Four years ago, my family went to New York City. Our kids were 4, 7 and 11. They had such a fabulous time and have asked to return to NYC many times over the past four years.
When our cruise to Bermuda popped up on our schedule, I knew that seeing Manhattan from the ship would be torturous if we couldn’t spend a few days there. So, I decided to tag on an extra two nights in NYC. (See my hotel review here).
Technically, we had about 2 ½ days to explore the city. We didn’t see as much as I originally planned, but we had a fun and exhausting time nonetheless.
After we dropped our suitcases off at the hotel, we took a Lyft to Rockefeller Center. For my kids, shopping was a priority. They sold some of their old toys in a garage sale last month in order to have money to spend.
First stop was Nintendo New York! My younger kids loaded up on Mario character plush. The store has every Nintendo plush character you could imagine.
Our next stop was FAO Schwartz. This toy store is crazy busy, but so much fun! My daughter freaked out at the entire wall full of stuffed animals.
Throughout the stores, employees were demonstrating products. We purchased a magic kit and almost got sucked into some other cool toys like a boomerang and flying airplanes.
If you go to FAO Schwartz, head to the top floor to walk across the floor piano featured in the movie Big.
Black Tap Burger
After shopping at Rockefeller Center, we were all pretty hungry. We walked to Black Tap Craft Burgers and Beer based on a recommendation of a fellow traveler. We mainly went there for the outrageous shakes. They are really over the top!
The fried pickles and burgers were also delicious.
We couldn’t visit NYC without going to Times Square again. There is so much to see there!
Of course we had to stop in my favorite store, the Disney Store.
We walked back to our hotel from Times Square. Note that walking times in NYC are much longer than walking times in a normal neighborhood due to pedestrian traffic and traffic lights. My kids walk ½ mile to school in 10 minutes, but walking ½ mile in crowded NYC streets takes at least twice as long.
Ninja New York
For dinner, we took the subway to the financial district to eat at Ninja New York. The restaurant is a little pricey, but the food was delicious, and the entertainment was fabulous.
The lobby is very small. When our table was ready, the hostess escorted us to an elevator and we headed underground to the restaurant. Once the elevator doors opened, we followed another host down a series of steps and small bridges. It’s all part of the schtick.
Our server kept us on our toes with some ninja outbursts throughout the meal. Some of the dishes were presented “ninja style” with extra elements like fire. I highly recommend the artichoke dip.
My kids ordered steak, and I ordered teriyaki chicken. The food was much better than I expected.
One World Observatory and 9/11 Memorial
The next morning, we took the subway to the World Trade Center. We got off the subway and wandered through the Oculus mall and transportation hub:
We then headed to One World Observatory. I had pre-purchased VIP tickets with a discount code I found online, so we had no line for the elevator going up or down.
On the ride up, the inside of the elevator showed NYC starting from the year 1500 until current day. It’s a fast 50 seconds, but so interesting!
Once at the top, we received iPads that labeled everything we could see.
The view at the top is 360 degrees and outstanding. We could see the statue of liberty, the Brooklyn Bridge, Midtown….basically everything except Central Park. I’ve been to Top of the Rock and the Empire State Building before, so it was neat to see another perspective that is higher and in a different part of the city.
After we gazed at the city from above, we took the elevator back down and headed to the 9/11 memorial. We opted to skip the museum and just go to the free memorial.
Standing there was very emotional for me. My kids didn’t really get it, but we talked about some things. I saw people crying. It was a very powerful experience.
Next, we took a Lyft to Brighton Beach. This is the Russian/Ukrainian part of Brooklyn. Since my boys were born in Russia, I made this area a priority to visit.
First, we stopped at St. Petersburg’s book store. We bought a Star Wars matryoshka doll.
Then, we walked to Tatiana’s restaurant on the boardwalk for lunch. On the way, we noticed the great sense of community present in Brighton Beach. Lots of older people were hanging out in the local park talking. Many people were just sitting on benches on the boardwalk, staring at the water or visiting with others. It was such a peaceful place.
We ordered a little bit of Russian food at Tatiana’s. It was delicious!
We kept walking the Brighton Beach boardwalk until it turned into the Coney Island boardwalk. Despite having lived in the area for 5 years and having numerous visits to the NYC area as a kid and adult, I’d never been to Coney Island!
Of course, I had to take a photo of my son Nathan at the original Nathan’s hot dog stand.
There are actually two separate amusement parks on Coney Island—Deno’s Wonder Wheel and Luna Park. Deno’s Wonder Wheel has the big Ferris Wheel as well as many kid-sized rides and a huge arcade. Luna Park is bigger and includes the historic Coney Island Cyclone wooden roller coaster as well as other roller coasters, adult rides and kiddie rides.
At Deno’s Wonder Wheel, I purchased a $40 card that included 50 credits. For that amount, both of my boys rode the Ferris Wheel, my daughter rode a few kiddie rides and all three went on a few rides together.
At Luna Park, I decided against the all-inclusive pass. It was $69 per person, and I wasn’t sure how many rides my daughter and I would go on or how long we would want to stay. Instead, I purchased a ride card for $100 that included 140 credits. It lasted us the rest of the afternoon and was the perfect amount. My oldest rode the Coney Island Cyclone twice, my boys did a few other roller coasters together, and all three kids rode on some smaller rides together.
Coney Island surprised me in a good way. I had always heard it was dirty and run-down. That may have been true in the past, but it looked pretty good to us. It was so cool to be on rides on the beach. On a Friday afternoon (when NYC schools were still in session) there were no lines for any of the rides.
Around 5:00 p.m., we dragged ourselves to the train station for the ride back to the hotel. The kids convinced me to eat dinner at McDonald’s, and I was too tired to argue.
The next day, we didn’t have to leave for the airport until mid-afternoon. I still hadn’t decided if we would take the tram to Roosevelt Island, take the boat to Governor’s Island or hang out at Brooklyn Bridge Park.
We decided not to do any of those things because they all involved too much walking. We were so worn out from the past two days.
Instead, we opted to see a movie. There were at least three moving theaters within close walking distance of our hotel. We saw The Secret Life of Pets 2, ate lunch, and then got a ride to the airport.
I wished we had more stamina for that last day. I don’t know how people manage an entire week in NYC! Three days is my max.
Maybe we will return in 3-4 years and see a few Broadway plays. Perhaps by then, we’ll be able to get tickets to Hamilton.
Have you been to NYC with kids? What were your favorite attractions?
Nancy lives near Dallas, Texas, with her husband and three kids. Her favorite vacations include the beach, cruising and everything Disney.