Planning NYC - "Touring Plans" style

First, get a good guidebook and read it cover to cover - there is so much to do in NYC you need to get a good overview to decide what will truly appeal to you. Off the top of my head, things that would appeal to a 10YO are the Musuem of Natural History and the Intrepid Air and Space Museum (it is housed in an aircraft carrier).

General tips:

  • You can (and should) book many things on-line in advance, like Liberty/Ellis Island and the World Trade Center.
  • Look into City Pass - it can give you good discounts on admission to many things if you use it fully. You also will have priority admission to many things too, kind of like FP.
  • Per above, stay in NJ and use Path trains to get into the city - big savings with this.
  • Take in a Broadway show (please, not a Disney one). You can buy tickets at a discount on-line in advance using codes available at, or you can get tickets at up to 50% off on the day at the TKTS booth in Times Square. The advantage of the former is that you can pick exactly what seats you want and you don’t have to stand in line, but the discounts aren’t as great (usually around 35%). School of Rock would be a good choice.

Thanks for your search. I’ll look up that site. I always try to get advice from friends and locals who’ve “been there-done that”. It’s my TP training. :wink:

Yes, we were there in March (it was Spring Break for us), and snow was gone. GONE! :cry: I got one picture in Central Park of my 10YO kneeling next to a dirty, melty, 12 inch square gob of snow that hadn’t yet done itself in. I’m hoping for better Elsa-like snow effects if I take Thing 2 earlier in the year.

Seems that is a crowded week EVERYWHERE, not just WDW, eh? I’d vote for freezing and windy, but crowded and expensive are no-go for us.

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Thanks for the tip on hotels. I’ve seen some in Jersey City. You’re right, they’re much less costly. Is it a lot like staying outside the bubble, would we not get the feel of Manhattan if we’re not staying on the island? So much to consider!

Wow! Thanks, great ideas! I’ve seen the Intrepid Museum website, and added it to the planning rotation. Will be looking up City Pass too! NYC has FPP?!? :grinning:

Thanks again!

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I hate to burst your bubble, but in my experience snow in NYC is not a fun experience - dirty pretty much sums it up. :frowning:

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I don’t mind living in NYC in the winter (I actually prefer living there then… I’m from MI) but for touring it seems like mid-January could be a little miserable. Crowds are negligible (for NYC, at least) but that’s usually the coldest part of the winter so you WILL need warm, weather-proof boots, heavy duty winter coats, hats, gloves, and scarves because you’ll be outdoors a lot of the time. Even if you plan mostly indoor things, you’ll be walking a lot unless you plan on taking taxis to get everywhere. 15-20° is cold for everyone, but it can be absolutely brutal if you’ve been south all winter! There may or may not be snow… in '12 and '13 we had close to zero snow in January, '14 we had a bunch, '15 it was really cold but we only had a moderate amount of snow (and mostly at the end of the month), and then this winter it was mostly warm in January except for a HUGE storm at the end of the month… close to 2 ', but then it was 50° a week later. February tends to be a snowier month in general, but it’s warmer then so it melts faster.

That said, I’d recommend a BigBus tour. You can buy the tickets online, but you can often get a better rate if you buy them from the rep that’s at the stop in Times Square. It will stop at pretty much all of the major tourist attractions (with a live tour guide who tells you about all of the stuff you’re passing), and you can buy combo tickets that include things like the Statue of Liberty, One World Observatory (the new World Trade center), Empire State Building, and a few other ticket attractions. I’ve actually taken it myself, just because I wanted to be a tourist for a weekend!

As far as accommodations go I’d recommend the Times Square/Theater District area, (Central Park south area as a second choice… slightly further away from the things you’ll be wanting to do, and in the winter you’re not likely to spend a lot of time in the park), simply because it’s the one place where you can get on just about any subway line, and all of the tour buses stop there. Plenty of places to eat, and lots of hotel options, as well as being close to shopping, theaters, and lots of other attractions. My personal favorite hotels there are the Crowne Plaza Times Square and the Intercontinental Times Square, or Park Central Hotel in the Central Park south area. If you want to book through Hotwire Hot Rates (where you don’t know which hotel until after you book) then I’d say you’ll be safe with anything 4-star and higher in the Times Square South and Central Park South areas. The one cruddy 4-star I’ve ever stayed at in Manhattan (The Manhattan at Times Square hotel… avoid at all costs) is in Times Square North.

Kids usually love Ellen’s Stardust Diner (51st and Broadway) and it’s worth the wait… the waitstaff take turns singing, and they’re usually really good. Totto Ramen is nearby and it’s one of the best ramen places in the city. Also, if you’re big breakfast eaters then finding delivery on is going to be a lot cheaper than hotel breakfast and you’ll find lots of options there at any time of day.


It won’t feel like Manhattan but it will feel like NYC (if that makes sense lol). The waterfront has spectacular views of Manhattan.

I second Ellen’s Stardust Diner!! It’s a lot of fun! Also, consider Top of the Rock (Rockerfeller plaza) as an alternative to the Empire State Building. Fun experience! Also, you can ice skate outside in Central Park as opposed to ice skating at Rockerfeller Plaza. Times Square has fun activities and stores that a 10 year old would like (huge Toys R Us, M&M world, etc.). Jackson Hole is a great burger restaurant with many locations around Manhattan if your DS likes burgers…Jeckyl and Hyde is a fun restaurant (if its still open!). Touristy but fun!

Serendipity is a fun place to go - frozen hot chocolate. About 2 blocks east of central park around 60th st.

I agree with Jackson Hole and Serendipity, though Serendipity can have loooong waits for a table and you will most definitely have to wait outside because there’s only space for about 4 people inside), and they have a minimum per person that’s something like $8, which makes it so that if you’re just getting dessert everyone has to get there own at $14 a pop. There’s a great little dessert/coffee shop on W. 83rd St. (off of Broadway) called Cafe Lalo if you find yourself looking for a treat after the natural history museum!

If you decide to head uptown to check out the Cathedral of St. John the Divine, the fountain in the cathedral garden is quite impressive, and they put some really interesting art installations in the cathedral itself… there’s also Columbia’s campus just a few blocks up from there, if DS has Ivy League dreams or if you just want to check out The Thinker statue. There’s the Hungarian Pastry shop on Amsterdam at 111th St (directly across from the cathedral), which has great coffee and cocoa to warm your hands on a freezing day and Tom’s Restaurant (the exterior shots featured in Seinfeld) on Broadway and 112th St. is your basic cheap diner food but Deluxe (just up the block) is considerably better. In that general vicinity there’s also Grant’s Tomb, which I somehow never got around to visiting in the 5 years that I lived there, even though my apartment was only about 7 blocks away!

Thank you, everyone!! :heart_eyes:

So many new ideas and websites to add. Two words “snow boots”…oh dear! :worried:

Hi. I just saw this. I’ve worked in and around Times Square for 15 years. Basically, what everyone said about crowds is true - they’re negligible. It’s my favorite time of year because there are so few tourists. That said, there’s less going on in the city to see and do.

One thing to know - both FAO Schwarz and Toys"R"Us Times Square closed in 2015.

Some highlights to visit are (these are all over the city and sorry if there’s repetition):

  1. Dylan’s Candy Bar - midtown east
  2. LEGO Store - Rockefeller Plaza
  3. Pokemon Store - Also Rockefeller Plaza
  4. Lombardi’s Pizza (the first pizza place in the country) - Little Italy
  5. Nom Wah Tea Parlor (first Dim Sum place in NYC) - Chinatown
  6. Children’s Museum - Upper West Side
  7. LIberty Science Center - Jersey City, NJ but close to public transportation
  8. The Disney Store - Times Square
  9. It’s Sugar - (these guys made the candy stores in FAO and TRU and Dylan’s) multiple locations
  10. Brooklyn Botanical Garden (weather depending) - Brooklyn
  11. Brooklyn Children’s Museum - Brooklyn
  12. Intrepid Sea|Air|Space Museum - Midtown West
  13. New York Botanical Garden - Bronx
  14. South Street Seaport - Financial District

Have a fun trip!


I second looking into City Pass or similar bundles, which look like they offer good savings if you are planning on doing all or most of the attractions included. We live in the suburbs of NYC and do day trips into the city with our kids when we can. Some of our favorites:
-The Met offers really great kids programs that our kids love, including the chance to do art projects in different galleries each week (e.g., learn about African masks and make your own Mask using inspiration from that gallery, etc).
-the Intrepid is a must do – really cool! They have the Enterprise space shuttle too,
-We really enjoyed a very cold February day this year doing the Statue of Liberty and the Empire State Building. We didn’t do Ellis Island because our kids (4 and 6) are too young to fully appreciate it, but I’ve done it it the past and it is a wonderful museum. The highlight of that day, though, partly because it was so unexpected, was the SeaGlass carousel in Battery Park (a very short walk from the boat to the Statue of Liberty). It is so unique and as if you are inside an aquarium.
-The Bronx zoo is always a fun day. We’ve never been in the winter though.
–Natural History museum
I hope you get lucky with snow so you can go sledding in Central Park!!

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We were there when the exhibit The Gates was in central park. We went to Serendipity first, put our name in, and returned close to the time we were given. You give your name and they find it on the list. We were there in Winter.

There are several guidebooks specifically for NYC with kids. I found one today at my local library (just sitting out on display with other travel books), but looking for these online shows that any you find might be a few years old - shucks! They might still have useful info. For instance, the one I found (Frommer’s) had a section on how to get kids interested in NYC, such as certain movies or children’s books, or talking about the landmarks/buildings.

The Planetarium at the Museum of Natural History is a big hit with my sons that age - and the natural history museum has IMAX (nature) movies. There are also several movie theaters with IMAX and/or 4-D features showing popular movies too (check the AMC website - and many have reserved seating for movies now too, so you don’t have to get there early to wait in line for a good seat – movies before 11am or noon are 1/2 price – which would probably be the normal price you would pay outside NYC).

Ice skating in Bryant Park is also a great alternative to Rock Center - and there is now a rink downtown by the World FInancial Center too… Admission is actually free if you bring your own skates (they do charge for skate rental).

I’m so sorry I haven’t been thanking everyone directly. I’ve been too busy researching all these awesome suggestions!!!

Liners to the RESCUE!!! Of course, this means I will have a spreadsheet larger than my map of Manhattan when we go, but it’ll be worth it! ADR’s, FPP (CityPass), and HopOnHopOff Bus Tours (like the Monorail Crawl!)–all will be prepared with thanks to all my Liner Family!!

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They ate not kidsing. Not just warm boots but weatherproof. And comfy socks you will be in these all day. Expect slush and puddles.

Also remember museums may be suggested entry fees. I know natural history is not sure what else. So if you want to oay $5 to eneter they will take it.

Yes, many of NYC’s museums have a suggested price, but will accept any donation. The difference is you may have to wait on a long line if you decide not to buy a ticket at the suggested price.

There are many NYCpass type of ticket packages that include admission to various sites and museums, at a much reduced cost. This is probably a better way to go so you are not spending hours of your valuable vacation time on lines.

This google is a good start. Take a look at what you’re interest are, then buy accordingly.

You should also plan a dinner in Little Italy, maybe walk around ChinaTown & The Village that day? Make sure to have earmuffs- the bitter damp wind off the river is brutal at times. Have fun! We love to visit The Strand bookstore on our visits, it’s been ther for 100 years and we just love it.