Easy to follow tips to plan your first time visit to NYC. These will help make the most of your families first time trip to New York City.
New York City can be an overwhelming place to visit. There is so much to do and learn about visiting, this can often discourage visitors.
Can it be sensory overload? YES…but it is also an awesome place to at least experience once. We have visited as a family numerous times and love that each visit we see and do something different.
After our first visit I wanted to share tips for visiting NYC for the first time and what helped me plan a great trip.
What You Should Know About Visiting NYC for the First Time
- You Will Walk A Lot
- Stay Close to the Attractions You Want to See and Do
- Protect Your Belongings & Be Aware of Your Surroundings
- Getting Around: Subway or Uber or Walk
- Plan your “Must-Do” list before you arrive.
- Don’t Expect to See Everything
- Leave room to be flexible and spontaneous.
Want more details? Read on for the best tips for first time visit to New York City.
Tips for First Time Visiting New York City with Kids
Like any family trip you should do a bit of planning before you arrive to understand what you might need on the trip and to set everyone’s expectations.
Walking is The Best Way to See the City
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.
We almost always walked wherever we were going on our visits. This often means walking 15,000-25,000 steps in a day. Prepare your kids or plan to use the subway or uber.
On our most recent visit we used the subway to get to Times Square from our hotel in SoHo. Then took an uber home at night. Use your best judgement on if it is better to walk or spend a bit of money on transportation.
I share our full itinerary in this article: Itinerary for 2 Days in NYC with Kids (3 NYC Itinerary Ideas)
I love walking because it really allows you to take in everything about the city that you may miss. Sometimes you will find hidden gems that you would have missed if you didn’t walk.
Stay Close to the Attractions You Want to See and Do
If we are spending a lot of time in Times Square or are seeing a Broadway show and want a short walk home at the end of the night we stay in Times Square area. Our favorite hotel is: The Westin New York Times Square.
If you are planning to do things in lower Manhattan you may want to find accommodations there instead. We stayed at the Four Points Sheraton SoHo when we visited One World Trade Center.
If you plan on spending 3 or more days and will be doing many different NYC spots consider staying in the center around Times Square. Check out this review for a great place to stay for families: Where to Stay in NYC with Family: Westin New York Times Square Review
Be Aware of Your Surroundings
When visiting a big city pickpocketing can be an issue, especially if you are a tourist not focused on your belongings. Be aware of the people around you and keep your valuables close.
If you are traveling with older kids and teens talk to them about keeping their phones close and zipped up in a bag or pocket.
Plan Your Must-Do List Before You Arrive
For each visit we pick 1 or 2 attractions that will be the focus for our trip, then we work an itinerary around it. If you are staying a 5-7 days you might pick an attraction for each day.
Spend a little time researching what you want to see, do, and even places you want to eat. Be sure to discuss your plans with everyone in your travel group.
We have teens now and I love planning trips with them. They find fun places to include in our trip and it gives everyone something to look forward to.
Planning ahead also saves you 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.
Google maps will become your best friend when you are navigating the city. Be sure to bring a portable charger for your devices. (We use this one: (amazon affiliate) iWalk Portable Charger)
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.
A lot of the activities in New York City can quickly add up in your budget. Consider purchasing a ticket bundle to save.
Leave Room in Your Plans to Be Spontaneous
I know I said make plans, and I stand by that, but also allow room in your schedule to take in everything the city has to offer. Have lunch in Central Park, walk around Chinatown, explore different places you might not have even known about.
On a recent visit we were walking and didn’t even realize we were steps away from the Brooklyn Bridge, so we walked over. There are so many unique things to see in NYC, make room for surprises.
Don’t Expect to See Everything
Much like any destination you can’t usually do everything. If it is your first visit to NYC you should make time to see the most popular attractions like Times Square, Empire State Building, and the Statue of Liberty.
But to be honest with you….we haven’t made a trip to the Statue of Liberty yet because there are always other things on our list.
I know we will see it at some point but don’t expect to see everything and don’t feel you have to see something that everyone recommends.
Plan your first time visit to NYC that is best for you and your family. Only you know what works best as a first time visitor to New York City. Whether you are visiting museums or there for the food, first time visitors to New York City will find something for everyone in your group.
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Leah has been traveling with her family of 5 since 2012 and sharing her expertise on planning family vacations and visiting theme parks since 2016. Leah has been featured in Visit Rochester, Undercover Tourist, and Home Publications. She has worked with brands like Walt Disney World, Universal Orlando, Hersheypark, Toyota, and various Tourism boards and destinations. Leah creates family travel itineraries based on real trip experiences with her family. Her guides and tips help others plan great family vacations. Learn more about Leah and Five for the Road.