This is a three-day itinerary of things to do with kids in New York City, perfectly planned for a first-time visit weekend visit to NYC.
For my daughter's 10th birthday, I took her to New York City for an epic Mommy and me weekend visit to the city. We saw three shows and all the iconic NYC sights. The trip was packed, but it was so worth it. In this post I have outlined the full itinerary, but want to share a couple general notes first.
Where we stayed — I thought I booked a hotel close to Times Square, but it wasn't that close, so I don't recommend where we stayed. I did love the Fifty NYC, which I stayed at a few years ago.
As for transportation, we replied on Ubers and taxis, as this allowed us to get to more sights in a timely manner and helped me feel safer traveling alone with my daughter. I did not feel comfortable navigating the subways by myself, and walking would have slowed us down (and it was cold).
We saw three Broadway shows, which was perfect for us, but might be a lot for others. Two of the shows we saw (The Music Man and MJ The Musical) are hot shows with few to no deals. If you are flexible in what you see, check out this post for tips to save money on tickets.
New York City Trip Budget
In terms of budgeting for this trip, I think it would be different for everyone based on choices that you make for food, transportation and entertainment. Here are a few rough numbers though, in case it is helpful.
Taxis & Ubers: $350
Three Broadway Shows: $1,000 (Music Man was $500, other two shows were both Orchestra seats)
Ice Cream Museum, Top of the Rock, Statue of Liberty, Zoo: $350
Southwest flights: $400
Below is our three-day itinerary. I hope this helps you if you are planning a trip with kids to New York City.
Things to do with kids in New York City: Day 1
We flew to NYC early in the morning so that we would have three full days in the city. Don’t miss the I Love New York sign in the airport near the taxi exit. We got a taxi and dropped bags at our hotel. Then it was off to the Central Park Zoo, which was a must for Adeline and on many lists of things to do with kids in New York City.
The Zoo is charming and small and took about an hour to go through.
After the Zoo we headed to do a little shopping at Zara, which was a huge hit with Adeline.
We also visited the New York Public Library, as it has the original Winnie the Pooh, Tigger, Piglet, Kanga and Eeyore. Unfortunately the exhibit was closed that day (we went back on Sunday).
We grabbed lunch at Chipotle, which was quick and easy near the library.
We then walked to Rockefeller Center and FAO Schwartz.
Adeline then wanted to visit the Museum of Ice Cream, which many people recommended on Instagram as a fun thing to do with kids in New York City.
While we had fun taking pictures and going through the museum (it took about 75 minutes), it was NOT worth the price of admission and I would not recommend this stop.
After the Museum of Ice Cream, we went back to the hotel, changed for dinner and the theater, then went to see Times Square. Adeline loved it so much.
That night we saw MJ The Musical, which is one of the best musicals I have ever seen (and I've seen a lot) and surely the best show currently on Broadway. If you are going to NYC, it would be my number 1 recommendation. It was astonishing.
Things to do with kids in New York City: Day 2
Our plan for the first half of Saturday was to visit the Statue of Liberty and Ellis Island, which was another must for Adeline. We headed over to the Castle Clinton National Monument, which was the meeting place for the tour I had booked on Viator.
We got there early, so walked a few blocks to the Financial District to see the Wall Street Bull and Fearless Girl statues.
In retrospect, I would have skipped the tour of the Statue of Liberty and just taken the ferry over to see it, go to the museum, then go to Ellis Island. The tour took a lot of time and wasn't very interesting for a 10-year-old. The weather got really windy and rainy, so we opted not to go to Ellis Island and headed back inland for lunch.
After getting off the ferry, we walked over to the Sea Glass Carousel for a charming ride, which Adeline loved. There's also a fun little park with cool slides in the same park.
Then we walked a few blocks to the iconic Fraunces Tavern, which was established in 1719. The tavern has a museum in it, but because of limited time, we didn't visit it (in retrospect we probably could have, but Adeline didn't want to.)
After lunch we took a cab to the 9/11 Memorial, which was powerful for Adeline to see. We then visited the Brookfield Shopping mall. This also has lots of places to eat and would have been another good option for lunch.
Then it was time for more shopping in Times Square. Adeline's favorites were the Disney Store & the M&M store.
After shopping we got in line for Ellen’s Stardust Diner for dinner. Without question, this is a MUST DO on any trip to NYC. The entire waitstaff are aspiring or former Broadway singers and they sing throughout your meal. The line typically is a 60-90 minute wait. We lucked out by pairing up with another family when there was an opening for an 8-person table, so we only waited 10 minutes.
We saw Hugh Jackman and Sutton Foster in The Music Man at The Winter Garden that night. This is one of Broadway's hottest shows (we got “cheap” seats and two tickets were $500). I'll be honest — it was amazing to see Hugh and the costuming was fantastic, but it was our least favorite show of the weekend. If I was planning a trip to NYC, I would not see it. I don't think the experience was worth the cost of tickets.
After the show, we rushed out of the theater to go to the backstage doors (around the block to the back of the building) to have a chance to see Hugh and Sutton leave the theater. Both actors leave about 15 minutes after curtain. Hugh is incredibly kind and quickly chats/takes selfies with people on his way out. He stopped at took a selfie with Adeline for her birthday and it was one of the best moments of the weekend. Sutton doesn't stop to talk to anyone (I read this online and found it to be true of our experience too).
Things to do with kids in New York City: Day 3
On Sunday, our last day in New York, started with heading to the Harry Potter Store for opening at 9 am. If your child loves Harry Potter, this is a must stop, as it is one of the coolest stores I have ever been in! The store offers several virtual reality experiences, but these were sold out (book at least a week in advance).
After shopping at Harry Potter, we stopped at the LEGO store and then met some friends for brunch near the Highline.
Aladdin is a spectacular show for kids, as the music and story are familiar, and it is visually stunning.
After the show we had tickets to Top of the Rock to take in some incredible views of the city. (Summit One Vanderbilt is another popular skyscraper right now, but tickets were almost twice the price of Top of the Rock, so we decided to skip it.)
We went to Carmine's for an Italian dinner. We didn't realize that this a family style restaurant, so was waaaayyyy too much food for the two of us, but would be perfect if you are traveling with a family. A few other recommendations: Juniors, Eatly, The Smiths, Serendipity, Melt Shop, Nino's, John's Pizza, Toasties Deli and Keens Chophouse.
After dinner, we headed back to the hotel to pack up and get some rest for our 6 am flight home the next morning. It was a great three days in the city and I know it is a trip we will both never forget.
Want to see another itinerary for kids in NYC? Check out this post by my friend Janssen!
New York Itinerary for Adults
I took my Mom to New York City for her 60th birthday, and it was her first visit. Here is the itinerary of what we did on that trip.