I took my son on a mother-son trip to NYC over Memorial Day Weekend this year. I’d never been to New York before, which seems abit crazy considering how close it is. It’s only a 3 hour ride via Amtrak and cost around $200 for the two of us to travel there.
Planning the Trip
This was a very kid-centric adventure. Our entire goal for the 3-day adventure (two days of activities) was to see the Statue of Liberty, Central Park, Central Park Zoo, and as much of the city as possible.
Q really wanted to take a genuine yellow taxi to our hotel so that he could see the city on the way there. I splurged and booked us at the Park Lane Hotel on Central Park south, which was in a great location! Walking distance to multiple subway stations, Central Park, Central Park Zoo, Rockefeller Center, MoMA, Times Square, 5th Avenue (shopping), The Plaza (which has a food hall), multiple theaters, and much much more. We didn’t have time to do everything, so being located somewhere we could experience the most was awesome. We grabbed pizza at PazzaNotte, then some super delicious treats at Maison Kayser (both in Midtown West). The pistachio eclair was divine!
We started the morning grabbing coffee and croissants and walking across the street from our hotel (Park Lane Hotel) to Central Park. My son LOVE exploring every rock, bridge, and pond we could find. There are some great spots in the park where you can feel the city/park connection and other places where you could easily forget you are in a huge city. We went back when the zoo opened at 10 AM. The zoo was small, but still a lot of fun and just the right amount of walking on a hot and humid spring day. You can see the seals from the exterior of the zoo, so we got to see them when exploring the park too.
After taking a rest, we walked over to Rockefeller Center. They have a Top of the Rock exhibit where you can go to the top of the building and view Central Park, the Empire State Building, and the rest of the city. It’s about $40 for an adult ticket, but a great way to see it all. The Empire State Building also has a top of the city view, but it’s a longer line and about $55 for an adult ticket.
There are LOTS of shops at Rockefeller Center, but it is easy to get lost there too. I lost track of how many times I got turned around trying to find things. My son was mostly interested in the Nintendo NY store and the LEGO store. There was a cute store called PIQ there with really cute, unique gifts too I would recommend.
I correctly predicted that the hardest part of the trip would be finding restaurants with child-friendly options. I knew we could grab hot dogs and french fries at any Nathan’s hot dog stand, if nothing else. After scouring the web for places to eat, I found that the Rock Center Cafe at Rockefeller Center had a kid’s menu with chicken tenders on it and quickly made a reservation.
I didn’t know until we got there and my son said “let’s eat outside”, that it was located where the famous ice rink is in the winter, right in front of the iconic Prometheus statue/fountain and Rockefeller Center tour. I thought it would be packed on a holiday weekend, but it was barely busy when we ate around 6:30 PM. I highly recommend it for families.
It was a rainy morning, so we slept in and hung around the hotel room until it was time to go. We took the 5 Train Downtown to Battery Park to explore and then catch the ferry to Liberty Island & Ellis Island to see the Statue of Liberty. Battery Park is very large, and we were only able to see a small portion of it. There are some great gardens, walks, monuments, views, and activities there for visitors. I wish we had spent more time there.
We even encountered a VERY friendly squirrel there, which my son was fascinated by. He ate some food nearby us and spent some time on each of our laps. It was clear that he spends a lot of time interacting with humans getting snacks.
We took a short ferry ride from Battery Park to Liberty Island. FYI, you have to pass through lines and a security checkpoint to get to the ferry. We had tickets to go into the statue, up to the Pedestal. My son wanted to walk 196 stairs up instead of taking the elevator, so that’s what we did. It was a great experience and included a small museum (they’re building a new one on the island) also. We skipped Ellis Island because my son was a bit motion sick from the ferry and ready to quit. I’d love to go back sometime though.
The parks in New York were wonderful and the city has a lot to offer. I would love to go back to be able to see more of the city, such as museums, theater, the Bronx Zoo, and more of the parks too.
I personally think Washington DC is much nicer than NYC. It’s cleaner, quieter, and friendlier. Also, the museums in DC are mostly free. Somehow, my credit card information was stolen while I was in NYC and days later someone tried to withdraw money from my account at two different New Jersey ATMs, so be careful using your card.