Hilaria Baldwin's Guide to Exploring NYC with Kids
The Brooklyn Botanic Garden is amazing! It can be a great alternative to Central Park if you’re looking for something a bit more off the beaten path. It’s a free-range space where kids can just go and run and be kids in a care-free area. It’s absolutely magical, almost like a secret garden, with little nooks and bridges to explore. They have a great lunch spot as well with options for indoor and outdoor seating. If your kids are like mine, getting them to sit still indoors is always a challenge, so it’s nice to have the outdoor option.
The Central Park Zoo is great because it’s manageable with a petting zoo, and the Bronx Zoo is another great option if you have the time to travel a bit further. My kids especially love the dinosaur ride, and there’s lots of space for kids to really run and play.
This a great place to head if you want an outdoor space where the kids can run around and be by the water. There’s astroturf, so bring a ball for them to kick around. it’s a great way to spend an afternoon when the sun is shining and you’re looking for something a bit more low-key.
If you have the time to make the trek (it can be a little over an hour on the subway from Manhattan), Coney Island is the perfect day trip to escape the bustle of the city. There’s a beach, a Ferris wheel and, if you’re feeling really brave, there’s the Cyclone roller coaster (though my kids have not gone on that yet!).
My son Rafael is obsessed with the Statue of Liberty right now. Alec and I have both lived in the city for so long that we don’t often do touristy things, so it’s such a cool experience to do them with our kids, who not only need an activity but are fascinated by it. Alec had the idea of taking the Staten Island Ferry, which is so much fun. You see the Statue of Liberty on the way there and on the way back. The kids loved it!
There are beautiful old carousels all over the city: Central Park, Chelsea Piers, Battery Park and this one in Prospect Park, Brooklyn. The kids love them all, and they’re beautiful for adults too, or anyone interested in history.
It’s a genius idea – it’s a store, so they sell toys, but there’s also an indoor play space and there are tons of different activities to sign up for on the weekends like story time and arts and crafts.
We love love, love museums, and the Natural History Museum is one of our favorites. We take the subway – which is also in itself a really fun activity for the kids. The kids love riding the trains and the whole experience of it, but definitely bring hand sanitizer – kids love to touch everything (and lick everything, if they’re like my kids!).
I love art, so it’s great sharing that love with the kids. It’s frustrating for them when they can’t touch things, but it’s good for them to have that experience of being in a space and seeing and appreciating art.
This is another one of our favorite museums. It’s great for big families-- it actually might be cheaper to become a member than to pay for everyone individually. So if you’re like me, with 4+ kids, that can be a really good option.
This restaurant is very family-friendly with big tables – perfect for larger families. Serving a little bit of everything, the menu has a lot to offer kids. But, it can get busy so it’s important to make a reservation, even if you’re planning on eating early.
This is our favorite ice cream place. I don’t give my kids a lot of dairy, and they love the non-dairy ice cream here – it’s one of their favorite treats.
Not only is the coffee delicious, but they have a ton of different pastries. I take the kids here on the weekend after a healthy breakfast and let them pick out a treat. They get really excited for the pastries.
If you’re visiting New York, everyone in the family will appreciate a really good New York bagel. These are some of our favorites, and they also have a really great non-dairy cream cheese option.
Alec and I go to a lot of restaurants when we want time for just the two of us. When we’re choosing a restaurant, all we really care about is that the food is delicious, the people are lovely and that we can have a real neighborhood experience. These are some of our favorites.
It’s such a classic New York spot, and the space is beautiful with really lovely flower arrangements and perfect lighting. The wine is amazing and if you want to adjust the menu a little they’ll do that for you. They want you to get what you want, which is really nice when you’re sitting down for a meal.
They have a really great veggie burger! I surprised Alec by taking him here on a Friday night for date night. We were done eating in 10 minutes, but the food was really delicious! It’s more of a lunch spot, but it’s also perfect for those nights when you don’t have as much time to eat out.
This guide scratches the surface of what you can get up to with your family in New York. But if I could give one piece of advice to families visiting the city, it’s this: Don’t try to see it all. When I first moved to the city, it felt overwhelming just how much is here! But I quickly realized just how neighborhood-centered the city is. And that is really heartwarming. As fast as the city seems to move, try to slow down a little and skip some of the more touristy things in favor of some places that may be a bit more unexpected. And just have fun!