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12 Mistakes to Avoid When Visiting New York City with Kids

Category Attractions

|by Linnea Covington |


Exploring New York with kids? Here are 12 mistakes to avoid, so your trip shines as much as the city lights

Traveling with kids can prove hard enough, but when that destination is New York City, it’s even more challenging. After all, this is a city famous for its frenetic pace, careening cabs, and thronged streets. Luckily, with a few key tips, your next trip to the Big Apple need only sparkle, much like the city skyline itself. Here are 12 mistakes to avoid when discovering New York with kids.

(Photo: Courtesy of Circle Line Sightseeing)

(Photo: Courtesy of Circle Line Sightseeing)

Forgetting the sunscreen
During the warm months, you can expect to be sightseeing and in the sun most of the day. Make sure to protect the scalp and skin of everyone in the family to avoid a painful sunburn. Did you forget junior’s hat or that giant bottle of sunscreen? No worries – on practically every corner of the city, you’ll find convenience stores and shops with hats, sunblock, and cold drinks.

Picking an inappropriate Broadway show
Lots of Broadways shows have lively names, but that doesn’t mean they’re kid-friendly. Do some research to find shows that are perfect for the wee ones, like The Lion King or Aladdin. Also hugely popular is School of Rock, composed by the legendary Andrew Lloyd Webber, which tells the spirited tale of a slacker who finds inspiration by teaching tweens how to rock and roll.

Not planning meals
Even if you normally don’t make reservations at home, in NYC it’s helpful to have your meals planned out for the day. Restaurants often get packed during peak hours and wait times can last over an hour, which can make it difficult to catch a show or sight in time. Plus, no one wants to wait with a hungry kid. Another pro tip: Schedule your meal 30 minutes earlier than you normally eat — this way no one will be starving by the time food comes.

Wearing flip-flops
We know it’s hot, but let’s face it, if you tour around NYC in flip-flops, your feet will be suffering by the end of the day. Plus, with so many people milling around, it’s easy to trip as a stranger accidentally steps on the back. Or, you get it stuck in an escalator. To avoid this scenario, pack a pair of good sneakers. Sure you might have some foot sweat, but that’s better than blisters, sore toes, or lost shoes.

Only seeing museums
New York abounds with kid-friendly museums, but kids can only spend so long indoors. Plan to spend plenty of your visit outdoors, starting with beloved Central Park. Not only is this 778-acre national landmark located the middle of the city, but it’s filled with family fun, including the Central Park Zoo, a carousel, bike tours, hot dog vendors galore, horse and carriage rides, and more. Other outdoor activities to mix up your visit: walking along the elevated High Line park and taking in both nature and art; and visiting the children’s garden at the Brooklyn Botanic Garden (990 Washington Ave., Brooklyn, bbg.org) or the 250 leafy acres that make up the New York Botanical Garden (2900 Southern Blvd., Bronx, nybg.org).

Visiting the Empire State Building during rush hour
Checking out the views from the soaring observatory at the Empire State Building is a must for NYC visitors. But, just because it’s on your bucket list doesn’t mean you have to wait in line for eons to do so. Book tickets on ShowTickets.com and plan to visit during off hours when many people are still snuggling in bed, eating lunch, or are done for the night. After all, the observation deck is open from 8am to 2am. Keep in mind that visiting the Empire State during the day is as gratifying as night — the former allows you to see for miles, and the latter gives you the chance to see the glittering lights of the city that never sleeps.

Staying away from Chinatown
Chinatown may seem daunting — it’s full of twists and turns, narrow streets and day-to-night crowds. But veer off the main drag where all the tourist stuff is, and check out fish stalls with live frogs and squid, plus all the Pokemon stuff kids may desire. Also, get ready to feast: Try tasty dumplings at the historic Nom Wah Tea Parlor (13 Doyers St., nomwah.com).

Sticking to Manhattan
There’s a lot more to New York than Manhattan. Spend at least a day or two exploring the other boroughs — Brooklyn, Queens, the Bronx, and even Staten Island. Take a bike tour visit a cool museum and give your kids the full picture of New York. In Brooklyn, visit the Brooklyn Museum (200 Eastern Parkway, Brooklyn, brooklynmuseum.org), walk along the waterfront in Williamsburg, eat pierogis (Polish dumplings) in the Eastern European-heavy neighborhood of Greenpoint, learn about food at the Museum of Food and Drink (62 Bayard St., Brooklyn, mofad.org) and take a pizza tour. Head to Queens for the New York Hall of Science (47-01 111th St., Queens, nysci.org), the Museum of the Moving Image (36-01 35th Ave., Queens, movingimage.us), piles of colorful Indian eats in Jackson Heights and sun and surf at Rockaway Beach. The Bronx features the classically Italian Arthur Avenue (arthuravenuebronx.com), the huge Bronx Zoo (2300 Southern Blvd., Bronx) and the famed New York Botanical Garden. Then, every kid will love taking the ferry to Staten Island where they offer a 2,800-acre park called Staten Island’s Greenbelt (700 Rockland Ave., Staten Island, sigreenbelt.org) and The Staten Island Museum (75 Stuyvesant Pl., Staten Island, statenislandmuseum.org).

Nonstop sightseeing
Kids need to take a break. Too much excitement starts blurring the big picture, so in the middle of a trip or summer vacation, make sure to take a breather. A cruise around the city is a good option, as well as a bus tour or a breezy pedicab trip through Central park.

Thinking art is too grown-up
Before you dismiss institutions such as the Museum of Modern Art or the Metropolitan Museum of Art as too mature for kids, keep in mind that many of the top museums have superb kid-friendly amenities, from special itineraries to apps. The Met has interactive exhibits for kids, a child-friendly map, and a family guide you can get at the information desk. MoMa has art labs, family gallery talks, and a website and app geared toward the younger crowd. Get creative and make a whole game of your visit by having kids select their favorite paintings and create projects based on these picks.

Not trying new foods
While it’s easy to stick to restaurants you know and love from you hometown, the great allure of NYC is the diverse food options. Pick a flavor each night and have your kids try something new. From classic Italian red sauce joints to Singaporean street food to Thai ice cream, you could stay a month and still not have sampled all the cuisines. Some places to consider: Singaporean eats at Chomp Chomp (7 Cornelia St., chompchompnyctest.squarespace.com), pan-Latin fare at Coppelia (207 W. 14th St., coppelianyc.com) and Laotian food at Khe-yo (157 Duane St., kheyo.com).

Choosing the wrong hotel
The hotel you pick can make or break a New York visit. Remember that hotel rooms in NYC can be very snug. Also, keep in mind that location is key, particularly if you want easy access to the sights. When booking a hotel, look for rooms that are sizeable enough for the family, and also a central address, near subway lines. Some top picks include the Gansevoort Meatpacking (18 9th Ave.), Hilton Times Square (234 W. 42nd St.) and Eventi Hotel (851 6th Ave., hoteleventi.com), which is just an eight-minute walk from the Empire State Building and offers special kids programs. 

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