Having grown up on the eastern part of Pennsylvania, I’ve been to New York City a countless number of times since I was a little girl. Although my trips have become less frequent since living in Pittsburgh, I still try to get there every chance I can. When my husband was invited to NYC on a work trip over Halloween, we jumped on the opportunity. New York City is beautiful in the fall, with the changing colors and emerging Christmas decorations. Plus, it was our first visit to New York City with a toddler, and we were excited to finally share the fun and fast paced city with our son.
Our son was just shy of 18 months old the first time we visited NYC. For that reason, we decided to primarily visit places that we could walk to from our East Midtown hotel versus tackling the whole city. Midtown is the central part of Manhattan with the biggest business district. It also has many of the iconic sights New York is known for. This includes Times Square, Rockefeller Center and Grand Central Terminal. We were only in New York City for 48 hours, but it was the perfect amount of time to explore the city in the unseasonably warm fall weather.
While this weekend was in NYC with a toddler, I’d recommend doing everything on our itinerary without kids as well.
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Where to Stay in NYC with Kids
During this particular trip, we stayed at the Intercontinental NY Barclay. I was super excited to stay at a new (for me) hotel in Manhattan. (Especially when it’s one that would typically be out of our price range!) While its elegance and sophistication may not scream family friendly, the Intercontinental NY totally surprised us in the best way. It’s in a central location for everything and the staff was super friendly and accommodating during our entire trip.
A few things to consider if you’re staying at the Intercontinental NY Barclay with kids.
- The hotel primarily has showers (i.e. no tub for bathing your kiddos.) We love this inflatable tub when we’re staying somewhere for multiple nights that doesn’t have a bathtub.
- The rooms are fairly small, which is common in New York. (I’ve definitely stayed in much smaller rooms in NYC!) We just made the best of it and created a little space for our son by putting his crib in the corner of the room.
- The hotel was more than willing to accommodate both our crib and mini fridge request. A fridge is always key for traveling with a baby or young toddler to store milk and snacks.
Other family-friendly hotels I’ve stayed at in Midtown in the past and would recommend include:
- New York Hilton Midtown
- DoubleTree Suites by Hilton Hotel New York City – Times Square
- Hilton Garden Inn Times Square
Things to Do Around Midtown NYC
I’m an over planner by heart, but since I committed up front to staying around Midtown it made this a much more relaxed trip. As part of that, we really enjoyed the slower paced way of traveling with a toddler. (Something I can’t usually say for a visit to NYC!)
We had an entire day to explore NYC without a planned agenda and lucked out with the weather. Since many stores and attractions in New York City don’t open until 10am, we spent much of the morning walking around aimlessly. Bryant Park is a great place to visit early in the morning, even before the shops open.
Bryant Park is one of my favorite places in NYC regardless of the time of year. I especially love it during the late fall and early winter, though. Winter Village in Bryant Park just opened the week we were there on November 1. As part of that, there was ice skating and several cute Christmas shops for us to browse.
If you’re in Bryant Park after 11am, you can also enjoy one of many activities offered all year round. That includes Le Carrousel, Art Carts with free crafts, ping pong and multiple board games and chess games. Bryant Park also has several kid-friendly events throughout the week, including magic shows, story time and juggling.
- Location: Between 40th and 42nd Streets & Fifth and Sixth Avenues
- Hours: Typically 7am-10pm (but its a park, so you can walk around whenever!)
New York Public Library
While you’re at Bryant Park, be sure to check out the Children’s Center in the Stephen A. Schwarzian Building of the New York Public Library, which is located next door. It houses the original Winnie the Pooh and it’s also known for one of the best story times in the city. Story time at the NY Public Library requires a ticket, so we recommend getting there early! The building is also beautiful to walk by even if you don’t have time to go inside.
- Location: 42nd St & 5th Ave
- Hours: Open Every day, hours vary (check the website)
Rockefeller Center is another great place to visit with kids and take in the sights. With many of the popular television stations located nearby, there’s never a shortage of events or promotions going on in the area. It’s a great place to walk around early before the crowds fill up. (Another benefit of traveling with littles who wake up before the sun rises!) With our visit to NYC occurring over Halloween, we were lucky enough to catch the fall decorations while city was also prepping for Christmas.
Visiting Rockefeller Center with Kids?
Some of our favorite things to do with kids at Rockefeller Center are included below.
- Stop at the Channel Gardens, which typically change with the seasons. This time they had a beautiful fall display, and we’re excited to see it for Christmas next time!
- Go shopping or just walk around to look at the window displays. Our favorite is the Lego store with the Rockefeller Center made of Legos displayed in the window. F.A.O. Swartz also reopened in Rockefeller Center and is the perfect spot to buy specialty toys and gifts.
- Visit the Top of the Rock Observation Deck with amazing views of the city and something I plan to do again in the future when our son is just a little older. You can find Top of the Rock tickets here and kids under 6 are FREE.
- Ice skating at Rockefeller is also something that should be done at least once in your lifetime. (Although personally I prefer Bryant Park or Central Park for ice skating since it tends to be less crowded and less expensive.)
- Location: Between 48th and 51st Streets & Fifth and Sixth Ave
- Hours: Vary by attraction but the plaza itself is open to walk through 24/7
Be sure to take a peek inside the beautiful St Patrick’s Cathedral on 5th Avenue before or after your stop at Rockefeller Center. St Patrick’s Cathedral is right across the street from Rockefeller Center. It’s open to the public and is worth at least a few minutes to look around inside.
We lucked out with the weather and spent a good amount of time exploring Central Park on this trip. The park itself is huge at a sprawling 843 acres. We stayed around the South End of Central Park on this trip since it was the easiest to access from our Midtown hotel. Our favorites things to with toddlers in Central Park are below.
- Walk up to the Cop Cot and take a snack break on the nearby bench with a beautiful view of the city.
- Explore Heckscher Playground and the multitude of swings, slides and play areas, including a sand pit and water channels. It’s the perfect oasis for little kids in the middle of the city. Pro Tip: There are fairly clean public restrooms here along with a changing table if you need it.
- Take a ride on the Carousel, which is one of the largest in the US. Be aware that the Central Park hours vary. You can call the Park at 212.439.6900 (ext. 4) if you want to confirm that it’s open.
- Stop by the Chess & Checkers House to play a game and pick up a Discovery Pack for the kids.
- Go ice skating if you’re there during the cooler months. Wollman Rink between 62nd and 63rd is my favorite at Central Park.
- Visit the Central Park Zoo along with the Tisch Children’s Zoo.
Central Park Zoo and Tisch Children’s Zoo
Although I’ve been to Central Park, this was my first time visiting both the Central Park Zoo and the Tisch Children’s Zoo. If you’re thinking about going, just keep in mind it’s right in the middle of the city. It was a little smaller than I expected, especially compared to our Pittsburgh Zoo. We still enjoyed it though, and anything the zoo lacks in space or animals is made up for with amazing views of the city throughout.
In the main part of the Central Park Zoo, you can see the sea lions swim and the snow monkeys climb between the rocks. The snow monkeys at Central Park Zoo are situated in the middle of the Zoo. I had a hard time bringing my son to the next exhibit after he created his own game of peek-a-boo with the monkeys.
Visiting the Central Park Zoo with a Baby or Toddler?
The Children’s Zoo at Central Park is super fun for littles to explore and can’t be missed. From the moment we entered, we were greeted by a multitude of birds and fun pathways to walk on. My son’s favorite part was the animal feeding, since he LOVES goats. Note: There’s a separate entrance to the Tisch Children’s Zoo, but it’s included with the price of admission to the main Central Park Zoo.
Below are some additional tips when visiting the Central Park Zoo with a baby or toddler.
- Many of the animals are in separate, enclosed indoor rooms. You’re often required to leave your stroller outside.
- The viewing areas can be difficult to see for little kids, and some of the rooms are darker inside.
- Some of the paths (particularly at the top of the hill by the bears) aren’t stroller-friendly and you’re required to take a different route.
- Location: Central Park, 64th St & 6th Ave
- Hours: Currently 10am-4:30pm daily until April. Check before visiting as hours vary by season.
FDNY Fire Zone
The FDNY Fire Zone store and free exhibit is small, so you can easily miss it when walking by the 51st street entrance. It’s definitely worth the stop though, especially if you have kids obsessed with firefighters/ trucks/ anything that moves like ours. At the FDNY Fire Zone Fire-Safety Center, you can:
- Climb onto a firetruck and push buttons, pretend to steer, call someone on the intercom and strap yourself to the back seat.
- Try on the jackets and hats that firemen wear
- View the many badges from hundred of different fire stations
- Meet real fire fighters
- Buy a souvenir from the extensive gift shop, which is great for all the little firefighter fans out there
- Watch the simulated fire safety presentation to learn what to do if you’re caught in a fire and how to prevent them
- Location: 51st St between 5th & 6th Ave
- Hours: Mon-Sat 9am-7pm and Sun 11am-5pm
If you’re in Midtown, you definitely need to walk through Time Square at least once. (Even if you don’t stay!) Times Square can be super crowded and a little overwhelming with toddlers. Our son loved the sights and sounds though, and it’s definitely worth the stop! If you’re visiting NYC with older toddlers or kids, there are also several Broadway shows for kids that are worth checking out.
There are several fun stores for kids in Times Square, including:
- Hershey’s Chocolate World NYC
- The M&M Experience
- The Disney Store
There are also several fun (albeit touristy) restaurants in Times Square. Some family favorites include Junior’s, Ellen’s Stardust Diner and Dave & Busters.
Halloween in East Midtown
We arrived on Halloween day during our trip to New York City in the fall. We were super excited to experience a different type of trick-or-treating than we were used to in the suburbs. After consulting family travel groups and friends in the NYC with toddlers, we ultimately decided to trick-or-treat in East Midtown.
The East Midtown Partnership does a great job with the trick-or-treating event. They provide a detailed map with each of the participating shops and what they were handing out. Our little shark loved it, and all of the shop owners and staff seemed to really enjoy participating in the event.
Planning to visit New York City for Halloween? There are several parades and neighborhood celebrations throughout the city. This is a great resource to find all the best kid-friendly Halloween celebrations in NYC.
Kid-Friendly Places to Eat in Midtown NYC
We avoided some of the super touristy spots on this trip and opted for quick and convenient. Several of the kid-friendly restaurants we ate at were grab-and-go versus full service, but we had a great sampling of several yummy foods in the city.
Bread + Butter NYC
This quick service, food hall type market is is great for any meal of the day. And it has pretty much every type of food you can imagine. Once you order from any of the endless options, you pay for everything in the middle of the store. I had an egg white, veggie and turkey bacon breakfast wrap. Note: The upstairs seating is a little difficult to get to with a stroller but there’s downstairs seating as well.
Milk + Honey
It’s not a trip to New York without freshly made, New York style bagels loaded with cream cheese. Milk + Honey is conveniently located in Midtown by many of the major sights. The service is quick, the bagels were fluffy and the lox was fresh. For not being a place I thoroughly researched in advance, I was pleasantly surprised. Note: Milk + Honey is also Kosher if that’s something you’re looking for!
After an early afternoon of trick or treating on our first day in NYC, we ended the night with dinner at Dos Caminos. There are a handful of locations throughout the city and we went to the one at 50th St & 3rd Ave. Dos Caminos has a great kids menu, which is always a plus for us.
If you read my post on kid-friendly restaurants in Pittsburgh, you know that our son LOVES mexican food. The kids meals also come with a drink and ice cream to end the meal. I had amazing grilled fish tacos and my husband had enchiladas made two ways. Tip: The bathroom I used didn’t didn’t have a changing table. So make sure you have a changing pad if it’s an emergency.
UrbanSpace Food Halls
We opted for the convenience of food halls for lunch both days. That allowed us to grab something and take it back to our hotel to take a break from the crowds. Urban Space has two food halls in East Midtown. We ended up going to both of them since they were located on our walks back to our hotel both days.
- At UrbanSpace Vanderbilt we had a sushi burrito and amazing tuna poke bowl at Hai Street Kitchen & Co. There are several kid-friendly offerings like tacos, pizza, fried chicken and grilled cheese available at various stands.
- At UrbanSpace @570 Lexington we shared the green falafel platter at Taim. It’s loaded with falafel, hummus and veggies, plus a yummy grilled pita.
Both spots were a little crowded to navigate with the stroller, which was another reason why we ate back in the hotel. It was totally doable though, and they do both have ample seating available.
Bareburger has several locations throughout NYC. We met a friend at the one in Midtown at 52nd & 2nd for dinner one night. It was my first time at a Bareburger, and it focuses on locally sourced food and sustainability. That and the unique menu make it pretty different from most burger chains. (The sweet potato and kale burger was amazing.) Plus, Bareburger has a “Cubby” kids menu with several options to choose from.
Places for Dessert in Midtown
We grabbed 2 scoops of Cookie Do in Urbanspace @570 Lexington, wanting to see what the hype was all about. (Especially after all those years of my mom telling me I would get sick from eating cookie dough!) We tried the birthday cake and the Halloween special and both were amazing. The cookie dough was so rich that it took the 3 of us pretty much a whole day to finish 2 scoops. I definitely recommend giving it a try, though!
Trick or Treating with East Midtown Partnership also allowed is to visit some of our old favorites for dessert. Participating stores at the Midtown East Trick-or-Treating included:
- Sprinkles Cupcakes
- Baked by Melissa for bite-sized cupcakes
- Insomnia Cookies
Additional Places to Eat in Midtown NYC with Kids
We still love some of the touristy places in NYC for the fun atmosphere and food. A few recommendations include:
- Frozen Hot Chocolate at Serendipity
- Crazy Milkshakes at Black Tap
- Cheesecake at Junior’s Restaurant & Bakery
- Brunch at Tavern on the Green
- Singing waitstaff at Ellen’s Stardust Diner
Be sure to check restaurant websites prior to opening, as some NYC restaurants have still not reopened.
Tips for Visiting New York City with a Baby or Toddler
Our biggest tip for visiting NYC with a baby or toddler is not to try to tackle everything at once. The sights and sounds of the city itself can be enough to keep them entertained! Below are a few additional tips to help you navigate NYC with a toddler or baby.
- Taxis in New York City are exempt from requiring car seats. (Use your judgment though from a safety perspective!)
- Ubers with a car seat are readily available in NYC. It’s a great option if you don’t have a car seat with you and need to quickly get somewhere.
- Subways in New York City aren’t always stroller friendly. There are elevators at some stops, but they can be tough to find.
- We love this travel stroller that folds up small so we can tuck it away as needed. It’s perfect for restaurants or subways that aren’t stroller friendly.
- New York City can be a little overwhelming for babies or toddlers at first. We definitely recommend taking breaks at one of several parks and green spaces throughout the day.
After our first trip to New York City with a toddler, I already can’t wait to go back and explore more of the city with him. What are some of your favorite things to do in NYC with kids?
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