Leisurely explore NYC neighborhoods with kids

Growing up in New York means we visit a lot as a family. To us, it’s important for our children to know and love NYC as much as we do. What works for our family is leisurely exploring NYC neighborhoods through a local and off the beaten path method, balanced with visiting the hotspots and must-see attractions.

Our visits are typically in and out over 3 days. We stay fairly localized, taking in what we can at a less frenetic pace. Our kids do best traveling when we’re not overly scheduled and more relaxed. I would rather book a trip back than have a visit full of meltdowns.

Here, you’ll find 3 days in NYC with kids planned at a manageable pace.

Day 1: Chelsea to Hudson Yards

Starting off in Chelsea’s Meatpacking District is a non-traditional route and a great jump-off spot for walking and exploring in the city. The best part of the city is walking it and feeling it. Try to book a room at the Gansevoort. The rooftop pool and deck boasts incredible skyline views and the room’s are spacious and well appointed.

When traveling with kids, the first order of business is food. A few short blocks from the hotel is Chelsea Market – a speciality food mecca! In addition to food, Chelsea Market is the place for all things NY and unique. Dine on what you fancy with options like ramen bowls, lobster rolls, deli foods, and mini doughnuts! Plan for time to shop and explore the market after fueling up. Plan for approx. 1.5 hours.

After, you’ll head upstairs to The High Line. The High Line is an elevated walking path built on a historic rail line – intended to be more than a park or a boardwalk. You’ll walk through gardens, view art, experience a performance, find unique food vendors, and immerse yourselves with locals – all while enjoying an alternative perspective of New York City. I highly recommend this route.

View from the High Line

Plan to walk from 14th-30th. Kids will find the walk to be a breeze and they will be thrilled when you arrive at Hudson Yards. Everyone will be mesmerized when you come upon The Vessel. There are quite a few cool things to do for the whole family while at Hudson Yards, this is a great list to save for the itinerary. Plan to spend 2 hours.

Travel with kids
The Vessel at Hudson Yards

You’ll take the same route back to the hotel, with stops for ice cream and browsing along the way, both on the High Line and on the streets below. Plan for 1 hour return time including stops.

Now it’s time for the kids to cool off at the hotel’s pool while you take advantage of the Ganesvoort’s Poolside Happy Hour.

Evening in Meatpacking is hot, without question. The streets are busy and music is everywhere. There are plenty of dinner options close, just be sure to make a reservation in advance. Our standard spots for excellent food/dining with kids include the casual Bubby’s and Buddakan for both the food and element of enchantment. Do not be discouraged by the chic appearance – Buddakan is welcoming to children of all ages.

Day 2: West Village, Greenwich, Washington Park, Downtown

Breakfast and brunch are just as easy to find in Meatpacking as dinner. We like High Street on Hudson, The Wild Son or Coco. After breakfast plan on meandering your way further Downtown. Places to see can include neighborhoods like the West Village, Greenwich, Soho, and Noho. You’ll find funky shops, plenty of lunch spots and city playgrounds.

Travel Tip: Map out public playgrounds along your route to keep the kids entertained and motivated. There are quite a few good ones around Chelsea, the Pier, and along the walk Downtown, including Washington Square Park. Use your maps and pinpoint the playgrounds that pop up. You can route yourself around them seamlessly. Sometimes if I want to do a little shopping, my husband will stay with them at the playground to keep everyone happy.

Washington Square Park

You can easily make your way to the Financial District or Battery Park. You’ll want to book tours of One World Observatory and the 9/11 museum in advance. The outdoor memorial does not require tickets and is open to the public. The Oculus is located across the street and is an insanely detailed structure that serves as a transportation hub and mall. This is a must-see place.

This route will fill a full day.

Day 3: Midtown/Uptown

After breakfast hop on public transit (subway, Uber, Taxi) and head mid to uptown. There are plenty of local/tourist mix places just for you in these areas! Manhattan is for Art and Culture – you would be remiss if you didn’t visit at least one of the many museums. Here’s a comprehensive link to Manhattan’s Museum Mile. Our children love the Museum of Natural History, MOMA, and our favorite for kids, the Children’s Museum of Manhattan. For brunch, Sarabeth’s is in the same neighborhood at the Children’s Museum. The Children’s museum is Uptown on the West Side. You can start here and walk your way back the rest of our route.

Children’s Museum of Manhattan

Central Park is on the walk and borders the Museum Mile. You’ll want to check out Central Park’s Heckscher Playground for excellent free play on the way to the next stop. In the park they also have the Central Park Zoo too! Remind them of Alex the Lion from Madagascar and everyone will be thrilled. Across the street from the base of the park you’ll find FAO Schwartz and the must-do Fifth Ave walk straight to Rockefeller Center. Plan for a full day on this path.

Central Park Zoo
Central Park Zoo
  • Start at the Children’s Museum of Manhattan
  • Sarabeth’s for lunch
  • Central Park Playground or Zoo
  • Cut across the park and try another museum
  • Walk 5th ave and end up at Rockefeller Center
  • If you can keep going head to Bryant Park and then Times Square
  • Rest!