Wonder what Times Square is really like – up close and personal? Local resident and TravelingMom Judy Antell says the family-friendly area is safe and loaded with kid-friendly attractions. Read her account to learn why Times Square is the place to be in NYC – for the entire family!
My college student daughter and I recently spent the night at the new Embassy Suites by Hilton New York Midtown and found plenty of attractions in the Times Square area to fill our time. This central location is a couple of blocks from the Empire State Building, Bryant Park, the theater district and more. If and when we are lucky enough to score tickets to Harry Potter and the Cursed Child, I want to stay nearby. The show is in two parts, and runs five and a half hours.
But there are plenty of shows on Broadway for families. The Lion King, Dear Evan Hansen, Aladdin and Hamilton appeal to young children through young adults. The TKTS booth in Times Square offers half price tickets on the day of a show.
Free Fun in Bryant Park
Bryant Park is a midtown oasis that offers year round free fun. From October through March, visitors can ice skate for free. During winter, you can pick up gifts at the holiday shops or play games or create art in the indoor space. During warmer weather, there are storytelling times and free shows. You might see juggling, or Broadway performers singing selections from current shows. The carousel is not free, but it’s great for when you are in NYC with toddlers.
If you’re with a fitness-minded teen, Bryant Park has free yoga, boot camp and dance classes. You can even learn how to fence!
Around the block from Bryant Park, the main branch of the New York Public Library (officially the Stephen A. Schwarzman Building) has free exhibits The lovely landmark Beaux-Arts building is worth exploring. And don’t forget to see the stone lions guarding the front of the library.
Head to the High Line
The elevated High Line park runs from 34th Street to Gansevoort Street. The mile and a half path has public art and free programming throughout the day. There is also stargazing at night.
NYC on high
No matter how old the child is, if you bring her to NYC, she will want to go to the top of the Empire State Building. I’ve only been to the 86th floor observatory. You can splurge for a ticket to the 102nd floor AND the observatory. There is also a VIP ticket that lets you skip the line. Once you get to the observatory, you can spend as long as you want. And as long as you choose a clear day, you can see for miles.
In New York, you can often see celebrities walking down the street. And if you go to a Broadway show, you can wait at the stage door afterwards for an autograph or a selfie. And look around at the audience if you see a show. Celebrities attend Broadway shows too.
TravelingMom pro tip: Actors have to get to their shows. If you casually stroll through Times Square a couple of hours before a matinee or evening show, you are bound to pass a Broadway actor or two.
To guarantee a celeb sighting – or at least see a celebrity likeness – head to Madame Tussauds New York. The museum has wax replicas of entertainment and sports stars, royals and famous politicians.
Best NYC hotels for families
Immerse your family in Times Square and midtown with a stay at NYC’s first Embassy Suites. The rooms are not the typical expansive rooms found in Embassy Suites, but the set up works well if you are traveling with a young child or two who can stay on the pull-out couch. It also works for a mother-daughter getaway where you both want your own bed.
The rather tight quarters had a partial wall separating the pull out from the king sized bed. There was also a mini fridge, and fast, free Wifi.
Like Embassy Suites everywhere, the hotel had free breakfast. Omelets are made to order, with plenty of fresh vegetables. There was also a huge selection of breads, fruit, pancakes, yogurt and cereal. If you are looking for a New York bagel, leave the hotel. But for a the perfect way to start a day of sightseeing, you can hardly do better.
My daughter and I were truly impressed by the fresh fruit selection. There was sliced mango – and when it ran low, there was more.
Another Embassy Suites perk, the social hour, offers snacks and drinks daily. Usually, this is just beer and wine, but the Embassy Suites Midtown also makes cocktails.
NYC hotel for NYC residents
The Embassy Suites Midtown also appeals to locals who are looking for a good bar or outdoor movie. The hotel has a craft cocktail bar. It also has an outdoor space where there are movies, open seasonally.