A day in NYC with 6 kids- what we did, what we'd do different

Navigating New York City with SIX children (and one on the way), turned out to be a much better experience than I thought. I really wanted my children to experience the big city, so that when they grow older they won't be afraid to navigate big cities. Learning things like how to use the subway system, or being surrounded by millions of people, knowing what a taxi looks like (one of my kids was enthralled by taxis) and being confident in a place very different from home, are such important life skills to me that my kids know how to do. I never want them to pass up an opportunity in their lives because they are unequipped or afraid to take it on.

This is how we did it.

We were taking a big trip all along the East Coast and only had a day and a half to squeeze in the Big Apple. I was terribly nervous about driving a mini van in the busy city, so we decided to stay in New Jersey. The plan was to take the train in, but after hearing horrible stories from the fellow guests at our hotel, we decided to take the plunge and drive our van into the city instead. 

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We all enjoyed blasting Frank Sinatra's "New York, New York" and Billing Joel's "New York State of Mind" on our car stereo as we entered the city from the tunnel.

We decided to park in Chinatown at a lot recommended by a guest we met at our hotel. (One great thing about having so many kids- especially back East, is that you are a huge novelty and everyone seems to want to talk to you about fun things to do with your kids.) It was only about $40 for the day, so it ended up being much cheaper than the other options we were looking at. 

Our first stop was Ground Zero. The last time I had been to NYC was to see my sister (who was living there at the time) in 2007. Back then they were still working on cleaning out the pit. The memorial they have built since is incredible. There is such a sacred feeling on the site. I cried the whole time! I just couldn't stop the tears from flowing. (*Bring Kleenex!) It was a somber experience, but my husband and I both felt it was important to teach our children about what happened on 9/11. I didn't feel like my younger children were old enough to act appropriately in the museum they have there, so we just toured the grounds. Even doing that was very powerful. 

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Next, we got really brave and hopped on the subway. Purchasing our tickets and getting through the turn styles was an adventure for sure! Keeping track of everyone and lugging a big stroller was wild, but turned out awesome.

*One tip: Our credit cards didn't want to buy ticket after ticket for the subway. I think they thought we were being frauded or something. So, we split up the tickets on two different cards it worked out fine. Our debit cards were better to use than our credit cards, for some reason.

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Going on the subway was one of the most entertaining parts of the trip. The kids LOVED it. The only time it got a little dicey was at the end of the day when everyone had to go to the bathroom. 

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Our next stop was going to the Metropolitan Museum of Art, "the MET". We really lucked out, that my sister's friend gave us the lowdown before we went and told us the best things to see with the kids. We could have spent a week in that museum, but we did the most we could in a little over an hour. 

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I had two favorites at the MET. One was this stunning painting of George Washington "Crossing the Delaware." It's just beautiful in person, and so much bigger than I expected. I felt so much love for my country and Founding Fathers as I admired it. 

The other favorite for me was going to the rooftop of the MET. We didn't have enough time to go to the Empire State Building or the Rock to catch a good view, so this was a great way for us to look over the city without the large expense and time commitment of going to look off one of the famous skyscrapers. It has a great view of Central Park.

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The MET is right on the border of Central Park, and I was super excited to spend sometime running around and playing in there. I was ready to reenact Disney's "Enchanted" movie where they run around Central Park singing, but my family was toast. Everyone was grumpy, hungry and tired from our adventures to that point. So we crossed through to the other side of the park (not a short walk- but such a beautiful one!!), and grabbed some lunch at Shake Shack. Their hamburgers taste fresh and their frozen custard- super tasty! The wait for the food was pretty long, so my husband and kids took a much needed break on some park benches and rested their weary feet.

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Once we were fed, we made our way to the Museum of Natural History. I'd heard a lot of mixed reviews about this museum, but it was one my kids were dying to go to since they'd seen the movie,  "The Night at the Museum." And it really was a lot of fun. So many different fun displays, and we had a great time finding the different items from the movie. 

*Another NYC Museum tip: The admission prices are suggestions for donation. You can pay what you can afford. Since we were only there for a couple hours, we paid a much lower amount than we would have if we'd stayed all day. With a large family- this was amazing. It made us feel like we didn't have to spend our whole day in the museum to get our money's worth out of it. 

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Time Square was another favorite for my kids. We saved it for dinner time so the kids could see the lights at night. Our favorite stops were the Disney store, Hershey's store and the M&M store. It was fun to get some New York themed Disney toys. The M&M store was super packed and expensive and we ended up leaving there a bit grumpy, so I think an evening stop there maybe wasn't the best idea.

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When in NYC you must have pizza, right?!!! I would have loved to spend some time in Little Italy, but we were very happy with the pizza place recommended to us: Angelo's. It was an easy walk and very family friendly. We got a gigantic salad and a couple of pizzas, and it was enough for leftovers the next day. We really loved it. 

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My mouth is watering just looking at these pictures and remembering how tasty it was.

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We took the subway back to our car. We'd hoped to get back to Chinatown before all the street shops closed, but we just didn't have enough time. The kids were all disappointed- they'd planned on spending their life savings on Chinese trinkets- and all were in desperate need of a bathroom. Things got pretty dicey as we searched everywhere for a restroom. That is one of the hardest things about traveling with kids in the city. Public restrooms are hard to come by. 

After walking with all our kids in the dark in some really sketchy parts of Chinatown, we finally found a McDonald's. We used the restrooms, bought some cookies, and headed on our way to the car.

*Travel Tip: Starbucks and McDonalds are your best bet for an easy bathroom break.

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These car lots are crazy! It's like putting your car in a vending machine for the day. New Yorkers are so creative. 

*Next time I would stay in the city instead of New Jersey. While it was cheaper to stay out of Manhattan, it really wasn't that much different for the hassle of getting around. It would've been nice to be able to go back and rest at the hotel for a couple hours midday if we had wanted to. Plus we could have sent the tired half back to the hotel at bedtime, and let those with more energy stay out later. Also, our hotel in Jersey was super scary. My husband wouldn't even let me go to the laundry room by myself. YIKES!!

We all slept like rocks that night and headed off to the Statue of Liberty in the morning. Check out our next post for more about that.

Please, ask any questions you might have in the comments below. We'd love to hear your favorite things to do in NYC. I'm itching to go back!! We love talking travel!!! 

Hillary Hess4 Comments