Sorry this has been delayed I’ve been waiting to access a computer to add the photos!
We arrived in New York last Wednesday and stayed for six nights.
We stayed in the Country Inn and Suites, Crescent Street, Long Island City. It is situated just over the Queensborough bridge. I paid around $118 (£78) a night for a king size room. The bed was huge, with a desk, tv, fridge, a/c, microwave, iron and a decent sized bathroom with bath and shower. If you stay in Manhattan itself you are going to pay a lot more for a room so this is an ideal alternative if you are on more of a budget. The hotel also provides free wifi and breakfast. The wifi worked well throughout our stay and breakfast was decent; 8-10am, waffles, eggs, tea, toast etc. There is also a computer and printer that is free to use in the lobby and free cookies! The hotel also had a gym but I’d rather eat the cookies than hit the gym. Our room was located on the first floor near reception but it was not noisy at all. I would happily recommend this hotel for people visiting New York with children.
So we got a taxi from New York Penn train station when we arrived off the Amtrak. Taxi’s are everywhere and not hard to find. We hopped in a cab and gave them the address to our hotel, the taxi driver seemed unsure of the location (as it was out of Manhattan) but fortunately I had printed a google map of the route – New York taxi drivers are unlike London taxi drivers, they do not know all routes round the city and it is down to the passenger to know how to get to the destination – this is not helpful when you are a new tourist to a city. Don’t get me wrong they know all the major stops but some hotels etc they are unsure. A taxi at 4pm from Penn Station to Country Inn and Suites was $25 and took around 30minutes due to bad traffic. When traffic was ok (it is never good in New York) the taxi took 10minutes and cost $13. Apparently taxi drivers expect a 20% tip but I only tipped the nice ones as we encountered quite a few unfriendly ones, one of who shouted at me as he couldn’t understand my accent and said I pronounce my numbers wrong – he did not get a tip!
The other way we got around was via the Subway or the MTA as it is called in New York. The closest station was a 4minute walk from our hotel and it only takes about 10minutes to be shopping on 5th avenue. There is a flat rate of $2.75 for a single journey. When i asked whether i had to purchase a ticket for Faye, the person working said it is done on height, not age, and if your child can walk under the bar you don’t need to pay for them, so I just got Faye to crouch down and go through!
So most days we got the subway in the morning as traffic is busy and got a taxi home after 8pm’ish as the traffic was not so bad later in the evenings. Some subway stations are not particularly pushchair friendly so it is best to have a pushchair which you can collapse and carry easily to get up and down steps. I have an O Baby ‘Zoma’ three wheeled stroller which is comfortable enough for Faye to be in for a lay down, but lightweight enough to pick up and collapse. The MTA was definitely my preferred way of getting around as it was quick, cheap and had air con!
Although, I have to say I did not appreciate that Manhattan was only 12 miles long by 2 miles wide, so really it can be walked in a few hours!
As we had free breakfast in the hotel we took full advantage of that and had a nice big breakfast everyday. As I had a fridge in the room I brought milk and snacks for during the day which we grazed on and had an ice cream during the afternoon. Then we would go for dinner around 7pm. Dinner cost around $40-50 for the both of us and normally with a glass of wine for me. We ate in a variety of places, but restaurants I would recommend are Stardust on Broadway in which the waiters and waitresses sing throughout the meal. Faye loved it as they did a few Disney numbers. We also enjoyed Dos Caminos (825 Third Ave ) and Bills Bar and Burger (Rockafeller Centre) which are small chain restaurants. They were good value and good portions and very child friendly. The Loeb Boathouse at Central Park was one of my favourites. You can go inside for a sit down meal or there is an outside bar round one side or round the other, an outside cafe serving good quality quick food. We both had hot dogs, fries, fruit salad, drinks and cake for around $20.
One thing to watch out for in New York is the water in the restaurants. If you are on a budget ask for tap water as some places can charge you up to $10 for a bottle of water.
I was initially worried about New York in terms of getting everything done and wondering where you start with it all. Lucky for us we had a friend come visit for a few days who knows the city well, but if you are a first timer to the New York I would recommend one of the first things to do would be an open top bus tour which gives you an oversight of the city. They do all different routes including the outer boroughs such as Brooklyn. We used the red buses from the company, Gray Line. This cost $59 for 48hours use of the hop on hop off buses all over the city. There are other tickets prices available for different routes and timings. Now, I lied about Faye’s age here as under 3s go free, whereas over 3s pay $49 and it was a cheeky way of saving some money. The tour guides are what make the buses most enjoyable so make sure you get a good one and if you don’t, hop off the bus and get on the next one. They also operate in something like 11 languages. Pushchairs are welcome on the buses, you just collapse then and leave them downstairs. It can be very hot on the top deck of the buses especially where they travel quite slowly due to busy New York traffic, so take water and sun cream.
Central Park was one of my favourite places and you can easily spend the whole day there. At the weekend it is shut off to cars so only people, horses and bikes are allowed through which makes a nice break from NY traffic and the constant beeping. We hired a horse and carriage to take us around Central Park on the second evening we were there which cost $90 for an hour (they can take six people). The horses line up all down the streets surrounding Central Park making them easy to find. They also don’t mind you collapsing your pushchair to bring on board. The next day we decided to go back to the park and walk through it. It has around four playgrounds and a couple of lakes. One lake contains small motorised boats used in the film Stuart Little, the other larger lake is where the Loeb Boathouse restaurant is situated – they rent out rowing boats for $12 an hour which is hugely popular and Faye loved it – I would strongly recommend going there. What’s nice about Central Park is once your walking round you can pick out various parts that have been in many films which Faye even enjoyed as its been in a few modern Disney movies. The Alice in Wonderland statue is also another aspect for the kids and Faye took about 40 photos of it!
FAO Schwartz the toy store (5th ave) is another nice treat for both parents and children, as I discovered! It has a brilliant sweet department, and as I have a very sweet tooth and miss English chocolate, I throughly enjoyed that section. Faye spend ages looking at all the toys and her favourite was a 6ft pink dog that cost $1500! She said that if we brought it she promised to carry it for the whole trip – I think not! Sometimes it can be hard shopping with children as they want everything, but the way I get around it with Faye is by saying she can put it on her birthday list (her birthdays not until November). She goes round saying I want that on the list, and that, and that and 500 things later she’s forgotten half the stuff she first wanted.
Before we came away she had a savings pot which she put all her pennies in, and some of our friends and family kindly gave her money so she has her own purse to buy things with whilst we’re away. So she brought two animals for her dolls house/farm at home; a giraffe which she named Big and a Dalmatian dog which she named Little!
At the top floor of the toy store is a giant piano which children can play on. It is laid out on the floor and children walk up and down it to make it light up an make noises. There was a sign saying it could be purchased for $250,000 but unfortunately it didn’t match the decor in my living room so I gave that a miss!
We viewed the Statue of Liberty, or as Faye named it ‘that giant fairy’, from the Staten Island Ferry. The Staten Island Ferry is free and departs every 45 minutes or so and is about an hours round trip. Be sure to get a good viewing spot on the right side of the boat. Once you arrive at Staten Island you have to get off the boat but can board straight back on it – I’m unsure why they do this, it may be a security measure. This is a great money saving measure as its FREE. Lots of boat companies offer trips at $25 a head and so if you’re with children it can be quite expensive.
We did the Empire State Building around 10am and that seemed a good time to go and we had very little queuing. You can go to the 86th or 102nd floor, we paid $22 to go to the 86th, and under 6 go free. To go up higher I think you pay an extra $17. Once your up there it doesn’t take long to be honest but Faye did enjoy looking at how small the taxis were and she thought she saw a shark near ‘the big fairy’.
Times Square is great. Never seen anything like it. We went both day and night time. Beware for people dressed Disney characters as they approached Faye and asked her if she wanted a picture with them, then they came to me and demanded money for their ‘tips’. They can be very pushy so beware. Faye loved the Disney screen in Times Square and sat watching it for ages.
There are lots of buildings that you will want to see but either cannot go in them or there isn’t anything to do there, so it’s just a case of getting there, taking a few photos and moving on. These were things like Grand Central Station, Federal Hall, Trump Tower and the Stock Exchange. We did these types of things quite quick as they weren’t particularly exciting for Faye. I always think its a bit of give and take with children, if you want them to spend an hour looking at a statue you need to reward them but doing something they enjoy after as a reward. Faye’s reward was visiting the water fountains in Battery Park. She is drawn to water and will at any opportunity whip her clothes off and get in it. These fountains shoot water up from the ground and children run through them. When we arrived children were just getting their toes wet, but along came Faye who stripped down to her pants and got drenched.
Another good stop is Pier 17 which has shops, restaurants, boats and is a great way of viewing the Brooklyn Bridge.
That’s pretty much our story of New York. Will definitely return once I win the lottery.