staten island ferry

A Weekend in New York City with Kids

There is so much to see and do in New York City, and with only a weekend here (NYC was one of our stops on our two-week East Coast trip), it was so hard to narrow down all the things we wanted to do that would be the most meaningful and fun for our kids. But first: Where to stay? We chose to stay in Jersey City. There are pros and cons for staying outside the city just like there are for staying in the city. The main reason we stayed outside the city was because we were using points and there weren’t any free nights available in the city. Also, family and friends both recommended this area as it is their preferred place to stay when visiting NYC. The rates are usually significantly less, it’s a safe area, and is a very quick train ride to the World Trade Center (only 4 minutes from the Exchange Place, right by our hotel). Other options to get into the city: Staten Island Ferry (more on that below), driving into the city yourself (we also tried this and would suggest picking a parking lot out ahead of time and/or plan to get to the city early to take advantage of early bird pricing), taking other forms of public transportation (bus), or a taxi, which often can be pricey.

world trade center word trade center

From the WTC, we headed to Midtown. Thank goodness for Google Maps (our favorite map app) for helping us find which train routes we needed and where to go. Oh, and our kids did great on the subway.

staten island ferry

staten island ferry

Another way into the city is the Staten Island Ferry, which is a very fun and unique experience! Parking was a breeze (we got there early though, like 7 a.m.) and easily snagged a spot in the secure lot. For less than $10 for the entire day, parking was significantly cheaper than driving into the city! The Ferry runs 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, and is a FREE 25-minute ride from the St. George Terminal on Staten Island to the Whitehall Terminal in Manhattan. PLUS the views were great! We didn’t have time to visit the Statue of Liberty this trip, but had great views of Lady Liberty from the ferry. Note: if you plan to leisurely ride the ferry, avoid rush hour when it’s super crowded. The ferry is a great option if you plan to visit New York for only a day. There are bathrooms and food options, as well as indoor and outdoor seating.  Once we arrived, we caught the train to Midtown.

staten island ferry

nyc bakery


First stop! To try a Cronut. Just Kidding. They were already sold out 🙁 (Cue the tears. Hangry is a real thing.)








top of the rock top of the rock NYC

top of the rock

We also wanted to take in the great views of the Big Apple. We decided to go with Top of the Rock. And let me tell you, they had the BEST customer service. We had such a great time! We were able to go during the day and again at night. It was awesome to see the city at both times. They have both an indoor and an outdoor viewing area (and boy was I praying the engineers used the right kind of glass to secure us in…for a girl scared of heights, I seem to find myself above ground a lot 🙂 )  At the bottom is a mini-mall with several dining options and of course there were plenty of restroom options throughout the building as well–we should know!

top of the rock top of the rock

rockerfeller plaza with kids

lego store times square times square disney store

We visited the Lego Store right on Rockefeller Plaza. We also visited The Disney Store at Times Square.

patzeria pizza nyc pizza nyc

And lunch. DROOOL. Our favorite pizza place. And not just in New York. So good. It’s by the slice, so everyone gets exactly what they want (and they are large slices!). Add a few garlic knots and this ended up being one of the cheapest meals for our fam of five the entire trip! Only bummer is there aren’t tables, so plan to get cozy on the ground outside.

patzeria pizza nyc patzeria pizza nyc

serendipity 3  

We also had the chance to see Phantom of the Opera at the Majestic Theatre and it was AMAZING. We had seats in the rear mezzanine and were a little worried we wouldn’t be able to see, but the seats were just fine! The music and acoustics were even more wonderful than we expected. We finished up with a Frozen Caramel Hot Cocoa from Serendipity. We also ordered some food, which was pretty good. Next time I’d probably go for one of the ice cream sundaes, though. Something I can sink my teeth in. Important to note that Serendipity does have a minimum food order requirement, like so many other restaurants in New York.

central park pedicab

Central Park was another fun stop for us. We took a pedicab ride around the park and somehow our driver managed to cart all 5 of us around! This park is huge, so plan to rent bikes, take a carriage ride, or any of the other options to see this beautiful park. If you do go with a pedicab, check the pricing. They are NOT all priced the same (trust us–ouch!!).

central park central park

bow bridge

central park carousel central park carousel

And of course we had to ride the Central Park Carousel. From the statues, to the bridges, to the mini-sail boats, there are so many fun things to see and do here.

Bethesda NYC central Park

 lindor chocolates nyc

Our kids happen to be excellent walkers–seriously their endurance and stamina on these long days of walking was impressive. The bribery truffles from Lindor didn’t hurt, either!

 nyc view from top the rock 

American Girl Cafe NYC

But the highlight for our girls was dinner at the American Girl Cafe. It was darling! We made reservations ahead of time (it was very crowded, so we are glad we did!). They seated us promptly and the service throughout the evening was excellent! Dinner is about $26 per person and includes appetizers and dessert. They promptly brought out each course, which was much appreciated as we had worked up quite the appetite from all that walking. Dinner includes a ‘warm welcome’–mini cinnamon buns followed by the first course which included hummus and veggies, bruschetta and pigs in a blanket (pictured below). Each person in our group picked our own main course followed by AG’s signature dessert–chocolate mouse in a flower pot and a vanilla cupcake. Beverages are also included (hot cocoa, lemonade, juice etc.) There are additional beverage options available for an additional fee.

American Girl Cafe NYC American Girl Cafe NYC

Big brother had a great time too, playing host and asking us the cute questions they had at each table.

American Girl Cafe NYC American Girl Cafe NYC

American Girl Cafe NYC American Girl Cafe NYC American Girl Cafe NYC

Although we brought our girls’ dolls from home, the Cafe also had several dolls you can borrow for the meal if you didn’t bring one. And the little pink plate and cup (pictured above on the right), as well as the pink bow in the doll’s hair, are a cute little souvenir you get to keep.

American Girl NYC doll options American Girl Cafe NYC

American Girl Cafe NYC American Girl Cafe NYC


We had so much fun and can’t wait to go back!

Our list of ‘gotta do’ next time includes:

American Museum of Natural History

Brooklyn Bridge

Statue of Liberty

Empire State Building

Highline Park

Matilda on Broadway

Black Tap (MILKSHAKES!!!)


and just maybe we’ll get to try that darn elusive Cronut!!


What are your favorite things to do in New York City?? Where are your can’t miss places to eat?

Hill Cumorah Statue

Palmyra LDS Church History Sites

There are so many amazing and beautiful sites to see in Palmyra. Much of the information can be found directly on, but if you’re wondering if this should be part of your stop when visiting the East Coast–our answer is 100% yes! We are still in awe. Our young kids– ages 10, 7, and 5 at the time of our trip–were little sponges (and not just because of the rain!), they absorbed so many little details about the humble circumstances surrounding Joseph Smith and his family. We pulled into our hotel late at night and began our day of touring bright and early the following morning.

We had four stops in Palmyra:

  1. The Smith Family Farm (including The Sacred Grove and homes surrounding it)
  2. The Grandin Print Shop (Publication Site of the Book of Mormon)
  3. The Palmyra LDS Temple
  4. The Hill Cumorah

We also toured the Peter Whitmer Farm just outside of Palmyra. All sites are free to tour, all are family-friendly. Hours vary, so be sure to plan accordingly. We LOVED going in early October, as you can see the leaves were gorgeous!

Our first stop was the Smith Farm Welcome Center, where some darling missionaries (members of our church who volunteer their time to serve others) took us on a tour of the two homes and property nearby. We walked through the Log Home first. Find hours here.


Log Cabin Smith Home Palmyra New York Log Cabin LDS History Site Log Home LDS History Site

LDS History Site Log Cabin Kitchen Sacred Grove behind Log Cabin

Pictured above left, the dining room/living room/kitchen in the log home. Pictured above right, our children looking out through the Smith family log home’s back door at the Sacred Grove.

Sacred Grove Trail in Palmyra, New York

Sacred Grove  Sacred Grove  Walking through the Sacred Grove

Walking through the Sacred Grove

The Sacred Grove was beautiful and peaceful. After touring their humble–perhaps crowded–log home, it was easy to see why Joseph chose the Sacred Grove as a place to ponder and pray vocally for the first time. For more information about the Sacred Grove, visit the official site here.

Sacred Grove Palmyra Temple View

Pictured above, view of the Palmyra Temple, peaking through the trees (look closely!) near the Sacred Grove.

Smith Home Palmyra New York

We also toured the Smith Frame Home, a short walk from the Log Home.  This was a slightly larger, and more modern home (pictured above)–but still humble. Our kids loved seeing the many different places where Joseph and his family hid the Golden Plates from the angry mob (pictured bottom left).

Joseph Smith hid Gold Plates here  Dining Room inside Log Cabin

Alan Smith Farmhouse Alan Smith Farmhouse Bedroom LDS Church History Palmyra New York

Palmyra New York LDS Church History Site

We spent about three hours touring the Smith Family Farm, although you could spend more or less time depending on your schedule. There are restrooms throughout, we would suggest to make sure to use them before walking through The Sacred Grove–especially with young kids 🙂

Palmyra LDS Temple

Not far from the Smith Family Farm is the Palmyra Temple. We enjoyed walking around the beautiful Temple grounds. (To see a list of all six Temples we visited on our trip, visit here.)

EB Grandin Print Shop

We had so much fun touring the Grandin Print Shop as well. Another pair of darling missionaries gave us and another family a tour of the building where the Book of Mormon was first published. Find hours here.

Grandin Print Shop  EB Grandin   Egbert GrandinGrandin Print Shop

This cheery space is where the free tour starts. We also learned about E.B. Grandin and the process to print a book back then–what a miracle it all was. It was a very engaging (and hands-on at times) tour! For more information on why the Book of Mormon is so special to us, visit here.

Grandin Print Shop  Grandin Print Shop  Grandin Print Shop

Book of Mormon Come Forth Grandin Print Shop Grandin Print Shop

History of Uppercase, lowercase Grandin Print Shop

Book of Mormon Manuscript  First Edition Book of Mormon

We spent a little under two hours on this tour, but again–you could spend more or less depending on your schedule. The charming antique shops nearby were also fun to visit (think Milk Glass!).

Peter Whitmer Farm New York

While this isn’t technically in Palmyra, we were SO glad we drove the 40 minutes to tour the Peter Whitmer Farm, where The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints was officially organized on April 6, 1830.

Peter Whitmer Farm Dining Room Peter Whitmer Bedroom

Peter Whitmer LDS Church Visitor Center Peter Whitmer Farm, New York

While there we had the chance to view a short film (about 5 minutes) in the visitor’s center called The Grove. Take time to watch it! This is the only place you can see it, as it’s not available online. What an inspiring visit! We spent just under an hour here.

Hill Cumorah

The Hill Cumorah took our breath away with its beauty! When we arrived it was pouring rain, so we watched a new segment from ‘Meet the Mormons‘ in the Visitor’s Center, talked with the missionaries and learned more about what took place in this sacred spot.  Find more on the hours and location here.   During the summer there is also a free pageant here (oh how we want to come back in the summer for this!). Find more information on that here. We spent about two hours here, but again you can spend more or less depending on your time frame. It is also a short, steep walk to the top. However, you can also drive up a bit closer if needed.

Hill Cumorah Statue Hill Cumorah Freedom and Faith

Our visit to Palmyra was near the very end of our our two week East Coast trip- more on that here. We were walking up to the statue at the top of the hill and the wind was blowing. We looked up and saw this- the American Flag and the statue of  Angel Moroni- and just thought how fitting this picture was- FREEDOM and FAITH- everything we hold near and dear culminating right here. It was a perfect way to wrap up our trip.


Yellow Mills Diner Palmyra, New York

Oh- one last thing: Lunch! Some of the locals suggested we try Yellow Mills Diner for lunch and it was so yummy. The service was great and we love eating local in a family-friendly environment.


We also visited the Prophet Joseph Smith’s birthplace in Sharon, Vermont. Read more about our time there here.