Family getaway: Spend a long weekend in New York City

Chicago may be second to none, but a trip to New York City can be an amazing family getaway, especially when you take your kids for the first time. NYC is a unique destination that’s distinctly different from Chicago in a number of ways with a ton of fun options for families.

Days at the museums

Flytographer photo shoot


Credit: Johnny Wolf in New York City for Flytographer

CityPass New York offer passes for three or six popular attractions, including the following four museums. It can save money as well as time, with the ability to skip ticket lines.

Watch “Night at the Museum” before you go, and kids will be awed by the American Museum of Natural History where it takes place. Between the 94 foot long fiberglass replica of a blue whale and the skeleton of a stegosaurus to the Willamette Meteorite, there’s plenty here to blow kids’ minds. Don’t miss the Discovery Room, which lets kids 5-12 get an interactive, behind-the-scenes look at the science of the museum. The museum also has a great app–be sure to download it before you go. It will even alert you to items that were in the movies.

Ellis Island is a National Park site and at the National Museum of Immigration (the main building) be sure to check out the Junior Ranger Program. They’re unveiling a new Junior Ranger Booklet at the end of the month. The Park Rangers are great with little ones. If visiting with older kids, don’t miss the statue of Annie Moore, the first immigrant to arrive at Ellis Island. She came from Ireland at the age of 15 to meet her parents who were already in America. She and her two younger brothers made the trip without an adult.

At the Metropolitan Museum of Art, ask at the Information Desk for a Family Map and a free Family Guide that makes your kids’ visit an adventure. Kids who are fans of “Hamilton: An American Musical” may appreciate seeing the Gilbert Stuart painting of the founding father housed here, or the painting of Washington Crossing the Delaware.

Parents may want to visit the 9/11 Museum, which offers a guide for visitors with children that you can find here. When we visited, the Education Center at the museum was open and offering art projects and activity stations. Although they were aimed at children, all ages were welcome.

Park Place

The parks in New York City are amazing. Central Park is a highlight, featuring 21 playgrounds for kids. The 72nd Street Playground was recently renovated and is very large. The Sheep Meadow, where sheep actually used to graze, is an open space where kids can just run.

Bryant Park is much smaller but has its own magic. There’s a charming carousel and people playing petanque and ping pong. It’s right behind the New York Public Library where you can see the original Winnie the Pooh, Eeyore, Piglet, Kanga, and Tigger stuffed animals that were given to Christopher Robin Milne. They now live in the Children’s Center in the basement.

The High Line is a public park built on a historic freight rail line elevated above the streets on Manhattan’s West Side. It has stroller–and wheelchair–accessible ramps and elevators along the way, and offers programming for families and for teens. Check out the Pershing Square Beams, an area specially designed for children to climb and play within the original framework of the High Line’s original steel beams.

Reach new heights

Seeing the city from above is amazing, day or night. Do the Top of the Rock during the day and enjoy a great view of the Empire State Building on one side and Central Park on the other. Hint: This is a good attraction to do early in the day as lines can get long.

If it’s not too late, kids and parents alike will be mesmerized by the city at night viewed from the Empire State Building.

Say cheese

So long, selfies! Flytographer is a company that specializes in vacation photo shoots and they have several photographers who can meet up with your family around the city, be it Central Park, SoHo or DUMBO in Brooklyn. In a 30-minute photo session you can capture memories of your trip that are more than selfies. If you get that perfect shot for your holiday card, all the better!

Getting there

It’s about a two hour plane ride or a 12.5 hour car ride (with no stops) to New York City.

Where to stay

The DoubleTree Times Square West opened just a month ago and has a great location. It’s an easy walk to several attractions and close to a subway station. We saw a Broadway show the first night there and after an early morning wake up, we were especially grateful for the very short walk home.

The chocolate chip cookies at check-in are always a hit with little ones. (If one isn’t offered, don’t be afraid to ask. The staff will happily accommodate.) We had a small issue with the number of beds in our room and the front desk staff quickly corrected the problem and were very friendly. Even better, we were checking in early and a room was ready, which was a big help. The bellmen were also very helpful, and had great restaurant suggestions, too.

Where to eat

New York City is an amazing city for food. While there are many renowned restaurants, playing it casual doesn’t mean a letdown for your taste buds. Sticking with the classics like bagels and New York pizza is likely to please your whole family. Where to get the best of either, however, is a topic of much debate. Consider asking around before your trip or asking a local.

You may associate the Big Apple with Belgian waffles, but a visit to Wafels & Dinges will change that. In addition to the flagship café at 15 Avenue B, they have nine other locations (some in carts) around the city, including Central Park and Bryant Park.

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