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Travel

9 Tips for Doing New York City with Kids

I have to tell you, I was very worried about our trip to New York with the kids. You’d have thought living there myself for over 15 years would have relaxed me. On the contrary, I knew exactly how much we would be walking, how crowded the subway could get, and how overstimulated my DC-born-and-bred children would become. Alas, our preparation and planning was prudent and all went well. And as when we took the kids to Richmond, VA for the day, I wanted to share some of my tricks that worked. Be forewarned, there is no shopping in this blog post :(.

Happy Travels!

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1. Pack Light

As I was packing, I kept repeating the mantra, don’t pack anything “just in case.” You will be in NYC, I told myself, you can buy anything you need. I didn’t bring more than one outfit per day for the kids or myself, and kept to a similar color palette so I was able to layer when the weather was not as predicted. Each person got one pair of pajamas for every two nights and I made sure to pack the skinniest ones.  I did bring an extra change of clothes that could fit either kid in my backpack, which shockingly, we never used.  In the end, I did have to wash out a few of my items and hang them up to dry in the hotel, but that was easier than packing too much. I didn’t bring a “just-in-case” workout outfit, because who needs to workout when you’re walking 20,000 steps per day? When the opportunity to take a yoga class did come up, I borrowed leggings and a tank top from the friend who invited me. Beside clothing and undergarments, I took: one purse, one backpack, one hat, one pair of earrings, one belt, two necklaces, two scarves, and three pairs of shoes. That’s it. Our total luggage for 2 adults and 2 children was one large rolling suitcase and one large travel backpack with a smaller day pack that zipped onto it. Michael carried the luggage and I wore my hat, my cross body purse, my Everlane backpack, and could still have a free hand for each kid. See the actual clothes I packed below.

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2. Eat Ice Cream Every Day

Does this really need more explanation? Seriously though, a treat goes a long way toward keeping kids going on a hot day or a long walk, or worse, a long walk on a hot day! It doesn’t even have to be ice cream. Lemonade was another great motivator and reward for exhausted, hot kids. A long wait for the subway was saved by my mom’s pack of Trident Cinnamon Gum.


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3. Keep evaluating your priorities

We had a long list of things we would like to do, and then decided our exact itinerary each day based on everyone’s energy level and the weather. I was sure we would take the kids to see the Intrepid and the top of the Empire State building. I was also sure we would not make it to see the Statue of Liberty and Ellis Island. We never made it to the former sites and decided we really wanted the kids to see the latter. Word of advice: don’t do what we did and decide to take this tour when it is in the nineties. We needed lemonade, ice cream, and gum to keep the kids going that day! As I’ll get into later, seeing Broadway shows became our biggest priority as the trip went on. We also cancelled a group dinner so that Michael and the person we were supposed to meet for dinner could go to the NBA Draft in Brooklyn. FYI for those of you who are not into sports, this was a really cool opportunity.  I took the kids to dinner at Good Enough to Eat on the Upper West Side with a few of my girlfriends while Michael lived out his basketball draft fantasies. The truth is that I would have really enjoyed the Draft because it has become such a fashion show these last few years. I had to watch highlights on TV later to catch the trends.


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4. Stroller or no stroller? No stroller

There were plenty of moments that having a stroller would have helped us move faster, and also given the kids a chance to take a break. However, I’m glad we didn’t bother with any form of stroller. It would have been a pain to store or carry in many places and the kids would have been fighting over it the whole time. Mr. Real Life Style, you were correct about this one!

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5. Not too much togetherness

I was excited to spend so much time together as a family. But…breaks are good, especially for siblings. Michael had no interest in going to the Cloisters, and James is still of the age when he will go anywhere mom goes. Well, mom and Grandma’s cinnamon gum! See how cute he is contemplating couture at the Met Cloisters part of the Heavenly Bodies exhibit. At one point he was giving me the tour, making sure I hadn’t missed any outfits. It was priceless. Mr. Real Life Style and Max headed to MoMath, a math museum friends of ours had recommended as a good indoor activity. Michael also took the kids to the Central Park Zoo with my best friend Erin and her son while I snuck off to the main Metropolitan Museum of Art for the Heavenly Bodies exhibit with my mom and my college friend Marisol.



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6. Not everything good is expensive

Some of the best things we did were free to almost nothing. Friday was one of our most fun days. After our Cloisters adventure, we met up with Erin and her son again in the sanctuary of the nicely air-conditioned Barnes and Noble on Union Square. We used the clean bathroom, played in the kids toy and book section for awhile, then headed across the street to the park. The kids played in the large playground, then we did a loop of the square, walking through the farmer’s market (we bought the kids Challah rolls for $1 each), listening to the man drumming with kitchen instruments and the Hare Krishnas, and just taking in the sight of the craziness in general. Then I blew the free aspect of the whole thing by purchasing expensive artisanal cheese and cider for our picnic later that evening!

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After Union Square, we met my friend Jessie and her 3 kids to go to Shabbat under the Brooklyn Bridge (www.beinenu.com). The ride home was my favorite part of the entire trip ($2.75 per adult), and furnished the best story of the trip. My mom pointed out that the most direct route back to midtown Manhattan would be the NY Ferry, which was about 20 feet away from where we were standing. We got on at dusk and didn’t get off until it was pitch black and the whole city was lit up on both the Manhattan and Brooklyn sides. It was magical! Back to the funny story. There hadn’t been a bathroom at the park under the bridge so I’d forgotten to make James pee. All of a sudden I realize he is doing the potty dance and I don’t even know if this boat has a bathroom! When I ask, I’m told very nonchalantly that the bathroom is out of service. Being a quick-thinking kind of mommy, I ask Jessie for one of the cups we brought for cider, and we have James pee into the cup outside, at the rear of the boat. Michael did a quick L’Chaim over the back of the boat, and no one was the wiser. At this point, I almost peed in my own pants from laughing so hard.

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7. Broadway tickets

Let’s just say, we went to a lot of Broadway shows while we were in New York. This didn’t start as the main plan and priority on my part, but after we sat 4th row for Denzel Washington in The Iceman Cometh, we were completely hooked. The only tickets we purchased ahead of time were for Frozen the Musical. My mom and Michael saw Beautiful, the Carol King Musical that I had already seen (and loved) with my sister, while the kids and I went to Frozen (amazing).  See Instagram post about getting onstage after the show.  One of James’ preschool classmates happened to have tickets to the same show so we snuck her onstage too! She’s the one actually cooperating in the picture below.

The kids enjoyed Frozen the Musical so much we went back to the TKTS booth to get them tickets to SpongeBob the Musical (also amazing!), which we saw while my mom and Michael saw Summer, the musical about Donna Summer’s life. Michael and I definitely should have switched here, but of course the kids wouldn’t let me leave them, so I missed out on Summer. Don’t feel sorry for me though, because Michael and I went to see Kinky Boots (the dragtastic fashion, oh my!) by ourselves on Saturday night. Every ticket we purchased for half price at the TKTS booth and we had center Orchestra seats for most of them.



8. Play dates with friends and parktime

The kids had a ball finally meeting a lot of my good friends’ kids and getting to play with their toys. Going to someone else’s house, or favorite park, was just as entertaining for them as any expensive, exhausting activity. We also gave them play breaks by letting them play in any park we passed. So many new parks, so little time! A lot of the New York City parks have been redone with water features too, which was helpful to cool off or wash sand from the sandbox off their feet. Secret tip: There is a fantastic park right across the street from the South Street Seaport TKTS booth, which even has clean bathrooms! You wait in line, they play instead of whining. There is also an amazing burrito place across from that park!



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9. Try new cuisines!

We did a good job of finding cool restaurants that were kid friendly. The kids happily tried a bunch of new things at Red Farm, a sophisticated, modern Chinese restaurant on the Upper West Side. Between my two boys and my friend Kelly’s three boys, we ordered a lot of soup dumplings at $4 each. What can I say? My kids have good taste. We were staying at a hotel in the heart of a Korean neighborhood, so Michael’s research landed us at a Korean bistro, Her Name is Han, where the kids tried all kinds of new flavors. But mostly they ate dumplings.


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Speaking of new cuisines, here is Max’s top 5 list from the trip.

  1. Getting to eat Doritos for the first time
  2. Watching movies on the iPad
  3. The ferry boat ride from Brooklyn to Manhattan
  4. SpongeBob Squarepants the Musical
  5. Frozen the Musical

And here is a video of the amazing SpongeBob set! Check out how mesmerized the kids are at the end of the video.

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Lani Inlander is a personal stylist who has been working with clients who want to feel their best and look put-together every day for 20 years. You can find her in the Washington, D.C. and New York metropolitan areas. Are you looking for professional training to become a personal stylist? Learn how you can train with Lani at The Stylist Studio

You can find Lani Inlander and Real Life Style on Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, Pinterest, and Instagram.

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