Yes, You Can Have an Affordable, Family-Friendly Vacation in NYC
By Ellen Schmidt of Baby Meets City
While one might not initially think of New York City as a “family-friendly” vacation spot, the Big Apple is here to surprise you. From kid-approved offerings on Broadway and wide-open spaces in Central Park, to free outdoor concerts, food carts, and reliable mass transit (and everything in between), NYC is a veritable playground for both kids and parents.
Having two young daughters in Manhattan has made me an expert at taking the kids around the city, including getting the stroller on the subway! To determine where to go in New York as a family, I look for a place with enough space, enough bathrooms, entertainment for the whole family (really!), and affordability.
In a city of over 8 million people, space is at a premium, and a little elbow room to move around can sometimes feel like a luxury. Luckily, you have options as a visitor to this amazing (and very crowded) city. If you’re looking to stay indoors, our large world-renowned museums will be your best bet in terms of space.
Some of my family’s favorites include:.
- The American Museum of Natural History
- The Metropolitan Museum of Art
- Children’s Museum of The Arts
- The Brooklyn Children’s Museum
- DiMenna Children’s History Museum
Headed outdoors? Nothing beats Central Park in terms of wide-open spaces. Whether you’re taking in the view atop Belvedere Castle, relaxing on a blanket in Sheep Meadow, powering a sailboat around Conservatory Water, or taking a rowboat out on the lake, there’s so much to do in Central Park..
Other favorite outdoor spaces include:
- The Highline
- Brooklyn Bridge Park
- Governor's Island
- Hudson River Park
- Bryant Park
Want to eat somewhere without feeling like you’re involved in the conversation at the table next to you? Here are some of my family’s favorite restaurants that meet all of our “family-friendly requirements,” including comfortable seating, changing tables in bathroom, high chair availability, and crayons/paper and kid-friendly menus. Oh, and the food is pretty tasty, too:
- Playa Betty’s
- Hill Country
- Chelsea Market (we like to grab & go and eat al fresco on The Highline!)
Now, will you be able to completely avoid being crammed up next to a complete stranger at some point during your visit to NYC? Probably not. But hey, that’s part of our charm.
There really is something for everyone in New York City, and there’s no reason you have to do exclusively “kid” activities while you’re here. Broadway, for example, has amazing shows that the whole family will love, like Aladdin or The Lion King. We saw Cirque du Soleil’s Paramour and loved the storyline and acrobatic routines.
New York City isn’t just Times Square, however, and every neighborhood has something amazing to offer. What about a walking tour of sweet shops in the West Village? Walking over the Brooklyn Bridge? Touring the Statue of Liberty and Ellis Island or taking in the view from Top of the Rock? And if you find yourself here during the summer months, check local papers and websites for free concerts in the parks - they happen almost daily!.
Other family entertainment ideas:.
- Empire State Building
- Chamber Magic at The Waldorf Astoria
- Coney Island
- Guided tour bus ride
- One World Observatory
Comfort and Affordability
True, it’s not inexpensive to live in the Big Apple. But you would be surprised at the amount of free or low-cost activities that you can take part in without breaking the bank. Here are a few things we love to do together as a family. They’re as laid back as they are cheap:
- Take in a Brooklyn Cyclones game at Coney Island (a much cheaper alternative to a major league game). Plan your visit during one of their post-game fireworks shows!
- Go for a rowboat ride in Central Park ($15/hour, and an hour is plenty of time to row a boat, believe me.)
- At Schiller’s Liquor Bar, one of our favorite restaurants on the Lower East Side, kids under 10 eat free from 5-7pm on weeknights (with purchase of adult entree).
- And, of course, CityPASS! See the best attractions in New York City for a fraction of the cost to do it on your own. We are home to so many iconic destinations, and this is the perfect way to see them. Have a great vacation with the kids!
Ellen Schmidt is a freelance writer & social media consultant. She blogs about life in NYC with children in tow at Baby Meets City, and has a new website about NYC family vacations in the works!