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Family Vacations to New York City

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New York – Family Vacation Guide

According to native New Yorkers, there’s no other like it and most visitors feel the same way. It’s a fantastic adventure for older kids and teenagers but works the magic just as effectively for younger children too.

There’s always something going on and the city’s committed to raising the next cultured, educated and engaged generation. So you’ll find free or ridiculously cheap events designed for kids in every borough, reduced entry at museums and galleries and children are welcome almost everywhere.

And the best part about New York? Unless you were born and bred here, you’re from out-of-town. So charge your phone, get a MetroCard and be a shameless tourist.

Why Go

  • It’s almost impossible not to run into a major New York event from Greenwich Village Halloween Parade to Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade, St. Patrick’s Day Parade or the New York Marathon.

  • There are over 250 museums and galleries in New York City including the Whitney, Metropolitan Museum of Art, the Guggenheim and MoMa.

  • Whether you’re a committed vegan or want to eat the best burgers on the planet, the city has over 2000 restaurants, districts defined by cooking styles and fleets of food trucks.

  • Choose good value family hotels in Brooklyn, Queens or The Bronx and use the world’s biggest underground network to visit Manhattan in minutes.

  • You can rent Citi Bikes in New York and explore dozens of safe, traffic-free biking routes all over the city.

  • Some of the world’s most iconic (and filmed) sights are in New York including the Statue of Liberty, Empire State Building, Brooklyn Bridge, Time Square and the legendary Manhattan skyline.

Where to Go

Pretty much anywhere in New York has places to stay, some more suited to families than others, from the glitzy hotel legends in Manhattan to loft apartments in Brooklyn. Where you choose depends on your budget but, as a rule of thumb, the closer you are to Central Park the more expensive the room rate. Each of the five boroughs offers a unique look at the city and it’s culture. Kid’s will love exploring each area.


Manhattan’s the heart of the city and, for some, the only ‘real’ New York. It’s a relatively small area in size but packs in almost every iconic sight and also manages to make room for Central Park too. Unsurprisingly, this is also the most expensive district for hotels and, if your heart’s set on giants like The Plaza or Waldorf Astoria, you’ll find them here. Here are just some of the can’t-miss activities:

  • Visit Midtown Manhattan for the Empire State Building, Time Square, Rockefeller Plaza, Grand Central Station and the United Nations.
  • The Midtown stretch of Fifth Avenue is home to Tiffany & Co., Bloomingdales, FAO Schwarz, Barneys, Saks and Macys.
  • SoHo, NoLita and the Flatiron districts of Manhattan are where you want to be for cool designer shopping and Madison Avenue is the street for serious spending.
  • Chinatown, Little Italy, K-town, TriBeCa, Harlem, East Village and Wall Street are all in Manhattan.
  • Manhattan’s also the district for the Guggenheim, MoMA, the American Museum of Natural History, Broadway and the Lincoln Arts Centre.
  • Don’t miss: Central Park Zoo, Lower Manhattan food trucks, dim-sum in Chinatown, the lights on Broadway, TriBeCa restaurants, East Village indie bookshops, the annual Museum Mile Festival in June and 79th Street’s Greenmarket every Sunday from 9 am to 5 pm.


Brooklyn’s enormous. If it was a city, it would be the fourth largest in the US. But, don’t let that put you off. Less business-like and touristy than Manhattan, this is a great borough for families. It’s packed with parks and places to play, has more than its fair share of New York legends and it’s just one famous bridge away from the heart of New York too.

  • Historic Brooklyn Heights, Downtown Brooklyn, Williamsburg, Park Slope and Greenpoint have a wide range of family hotels and good transport links to Manhattan.
  • Don’t miss: Coney Island Amusement Park, Brooklyn Zoo in Prospect Park, Governors Island, Brooklyn Flea in Fort Green and DUMBO, Williamsburg and Bed-Stuy for low-key celebrity spotting.
  • 30 minutes by train from Midtown Manhattan.


Brooklyn’s nearest neighbour is the borough for New York’s best Chinese food, charming and traditional Forest Hills, family friendly Astoria and Jackson Heights for affordable hotels.

  • Don’t miss: MoMA PS1 art institute in Long Island City, New York’s biggest Chinese community at Flushing, Astoria’s Museum of the Moving Image and Citi Field, home to the New York Mets.
  • 40 minutes by train from Midtown Manhattan.

The Bronx

The Bronx is New York City’s most northerly borough and famous for Yankee Stadium, the Bronx Zoo and New York Botanical Gardens. Hip Hop was born in South Bronx and Fordham’s the district to pick up cool urban US brands you can get anywhere else – just for teenage travellers.

  • One of the most affordable boroughs for family hotels and guesthouses in and around Fordham and Bronx Park.
  • Don’t miss: Edgar Allen Poe Cottage, New York Botanical Gardens, Bronx Zoo, soul food in South Bronx, Monument Park and authentic New York Italian food in Belmont.
  • 30 minutes by train from Midtown Manhattan.

What to Do

  • Statue of Liberty and Ellis Island
    Book well in advance and take the iconic New York cruise to visit Lady Liberty and nearby Ellis Island – pay the extra to climb into the statue’s crown, it’s worth every cent.
  • Governors Island
    For the best view of Manhattan and the Statue of Liberty, catch the free ferry from Brooklyn to Governors Island.
  • Central Park
    The huge green space right in the centre of Manhattan is a must-do in New York. To see as much as possible in a short space of time, you can hire bikes in the park.
  • Empire State Building
    The world’s most famous skyscraper is far from the tallest these days but it’s still one of New York’s legends and the view from the top is spectacular.
  • MoMA (Museum of Modern Art)
    If you only see one art gallery in New York, make it MOMA. It’s one of the world’s largest modern art collections and has an astonishing number of famous works you’ll recognize instantly.
  • Staten Island
    The free Staten Island Ferry has the best possible view of Manhattan’s skyline. But the island itself is a great day out too for beaches, heritage museums, seafood restaurants and the zoo.
  • Coney Island
    The city’s famous seaside resort is where to go eat hotdogs, ride rollercoasters and see some truly eccentric fairground attractions. It’s also home to NYC Aquarium.
  • Prospect Park, Brooklyn
    Designed by the same creators as Central Park, Prospect’s treated like a big backyard by Brooklyn families. Much less touristy than its Manhattan predecessor and home to Brooklyn Zoo, a gorgeous 19th century carousel and masses of space to run around and play.
  • Brooklyn Bridge
    Walking across Brooklyn Bridge is officially a “New York Moment.” There’s a clearly marked pedestrian route and taking selfies on the most filmed bridge on the planet is almost a rule.

Educational Value for Kids

  • Visit Manhattan’s Museum Mile for the Guggenheim, MoMa, Museo del Barrio, the Jewish Museum and Gracie Mansion.
  • The American Museum of Natural History has an excellent series of kids’ guided tours.
  • Take the official tour of the Statue of Liberty and Ellis Island, it’s fascinating for older children.
  • Lower Manhattan’s where to find the 9/11 Memorial & Museum and you can see Jeff Koon’s “Balloon Flower (red)” at nearby 7 World Trade Centre.


  • Spend an afternoon exploring Manhattan’s hectic, colorful and delicious Chinatown.
  • Visit the stunning Metropolitan Museum of Art (Met). It’s open until 9pm on Fridays and Saturdays.
  • Rent a Citi Bike and cycle the car-free Manhattan West Side route from Battery to George Washington Bridge. It’s over 12 miles in total and takes in dozens of the city’s most famous sights along the way.

Getting Around

Don’t even think about driving in New York. The city’s subway has 24 lines and 496 stations making it the largest underground in the world. Trains run every 2 to 10 minutes at peak times and the network covers Manhattan, Brooklyn, Queens and The Bronx. A single journey costs $2.75 and MetroCards can be bought at all stations – up to 3 children (under 3 and a half ft) travel free with an adult.

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