NYC with an 8 year old

This is the third post in my blog series about traveling to NYC with kids. Each trip, we’ve taken a 16 year old niece or nephew along with our own little Z – starting when she was just one, then again when she was three years old.

The great thing about NYC is that there’s so much to do, each one of these trips has been totally distinct, memorable and different!

If you’re planning a trip to New York with your family, here are some highlights from our last visit that both our 8 and 16 year old loved. Our 2018 NYC adventures included:

  • John’s Pizzeria in Times Square. Billed as “the most unique pizzeria in the world,” this place offers fantastic NY-style pizza in a gorgeous former church complete with stained-glass, cathedral style ceiling. We love having our first NYC meal here to really set the stage for an epic weekend! Everyone always loves John’s pizza – and they have a super cute chocolate mouse dessert that is always a hit, too.
  • The Oculus is a train station, transportation hub and shopping mall, but it is also a sleek, stylish $4 million work of art. The Oculus is designed to look like a white eye with giant lashes, and is a world away from the old PATH station that was destroyed on 9/11. It’s ultra Instagrammable and definitely worth a visit and some photos while you are in downtown Manhattan! 
  • One World Observatory is the exquisite new skyscraper built to replace the original World Trade Towers leveled on 9/11. Not only is the building itself beautiful to look at, the observation deck at the top provides some of the finest views imaginable of the city and is well worth a visit for the high-tech, highly entertaining elevator ride alone. 
  • The National 9/11 Memorial and 9/11 Memorial Museum are two different experiences for those wanting to pay their respects at the site of the 9/11 disaster. The memorial is free and very moving in and of itself – definitely worth a visit. It is a pair of immense holes in the ground – the footprints of the original Twin Towers – with fountains, water pools and the names of all 9/11 victims engraved around each. The museum requires paid entry, often with long lines, and is very well done but is a very sad, sometimes scary and potentially traumatic experience. With young kids, I would stick to the memorial outside if anything (I have not yet taken Zoe to see any of this). With older teens and up, you might consider the 9/11 Memorial Museum but know that this sobering and sad experience may well put a damper on the rest of your day. I found it tough to shake off, personally.
  • Rockefeller Center is a fun midtown destination and historic landmark that features shopping, great people-watching and many iconic sights you’ve probably seen countless times in movies or TV shows set in NYC, including the famous Rockefeller Center skating rink. There are several shops worth visiting here with kiddos, including the Lego store (small but a very fun set-up) and Nintendo store (our 16 year old nephew could have spent hours here!). You can also buy tickets to visit Top of the Rock, another observatory with terrific city views. We love doing this one at sunset or at night.
  • Central Park is another place you can spend hours or days while visiting NYC. We love the park’s many playgrounds, climbing rocks and other kid-friendly attractions, but during this visit with our nephew we spent most of our time ambling in the Ramble, a 36-acre wildlife habitat that feels like immersion in the great outdoors, even though you’re still in the middle of the Big Apple. Our favorite discovery this trip was the aptly-named Turtle Pond, where we were delighted to see, feed and even hold some of the hundreds of turtles who make it their home. 
  • Staten Island Ferry is our family’s favorite way to see Manhattan from the water and it is absolutely free. You can get some great shots of NYC and the Statue of Liberty, enjoy the refreshing breeze that comes from being on a boat, and overall just get a break from the noise and energy of the city for an hour or so. We don’t do this every trip, but we do enjoy it when we make the time!
  • National Geographic’s Ocean Encounter is a relatively new indoor attraction in Times Square that was getting rave reviews on Yelp, so we decided to give it a try on our last day. Billed as an “immersive entertainment experience,” this was definitely fun to do once but I’m not sure we’d splurge to do it again. Basically, you are guided through an interactive, educational program about the ocean and undersea life. Our 8 year old was delighted and the 16 year old enjoyed most parts as well. If you have a rainy or too-hot day in NYC, or you are simply tired of pounding the pavement and looking for a low-key, family-friendly activity, this can provide a nice break.

So that sums up our fourth trip to NYC with a not-so little one – and 16 year old – in tow. It’s hard to believe that the next time one of Z’s cousins turns 16, she’ll be pretty darn close to that age herself. Fortunately, we won’t have to wait that long for our next trip to the Big Apple, because we’ve already promised Napa we’ll make her NYC dreams come true this year.

What are your favorite things to do and see in NYC, and have you made the trip with kiddos? We’d love to hear in the comments below or over on Facebook!

And be sure to read our other NYC with kids posts while you’re here. 

About the author

Proud and loving mama. Lucky and devoted wife. Dog mom. Travel nut. Writer since birth. PR pro and social media maniac.

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