Every 3-4 years we take a months to travel the world. And every time I get asked: “Really? One month?” Well, yes one month! If you like to see something, experience something, you need time. Especially traveling with kids requires time as they need a moment to adjust to a new environment, learn, trust, experiment. We tried many things and we have learnt that it needs about 2-3 nights to fully adjust to a new place, depending on travel time and time zones.
Focus on Themes
We also found it useful to focus on 2-3 themes for each of your trips. Usually a theme is related to one location. In earlier trips we travelled more locations but learnt that being on the road all the time is diluting the experience and also adds too much stress. This time we chose three themes in five locations: Big City (NYC & Washington), Beach (Huntington Beach) and Rocky Mountains (Estes Park).
There is no better big city for kids than New York City. Trust me, no matter what somebody tells you, the Big Apple is built for kids. Every day, every moment is an adventure. The subway, the skyscrapers, the park and the countless cultural activities. And their is really no restaurant that doesn’t cater to kids. We stayed three nights at the beginning of our trip and another three night before we headed back to Europe. We also expanded the initial NYC experience with two more nights in Washington. Here are some highlights of our Big City theme.
(Manhattan Skyline viewed from Liberty Island)
Ellis Island & Statue of Liberty: An absolute must when going to NYC. Not for the impressive building but to get an understanding how this country was build. The audio tour is outstanding and even comes with a fun kids version. It is available in many languages, our kids loved it. Book your ticket online and you’ll skip a 1+ hour line. If you like to enter the crown of Lady Liberty you need to book weeks ahead of time but it is just minimal extra charge.
(Almost there, Liberty Island viewed from Battery Park, Manhattan)
New York Yankees: Heads up, it is costly, so only go if you like baseball. Personally I love the beginning with the goose bumps during the national anthem. If budget is an issue buy some of the cheaper tickets and walk around the ball park. You can take awesome pictures towards the end of the game when the first have left and nobody controls tickets anymore.
Bridges: We walked the Washington Bridge over to Brooklyn, had lunch at the Brooklyn Bridge park and walked back the Brooklyn Bridge. If you’re not a good walker, take the Brooklyn Bridge from Manhattan and take the subway back to the island. The park in the Brooklyn offers lots of walking and picnic opportunity. We walked the Manhattan bridge but it’s just worth the view, the noise level with the subway crossing is insane, you may want to skip this if noise is an issue.
(Brooklyn Bridge viewed from the Manhattan Bridge)
Rockefeller Center: Many prefer the Empire State Building but I like the view from the Rockefeller Center better. No matter which one you choose, the view is outstanding and kids love it. Always ask if there is a family line, even if there isn’t the chances somebody lets you through is high, especially if you have a cute baby in your arms :-)
(Central Park viewed from Rockefeller Center)
Central Park: New York appears loud and chaotic but once you enter the park it feels so different. Picnic on the lawns, sale boat racing on the lake there is so much you can do. We took the chance and practiced what we learnt at Yankee stadium, and got the kids their first baseball gloves. If you need a break, go to one of the many playgrounds, they’re fenced and you can let your kids run while you enjoy a cappuccino on a bench.
(Central Park in summer, just awesome)
Metropolitan Museum of Art: This is huge and you might be stressed out with multiple kids. Get the audio guide and let the kids run. You’d be amazed what interests your kids have. Our oldest boy spend 2.5 hours chasing from old Egyptian art to samurai swords. Don’t worry about budget, all the $ amounts are suggestions and you can chose to pay just 1$. If you can afford it, you might want to support the MET as it is truly a great place. There is a stroller entrance left of the main entrance with absolute no wait line.
(Walk like Egyptian at the MET)
Capitol & the White House: We only had 2 days in Washington but I was keen to show my kids the Capitol Visitor Center to get a conversation about democracy started. Standing in front of the White House and see the presidents helicopter land is a great experience. The entire mall is full of great sites, we went to see also see the Lincoln memorial, if you have older kids you can watch “Lincoln” the move to get an idea what amazing things have happened.
(Enjoying a private concert on the steps of the Capitol)
I know, you question if the big city is really a place for you. Crime, noise, stress. Don’t hesitate, you really want to bring your kids to the big city.