New York City is America’s largest city and can be a great place for families to visit. I recently visited with my wife, Carol, and two children, Claire and Shelby, ages 8 & 10. Below are some highlights of our trip.
We stayed at the Novotel New York Times Square, a great value for families. It has an ideal Midtown location, a few blocks from Times Square, seven blocks from Central Park and a block away from three subway stations. It is surrounded by Broadway shows, and The Late Show with Stephen Colbert is taped just around the corner. There are also many restaurants and shopping nearby.
The hotel has been refurbished so it is very clean, and the rooms are a decent size for New York City. The bathroom has a large shower, and there is plenty of wardrobe space. We stayed on the 33rd floor, where we had a good view of Times Square and didn’t hear any street noise below.
We enjoyed a good buffet-style breakfast in the hotel’s very pleasant Supernova restaurant, which also has a great view of Times Square. It’s not included with your room, but children are free when they dine with parents or grandparents.
The lobby has computers for guests’ use, and computer games for the kids.
A second solid hotel choice near Times Square is the Hilton Garden Inn New York/Central Park South-Midtown West. It is two blocks away from the Novotel, and has the same advantage of having a great location. The hotel is clean, and our room on the 14th floor was quiet. Room size is about average for the City. There is a microwave and refrigerator in the room. I also recall being particularly impressed by the friendly and helpful staff. Check in was easy, and they accommodated my request for an earlier check-in time.
There is coffee and tea in the lobby in the mornings. The restaurant offered a buffet breakfast, which was tasty and offered a good variety. It’s a good value for the City and family-friendly.
When it’s time to eat, try Bill’s Bar & Burger. They have multiple locations in the City; we ate at the Downtown location a few blocks south of the 9-11 memorial. It offers a wide variety of delicious hamburgers and hot dogs (and fries, of course!), as well as sandwiches and salads. They’ll make it your way, including with a variety of bun choices. Save room for their fantastic shakes and desserts. They have a kids menu as well. Portions were good sized.
Although there is a bar prominently in the restaurant, it was very kid friendly. Watch local teams play on televisions in the bar area.
Another great restaurant for families is Potbelly. There are many locations throughout the City; we went to their 7th Avenue store two blocks from Times Square and Madison Square Garden. We enjoyed wonderful sandwiches, soups and salads; it’s open for breakfast, lunch and dinner. I had a delicious grilled chicken sandwich; I want to go back to try their meatball sandwich as well. They offer a skinny option sandwich if you’re watching your calories.
It has nice rustic interior décor and in the evenings live music. Save room for dessert or try one of their excellent shakes or malts.
Another great sandwich and soup shop is Hale and Hearty, with locations all over the City. Go online to find one near your hotel. It features a wide range of fresh, flavorful, healthy soups and sandwiches made daily, perfect either to dine in or grab and go. Some outstanding soups I’d recommend include the sweet crab, tomato and basil and Southwest shrimp and corn chowder. You’re welcome to sample soups to find one you like, and there are three sizes.
They also offer fine pre-made salads, wraps and fresh bread. The lines are often long, but they move quickly. And the price is quite reasonable for the City.
For a more upscale choice, have dinner at Charlie Palmer at the Knick, located on the 4th floor of The Knickerbocker, one of the City’s historic hotels. It offers breakfast, lunch and dinner. We had dinner, and enjoyed an outstanding zucchini soup, veal meatballs and flatbread. Their fish is excellent—I had the sea bass—as was their grilled skirt steak. They also have a kid’s menu. For dessert, try the chocolate bread pudding.
Its location is excellent, just off Times Square. It features classic contemporary décor and live music. Broadway shows are nearby; they also offer a pre-theater menu from 5:30 – 6:30 p.m. Monday – Friday. They have a wide selection of wines, and are also known for their house martini. The bar is a hot social spot in the City, but the restaurant is still very family-friendly.
The 9-11 Memorial is well done and a must for visitors. It tells the story of the September 11, 2001 attacks on the World Trade Center/Twin Towers by the Islamic terrorist group Al-Qaeda in which nearly 3,000 died. Begin at the twin reflecting pools that sit where the Twin Towers once stood. The names of each person who died are inscribed on the bronze panels edging the pools.
The museum itself is underground, and contains thousands images, recordings, videos and artifacts from 9-11. Wreckage from the original buildings is incorporated, as are damaged fire engines, pieces of the downed planes and personal effects of victims and survivors. See the 9-11 cross, hear interviews with survivors and recordings of the terrorists and soon-to-be victims during the crisis. A central feature is a profile/memorial of each person killed, many of which are accompanied by interviews with the loved ones of the deceased remembering them.
See the website for special programming for youth and families, including drop-in art activities on Saturdays.
If you’re looking for a great birds-eye view of the City, visit the Top of the Rock Observation Deck at Rockefeller Center. The elevator takes you to the 67th floor (in 42 seconds!), and then you can take an escalator and stairs to the 69th and 70th floors. The upper deck is 850 feet about the street. You have a panoramic view of the City; the 67th floor has a large indoor area so you can stay warm behind windows. The 70th floor is in the open air. You get a great view of the surrounding buildings, the rivers on either side of Manhattan and Central Park. On a clear day, it’s great for photos. It’s open until midnight, so go day or night.
New York is known for its outstanding Broadway plays; we opted to go off Broadway and enjoy a show by the famous Blue Man Group. The production features three comical “blue men,” loud percussion music, splattering paint, special effects and ample audience participation. It’s clever, funny and interactive. The performers are very expressive, but never speak. It’s suitable for the whole family; our kids were engaged and mesmerized throughout the show.
Since the show is off-Broadway, it’s cheaper than a Broadway show. The performance is held in the Astor Place Theatre, a smaller venue that has no bad seats. It was definitely the highlight of our trip.
There’s still a lot of New York City to see. I’m already planning my next trip.