After much debate, my family settled on New York City for our annual family trip. I didn’t want to be on a plane for more than three hours with Nora, which narrowed down our options. We’ve been to New York several times, but never near Christmastime. I didn’t know what to do with a toddler in NYC, but I figured I’d quickly figure it out. We had so much fun on this trip — mainly because of recommendations that people kindly gave in response to my Instagram stories.
What To Do With A Toddler In NYC
Before we left for our trip, I asked my Instagram followers for the best kid-friendly things to do in NYC, and everyone delivered. I sorted through the recommendations and used them to plan our trip. In the next section, I’ll share the suggestions I didn’t get to try but want to pass along.
We only had a few days in New York, so we couldn’t do everything we wanted. These are the things we did get to, and my honest thoughts on whether I’d recommend them to fellow toddler parents.
American Museum of Natural History
This was probably Nora’s favorite part of the trip. We were at the museum for two hours and could’ve probably spent an entire day there. There were plenty of areas for Nora to run around, and all of the adults on our trip also enjoyed it. Our favorite exhibit was the Hall of Ocean Life.
Becco was a top kid-friendly recommendation, and I loved the Italian food — but I don’t know that I’d call it kid-friendly. Our table was so close to the next that there wasn’t any room for a high chair, so we took turns holding Nora at dinner. It was also pretty loud (although that worked in my favor when Nora got fussy). If I went back, I’d wait until she was older or make it a date night.
Tavern On The Green
This was our first meal of the trip and one of my favorites. It was absolutely magical at Christmastime, but I imagine it’d be beautiful no matter what time of year. It’s located in Central Park and was an easy walk from our hotel. The jumbo crab cake and braised short ribs were to die for, and we ended with the birthday cake. They had dairy-free sorbet that I ordered for Nora as well, which was a nice touch.
Pies ‘n Thighs
This restaurant served some of the best biscuits and gravy I’ve ever had, which I didn’t expect to find in Brooklyn. We loved eating at Pies n’ Thighs, and the walk from the subway allowed us to explore a part of Brooklyn we hadn’t visited before. My dad said it was the best Southern food he’s ever had. I wouldn’t go that far, but it was pretty darn good.
SUMMIT One Vanderbilt
I have mixed feelings about SUMMIT One Vanderbilt. I think Nora was slightly too young to enjoy it fully, and it’s the definition of a tourist trap with the pricing and the wait to get inside. However, the view of the city was incredible, and we got some neat pictures. I wouldn’t pay for it again, but I don’t regret it.
Transportation & Lodging
We stayed at the Sheraton Times Square, which wasn’t my first choice — but my dad booked it with points, so I couldn’t say no. I was surprisingly happy with the hotel’s location. It isn’t in the middle of Times Square, which was my fear, but it is still centrally located. We were able to walk or take the subway everywhere we went. Central Park was only a 10-minute walk away, and the subway station was next to the hotel. Is staying in Midtown the most authentic experience? Probably not. But when planning what to do with a toddler in NYC, convenience is key.
We brought Nora’s car seat with us on the plane and planned to use it in taxis and Ubers. It was easy to get into the cab from the airport, but once we were out and about, Ubers didn’t make sense. If we brought her car seat in an Uber, we’d have to walk around with it while eating and exploring. We tried requesting Ubers and Lyfts with car seats multiple times and never had luck. For this reason, we exclusively took the subway. I was disappointed with the lack of accessibility at stations — some made it easy. But at others, we had to take her out of her stroller and hold her to walk through. There was no way to get her through otherwise. If she were a bit smaller, I would’ve opted to baby wear because the stroller was a pain.
Below are the recommendations I got on Instagram! I haven’t visited any of these places with a toddler, so I can’t speak to how they are, but I’ve included links and brief descriptors to help you plan your trip.
The Smith, New American/Breakfast & Brunch, $$, locations in Flatiron District, East Village, UWS & Midtown
Junior’s, Bakeries/Breakfast & Brunch, $$, locations in Theater District & Brooklyn
Mighty Quinn’s Barbecue, Barbecue, $$, locations all over Manhattan and Brooklyn
La Pecora Bianca, Italian, $$, locations in Flatiron, Nolita, Midtown, Meatpacking District, UES & UWS
Cafe Fiorello, Italian, $$$, UWS
Sarabeth’s, Breakfast & Brunch, $$, locations all over Manhattan
Meatball Shop, Italian, $$, locations in Theater District, Williamsburg & UES
Alice’s Teacup, Breakfast & Brunch, $$, locations in UES & UWS
David Burke Tavern, Steakhouse, $$$, UES
Westville, New American, $$, locations all over Manhattan
Crave Fish Bar, Seafood, $$, locations in Midtown & UWS
Jane’s Carousel, $, Brooklyn
Little Island, free, Hudson River Park
Museum of Ice Cream, $$, SoHo
Candytopia, $$, Koreatown
Central Park Zoo, $$, Central Park
Wonderland Dreams, $$$, Midtown
New York Transit Museum, $, Brooklyn
The High Line, free, Meatpacking District
The Color Factory, $$$, South Village
This is all I’ve got, and I hope it’s been helpful — do you have any advice to share for what to do with a toddler in NYC? Let me know in the comments!