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Family Vacation Fun

No trip can instill as much culture in a child as a family vacation to New York City. No matter their interests, there’s a museum with work that will inspire and excite them. Open their minds and palates with delicious food from around the globe — as nearly every corner of the planet is represented among the city’s 24,000 eateries. Fill them with wonder walking among the bright lights and enjoying a show on Broadway. Best of all, this city’s youth-friendly activities are just as much fun for adults.

Rowboats pepper the green lake in Central Park that’s surrounded by trees and with a castle-like structure beyond

Day

1

MORNING
  • Classic Breakfast Bites.

    New Yorkers line up at the famous Zabar’s to get a fix of smoked salmon and bagels. Grab a few orders of both, along with some other baked goods like babka and rugelach, for a breakfast in the park.

AFTERNOON
  • A Castle in Manhattan.

    Straight out of a Victorian fantasy, the Belvedere Castle can be found in the center of Central Park. Walk up to two different observatories to look out on Turtle Pond, the Great Lawn and park-goers in repose.

  • New York’s Jurassic Park.

    Even if your kids don’t adore history, they’ll be astounded by the Natural History Museum’s gargantuan wooly mammoth fossils, the immersive planetarium shows, and slices of 1,400-year-old sequoia trees in the Hall of North American Forests.

EVENING
  • Dinner Everyone Can Agree On.

    The best part about Marea, one of the city’s finest high-end Italian restaurants: the menu is large and friendly for all palates. If the young ones turn their noses up at urchin crostini and sweetbread agnolotti, simple and delicious homemade pasta options are plentiful.

  • A Night of Elegance.

    The Lincoln Center is home to The Metropolitan Opera, The New York City Ballet, and The New York Philharmonic Orchestra. Go at night, if only to see the 16-acre columned complex, which looks like a modern version of ancient Greece, lit up.

Margherita pizza topped with fresh basil leaves on a wooden dish with a bottle of red wine in the background

Day

2

MORNING
  • Library Treasures.

    A Dutch design firm recently completed a massive renovation of the legendary New York Public Library. Don’t leave without seeing the Rose Main Reading Room, which feels like a set from Harry Potter.

AFTERNOON
  • A Truly Grand Train Station.

    Great just for photos or lunch, the landmark Grand Central train station has a light-filled lobby and a number of solid food options, including Grand Central Oyster Bar and Big Apple standby Shake Shack for delicious burgers.

  • Book Lover’s Paradise.

    Strand Books has 18 miles of books. The departments are meticulously organized, with one whole floor devoted to children’s and young adult books by category.

EVENING
  • A Lively Pizzeria.

    Great for groups, Chef Mario Batali’s sprawling Otto Pizzeria is one to come hungry for. Expect an exceptional selection of Italian wines and perfectly crisp Neapolitan pies in a wood-fired oven.

  • Ice Cream Worth Screaming For.

    The hardest part about a visit to Morgenstern’s is not ordering right; it’s ordering at all. Among the 30 alluring flavors are pistachio pesto, salted pretzel and buttermilk, along with almost as many toppings.

Shoppers and pedestrians walk along 5th Avenue

Day

3

MORNING
  • A Delivery from France.

    Lines build throughout the day for the delicate vanilla, pistachio and rose macarons at Ladurée. They’re made in Paris and shipped to the store every other day. Go early in the morning to beat the crowds.

  • The Beasts Within.

    Go to the southeast corner of Central Park to visit the Central Park Zoo, where you’ll find a penguin house, an indoor rainforest filled with bats, and a variety of monkeys — and also bears, including grizzlies.

AFTERNOON
  • A Taste of New England.

    Luke, the owner of Luke’s Lobster, grew up in Maine as a fisherman. His dad still lives there and catches lobster, which Luke uses for his two types of rolls. Order one Maine style (with mayo) or Connecticut style (with butter).

  • For Inspiring Fashionistas.

    Vogue Editor-In-Chief Anna Wintour helped open the Metropolitan Museum of Art’s Costume Institute. The collection goes back as far as the 15th century with over 35,000 gowns and other pieces from designers like Yves Saint Laurent.

EVENING
  • A Classic Manhattan Steakhouse.

    The popular Upper East Side Parlor steakhouse has a mahogany interior but the real star is the meat, specifically the juicy cuts of filet mignon served with whole cloves of roasted garlic. Make a reservation as it stays busy.

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Day

4

MORNING
  • Fluffy Flapjacks.

    Downtown’s Clinton Street Baking Co. does breakfast all day for good reason. The signature dish is perfectly fluffy pancakes filled with bananas, chocolate — or wild blueberries from Maine.

  • The City’s Most Underrated Museum.

    There’s no art per se at this museum. Through shoebox apartments that have been restored to their original condition, the Tenement Museum replicates the living experience of many immigrants who fled Europe during the early 1900s.

AFTERNOON
  • Catch Your Breath and Views.

    Near the New York Stock Exchange and 9/11 Memorial, the waterfront Battery Park sits on the southernmost tip of Manhattan. It’s a rare plot of peaceful, open land in the Big Apple, with excellent views of the Statue of Liberty.

  • Lady Liberty.

    Every 20 minutes, the ferry departs from Battery Park to Ellis Island, home of the Statue of Liberty. Besides getting to see the world-famous symbol of freedom and democracy, the ride offers a sweeping view of Manhattan’s skyline at sea.

EVENING
  • ENJOY REIMAGINED BISTRO CUISINE.

    Auden Bistro uses local and regionally sourced ingredients for the bistro's simply prepared dishes. Try Charred Spanish Octopus or Grass Fed Filet Migon & Foie Gras. Pair it with a glass of wine, local beer, or a craft cocktail.

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Day

5

MORNING
  • The Best View of New York.

    In the winter, Rockefeller Center hosts ice skating. In the summer, crowds gather to see pop stars performing on “The Today Show.” And year-round, the 70th floor’s Top of the World observation deck provides a bird’s-eye view of Manhattan.

AFTERNOON
  • A Shortcut to China.

    Manhattan’s Chinatown lays claim to the largest Chinese population outside of Asia. Foodies flock to Joy Luck Palace for some of the neighborhood’s best dim sum. Arrive hungry and grab dumplings and other bites from the service carts as they pass your table.

  • Explore Chelsea.

    Start at Chelsea Market, where you can grab lattes and juices, sample sweets, and browse specialty stores. Then head to New York’s High Line, a 1.5-mile promenade full of park benches and waterfront views.

  • Stay Active.

    Chelsea Piers, a sports complex, is filled with modern bowling lanes and a driving range where you can hit golf balls into a net that faces the Hudson River.

EVENING
  • The Show Must Go On.

    No family trip to New York is complete without at least one visit to Broadway. The Lion King, Wicked, The Phantom of the Opera, and Matilda are all long-running, all-ages-appropriate options. Or, for older kids, score white-hot tickets to Hamilton.