When I started planning my trip to New York City with my husband and 2-year old son, some of my friends thought I was nuts. Several people asked me, “why would you want to go to New York City with your toddler? Why not Disneyland or somewhere that’s more family-friendly?”. But my husband and I were determined to go – Disneyland could wait! My husband had never been to the big apple, and I wanted to show him what it was all about since I had been there several times before and absolutely loved it.

If you’re thinking about where to travel to next with your family, consider NYC – it’s an amazing place full of incredible food, diverse neighbourhoods and a seemingly unlimited list of places to see and things to do.

Here’s part 1 of my New York City itinerary for your next family trip:

Day 1 – Upper Westside: American Museum of Natural History & Central Park

Exterior of the American Museum of Natural History in New York City
Exterior of the American Museum of Natural History, NYC

I’ll be honest, while I could spend days on end roaming the halls of any art gallery, I have never been a huge fan of history museums. However, because it was pouring rain outside, we decided to head to the American Museum of Natural History in Manhattan’s Upper West Side, and it sure didn’t disappoint! We spent several hours marveling at the detailed interior architecture and fascinating exhibitions. As the museum’s website states, there’s “something for every age and interest” – we all absolutely loved it, and I highly recommend paying a visit with your family as well.

Have breakfast at (or near) your hotel and then head to the American Museum of Natural History. Plan to be there for at least 2-3 hours.

central park with toddler
Central Park is fun for the whole family, and it’s gorgeous all year round.

Grab lunch from one of the food trucks outside of the museum, then take a quick walk across the street to Central Park’s entrance, where you can explore the park’s 843 acres of sprawling landscapes filled with various attractions from the famous Alice and Wonderland statue to the Belvedere Castle, playground and more.

Day 2 – Brooklyn

If you’re travelling to NYC, be sure to plan a day or two to explore Brooklyn. With its cobblestone-lined streets, world-famous brownstone townhomes, and second-to-none food and culture scene, this New York City borough is not to be missed!

Brick building in DUMBO Booklyn, NYC
Tourists and locals alike come to DUMBO, Brooklyn, for the food and views.

We wanted to visit Brooklyn’s trendy DUMBO neighbourhood, so we took to the subway to Brooklyn Bridge Park, and I highly recommend you do the same — this is the perfect starting point for your Brooklyn travels. Here’s a helpful article for how you can get to DUMBO.

View of Manhattan Bridge from below. Seen from Booklyn Bridge Park in DUMBO, Brooklyn, NYC
View of Manhattan Bridge from Brooklyn Bridge Park’s Main Street Playground

Designed by landscape architecture firm, Michael Van Valkenburgh Associates, the 2.1km Brooklyn Bridge Park stretches along the Brooklyn side of the East River and boasts stunning views of the city.

Stroll along the water and then let your kids run around at the Main Street Playground, a large nautical-themed playground with plenty of child-friendly apparatus to climb on.

After you’ve tired the kids out, you’ll all likely need a bite to eat. Head to Time Out Market, a very cool indoor market packed with food stalls for every taste. It’s just down the street from the park, and if you go, be sure to check out the rooftop terrace where you can take amazing photos of the river and surrounding area.  Alternatively, if you’re looking for true east coast fare, grab a lobster roll at Luke’s Lobster (we ended up eating at both places because we are a self-proclaimed family of foodies!).

Views from Time Out Markets Rooftop Terrace
NYC views from Time Out Markets Rooftop Terrace

Explore DUMBO’s shops and galleries and then have lunch at Grimaldi’s Coal Brick-Oven Pizzaria, one of the best pizza restaurants I have ever been to (note: there are typically lineups there, but trust me, it’s worth the wait!). Post lunch, let the kids run around at one of DUMBO’s 6 piers along the water.

At the end of the afternoon, be sure to walk across the iconic Brooklyn Bridge back into Manhattan – it’s an experience you’ll never forget, as you’ll be able to take in the Statue of Liberty at sunset amid New York’s picturesque skyline.

Day 3 – Chelsea and Midtown

Inside Citizens of Chelsea, NYC
Inside Citizens of Chelsea, NYC

First thing in the morning, we headed to a restaurant in Chelsea that I had heard rave reviews about, and I can now say that if you’re ever in New York, you NEED to have breakfast there. It’s called Citizens of Chelsea. The food and drinks on the menu are as innovative as they are tasty – and all of the dishes are highly photogenic for all of you instagrammers out there!

belian waffles and latte at Citizens of Chelsea in NYC
Pictured here is what I ended up getting: The Citizens of Chelsea Belgian Waffle. It’s gluten-free and topped with banana, granola, peanut butter, fall fruits, and sage-brown butter maple syrup. Yes, it was delicious… I still think about that waffle to this very day!

After breakfast, head to the Flatiron district in Midtown Manhattan. There, you’ll find the famous Flatiron Building, a charming statue of a giant hippo ballerina, and plenty of shopping.

giant bronze hippo ballerina sculpture outside of the Flatiron Building in NYC
My son loved this giant bronze hippo statue, located directly across the street from the famous Flatiron Building. The locals have charmingly nicknamed it “Henrietta”.

Be sure to stop by the Lego Store, where you and your kids can interact with Lego sets and be dazzled by all of the life-sized sculptures made entirely out of Lego.

Just around the corner from the Lego Store, you’ll find Eataly. This 42,500 square foot market full of artisanal, authentic Italian food and wine is truly a feast for the eyes. Visitors can peruse through Eataly’s 7 mini eateries and indulge in fresh pasta, gelato, meats, cheeses, and more.

A cheese and meats counter in Eataly, NYC
One of the many artisan counters at Eataly in NYC.

There are endless restaurants to choose from in Midtown, but if you love Japanese food as much as I do, go for lunch at TsuruTonTan Udon Noodle Brasserie. We came across this hidden gem while we were walking around looking for somewhere to eat, and I’m so happy we did. I never read about this place online, yet it was one of the best places we ate at on our trip. If you’re just looking for a quick drink and a snack, check out their happy hour menu for an assortment of sushi rolls, snacks, and cocktails.

After lunch, head to Rockefeller Centre, where you’ll find the world-famous ice rink you’ve likely seen in several movies and even more shopping.

Visitors skate in the famous Rockefeller Ice Rink in NYC in the Winter
Rockefeller Center Ice Rink in NYC

I’ve read that Top of the Rock Observatory is a fantastic attraction for families, but we didn’t end up having enough time to visit it. Instead, we stumbled upon what is the biggest and coolest toy store I have ever seen: FAO Schwarz NYC.

Entrance of New York's famous FAO Schwarz toy store at Rockefeller Center in NYC
New York’s famous FAO Schwarz toy store at Rockefeller Center

At FAO Schwartz, not only will you find toys of every kind and for every age – you’ll also find (and be able to walk on) the very same piano that Tom Hanks famously danced on in the 1980s classic film, “Big”.

If you loved this half of the itinerary, stay tuned for part 2 of my suggested New York City travel guide for young families! In the meantime, read my tips for how to travel with a toddler like a pro.

Happy family travels!



New York City Travel Guide for Young Families | Part 1

Jan 20 2020