Playing Tourist in NYC - Times Square, Rockefeller Plaza, Empire State Building, Statue of Liberty & more

Northeast, USA By

UPDATED: Take a look at our new list of things to do in New York with kids

Typical tourist things in New York. You can get a Hop-On-Hop-Off bus to see them all, which we did in 2007, so this time we decided to just do it by ourselves. Our cousin, Jordan, lives and works in the city during the week before returning to Long Island for the weekends and was happy to be our tour guide on our first entry into the city with kids.

Wow was it different. In 2007 Josh and I loved New York. We could imagine living and working there, it was a beautiful, demanding city made for singles and couples. Fast-forward 2013 with 2 children under 4. Congested pedestrian traffic, busy roads, tight spaces and crowded shops… Logistical nightmares with our new double pram.

Times Square & Rockefeller Plaza

Once through Penn Station and down a few blocks, the crowds eased. On our first day Jordan took us to Times Square. We had photos on the famous red steps. We saw the New Years Eve Ball and had lunch at a famous deli where the food was bigger than 2 people could even manage.

Evening started falling and we whisked the kids onto the subway to head to Rockefeller Centre where, dream came true, we witnessed the beautiful lights of the Rockefeller Tree. On our way the streets were lined with Christmas prettiness. 



While I was standing there staring at its majestic size and thousands of sparkling lights a cameraman and a woman with a microphone sidled up next to me. After asking they could ask me a few questions I was interviewed on where I was from, did I like the tree, etc.? And then they were gone. I have no idea what it was for or who they were, but there’s my New York claim to fame haha.

Empire State Building

Josh really wanted to take his camera up the 86 floors of the Empire State Building to capture some unique and beautiful shots of the New York landscape. Jordan decided to come with us as he hadn’t done the trip in a long time. Secretly I think he enjoyed playing tourist as much as us.

We had lunch at the bottom of the Empire State building in Heartland Brewery. The best thing about this place was if 3 or more of you log on to Foursquare you got a free entrée. Priced between $5 & $20 we, of course, asked for the most expensive one and they agreed! Out came a towering display of amazing foods we had never tried including deep-fried pickles! We had barely finished our own meals let alone that tower of delight.

There are many people offering you tickets before you hit the Empire State Building. They will make it sound like a bargain and they will offer VIP access and quick service. The price is outlandish, I think over $50 per person.

There was no queue when we go to the building and the tickets were a mere $25 for adults, kids under 6 free.

There is tight security to pass through before taking the first lift to the 80th floor. It’s a quick ear-popping ride. The second lift takes you to the 86th. You can pay more and go higher, but the 86th really is a great observation deck.


It was cold, but thankfully there was no wind so it was a rather pleasant trip. The security is tight, a bit over-the-top actually. The kids climb on the wrong spot and security chirps up. The kids sit down on the floor when they’re tired, and again scolded by security. The kids eat some snacks and guess what, security weren’t happy about that either. They were, I guess, under strict instructions, which proved unreasonable and excessive. However Josh managed some picturesque photography, don’t you agree? As did my daughter with her new christmas present. 




Statue of Liberty

The Statue of Liberty is under renovation and has not been opened since October 2012 and they are guessing in March 2013 it will be reopen to the public. This means you cannot even visit the island. We had visited the island in 2007 so we were happy just taking the kids on a ferry ride round the harbour to view the Statue.

The Hop On Hop Off salesmen will offer you tickets, as soon as you step out of the subway, which are actually fairly good value. There is also ticket sales at the ferry. Be careful one is very expensive, because the boat is a little nicer. One is a lot less at $24 per adult (kids 4 and under free) but they both take you to the same place.

We had a small wait until the boat was due to leave and to keep the kids warm (Caius was not coping with the extreme cold) we encouraged them to run around chasing pigeons and squirrels.

It was a windy day so we choose seats inside.. The kids enjoyed the boat ride. It was a little nauseating and slightly boring to me and I would recommend going on a tour one instead. When we neared the Statue we raced up stairs for our obligatory tourist shots.




We picked the best time of day to go seeing it both in the sunlight and the beautiful warm glow of sunset. Of course after we got off the boat we were freezing and hurried to the subway. 

FAO Swartz 

When every kid dreams of New York it is these three stores FAO, Toys R Us & Dylan's Candy Bay and to be honest they were ours as well. 

FAO Schwarz was built in 1862 & is the oldest toy store in the United States. We visited the popular tourist destiantion on Fifth Avenue in New York City that gained its iconic status for its floor piano (not working), cameos in major motion pictures, and real-life toy soldiers.

The weather outside was frightful so when we entered the overpacked, hot premises of the toy store we were over joyed. Until we realised pushing a pram through and seeing any of it was near impossible, it was packed. After all Christmas was not far away. 

We managed to get to the lift and went straight to the top where there was less people. One of us stayed put with the pram and the kids playing with sketchers and all sorts of toys while the other had a look around and then visa versa. It was manic. Perhaps there is a better time of year to see all the amazing toys... As it was we got out. 

Dylan's Candy Bar

Dylan's Candy Bar is not too far, located on 60th Street and 3rd Avenue, it is a famous destination for tourists, locals and movie stars. It has also become a destination for television, and movies based in New York. It was inspired by Willy Wonka and houses moutain loads of candies. Unfortunately for us we didn't visit too much of it as it was not pram friendly and at the time had again a mountain load of people in it, which meant one adult and kids in the corner (at least it was out of the cold) and the other adult checking it out. 


Toys R Us

Lastly Toys R Us on Broadway. Since its opening in 2001 it has become one of the Big Apple’s top tourist attractions, welcoming hundreds of thousands of kids each year. Aptly known as The World’s Greatest Toy Store it has an astounding 110,000 square feet filled with everything from toys to trains to videogames including an indoor 60 foot ferris wheel and a 4000 square foot Barbie Dollhouse.

This place was just as packed as the previous two, maybe more so since the prices are arguably much better then FAO (who they own). The kids adored seeing the characters walking around the store and I loved the M&M's section of the store & the Willy Wonka section! 


New York is a magical place for young and old. There is so much to see and so much to do. I hope you've enjoyed playing tourist with us briefly on our Christmas time in New York.

As always there are tons more photos available of each destination in our photo journal.  

Reader Comments...

"I respond to every comment by direct private email. I look forward to your feedback" -

hmmmm I hope you don't *have* to have kids to visit... hahaha these are the kinds of places I can see my boyfriend and I visiting and being ridiculous! After all, we just spend an afternoon on the beach in Victoria, jumping from driftwood to driftwood, playing "rocks are lava, you can't walk on them" like 10 year olds :)

Kate Clarke - CanuckiwiKate May 12th, 2013

Ah to be a kid again. Everything is so new, big and exciting. I have only been to New York in the Winter (twice) so I am looking forward to being there in July-August. Can't wait to cycle around and through Central Park!

Kathryn May 13th, 2013

Sounds like it was really cold. Pictures are great love seeing those

Karin May 18th, 2013

It looks cold but sooooooo much fun!

Bethaney - Flashpacker Family May 18th, 2013

these are great tips even for BIG kids ;)

lola May 20th, 2013

these are great tips even for BIG kids ;)

Moustafa Apr 23rd, 2016

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