I don’t know if I can live in NYC, but I sure love visiting. There is so much to do and see. And everything is a short subway ride away. We recently made our third trip as a family in about four years. We’ve visited in the Fall, Spring and Summer. We rode bikes through Central Park the day after it snowed. We nearly melted on a chocolate walking tour. And we had a treat on Halloween at the American Museum of Natural History. For the foodies among us, NYC is really one continuous walking food tour. But being that life is more than just eating, here is a 5-day NYC itinerary arranged from north to south.
THINGS TO DO IN NYC WITH KIDS IN 5 DAYS
DAY 1: BRONX ZOO AND WICKED
Our family enjoyed the Bronx Zoo. We went on a Wednesday which, not coincidentally, is a free day. We paid for the Total Experience tickets ($15 each) to have access to JungleWorld, 4-D Theater, Bug Carousel, Congo Gorilla Forest, Butterfly Garden, Wild Asia Monorail, and the Zoo Shuttle. Even without it, the Bronx Zoo offers all that you expect from a great zoo visit.
It is large but did not seem overwhelming for a half-day visit. We arrived slightly before the 10 am opening. I HIGHLY recommend arriving at or before opening if you come on the free day. There were virtually no lines.
Perhaps the highlight of our visit was the 8-minute film at the Congo Gorilla Forest called Saving Africa’s Forests. The film raises issues on the impact of human activity: deforestation, poaching and tourism. Our actions have far reaching consequences to the survival of animals such as the Congo Gorilla. As someone who loves traveling and seeing our world, this film brings pause to how well or not well we are sharing the earth with animals and people alike. I hope you have time to visit this exhibit at the Bronx Zoo.
We left the Bronx Zoo around 3 pm and returned to our Hilton hotel in Midtown. The subway ride including one transfer took about 45 minutes. We had Ramen at Ippudo West for dinner and watched the great Broadway musical Wicked. My kids loved the show. I loved dinner and the show. It was a great day.
Tip: For popular musicals, buy your tickets online in advance. We saw The Lion King on a previous visit, and both shows were sold out.
DAY 2: CENTRAL PARK AND MUSEUMS
My son asked if we could rent bikes again. The first time we came, we rented bikes the day after it snowed. He must have enjoyed it. The weather was perfect on this visit. It was a warm 80° F with a slight breeze. It’s a great way to see the park. You can easily loop the park within an hour, but we rented our bikes for two hours and took our time. For those staying at New York Hilton Midtown, you can rent bikes two blocks away at Central Park Sightseeing. From there, it’s only three blocks to Central Park.
Central Park Sightseeing: 56 W 56th St, New York, NY 10019
Metropolitan Museum of Art
We spent about two hours at the Met. Since this was our second visit, we spent most of it at the special exhibit on China. My son’s favorite, though, was seeing the exhibits on Greek Mythology and Egyptian mummies. At one point, he disappeared on his own and caused his parents a minor panic attack. About 10 minutes later, we found him in front of the exhibit on mythological gods listening to the museum’s audio device. They need to add GPS tracking on these kid devices.
Tips: There are guides and brochures for children at the various information kiosks. The Audio Device for Kids offers 13 tours for kids ages 6-12. One of them must have been about Mythological gods. Take a break at the roof garden for views of Central Park. Ask museum staff for directions because it’s not obvious to find the entrance to the top floor.
American Museum of Natural History (AMNH)
This was our third visit to the Museum of Natural History. There are so many permanent and special exhibits to keep children and adults interested.
On our recent visit, we learned about Tardigrades. They are the world’s toughest and perhaps most adaptive micro-animal, first discovered by a German pastor and scientist in 1773. They can survive at temperatures near absolute zero and near boiling point. They can go without food or water for more than 10 years and then revive when sources become available. They can live in the depths of the sea and outer space. These adaptive creatures are 0.5 mm long and have eight feet. Their skeletons date back to 500 million years ago. They are amazing animals, and they reminded me of my life in Silicon Valley: adapt or go extinct.
For burger lovers, Shake Shack is NYC’s answer. There is one only a block away from AMNH. Address: 366 Columbus Avenue, New York, NY 10024
Levaine Bakery offers some of the best and biggest cookies you will ever have. It’s a 10-minute walk from the AMHN. Please get me one when you go. Address: 167 West 74th Street, New York, NY 10023
DAY 3: VIEWS FROM UP HIGH
Rockefeller Center or Empire State Building
Most people come for the roof top views of New York. If I were to choose one, it would be Rockefeller Center. We did both on different visits. I loved the unobstructed view of Central Park from Top of the Rock.
On this day we also visited a museum which is now unfortunately closed. You could fill your afternoon by visiting one of the two museums mentioned above or check out the Intrepid Sea, Air and Space Museum.
Street Food Alert
Across the street from New York Hilton Midtown are The Halal Guys. Get the Chicken and Rice. Douse it with white sauce. It’s legendary. It’s also big. We bought two for our family of four, which was the perfect amount. West 53rd Street, New York, NY
DAY 4: FEDERAL RESERVE TOUR AND 9/11 MEMORIAL AND MUSEUM
Federal Reserve Tour
The museum and Gold Vault Tour are free, but require reservations online beginning 30 days in advance. There is a small museum before your 50-minute tour begins, and there are only 25 spaces for two daily tours.
The Federal Reserve in New York City holds approximately 500,000 gold bars, each weighing about 27 pounds. Before you think about rushing out with a few bars like Jeremy Irons did in Die Hard with a Vengeance, the vault is set 80 feet into the bedrock of Manhattan and about 50 feet below sea level.
9/11 Memorial and Museum (free Tuesday nights)
In our past two visits to the 9/11 Memorial, the museum had not opened. I was eager to visit the museum after hearing great reviews from friends. Wow. I was a bit overwhelmed by the experience in a good way. The museum documents the events of 9/11 through pictures, videos, interviews and visual artifacts. It was painful to relive the day. It was also surreal to think that the location you were standing on was the place where all of this happened. I highly recommend a visit.
Tip: The 9/11 Memorial is free for everyone to see at any time. Tickets are required, however, for the 9/11 Museum. On Tuesday nights, the museum is free from 5 pm until closing. The line begins at 4 pm for timed tickets which means you should get there earlier.
DAY 5: STATUE OF LIBERTY AND ELLIS ISLAND
Statue of Liberty and Ellis Island
Plan at least three hours for the Statue Of Liberty and another two for Ellis Island due to the security lines and time to get on and off the cruise boat. For families interested in climbing up to the crown, tickets are required and children need to be at least four feet tall.
Tip: Book your tickets online in advance. You will save at least an hour skipping the long line of people who are buying tickets the same day.
If you don’t want to go on either island, you can still view the Statue of Liberty. Statue Cruises offers different options. There is the speed boat which we took on a different visit. This 30-minute ride cruises around Manhattan and makes a stop for pictures of the Statue. There is also the Staten Island Ferry which is a free commuter ferry. Board it at 4 South Street. We have done all three options over three visits to NYC, and they are all worth doing if you have the time.
Note: I received two complimentary New York CityPASS passport books from nycgo.com. They offer your choice to visit six different places including Top of the Rock, Empire State Building, American Museum of Natural History, The Metropolitan Museum of Art, 9/11 Museum, Statue of Liberty and Ellis Island, Intrepid Air and Sea, Air and Space Museum, Guggenheim Museum. If you are planning to visit multiple NYC attractions, the CityPASS can save you quite a bit of money.
RECOMMENDATIONS FOR NYC RESTAURANTS
Saving the best for last, I’ve included some of our favorite food stops during our three visits. I would happily return to any of these in a heart beat. Feel free to share your favorites.
OUR FOOD FAVORITES
Zabar’s (bagels + nova lox)
Levaine (giant chocolate cookies)
Daniel Boulud and Bar Boulud
Halal Carts (chicken and rice)
Grimaldi’s Pizza (Brooklyn and Manhattan)
Joe’s Pizza (quick service thin slice)
Momofuku (David Chang)
NYC TRANSPORTATION TIPS
We do a lot of walking in NYC. On average, FitBit tells me that I’m walking almost 10 miles a day. This includes using the subway and taxi.
On our most recent trip, we used Gett and Uber for our rides to and from the airport (fixed prices) and around town. We used the subway to get to the Bronx Zoo. Currently, Israel-based Gett (like Uber) charges $10 flat for rides in Manhattan between 110 St. and Houston, basically from the north part of Central Park to Downtown. For a family of four, each subway ride costs $12. That makes Gett cheaper within Manhattan.
For 7-day passes on the subway, it costs $31 which means that you break even after 10 rides compared to paying $3 for each ride. We used mostly Gett and Uber around town because getting the 7-day pass was not going to be worth it for our family of four.
This article was originally published by Hilton Mom Voyage.