Our first family trip to NYC: Three nights in New York City

This post is about our first family trip to NYC!

Last week, our family of three went to New York City for three nights during Brady’s spring break from school, and we had an action-packed great time. I’ve visited NYC three times previously, but this was our first time going as a family. Today, I’m going to share some highlights from our trip.

Our first family trip to NYC: Three nights in New York City

Let’s do it …

Staying in the Chelsea neighborhood of NYC

We went back and forth about which neighborhood of NYC would be best to stay for all the activities we wanted to do. After consulting with some local friends, ultimately we decided to be somewhat central, but not in Times Square (which is a very crazy and congested area). And we’re very pleased with where we ended up — in the slightly more tame Chelsea neighborhood on the West Side of NYC.

We always try to stay at Marriott properties, if possible, to earn loyalty points, so we selected The Renaissance New York Chelsea Hotel. Our hotel room was incredibly small and dark, but we were only in there to sleep, so it didn’t really matter at all. However, making my way around the tiny bathroom with a pedestal sink (and ultimately nowhere to put my things) did bring back memories of getting ready in our San Francisco apartments in the past, both of which had the same inconvenient set-up.

Family trip to NYC by A Lady Goes West

We didn’t eat or drink at our hotel (there was a restaurant and a rooftop club), but we did enjoy the complimentary tiny bottles of water in the lobby and used those the whole trip to stay hydrated, grabbing a few every time we walked by (I missed my Stanley on this trip, but it wouldn’t have been practical). Overall, our hotel was just what we needed — nothing more and nothing less. And that’s fine for a place in NYC, because you hopefully won’t be in your room much.

Catching up with friends and family who live in NYC

My favorite moments in NYC weren’t about the city actually, but they were about the people. I loved the three chances we had to hang out with friends and family who live in the NYC area.

On the first night, I went to dinner with some folks from the NOW team who were in town for a beauty event. And my sweetest blogger friend, Heather, was at the dinner as well, because she also works with the NOW team (we are big fans of the NOW brand).

Not only did I enjoy seeing the lovely folks I’ve been partnering with at NOW for a few years, but I also enjoyed hanging with Heather — it was good for the soul, and I love her! We only had a couple hours together chatting and enjoying amazing food and drinks at the trendy Beauty & Essex restaurant in the Lower East Side, and it wasn’t nearly enough. The food presentation at this spot was just as good as the vibe, by the way.

Family trip to NYC by A Lady Goes West
We also went to visit Dave’s sister, Jess, her partner, and her adorable little daughter at their apartment near Central Park West. We walked all the way up to 108th Street to see them, and while we were there, we felt an earthquake aftershock, which shook the floor a little bit, but wasn’t scary at all. Brady had a great time playing with the baby, while the adults chatted.

Finally, on our last night, Dave, Brady and I walked down to the West Village to have a drink with my girlfriend, Jill, and her husband, Paul. I met Jill back in San Francisco and we’ve kept up all these years, even though we both left California for the East Coast. We had drinks at Cafe Cluny, in the coolest outdoor structure on the street, which was heated and felt like a fun little greenhouse.

Family trip to NYC by A Lady Goes West

These three visits were all only about an hour or two each, but it was really nice to reconnect with all of these nice people in our lives that we haven’t seen in far too long. If we’d had more time, I definitely would have fit in more catching up.

Walking more than 20,000 steps a day around the city and walking the whole length of Central Park

I loved being on foot in NYC, and we spent a lot of time walking the streets while we were there. We took Uber rides to and from LaGuardia Airport and our hotel, and we hopped in a real-life yellow taxi (which Brady was excited about) to go back to our hotel from the top of the park, but other than that … we walked it all.

Family trip to NYC by A Lady Goes West

We thought about taking Brady on the subway as a little experience, but we didn’t end up doing that. My favorite walk was on the perimeter of Central Park. It took us about half an hour to walk from the American Museum of Natural History up to Dave’s sister’s apartment, and it was chilly, windy and full of such good people watching.

We had two full days in NYC, after arriving Thursday evening and leaving Sunday morning, and we fit in more than 10 miles on foot on both Friday and Saturday.

Family trip to NYC by A Lady Goes West

(I debuted these fun faux leather shorts over black tights this night, and I loved this look. And here’s my turtleneck and my coat.)

However, I have to say that walking around the city with a 6-year-old is not without its stress. Brady wanted to run and jump and touch nearly everything on the streets — so I felt like I always had my eye on him and was trying to rein him in much of the time. We also had to be certain to hold his hand at every crosswalk, because the cars/taxis/bikes are pretty wild, especially in the busier areas. Nonetheless, I think he did great with as much as we walked.

Exploring the American Museum of Natural History

The American Museum of Natural History is absolutely the largest museum I’ve ever experienced. We were there for about three hours, and we definitely didn’t see it all.

To be honest, it’s very strangely configured between a historic structure and a newer wing. There were multiple levels, and sometimes it was hard to figure out what we had seen and what we hadn’t. We booked these tickets ahead of time and had a general arrival time, and it was very busy when we were there.

I’m glad we paid extra to watch the show in the planetarium, which was excellent and was my favorite part of the museum. We also really enjoyed the dinosaur exhibits and the ocean life exhibits. But being that it’s a history museum, some of the older parts felt very … well, dated.

Family trip to NYC by A Lady Goes West

In hindsight, we probably should have done a little more planning and research on how best to explore this museum, because we went in without a real idea of how to take it in. Nonetheless, it felt like an enriching cultural experience, and so I’m glad we did it. It was also quite affordable ($28 a ticket for adults and $16 a ticket for kids) for three hours of entertainment on our first family trip to NYC.

Taking in the sights along The High Line

This walk was super busy on a clear Saturday morning, but it was definitely worth doing.

The High Line is a public park built on a more than one-mile-long elevated rail structure running along Manhattan’s West Side. And there are four entrances. 

Family trip to NYC by A Lady Goes West

(I bought this purse specifically for this trip, and it was so handy. It fit a lot, can be worn as a shoulder purse or a crossbody and has three different strap options.)

We jumped on The High Line in the Chelsea neighborhood and walked pretty far along the way, enjoying the views of the city and the coast. There were a lot of people doing the same thing as us, so the path was congested at times, but it was still a really cool scene. And I love that this walking path is free to the public every day of the week.

Family trip to NYC by A Lady Goes West

We walked on The High Line for a while, then we walked up to Little Island and ended up back at Chelsea Market (a busy indoor venue with stores and restaurants) for lunch. It was the perfect city-based stroll with some greenery and even coastal views. 

Family trip to NYC by A Lady Goes West

Seeing “Aladdin” the Musical on Broadway

Brady loved this show. And I love that we stepped foot in the oldest operating theatre on Broadway. But I have some comments …

I knew I wanted to see a Broadway show during our first family trip to NYC, and I also knew we should see something kid-friendly. I’d already seen “The Lion King” musical before, so I figured “Aladdin” the musical was our next best choice.

We scoured ticket prices online before our trip and decided to wait to buy the tickets in person at a discount ticket counter in NYC. We bought the tickets in Times Square one day before the show, and we ended up spending about $130 per person for balcony seats.

Family trip to NYC by A Lady Goes West

When we arrived at the New Amsterdam Theatre for our show, I couldn’t believe how high the balcony seats were. In fact, the steep drop of the theatre was almost a little scary. It was incredibly crowded that day, and we had some inconsiderate (and perhaps also sick) seat-mates right around us that colored our experience a bit with noises, moving, coughing, ringing phones and leaning in front of us.

But other than that, quite honestly, I didn’t think some of the performers were as amazing as I would have expected for a Disney show on Broadway. The Genie character absolutely nailed it, but the Aladdin and Jasmine main characters were nothing special … both their voices and dancing abilities were not what I would consider “Broadway worthy.” I’m an easy crowd when it comes to artistic endeavors, and I love everything, so this is rare for me to say. Yes, we liked being entertained though, and yes, this show was entertaining.

Family trip to NYC by A Lady Goes West

(Here are my jeans, here’s my coat and here are my sneakers.)

However, seeing “Aladdin” and visiting this historically beautiful theatre is a highlight from the trip simply because Brady ate it up and was giggling and enthralled in the performance. His joy from it made me love it, even if I felt a bit critical of the talent.

Eating all the delicious food

I was so excited to eat a lot of great food on our first family trip to NYC, and I’m happy to say we did eat a lot of great food. From sit-down fancy meals to nibbling baked-goods on the go, we tried it all.

Family trip to NYC by A Lady Goes West
Below are some of the best places we dined …

  • Tavern on the Green — this fancy place in Central Park has an excellent vibe and view, which is shown above (we had a reservation for lunch here)
  • Bagel Pub — we had some crazy delicious (and large) bagel sandwiches here on our first morning together

Family trip to NYC by A Lady Goes West

  • Gregory’s Coffee — the best lattes we had the whole trip came from here, Dave and I each had a couple of Fall Oat Boy lattes … mmmm

Family trip to NYC by A Lady Goes West

  • Beauty & Essex — the coolest NYC spot for a fun dinner out, with really unique food like the wheel of desserts shown above (we had a reservation for dinner here)
  • Bar Suzette at Chelsea Market — I had a smoked salmon crepe for lunch here that was decadent beyond belief, and after it was done, I kept thinking about it

Family trip to NYC by A Lady Goes West

We also had two Italian dinners that were really good. We had to make reservations for every evening meal, and we made our dinner reservations on the day of. Had we wanted to try more popular restaurants, we probably should have mapped those out sooner, but we weren’t quite sure where we’d be when on each day at the time of planning the trip. It all ended up working out fine though.

Family trip to NYC by A Lady Goes West

Overall thoughts on our first family trip to NYC 

I loved this trip. I had wanted to go back to NYC for a long time, and I had wanted to take Brady for a while too. While we’d thought that doing NYC during the holidays would be fun, going at the tail-end of his spring break worked out perfectly for us this year. The weather was chilly and windy, but totally manageable, and we liked having an active trip that included a lot of walking and exploring (and a lot of really good eating too).

Family trip to NYC by A Lady Goes West

(I linked this whole outfit here.)

If we’d had more time, I would have liked to have done some shopping, because we really didn’t fit any of that in (other than a few fun stops in big Times Square stores like the M&M flagship spot), and Brady was the only one who came back with a souvenir (NYC Legos, of course).

I also would have liked to have seen another show and experienced some night-life. But for our first family trip, we did about all we could do. We all left NYC feeling full, tired and ready to get back to our comfy (and very suburban) life in Charlotte — minus the traffic, the trash and the crowds.

And honestly, as much as I love the hustle and bustle of the city, walking around NYC made me realize I’m glad we’re no longer city dwellers. It was a blast to live in San Francisco proper for three years and experience that type of a life (on a smaller scale of NYC, of course), but it’s just not for us any longer. These days, I’m just a city visitor, and that’s fine by me.

Family trip to NYC by A Lady Goes West

A little bit of advice, if you’re planning a family trip to NYC …

  • Bring a bigger coat than you think you need, unless you’re going in the summer. It was windy and chilly even in April, and we were in our winter jackets much of the time, even though the weather wasn’t supposed to be super cold.
  • Wear comfy sneakers. You will walk a lot. I also had band-aids in my purse, in case a blister happened, but luckily all of our shoes stood the test.
  • Have a loose plan for each day, but give yourself extra time to walk from point A to point B and add in extra stops. Part of the fun of traveling is stopping to smell the roses, and I love that we weren’t overbooked.
  • Check out Times Square merely for the experience, but then try to stay somewhere a little less crazy. Times Square is insanely busy and full of tourists and it feels good to be away from it, after you see what it’s all about.
  • Wait to get Broadway tickets from an in-person discount seller. It was much cheaper than online. But prepared to spend, if it’s something you want to do. I couldn’t believe how much our “nose-bleed seats” were.
  • You’ve got to stroll through Central Park. It’s huge, lush and there’s so much to see. Give yourself time for this activity.
  • Read up on the reviews/advice for everywhere you visit, especially big museums. We definitely should have prepared more for our American Museum of Natural History visit, but we still liked it, even though we didn’t know what we were walking into.
  • Mind your surroundings! Walking around NYC is fun, but you have to be present and aware — it’s ideal to stay close to your group, keep your valuables safe and watch where you’re going. We had zero security concerns on our trip, and I’m thankful for that. But I did have to be hyper vigilant to make sure Brady was close while we were walking around.
  • Make the most of your NYC family trip by appreciating the city for what it is. If you’re heading to NYC to relax, you may not have made the right vacation choice. It’s a bustling, vibrant and exciting city … and a trip there is probably going to be very stimulating, rather than calming.

Family trip to NYC by A Lady Goes West

Overall, it wasn’t exactly a relaxing sit-around-do-nothing type of vacation where you rest and recharge. Our first family trip to NYC was go-go-go, and it was just what I had hoped for. Three cheers for a city getaway! And that concludes my recap. 🙂

(By the way, I made a little video about our first family trip to NYC, which you can see here.)

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Questions of the day

Have you ever been to NYC?

What’s one city that you want to visit this year?

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  1. Looks like so much fun and loved the reel you made! My fave city (although it seems to get pricier every time haha) – thanks for the recap!

    1. Hi Iona! Yes, it was quite pricey in NYC — especially our tiny hotel room. We were used to those high prices when we lived in SF, but not as used to them now that we live in Charlotte. I also love NYC and I want to go back during the holidays this year or next. Have a great day, friend. Thank you for reading! 🙂

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