A Guide to the Best Baby-Friendly Places in New York City
If you were to make a list of the best places to travel with a baby, New York City would likely not make it. The Subway and sidewalks, in particular, can be tricky to navigate with a buggy, but that doesn’t mean you can’t enjoy a break in the Big Apple with your family. I had the opportunity to spend two months in New York when my son was 4 to 6 months old and discovered there are, in fact, many corners of the city that are baby-friendly. These are some of the best places to visit with a little one while in NYC.
Jayne and her baby in New York City - Image: Jayne Gormon
Jayne and her baby in New York CityImage: Jayne Gormon
Top of the Rock
One of the best big tourist attractions to visit with a baby in NYC is Top of the Rock, an observation deck at the top of the Rockefeller Centre. As you can purchase tickets online with a fixed entry time there is minimal waiting around when you arrive. There is lift access right the way up to the open-air roof deck on the 70th floor and you’re welcome to take your buggy with you. There are baby-changing facilities in the toilets (something which is not a given in all restaurants and attractions in NYC) and some seating on the 67th floor if you need to stop and feed your little one, like we did.
Don’t forget to swing past the FAO Schwarz toy store in Rockefeller Plaza for a play on the giant piano from the Big movie.
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What child doesn’t like a play in the park? New York’s iconic Central Park stretches for 843 acres and offers endless opportunities for walks, games, picnics and various activities throughout the year. Younger visitors will enjoy the Heckscher Playground, Tisch Children's Zoo and seeing the cherry blossom flourish in the spring.
Personally, my favourite thing to do in Central Park is very little! I recommend grabbing a cookie from Levain Bakery (the BEST cookies in NYC – trust me!) then heading to the Great Lawn, laying down a picnic rug and stretching out with skyscrapers looming in the distance.
Top of the Rock, New York - Image: Jayne Gormon
Top of the Rock, New YorkImage: Jayne Gormon
With its cobbled streets and no elevator access at the Subway, DUMBO is one of the more difficult places on this list to visit with a buggy so perhaps wear your baby in a carrier for your visit.
DUMBO is a lovely area to explore though, with great views of the Manhattan and Brooklyn Bridges and shops and cafes hidden in converted warehouses. Make sure you take your little one for a spin on the historic Jane’s Carousel ($2 per ride) and head to the Time Out Market at Empire Stores for food afterwards. Children are welcome at this multi-level food market featuring a selection of New York’s best eats – Juliana’s Pizza, by New York pizza legend Patsy Grimaldi, and Cookie Do are among my top picks. We couldn’t find any high chairs here but there are benches and grassy areas along the riverfront that you could base yourselves at instead.
Seaglass Carousel - Image: Jayne Gormon
Seaglass CarouselImage: Jayne Gormon
Seaglass Carousel, The Battery
On the subject of carousels, another New York children’s favourite is the Seaglass Carousel at The Battery, a park at the southernmost tip of Manhattan. This shimmery, aquatic carousel costs $5 per ride and is an entertaining sensory experience for children of all ages.
Brooklyn Bridge, New York - Image: Jayne Gormon
Brooklyn Bridge, New YorkImage: Jayne Gormon
A fun, free activity that’s easy to do with a baby is walking across the Brooklyn Bridge. You’ll get brilliant views of the Manhattan skyline (especially if crossing from Brooklyn) while admiring the arches of New York’s famous suspension bridge.
If you plan to take a buggy, the easiest way to get onto the bridge is by riding the subway to Jay Street – MetroTech, which has an elevator to street level. From here you can walk to the Brooklyn Bridge Pedestrian Walkway, which begins at the intersection of Tillary Street and Boerum Place. The walkway will gently slope onto the bridge, saving you from the steps at the access point on Washington Street.
The Vessel, New York - Image: Jayne Gormon
The Vessel, New YorkImage: Jayne Gormon
The High Line & Hudson Yards
You need to pack your walking shoes for a visit to New York because here is another scenic walk you cannot miss. The High Line is an elevated urban park and outdoor gallery, which was created from a disused freight line in Chelsea. (Don’t worry there are elevators to get you up there – check out the access points here.)
The High Line was recently extended to take you directly into Hudson Yards, a shiny, new residential and retail space with an eye-catching scalable sculpture known as The Vessel at the heart of it. You can book free tickets for The Vessel online to avoid queuing, but you can’t take strollers inside, so you’ll need to carry the baby. There is a lift to the top for those who need help though and the baby will love all the mirrored angles and reflections as much as you’ll enjoy photographing them.
Roosevelt Island, New York - Image: Jayne Gormon
Roosevelt Island, New YorkImage: Jayne Gormon
A quick and easy way to escape the chaotic Manhattan streets with a baby is to catch the aerial tramway to Roosevelt Island. (You can also take the subway but that’s not nearly as novel as floating above the East River on the only aerial commuter tram in the USA!)
This narrow island has lots of quiet public spaces where you can walk, picnic and play with a little one while enjoying the view of the Manhattan skyline. You’ll feel like you are miles away from the city, but it only takes a couple of minutes and the cost of a metro ticket to get there.
Time Out Market, New York - Image: Jayne Gormon
Time Out Market, New YorkImage: Jayne Gormon
One last park that ticks a lot of boxes is Bryant Park in Midtown Manhattan, just behind the New York Public Library. This compact green space, surrounded by skyscrapers on all edges, is really well thought out with ample seating, plug sockets and catering kiosks from the likes of Joe Coffee Company, one of NYC’s best speciality coffee roasters.
One of my favourite parts is the ‘Reading Room’, where you’ll find racks of books you can browse for free in a shaded corner of the square while sipping tasty Joe Coffee.
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