If you enjoy big cities, it doesn’t get much better than NYC! It’s multicultural, vibrant, buzzing with activity, and a total vibe. We were so excited to take our kids for their first visit last summer. They didn’t love it as much as I do (because the rats… the smells…), but thankfully there is so much going on that everyone can find something that interests them!
We were in the city for 4 days and 5 nights. While we’ve stayed in Times Square before, this time we stayed south of there in Chelsea on the west side of Manhattan. I prefer this location hands-down. Our room at the Marriott was tiny for 4 people but the view was incredible!!
We got into New York City at lunchtime. We caught an Uber to our hotel and they stored our luggage so we could venture out immediately for pizza. We walked the area around Times Square and visited the Museum of Modern Art (MoMA). I crossed seeing Van Gogh’s Starry Night off my list! We had a peek inside St. Patrick’s Cathedral and met up with family that flew in before walking inside the Changing Spaces fountain at Rockefeller Center. The night ended with a special dinner to celebrate our 16th anniversary at The Elgin, before walking through Times Square on our way back to the hotel.
Saturday was our first full day of plans and we were up early and out the door to take the subway to the 9/11 Memorial & Museum. Tickets are required to be purchased in advance. It was incredibly surreal and moving to be there. Josh and I had last been at the site 11 years prior and it was still a giant a construction zone. We’ve talked about September 11th numerous times as a family, but I think making our way through the Museum and watching and listening to raw footage and audio of the events unfolding really impacted my kids in a different way. It was a great example of why travel is often the BEST education. Reading about September 11th in a book or watching an educational movie just can’t compare to standing at the site and seeing the recovered debris as you hear the stories of the heroes and survivors. Both kids went on to discuss visiting the memorial with their high school and middle school classes. I love that they were able to add their experiences to the conversations their teachers led.
Outside, the two waterfall pools are located where the North and South towers once stood and are the focal point of the Memorial. They were much larger in person than I’d expected (almost an acre each). The names of the 2,983 people who were killed in both the 2001 and 1993 terrorist attacks are inscribed around the edge of the pools.
After leaving the Memorial and Museum, we took a quick walk through Trinity Church cemetery because we had some major Hamilton fans with us! Both Alexander Hamilton and his wife Eliza are buried there.
The New York Stock Exchange and Wall Street were on our way to the Brooklyn Bridge (otherwise, they aren’t anything I’d go out of your way to see). We ended up walking halfway across the bridge, taking pictures and checking out the view, then turning back. There are lots of people selling things where the bridge begins. We passed on everything except the bottles of water as we exited the bridge. We were so grateful for them because it was HOT!
We stopped for ice cream to cool down, but decided it was time to make our way through Chinatown to Little Italy because we were ready for something a little more filling. After lunch, we made our way through SOHO to Washington Square Park. It’s the heart of Greenwich Village and was filled with locals and tourists. Everywhere you looked, people were lying on the lawn, walking dogs, and sitting around the fountain. It’s right down the street from NYU so it was also filled with students. We noticed a strong smell that the kids also pointed out in Times Square: weed. Like I said, travel is an education! Ha! We left the park through the iconic arch and followed 5th avenue about twenty blocks north through Greenwich Village and past the Flatiron Building.
We had no dinner plans, but we found a place near our hotel with a unique menu and great reviews so we called to see if we could get in. We relaxed at the hotel until our reservation that night at Nangman BBQ. Thankfully, they were open late on weekends. They serve Korean BBQ in a “glamping” style environment. The place was packed and I’m so glad they were able to squeeze us in because it was such a fun meal! Inside was filled with plants and live cooking stations. We didn’t get to take part in that, but the people watching outside was ALMOST as good! The award for the most unique dish of the night went to Rowan for his stir fry glass noodles. They looked like jellyfish tentacles and were similar to the consistency of fruit snacks. He LOVED them and has been searching for them locally ever since! And the sequence of pics taken below are favorites for sure. He was giving his Aunt Kelly a hard time about her BIG upcoming birthday the next day!
Sunday started with mimosas to celebrate the birthday girl: my sister-in-law Kelly! She is one of my favorite people in the whole world so I knew I wanted to plan a few special things for the day. I packed the champagne and bought orange juice at a convenience store near our hotel. We drank out of our paper coffee cups until everyone else got ready!
The giggly walk to The Empire State Building was only about 10 minutes long. This was another ticket we bought in advance. It was a clear day and the views were beautiful. Afterwards, we walked to The High Line. It’s a public park built on an old freight line that runs above the streets of the West Side of Manhattan. Once we got there we decided everyone would be much more pleasant while exploring if we ate first. We had yummy gourmet burgers and beers at Whitmans in Hudson Yards. Then we climbed the steps back up to The High Line. The freight line was supposed to be demolished, but people who lived in the area stepped in to save it almost 15 years ago and The High Line was born. It was such a cool area to explore. I loved the unique buildings, gardens, and contemporary art. The message on the mural below will forever be a favorite.
The High Line ended at Chelsea Market, so the girls walked through to check it out while the guys went down the road to explore Little Island. It’s an artificial island park on a pier in the Hudson River. When we finished, we went over and met them. I have to say, New York doesn’t just win for most beautiful public parks. They have also figured out a way to use what they have to create the most innovative and unique public parks for people in all different areas of the city to enjoy.
We left Little Island and headed south through the Meatpacking District. I was determined to treat Kelly to birthday cupcakes from the original Magnolia Bakery on Bleecker Street. Thankfully, there were only a couple of people in line ahead of us. The cupcakes did not disappoint! We continued on through the West Village so that we could see the exterior of the apartment building used in the opening credits of Friends. It wasn’t anything super exciting, but was interesting to see since we were nearby. My favorite part of being in the West Village though was seeing the quiet, picturesque streets filled with gorgeous, chic homes. It was easy to see why so many shows and movies are filmed in this part of the city!
Our day ended back in Little Italy. My brother-in-law’s ex-boss (are you following me) lives in New York and was anxious to take us out for an authentic Italian dinner. He made reservations for us on the patio at Da Nico Ristorante and the food and wine were fantastic! This was easily Reese’s favorite meal of the trip. She ordered a lobster pasta that she absolutely loved – the waiter failed to mention that it could’ve easily fed 3 so we all tried it! And look at that incredible birthday cake. It was the perfect ending to such a special day!
After dinner, we explored the shops and stands selling all the cheesy souvenirs before hopping in Ubers to head back to the hotel. We were all full and exhausted after making our way all over the city!
Monday was park day, which meant sleeping in! On our way to Bryant Park, I grabbed brunch at the French bakery Maman (a latte and hazelnut croissant) while people with terrible taste had fried chicken. From there, we popped into Grand Central Station and FAO Schwarz on our way to Central Park. The park was gorgeous but it was incredibly hot & humid. We started at the southern end and made our way about a third of the way through before a thunderstorm rolled in. We hit the nearest exit and had Ubers waiting for us. Of all the days for rain, it just had to be park day! Dinner that night was at one of my favorite restaurants of the trip, BXL Zoute. It was a super cute Belgian pub that not only had great service and delicious food, but also incredible Belgian beers. I’ll forever be searching for Karmeliet Tripel in Kansas. Sigh.
Today was our last day in the city! We took the subway down to the Statue of Liberty ferry. Our tickets had a designated time, so we needed to make sure we had time to get through the long security line before boarding. We got off at Liberty Island and went to the museum to learn about the history and creation of the statue. We didn’t go up in the statue (part of it was closed) and ended up not taking the ferry to Ellis Island. Instead, we headed back to the city. After ice cream for lunch at Anita Gelato, we went back to our hotel to relax and change before Mexican for dinner and taking in a show on Broadway.
Four and a half days in New York will never be enough for someone who loves this city, but I think it was the perfect amount of time to introduce the kids to a place with a vibe that just can’t compare to anywhere else. I’m thankful for the memories and hopeful that the next time we visit it will be during Christmas because everything looks even more magical.
- The Elgin – Don’t Miss the Aaron Burr!
- BXL Zoute – Delicious Belgian food & beer in a cute atmosphere!
- Grab a slice of NY Pizza – We enjoyed Joe’s just off of Times Square!
- Da Nico Ristorante in Little Italy
- Nangman BBQ
- The s’mores cupcake at Magnolia Bakery. Buy more than one.
- Museum of Modern Art (MoMA)
- Ride the subway
- 9/11 Memorial & Museum
- Walk the Brooklyn Bridge
- Catch a Broadway play
- Explore Central Park
- Walk The High Line & stop for lunch!
- Empire State Building
- Walk inside the Changing Spaces fountain at Rockefeller Center
Things we’ve done & loved in the past:
- Top of the Rock for views WITH The Empire State Building in them
- Metropolitan Museum of Art (The Met) Check out the Exhibitions – I’ll never forget the Alexander McQueen Savage Beauty one the year after his death!
- A live show-taping (we saw Letterman)
- Double Decker Bus Tours are a fun way to get your bearings and give your feet a break.