By MeOhMy Founder Siobhan (@meohmymum)
"In New Yorkkkkk, concrete jungle where dreams are made of, there's nothing you can't do...."
Ahh good old Alicia Keys, I've always loved her. And as soon as we got to New York a few weeks ago, her arguably most famous song started going around and around in my head non stop!
She's definitely onto something. Yes, New York City is certainly a concrete jungle. It's dirty, busy, hectic and full on. But it has such a sense of possibility, so much excitement and bucket-loads of cool about it.
I've had so many questions on Snap and Insta about my tips for NYC and for traveling that far with young babes.
So, tonight I'm starting off with our picks of the good, the not-so-good, the highlights and the hard bits...
When my husband and I told people a few months ago that we were planning on taking our two babes, aged two and under, halfway across the world for a few weeks in NYC, the response was generally "are you mad?!"
Yes, neither of our babies had been on a flight longer than one hour before, let alone 21+ hours with all the jet lag, routine upheaval and new experiences that go along with that sort of thing.
However, my husband and I had always wanted a New York honeymoon, and it never happened after we got married (when we had a four month old Harry) for various reasons. Those who've followed me for a while know just how much we've had on the last few years!
We had a window in which to go, and a good amount saved to do it with. And I'd been told that New York is super family friendly.
We weren't disappointed.
There are so many activities for kids to do that even people who live in New York with kids struggle to do them all.
We stayed in Williamsburg, Brooklyn, just across the Hudson from Manhattan. Our Air BnB was a short walk from the ferry, which mean we could get across to Midtown (the island of Manhattan is pretty much broken up into Uptown, Midtown and Downtown) fairly quickly and easily. However, we did find that Midtown wasn't really close to anything, and we walked a lot to get to any tourist attractions or cool areas.
The best parts about going with an Air BnB over a hotel were it was cheaper and we had a full kitchen, two rooms, a rooftop terrace complete with BBQ. I like to think we got to experience a little of what real life for families in Brooklyn is like.
Dumbo, Brooklyn Bridge Park and Jane's Carousel - Dumbo is right on the water at the Brooklyn Bridge and has some very cool boutiques (both for men, women and kids) along with some awesome kids parks with killer views. You can get a ferry there very easily, or walk across the Brooklyn Bridge. Make sure you stop at the Shake Shack for lunch - I'm not a massive burger person as I don't eat red meat but I had one of their chicken burgers and it was THE BOMB.
NYC Go CIty Pass
The lovely folks at NYC Go helped us out with some City Pass' which gave us access to all the sites, in one handy booklet. It was awesome because our entry to everything was already sorted (no lines!), and the Pass served as a great reminder to me what touristy stuff we still had to do. It also saved us loads of money.
In saying that, we didn't do it all (because that's kind of impossible and we're not THAT into touristy stuff). We saw the top attractions that we were really interested in, like the 9/11 memorial, Top of the Rock, Statue of Liberty and Central Park, then spent the rest of the time wandering around funky neighbourhoods, taking the kids to park, eating, drinking and shopping...that latter which, as I'm sure the majority of you know, is not always easy with a toddler! However, we got into the habit of taking advantage of the times he was asleep in the pram to grab a drink or stop so we could actually have a decent conversation :)
While the city certainly offers a lot of super family friendly activities, the transport doesn't quite meet that need. The subway system is very old, meaning there are only a handful of stations with lift access. So, if you have a pram like us, you'll have to walk to the nearest station with lift access (which may not be 'close') or carry the pram up and down a lot of flights of stairs. We tried both options and neither were very easy (we have a double pram and it's nearly 40kg with both babes in it!).
A great way to see the sights without trekking around too much. The East River Ferry had a stop right near where we were staying. Unfortunately, the ferries don't run on the other side of the city (West side - that side is dominated by the water taxis - expensive! - and tour operators. We just Uber'd it haha )
I think the older your kids are, the easier a trip like this would be. Whether you use the subway, the ferries or water taxi or Uber/cabs there will inevitably be a lot of walking. So in my opinion the ideal age to take your kids would be pre-crawler/newborn stage, then maybe over 3 or 4.
Just the best neighbourhood ever. Cool boutiques, great cafes (including the Aussie-run Bluestone Cafe, a must-do), gorgeous buildings, clean sidewalks...I fell in love with the area (just don't look at house prices like I did :( )
Soho - the best place for High St shopping. If you want something more unique, try West Village (Bleeker St) and Bedford Ave Williamsburg.
Our 'hood', so to speak, was very cool. Laid back, hipster, multicultural, family friendly, full of young families, couples and singles. Just across the river from Manhattan with gorgeous views of the city skyline. We loved it.
There are literally SO many options for kids in Central Park, it's impossible to get through it all. We tried out a few kids' playgrounds, including this super cool 'tots' playground on the west side (near 68th street), then took a wander through the park to see the scenery and grab a coffee. We gave the Central Park Zoo a miss due to the intense heat (we went to Barney's instead haha) but I've heard good things about it.
We went to Yankee Stadium to watch a Yankee game and, while the game itself was amazing (such a good atmosphere!), as it was in The Bronx I wasn't very comfortable getting to and from the game. Particularly when we had to walk the streets of The Bronx for a bit, babes in tow, to hunt down an Uber. I felt a bit unsafe, but it was the only time I was concerned for our safety the whole trip.
The hard work
A holiday to NYC with young babes will not be a rest. Not at all. Not unless you have help. You've got to be willing to work hard, because it's certainly tough going at times with young babes. It can be difficult to get around and when things don't go to plan, or the babes throw something in there from left field (as they have a habit of doing) it can really spoil your plans a bit. Just be flexible and you'll be fine!
This very routine oriented fairly "anal", as my husband would say, mama had a plan for the kids getting onto our 20 hr flight over here.
Turns out they had other ideas.
Aoife wouldn't sleep anywhere but on me. Every single time I put her in the bassinet she pulled herself up and entertained the whole plane, or screamed the house down.
Walking up and down the plane did nothing. So I literally bounced and jiggled on the spot for at least 18 hrs of the flight.
Oh and she had a cold and I had PMS :(
She screamed. So did Harry. I got dirty looks (I gave them resting bitch face, apparently). I got very stressed. Whatever! We made it.
It took a few days for them to get into some sort of a routine again, and even then jet lag was still a killer (see below!).
Sometimes you've got to just go with the flow, for the sake of adventure. That's pretty hard for me, as I love perfection. But shit happens and you deal with it. That's mum life!
HOT in the city...
NYC was in the middle of a heat wave when we arrived. And it stuck around for all bar three of the 13 days we were there. Trekking around the city with a double pram in 40 degree plus heat was NOT cool (pardon the pun). The weather meant we avoided some of the activities we previously had on our 'must-do' list, such as the zoo and Coney Island. When you're already dealing with heavily jet-lagged babes, crankiness and crowds of people, the last thing you want to do it be in direct sunlight for hours on end.
I think I massively underestimated the effect that jet lag would have on the kids. It took both of them a full week to get over it. Harry was waking up at 3 and 4am for the first five days. Aoife would need a bottle or two during the night (which hasn't been the case since she was three months old!). And they both wanted to sleep a lot during the day, which wasn't ideal as they'd be up all night (but trying to stop them was next to impossible due to the motion of the pram).
I'll blog about my tips for traveling that far with two young babes later this week, including what to pack, how I dealt with routines going to sh*t, planning and jet lag.
As always, let me know if you have any questions or comments! Insta or Snap is best :)