Stephanie Grall has lived in New York City for the past six years and raised her two children, now 1 and 3, right in the city calling both Tribeca and Jersey City home. She originally contacted me because, lucky girl, she’s moving to Montreal with her adorable kids and husband. We swapped emails and I did my best to answer her questions. When I came up with the idea for this series, she seemed a natural choice to tell us about New York City, which I know is a big destination for both Montrealers and well… the rest of the world!
Stephanie has given us a glimpse into her favourite family friendly restaurants, activities and just how to manage getting around New York with little ones.
See below for her story.
As a New York mom I pride myself in saying how much is available culturally for kids. Travelling to the Big Apple with kids is far from boring; just walk outside your door to see yellow cabs, big noisy fire trucks and charming cobblestone streets or the tallest buildings you have ever seen. That in itself is quite the attraction for little ones.
Don’t let the hustle and bustle of New York City scare you away from traveling with toddlers to the city that never sleeps. The world capital of shopping, dining, musicals and museums, has a lot in store for the little ones and is extremely kid friendly.
I’ve put together a list of must-sees to ensure for a trip you and your toddlers will remember. If time allows it, you might even be able to squeeze in a date night or some great shopping.
Travel Tips & Getting Around
If traveling during the winter, I strongly recommend getting the right gear for your kids because you will be doing a lot of walking. Remember to pack a wind shield for the stroller, a stroller bundle, and winter wear like snowsuits, hats, mitts and scarves.
Summers get very hot so pack the adequate gear to keep your kids hydrated and protected from the sun.
The subway is doable, however not all stations have elevators; check out here to locate the stations with handicap access.
If you have an umbrella stroller, bring it! It will be easier to get in and out of cabs or carry it up and down stairs. Although New York State law does not require a car seat in cabs, do check out kid-friendly car services in NYC. This may make you feel more at ease.
Cabs are almost like public transportation in NYC. Check here to know everything about cab fares. When riding a yellow cab don’t expect a smile, but do expect a bumpy ride with someone wearing an earpiece and talking on the phone. Don’t be alarmed! It’s all part of the fun and totally safe.
UberFAMILY is another great option in NYC. UberFAMILY provides car seats, and they are friendlier and cheaper than the cabbies.
If you like walking, I definitely recommend doing most of your sight seeing by foot and grabbing cabs. The island of Manhattan is not that big and you’ll spend most of your time in the center, so it is totally doable!
I like to travel everywhere with my kids, big cities and countryside alike, and I always use airbnb. NYC hotel rooms are small and rather expensive. In addition, toddlers don’t always enjoy sitting through restaurant meals three times a day. This is especially true in NYC where it can be very busy and loud, which is all part of the charm though! It’s also nice to be able to enjoy a romantic dinner with your husband while the kids are sleeping. Being able to whip up something you know your kiddos will eat or having a good set up to put them down for a nap is priceless.
Regarding location, I would target areas like the Upper West Side and Upper East Side to be close to Central Park and other attractions. If you want a charming and quieter experience, try Chelsea/West Village. Brooklyn is another great option and extremely kid friendly, however it’s a little farther from the city’s tourist attractions. In Brooklyn, I would target areas like Cobble Hill, Brooklyn Heights or Carroll Gardens. These areas are lovely areas and worth a visit. They are also beautiful, close to the city, and very safe.
Most restaurants in the city are very kid friendly. New York has a reputation for its delicious bagels and burgers so without a doubt check out places like Shake Shack (the wait is long), Murray’s Bagels, and Corner Bistro, which are all very kid friendly. One of my favorite family friendly places to eat is Ditch Plains in the Upper West Side where you’ll find little TV screens for the kids, cute little sippy cups and a delightful child’s menus.
New York is also home of some of the best cupcakes in the world so take your kiddos to Billy’s Bakery!
Note: Be aware that eating out in NYC can be tricky on weekends when the wait gets very long for brunch and lunch/dinner. I would recommend planning ahead and getting a reservation.
Areas like Upper West Side, Tribeca/Battery Park City, Chelsea/West Village and Brooklyn offer a wide selection of family friendly restaurants.
Here are some of my personal favourites:
El Vez (located by an amazing playground, Ferry terminal, World Trade Center Memorial, Statue of Liberty Ferry, and the Hudson River boardwalk)
Where to do your Groceries:
little deli’s in general
Duane Reade (diapers, milk, basic baby supplies, basic groceries, over the counter medicine)
Central Park and Central Park Zoo: The Park is absolutely beautiful throughout the year. Sheep’s Meadow is nice spot for a picnic and running around but it can get crowded during the summer. There are playgrounds within the park and a Pain Quotidian for yummy croissants, lemonade and coffee. The Central Park Zoo is also a wonderful outdoor activity within the park your kids will love.
Bronx Zoo (Bronx): This is further out and VERY big, but if your are feeling adventurous, do check it out.
New York Botanical Garden (Bronx): This is close to the Bronx Zoo and very beautiful. During the holiday season, there is also a wonderful Holiday Train Show.
Children’s Museum of Manhattan (Upper West Side): Your typical New York kids museum where you’ll learn about things from the city like fire trucks and cabs. There is also a cute little outdoor area with games and activities.
American Museum of Natural History (Upper West Side): A must see! Make sure to check out the aquarium and dinosaurs.
Insider tip: There are sprinklers on the Arthur Ross Terrace located on the second-floor.
FAO Schwarz: Remember the movie Big? Your kids will love this toy store, which is filled with giant stuffed animals and even a walkable piano. It’s a fun activity if you’re in the mood for spoiling your kids.
Insider tip: Arrive early to take a 45-minute tour to test drive great toys and have a continental breakfast at the BIG Piano.
Dylan’s Candy Bar: Think of Willy Wonka’s Chocolate Factory! Believe me, the world’s largest confectionary emporium will exceed your wildest imagination. It’s always a treat for the kids to choose colorful and funky candy.
Time Square: The lights are impressive at night but it definitely gets a llittle bit crazy.
The Highline (Chelsea): This used to be old train tracks that have now been turned into a park and is a little walkway above the city. It is a nice little walk away from cars. I’d try to go during a weekday as it’s less crowded. The Chelsea/Midtown entrance will take you straight down to Chelsea Market where there are lots of fun eateries like Eleni’s Cookies (decorated cookies like taxi cabs, firetrucks, Elmo), Momofuku Milk Bar, a fun flee market, and a cute bookstore.
Hudson River Park: This is a boardwalk on the Hudson River which overlooks Jersey, ferry traffic and sailboats. It’s a great spot for jogging, stroller walks, stroller joggers, cute piers and a great, very large, playground.
Children’s Museum of the Arts (Tribeca): Art exhibits designed especially to appeal to the younger crowds. There are also play areas and workshops.
New York City Fire Museum (Hudson Square): Kids can try on fire fighters hats and boots. They can even go home with a really cool fire truck.
Enjoy Tribeca like a Local: Visit the Balloon Saloon for a CRAZY selection of balloons of every shape you can imagine. Go for brunch at Bubby’s (expect a wait on weekends) where they have amazing pancakes, a great kid’s menus and crayons. Grab a cupcake at Billy’s Bakery and hit the playground at Washington Market Park for some fun on the boat-shaped jungle gym (see photo in first half of post).
Brooklyn Bridge: Walk down the bridge to Dumbo where you can enjoy a beautiful view, eat the best pizza at Grimaldi’s (expect a wait), and enjoy a carousel ride. Continue walking down the Brooklyn Heights Promenade if you’re not too tired.
Ferry ride to Staten Island and back (free): The boat is big and the view is spectacular. You can take in views of the Statue of Liberty and Ellis Island, skyscrapers and the bridges of Lower Manhattan.
Summer Tip: Best playgrounds and splash pads:
–Washington Market Park (there’s a farmer’s market on the weekend)
–Pier 25 on Hudson River Park
–Prospect Park in Park Slope, Brooklyn
Shows: For kids I recommend The Lion King on Broadway or BAM Kids in Brooklyn.
Governors Island (Summer Only): Check before what’s going on but you may be able to play mini golf, check out pop up restaurants, fairs and more. Otherwise, simply enjoy a picnic and run around. The main attraction all summer long is bike riding. Rent bikes and ride around the island. They have 4-6 seater bikes with 2 front child seats, children’s bikes, helmets, etc. for rent. You also get to ride a very cool ferry that is a free, 2-minute ride.
Getting from and to the airport is fairly simple, especially from LaGuardia because it is much closer. Newark is in New Jersey, so the cab ride will be expensive and could take much longer. From JFK or LaGuardia I would recommend grabbing a cab.
There are also some great shuttle services. My relatives always use Super Shuttle and say it’s wonderful but a little bit long. The train from JFK is another option but I have never done it with kids. I think it may be a bit chaotic after a long trip, but check out info here.
When in NYC don’t be frightened, as people will come up to you and offer their help or talk to you while you are waiting in line. New Yorkers may seem harsh and in a hurry but they are also very welcoming and generally speaking, in the areas I recommended, it is very safe to speak to these strangers.
What Time of the Year to Visit
I would recommend travelling in the fall as NYC and New York state are both BEAUTIFUL during the fall. The foliage is absolutely stunning and Central Park is simply breath taking. New York City will have you smitten in the fall! There is nothing like enjoying a walk in the Big Apple while sipping a hot apple cider or one of New York’s many delicious coffee brews and checking out the playgrounds or Central Park on a sunny day!
I also think all seasons in NYC have their fair share of fun and magic as long as you come prepared.
Thank-you to Stephanie and her family for answering all my questions! And welcome to Montreal!
Other posts in this series: