Habana Outpost (Fort Greene).
Calexico (Greenpoint) - This is some of my favorite Mexican street food. I ate at their first food truck in Soho and fell in love with the carne asada burritos and esquites (grilled corn). There are now more than a few locations across NYC that you can pop into and enjoy some incredible Mexican food. The rolled quesadillas are mouth watering. Everything is consistently perfectly toasted and you can feel the love! You can take the East River Ferry to Greenpoint and enjoy the waterfront then some carne fries!
Attractions include Brooklyn Bridge Park, Brooklyn’s Children Museum, Prospect Park, Brooklyn Botanical Gardens
There are so many great places to enjoy a NY slice. It’s hard to choose a favorite. Because they’re scattered all over town, I’m just going to write their names down here. Happy hunting! Seriously, even the 2bros. cheap slice is better than most pizza you’ll find across the country. Artichoke, Joe’s Pizza, Roberta’s, Di Fara, Lucali, Fornino.
What I look forward to trying on my next visit (spring/summer 2021):
The Greens, South Street Seaport
Olmsted, Prospect Heights
Three Peaks Collective at Governor’s Island, Governor’s Island