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Take the Family to New York City - First-Time Visitor’s Guide

Updated on June 28, 2009

Thanks to a crackdown on crime a couple decades ago, New York City has shed its reputation as a dangerous, dirty city and emerged as a relatively safe and family-friendly destination (and home) for families. It’s a fantastic and educational place for a family vacation, whether your kids are five months or fifteen years old.

Getting Around

A guide like Frommer’s is a great tool to have for planning your trip, as well as a small, laminated map of the city. You’ll be surprised how easy it is to get around once you get there! Just remember that Manhattan is organized quite simply: Streets run east and west and Avenues run north and south!

Lodging & Transportation

The most logical place to book your lodging is Mid-town, since it places you at the foot of Central Park and within walking distance (granted, a lot of walking) to most places you’ll want to go. When you’re not planning to walk, the subway is an easy and inexpensive way to travel with family, and an experience for those who haven’t ridden it. Bus passes are also an inexpensive and easy way to go for families.


Be sure to bring comfortable shoes and a big bag or backpack for things you need and will pick up along the way, since you may leave your hotel in the morning and not return until night. Bring small bills and change for transportation and tipping, and map your day out in advance.

Planning Your Days

A good thing to do is plan your days by sections of town. Do upper Manhattan and The Bronx one day, hitting the Bronx Zoo, which being 500 acres, may take up most of the day.

Central Park
Another day might be set aside for Central Park, which houses the Central Park Zoo, the Carousel, and giant Alice in Wonderland sculpture, as well as 58 miles of walking trail and The Great Lawn for picnics and sunbathing.

The Metropolitan Museum of Art is on the east side, but reserve several hours, if not most of the day, for this. The famous FAO Scwartz Toy Store (at 5th Avenue and 58th Street, the southeast corner of the park) is a great stop for kids, and could easily eat up an hour or two. The American Museum of Natural History (at Central Park West and 79th Street) is also a great family excursion in this area.

On another day, do Midtown, including The Empire State Building, Chrysler Building, Rockefeller Center, the Intrepid Sea Air Space Museum. Then, the Theatre District, hitting one of the family-friendly Broadway shows like The Lion King, The Little Mermaid, Mary Poppins or Wicked. Also check out what off-Broadway has to offer.

The Village
Greenwich Village (New Yorkers call it “The Village”) has to be at least a stop on your way south to Lower Manhattan. Lower Manhattan is home to of Wall Street, of course, the World Trade Center site and the Statue of Liberty tours. There is also a popular art installation called The Real World, which consists of giant footprints and oversized pennies. While you’re down south, check out the Children’s Garden of the Brooklyn Botanical Gardens if time permits.

Try to do NYC in no less than 3 days, and don’t limit yourself! Stop at anything that sparks your interest along the way.

Image Credit: Alex 92287, Flickr


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  • Ralph Deeds profile image

    Ralph Deeds 8 years ago from Birmingham, Michigan

    One of the most enjoyable and least expensive things we did with our young children in NYC as to take the Circle Line boat tour around the island. It's the best way I know to gain an understanding of the extent and makeup of Manhattan Island. It's not very expensive and serves hot dogs and pop. Pick a nice sunny day, not too hot nor too cold, ideally.