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72 Hours In New York City With Kids

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new york city with kids

There is so much to do in New York City with kids… and we are sharing the highlights of our 72 hours in New York City!

This was an awesome visit for us… short, but still awesome.

I still can’t believe how much we packed into those few days. Two days after we flew back to San Diego from Florida we were back on a plane heading to New York City! We chose an early morning, non-stop flight so that we would have as much time in NYC as possible. We flew into JFK, landing at 3pm and met our driver moments later… since we were traveling with carry-ons only. I think that’s one of my number one travel tips if you are traveling with kids or adults only. You don’t have to worry about lost bags or waiting for them to arrive on the conveyor belt. It’s the best way to travel for shorter trips. For longer ones we bring 1 or 2 checked bags for our overflow clothes and liquids. That way if one does get lost we still have enough clothes to wait it out or buy more. 

Back to NYC…

emmy in nyc

Emmy was very excited to be in New York… and dressed for the occasion!

new york city family travel

The drive from JFK to midtown NYC, (where we were staying) took about an hour. We checked in and started to explore! We walked up and down Lexington and some of the side streets, and then we stopped for dinner at Beyond Sushi on 14th St. It’s completely vegan and it filled us up for more exploring.
vegan food new york city nyc

The girls all wanted to go to Times Square so we went multiple times while we were there.

Pete and I had both been there before. Pete said it was the same as all the other times he was there… but for me it was completely different. I was there on New Year’s Eve, 1995 and there was freezing (literally)… so this was totally a new experience for me.

It’s much better when you aren’t freezing!
time square with kids

We walked up and down the and in and out of stores…
times square disney store

We even went to the most awesome Disney store ever…

toys r us times square

We stopped in Toys R Us… (which has since closed), and just had a good time being tourists.  I mean, we really acted like tourists and it was awesome. We try to go off the beaten path on our travels, but this day we wanted to have the total visitors experience and I’m so glad we did.

street pretzels nyc

Emmy, Ash and I had one thing on our minds .

Street food. We don’t have anything like this is San Diego. We had ice cream, pretzels, potato knish, cookies and more throughout our visit. The one thing we didn’t have that I’m kinda sad about was a NYC bagel. But that just means we will have to go back!

new york city street food

We also took a picture outside Radio City Music Hall.

radio city music hall

Explored Rockefeller Center…

nyc flags

Bought ice cream at a drug store and enjoyed it at a corner park with the local kids! It was right by Washington Square Park in Greenwich Village. We stayed awhile and let Emmy run around, until the police and FBI came and shut down the street next to us for a double homicide. It happened while we were sitting there and we had no idea. Big cities I tell you.  

nyc corner parks

For transportation we used Uber. It was much more reliable, cost effective and had quicker service than trying to hail a taxi (which we tried a couple times). The only time we had to wait was when we, and multiple other people were trying to relocate after the whole murder thing. 100% of the Ubers that picked us up were private drivers that work in between booked clients with Uber. So we were driven around in Suburbans. 

where to eat in nyc with kids

Maddie did some research for us, and found Ellen’s Stardust Diner!

We were worried that there would be a long wait for dinner… but we were able to walk right in and be seated in seconds. It was so fun. The food was good (with huge portions) and they even had vegan and vegetarian options. The waiters and waitresses sing throughout your meal and they all had amazing voices. It was the perfect family dinner choice!


One of the days Emmy and I spent working.

We were here on a secret mission with Motrin to film a commercial with Kelly Ripa! We had a blast and while we were working, Pete and the older two were off having fun of their own. They even had lunch at Chef Chloe’s restaurant, which was one of Maddie’s NYC goals. 

motrin commercialmommy and emmy in nyc

Back to seeing the sights… We boarded the boat to Ellis Island with a stop to see the Statue Of Liberty. This is a paid tour, but there is a ferry from the New Jersey side that is free. It doesn’t have stops like this one does, but if you just want to get close to The Statue Of Liberty, and enjoy a ride consider that one.
boat ride in new york

The skyline view from Liberty Island is the best around. It’s hard not to feel sad even with all the beauty because the Twin Towers are missing, but seeing One World Trade Center from this spot was breathtakingly beautiful. Liberty Island features the Statue Of Liberty, benches to relax on and a little food stand with snacks and coffee.
new your viewfun for kids in nyc

Pete and the girls went on the Statue Of Liberty tour. There are different ones available and the one all the way to the crown sells out months in advance… so they took the one to the pedestal. 

empire jump em

This picture sums up how we felt about our entire visit!

ellis island with kids

My favorite part was stepping foot on Ellis Island just like my Great Grandma Did many years ago.

We took a self guided tour throughout the building and saw the many steps it took for each person that arrived to finally be able to step foot into New York City. We did a search in the official records for both my great-grandma and Pete’s Great-Grandfather and we found Pete’s Great-Grandfather! 

family search ellis island

The next day was “go home day” and we couldn’t believe how fast the days went.

New York City is so alive… at all times of the day. We loved the energy of the city and the people and we decided to see it from a different view before we headed to the airport, with a tour of the Empire State Building.

empire state building
kids vacation to nyc

We got there early in the morning and there wasn’t a wait at all. Don’t buy your tickets from the people on the street. It’s just as easy, (and safer) to buy them inside the building. We ended up spending about 2 hours from entering the building to leaving so plan a bit of time.

nyc buildings

nyc skyline buildings
This view of the city is something we will always remember.

macys new york city

As you exit the Empire State Building be sure to head left and then turn left on the next street… that’s where the world famous Macy’s store is!

We loved New York City and we can’t wait to go back!

What is your favorite thing to do in NYC?

Heather Reese
the authorHeather Reese
Heather Delaney Reese is the storyteller and photographer behind the lifestyle and family travel blog, It's a Lovely Life®! For the past decade, she has vacationed over 150 days a year with her family. She is a vegan, and loves being by the water, spending time with her children, husband, 2 Shih Tzus and Cat.


  • Your kids are so much fun. Mine always complain when I bring them there LOL. They always say they’re bored – crazy, right?

  • I have been to NYC a lot (even as a kid) that place is amazing! There is so much to do I think I could go back a million times and find something new each time.

  • Lovely post! So glad you enjoyed the first trip to Manhattan and Staten Island. We have been traveling there with our daughter since she was six (she is now 13). Every trip is different because she is a different age and because there is so much to do there. We have written about things to do with kids in other parts of the city that you did not have time for on the first visit: Greenwich Village, Wall Street treasuring hunting, the Midtown Art Deco district, Central Park, Madeleine and American Girl, and of course the museums.

    We look forward to reading about your discoveries in NYC when you return. In the meantime, we will follow your blog since we love comparing notes with other people who love family travel. Cheers!

    • Hi Kate and Mike! It’s nice to meet you! I’ll be sure to check out your blog too… I agree there are so many things to do in NYC. We can’t wait to see more during our next visit!

  • There are a lot of great places to stop at! Hubby and I were there for about 72 hours and didn’t even touch half of what we wanted to do lol! Time to plan another trip!

  • You guys crammed so much into such a short amount of time – nice! I love mini vacations like this, long enough for a break but not so long that you start to miss home :-).

  • I love NYC so much and grew up traveling back and forth since my mom was born and raised in Brooklyn. I think my kids are finally old enough to make the trip and have a blast!

  • My kids have never been to NYC. I see a family trip in our future to check out some of these things. Looks like your trip was lots of fun!

  • I went to New York before I had kids, it would be a fun place to go again, especially because there is so much to see and do! Stardust cafe, looked really fun and I like places that give you a lot of food options and portions for your buck.

  • I’ve never been to NYC so I think it would be a great place to go. I’ve never really thought about it with the kiddos before, so that is one we’d have to see but looks like it would be fun!

  • This looks like an amazing vacation! It is definitely at the top of my family bucket list!

  • I haven’t been to NYC in several years but I think it’s about time to head back. There is so much today and it’s all so exciting and fun!

  • I have never been to New York. I bet it can be crazy yet exciting with kids. There is so much to see and for them to learn.

  • I love NYC and almost lived there many moons ago. My husband and gone and my daughter too with her grandparents…but never the 3 of us together. I hope to plan a family vacation there soon. Thanks for sharing your adventure!

  • I grew up in NY and Jersey, I would love to take my daughter there to see everything I remember from when I was a kid. I know she really wants to see the city and of course eat the best pizza in the country!

  • It’s such a minor detail in such a clearly awesome trip but I can’t believe your first stop was for vegan food! Are your kids awesome and versatile eaters? Lol – seriously I’d love to hear more about this.

  • I love love love NYC! I think it is such a wonderful thing for EVERYONE to experience. I am super excited that you got to visit Ellis Island. I went there for the first time when I was 12 and it was such a great learning experience.

  • Oh that pretzel! NOM NOM I have always wanted to visit New York City. I often wonder how people can live there, it so packed and seems like everyone is on top of each other. But, I still want to see things. It’s not super far for me to drive if I go through Canada. I should put that on my travel list before I move down south!

  • Touring New York City has always been a dream to me! The idea of all the sites, food, and people is so interesting and I would love to make a trip one day!

  • It looks like you all had a wonderful time in New York. I have always wanted to visit New York City and so has my sons. They are men now but we still can go on a vacation there some day. Thanks for sharing your experiences and ideas.

  • NYC is such a great place for kids & families! We love living so close by! Looks like you had an amazing visit!

  • You all always seem to have so much fun! =) I have never been to New York myself but maybe this summer my family can go there.

  • Man, I loved this post as it brought back so many amazing memories of our trip last October. My husband and I went for my birthday and had a blast. Neither of us had been there, so it was very exciting. I am hooked, and can’t wait to go back again one day. Thanks for the pictures and wonderful memories.

    • NYC will do that to you, won’t it! We are already booking a trip back too! So happy to hear that you had such a great birthday visit!

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