Kensie Kate

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10 Things to Do in New York with a Big Family

TravelKensie Smith
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Last Christmas, my parents surprised our family with a trip to New York! After months of waiting, we finally got to go a couple of weeks ago. The main reason for the trip was the Coldplay concert. My mom, dad, Sam, and Drew went when they came to Salt Lake and Owen was devastated that he didn't get to go. My mom promised that he could go the next time they came to America. Literally the next day they announced extended tour dates so my mom bought tickets on her phone while watching Owen's soccer game.

My parents and I had been to New York before, but none of my siblings had (most of them had never even been on a plane before). We knew that it was going to be a struggle to find places to eat that could fit our whole family (7 of us, since Sam is on a mission in Mexico) and activities that the whole family would enjoy. 

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We took the redeye, headed straight to our hotel, and rested for a couple of hours before hitting the city. We stayed at a Marriott in Queens and it ended up being across the street from a subway station, making it really easy to get downtown.

We packed so much into the few days we were there and found plenty of family-friendly options in the city, though it wasn't always easy. Not only was there a lot of us, but we were dealing with a wide age range too (Owen, the youngest, is 9). Here's a list of favorite things to do with a big family in NYC:

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1. Grand Central Station. We didn't spend tons of time here, but it's definitely a stop worth making. Grand Central connects most of the subway lines so, not only is it an incredible building to check out, it's actually a handy way to get to other destinations.

We checked out the Apple Store real quick. Since it's in the balcony of the main part of the building, it doesn't have any walls so it's open 24/7, making it a great place to stop and charge your phone. (Speaking of, I bought this charger and it was amazing! I knew I wanted to take a lot of pictures/videos with my phone and it was so nice not to worry about my phone dying. I charged it every night and then it kept all of our phones charged throughout the day.)

Grand Central has a lot of fun shops downstairs. We didn't really go inside any of them, but it was fun to look at all of the window displays. 

JFK airport hooks right into the subway system so we immediately bought 7-day unlimited passes for everyone (except for Owen because they said he was young enough that he didn't need his own). We were only there for 5 days, but it was definitely the way to go. We took the subway everywhere and having an unlimited pass meant that we didn't have to worry about how much was left on each card.

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2. Dollar Slice Pizza. We tried really hard not to spend a fortune on food—which we could have easily done with 7 people. We figured out a great system to keep our family fed without breaking the bank. For breakfast, we would stop at a street cart and buy a bunch of fruit.

Then for lunch or dinner, we would find dollar pizza locations throughout the city. They are the tiniest little places so we would usually grab pizza and then keep walking, but it was so good every time! 

For our third meal of the day, we ate a restaurant where the bill was a little more than what we would spend at home, but spending $10 to feed our family pizza balanced it out. 

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3. Staten Island Ferry. Finley really wanted to see the Statue of Liberty, but none of us were highly interested in spending several hours on Liberty Island, especially since it was so dang hot. If you want to be able to walk all the way to the top of Lady Liberty, you have to get tickets several months in advance.

Instead, we opted to take the Staten Island Ferry (free). It leaves every 30 minutes and goes between New York and New Jersey, taking about 20 minutes each way. You get a great view of the Statue of Liberty and the city skyline. 

We went in the middle of the day, which is a great way for every one to rest a little bit, but I've also been at night and it is so cool to see the city all light up over the water.

4. 9/11 Memorial and Westfield World Trade Center. None of my siblings are old enough to remember 9/11. They've learned about it in school but it seeing everything helped make it more real for them. The kids liked being able to walk around and take it in. Right next to the plaza is the entrance to the Westfield World Trade Center. It's a mall and it is absolutely incredible. We stood and just stared for several minutes. It's huge inside and connects to a few different subway lines.

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5. The Met. I had never been to the Met before, but I had heard from several people to plan on spending several hours there. This was a great museum for our family because you decide how much you pay for admission and it's so huge that there's something for everyone to enjoy. I think there are like 12 million pieces in the museum, but don't quote me on that.

We were there for about 4 or 5 hours and we totally could have gone back for another day. Owen was pretty ornery (later we found out he actually had Strep), but otherwise the kids really liked it. Our favorite areas were the pyramid, the Islander art area, the modern art, and the American art.

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6. Central Park. The Met is technically in Central Park so you could do both in the same day. We didn't make it through the entire park, but we accidentally walked right through the middle of the whole park. We stopped to watch the sailboats on the water, the Alice in Wonderland statues, and the Billy Johnson playground, where there's a big granite slide.

We also walked above the zoo, but there's so much of the park we didn't have time to see. 

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7. Times Square. This is easily the most touristy part of New York, but you still have to make a stop. We liked grabbing a few treats from Magnolia Bakery (amazing!) and sharing them on the steps. There are a lot of shops (the Disney Store was pretty magical) but really you need to go just to take a picture in front of all the lights.

We went back a couple of times at different times of the day and it is just as brilliantly lit up at midnight. Unless you look straight up at the sky, you can't even tell it's nighttime. 

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8. Rockefeller Plaza. Another super touristy place, but we had a lot of fun there. Owen's dreams came true when he got to go to the Lego store (even though there's literally one 20 minutes from our house). Finley liked seeing where the Today Show is filmed and the Magnolia Bakery is there. 

We spent a few minutes inside St. Patrick's cathedral and went to the Comcast building several times because there are bathrooms and the subway :)

There's also an American Girl Store, but we didn't have anyone dying to go inside this time.

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9. Chelsea Highline. I'll be honest, we did this towards the end of our trip and I was not super looking forward to a long walk, but it ended up being great. The Chelsea Highline is basically a mile-long walk that exists in place of an abandoned railroad line. The area was unused and some local residents had the idea to turn it into an attraction and now it is a beautiful walk that goes straight to the Chelsea Market. It was a beautiful walk with so many great views of the city.

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10. MOMA Gift shop. I would have loved to go to the MOMA, but a) it would have been really expensive for our family and b) there's no way we could have convinced Owen to go to another art museum after spending so long at The Met. 

We walked past the MOMA gift shop and decided to stop in for a few minutes. I think we were there for an hour. They had so many fun things and I think it actually ended up being better for our family than going to the museum because a) admission was free and b) the kids could touch and play with so many fun things.

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Bonus: There were so many other things we enjoyed seeing and places we loved shopping. Some of these might not be great for taking the whole family, but if you decide to split up for a little bit...

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Doughnut Plant: They had so many fun flavors of donuts it was hard to decide which ones to try. Make sure to stop in the bathroom because it has a disco ball and tiny mirrors all over the walls.
Century 21: Actually our whole family does love this store. There are a couple of locations in the city. Basically it's a department store with expensive designer items and more affordable options. Probably the best part of the store is the tie selection. My dad never leaves with less than 10 ties and this time was no exception. He is the pickiest when it comes to ties and he wears one 6 days a week so this store is basically heaven for him.
Uniqlo: There really isn't a great comparison for this store so the best way to describe it I guess would be Japanese H&M. It has basics for the whole family at great prices. 

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Flying Tiger: Oh my goodness! I had never been here before, but it was the store of my dreams! It has the most random assortment of knick knacks, from stationery to kitchen accessories and everything is so cute! 

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Kate Spade: One of my favorite brands—it was so much fun to look at everything in the store. They happened to be launching a new collection the day there were there so there were fancy drinks and macarons to celebrate. 

For this trip, I opted to take a lot more videos than pictures. I have a PopSocket on my phone and it gave me so much peace of mind. I have an iPhone 7+ so sometimes it's hard to hold it securely with one hand and the PopSocket made it really easy to hold without my hand getting in the way of the lens.

I quickly put together this video of our trip in iMovie. It's definitely not professional and it's so long that I don't expect anyone to watch it all the way through, but our family has enjoyed reliving our trip this way—especially the Coldplay concert.