One of the most exciting travel destinations in the world is New York City. Not only does it boast famous landmarks and world-class dining, but there is such a huge variety of activities, sightseeing opportunities, and entertainment options that you could keep your family occupied for weeks, if not months.
Of course, most people don’t have the time or the money to spend months on vacation in the Big Apple. That’s why we’ve gathered together this list of unmissable sites and unforgettable experiences to explore on a family trip to NYC.
The Statue of Liberty
To access both Liberty Island, where the statue resides, and Ellis Island, which was the entry to the United States for some 12 million immigrants at the end of the 19th Century and into the 20th, you will take a ferry. Once you’ve arrived at Liberty Island, there are three options for sightseeing: a grounds ticket, a pedestal ticket, or a crown ticket. It’s a good idea to make reservations and purchase your tickets online — as far as six months in advance, if possible. This is one of New York’s most popular attractions for tourists.
The Empire State Building
Similarly, if you want to soak in some of Manhattan’s best views from one of the Empire State Building’s observation decks, you should book tickets online and plan to visit between 8 a.m. and 11 a.m. As an alternative, consider splashing out on express tickets, which will allow you to skip the queues and head directly to the Main Deck, on the 86th floor, or the Top Deck, on the 102nd floor. Guided tours and self-guided ones are both available. In addition to stunning, 360-degree views of the city, you can also dine at one of the onsite restaurants, visit the store for souvenirs, or explore the Dare to Dream exhibit.
The American Museum of Natural History
New York is, of course, a museum-lover’s dream. There is an admirable number of museums dedicated to children, some with a fine-arts focus and others providing immersive or hands-on experiences. It’s worth your while to research the dozens of different museums available, so you can make plans to take your children to places they’ll truly enjoy.
That said, if you have a large family with diverse interests and/or limited space in your tight vacation schedule, consider the American Museum of Natural History. It truly offers “something for everyone,” and is home to remarkable collections, fascinating special exhibits, interactive offerings, and much, much more.
Outdoorsy types who get antsy after a few days’ worth of pounding the pavement in the concrete jungle will find respite in Central Park. Among the attractions and amenities that can be found at Central Park are ponds, meadows, pavilions, gardens, statues and sculptures, bike rentals, boat rentals, fishing, ice skating rinks, ornamental fountains, board games, playgrounds, a zoo, a nature sanctuary, and a captivating cross-section of humanity, composed of tourists and city dwellers alike.
As with the museum scene, it makes sense to check out guides to Central Park and do some research before your trip. That way, you can prioritize which parts of the park are most appealing to you and plan your visit accordingly. It’s difficult for people who haven’t’ been to Central Park to visualize quite how big it is. At nearly 850 acres, and with dozens of landmarks and recreational opportunities, you could easily spend several days exploring the park and still not see it all.
Horse-and-carriage rides through the park are a great deal of fun for children and adults, but even if you don’t take a ride, the horses and their conveyances are still a sight to behold. Make sure to swing by Central Park South between 5th and 6th Avenues, where they line up.
No family trip to New York City would be complete without a stop at FAO Schwarz. Its flagship store at 30 Rockefeller Center is conveniently located in the heart of Manhattan, and is sure to delight customers of any age. Come build a custom remote-controlled vehicle, adopt a baby doll (your children will be “interviewed” by employees dressed as doctors and nurses, to ensure that all babies go to loving homes), catch an in-store magic show, or dance on the famed floor piano just like Tom Hanks did in “Big.”
There is so much to see and do in New York that your vacation is going to pass in a flash. Prepare to have some tuckered-out youngsters (and to be pretty pooped yourself!) after a day spent exploring this magical, larger-than-life city — and then to dream about all of the fun you’ll have the next day!
Have you been to NYC? If so, what are your recommendations for “must-see” sights, “can’t miss” experiences, and family-friendly dining? Share them with your fellow travelers in the comment section below!