Things to Do In New York City: Tips From A Native New Yorker

New York City. The city that never sleeps. The city that captivates, that takes hold, that makes you fall in love over and over again. The city that tells a story the way no other place can. I'm so honored to call it home. Growing up, it didn't seem very special to me. In fact, I would argue that I took every brick and nook for granted. Times Square lights? Didn't every big city have something like that in its center?

It wasn’t until I was much older that I came to appreciate my hometown and why there are so many movies and songs written about it.

I now live in Long Island with my children. Though they have not grown up in Manhattan like I did, I want to be sure that they experience all the city has to offer. That's why our family visits New York as often as possible. We take our children to our favorite childhood spots in Manhattan, creating new moments for us to enjoy as a family.

New York City skyline


Sentimental travel at its finest

If you’re planning a trip to New York City, here are a few of my favorite places in the city to visit with family. Fly into any surrounding airport (JFK, LaGuardia or Newark) to pick up your Alamo rental car and begin your journey into Manhattan.

Off-Broadway Shows

We love to inject a little culture into our family from time to time. Sure, weekend soccer games and chess matches are an absolute must. However, sometimes the kids need to indulge in a bit of the arts as well. Live theater is a blast! We constantly hunt for discounted tickets and make it a point to snag them when we find great seats. There is something truly magical about off-Broadway. The venues are typically smaller, the casts are usually unknown and on the cusp of their big break. The hustle. The drive. The LOVE for it all. It inspires me, my husband and our children.

Growing up, my family didn't have a lot of money to spend on Broadway blowouts. We always opted for the smaller shows, and I continuously walked away fully satisfied and thrilled with my night out on the town. Perhaps that's why I enjoy bringing my children to the off-Broadway performances now.

Vera Sweeney and family at an Off-Broadway show

Off Broadway Shows to Consider

Stomp - Stomp is a percussion group that promises to get you on your feet. They use objects such as pipes, paper bags and buckets to create music like you’ve never experienced. Even their bodies are vehicles for sound! There won’t be a toe that isn’t tapping in that theatre - you can guarantee it. Pro tip - get ready to buy drum sticks as you exit the theatre because all kids want to become musicians as soon as the performance is over.

Blue Man Group - Another visual experience that will completely draw you right in. Is it music or is it art? Sometimes the lines get a little blurry along the way. Neon paint, bubbles, and lots of laughs. A great family adventure that’s not to be missed. Pro tip - try to get the first front two rows and don’t wear anything that you don’t mind getting a little messy.

Gazillion Bubble Show - Such a fun time for the kids! Get submerged in the action and indulge in "bubble artistry.” Lasers, special effects, and of course, lots of bubbles!

Stone Street

I adore Stone Street in lower Manhattan. My husband and I used to work in New York’s Financial District for many years. We would meet up for lunch and find the most amazing, unknown eateries. Nowadays, it's jammed packed with top-tiered names and outdoor dining options. A LOT has changed since I used to frequent this area. Back then, it was just “downtown.” Now, it's DOWNTOWN. You can grab a burrito at Toro Locco, a schnitzel at Bavaria Bierhaus, some imported hot chocolate with a Grands Macaron at Financier Patisserie and then visit one of the oldest pubs in New York. The Fraunces Tavern is located at 54 Pearl Street and is claimed to be Manhattan’s oldest surviving building. The tavern is a local favorite and a part of the American Whiskey Trail and the New York Freedom Trail. Do not leave the Financial District without a visit!

When you are finished, you can take a walking tour, visit the Strand Book Store (828 Broadway), check out the Stock Exchange and then explore a museum. Depending on what type of culture you are seeking, there are a few options. The National September 11 Memorial Museum is located on 180 Greenwich Street. The Children’s Museum of the Arts is located at 103 Charlston Street. If you have some time left, you can take drive down to the South Street Seaport for some shopping and a visit to their museum or take the ferry over to the Statue of Liberty. Stone Street is the perfect beginning location for a downtown excursion!

Stone Street - New York City


Empire State Building

Want to know what it feels like to be on top of the world? Just head up 86 flights in the Empire State Building and you will be good to go. We typically take the children to the top once a year. They LOVE going outside and seeing the city from this angle. It's windy and wide-open! Growing up, you used to have to pay to use those telescopes. Now, they are free! My kids won't ever know the pain of running out of quarters. They have it easy.

Here are a few tips to help you make the most out of your trip to the top. There is an express pass that you can purchase online that is worth every penny. As soon as you know your dates, make sure to try to secure a time slot for you and your family. If you are planning to visit several museums and exhibits during your time in New York City, research the New York City Pass. The Empire State Building is included in this option.

If you don’t get a pass, then make it a priority to either arrive very early or at the very end of the day. Anywhere in between and you will likely be greeted with a long line. Weekends are not ideal, as that’s when most tourists come into town. So, if you have a few days in the city, try to do this one midweek.

There are building exhibits on the 2nd and the 80th floors, so it’s not only about the view from the top. The Empire State Building offers mini-museums within. Take advantage of the history and soak it all in.

When you make it to the top, be sure to walk all four corners of the 86th floor, since every angle offers a different view of the city. We always try to play a game with the kids to see if they can point out some of the city’s staples such as the Chrysler Building, 9th Street Bridge and Central Park.

Vera Sweeney at the Empire State Building


A Note About Parking

When you drive into the city and are looking to park the car, be sure to read all posted signs on the streets. Weekends have different rules than during the week. When my family drives in, we typically find a garage and expect to pay the 12-hour fee, even if we know we are only going to stay for six hours. Usually (and we cannot speak for all garages), the rates are up to one hour, then jump to either 12 hours or overnight from there. Very rarely you will find a 2-hour, 3-hour, or 4-hour rate.
One more thing to note: Once you park your car, you probably won’t be able to pull it out again or access it unless you want to submit your ticket. So, be sure to have everything you need before handing over your keys.

So, what are you waiting for? Get ready to explore all that New York City has to offer! Looking for a reason to hit the road? With New York City, there is always something to explore around every corner.

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About the Author

Vera Sweeney

Vera Sweeney – mom, blogger, social media influencer, and New York resident – is the founder of Lady and the Blog. Her lifestyle and parenting brand helps busy women stay on top of the latest style, travel, and parenting trends.