A Weekend with Kids in NYC

A Weekend with Kids in NYC

After years of asking for it, the girls finally got their first trip to New York City! Caroline is almost 9 and Ellie just turned 7, and it felt like the perfect age to do something fun like this before they get too much older. We also have a seven month old baby, Henry, so Adam stayed home with him to make the trip a little easier for us. July was a fairly light month for me with work, so we planned a little getaway just us girls!

We had exactly 48 hours in the city, not counting travel time, so this recap will cover what we loved, where we stayed, what was a hit, and what I’d recommend skipping or doing differently next time. Enjoy!

NOTE: all images were shot on my iPhone and edited in Lightroom. I didn’t bother with bringing my camera on this trip!

Choosing an NYC Hotel with Kids

There are literally hundreds of NYC hotels to choose from, which can be overwhelming – but it’s not too bad once you narrow it down. Keep in mind that between naps, feedings, and needing time to recharge, you’re probably going to be spending more time at the hotel than you would on a pre-kids trip to NYC. Choose a property that’s centrally located, offers fun onsite amenities, and get the largest room size your budget allows. NYC hotel rooms are notoriously tiny!

The rooftop pool and Royalton suite at the Royalton Park Avenue.

For me, the obvious choice for this trip was the Royalton Park Avenue. I had high expectations and this property exceeded them at every turn! The rooftop pool was what drew me to the hotel originally – just look at that view. We originally booked a king standard room but upgraded to a Royalton Suite at a discounted rate a few days before the trip. This was THE move, friends. Our suite was literally half the size of our house, featuring a balcony, two full bathrooms, a soaking tub, and more. The girls felt like royalty and loved spending time there!

We ordered room service twice and had breakfast at the pool one morning. It was expensive, but hey, it’s NYC and the girls absolutely loved it. Plus, there’s something to be said for the convenience of not having to shlep the family out to eat somewhere. Other things I loved about Royalton: there’s a subway stop within a two-minute walk from the hotel, and a Whole Foods right around the corner so you can stock up on snacks for the room!

One obligatory tourist photo in their NYC shirts in front of the hotel!

Getting Around NYC with Kids

One main reason we chose to make this a girls trip as opposed to bringing the whole family was the predicament of what to do with Henry, who of course needs a car seat. Since we didn’t have that limitation, it was a little easier to navigate the city. However, do keep in mind that little legs will get tired of walking faster than an adult – especially in the summer months.

“Our” stop – the 28th street station by the hotel.

Our general rule was that if it was a 10 minute walk or less we would walk, if it was between a 10-15 minutes we’d get a taxi, and if it was more 15 minutes we take the subway. This was a fun way to keep changing up how we were getting around, which kept the girls engaged. We’re big believers that the journey IS part of the destination, and that finding your way around a new city is fun and exciting. By the end of the trip the girls were reading subway maps on their own, understood the difference between downtown and uptown, and could hail taxis like pros.

Piled into the back of a taxi together.

What to do in NYC with Kids

We did spend a good amount of time lounging in our suite and enjoying the hotel pool, but we loved exploring the city just as much. We managed to visit three playgrounds in our 48 hours in NYC: Madison Square Park (right around the corner from the hotel), the Playscape at Battery Park, and the Heckscher playground in Central Park.

The girls agree that their favorite was the Playscape, and it’s got my vote too! The Playscape is fully enclosed and it felt totally safe to let them wander and explore the entire area on their own, which they did for over an hour. We loved the playground at Central Park too, but didn’t have enough time to really explore and enjoy all the amenities such as the water feature. Not only did the girls truly enjoy the parks, these were FREE activities that definitely helped stretch our budget a bit! I loved the break from the “touristy” stuff and just letting experience kid life in a big city.

Playing in Central Park.

We also spent some time shopping in Times Square, and the girls really loved the Lego store and the M&M’s store. TIP: do your shopping on the first day of the trip, and make purchases that will entertain the kids at the hotel during breaks. We bought a big set of Legos that entertained the girls endlessly anytime we were in the hotel suite, so we never wasted time watching TV.

The Color Factory was a big hit and a fun way to explore SoHo, my favorite area of NYC. We also enjoyed Top of the Rock, although the girls were very much scared of heights while we were there. I’m glad that I challenged them (read: made them go) and they said afterwards they were glad they went, but something to be aware of!

Ellie at the Top of the Rock, observing the Empire State Building.

We saved the girls’ favorite part of the trip for the last day: a horse and carriage ride through Central Park! I always dreamed of taking one of those when I was a kid, and getting to take the girls was a total core memory for all of us. I booked in advance through NYC Horse & Carriage Rides and it was a totally seamless, fantastic experience. Our driver took us all over the park, stopped to take photos of us at several different locations, and the girls loved getting to feed the horse!

So thankful for our driver, who took a photo of all three of us. Proof I was there, too!

Where to Eat in NYC with Kids

The girls are in a tough picky-eater phase right now, but luckily there are so many options in NYC! We ate our weight in fresh fruit from the many street vendors surrounding the parks, and between pizza and hot dogs, the girls always found something they liked. My favorite meal came from Cowgirl, a fun little spot in the West Village. I’m still thinking about that buffalo chicken sandwich!

What I’d Do Differently in NYC with Kids

This trip was absolutely amazing and I’m so, so thankful to have had this experience with the girls! However, if I were to do it again there are just a few small things I’d do differently or skip altogether:

  • Stay one extra day! All of my past trips to NYC have been about 48 hours, so I figured that’d be perfect with kids too. However, I didn’t really account for all the extra hotel time and time spent at parks! If/when we come again, I’d stay for a third day to give more time for sightseeing.
  • Skip the bus tour. We did one of those big bus tours the first day we were there and honestly, it was kind of a dud. I’d done a big bus tour in London years ago and loved it, but the girls just didn’t really “get it” and were hot and bored within 30 minutes.
  • Skip rollerskating at Rockefeller Center. We’d just come out from Top of the Rock and of course it’s such an iconic location, the girls begged to go rollerskating. They’d been before and enjoyed it so I thought it’d go well, but they lasted less than 10 minutes before Caroline got hurt and they were done. It seemed like everyone was falling constantly so I’m not sure if the surface is different or what, but unless your kids are seasoned skaters, I’d skip this one.
Cherry Hill in Central Park.

I hope you enjoyed this recap of our trip! We can’t wait to go again and enjoy many more girls trips in the future. Let me know if we missed your favorite NYC spot so we can go next time!

+ view the comments

  1. Roger Smith says:

    What an awesome trip. Memories are forever and you provided so many during this trip. Love you all

  2. Elizabeth Viernes says:

    Such an awesome recap! I’m desperate for a trip to NYC but feel so intimidated by all the options so this was a big help!

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Hi, I'm  Amanda.

As an internationally-lauded wedding photographer with a decade of experience, Amanda brings her signature timeless, editorial style and classic, romantic aesthetic to modern love stories. 

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