New York City, Manhattan, the Big Apple, the city that never sleeps — whatever you want to call the “city of dreams” — taking a trip to New York City is super exciting. While you are bound to have a ton of fun, it’s best to consider some tips for visiting NYC with kids (that’s tadpoles for Mommy Frog and me) before jumping in so you know what to do, how to get around and how to keep your family safe — and super engaged.
Tackling Transportation While Visiting NYC with Kids
Getting around the city with kids may mean exploring new territory, especially if you are used to suburban or country living. We do not recommended renting a car in New York. Car rentals can be especially expensive, and costs can add up with parking and tolls. Plus, if you are not familiar with the city, it can be pretty intimidating to drive in and around Manhattan. If you're going to be visiting the city most exclusively, you're probably better off leaving the driving to someone else. You will have no trouble finding taxis, car services, buses or trains/subways for getting around, and that in itself can be an adventure for your little ones.
If you have tadpoles and froglets who use car seats, here’s what you need to know about riding in cars or using public transportation in NYC. There are different rules that apply to private cars vs. taxi cabs.
In private cars:
- Any child under four must ride in a safety seat that is properly secured with a safety belt or universal anchorage system.
- All children younger than 8 years old must be secured in a child safety seat restraint system, including safety seats, harness vests and booster seats attached via safety belts.
- Any child younger than 4, but weighing more than 40 pounds, may be secured in a booster seat with a lap and shoulder belt.
- If all safety seats are occupied, a child who would normally require a booster seat should instead be secured by a lap belt.
- Every rider younger than 16 must use a seat belt.
In taxi cabs:
- Drivers of yellow medallion taxi cabs and for-hire vehicles and passengers are exempt from car seat and seatbelt laws.
- A child under the age of 7 may sit on an adult’s lap in the rear seat of taxi.
- If you bring your own car seat, a taxi cab driver must allow you to install it.
- You can order an Uber with a car seat by pressing the car seat button in UBER X.
- There are set fares from JFK and Newark Airports to Manhattan, and a $4.50 rush hour surcharge may apply on weekdays between 4 p.m. and 8 p.m.
If you feel strongly about having your child in a car seat, it can be cumbersome to carry one about the city with you. Look into travel car seats that attach to or convert into strollers, and remember to retrieve any strollers or bags from the trunk of the cab or hired car.
*Please visit the official NYC DMV website for laws and rules.
On buses and subways:
Children do not ride in car seats in buses or on the subway. Hold them tightly in your lap.
Read Up Before Visiting NYC with Kids
Kids have a deeper appreciation and connection to the places they are visiting when they are able to read about them. If you plan to visit the Metropolitan Museum of Art, then reading From the Mixed-up Files of Mrs. Basil E Frankweiler by E.L. Konigsberg with school-age children is a great way to make the museum come alive for them. If you are visiting Ellis Island or the Statue of Liberty, then reading stories about families who have immigrated through Ellis Island can give them a better perspective and give the experiences a deeper meaning. Books for young children that take place in New York include Eloise by Kay Thompson, New York, New York! The Big Apple from A-Z by Laura Krauss, or even Lily’s favorite, Knuffle Bunny: A Cautionary Tale by Mo Willems. Reading is also a great way to build excitement for the trip!
Fun Activities for Visiting NYC with Kids
Know Your History
New York City is a modern city rich in history. If you have any young historians, do a quick search for historical sites in the city, and be ready to point them out if they are in your travels. Lovers of the musical Hamilton will enjoy seeing Alexander Hamilton’s grave at Trinity Church or the historical memorabilia of Revolutionary America at Fraunces Tavern, complete with a lock of George Washington’s hair and some of his teeth. Spoiler alert: They’re not wooden! A trip to the 9/11 Memorial offers reflection on a more recent American historical event.
Research Broadway Shows
Find out which kid-friendly Broadway musicals or plays are available during your visit and plan to see a show. Be aware that theaters do have a minimum age for attendance. For many shows that age is six, but be sure to check theatre and show specifics before buying tickets. Tickets often sell out far in advance, so buy early.
Reserve Ice Skating at Rockefeller Center
If you are visiting in cooler months from October through April, you can’t pass up a chance to ice skate at Rockefeller Center. Skating is first-come, first served, and lines can get really long, especially during the winter holidays. It’s best to arrive early in the day to avoid these. If you want to skip the lines, you can make a reservation through the VIP igloo for a premium. There are other reservations and dining packages you can book as well so you aren’t left out in the cold — literally.
Play in Central Park
Step out of the bustling City and into beautiful Central Park. The 843-acre green space has a lot to do. Young movie buffs may recognize parts from Stuart Little, Enchanted, The Avengers or Home Alone 2. You’ll find a zoo, gardens, conservatory water (check out the statue of Hans Christian Andersen), a carousel and a castle. Of course there are playgrounds for some unstructured playtime, too.
Take a Boat Tour
If you’d like to get a new view of the city’s skyline or want to visit Ellis Island or the Statue of Liberty, there are a number of boat tours or ferries you can book. Tours that include Statue of Liberty crown tours or a visit to the pedestal sell out weeks in advance, so if that is on your must-see list, be sure to book early.
Be Street Smart When Visiting NYC with Kids
You’ll need a bit of street smarts to stay safe visiting NYC with kids. Here are some tips for visiting NYC with kids:
- Hold hands.
- Look both ways when crossing the streets, as traffic may be coming from the left or right on a one-way street.
- Use a crosswalk — no jaywalking!
- Do not assume cars will stop for you, even if you have the Walk signal.
- Enter subway cars together.
- Discuss a plan in case you become separated or your entire family does not make it onto a subway car.
- Only use NY taxi cabs, airport shuttles or hired cars — do not accept other ride invitations from unmarked cars.
- Keep valuables in a safe. Do not carry money or ID in a backpack.
- Avoid dark alleyways.
- Ask for directions if you are not sure where to go. NYC is one of the most welcoming cities in the world!
For the most part, New Yorkers are friendlier and more outgoing than their reputation might make them out to be. Just use your street smarts, keep valuables safely stowed and keep the kids close to you.
Take Time to See the Sights When Visiting NYC with Kids
Expect to move at a slower pace with your froglets in tow. There is so much fun to be had when visiting NYC with kids! Take time to sit down and enjoy the sights. Stop in the candy shop or toy store. Play on the wobbly chairs in Times Square. People watch. Buy a hotdog or other treat on the street. Stop at a playground or park. Let them have a say in what you see and do. Chances are, there is something that appeals to each family member’s interests to be found in NYC. Be flexible and maybe even spontaneous! Perhaps you find something you want to do more than something you already had planned. Don’t be afraid to toadally wing it and go with your whims or the whims of your family members. You never know what might interest you once you get there.
When Visiting NYC with Kids, Wear Comfortable Shoes
Plan to do a lot of walking in New York City. One of most important tips for visiting NYC with kids is to make sure that all of you are wearing comfortable shoes. Nobody wants blisters, sore feet or to deal with unhappy tadpoles. Keep everyone comfortable to get a lot more fun and mileage out of your day.
Kid-Friendly New York City Hotels
Book a kid-friendly hotel that is near the destinations that are most important to you. Doing so can save on time and transportation costs. In case you missed it, Undercover Tourist is now booking discount hotel rooms in NYC. Some hotels that work well for visiting NYC with kids include the Crowne Plaza Times Square, which has a splashin’ pool, or the Four Seasons Midtown East, which is especially good for babies and toddlers. Some hotels even have enough space for larger families such as the Doubletree Suites and TRYP by Wyndham in Times Square or the Residence Inn New York Manhattan.
New York City makes a great family vacation. As long as you research tips for visiting NYC with kids and prepare your children by reading books and talking about your journey to the “Capitol of the World,” you will be off to a great start.
Have tips for visiting NYC with kids? Please share them in the comments sections below. Did you know, Undercover Tourist is now hopping into top family-friendly cities, including New York City? Check out our discount New York City tickets and hotels — and check back soon, because we're adding more products weekly!