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?

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