Itinerary for a Perfect Family Trip to NYC

As a born and raised New Yorker, NYC holds my heart! It is the perfect destination for families because there is something fun for everyone and you’ll never run out of things to do. I didn’t put any recommendations for dinners because I usually like to eat near whatever hotel we’re staying at so we can walk there with the kids.

Here is our itinerary for 5 full days in paradise:

DAY 1

Today is all about Central Park.  In the morning, take a carriage ride to get a feel for the park.  On your trip you are likely to pass the zoo, Wollman Rink, the Dairy, the Carousel, the Pond, and the Dakota.  The drivers are knowledgeable about the park but also entertaining and my kids always liked hearing all the facts.

Location: Central Park between 5th and 6th street.

Have lunch at Alice’s Tea Cup. As soon as your children walk into the restaurant they are given a pair of fairy wings and are sprinkled with fairy dust.  Seriously…what kid wouldn’t love that? Have the Mad Hatter so you get a taste of everything.

There are 3 locations: 102 West 73rd Street at Columbus Ave, 156 East 64th Street, and 220 East 81st Street between 2nd & 3rd Avenue.

Spend the afternoon at the Central Park Zoo.   It is such a quaint zoo that lets you have a fun zoo experience without having to do an entire day of staring at animals.  This is a great place to watch adorable animals such as penguins, snow leopards, grizzly bears, polar bears, monkeys, and sea lions.  There is a beautiful rain forest section that lets you forget you are in the middle of a busy city.  Don’t forget to do a 4-D movie while you’re there. 

Location: 64th Street and 5th Avenue

DAY 2

Spend the morning at the 9-11 Memorial and Museum.  This is a wonderful tribute of remembrance and honor to the nearly 3,000 people lost in the terror attacks of September 11, 2001 at the World Trade Center site, near Shanksville, Pa., and at the Pentagon, as well as the six people killed in the World Trade Center bombing in February 1993.

After lunch, take a ride on the Circle Line.  The boat takes you past many important NY sites including the Statue of Liberty, Columbia University, South Street Seaport, Brooklyn Bridge, Yankee Stadium, the Cloisters, Grant’s Tomb, and many more.  My girls were really interested in the Statue of Liberty and this cruise takes you within 100 feet of Lady Liberty. 

Location: Boats depart from Pier 83 (On West 42nd Street & 12h Avenue)

DAY 3

Head back to Central Park this morning to see a show at the Swedish Marionette Theatre.  The marionettes are amazing and the show is a blast for little kids. 

Location: 79th Street on West Drive

Lunch: Bring a lunch and head over to Belvedere Castle.  A castle right in the middle of the park is crazy. 

Location:  Midpark at 79th Street

Spend the afternoon at the Museum of Natural History. This museum has the best dinosaur exhibits of any museums we’ve been to.  Our favorite sections are: Hall of Ocean Life, Asian Mammals, Hall of Asian Peoples, African Mammals, and African Peoples.

Location: Central Park West & 79th Street

DAY 4

You’ve had a busy week so maybe send the morning relaxing at the hotel.  If your hotel has a pool this would be a great time to use it. 

Lunch: Head over to Serendipity.  Have a delicious lunch or just order a frozen hot chocolate!

This afternoon, head back up to the park and go to the Metropolitan Museum of Art.  My oldest daughter loves anything about Egypt (She wishes she was Cleopatra) and they both like being able to touch the mummy cases and walking inside the displays that look like the inside of the pyramids.  My youngest loves the Medieval Art section.  She is my wild child and loves looking at the weapons and armor.  The torture devices are a particular favorite (Lord help me!).

Location: 1000 5th Avenue

DAY 5

Today is a wander-the-city day.  Head over to Times Square and go to the M&M store.  Trust me…your kids will thank you.  Sit on the big red steps and watch the hustle and bustle while eating your treats!

 

Lunch:  Bubba Gump.  I know…I know… a chain restaurant while in NYC? What I like best about this place is you can sit at a table that overlooks Times Square so your kids can get an aerial view of the action. 

After lunch, wander around the city.  Head over to Bryant Park and ride the carrousel.  I like this carousel better than the one in Central Park.  It is a stunning carousel that was designed with a French feel.  You can sit on beautifully carved animals while French cabaret music plays. They also have a book library where you can borrow picture books and read them with your kids on one of the many shady benches.

After, head over to Top of the Rock.  This is where my favorite view of NYC is.  The 67th and 68th floors have observation terraces with transparent safety glass.  This is perfect for windy days or when there’s a chance of showers.  The 70th floor is completely open air. This is the place to get the most magical aerial view of Central Park.

Location: Entrance is on 50th Street between 5th and 6th

Need more ideas?  Try some of these:

Ride in a taxi.  My kids have been in many cabs but they say there’s nothing quite like riding in a NYC cab.

Bring along a book and read it on the lawn somewhere in Central Park.

Have a slice of pizza… real pizza.  I love you NH but there’s NO comparison.

Visits the American Girl Doll store.  This is a little girl’s dream.  There is a doll hair salon, doll hospital, doll photo studio, and lots of floors to shop. Reservations are recommended for the café and they do a wonderful little tea party.

Stroll through Shakespeare’s Garden in Central Park during the spring and summer.

See a Broadway show (We loved Lion King)

Tea time at the Plaza

Visit the Intrepid

Walk across the Brooklyn Bridge

Brooklyn Botanical Garden

NY Transit Museum

Go to The Cloisters

See the holiday train show

Go to Children’s Museum of Art

NY Aquarium

Go to NYC during Christmastime

 

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