Spring Break and Summer are fast approaching. It’s time to make those family travel plans. Don’t worry. I have already done a lot of the work for you! I have come up with some great family-friendly travel destinations and itineraries to match. My next few posts will feature four different types of vacations:
- U.S. based jaw-dropping, sightseeing, activity-filled week
- U.S. based luxurious, relaxing beach getaway
- International whirlwind tour of Rome, Florence, and a glimpse of Tuscany
- Walt Disney World – the ultimate in family destinations
So, drag out those suitcases, dust ’em off and get ready to start packing. It’s time for a family vacation!
Families are all unique, some are made up of only adults, some have babies and little ones, and some have teenagers. This means every family’s vacation needs are different. No worries, I’ve taken that all into consideration. I created each itinerary with these specific needs in mind. Just sit back, relax, and pick the New York City vacation that fits your group best.
First up on our list is one of our favorite family’s U.S. destinations – New York City. A big city as a vacation spot? Absolutely! New York has so much to offer visitors. There is something for everyone.
I have created three separate 5-Day itineraries. You can choose which one is right for you!
Itinerary for Family With Little Ones
*** For this particular itinerary, I recommend choosing lodging in the city. This will save a lot of travel time that tends to make little ones irritable.
***When creating itineraries with children in mind, I like to keep breakfast, nap time, and bed time at similar times each day. I always found that it kept my kiddos happier.
- 8:00 – 9:00 a.m. Breakfast – New York is famous for bagels. Pop into one of the local bagel shops and grab some breakfast.
- 9:00 – 12:00 noon Central Park Zoo – This is an awesome place for kids to visit. Most children are enchanted by all the animals. In order to eliminate standing in line for tickets, because who wants make the little ones uncomfortable and grumpy, pre-order them here.
- 12:00 – 1:30 p.m. Lunch – There are several restaurants and many cart vendors throughout central park. Grab a bite to eat and head to one of the many playgrounds Central Park has to offer.
- 1:30 – 5:00 p.m. Nap time – Travel time is built into this particular time slot. There is enough time to get from the park back to your hotel. Your kiddo should still have plenty of time to rest and recharge before dinner.
- 5:00 – 7:00 p.m. Dinner – New York City, Manhattan in particular, restaurants get crowded. Be prepared for a short wait. Bring along a favorite toy or game so that the time passes faster for your child. I suggest finding a table service restaurant. Sitting down to have dinner together will give your family a sense of routine. This is a great way to prevent meltdowns in both children and adults.
- 7:00 – 8:00 p.m. Times Square – Who can resist all of those high-rises and digital billboards?
- 8:00 p.m. Hotel – Head back to your home base. While this may be a touch late for some little ones, it’s still early enough that they will be able to get enough sleep to keep them going sans grumpiness.
- 8:00 – 9:00 a.m. Breakfast – Grab a bite to eat. Try a local diner!
- 9:00 – 12:00 noon Statue of Liberty (modified version) – First, I should explain what I mean by “modified version”. Younger children are not happy when standing in long lines or walking up 350+ stairs to get to the top of a statue. Sorry , but this is often the case. I’m not saying your little ones should not have the privilege of seeing Lady Liberty. I just believe they should enjoy her beauty from a less tiring distance. So, take the Staten Island Ferry for a spin and get a beautiful view of the Statue of Liberty, as well as the skyline of NYC, from the water. ***Be sure not to use the ferry during rush hour times. Another option would be to take a shuttle over to the statue, but don’t tour the inside. It can be an awe inspiring experience just to see her up close. While you’re there, be sure to check out Ellis Island. This is great for kids 8 and up.
- 12:00 – 1:30 p.m. Grab a slice of pizza! New York is famous for a lot of foods and pizza is one of them. Ask a local for their recommendation. After all, they know their city better than anyone else!
- 1:30 – 5:00 p.m. Nap time – Head back to your home base and relax for a bit.
- 5:00 – 6:30 p.m. Dinner – Have some fun with this meal. Try something new. Ask some of the locals who work at your hotel for a restaurant recommendation. Tonight’s the night to be a true New Yorker!
- 6:30 – 8:00 p.m. Playtime – Top off your day with a visit to the Lego store at Rockefeller Center.
- 8:00 p.m. Time for some sleep! Be sure to get enough ZZZZs. You’ll need your energy for tomorrow.
- 8:00 – 9:00 a.m. Breakfast – Lots of protein today. You’ll need your energy!
- 9:00 – 12:00 noon American Museum of Natural History – Be sure to visit the website and plan your visit ahead of time. The museum is HUGE! Pick out a few main attractions that are must-dos. Everything else you get to see will be a bonus.
- 12:00 – 1:00 p.m. Lunch – There are lots of restaurant options near the museum.
- 1:00 – 5:00 p.m. Nap time – Time for a little relaxation after all the walking you did at the museum.
- 5:00 – 8:00 p.m. Dinner – ***Before we get started, let me just say that I have no affiliation with any of these restaurants.*** Tonight’s dinner is a special treat. Choose a quirky themed restaurant, or one that offers its own entertainment. Some of the most widely recommended are: Ellen’s Stardust Diner (A singing wait staff? Talk about dinner and a show!), Dylan’s Candy Bar (Be prepared – you will leave with candy. This awesome candy shop has its on cafe…with real food!), or, if you have American Girl fans in your family, be sure to check out the American Girl Place.
- 8:00 p.m. Let’s get some rest! There will be a lot happening tomorrow.
- 8:00 – 9:00 a.m. Breakfast – Your body will need lots of fuel today. Have a good breakfast!
- 9:00 – 10:30 a.m. Window shop – Visiting during the holidays? Take the time to fully explore some of New York City’s finest window displays. Macy’s is especially famous for their holiday scenes. Any other time of the year you can use this time to do a little souvenir shopping. Just remember to keep the items small. You don’t want to have to lug heavy shopping bags all day.
- 10:30 – 12:00 noon Get active! – If the weather permits, take a spin on the ice – Check out Wollman Rink in Central Park. This is a less expensive alternative to skating at Rockefeller Center. If it’s too warm for ice skating, try rowing on the Lake at Central Park instead. Visit the official Central Park website here for details on pricing and availability.
- 12:00 – 1:00 p.m. Lunch – Grab a quick bite to eat from one of the food vendors in the park. Find a comfy bench and enjoy a picnic lunch.
- 1:00 – 4:00 p.m. Nap time!
- 4:00 p.m. – until Late night fun! – Tonight is all about taking a great big bite out of The Big Apple. Iconic NYC fun at its best. ***Depending on the season, choose the activities that best fit your needs.
- NYC sunset – Head over to the Top of the Rock for sunset views of Midtown and Central Park. Trust me, this is a view you don’t want to miss. If you time your visit just right you can get sunset and nighttime views. Be sure to check the official website here for ticket information. Don’t forget the camera!
- Broadway – Enjoy one of the things NYC is most famous for – a Broadway show. There are lots of kid-friendly options for this activity. For discount tickets, check with the ticket source under the red stairs in Times Square. The company is very well known and reputable.
- Take in a game – Have a sports fan in the family? The New York Yankees have a history no other team in the league. After all, Joe Di Maggio, Yogi Berra, and Whitey Ford played for this magnificent team.
- Serendipity 3 – Indulge in one of NYC’s most famous sweet treats – a frozen hot chocolate.
- Radio City Music Hall – Catch a show at this beautiful, and historical venue. Ever heard of the Rockettes? This world-renown dance troupe. They offer a variety of shows throughout the year. If the Rockettes happen to have the night off, Radio City Music Hall plays host to many famous entertainers. Be sure to check the official website here for up-to-date information on the venue’s lineup.
After a late night of exploring the city, get some much needed sleep.
- 9:00 – 10:00 a.m. Breakfast – Sleep in a little later to recoup your energy from the late night. Have a good breakfast and head out for your final day in the city.
- 10:00 – 12:00 noon NYC Subway – You can’t visit NYC without riding their famous subway system. Catch a ride to Grand Central Station and play the whispering game. Visit the Whispering Gallery and speak into the corner of the archway. The person in the opposite diagonal corner will be able to hear you. Kids will love this!
- 12:00 -1:30 p.m. Lunch – Have one more New York – style lunch. Visit a local deli or grab a hot dog from a street vendor.
- 1:30 – 3:00 p.m. Nap time! – Keeping things a little shorter today. You have to get in those last bits of NYC nostalgia.
- 3:00 – 5:00 p.m. Brooklyn Bridge – Enjoy the views of New York City as well as a walk across this historical bridge.
- 5:00 – 7:00 p.m. Dinner – Sit down and enjoy a table service meal. Use this time to reminisce about your time together in the city.
- 7:00 p.m. Recharge – Head back to your hotel. Get a good night’s sleep before heading home tomorrow.
Itinerary for Family With Teens
***With this itinerary, you may choose to save some money by staying in New Jersey and commuting to the city via shuttle every day, or staying in the city, but searching for a great deal on lodging. See my post on New York City Hotels here.
***Please keep in mind that this itinerary is for the entire family. When traveling with teens (the hormonally infused beings they are), it’s important to remember that their travel preferences should be taken into consideration. You are teaching them to travel by example. So, let them take the lead sometimes. It teaches them responsibility.
***Teens require more sleep than the rest of us. I have adjusted the schedule to fit their needs.
- 9:00 – 10:00 a.m. Breakfast – Have breakfast at your hotel, if it’s offered, or in the city.
- 10:00 – 12:00 noon Shopping – No, I don’t mean just any type of shopping. This is teen specific. Please keep in mind these are just a few suggestions to get you started. This activity will depend solely on your teen’s preferences:
- Converse – I haven’t met many teens, or adults for that matter, who do not own at least one pair of Converse shoes. My teen daughter even has me hooked! The store on Broadway has a customization department in the basement. Simply pick a pair of shoes, pick your design (the selection is enormous), place your order, and return for pickup at your designated time. Teens will love this experience. You can even get a pair with the NYC skyline on them. I found the prices to be very reasonable. My daughter had looked at customizing a pair online, but getting them done at the store was significantly cheaper. They even have shoes on clearance (my favorite word next to FREE).
- H&M – Yes, I know many city’s have these stores. However, shopping at the one near Times Square gives your teen an entirely different vibe.
- e.l.f. Studio – This flagship store is a great stop for teens who love make-up. The brand is known for keeping prices low, yet being a good quality product. Keep in mind that this store is less than a mile from the Converse store. Could be a great combo.
- SoHo – A stroll through this district, while not the least expensive, can offer teens a look at up and coming trends.
- 12:00 – 3:00 p.m. Central Park – A lot of teens have discovered the music of the Beatles. Be sure to visit Strawberry Fields and the Imagine memorial to pay tribute to the legendary John Lennon. Across from Central park, you can see the Dakota, the place where the musician was killed and his wife, Yoko Ono, still lives today. John Lennon was not the only celebrity to reside in NYC or hang out in Central park. Be sure to tell you teen to keep their eyes open for celebrity sightings. They happen more often than you’d think. While in the park, grab a quick lunch from one of the many food vendors. Snap a few pictures by the bridge from Home Alone 2. Check out the statues. Sit on a bench and people watch while you eat.
- 3:00 – 5:30 p.m. American Museum of Natural History – Your teen will most likely remember this iconic NYC venue from its role in Night at the Museum. The museum is a great way to spend a little time on your first day in the city. Besides, who doesn’t love dinosaurs?
- 5:30 – 7:30 p.m. Dinner – ***I have no affiliation with this restaurant. My husband, my daughter, and I enjoyed a meal there on our trip to the city, but we have no relationship with the business or anyone who runs it. *** If your teen likes burgers, have dinner at one of the best burger places our family has ever tried – The Counter. This restaurant is in the Times Square vicinity. It offers fully customized burgers. You could also try Shake Shack or one of the many pizza places. While this type of fare may not be at the top of your food list, it will definitely please your teen’s picky pallet.
- 7:30 – until Times Square – Your teen will love the digital displays as well as the hustle and bustle of NYC’s Times Square after dark. Wander in and out of shops, snap pictures, and soak in the ambiance.
- Bedtime – Get some sleep. You’re going to need it. Tomorrow is a full day of NYC excitement.
- 9:00 – 10:00 a.m. Breakfast – Try a bagel! New York is famous for them.
- 10:00 – 4:00 p.m. Statue of Liberty / Ellis Island – Six hours may sound like a long time, but there is a lot to see. Climb to the top of the Statue of Liberty! Then, on to visit Ellis Island. These venues do not charge admission. However, there is a fee for the ferry shuttle to the island. Also, there is only one legitimate company that partners with the National Park Service to provide this transportation it is called Statue Cruises. The official website may be found here . It is HIGHLY recommended that you book your tickets well in advance of your visit, especially if you plan to climb to the top of Lady Liberty.
- 4:00 p.m. – until Down time – After a busy day it’s nice to have some unstructured time. Follow your teen’s lead and let them make the decisions. Whether they want to grab some dinner and head back to the hotel, or do some shopping and have a slice of pizza, it’s all up to them.
- 9:00 – 10:00 a.m. Breakfast
- 10:00 a.m. – 1:00 p.m. Walk the Brooklyn Bridge – This activity will give you a true New York experience. First, hop the subway over to the Brooklyn Bridge stop. From there, you will see signs pointing you in the right direction. You might want to take a little while to explore the Brooklyn area before heading over the bridge. I’ve heard Grimaldi’s pizza is amazing!
- 1:00 – 4:00 p.m. Grand Central Terminal – Use NYC’s famous subway system once again to head to Grand Central Terminal. Here, you will not only find one of NYC’s landmarks, but a variety of over 60 shops and restaurants too. Be sure to visit the Whisper Gallery while you’re in the terminal. Your teen stands in one corner of the archways and you stand diagonally in the other, both facing the wall. The two of can whisper and hear one another.
- 4:00 p.m. – until Down time – This is the part of the day where your teen takes the lead. Let him/her pick tonight’s dinner and entertainment. Believe it, or not, sometimes your teen may choose to head back to the hotel. They may want to just hand out and text their friends, or post their pictures from the day.
- 9:00 – 10:00 a.m. Breakfast – Eat a big breakfast. You’ll need your energy today. There’s lots to do.
- 10:00 – 2:00 p.m. Chinatown – Spend some time in this vibrant New York City neighborhood. From tiny shops selling unique items, to some of the best restaurants in the city, you will find plenty to do in Chinatown. Stop by Columbus Park to get an authentic feel of Chinese culture. You will find people playing traditional Chinese music and games. Don’t forget to have lunch before you leave!
- 2:00 – 5:00 p.m. Top of the Rock – From this magnificent building, you will get a bird’s eye view of Manhattan and Central Park. While many people choose to visit the Empire State building, Top of the Rock is less expensive and offers great views of the magnificent city of New York.
- 5:00 – until Dinner and a show – Grab a bite to eat and take in a show. Even those who don’t believe they like musicals will step away from a Broadway production in awe. The music, the acting, and the pageantry all join forces to wow audiences. For discount tickets that are legitimate,stop by the ticket booth under the red stairs in Times Square. (Theatre Development Foundation sells the tickets. You can visit their website here .) There are other locations, but this is the most well known. For other locations check the website. If a Broadway production is not something your teen would be interested in seeing, consider a show at Radio City Music Hall or Madison Square Garden, just be sure to check the lineup ahead of time and purchase tickets as necessary.
- 9:00 – 10:00 a.m. Breakfast – Lots of protein. It’s a big day!
- 10:00 – 2:00 p.m. Bronx Zoo – From African lions to zebras and everything in between, this zoo has it all!
- 2:00 – 4:00 p.m. High Line and Chelsea Market – If you haven’t heard of NYC’s High Line, it’s an old elevated train track that has been turned into a beautiful green space. It’s a great place to walk, jog, sunbathe, or just hang out and people watch. Just a short elevator ride down, you will find Chelsea Market. It’s a conglomeration of shops, bakeries, specialty foods, and boutiques. It’s a great place to grab a snack before heading out for your final evening in NYC,
- 4:00 p.m. – until Down time – Your last night in New York city should be fun. Make sure your teen has some input on the night’s activities. You could do some last minute souvenir shopping and have a nice dinner, or just head back to your hotel and pack up to head home tomorrow.
New York City for Adults
*** You might consider different lodging options since there are no children in your travel group. Be sure to check out my previous post on saving money on NYC hotels here.
- 9:00 – 10:00 a.m. Breakfast
- 10:00 a.m. – 2:00 p.m. Statue of Liberty / Ellis Island – Visit both of these iconic landmarks that have played huge roles in the history of our nation. Check to see if any of your ancestors arrived through Ellis Island. There are ship lists available at the official website here. Have some lunch at the counter service restaurant in the Ellis Island Museum.
- 2:00 – 5:00 p.m. 9/11 Memorial and Museum / 1 World Observatory – Visit the memorial and museum that commemorate the many lives that were lost on September 11, 2001. Then, step over to 1 World Observatory and take in a spectacular view of the city.
- 5:00 – 8:00 p.m. Dinner – New York has some of the best food in the world. It’s time to explore the choices! Give one of NYC’s iconic delis a try – Katz’s is open 24 hours.
- 8:00 – until Times Square – This is probably the most famous area in New York City. Dick Clark’s Rockin’ New Year’s Eve anyone? Take in the sights and sounds that make this area so memorable.
- 9:00 – 10:00 a.m. Breakfast
- 10:00 a.m. – 3:00 p.m. Brooklyn and its bridge – Hop the NYC subway to Brooklyn. This famous neighborhood has a lot to offer visitors. If you’re visiting in the summer, head to Coney Island for some totally unhealthy, but simply delectable treats and a ride on The Cyclone. If the boardwalk isn’t your thing, spend some time wandering the streets of Brooklyn. There are lots of shops and restaurants. Be sure to grab a slice of pizza from Grimaldi’s before you walk across the iconic Brooklyn Bridge to Manhattan.
- 3:00 – 7:00 p.m. Chinatown – Spend your evening immersed in the Chinese culture. Don’t forget to have dinner before you leave!
- 7:00 – until Serendipity 3 – Relax and have one of NYC’s most famous treats – a frozen hot chocolate.
- 9:00 – 10:00 a.m. Breakfast
- 10:00 – 12:00 noon Central Park – This beautiful, and huge, green space right in the middle of Manhattan is not only a retreat from the hustle and bustle of the city, it has a lot to offer visitors. If you’re a Beatles fan, don’t miss Strawberry Fields and the Imagine memorial. You can rent a row boat during the warm months or ice skate in the winter. Rent a bike and tour the park. Visit the Central Park Zoo. The possibilities are endless.
- 12:00 – 1:30 Lunch – Have some lunch before setting off on your next adventure.
- 1:30 – 5:00 p.m. American Museum of Natural History – C’mon. Everybody loves dinosaurs!
- 5:00 – 7:00 p.m. Early dinner and back to the hotel – Tomorrow will be a big day.
- 9:00 – 10:00 a.m. Breakfast – If you haven’t already tried one, New York is famous for bagels!
- 10:00 – 1:00 p.m. MoMA – The Museum of Modern Art is a must see while visiting the city.
- 1:00 – 2:30 p.m. Lunch
- 2:30 – 4:00 p.m. Grand Central Terminal – This famous New York City landmark is more than just a transportation hub. Shops and restaurants abound in this lovely station. Be sure to visit the Whisper Gallery! You and one of your travel mates stand in opposing corners of the archways facing the wall. You whisper into the corner and the other person can hear it.
- 4:00 – 6:00 p.m. High Line and Chelsea Market – Once an elevated train track, the High Line has become one of NYC’s most beautiful green spaces. A short elevator ride down will put you in Chelsea Market, a trendy shopping place with boutiques and eateries.
- 6:00 – until Free time – Use this time have a nice dinner and purchase souvenirs or just wander the streets of this beautiful city. Be sure you get to bed at a decent time. Tomorrow is you last day and the schedule is full.
- 9:00 – 10:00 a.m. Breakfast
- 10:00 – 12:00 noon Prepare for the evening’s festivities – Head to one of the TDF ticket locations to inquire about theater tickets for the evening. Need to know where to find them? Click here . If Broadway isn’t your cup of tea, check Radios City Music Hall and Madison Square Garden. They often have an impressive lineup of entertainment.
- 12:00 – 2:00 Lunch – have some lunch and pick up any last minute souvenirs you may need.
- 2:00 – 4:00 Quick change – Head back to your hotel and get changed. After all, you’ll want to look your best for a night out on the town.
- 4:00 – until Dinner and a Broadway show – You may opt to have dinner before the show, or after. It’s completely up to you. If you choose to dine after the show, I would suggest having a snack before you go to the theater. Most Broadway shows begin around 7 p.m. and end at approximately 9:30.
Whew! That was a long post. I hop you find the information you need to make your family’s vacation in the Big Apple unforgettable.
Be sure to check back in with Faith, Trust, and Wanderlust. I will be creating the same types of itineraries for Italy and Walt Disney World. Better yet, just go ahead and subscribe to my blog! You will automatically receive an email alert when I update my blog. Talk about convenient. All you have to do is leave your email in the form below. No worries, I won’t share it with anyone. If you subscribe through this post you will not only receive my updates, you will get a monthly newsletter, and as an added bonus…the pdf printable versions of all three New York City itineraries!
If you’ve taken the family, or plan to take the family to NYC, or just want to say hi, I would love to her from you! Drop me a line in the comment section.