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Exploring New York City with a toddler can be overwhelming even if you’re familiar with the city. With a large number of choices for things to do and places to eat, it can be hard to narrow things down if you don’t have a plan ahead of time. Having visited the city frequently with my toddler, here are a few of my ideas to help you map out your next outing to the Big Apple.
Spend the Day with Toddlers in Midtown
What to do
Taking a cruise targeted for kids is a great way to see the main attractions like the Statue of Liberty, Ellis Island and the Manhattan skyline. Circle Line offers a series of themed kids’ cruises that include live entertainment, such as balloon artists and magicians. At 75 minutes, these are typically shorter than their regular sightseeing cruises and occur in the morning to accommodate the kids’ schedule. The cruise leaves from Pier 83 on the W. 42nd street and the easiest way to get there is by a taking a cab from the Times Square area.
Where to eat in Midtown with toddlers
If you’re looking to spend time in the Times Square area, there are not many great food options in this entertainment hub surrounded by colorful billboards, shopping and chain restaurants. While looking for good quality food and a relatively calm atmosphere to dine in Time Square with my toddler, I discovered The T-45 Diner located in the Hyatt Times Square New York hotel. The menu offered a good mix of brunch and lunch options of traditional dishes with a modern twist.
Where to Play in New York City with Toddlers
Though toddlers will have no clue about the significance of Times Square, they will be enchanted with the bright lights and street performers, especially their favorite cartoons characters. For about a dollar per person you can let the kids to shake hands and pose with these characters for a memorable photo op.
My toddler’s favorite activity at Times Square has been to visit M&M’s World, the three storied retail and entertainment center based on one of the most popular American candy. The brightly colored candy dispensers with M&M’s of every color imaginable will fascinate both kids and adults. My son loved meeting an M&M in costume as well as posing with a different colored statues throughout the store. Beware that the toys, clothes and other trinkets will lead to many requests from the little ones. It is a fun place to explore and get good views (from the second and third floor bay windows) of the busy streets even if you’re not a fan of M&M candy.
Visit Lower Manhattan with Toddlers
What to do in Lower Manhattan with Toddlers
Visiting the 9/11 Memorial can be done with kids in tow. The beautiful monument is located in an outside space where you can walk about and bask in the peaceful humming of the water fountain.
Visiting the museum (located adjacent to the memorial) was one of the most moving experiences I have had during sightseeing. Our visit there invoked a lot of emotion and reflection. Hence, I don’t recommend taking little kids to the museum as having to watch over them will not grant you the concentration needed during your visit. It may also disturb other visitors if the little ones were to run about and explore.
Where to eat in Lower Manhattan with Toddlers
Stopping by Chinatown for dim sum (food prepared in bite sized or individual portions) is a great way to introduce kids to Chinese food. Jing Fong, one of the best known restaurants, is comprised of a large dining hall where servers will be wheeling carts of various dishes. You can pick a few different items to start with and also get second helpings of the dishes you like best. If you’re planning to dine during typical lunch hours, be prepared to wait for at least 30 minutes.
The steam buns (typically pork or red bean), shrimp dumplings and taro cake (vegetarian) are a few of the well-known dim sum favorites for beginners.
Where to Play in Lower Manhattan with Toddlers
The Imagination Playground located close to South Street Seaport is a public playground designed as an interactive space for kids. The open space area with foam blocks is a place where kids can not only just stretch their legs but also test their creative abilities.
Visit the Upper West Side with Toddlers
What to do
The American Museum of Natural History is one of the most popular places on the Upper West Side. The four story museum can get a bit exhausting with a toddler, so it would be best to have a plan to hit all the highlights before his or her enthusiasm wears off.
If your child loves dinosaurs, you can start the tour from the fourth floor where giant dinosaur skeletons are assembled in the fossil halls. The mammal halls on the first and second floors, depicting animals from around the world in their natural habitats are a big hit with the whole family. The giant 94 feet long, the fiberglass replica of a female blue whale suspended from the ceiling is another of the museum’s celebrated displays.
Where to eat
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Café Lalo is a European inspired café known for brunch and dessert. Though space wise there isn’t much room inside if the little ones wanted to walk about, the café is located in a beautiful tree lined brownstone building. The international brunch offerings with dishes inspired by several European countries will give a variety of choices along with high quality breads, fruit and other breakfast staples your toddler will love.
Another easy lunch option close to the Museum is Spice, an affordable and flavorful Thai food eatery. With several locations throughout Manhattan, they have many rice and noodle dishes which can be prepared mild to serve the taste buds of a toddler while providing variety for the adults.
Where to play
Central Park has an entrance just opposite the museum. You will be very close to the Diana Ross Playground, an open air play space with wooden interconnected structures, where kids can climb, jump and slide.
If you are up for walking, the Riverside Park is a few blocks away bordering the edge of the city on west side. This is one of Manhattan’s waterfront parks that offers stunning views of the Hudson River. In addition to beautiful gardens, there are also a few different kids’ play areas (River Run, Hippo,and Dino play grounds) located from 76th up to 97th street.
Since it can be time consuming to move from one neighborhood to the other, planning your day in a particular area can help you and the kids get the most out of your trip. There are a lot more suggestions on what to explore in New York City on our TravelingMom New York site.