My family and some of our friends went to NYC for a couple of days and we had a ton of fun! There was so much to see and do, lots of great food, and navigating the city wasn’t too difficult.
I thought I’d share what we did and what worked (and didn’t work) for us, in case you’re thinking of visiting. We were only there for two days – not nearly enough time to see and do everything – but, despite the limited time, I think we took a huge bite out of the Big Apple.
Where We Stayed
We stayed at the Navy Lodge on Staten Island, which is a great option for military families. The staff was nice, our room was clean, and the beds were very comfortable. It was about a 10-minute drive to the Staten Island Ferry. Our friends stayed at the Hampton Inn on Staten Island and they reported that it was also nice.
We took the Staten Island Ferry to Manhattan. The ferry is free and runs all day and night. We really enjoyed the time on the ferry. There are some great views of the city, Brooklyn Bridge and Statue of Liberty. It docks in the Financial District, which is at the bottom tip of the city, and there’s easy access to several Subway lines. One thing to note, parking at the ferry lot can be limited during commuter hours. We found a parking lot that always had spots open and was only a short distance from the ferry terminal. The parking lot was on the corner of Hyatt St. and St. Marks Place.
What We Saw
Even though I know we only saw a small fraction of the city, it sure felt like we saw everything. We walked a ton! We visited the usual tourist hot spots: Central Park, Times Square, the Empire State Building, Rockefeller Center, Broadway, etc.
But we were also able to spend some time exploring other parts of the city, too. Including, the Statue of Liberty and Ellis Island, the 9/11 Memorial, Strand Bookstore, and Greenwich Village. In fact, those were my favorite parts of the city. The first night, we wandered around Greenwich Village looking at the lovely houses and then we stumbled upon Washington Square Park. We saw random people playing Chess in the park – which I felt like is such an iconic NYC thing to see! It might sound crazy, but I hope heaven looks like Greenwich Village.
I loved our visit to the Statue of Liberty and especially to Ellis Island. Gosh, if those walls could talk! And they practically did with the interesting, self-guided audio tour.
The Strand Bookstore did not disappoint! The fact that it was packed – on a Tuesday night! – and the floor-to-ceiling bookshelves made my heart very happy. I could have spent hours in there. It’s a must-see if you’re a book lover, like me.
Finally, I had no idea just how much the 9/11 Memorial would impact me. Even though we didn’t have time for the museum, it was worth the trip to see the two pools marking the spot of the two towers. It was hauntingly beautiful.
Where We Ate
We discovered the Max Brenner restaurant and store while we were on our way to the Strand Bookstore (it’s right across the street). We popped in for a milkshake and they were heavenly. So good, in fact, that we decided to go back there the next day for dinner. It’s super kid-friendly and they were able to accommodate our party of 14 (with reservations). The food was delish, but I have to give special mention to their Chocolate Martini and Chocolate Hazelnut milkshake. Just thinking about it makes me want to jump in the car and head back to the city! So good!
My favorite meal was from Georgio Pizzeria on Beaver Street in the Financial District. It was the typical NY pizza! This restaurant had huge slices of pizza that you practically had to fold in half to fit in your mouth, lots of options by the slice and the food was delicious. Try the pasta pizza! (What’s pasta pizza? Pizza with pasta on top! Yum!)
We had the best service at Cozy Soup ‘n’ Burger on Broadway. It was the quintessential NYC diner/deli. The food was delicious but we especially appreciated our server who kept our kids smiling and happy, even though they were tired, cranky and hungry.
First, remember where you parked your car! This probably seems obvious, but pay attention to where you enter a building. On the first afternoon, when we parked at the Staten Island Ferry, we didn’t realize there were multiple parking lots and exits and, because everything was a bit overwhelming, we didn’t even pay attention to where we were entering. When we got back to the station at night, we couldn’t find our car. That was not a great feeling, especially after a long day, and it was also a bit embarrassing. Thankfully we were able to ask the security officers where we needed to go (by describing the parking lot) and they pointed us in the right direction.
Second, pay attention to the Subway directional signs before you swipe your fare card. Again, it seems obvious, but we made the mistake of entering and paying for a Subway train that was headed in the wrong direction. We had the right color/number line but we didn’t think to confirm the direction before entering. We figured you could access either direction, but at the stations we visited, there were no bridges to go to the other side of the track.
Third, keep the kids happy! It isn’t easy on the little ones to walk thousands of steps around the city. My friend had a great idea to help keep them motivated and distracted. She put together a Bingo game of sights and scenes from around NYC so that the kids would be entertained while walking around the city. We also rewarded the kids with ice cream and desserts along the way.
It was such a fun trip! I’m hoping we can go back again soon!
Do you have any favorite New York City spots? Please share in the comments!