Destination Delegation: Mother/Daughter Trip to NYC

Happy New Year, friends! We’re kicking off 2022 content with a recap of my December mother/daughter trip to NYC. You loved following along on Insta Stories, and I wanted to consolidate our itinerary and general recommendations because I got so many questions. We really lucked out with the timing of this trip because we managed to get in and out before omicron brought NYC to another standstill. Hopefully this will pass soon!!

As for our itinerary, I want to stress that this trip was all about the kids. We had a fabulous time, but it’s not the itinerary I’d follow if Paul and I were going solo. Just a little disclaimer there. Also, whenever possible, get tickets to everything in advance (I’m talking weeks, if not months, ahead; things book up so quickly, especially at the holidays).

Remember that you need proof of vaccination to get into most places in NY, so don’t forget those vaccine cards! This rule now applies to kids 5+, though that wasn’t in place when we were there. The NYC rules are changing every day, so before you travel I’d strongly advise checking the latest requirements.

Here is our itinerary in full:

  • Thursday – arrive and check in at hotel (we stayed at The Palace and loved it), tea at Plaza, American Girl Store
  • Friday – Central Park carriage ride, lunch at Tavern on the Green, skating at Bryant Park, dinner at Serendipity
  • Saturday – half-day private tour of NYC highlights, Rockettes
  • Sunday – Color Factory

American Girl / Lego Store / FAO Schwartz. All three are close together and it’s like a triumvirate of fun that your kids will love. The Lego Store in particular has a lot of cool features; for example, you can share a photo of your child, and they’ll create a 3D puzzle of his/her face. I got this for John Albert and he can’t wait to assemble it. All three stores are right around 30 Rock, as well, so you can see the Rockefeller Center tree while you’re at it.

Meals. This might be an unpopular take, but when you’re doing NYC with kids, it’s not worth building the trip around restaurants. Especially when you’re there at popular times such as Christmas, the waits are long and kids a) don’t care about the food and b) don’t have the patience. We had a really fun dinner at Serendipity (a classic NYC experience for children) but especially for lunches, I urge you to take advantage of the many places where you can grab a quick slice of pizza, a sandwich, or goodies for a picnic in the park (e.g. E.A.T., Zabars, Eataly, Chelsea Market). IMPORTANT: for THE BEST black and white cookies in NYC (don’t let anyone tell you otherwise), go to Greenbergs on Madison Ave.

Tea. We did tea at The Plaza and I hate to say it, but I’d urge you to skip it. (For what it’s worth, my colleague Alex agrees with this; she also had a disappointing experience there pre-covid and we both think it’s just not worth the money.) If you want to build in afternoon tea, which is such a delightful thing to do with little girls, I’d suggest BG, the restaurant right next door at Bergdorf Goodman (a great option for lunch as well). The room is gorgeous and the experience is a pleasure.

Skating at Bryant Park. Yes, there’s skating at 30 Rock and Wollman Rink in Central Park, but I loved our experience at Bryant Park (reserve tickets in advance). They have a beautiful tree and there are lots of add-on experiences (e.g. photos with Santa, igloos, an open-air holiday market). We did the “Premium Skate” and it was worth every penny (no line, someone brought us our skates, water, and snacks, we got a longer skate, and we also had a private area to take a break). The website still says that the rink is open until March 6, but again, I’d call to verify before making any plans.   

Central Park Carriage Ride. I strongly urge you to book this in advance through a reputable company; we used Central Park Carriage Tours. The girls loved it and it was a great way to get a real sense of the Park and all of its highlights (Strawberry Fields, the Bethesda Terrace and Fountain [think Chuck and Blair’s wedding], etc.). We didn’t do the Central Park Zoo this time, but if you’re there anyway, that’s always a hugely fun stop for kids (make sure you go in time for one of the sea lion feedings).

NYC Tour. We used Beyond Times Square to organize this. The girls are 9 now so it was a perfect age to introduce them to things like the Empire State Building. We hit the highlights and I was delighted to open their eyes to places and things they’ll start learning about in school. This was a private bus tour and after the Empire State Building, it drove us all around to see the “big stuff” from a distance (e.g. Statute of Liberty). We had a tour guide in the van who told us about the history of the city and what we were seeing, including the 9/11 memorial (the guide did a great job of talking about that at an age-appropriate level). A “full tour” of everything would be too much for the kids so our 4-hour overview was perfect.

Museums. We adored the Color Factory, which is an interactive art museum (they also have a location in Houston and one opening in Chicago). Get tickets for the first time slot on Sunday – we had the whole place to ourselves! Other museums I love for kids include the MET, Museum of Natural History, Guggenheim (which looks like a giant spiral), Children’s Museum of Manhattan, and Intrepid Sea, Air, and Space Museum. Nearly all the museums in NYC have kid programming and activities; check the websites in advance to plan.

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