Are you planning 2 days in NYC with kids? Today we are sharing our tips and 3 sample New York City itineraries to plan your visit to New York!
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Visiting New York in 2 days can be done! We planned 2 days in NYC with our family of five and had an amazing first time visit to NYC.
With Broadway, unique shopping, some of the United States biggest landmarks, and so many food options, New York City is a great city to visit for families.
We have been talking about visiting NYC for years but in early 2020 we started planning a trip. Our family had started to become more interested in seeing a Broadway show and we were really excited to visit.
Then COVID-19 took over the world, with NYC as the epi-center. We put our trip on hold and stayed home like everyone else.
We took the time to explore other areas of New York state but we couldn’t wait to start planning again. In 2021 we decided to drive into NYC and started planning our New York itinerary for 2 days.
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Best Time To Visit New York City with Kids
Any time you visit NYC is great because the city has so much to do. We visited in late February and I was grateful the weather was in the high 50’s. Weather in the winter months can range from very cold single digits to 30s/40s.
Spring and Fall are great times to visit because you avoid the summer crowds but have the nice weather. Fall in NY state is always a good time to visit due to the fall foliage.
If you are going to visit in winter, consider a visit during Christmastime to see all the festivities for the season. Check out this post about visiting NYC during Christmas.
Summer is probably the best time to visit. Warm, long summer days allows you lots of time to explore the city and see everything you want to see. Summer does tend to see more tourists and prices for accommodations may reflect that.
Getting to New York City
We drove into New York City from Rochester, New York. I was very hesitant to drive into the city but it was actually very easy. I wouldn’t recommend driving around the city once you arrive but to get in and out it worked.
Other options are taking the train into the city or flying into one of the NYC airports like JFK, LaGuardia, or Newark. Be sure to factor in cost of transfer from airport to hotel.
Getting Around New York City
The best way to get around New York City is to walk!! You get to see everything and there are so many surprises throughout NYC.
If you are visiting NYC with kids you may want to take the subway or bring a stroller with you. I suggest researching the subway and how to use it before you find yourself in the middle of the city. More information can be found here.
On our most recent visit to NYC we used the subway. Overall it was a positive experience but be aware it can be unsafe late at night and to use your best judgement.
Where to Stay in New York City with Kids
There are places to stay all over NYC that range from budget friendly to super luxury. New York City is not an inexpensive city. If you drive into the city be sure to include the nightly parking rate into your budget.
We stayed at the Homewood Suites on 37th Street. It fit our family of five and was under $200 a night. Parking was an additional $50.00 a night.
When planning your accommodations be sure to include all fees and consider where you want to visit. Pick a location based on things you want to see and do.
Another visit we stayed in Times Square at The Westin New York. It was a great location for families. Check out our review: Where to Stay in New York City: Westin New York Times Square Review
Lastly on our most recent visit we stayed at the Four Points by Sheraton Manhattan SoHo Village. You should factor in two things when considering where to stay when visiting New York City.
First is location. What attractions do you want to see? How will you get to them? If you are visiting attractions in one area consider staying in that area. If you are visiting places all over the city consider a central location.
Second is cost. New York City hotels can be very expensive but there are budget friendly places available. Most of the budget friendly options are no-frills and small. Do not expect a lot of space in a NYC hotel room.
As a family of five we found it very difficult to find a place we could “fit” without booking 2 rooms or larger suites. If you are on a larger family on a budget consider booking a room that fits 4 and ask the hotel for a cot or bring an air mattress.
What to See in New York City
If you have 2 days to visit New York City you are going to have to decide on must see attractions and things you might need to save for your next visit.
I have included our NYC itineraries below. We have visited 3x in the last year and I will add more itineraries for New York City as we plan more visits.
We have stayed close to Times Square for two visits and in the SoHo village area for our 3rd visit. There are pros and cons to both which I will go into below.
First a quick overview of some attractions you may want to research for your visit. Some of the most popular places will have long lines when you visit. Purchase tickets ahead of your visit to save time and sometimes money too.
|Lower Manhattan||Midtown Manhattan|
|-Statue of Liberty|
-One World Trade Center
-Charging Bull Statue
-Staten Island Ferry
-SeaGlass Carousel at the Battery Conservatory
|-Grand Central Terminal|
-Empire State Building
-American Museum of Natural History
-Metropolitan Museum of Art
-Central Park Zoo
-NBC Studios Tour
-Radio City Music Hall
-Top of the Rock Observation Deck
-Summit One Vanderbilt
Tips for First Time Visiting New York City with Kids
Be prepared to walk a lot when visiting the big apple. If you have young children bring a stroller or carrier. I suggest comfortable shoes as well.
Plan ahead of time. Do some research before you leave for NY. This will save you so much time on the streets wondering what way to go or where to stop next. New Yorkers move fast. If you are lost step to the side to figure out your directions.
We planned our trip out before we arrived and knew where we wanted to go.
Think about where you want to go to eat and attractions you want to see before you arrive will save a lot of time. You may not have enough time to see and do everything.
Make a list of the top attractions you want to see and plan around those. This will ensure you’ll have a great time and won’t be stressed trying to fit it all in.
Talk to your kids about what they would like to see and do in NYC and make a family list. Then you can start planning out your days. It helps to know where things are located as you are exploring so you don’t miss anything.
A lot of the activities in New York City can quickly add up in your budget. Consider purchasing a ticket bundle to save. Check out prices from our partner Undercover Tourist: New York City Attractions Pass
2 Days in New York with Kids (Sample New York City Itinerary 1)
This is our itinerary for 2 days in NYC with kids in February of 2021. We walked a lot and we packed a lot of outdoor sight seeing in.
Due to COVID we did have to alter our itinerary a bit but it turned out to be a great way to see the city for our first visit. Below is a list of what we did for our first visit to NYC in 2 days (during the pandemic).
- Walked past Madison Square Garden
- Nintendo Store
- FAO Schwartz
- NBC Studios
- Magnolia Bakery
- Walked by Broadway theaters
- Dinner back at the room
- American Natural History Museum
- Lunch in Central Park (food trucks)
- Explored Times Square: Disney Store, M&M Store
- Dinner Five Guys
NY in 2 Days: Arrival Day
On our first day we left for NYC around 7:00am from our house in Rochester. The drive to NYC is about 5 hours and we wanted to arrive a little after lunch time to avoid any traffic.
We drove in through the Lincoln Tunnel and our hotel was fairly close. We spent about 10 minutes driving into the city before arriving at the Homewood Suites.
The parking garage is located across the street and they will park your car. Be sure to collect everything you will need from your car, because you will not see it again until you depart.
Thankfully our room was ready so we checked-in and then headed out to explore the city. Our first stop was a walk past Madison Square Garden. The boys have become big basketball fans and they wanted to see it.
We continued on to the Nintendo Store and FAO Schwartz. These are both located near Rockefeller Center. In the winter you can see the big Christmas tree or go ice skating.
You can also go to the Top of the Roc. This offers 360 degree observation deck views of the city. We also checked out NBC Studios. They do offer Studio tours but they have been paused due to COVID. This is on the top of our list for next time.
Directly next to the Tonight Show marquee is Magnolia Bakery. This is a great spot to order treats. The best is the Banana pudding and you have to stop in to get some. It was so good!!
After Magnolia Bakery we started our way back to the hotel for the night. The sun was going down and the temperature started to drop. On the way home we made sure to walk by some Broadway shows including Hamilton!!
One of the main reasons we wanted to visit NY was Broadway and even though the shows are currently closed it was fun to discover all the shows we currently love!
Once back at the hotel we ordered a pizza from Vito’s Slices and Ices and spent the evening in for the night.
2 Days in NYC: Walking Tour of NYC with Kids
I knew we would walk a lot but I didn’t realize we would walk over 24,000 steps. This was a big day of walking and to say we were exhausted by the end of it would be an understatement.
We had reservations for a 10:00am visit to the American Natural History Museum. This was the only activity we reserved during our visit.
We had breakfast at our hotel and then started the hour walk to the museum. It was a chilly day and I was happy we packed hats and gloves.
On our drive we made sure to watch Night at the Museum although upon visiting we discovered it is a lot different than the movie. Most of the movie was actually filmed in Canada.
It was still a nice museum and we spent the first few hours of the morning inside while it warmed up outside.
Next stop was lunch and because we were across from Central Park we decided to order from a food truck and take our food to a bench in the park.
We decided on a Nathan’s hot dog truck. It was okay, I do wish we stopped at the falafel food truck across the street, but we didn’t know at the time what was there, and we needed to get something at this point.
After lunch we walked a little through Central Park, got caught in the middle of two men screaming obscenities’ at each other, and started our way back to our hotel for a mid-day break.
Along the way home we stopped at a few more Broadway shows, saw the filming of a TV show and were asked to move because we were in the shot, and picked up food from the restaurant next door; Acuario Cafe.
Acuario Café is located in a small alley way and is an unassuming gem. The food was so good and I was really glad we made a point to stop.
After a rest we made our way to Times Square. Times Square is something everyone should see on their first visit to New York City but after you see it there is not much else to do.
We visited the Disney store, the M&M store, and saw the 2021 NYE ball. It was busy but the kids were excited to see the area and it is part of the NYC experience.
For dinner that night we end up eating Five Guys. It was not ideal, we really wanted to expereince something that we couldn’t get at home but the truck we had planned on eating at was closed fro the night.
Unfortunately sometimes even well planned vacations don’t go as planned. We brought the food back to our room and it was kind of a bummer we didn’t get to enjoy some more authentic NYC cuisine on our final night.
Our first visit to NYC was a lot of fun but the impact the COVID shutdown had on the businesses was evident. As we left we were looking forward to spending more time seeing the best of the city.
2 Days in New York with Kids (Sample New York City Itinerary 2)
For our 2nd visit to NYC we planned another 2 day weekend in NYC. This time we were excited to include a Broadway show and more activities to our visit.
- Harry Potter Store
- Nintendo Store
- Barnes and Noble (Largest in New York)
- Aladdin on Broadway
- Explored Times Square
- Museum of Modern Art
- Ellen’s Stardust Diner
- American Girl Store
- Dear Evan Hansen on Broadway/Knicks Game
We drove into the city again but this time we stayed at The Westin Times Square. The Westin is a great location and accommodations. Read our full review: Where to Stay in New York City: Westin New York Times Square Review
As soon as we arrived and checked in we headed out to grab lunch at a street cart. Halal Guys have multiple carts throughout the city and it was the perfect start to refuel and start exploring the city.
After lunch we started walking from Times Square to the Harry Potter Store. The walk is about 1.3 and will take around 30 minutes. You can take the subway if you prefer.
It was a nice day out so we walked. I enjoy walking because there are always new things to discover in NYC.
The Harry Potter Store is so cool! Lots of fun photo-ops including trying on Hagrid’s shoes. You can purchase Butterbeer here too. This store can get very crowded so plan extra time.
After Harry Potter we visited the 4 story Barnes and Noble then headed back to our hotel to rest up for the evening.
We ordered take-out from Dallas BBQ and made the short walk to the theater to see Aladdin. If you are seeing a Broadway show I recommend a hotel nearby.
On Day 2 we had breakfast at the hotel. This is not included with your stay but you may want to add it in or stop at a bagel shop as you walk around the city.
We walked to the Museum of Modern Art and discovered we were not where we thought we were. My husband and I got mixed up.
Me thinking we were going to the Metropolitan Museum of Art and him thinking we were talking about the Museum of Modern Art. Be sure to check exactly where you are going!
It ended up being a nice surprise and we enjoyed walking around the gallery.
After the art gallery we went to Ellen’s Stardust Diner for lunch. This place is famous for it’s wait staff singing Broadway tunes as you dine. The food was okay but you really visit for the experience.
Next up we went to the Nintendo story and the American Girl Doll store. Both are fun to explore. There is also a LEGO store in NYC that we didn’t get to but is on our list at some point.
As we made our way back to the hotel for some much needed rest we picked up cookies from Schmackery as a snack.
That evening we were splitting up. My daughter and I were going to see Dear Evan Hansen and my husband and the boys went to a Knicks game.
Before heading out we ordered pizza from John’s pizza. It may not be for everyone but we tend to order take-out often when we travel to save a little on our budget.
Overall this trip was a much better visit than our first. Our first was great and there was a quiet vibe in the city. This trip was back to busy NY and more things were open.
2 Days in New York with Kids (Sample New York City Itinerary 3)
For our most recent trip we put together a very last minute visit to the city. As you may have noticed we are love Broadway and when we learned Beetlejuice was closing we worked our schedules to make a last minute trip.
- Brooklyn Bridge
- Alexander Hamilton’s Grave/Trinity Church
- One World Trade Center
- 9/11 Memorial
- LEGOLAND NY
The most difficult part about planning a last minute visit to NYC is finding an affordable hotel. We couldn’t find anything close to Times Square so we decided to go with a hotel in SoHo Village.
This is not a short walk to the theater and we did have to rely on transportation.
We arrived in NYC at lunch time and headed to Chinatown for lunch. We ate at 456 New Shanghai. It was busy and I was happy they could fit a table of five.
Then started walking around the city. For this trip we didn’t have much of a plan and as we were walking we walked to the Brooklyn Bridge.
I think we made a wrong turn but it was an nice surprise to walk along the famous bridge.
After the Brooklyn Bridge we visited Hamilton’s grave and Trinity Church followed by the 9/11 memorial.
The 9/11 Memorial was a very surreal place for me. It may be one of the first memorials I have visited that had a personal connection to. A place that represented a history I have lived through.
It was very crowded and people were taking pictures. We took a few minutes to reflect and then continued on our way. We didn’t visit the museum.
Then we went back to our hotel to relax a bit before the show. It didn’t seem like much but we had already walked almost 4 miles and we planned on walking to Times Square.
As we regrouped we realized the subway would be a better option to get to Times Square. It would take less time and give our feet a rest.
We located the subway station and asked the attendant to help us with tickets. He was very helpful and kind.
There is a misconception that New Yorkers aren’t nice but we found it to be untrue. While there are not nice people everyone most people in New York City were happy to help if we asked.
Don’t be worried about asking the wrong thing or looking like a tourist. You are visiting the city and are not expected to know what to do.
The subway was about a 15 minute ride. I am not a big fan of the subway due to the most recent crime and harassment that has been going on so I try to avoid it.
With that being said people use it daily. Be aware of your surroundings and valuables when your ride. Our uber driver on the way home also recommended not riding the subway after 8:30pm.
Take this advice with a grain of salt and do what you feel most comfortable with.
We arrived in Times Square and had dinner at Shake Shack before heading to see Beetlejuice. Beetlejuice is an amazing show and if you have an opportunity to see it I highly recommend it.
It is for older kids so use your judgement when decided if it is a good fit for your family.
We did request an Uber for the ride home. Prices are typically higher when shows let out so plan accordingly. It cost us $56.82.
For our 2nd day we got up early and made the short drive to LEGOLAND New York. This is not directly in the city but if you are visiting with kids you may want to include it.
It was on our way home for us and we have been wanting to visit since it opened.
LEGOLAND New York was a great park for kids. (Check out ticket deals here.) They have a LEGOLAND Hotel on-site if you would like to extend your stay.
We decided to make the drive home and even though we arrived home late we were happy we did.
I think 2 days in New York City is a good taste of what the city has to offer and gives you a feel for the city. As we plan our next visit I feel like I have a better understanding of what we want to see and do.
As you can see when planning a 2 day NYC itinerary you are going to have to pick and choose what your priorities are and what works best for your family.
Each time we visit we find new places to visit and discover. It is a great city to visit more than once.
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