New York: a family weekend guide

By Sunshine Flint

Photography by Spaces Images/Getty

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At first glance, New York might not seem the most obvious choice for a family weekend. But it’s a total myth that you can’t have fun with little ones in the Big Apple. With great galleries, great sights – and great pizza too, it’s easy to share a slice of the city with your kids. New York-based travel writer Sunshine Flint shows you how.


Noon – Make your escape

There are frequent flights between London and New York, so you’re bound to find an option that suits your family. To make the most of your first day (and to get the kids to bed at a decent time) choose an early afternoon departure from London Heathrow, which lands at JFK early evening. Shelburne NYC is great for families, and it’s well located for all the big sights – though there are plenty of New York hotels to choose between. Drop your suitcase, and head straight out to the city’s most iconic span – the Brooklyn Bridge – and walk across for views of lower Manhattan, the new World Trade Center, the Statue of Liberty, the Manhattan Bridge and those ‘choiring strings’ that make the bridge such a lyrical experience.

What could be a better introduction to the city than a real New York pizza pie?

18:00 – Brooklyn Pizza

What could be a better introduction to the city than a real New York pizza pie? Juliana’s Pizza is a great spot for early dinner on the Brooklyn side of the bridge, then walk into Brooklyn Bridge Park and ride the cool antique carousel housed in a glass greenhouse while you watch the sunset over the harbour and the city’s spectacular skyline.

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  • The T-rex skeleton is a big draw at the American Museum of Natural History © AMNH/C Chesek

    Dino tour

    The American Museum of Natural History is one of the largest museums in the world. Head down to the famous Hall of Saurischian Dinosaurs to get up close and personal to the Tyrannosaurus Rex, as well as many other dinosaur displays.

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  • Shake Shack: the perfect refuelling stop for hungry families on the go
  • Manhattan, as seen from the Empire State Building © Stacey Bramhall / Getty

    The 86th floor

    On a clear day, the panoramic views from the Empire State Building’s Observation Deck can stretch across five states. Give a wave to New York, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Connecticut and Massachusetts while you’re up there.

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07:30 – Bagels for breakfast

Breakfast in New York can only mean one thing – it’s a bake they do better than anywhere else in the world. Get stuck in to New York’s favourite breakfast at some of the best bagel spots: doorstopper wedges at Ess-a-Bagel, the legendary H&H Midtown Bagels, in a vintage setting at Sadelles, or – if you’re feeling fancy – even with caviar at Russ & Daughter’s. Order a classic cream cheese and lox (or smoked salmon), and the adventurous can add tomato, red onion and capers.

09:00 – Park life

Stroll up Central Park’s Mall to the grand sandstone Bethesda Terrace and Fountain and enjoy the wonders of New York’s beloved park. Then meander past the Lake to Strawberry Fields, the mosaic memorial to John Lennon, a designated quiet spot in the park shaded by American elms.

10:00 - Dinosaur date

Pop out of the park by the exit for the American Museum of Natural History between West 77th Street and West 81st Street before it opens at 10:00, so you can avoid the queues (you’ll also be done before it gets really busy at around lunchtime). Dinosaurs are the big draw of course, but don’t miss the life-size blue whale hanging from the ceiling of the Milstein Hall of Ocean Life. It will awe even the big kids.

  • Boating on Central Park © Brian D. Bumby/Getty

    Grab an oar

    Take in a unique city view from calm waters of Central Park’s Lake. Rowing boats can be rented for up to four people from Loeb Boathouse. Available daily from April to November (weather permitting) from 10:00 till sundown.

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13:00 – Shake it off

Yes, Shake Shack’s locations are popping up like mushrooms in a field after the rain, but a perfect burger-and-fries lunch is the best antidote to the post-museum grumbles. Bonus: this location is on Columbus Avenue, just across from the museum.

15:00 – Empire state of mind

You can get out of the subway at 42nd Street for a short pass through Times Square and then walk a few blocks to one of the world’s most famous skyscrapers – the Empire State Building. Head up to the 86th floor observation deck for 360-degree views, from the Battery to the Bronx, from Queens to New Jersey. Top tip: children under six are free.

18:00 – Go down to Chinatown

Manhattan’s famous grid pattern doesn’t allow for many curves, and Doyers Street in Chinatown is a great way to experience a flash of 19th-century New York with its crowded storefronts, eclectic signs and thronging foot traffic. Head around the corner to Joe’s Shanghai for their famous soup dumplings and whole crispy fish served family-style.


  • The High Line is a park that runs from the Lower West Side of Manhattan, through Chelsea, and finishes up by the Javits Center.

    Did you know… ?

    Built in 1934, the High Line’s former guise was as a railway line, elevating train traffic above the bustling streets of West Side Manhattan. Today, scenes of steam engines have been replaced by beautiful gardens, gelato stands and pop-up bars.

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08:00 – Walk the (High) Line

Early morning is the best time to avoid the crowds on the High Line, a popular elevated railroad-turned-urban green space on Manhattan’s West Side. It’s a cool alternative green space to Central Park and it’s peppered with contemporary art installations. Walk from north to south and look out for the Pershing Square Beams, where your kids can climb and play, and the water feature at the Diller - von Furstenberg Sundeck, where they can lose their shoes and paddle.

10:00 – Sunday brunch

Reward yourselves with brunch at Bubby’s High Line. Order a stack of pancakes or eggs Benedict and round it off with a slice of one of Bubby’s famous pies. The cherry is always a winner. It’s nearly time to make your way back to your hotel and hotfoot it to JFK – your flight back departs at 18:50 and you’ll land early Monday morning in London with lots of stories to tell.

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