New York City....with Kids

Tuesday, July 25, 2017

Ahhhh...New York, New York. There's just something about it. My husband has a particularly strong fascination with it so we usually end up visiting once a year. We very much believe in giving the kids eye opening experiences, and so we've taken them with us to New York several times-- most recently for Christmas in 2016. 
Travel with kids can be challenging at times, but for us, it is always worth it. The shared experience we have when we go places as a family is valuable on so many levels.  The chance to break from day to day school and work schedules and go and 'do' just the four of us is one of my favorite things. We try to find the balance of planning kid-friendly activities, as well as introducing them to things that maybe they wouldn't choose if we asked them about it. 
A recent example of this was on our Christmas trip last year, when we took them on a Jazz Cocoa & Carols cruise on Christmas Eve. Kevin discovered Classic Harbor Line a few years ago when we took a sunset cruise with them. It quickly became one of my very favorite New York City experiences. A beautiful boat, ample window views, small groups and simple live jazz music make for a positively delightful and relaxing cruise down the river. A far cry from the cattle call-like city cruise I'd done with some girlfriends previously (where you could barely see the Statue of Liberty through the masses of picture-takers). 
The Staff at Classic Harbor Line are delightful, professional and cheery. Soft jazzy Christmas tunes played in the background while the kids easily enjoyed views of the city. The Statue of Liberty was a favorite moment and the kids had plenty of space to go on the deck and take about a million pictures.  As we rounded back towards the Harbor, song sheets were passed out and we participated in a sing-along followed by cookies and cocoa. The kids were absolutely fascinated with the views and the occasional facts about the city and we enjoyed watching them take it all in while sitting on a comfy seat, sipping and snacking all the while.  
The cost of the cruise was more than the other bigger-boat options in town, but for us the price was well worth it. It was relaxing and enjoyable for us, and entertaining for them. In a city with big crowds, it was great to be able to sit back and let them move around without us hovering too close. 
We plan our trips with our kids to New York (and most places) with these basic principals in mind:

We don't worry about getting our money's worth. Ok, does this mean we just throw money around like confetti? No. In the planning stages of our trips, we really think through each activity and choose it for a specific reason, weighing pros and cons and keeping in mind real-life with kids. For example, we went to MoMA because my daughter studied van Gogh at school and replicated Starry Night and was desperate to see it.  There were crowds of people in the museum and especially in front of the painting but the sight of her seeing it for the first time and watching her stand there and take it all in was absolutely magical. I seriously teared up.  We probably spent 45 minutes at MoMA, pit-stopping at Monet, Pollock and Warhol. My son wasn't into it, but we wanted him to get a sense of these pieces of art in real life. Did we "get our money's worth?" No. But it was valuable and memorable and we didn't suffer through two more hours of crowds and artists my kids would never recognize just to get every last dime out of the price of admission. 

We plan for unplanned, outside kid-time. My kids are not toddlers, but they are still kids (10 and 12). They need to roam free. Not only do you have one of the greatest parks ever in Central Park, there are an endless number of fun things to do within that park. There are about a million cool playgrounds in the park, plus gardens, bridges, castles, wide open lawns...the list goes on and on and it's all free. Outings like this help us balance out the cost of the aforementioned 'getting your money's worth' activities. It's a win-win. We get to stroll through the park and take in the expansive city in the background, they get to run around and climb big rocks. For real. One of their favorite things they've ever done there.

We plan our meals in advance. There is little room for fly-by-the-seat-of-your-pants restaurant choosing for our family. Hangry is a very real thing. I'm not even talking about the kids. Our marriage has survived several Hangry bouts but it was a close call. We did research online based on our basic itinerary and made reservations at restaurants weeks before our trip. Overkill? We didn't think so. For starters, we were going to be eating out Christmas Eve and Christmas day. We planned for Christmas Brunch at The Robert where Kevin and I could get a fancy dish and the kids could still choose chicken or macaroni ( we don't have fancy-food-eating kids. They're pretty basic.). Outside of that, we had researched some quick and easy restaurants near our hotel and in areas of our activities. Places like the Shake Shack are made for pleasing everyone. 
Traveling with kids of any age will have it's bumps in the road, but for us it's worth the effort. We are lucky to live within drivable distance to some really great east coast cities, and fly to many like New York City in about an hour.  Taking the kids to places like this where culture and history and great activities collide make for some wonderful family memories.

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