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Tips for a Mother-Daughter New York City Getaway

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Taking your child to the city that never sleeps can be a daunting task. For years I’d fantasized about taking my daughter to the Big Apple, but for one reason or another the timing wasn’t right. A few months ago the stars aligned and we cashed in our air miles to embark on an awesome mother-daughter New York City getaway. Here are my five tips for making the most of your NYC visit with your little girl.

5 Tips for a Mother-Daughter New York City Getaway1. Narrow down the choices.

You don’t need me to tell you New York is massive. To get the best Big Apple experience, it’s best to do it in bite-sized pieces. Our itinerary focused on kid friendly fun, with a splash of culture to please mom. For mama, we visited the MoMA (Museum of Modern Art) and enjoyed a tasty lunch at Mario Batali’s Eataly but most of our time centered around my kid's interests: toys, treats and special splurges. Check out NYCGo for ideas on family friendly itineraries.

Children at MoMA

What luck, we found my daughter's favorite painting, Starry Night by Van Gogh, at MoMA (Photo credit: Jody Robbins)

2. Cluster your plans by location.

New York can be challenging to navigate if you’re an infrequent visitor. Fortunately, much of the kid friendly attractions are located close to each other so you can cluster your plans. For example, day one we hit up American Girl Place before heading over to Rockefeller Center. Nearby is the Lego Store, Magnolia Bakery and Radio City Music Hall, where we caught a Rockettes show in the late afternoon.

Day two we took the daily private tour of FAO Schwarz and then wandered through Central Park. Then we made our way to Dylan’s Candy Bar, which just happens to be down the street from Serendipity and their famous frozen hot chocolate. We only had to walk a few blocks to reach each activity, avoiding cab fares and giving us time to chat as we strolled.

FAO Schwartz private tour in New York City

Life-sized toy soldiers make the FAO Schwartz private tour so much fun (Photo credit: Jody Robbins)

3. Find a convenient, kid friendly hotel.

New York hotel rooms are pricey and notoriously small. We lucked out by staying at the Westin New York Grand Central. Not only is it reasonably priced (for NYC), but also the guest rooms are some of the largest in the city. Each occupies a footprint of at least 310 sq. ft. and all have been recently renovated. Our room sported a king bed, desk, love seat (that was actually a fold-out bed), a chair and ottoman. You could’ve slept four comfortably in this room.

Be sure to book a hotel in a good location so you don't spend your holiday in transit. Westin New York Grand Central is a mere two blocks from Grand Central station (where a new Shake Shack just opened). Adding to the convenience was the NYC Airporter shuttle bus, which transports travelers from LaGuardia and drops off just across the street from the hotel.

Why yes, I could fit all four suitcases easily into this New York City hotel room! (Photo credit: Westin Grand Central)

Why yes, I could fit all four suitcases easily into this New York City hotel room! (Photo credit: Westin Grand Central)

4. Pick a few big ticket events.

If you’re on a budget (like we were) you can’t do it all. Pick a few important attractions and remember you can hit up the rest another time. I thought it was important to take my daughter to Broadway, but at the end of the day, she really didn’t care. Who wants to spend over $100 on tickets when your kid would rather walk around Times Square? Not me. We did see the Rockettes at Radio City Music Hall and that was well worth the price of admission.

Mother-daughter at Radio City Music Hall in New York City

Seeing the Rockettes at Radio City Music Hall was just one of the highlights of our trip

Ice Skating at Rockefeller Center was another item I budgeted for, but after seeing how small the rink was, I couldn’t justify it. Gorgeous outdoor ice rinks are a dime a dozen in our Canadian homeland. Instead we watched the skaters twirling on the ice for a bit before moving on.

Our main splurge was a carriage ride through Central Park. At $60 for 20 minutes, it ain’t cheap. I don’t regret a second of it. Every time I had visited New York, I pined to take a carriage ride, but never did it. Since we bailed on Broadway and skating, I was all too happy to clip clop through the park. It's a special memory we'll always savor from our mother-daughter New York City getaway.

Empire State Building

Iconic New York landmarks are around every corner! (Photo credit: NYCGo/Julienne Schaer)

5. Focus on mother-daughter bonding.

Did we do it all? Nope. We didn’t even come close to crossing off all the items on our New York City bucket list. But it didn’t matter. Sometimes a vacation is more about connecting with your travel partner than about ticking to dos off a wish list, and so it was for us. The Statue of Liberty and Greenwich Village aren’t going anywhere. There is a limited window, however, on seeing New York City through my child's eyes, and I that I nailed.

When you're ready to head home, check out these tips for getting to JFK Airport from Manhattan. You might also want to take a peek at these free activities for families in New York City!

What would be on your must-do list during a mother-daughter trip to New York City? Let us know in the comments below!

A Note from The Saucy Travel Mama: Thank you to the Westin Grand Central and NYCGo for sponsoring our stay. As always, my opinions are my own.

About Jody Robbins, The Saucy Travel Mama

After a career in international marketing and a few years spent living the high life as an expat, Jody now resides with her family in Calgary, Canada. Figuring travel writing was a good way to combine her wanderlust and parental duties, she’s spent the past few years working with both print and online media, contributing to the Calgary Herald Travel and Real Life sections and blogging about her adventures at Travels with Baggage ( When not circling the globe with her precocious children (one daughter, one husband, one dog), she can usually be found snowboarding or pretending to enjoy hiking. Find Jody on Twitter at @Jody_Robbins.

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