I’ve always had a travel bug within my soul, as a young girl I have always wanted to visit new places and explore. To check out new cities and see what the fun buzz is all about. After watching the classic movie, Home Alone 2: Lost in New York, I knew the big apple was my bucket list travel destination on the east coast. This summer we booked our very first family vacation, let me share the fun places to visit with kids in 🗽 New York City.
Plan ahead! I planned at least 3 months in advance. Which is still a bit too close for my personal preference, but we made it work! We spent a total of 5 days in New York, half was spent in the city and the other half was with our military family in the East Hamptons. This was our first time visiting the city and here are some tips we’d like to share from a family perspective with young children, our boys are 3 yr & 6 yr olds.
NOTE: if you are traveling with small children who need a stroller, pack a folding lightweight umbrella stroller. You’ll be thankful you did!
First – Select the “MUST VISIT” attractions for your trip to New York City
I used the map shown below to route our family trip, we basically started from the Statue of Liberty, at the bottom of NYC and worked our way back up towards Manhattan. This made more sense for our family, tackling the furthest attraction (distance wise from our hotel) within the first day of exploring the city.
#1 Statue of Liberty & Ellis Island Immigration Museum
DO: Plan to enjoy at least half of your day, or a full day with your family at the Statue of Liberty Monument / Ellis Island Immigration Museum.
DON’T: Buy Tickets the day of. They’ll sell out and you waiting in long lines unless you reserved your tickets in advance.
Note: Yes, you can use a digital PDF ticket on your cell phone, don’t worry if you forgot to print your tickets. Just have your PDF ticket opened on your phone ready to scan at the gate.
The photo below shows the rates per ticket based on age.
Although they have ferries running back to New Jersey and New York City every 30 mins. I would highly recommend the Pedestal ticket, you can enter the Pedestal area and tour the beautiful Museum with lots of artifacts and lots to learn. They have security metal detectors so leave those chunky belt buckles at home. There are tons of people, be sure to take snacks for the kids as you will be on the island and food can get pricey. We spent $4-$5 for each bottled sports drink and soda, bagged chips were also around the $4 price range. They have free refill centers for your reusable water bottles. The boys loved Lady Liberty and getting to run and explore. It was most exciting for Sonny, now that he’s entering 2nd grade he was able to give us information about Lady Liberty that he was learning in 1st grade.
Attraction Expense Breakdown:
Tickets: $46 (2 adults, 1 child, 1 free child)
Drinks and Chips: $25 (4 drinks, 2 chips)
Lady Liberty Souvenirs: $45 (coins, lollipop, plushy)
Total Spent: $117
#2 Battery Park & Bryant Park – Free!
If you’re visiting during the summer, bring some extra swim shorts, Battery Park has a free splash pad for the children to enjoy. We browsed around and wanted to visit the 9/11 Memorial, we skipped out on the splash pad fun. However, there are so many fun vendors who sell the “I love NY” apparel souvenirs. Zachary had a blowout accident at Battery Park, thankfully I was able to swoop up some extra clothes.
Bryant Park is full of so much fun, they actually have a calendar, check it out here. You’ll find all of the fun events and classes that are mostly free! When we walked through the area, it was full of free entertainment. They have fun exercise classes, cool musical talent, and cute little tables set up to play chess. There are so many fun and budget friendly things to check out and enjoy a nice picnic at Bryant Park. It’s definitely a must visit with children, just to let their energy out.
Souvenir: “I Love NY Shirts” 2/$15
Total Spent: $15
#3 Ground Zero 9/11 Memorial
This was definitely a place to explain the history of 9/11 for your children, Sonny (6 yrs) had a brief idea of what happened at this memorial. He knew a brief 6 year old verse of the tragedy that took place in NY. They soon will be learning about the 9/11 Twin Tower Attacks in their history curriculum. I loved that they place a white rose on the birthday of those who would have celebrated another birth year. This memorial is beautiful but so bitter sweet. Many people of all ages go and visit, it’s a beautiful memorial sight for young children to enjoy watching the water flow. They also have small vendor booths that sell memorial souvenirs.
Memorial Visit: Free!
#4 Time Square
You want to visit Time Square in the late evening, our boys were too exhausted the night before so we walked the area midday. The building advertisements light up so nicely, children of all ages will enjoy the sight. It was a nostalgic moment for me, I used to watch hours of MTV Live and would dream about visiting Time Square. There are plenty of vendors who sell fun souvenirs and you’ll have many opportunities to jump on a double decker bus if you’d like a city tour. We stopped into the Christmas Store and the M&M’s store to buy the boys some fun little souvenirs with “New York” on them. Take your best walking shoes!
Time Square: Free
M&M: name mugs $13 each
Christmas Store: Custom NY Ornament: $20
Total Spent: $46
#5 Central Park
One of my favorite places to stroll with my boys, it was a magically park. They have so many fun street performers (take cash, it’s always nice to tip) and so many artists that will personalize your cartoon portrait, necklace, signs with names, basically anything fun. They have PLENTY of tour assistance throughout the park, which you can kindly ask for help (they are so sweet and helpful). You can ask them anything from the best lunch place near you, the nearest restroom, or just simple help with directions. Beware of all the street hustlers trying to sell the over-priced horse carriage rides. They typically book horse carriage rides around central park for $54/person but that’s a scam. You can ask the local tour guides and they will tell you not to pay more than $60/per group of 4 people. Central Park has lots of beverage and snack vendors, you can jump on a cute little buggy cart for a ride and tour of the park.
Drinks / Snack Vendors:
(4) Drinks $3/each
(2) Ice Creams $3/each
Total Spent: $18
#6 Victoria Gardens
I loved the fun mini amusement park that’s located in Central Park, Victorian Gardens. It’s roughly $25-$30 per wristband that gives you access to unlimited rides. Tickets to play the games are sold separately, and they have a cafe with A/C to help you cool down during those hot humid day + enjoy some lunch. The boys LOVED it, I was happy that the amusement park wasn’t too big and overwhelming.
Admission: (4) $8.50/ per person
(2) Unlimited Rides Wristband $24.50/per person
(12) Tickets for Games $1/per ticket
Total Spent: $95
#7 Natural History Museum
Although we didn’t visit the Museum, it was on our list of “Must Visit”, it was one of the top recommended places from all of our friends who live in NY. It was at the bottom of our list because we have a Natural History Museum in Los Angeles and we go plenty of times. It would definitely be nice to plan for our next trip to New York City.
#8 Central Park Zoo
It’s on our bucket list for the next trip to NY, unfortunately we got a rained out on our last day in the city. Therefore, we didn’t want to struggle with the boys. However, it was one of the places that we would have loved to visit while in the city. Definitely made the list for a fun kid friendly place to visit in NYC. Check out more details about tickets and the zoo, here!
You can view my Flight Travel Snack Idea that are kid friendly – post here. I packed our own snacks to help keep us on track with our travel budget. Which helped us A LOT! Flight snacks can get pricey and when you’re traveling with a family of 4, that expense can quickly add up. Thankfully, I packed enough to store our snacks in the hotel room and we were able to relax without having to run around town for our hungry little guys.