Going to travel to New York with kids?
I did it and survived to tell the tale. Here is my travel guide to New York with kids to help you plan your trip!
We spent a week in New York City with our two kids: George (4) and Alice (21 months).
The excuse to go was partly George’s birthday (because, you know, every four-year old needs a birthday party in NYC) and partly because our friends were living there for a year with a fantastic apartment for guests to stay in.
The Engineer did his MBA in New York so we are already well-versed in the city and transit system.
I’m telling you this so you are fully aware that (a) we had good family accommodation and (b) we are not strangers to getting around the city.
AND IT STILL KICKED OUR ASS!!!!!
Travel to New York with kids is possible and can be wonderful – you just need to be prepared!
If you are planning to travel to New York with kids be it the the first time or the twentieth, here is what I learned:
New York and its boroughs are full of fantastic family-friendly things to do and see.
Food is incredible and can be delivered anywhere and at all times.
There are so many carousels that even in a week we didn’t ride them all – and who doesn’t love carousels?!
Restaurants and stores are small which make manoeuvring with a stroller difficult.
Kids don’t seem to like walking aimlessly down streets for hours getting lost. Which is what I like to do in NYC.
The subway is NOT stroller friendly at all – very few stations are accessible.
No store or restaurant has those handy-dandy handicap buttons that automatically open doors and barely anyone will open a door for you.
WHERE TO STAY
Finding a place to stay when travelling to New York with kids is probably your biggest challenge.
I get asked this all the time and I answer the same thing every time:
Brooklyn, Brooklyn, Brooklyn.
I have made many Brooklyn converts so am quite confident that it really is the best choice – especially with kids.
Accommodation in New York is expensive.
Beyond expensive. It’s prohibitively expensive for many.
Hotel rooms are small – so I can’t imagine stuffing a family of four in one for a week.
Manhattan hotels are in locations that are often busy and loud – another damper for a family.
Everyone always want to stay in Soho. Personally, I dislike Soho. It’s insanely busy.
Taking pictures of Dean & Deluca.
I would only use an Airbnb moving forward – I feel when travelling with kids you need laundry and space.
Or you might go bananas.
Airbnb’s in Brooklyn are so much more affordable than those in Manhattan and are often close to green spaces – which is something I discovered we desperately needed on this trip.
I love (in no particular order) Cobble Hill, Boerum Hill, Park Slope, Fort Greene, Brooklyn Heights, Vinegar Hill and DUMBO.
This past trip was spent in DUMBO – an area that basically didn’t exist when we lived there but is now a very hip, busy neighbourhood full of restaurants, boutiques and the most fantastic playground and park. Warning: in the summer it gets VERY busy. Soho busy.
We loved it.
There is a lovely large park area just steps from where we stayed – every morning we walked with the kids and drank our iced coffees (from this place: FEED – which is a store but they have a café inside so don’t be confused) enjoying the view of the Brooklyn and Manhattan Bridge.
Sidebar: FEED has the most insane cold nitro latte thing (and NO nitro has compared since) that is sooooo delicious. I may have racked up a small fortune drinking them everyday. But it goes to a fantastic cause!
Even when busy, we still had plenty of space down by the water to throw rocks and blow bubbles in the park.
There are a couple of playgrounds right by the water (and this fabulous playground about a ten minute walk away), lots of take-out food options (Shake Shack anyone?), a picnic area that is shaded, and, the best part of all . . .
Have I sold it to you yet?
My friend stayed further into Brooklyn in Park Slope just steps away from Prospect Park (by the same designer as Central Park, with a zoo and carousel but far less busy that it’s big brother in Manhattan) and really enjoyed it.
Although it was a bit of a trek to the city (20-30 minutes on the subway to midtown), she was able to afford a larger place.
I find that Manhattan’s energy is so frenetic and busy, staying out in areas like this with kids allows you to take those deep breaths you will need.
GETTING AROUND NEW YORK
When you travel to New York with kids taxi’s will be your friend.
Taxi’s without carseats.
I was sure we would be taking the subway everywhere. I was very wrong.
The problem with DUMBO is that its only subway station is York.
York has about a billion steps.
Okay, just a long staircase but it may as well be a billion steps with a stroller.
My other Brooklyn stops are much the same – stairs only. Even in Manhattan, there are very few stops with an elevator.
And even when you do make it on the subway, it’s really difficult with a stroller. We took our big beast, the Uppababy Vista, to NYC. I was worried about this until I saw all the local moms and nannies with the same stroller.
The idea, however, of lugging that thing on the subway and getting dirty looks from commuters as we took up space had my anxiety levels on high.
So we walked most places.
And took taxi’s everywhere else.
George and Alice loved the taxis.
And we had no problem fitting in them.
There are tons on the road that are accessible and easily fit our stroller and all the crap we had to carry.
The drivers were always lovely and helped us get in and out.
This method of transport is all dependant on your comfort level of riding in a car without a carseat. As we were not highway driving and mostly going 50KM/hr and less, we were okay with the idea.
Our new discovery this trip was the awesome FERRY.
Being in DUMBO, meant we were steps away to one of the ferry stops.
We took it everyday.
It took us to Battery Park downtown and then to East 34th Street. The trips might have been a bit long but the kids loved the ride, it gave us a chance to sit and look at the scenery, and they have bathrooms on board! And even a snack bar.
We actually used the ferry for nap times – the bobbing up and down lulled both kids into sleep.
**The ferry tickets are not included in your MTA passes**
If you are not comfortable with riding in a car sans car seats or if you need a ride to an airport (which obviously you will), I recommend Arecibo Car Service. They are fast, professional and have multiple car seats available for your multiple children. They are also the most reasonably priced. I used another service from Newark to Brooklyn that cost nearly $200 Canadian. I used Arecibo back to the airport and it was $110 Canadian.
Morse Street Playground
This is a new playground for me! It’s new because it’s recently been refurbished and we all like brand new playgrounds.
This is a bit further than my other two on the list but makes for a nice walk (11 minutes to be exact) from Bonjour Brioche. It’s tucked away south of Eastern and north of Lakeshore on a one way street. So if driving you need to approach it through the back alley that runs between Logan and Morse.
It’s great because it’s (a) new and (b) has lots of options for different aged kids. There are swings, lots of things to climb, slides PLUS a gentle splash pad (I say gentle in that it’s good for little toddlers), a wading pool and an awesome sand pit that has water so your kids can get good and dirty.
There is also a little path so beginner scooters or bikers can practise their skills. AND the picnic tables have umbrellas which means shade! I do love that shade!
76 Morse Street
HOW TO GET HERE:
It’s tricky to find to find at first – it’s behind a bit of an industrial area and busy Eastern. But once you find it, it’s very quiet and a great way to spend a morning. There is lots of free street parking on Morse.
Woodchips and grass
BATHROOMS AND WATER FOUNTAIN:
Yes to both.
This is a very small and quiet playground tucked behind Queen Street and Broadview.
I like it because there is a really nice shaded area for a picnic, wide sidewalks for the kids to practise scooting, and a spray pad that is gentle – perfect for little kids.
10 Thompson Street
HOW TO GET HERE:
Set among a neighbourhood of townhouses between Dundas, Broadview and Queen.
We park on the street for free but it is accessible by the 501, 503, 301 and 304 streetcar.
Woodchips and cement for the splash pad.
BATHROOMS AND WATER FOUNTAIN:
It has a water fountain but no bathrooms.
PLACES TO EAT ALONG THE WAY
Tucked behind Joel Weeks park north of Queen and west of Broadview is the AMAZING coffee shop that has incredible incredible incredible beans. And all Fair Trade!
2 Matilda Street
Just one of many of this coffee shop in the city, has really bold coffee, GREAT iced Americano’s and have flavourful salads to go (thanks to FEAST), yummy grilled sandwiches, and baked goods (on Sundays they have a a local lady who makes the most insanely delicious cinnamon buns).
630 Queen Street East
Near Joel Weeks on Broadview is this wonderful bakery that you happen to be in the neighbourhood you should check out!
Beautiful traditional French breads, scones, cookies, and the BEST hot cross buns at Easter. They have hot coffee as well.
It’s a non-profit bakery that supports their mission of helping marginalized communities.
153 Broadview Ave
Across the street from Dark Horse is this cozy cafe that has great coffee and incredibly delicious bagel sandwiches.
641 Queen East
If you need a sugar-filled pick me-up between playgrounds, the White Lily Diner offers DELICIOUS fresh-made donuts that change flavour daily. And they are sooooooooooo good.
678 Queen East
Hidden around the corner at Logan and Queen, this bakery makes incredible baked goods (including sausage rolls and pasties – which my kids love) and SCRUMPTIOUS made-to-order sandwiches (my fav is their turkey complete with stuffing and cranberry sauce).
255 Logan Ave
Also on the corner of Queen and Carlaw is this adorable, retro gas station that serves delicious BBQ.
A gas station that serves BBQ.
I love the owners here. They got their inspiration in one of my favourite places (Whistler) and brought the idea back to Toronto. And the food is AWESOME.
So is their drip coffee!
929 Queen Street East
This is one of my most favourite places to grab lunch while my kids play at Morse Park. It’s located in the industrial area on Carlaw south of Eastern.
Open at noon, this place gets a long line at 12:05. There is a fantastic selection of healthy and super flavourful food (and unhealthy and super flavourful macaroni and cheese). If you bring your own container you get a discount!
24 Carlaw Ave
Another fantastic, healthy option near Morse Park (and again in an industrial area) is District 28. Serving bowls full of veggies and protein, made-to-order sandwiches as well as great coffee.
28 Logan Ave
There are more playgrounds in Leslieville and much more coffee and cafés – you really can’t go wrong!
I hope this inspires you to spend a whole day exploring Leslieville. From coffee to playgrounds to cookies – I promise it’s delicious. And if you do last the whole day then you definitely deserve a glass of wine at Chez Nous!