I was asked to put together a 7 days itinerary for a friend visiting NYC from France for the first time with her husband and two boys (elementary school age). This was a challenge as they also did not speak fluent English. I am used to taking friends and family around NYC but I have never taken children around, especially at night. The feedback from my itinerary have been very positive so I am sharing it for visitors to NYC on this site. The visiting family was able to pick and choose the activities each day depending on their timing.
Day 1 (Saturday): Explore Midtown West
Start at 2pm after checking into the hotel. Start the day at 53rd Street and 7th Avenue, the beginning of Times Square area. Area of interest are:
- Broadway District and Time Square
- Rockefeller Center and Radio City Music Hall
- Saint Patrick’s Cathedral
Afterward, walk toward Bryant Park and get a drink/coffee at the following options:
- Southwest Porch and Bryant Park Café
- There are activities in the park such as ping pong, mini golf, bocca, etc for free. The park also has free public Wifi and restrooms.
- Starting at the end of October, Bryant Park transforms into a Winter Village with numerous shops and a free ice skating rink.
After a short break, head to the historic NY Public Library at the 5th Avenue entrance and go inside to explore the gorgeous interiors. The Rose Main Reading room recently reopened after a two year closure for repair and restoration.
Keep walking toward Herald Square (34th Street and 6th Avenue). This is a bustling shopping mecca and also has the largest and oldest Macy’s department store in the world.
When your stomach starts to growl, head toward a Korean BBQ restaurant in nearby Korean town (32nd Street between Broadway and Madison). There are a lot of restaurants, cafes, shops and an interesting places to visit. My recommendations for restaurants are:
- Kang Ho Dong Baekjeong (Korean BBQ)
- This place is very good but between 6:30-9pm, there is generally a 1 to 2 hours wait.
- Don’s Bogum (Korean BBQ and food)
- BBQ in a more upscale environment. This may be a good place for those intimidated by Korean food.
- Jongro (Korean BBQ)
- Soju Haus (Bar/ Lounge with typical Korean street food)
- BCD Tofu House (Soft tofu stew)
- Food Gallery 32 (Korean food court with a variety of stalls for food and snacks).
- Grace Street (Cute cafe and lounge with delicious desserts and drinks)
Check out the NY skyline after dinner from the top of the Empire State Building which opens until 2am every day.
Day 2 (Sunday): Upper West Side / Natural History Museum/ Central Park / West Side / Grand Central Station
Start at the Museum of Natural History first thing in the morning. Go to the ticket desk and pay what you want for the entrance fee. This is a donation based museum so you can pay $5 if you want for the whole family. If you buy the ticket at the machine, they will charge you the suggested price of $20 per adult.
After the morning at the museum, try an American brunch at a nearby restaurant.
After a large brunch,walk into Central Park and enjoy the afternoon. Some key sites are:
- Bethesda Fountain / Bethesda Terrace
- Row a boat on the lake by the Loeb Boathouse
- Sail a model boat at the Lake by the Hans Christian Andersen Statue (near the boathouse)
Come out near the Lincoln Center for Performing Arts (west side). This area has the famous Lincoln Center entrance. Continue to walk toward the Time Warner Center at Columbus Circle.
Go toward the east side on 58th street to 5th Ave where the Plaza Hotel is located. The flagship Apple store is located there as well. The Plaza Hotel is an iconic hotel showcased in numerous movies and TV shows. The Plaza food hall (in the basement area) has many food stalls for gourmet food.
If you still have energy, walk down 5th Avenue toward 42nd Street and go to Grand Central Station. Go inside and marvel at the amazing architecture and the buzz of commuters. There are also a market and 2 food halls in Grand Central.
You will also get a glimpse of the Chrysler building from the outside. You can’t visit the inside of the building as it is private, but you can still take a look at the art deco exterior.
Day 3 (Monday): Midtown / Downtown West / West side highway
Start the day at the Empire State building early to avoid the crowd. (It is highly recommended that you purchase the tickets in advance.)
Afterward, walk to Madison Square Park. The original Shake Shack burger stand is located there. Look for the iconic Flatiron Building nearby.
Head west on 23rd Street to 10th Avenue for the entrance to the High Line. This is a public park built on the historic freight rail line elevated above street level. The High Line runs from 34th Street to 8th Street. The High Line also offers a sweeping view of the river and the NJ skyline.
Stroll on the High Line toward Chelsea Market (17th Street and 9th Ave). Chelsea Market is an indoor market with a lot of food options and a generally cool area to hang around.
After you have had enough of Chelsea Market, head to the West Side highway. Go to the Chelsea Pier. Chelsea Piers Sport Complex is a fun place to hang out for kids. They have the following:
- Ice skating from 1:30pm-5:00pm
- Indoor rock climbing
- Parkfour obstacle course
- Golf and batting cages overlooking the Hudson River
Next, head downtown toward 7th Avenue to the West Village. This area is where all the smaller boutiques, restaurants, and brownstones are located. Hang out around West Broadway area and Prince Street (Soho area). There are numerous boutiques for those that like shopping.
*In the summer, HBO presents classic films at Bryant Park Summer Film Festival on Mondays. The lawn opens at 5pm and the movie plays around 9pm when it gets dark. This is a great way to enjoy the outdoor summer night. Bring a blanket and food and find a spot for the evening. You will need to get there by 5pm to get a good spot on the lawn. There are numerous cafes and eateries around the park that you can pick up food from as well. My favorite thing is to pick up burgers at Shake Shack for picnic.
Day 4 (Tuesday): Financial District / Seaport / 9/11 Memorial / Chinatown / Little Italy
Visit Wall Street first thing in the morning and see the commuting rush first hand in the Financial District. Places to look out for are The Fed Reserve Bank, Trinity Church and the NY Stock Exchange.
Check out the 9/11 Memorial. You should get a reservation for this in advance of the scheduled visit.
After the memorial, go to the nearby South Street Seaport and look at the historic ships, etc. There are many restaurants there to grab lunch around the area. There are a few places around the area to get fresh lobster rolls.
- Luke’s Lobster, Smorgasbar at Seaport Smorgasburg and Fish Market
Head to nearby Statue of Liberty/ Ellis Island Ferry after lunch. You will need a reservation in advance if you want to go onto the islands. Another alternative is to take the free Staten Island Ferry that sails around lower Manhattan and you will be able to see the Statue of Liberty. It will also be more budget friendly.
Come back to Manhattan and head to Chinatown and Little Italy. Walk around and experience the enclaves that make up lower Manhattan.
If you are not tired, head north to Union Square. This is a shopping area with a park where a lot of students hang out. Try these restaurant in the area:
- Union Fare
- ABC Kitchen
- Num Pang Sandwhich
- Gramercy Tavern (north of Union Square)
- Ootoya Greenwich Village
Day 5 (Wednesday): Bronx Zoo / Metropolitan Art Museum / East Village
Spend the morning at the NY Botanical Garden and Bronx Zoo.
- Bronx Zoo is open from 10am to 5:00pm and on Wednesday, the visit is FREE. (suggested donation – pay what you want)
- NY Botanical Garden is a world renowned garden and conservatory filled with a variety of beautiful, unique flowers.
Head back to Manhattan to go to the Museum Mile
- Metropolitan Art Museum (1 of the top 2 museum in NYC, if not the country!) – Tickets prices are donation based. Buy it at the counter.
- Guggenheim Museum (88th and 5th ave). You can just see the architecture from the outside and the lobby.
Walk down Madison Avenue for a glimpse of all the high end boutiques and coffee shops from 80th Street to 65th Street.
Go to the Roosevelt Island Tram station (60th Street and 2nd Ave) and take a sky tram to the small island in the Hudson River. You will see a great the view of Manhattan from the sky. The ticket only costs $2.50 (price of the Metro ticket). There is nothing on Roosevelt Island so you can just take the tram back to Manhattan.
Take the 2nd Avenue bus (M15 from 61st Street and 2nd Avenue) to East Village / St. Marks (8th Street and 2nd Avenue) for dinner. There are numerous spot for cheap but delicious eats. Many of these restaurants are Japanese as this is also known as “mini Japan town”.
Robotaya NY (For fresh grilled Japanese Food)
Yakitori Taisho (For cheap Japanese grilled skewers and beers. This is an institution for college students and young professionals.)
Upstate (For oysters and beer)
Pylos (For Greek food)
Banh Mi Zon (For Vietnamese sandwiches)
Maharlikas (Nouveau Filipino food. They make the best chicken and waffle in NY!)
Hearth (For Italian comfort food)
Chicalicious Dessert Bar (The best and most affordable dessert tasting menu at this tiny institution.)
Cha An Tea House (For tea and Japanese deserts)
Angel’s Share (Japanese speakeasy inside of another restaurant)
Lab 320 (For interesting ice cream)
Day 6 (Thursday): Brooklyn / Coney Island
Start at the base of the Brooklyn Bridge in Manhattan. The entrance to the Brooklyn Bridge is by Chambers Street and Centre Street. Walk over the historic bridge to Brooklyn.
On the other side of the bridge is a very nice Brooklyn Bridge Park. Check out Dumbo and Brooklyn Heights where there are a lot of hipster restaurants and hangout places.
Next, spend the afternoon at Coney Island. You can take the F train at York Street to W 8st – NY Aquarium. Walk around the boardwalk and enjoy the old school seaside destination. I would not swim in the ocean though as the water is dirty.
Day 7 (Friday): Intrepid Museum / Free Kayaking on the Hudson River / Other activities
This is the last day for souvenir shopping.
If you want something different, visit the Intrepid Air and Space Museum. This is a museum on a retired US aircraft carrier.
Another fun and free thing to do is to kayak on the Hudson River at Pier 96 (56th Street and Hudson River Park). You can walk up and get a kayak for 20 minute to kayak around the river. There are lockers there for change of clothes.
Other things to see:
A good resource to find out what events are going on during the visit is Time Out’s “Best Things to Do This Weekend“.
Try to go to a Broadway show during your stay. You can try to get last minute ticket the day of at TKTS booth in Times Square.
Visit the Cloisters which houses an extensive collection of medieval art and artifacts.
The Whitney Museum of American Art is also another museum specializing in American art.
The New York Transit Museum is also another interesting museum to check out in NY if you like all things locomotive.
Check out a sporting event depending on the season: NY Yankees (baseball), NY Mets (baseball), NY Rangers (ice hockey), NY Knicks (basketball) and NYFC (soccer).
There are numerous things to do in NYC so pace yourself and enjoy the madness of a bustling city.
For related articles, visit the TRAVEL page.