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New York City - The City That Never Sleeps, Family Style!

So how do you visit a HUGE and VERY BUSY city with 5 kids?!? Well, you do it Lathrop style. ;)

Rule #1 when you travel Lathrop style: NEVER (and I mean NEVER) plan too many things for one day. Why?!? Well, if you're so busy rushing from sight to sight, you miss a lot of the beauty and you can't really relax...one thing I've learned from traveling is to eliminate as many deadlines as possible.

So, if you're looking for a trip with TONS of activities, this is probably not your blog. But if you're looking for trips that were actually ENJOYABLE and FUN, stay and read awhile. This is a LOoOoOoNG post. 😜

Times Square at night. WOW!
Where To Stay

Okay, so let's break it down...the first thing you need (after confirming what dates you want to go) is a place to stay. AirBnB type places are seriously taboo in NYC, so there was no debating that we needed a hotel. The trick was to get a great (SAFE) hotel without going broke right off the bat.

We typically use both Booking.com and Hotels.com (Hotels.com gives you free nights as repeat stay rewards!) and check prices and locations. HINT: We also typically search hotels and flights simultaneously so we can get a better deal by adjusting the dates on one or the other. (I'll talk more about this in our travel tips section, though.)

In this case, we ended up staying at two different hotels, after adding a few days to the beginning of our trip (we had some extra money in the budget than we originally planned for, that almost NEVER happens, and totally took advantage. LOL)- giving us a total of 4 FULL days in NYC, plus 2 days for travel.

Our View From Our Room At The Belvedere
So our first hotel was The Belvedere Hotel, in Hell's Kitchen (about 10 minutes walking distance from Times Square) and our second hotel was The Hotel St. James (about a 5 minutes walk from Times Square). While there were more affordable options, we wanted something VERY centrally located so we could avoid taking our little ones on the crowded NYC public transportation as much as possible. Little kids + Subway/Bus/Train = Chaos. It was worth it to us to spend a little extra $$ on the hotels rather than subway fees anyways. 😉 Some people definitely prefer to stay outside of the island of Manhattan and get better hotels rates, but it's really up to what you want your overall experience to be like.

The Belvedere Hotel was the WAY better choice between the two, and ironically cheaper during the dates we were searching. They were updated, modern and had all of the amenities you would need for a family of our size. The Hotel St. James was perfect if you want to get that 'New York' feeling, but they were much more old-fashioned, the hotel room only had one extra outlet (besides the tv) and there were heat pipes that had us panicked whenever a baby got too close. Plus, LOOK at our view from the Belvedere.

We were super excited to be a few minutes walk from Times Square, so of course that was our first day itinerary. I want to stress, of course that we NEVER plan actual activities on travel days. Those days are just chaotic all on their own. Nobody wants to deal with a toddler meltdown after long trips, so after arriving we just veg out at the hotel, grab dinner, and rest for our busy vacation ahead! 💗

Day One - Times Square
Inside of the Christmas Shop

So our first full day, we spent doing A LOT of walking. We started with Times Square, because we learned (researching reviews) that it's really not very big and only takes a few hours to navigate from end to end. Plus, our luggage was carefully packed for minimalism, so we didn't want to spend much money- IF ANY- on shopping. We did find some fun shops on the street, though, and easily spent a few hours checking things out. There was an ADORABLE little Christmas shop complete with a few moving displays inside.

Next we hit up the M&M's World store. Of course, this was one store where we definitely spend a bit of cash. 😉 The kids loved it! We wandered around the various floors checking out all of the themed merchandise and then let the kids fill up little bags of M&Ms in any color they could possibly imagine. There was also a section where you could personalize M&Ms with pictures or names as well, if you wanted to.

There were also quite a few other stores, as Time Square is basically a mall, and several people out on the street dressed up in costumes taking pictures with tourists. So we spent some time ducking between crowds, in and out of shops checking stuff out.

Ready to start our food tour!
For dinner that first night, we found an awesome little pizza place very close to our hotel. It was small and crowded, but the pizza was dripping with grease and DELICIOUS! There seems to be a pizza place on every corner in NYC and of the few we tried, we were not disappointed!

Day Two - Historical New York

Our second day, we did an AMAZING food and history tour that we found on Viator. We were able to spend a few hours on a guided tour of the city, while our guide walked us through the history of each little neighborhood and the city as a whole. We checked out the old neighborhoods like Little China and Little Italy, had some amazing Knishes (plus lots of other yummy eats), and saw gorgeous city buildings!

We ate dumplings in Little China
Awesome street art!
Learning about the history of the city was almost as awesome as trying the food in the various neighborhoods. At the very start of the tour, the guide handed everyone little Polish Stroopwaffles, which didn't seem impressive until we sunk our teeth into them! YUM! Those little things are heaven, and we often look for them in supermarkets now.

Even though the food tour was not the cheapest, it was totally worth it when considering it counts as a filling meal also- plus kids 5 and under were free! Total score! In case you're interested, the tour we took was the Lower East Side Food and Culture Tour.

St Patrick's Cathedral
Inside the church- WOW!!
Later that night, we went to Mass at the incredibly beautiful St. Patrick's Cathedral, in Manhattan. It is absolutely stunning, and has a Tripadvisor rating of the #6 top NYC attraction! Since we're Catholic, we definitely took advantage of being close to this church for Sunday Mass. 💗 

The pictures of this cathedral simply cannot do it justice. It was built in the 13th century. See those spires at the top of my photo?!? They stand 330 feet from the ground! There's also an insanely huge organ inside, unbelievable stained glass windows- basically everything you'd expect to see from a 13th century Gothic-style church. 😍

Day Three - Central Park, Rockefeller Center & Night Lights

Throwing leaves at Central Park
Our third day was spent exploring the famous Central Park. We literally spent ALL DAY at the park. It was not only enormous, but our kids never got bored! They have the obvious staple: playgrounds, but more than that, our kids enjoyed walking along the paths and throwing the huge fall leaves into the air and climbing onto the many massive rocks and boulders throughout the park. Now, when I say we spent ALL DAY, don't think we saw the whole park- we barely made a dent in the place! It was HUGE!!

While exploring the walking trails, there are several little shops and cafes scattered strategically so that you can grab a coffee, glass of wine, or even buy a little nature book. We especially enjoyed watching the gorgeous police horses and eating at the cliche hot dog vendor. It was WAY cheaper to eat at the hot dog vendor in the park than at one of the cafes, and we got away with it by telling our kids we were EXACTLY like Giselle in the movie Enchanted, because yes, we have 4 daughters. 🤣🤣🤣

That being said, we DO NOT recommend eating at a street vendor out in the actual city- they tend to be high priced for not such great food. Unless, of course, you're into the whole kid with a stomach ache thing. 😉 We learned that lesson the hard way!
Hunting for Christmas Lights!

Anyhow, we were pretty wiped out after the long day at the park, so we rested for a few hours at the hotel before going back out and exploring the nearby city streets. Because it was the end of November, a lot of the holiday lights were up around the city, giving us the perfect and FREE opportunity to entertain our kids for FREE for a couple of hours. (Did I mention it was free?!?)

Look at all of those LEGOs!
Not only did we find some awesome Christmas lights throughout the Manhattan area, we saw a lot of other neat stuff, like a LEGO store in Rockefeller Center that had window displays of the whole city block duplicated in little LEGOs! The kids loved looking at it, they even made the ice skating rink!

After we wore ourselves out walking through Rockefeller and the surrounding streets, we stopped at a yummy bakery called Schmackary's and grabbed some gourmet cookies and cheesecake. It was the perfect compliment to our evening, and although cookies weren't the healthiest dinner, they were very rich and filling, and our kids ended up passing out on the hotel beds before we could even think about getting something more sustainable to eat!

Day Four - Wall Street, Staten Island Ferry, and 5th Avenue

Ready for the Subway!
Our last day in NYC was probably the least entertaining, as we decided to take the Staten Island Ferry to see the Statue of Liberty. There are some ferries/tours which you can purchase tickets and they take you directly to the statue so you can walk around and explore, but we were not really up to doing that with our two toddlers, as our littlest one was rapidly coming down with a cold and low fever. So after some children's tylenol and a good breakfast, we took the FREE Staten Island Ferry instead.

Now this was an adventure for our kids because it was their first time riding the NYC subway, and as Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle fans they were excited to see what the hype was about. After taking the subway down to Wall Street (we stopped to look around a bit there) we continued on to the pier and jumped on the free ferry.

Having fun on the Ferry
The kids had a fun time going out to the deck, and exploring the large boat. Since the ferry only passes by the Statue of Liberty but doesn't stop, the views weren't the greatest, but the sun was setting on the ferry ride back, which really made it worthwhile. We got sunset views of the NYC skyline and the statue. 💗

Later that night, we went up to 5th Avenue and looked at all of the amazing Christmas light displays. It was absolutely breathtaking, and some of the big department stores have moving displays and amazing lights! While we didn't find them all (they aren't all together but go throughout the whole 5th Ave area), we were especially stunned by Saks 5th Avenue, Lord & Taylor and Macy's. Other stores that have great displays are typically Barneys and Bloomingdales, and Tiffany & Co's seemed more interesting for adults than the kids. I put together a very short video of some of the moving displays we saw, so you can get an idea of how awesome it was!

Connelly's Irish Pub
To top of our last night, we had a DELICIOUS Irish dinner at Connolly's Pub & Restaurant, which was close to our second hotel. The food was not only yummy, but very filling! The atmosphere was fun and we really enjoyed our visit.

The next morning, we got up bright and early, and repacked our strategically planned luggage. (With 5 kids and two adults luggage can be tricky!! See our Family Travel Hacks for info on how we do it.) After getting everything ready, we checked out of our hotel and took a taxi bus to the JFK airport. Next stop? EUROPE!!! Woohoo!