Things to do in NYC – A 3 Day Family Vacation Guide

things to do in NYC

One of our goals for 2017 was to travel more. I’d say we’ve accomplished that (see more vacations here)! Living in the southwest makes traveling a lot more difficult than living on one of the coasts. It usually takes several flights (tips for flying with a toddler here) to get to our destination or at least five hours in the car to change up the scenery. That’s why New York City has quickly became one of our favorite spots for a quick getaway trip. We can hop on a red eye flight and arrive in NYC five hour later. Plus there are so many things to do in NYC !  Every time I watch one of Love Taza’s NYC videos I want to go there again.  We’ve taken four trips there in the past year and have never ran out of things to do in NYC.

Since trips to New York are on most people’s bucket list we decided to put together a New York Guide for a three day family vacation with all our favorite things to do in NYC and a list of our favorite attractions.

things to do in NYC

Day 1:
Morning: Central Park
After a long flight, taxi ride and getting checked into a hotel there is nothing quite like Central Park to say “welcome to NYC”. Plus there are tons of things to do and see in Central Park that let our little kiddo run off some energy without having to worry about crowds. See our favorite things to do in Central park here and here.

Afternoon: Top of Rockefeller Center and 9/11 Memorial
The 9/11 Memorial is a quick taxi ride from Central Park. It gives the perfect opportunity for a casual history lesson about 9/11 with your kiddos. E’s teachers are always so impressed when he returns to pre-school from a NYC trip and talks about the “sad day the buildings came down”.

The Top of Rockefeller Center gives amazing views of the city. You have to pay around $30 for a ticket to go to the top, but once there you get 360 degree views of the city. My hubby thinks it’s one of those things to do in NYC that everyone should do at least once.

Night: Shop 5th Avenue
5th Avenue is a short walk form Rockefeller Avenue and is famous for it’s stores. It has practically every designer clothing company imaginable and most of the stores go all out with their displays. Don’t miss the top floor of Victoria’s Secret. It’s a museum with the angel wings and costumes worn during their shows.

things to do in NYC

Day 2:
Late Morning/Early Afternoon: Food Tour
We’ve done food tours twice with Foods of NY Tours and they have been amazing! It’s my all time favorite thing to do in NYC. The tours consist of small bites from 6-8 restaurants all located within a few blocks of each other. The tour guides will entertain you as you walk from restaurant to restaurant with the history of the neighborhood, recent celebrity sightings, and tell you all about what it’s like to live in NYC as a “real person”. Then at each restaurant they’ll discuss the history of the restaurant and details of the dish you’re eating. They offer tours for several of the neighborhoods, so we recommend choosing a neighborhood you’re interested in seeing and learning about. We recommend the “Original Greenwich Village Tour” because the location is rich with history, celebrities, and tons of fun places to visit after the tour.

Afternoon: Neighborhood Exploring
During the food tour the guide will point out several spots of interest that will be fun to return to. We always save time after the tours to go to the shops, parks, famous streets, or other restaurants the guides point out on the tours.

Night: Broadway or Off-Broadway Show
If you still have energy go to a show after dinner. We prefer going to the Off-Broadway shows since the tickets are less expensive and easier to get tickets to last minute. NYC has off-Broadway theaters all over so just google off Broadway theaters in the area your hotel is in and pick a show that you can easily get to.

things to do in NYC

Day 3:
Morning: Chelsea Market & The High Line
Start off your day having breakfast at Chelsea Market. It’s one of those things to do in NYC that you don’t want to miss. Chelsea Market is a block wide and block long in the Meatpacking District. It has lots of cute little shops and tons of food vendors. It’s quickly become one of the “must see places in NYC”.

Across from Chelsea Market is the High Line, which is another great NYC attraction. The High Line is New York City’s only elevated park. It was a former railway that ran above and between the buildings in Chelsea. Years ago it was donated to the city and has been transformed into a beautiful 1.5 mile long park thanks to many of the city’s most prominent designers like Diane Von Furstenburg. It’s a beautiful place to take a stroll with city views any time of year.

Afternoon: Visit the Statue of Liberty
It wouldn’t be a trip to New York City without visiting the Statue of Liberty. My kiddo always insists on seeing the Statue of Liberty every time we are in NYC. There’s a few ways to see it. You can visit Battery Park and get pretty good views of the statue from the park. Another option is to take the Staten Island Ferry, which is inexpensive and takes about 2 hours round trip. It doesn’t stop at the Statue of Liberty, but goes right past Liberty Island, which is the island it resides on. To go into the Statue of Liberty or visit Liberty Island you need to plan in advance to buy tickets. We’ve never done this since most people say the Liberty Island tours are over-priced and very crowded. The view from the Staten Island Ferry is good enough for me.

Night: Anything You’ve Missed
Every time we plan a vacation, I like to leave at least a four hour segment open to do anything spur of the moment that seems fun.

things to do in NYC

Where to Stay:
Each time we’ve visited we’ve stayed in a different hotel or airbnb. For our first two trips we stayed in the Westin and Park Central Hotel because of their close proximity to Central Park. I love being steps away from Central Park because it provides endless amounts of things to do in NYC with kids that you don’t have to plan. Having a toddler or young child cooped up in a hotel room can be miserable, so I love that we can quickly walk to Central Park when E gets restless.

Our favorite place to stay was an airbnb in East Village. The East Village is very family friendly and it gives you a true feeling of what living in NYC might be like.

I recently came across this blog post on the best hotels in NYC under $200 and wish I would have found it a year ago. It has several affordable options in some great locations.

Where to Eat:
We’ve probably eaten at close to one hundred restaurants in NYC and honestly pretty much all of them have been really good. We recommend just choosing a restaurant that sounds appealing as you’re walking or taxiing from each NYC attraction. Just avoid the food trucks near Central Park….

things to do in NYC

How to Get Around NYC:
To get from the airport to NYC we always take a taxi, which costs about $60 each way. Once we’re in the city we prefer to walk as much as possible or take the Metro. Walking gives a great perspective of the city and lets us see places we would have other wise missed in a taxi or on the metro. E, our four year old son, prefers to take the metro. He loves riding any kind of train and always gets excited by the spontaneous performers singing and dancing on the metros.

things to do in NYC

What to do in NYC, other favorite things to do and see:
Museums: there are tons of museums in NYC. We recommend the Museum of Ice Cream and Museum of Natural History.
T.V. Show Filming Sites: celebrity enthusiasts love to visit sites like Central Perk from Friends and Carrie Bradshaw’s apartment.
Brooklyn Bridge: some people love walking across the Brooklyn Bridge. It personally makes me way too nervous to do with a young kiddo.
Empire State Building: go to the top of the Empire State Building for more city views.

Don’t forget to pin the picture below so you can easily remember the fun things to do in NYC when you plan your trip.

things to do in NYC

Don’t forget to read my tips for flying with a toddler before your trip.


19 thoughts on “Things to do in NYC – A 3 Day Family Vacation Guide

  1. the cape on the corner

    i love the idea of the food tour, i will definitely have to keep that in mind. i’ve always wanted to see nyc during the holidays, too.

  2. Susie @ Mile High Dreamers

    Ben wants to go to NYC so bad! Honestly I’v been less inclined only because I’m SO overwhelmed by how to plan a NYC trip. This is incredibly helpful! There’s so much to see, but you’ve definitely highlighted the main sites. And of course… THE FOOD! That’s what we’d be exploring the most haha. Looks like you guys have it down!

    Susie |

    1. Carly Post author

      I felt the same way when we were planning our first trip. After going there several times it seems way less over-whelming. I’m glad the guide was helpful. I hope you get to visit NYC soon

  3. Carrie @ Curly Crafty Mom

    We did the High Line, but not Chelsea’s Market! We did do a food tour in Chinatown which was AMAZING! I would love to go back to NYC, we have only gone once. I’d like to take the kids sometime with us too. It is about a 2.5 hr flight from STL, which isn’t bad. I really do prefer direct flights, even when I don’t have the kids with me!


    1. Carly Post author

      Direct flights are definitely way easier once you have kids. I hope you get to do a family vacation in NYC soon. I bet your kids will love it!


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