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~Frogtastic~ Tips for Visiting NYC with Kids

by Leap on June 1, 2023 New York City

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NYC, 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.

Visiting NYC with Kids - Times Square

Kid-Friendly New York City Hotels

Let's start off with ... hotels! We recommend booking 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 Crowne Plaza HY36 Midtown Manhattan, which is especially good for babies and toddlers. Some hotels even have enough space for larger families such as the Candlewood Suites New York City – Times Square.

Check out our guide for choosing a New York City hotel with kids for more details!

Tackling Transportation While Visiting NYC with Kids

Visiting NYC with Kids - Street Signs

Getting around the city with kids may mean exploring new territory, especially if you are used to suburban or country living. Unlike most destinations, we do not recommend 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. Don't worry — there's plenty of NYC public transportation options. 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.

Visiting NYC with Kids - Subway

On buses and subways:

Children do not ride in car seats in buses or on the subway. Hold them tightly in your lap. 

Fun Activities for Visiting NYC with Kids

Here are some of our favorite activities when visiting NYC with kids (and be sure to check out our full guide on the top things to do in New York City 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. Plus, there are lots of museums to explore such as the Natural History Museum.

Research Broadway Shows

Find out which kid-friendly Broadway musicals or plays are available during your visit and plan to see a show. Disney on Broadway productions are often great options for a tadpole's first 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. (I don't know who gets more excited to see the Balto statue — Lily or Mommy Frog!) 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

Visiting NYC with Kids - 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.

Safety 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 New York City with tadpoles:

Visiting NYC with Kids - Times Square

  • 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 official 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.

Tips For Visiting NYC with Kids

Read Up Before Visiting

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!

Add to the pre-trip excitement with a NYC movie night with other films like "Annie" or "Night at the Museum".

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.

Take Time to See the Sights

Visiting NYC with Kids - Wobbly Chairs in Times Square

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 — popular locations include the American Girl Store, M&M Store and the iconic Disney 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.

With a little bit of planning and preparation, New York City makes a great family vacation with memories that will last a lifetime.

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!

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