New York City is the most populous city in the United States with over 8.5 million people — more than the entire population of Virginia! Having lived on the East Coast for over fifteen years, my husband and I have spent years making at least twice annual trips to New York City. My best friend from college lives there, so we frequently traveled to NYC for food, wine, and entertainment. Then we had kids. And it took us nearly four years to go back. Why? Because after years of traveling to NYC as single adults and then as a double-income-no-kid couple, the thought of traveling to NYC was daunting.
Prior to my son’s fourth birthday, I decided our NYC hiatus had gone on long enough and we made plans to travel up to NYC for the weekend, just a short Amtrak ride away from DC. We quickly discovered that many of the things we had enjoyed previously were not off limits just because our son was with us and, as an added bonus, we discovered other activities that we would not have experienced if we weren’t traveling with a child.
We stayed at the Andaz 5th Avenue, which was conveniently located across the street from the New York Public Library and Bryant Park. Both provided excellent space and people watching, particularly from the coffee shop directly across the street from the NYPL and around the corner from the Andaz. Being located near Bryant Park also provided my son with opportunities to run around in an open space and, we picked up lunch at one of the many eateries located at the Park on our last day there, which we happily ate on the Amtrak ride back down to DC (we picked up sandwiches from ‘Wichcraft, which sadly closed in late ’14/early ’15, but there are many other options available, and I encourage you to try them and enjoy Bryant Park’s open space).
My godparents live in NYC and recommended meeting up at Central Park one morning during our stay. While my husband and godfather went on a short run through the Park, my kiddo and I decided to check out Victorian Gardens, the amusement park located within Central Park. It ended up being an ideal location to spend a few hours and my son absolutely loved his first exposure to roller coasters. A few weeks after our trip, I happened to mention our trip to NYC to the parent of a classmate of my son, who grew up in Manhattan, but who had never taken her two kids to the city before! When I mentioned what a fabulous trip we had, she realized that she had been remiss in not taking her two kids and planned a trip almost immediately after I reminded her of the existence of Victorian Gardens.
#3: Shopping / People Watching / Dining Out
There are a few things that always spring to mind immediately when NYC is mentioned, including food, Broadway, and shopping. After our stop in Central Park, we visited FAO Schwarz (now closed) on Fifth Avenue. My godparents insisted, actually, and my son loved it as he has been to only a handful of toy stores in his entire life (thanks to Amazon.com!).
He also loved wandering around SOHO that afternoon and just taking in all the street vendors – something that we don’t have in DC.
Although you might think that Fifth Avenue is boring and not a place for kids, my son found the large buildings and the throngs of people to be fascinating. He also found the Sak’s shoe elevator to be fascinating and, during a subsequent visit to NYC years later, enjoyed popping into St. Patrick’s Cathedral as a window-shopping break.
#4: The Highline
The first time we visited the Highline, a 1.5 mile elevated park built on a former railway, was with my son. The Highline opened in June 2009, the same month my son was born, so this was not something we could have done in any of our prior visits. The day we visited, the weather was absolutely perfect. Although the significance of the park as an urban revitalization project was likely lost on my son, it was a great way to spend a few hours.
#5: Empire State Building
The 86th floor of the Empire State Building has an open-air observation deck, which my son absolutely loved on a later visit to NYC, when he was nearing his sixth birthday. Tickets are steep ($62 for adults, $60 for seniors over age 62, $56 for children ages 6-12), but because my son was just shy of his 6th birthday, he was admitted for free.
Living in DC, we took the Amtrak from DC to New York which my son loveland helped prepare him for a trip to Japan the next year, which involved extensive train travel. New York City is one of my favorite places to visit and I am glad we waited until my son was older to visit. Because he was over four years of age, I also felt comfortable packing a backless booster for him to use in short rides around the city (whether Uber or my friend/godparents’ vehicle). If he had been any younger, we would have had to either lug around his big convertible car seat or restrict ourselves to traveling via Subway, as I am not comfortable with young children riding without car seats, even though I know they are legally exempt when riding in taxis.
Although my son has no recollection of our trip to NYC, I loved that we finally “ripped off the band-aid,” so to speak, and took him to a place that many do not think of as a great place to bring young children for a weekend. Obviously, there are people who live and work in NYC who have young kids, but for those of us who only experienced the City as young adults, it was hard to envision the logistics of getting around Manhattan with a young child and even more questionable as to whether we would enjoy the City as much as we did before kids. I’m happy to report that we had a lovely long weekend visiting NYC with kids and am looking forward to doing it again and varying up the activities now that my son is older.