Traveling with kids can be as stressful as it is delightful. You want to bring your kids with you on vacation and create formative memories they’ll remember fondly for the rest of their lives, but you also want them to stay safe and keep your travel as stress-free as possible.
If you’re heading into New York and bringing your kids along, some neighborhoods will likely be easier for you to navigate than others. Here are the places you should look to book when you bring kids into the Big Apple.
Midtown is a neighborhood in Manhattan south of Central Park. The area is expensive, but it is typically where first-time visitors stay and is home to most of the major NYC tourist attractions.
If you’re staying in Manhattan, you will likely want to avoid driving if possible. If you prefer to stay away from public transit, Midtown is a great option. Many attractions are located in Midtown, and if your kids are old enough to walk well on their own, you can easily get to most destinations.
Kid-Friendly Attractions in Midtown
Midtown is the heart of tourism in New York City, so there are plenty of things to do for adults and children alike. Here are some of the best activities for families staying in Midtown:
- The Empire State Building: There’s no view of New York City like the one from the Empire State Building. This iconic tourist attraction is kid-friendly and located on the south end of Midtown.
- Times Square: There are tons of things to do in Times Square with children, from visiting Hershey’s Chocolate World to seeing a matinee Broadway show. You will find the majority of Times Square Activities are child-friendly, though the crowds may be intense for some children.
- Rockefeller Center: Rockefeller Center can be a magical experience for slightly older kids. Right in the heart of Midtown, Rockefeller Center is home to the iconic New York City Christmas tree from late November to mid-January.
- Spyscape: Spyscape is an all-ages, interactive museum perfect for families in the Northwest region of Midtown.
Pros and Cons of Staying in Midtown
- Midtown is close to most of the major tourist attractions in New York City, such as Times Square and the Empire State Building.
- There are budget and luxury hotel options available in this neighborhood.
- There are many public transit and subway options because it’s in the heart of the city.
- Midtown can be loud and crowded at night, which is less than ideal for kids that need their sleep.
- Dining and activities in Midtown can be very expensive compared to other areas in the city.
Hotel Costs in Midtown
Hotel rooms are available to suit most price ranges in Midtown, from luxurious stays to budget options. Budget options tend to fill up fast, so if you plan to stay in one, book as early as possible.
Most of Midtown’s popular tourist attractions are on the neighborhood’s south end, where hotels are slightly more expensive. On the other hand, if you stick to the area, you’ll save on travel costs by being within walking distance of most activities.
Upper West Side
Aside from Midtown, the Upper West Side is one of the most popular tourist spots. Located on the West side of Central Park, the Upper West Side is full of hotels and activities for families with kids of all ages.
The Upper West Side also has plenty of transportation options, which makes it easy to navigate to the more popular tourist options in Midtown.
Kid-Friendly Attractions on the Upper West Side
The Upper West Side is a family-friendly haven in New York City. If you’re staying on the Upper West Side, here are some nearby, child-friendly activities:
- American Museum of Natural History: The American Museum of Natural History is a popular attraction for locals and visitors alike. There are tons of exhibits perfect for kids of all ages, including an iconic planetarium for science-minded little ones.
- Alice’s Tea Cup: Alice’s Tea Cup is a whimsical experience for families that offers a full ‘tea party experience.’
- Riverside Park: While the Upper West Side is close to the far-more-popular Central Park, it also grants you access to Riverside Park, a park along the Hudson River. This massive park has tons of activities for kids and adults of all ages.
Pros and Cons of Staying on the Upper West Side
- The Upper West Side is a relaxed, quiet neighborhood that’s perfect for those that want to relax.
- There are plenty of walkable areas and activities for little ones.
- There is great access to transportation.
- The Upper West Side is more expensive than some other areas, especially when it comes to dining.
- There isn’t much of a nightlife scene, so if you want to go out after the kids are in bed, you won’t have many options.
Hotel Costs on the Upper West Side
Hotels on the Upper West Side tend to be more expensive than in other areas, but they also tend to be quieter.
Upper East Side
The Upper East Side is another popular stay for first-time visitors to New York City. There are many hotels in the area to suit a variety of budgets. Most of New York City’s most popular museums are located in this area, including The Metropolitan Museum of Art, The Guggenheim, and The Cooper Hewitt Smithsonian Design Museum.
Aside from museums and other historical activities, the Upper East Side has excellent access to Central Park and decent access to Midtown. The area, which runs along the East side of Central Park, is known for being an upper-class, luxury area of the city.
Kid-Friendly Attractions on the Upper East Side
The Upper East Side has been home to the wealthier families of New York City for decades. Because of this, there are some excellent institutional activities that children of all ages will enjoy.
- The Ancient Playground in Central Park: This playground is located on the eastern edge of Central Park, near the museum mile. The park is great for kids to get some energy out before heading into museums or restaurants.
- Candytopia: Many children aren’t big into museums- especially art museums like The Met or The Guggenheim- but this candy museum is the perfect fit for kids of all ages.
- The Central Park Zoo: The Central Park Zoo is an iconic, unmissable activity for all families visiting New York City for the first time.
Pros and Cons of Staying on the Upper East Side
- The Upper East Side has most of the significant museums in New York City, so if these are an essential part of your trip, you’ll have easy access.
- There are tons of dining options (though many are slightly expensive).
- The whole area is very family-friendly and is much quieter than other areas in the city.
- The Upper East Side is a pretty expensive area, so you can expect to pay more for hotels and dining.
- It’s a little bit farther to major tourist attractions than being further south.
Hotel Costs on the Upper East Side
Hotels on the Upper East Side are expensive. If you decide to stay in this area, you will likely only find luxury options available, which may be outside your budget.
Harlem is a large neighborhood in Manhattan north of Central Park. It’s a historically diverse neighborhood that is rich with history and full of fun for families with kids of all ages.
Harlem is a little quieter than other regions of the city, but it still contains the hustle and bustle that makes New York the iconic city, so many love to see.
As it’s still situated on Manhattan island, getting around Harlem is easy if you use the subway system. If you plan to hit the major tourist attractions in Midtown and you’re staying in Harlem, you’ll have to account for a little extra travel time.
Kid-Friendly Attractions in Harlem
Harlem is a historic neighborhood with tons of families living nearby. Because of this, it’s full of family-focused activities, including:
- Sugar Hill Children’s Museum of Art and Storytelling: This kid-focused museum about storytelling and art is a great way for kids to explore their creative side.
- Explore the north side of Central Park: Central Park is a large park with plenty for families to do. Even if you just walk around, your kids will likely love exploring the jungle in the heart of the city.
- The Martin Luther King Junior Playground: This playground just north of Central park is perfect for kids that need to work off some energy through play.
Pros and Cons of Staying in Harlem
- Harlem is a quieter neighborhood, which may be less overwhelming for some children.
- Hotels in Harlem are less expensive than in other areas.
- There is less to do in general in neighborhoods north of Central Park.
- There are less trendy, upscale restaurants in the Harlem area.
Hotel Costs in Harlem
Hotels in Harlem are less expensive than in other areas, but there is a tighter range than you’ll find on the south side of Central Park. While there are plenty of middle-of-the-road choices, there are fewer luxury hotels and budget options.
SoHo (which stands for south of Houston Street) is a boutique, artsy area of lower Manhattan that rests just east of Little Italy. It is known for its art galleries, fashion, restaurants, and excellent pizza.
SoHo is quieter, has more residential buildings than other areas, and has a family-friendly vibe. Keep in mind that this residential focus means there are fewer hotels, and you might have a more challenging time finding somewhere to stay.
Kid-Friendly Attractions in SoHo
Though SoHo is primarily an upscale, fashion-focused area, it is still residential. Because of this, there are still tons of fun activities for kids. Here are some of the things you’ll be close to if you stay in SoHo:
- The Museum of Ice Cream: The Museum of Ice Cream is a fun, sweets-focused, interactive experience that is perfect for families with kids of any age. Note that they advertise unlimited ice cream for all guests- so arrive hungry!
- SlooMoo Institute: The SlooMoo institute is an interactive slime experience designed for children and families in SoHo.
- The Drawing Center: This museum is focused on drawings and their importance in art history. Though the museum is kid-friendly, older children are likely to enjoy the experience of looking at art.
Pros and Cons of Staying in SoHo
- SoHo is quiet and typically uncrowded, which can help keep little ones from becoming overwhelmed.
- There are tons of trendy restaurants and shops.
- If you don’t plan on leaving SoHo, it’s a very walkable area.
- It’s harder to travel around SoHo because there are fewer subway options.
- SoHo has plenty of restaurants, but they tend to be more expensive than those in other areas of the city.
Hotel Prices in SoHo
There are fewer hotels in SoHo than in other areas, and they tend to be expensive and upscale. If you want to stay near SoHo but are on a budget, consider looking at neighborhoods nearby, such as Tribeca or Little Italy.
The Financial District
The Financial District in New York is an iconic place to stay. The Financial District is the area of the city full of tall buildings and luxury skyscrapers. This neighborhood, located in lower Manhattan, is one of the oldest parts of New York City.
The Financial District is home to many major tourist attractions, including the 9/11 Memorial Building, Ellis Island and the Statue of Liberty, and Pier 17.
The Financial District has easy access to other parts of the city through the subway system, including the Lower East Side, for drinks and meals.
Kid-Friendly Attractions in the Financial District
The Financial District of New York City is iconic for Wall Street and large business office buildings, but there are still plenty of activities that welcome children of all ages in the area. If you decide to stay here, consider adding the following activities to your itinerary:
- The 9/11 Memorial: The 9/11 Memorial might not be the most ‘fun’ part of vacation for little ones, but it’s a vital moment in American history and can be informative for older children.
- The Statue of Liberty and Ellis Island: The Statue of Liberty and Ellis Island go hand in hand. The island will give you and your children a unique perspective on the immigrants essential to American history.
- The New York One World Observatory: The One World Observatory offers visitors iconic views of the city from up high and has tons of activities for children and adults. It’s educational but fun, which makes it a popular location for field trips as well.
Pros and Cons of Staying in the Financial District
- You will be reasonably close to popular tourist activities if you stay near here.
- The Financial District has excellent rates on hotels if you’re traveling during peak travel season because most hotels are geared toward offices in the area.
- You will have excellent access to important New York City historical sites.
- While the Financial District has decent access to major tourist attractions, you will have more travel time than you might if you stayed elsewhere in the city.
- If you travel during the workweek, you will have to pay more for your hotel room.
- The Financial District is busy and can feel less family-friendly than some other neighborhoods.
Hotel Prices in the Financial District
Because of the area’s focus on business, you can typically find decent hotel rates on weekends and holidays in the Financial District. Regardless of when you are traveling, you will find options to suit most budgets in this neighborhood.
Morningside Heights is north of the Upper West Side, running along the Hudson River. It is a neighborhood built around Columbia University and has excellent access to the northern half of Riverside Park.
There are two main train lines that run through the area, which means it has easy access to other parts of the city. The neighborhood is full of college students from surrounding universities as well as families that live in the area.
Kid-Friendly Attractions in Morningside Heights
Though this area is known for its high population of young adults and college students, it maintains its fair share of families as well. Because of this, there are more than enough activities to fill your kids’ days, including the following:
- Riverside Park (North): The north half of Riverside park has tons of playground equipment and places for children to play.
- Columbia University Campus: Columbia University grounds are open to the public and can be an excellent place for families with kids to explore, especially in the warmer months.
Pros and Cons of Staying in Morningside Heights
- The Morningside Heights neighborhood is quiet and family-friendly.
- There is tons of green space, parks, and playgrounds for little ones to run around.
- Unless you’re traveling near university move-in days, hotels in the area usually have very reasonable rates.
- While there are green spaces and kid-friendly activities, there is less to do than in other city areas.
- If you visit during peak moving times for universities in the area, you may get swamped by young adults, teenagers, and hassled parents helping them move.
Hotel Prices Near Morningside Heights
Hotels in the Morningside Heights neighborhood tend to have reasonable rates unless you travel during the busiest seasons for the area. You will find primarily middle-budget and low-budget options, with few luxury options.
Long Island City
If you’re okay staying outside of Manhattan, Long Island City (also known as Hunters Point) is a great place to stay. Long Island City is one of the westernmost neighborhoods in Queens, and as a historic locale, it’s packed with diverse shops, experiences, and restaurants.
Though Long Island City is across the river from Manhattan, subway lines run under the river, granting you easy access to the main tourist destinations. You can also take a ferry across the river and witness spectacular views of the skyline from the water.
Because it’s outside of Manhattan, Long Island City is a quiet area, perfect for families with young kids. Additionally, it’s a great place to view the skyline from afar, provided you can afford riverside views.
Kid-Friendly Activities in Long Island City
Queens has been a popular borough for families for ages, but Long Island City has only recently transformed from a warehouse-filled industrial park to a residential sanctuary. Because of its newer renovation, it’s filled with young families and new, trendy activities for kids of all ages.
- Gantry Plaza State Park: This park offers spectacular views of the Manhattan skyline and many family-friendly activities. If you visit in the summer months, you will even find a sprinkler park for kids to cool off in.
- The Noguchi Museum: The Noguchi Museum is a unique art museum filled with works by Japanese-American artist Isamu Noguchi. This museum is a truly unique take on modern art.
- Hunter’s Point South Park: This park, which offers views of Manhattan Island, is an excellent place for kids to run around or play on park equipment.
Pros and Cons of Staying in Long Island City
- Long Island City is a new, up-and-coming neighborhood with many trendy restaurants.
- Because it is a bit of a way away from primary tourist attractions, there are many budget hotel options available in the area.
- It is easy to get almost anywhere from Long Island City by subway.
- You will almost certainly have to take public transportation at some point while staying in the area.
- You will be farther away from the most popular tourist destinations.
Hotel Prices in Long Island City
There are plenty of budget options for hotels in the Long Island City neighborhood. You can also choose a hotel on the East River, facing Manhattan island, to experience truly spectacular views of the iconic New York City skyline.
Greenwich Village (or “The Village,” as it is locally known) is a trendy, upbeat neighborhood north of SoHo in southwest Manhattan. As one of New York City’s most iconic LGBTQ+ neighborhoods, this area is steeped in culture and history.
Greenwich Village has a perfect mixture of residential buildings, restaurants, and hotels. The only downside is that it has a reputation for being a ‘party area,’ with many bars, clubs, and partygoers around the holidays.
Kid-Friendly Activities in Greenwich Village
Though it is primarily known for its nightlife, historic buildings, and history, there are tons of family activities in Greenwich Village. Some popular things to do for families visiting the area include:
- Washington Square Park: Washington Square Park is an iconic park in the heart of the Village. It has a fountain for kids to run through, popular chess tables, and a dog park.
- The High Line: The High Line is a park on an old, raised rail line. It is a great park to explore with kids and has plenty of activities, art, and green space.
- The Whitney Museum of American Art: For creative-minded kids, this iconic museum is an excellent opportunity to look at fantastic art from all ages of American history.
Pros and Cons of Staying In Greenwich Village
- There are tons of great dining options in the Village.
- If you have older kids and you want to head out after they’re in bed, there are tons of bars and clubs nearby.
- You can expect a lot of noise and crowded streets in the Village at night, especially on weekends.
- Like most Manhattan neighborhoods, dining in this area can be pricey.
Hotel Prices in Greenwich Village
The Village is an excellent neighborhood with hotel options for every price range. There are plenty of upscale, luxury hotels in the area, but you will also find budget options near the neighborhood’s north end.
Williamsburg is an excellent option for visitors willing to look for hotels outside of Manhattan. Located right across the river from the southern half of Manhattan, Williamsburg is a hip neighborhood in Brooklyn.
The Williamsburg neighborhood is a popular place for trendy visitors because of its art scene and general off-the-beaten-path vibe. Because it is across the river from Manhattan, you will be afforded fantastic skyline views from many restaurants in the area.
There are plenty of young families that live in Williamsburg, and it can be a quieter, less-crowded place, perfect for families with small children.
If you plan to stay in Brooklyn but still want to see the major tourist attractions in Manhattan, make sure you account for additional travel time, as you will have to cross the East River. Fortunately, you can get to Manhattan island by subway or ferry.
Kid-Friendly Activities in Williamsburg
With many young families and visitors staying in the area, there is an abundance of family activities in the Williamsburg neighborhood.
- Domino Park: This iconic park has a fantastic view of the Williamsburg Bridge and Manhattan skyline, which has made it a popular destination for locals and tourists alike.
- The Museum of Food and Drink: While many little ones get bored of museums quickly, the Museum of Food and Drink is likely to appeal to any kid- even the most impatient.
Pros and Cons of Staying in Williamsburg
- Williamsburg is less busy than Manhattan and has lots of green space for kids to run around.
- Aside from places on the island, Williamsburg has the best access to Manhattan.
- Williamsburg is packed with trendy, varied restaurants.
- You will be farther away from most tourist attractions in Williamsburg.
- Because you are outside the most touristy parts of New York City, hotel options are more limited in Williamsburg.
Hotel Prices in Williamsburg
Because of the neighborhood’s incredible views and easy access to Manhattan, prices in Williamsburg tend to be higher than in some other parts of New York City. Fortunately, there are some mid-level options available for families with tighter budgets.
If you don’t mind staying outside of New York City, Jersey City is an excellent option for families visiting the area on a budget. There are many public transportation options available for those that want to head into the city without taking a car, and prices tend to be lower on the west side of the Hudson.
If you decide to stay in New Jersey rather than New York City, use caution when planning to cross the river. Trains and ferries may run on reduced schedules over the weekend, and heading into the city during rush hour on weekdays can be a pain.
Kid-Friendly Attractions in Jersey City
Jersey City is home to tons of residential buildings and families with young children. Because of this, many activities are geared toward young people’s interests. Though you will likely spend most of your time in New York, you will still find plenty to do near your hotel if you get tired of crossing the river.
- Liberty Science Center: Liberty Science Center is an educational science museum designed for little ones. They even have play centers intended for children under five.
- Hudson’s House of Play: Hudson’s House of Play is a fun community center with tons to do for small children. They have a mock city for children to participate in open play and explore their creative sides.
Pros and Cons of Staying in Jersey City
- Hotel prices are much lower in Jersey City.
- Jersey City is generally quieter and less busy than New York City during the day.
- Jersey City has excellent transportation access to Manhattan.
- You must account for additional travel time to get across the river.
- Jersey City can be crowded and loud at night, especially on weekends.
Hotel Prices in Jersey City
Hotels in Jersey City- and in most places across state lines- tend to be lower and more budget-friendly. If you stay close to the river, you will also find hotel options with fantastic views of Manhattan and the water.
Honorable Mention: Concourse
Concourse is a neighborhood in the southwest region of the Bronx. It’s not the most popular place to stay for most people visiting New York City, as there are few hotels and even fewer touristy activities.
However, if you’re planning on hitting Yankee Stadium for a game, staying near the field is a major plus. Traffic and traveling on game day can be a significant pain, and you will save yourself a considerable headache by staying nearby if you’re taking your kids to a game.
Hotel prices in Concourse are high during game days. If you want to stay nearby, book as soon as possible to save as much as possible.
New York City is a unique vacation spot, but its uniqueness can make it challenging to know what to look for when booking a hotel, making travel plans, or weighing your travel options. These are some tips you should consider when making your New York City travel plans.
When to Book
Booking hotels, buying tickets to shows, and even making dinner reservations can be very difficult in New York, especially if you’re traveling during peak tourist season. If you’re thinking about a trip to the city, book as soon as possible to ensure you get the best prices possible.
Navigating New York City With Kids
If you’re staying in New York City with kids, try to make travel plans in advance. Even traveling from one side of Manhattan to another can be a pain with strollers, toddlers, or infant backpacks.
Here are some quick tips for getting around New York City with little ones:
- The New York Metro Transit Authority (MTA) provides a list of accessible stations, which can help you plan your subway route if you’re bringing a stroller.
- If you have more than one child, remember that not all cab drivers will allow you to sit up front. Look for van cabs or book SUV rideshare rides to ensure everyone has a seat.
- Know your children’s walking limits before you set out. There’s nothing worse than having kids who are already tired before you even start the fun!
- If you plan to travel through different neighborhoods, consider booking a hotel near a subway line. Being close to transit will make navigation much less stressful, especially with young kids.
Traveling is the perfect way to build family memories you will cherish for the rest of your life, and New York City is one of the US’s most iconic destinations. Though it may seem intimidating to bring little ones into a large and unknown city, New York City is packed with activities designed for families with kids of all ages.
Whether you’re visiting family or seeing some of the city’s iconic tourist destinations, by pre-planning, pre-booking, and staying in the right area, you can ensure that your family vacation is the best it can be.