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Family friendly NYC vacations: something for everyone + every budget!

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New York barely needs an introduction as a holiday destination. One of the greatest cities on the planet, it is an iconic and astonishingly recognisable location, and unsurprisingly on the must-visit list for almost every adventurous traveller.

There is an absolutely breath-taking amount of things to see and do in the city, and the range of activities, attractions and sights makes it the perfect location for a family holiday, with so much stuff to do for everyone. 

However planning a vacation in New York City as a family does have its pitfalls and challenges, and it is certainly very wise to think ahead and make sure your itinerary not only ticks all the right boxes in terms of what to see but that it hits the right balance so everyone is happy. Budget-friendly options in New York are well within reach, especially if you take the subway or walk instead of taking a taxi. New York’s foodie scene and drinks can add up, but if you book an Airbnb with a kitchen, you can cut down on costs significantly, pack lunches, and picnic in Central Park. 

It’s somewhere that we’d love to visit once, one day and I’ve teamed up with Andrea from Weekend Wander Club to look at some of the best things to do in New York for the whole family, and come up with some great hints, tips, and advice to help you plan an action-packed vacation with something for every member of your team to enjoy! So whether you are planning on a pure NYC holiday, or just staying there for a long weekend before taking a cruise from New York, read on, and start your holiday planning now!

Big Bus New York Sightseeing Tour

The New York Big Bus is a wonderful way to get a first look at the city, and to get a whole load of the big attractions under your belt all at once. For the grown-ups, you’ll get a whistle-stop tour of the city, and a chance to get your bearings a little better, whereas the kids will be delighted to see the famous icons, and won’t get exhausted and cranky from too much walking! The engaging narration helps kids and adults understand more about what they are seeing, and if you choose the hop-on, hop-off option you’ll be able to explore any exciting sights that take your eye midway through the tour!

Central Park

An absolutely unmissable part of any New York holiday, Central Park is a real treat, offers up wonderful experiences for every member of the family, and best of all is free to visit! You can just stroll around the heart of New York and take a little break surrounded by nature, or hire bicycles for a slightly more active experience. There’s a castle, a lake with sailing and paddle boats, and even a zoo — plenty for the whole family to enjoy.

Empire State Building

One of the most iconic sights on the New York skyline and one of the most famous buildings in the world, a trip up the famous skyscraper is a must-see on a family vacation to New York. From the viewing platform on the 86th floor, you’ll get one of the most extraordinary panoramic views of the city possible. Teens can grab that all-important Instagram selfie while parents re-enact ‘Sleepless in Seattle’. 

An alternative option is to head to the ‘Top of the Rock’ viewing platform at the top of Rockefeller Plaza. While the building itself is not quite as famous as the Empire State, it is (usually) a little less crowded, and you get to see the Empire State Building as part of the skyline instead!

Natural History Museum and Hayden Planetarium

This is an absolute must for families with kids of all ages, and you’ll find enough stuff to do here to keep the whole family occupied for hours on end. The Natural History Museum is absolutely massive, and you could easily spend the whole day there, so focus on a few heavy hitters. Our faves are The Hall of Dinosaurs, The Hall of North American Mammals, the enormous model of the Blue Whale, and the Theodore Roosevelt Rotunda.

Don’t forget to set aside a little time to see the Hayden Planetarium. On the same site as the Natural History Museum this will inspire awe and wonder in your kids, while teaching them exciting lessons about what lies beyond Planet Earth.

Hints and tips for NYC with kids

Kids under 44 inches tall can ride the Metro for free! Any adult can take up to three kids with them and all they need to do is walk under the turnstiles. Make sure you keep hold of your kids on the Metro though, as it can get super busy at rush hour.

If you are planning to hit a reasonable number of the main sights in the city, it is extremely worthwhile picking up a New York City Explorer Pass to help make your trip a little cheaper. You’ll save up to 50% on entrance fees, which can come in pretty handy when you’ve got a few little ones in tow to pay for. They might get discounted entry themselves anyway, but visit a few attractions and it quickly adds up!