45 Places to Discover with this 4 Day NYC Itinerary


Brooklyn Bridge 4 Day NYC itinerary.
A trip to New York City is a must for teens who crave the energy of the city Photo Credit: Catherine Parker

New York City packs an energy that falls flat with younger kids but teens possess the stamina for urban trekking at its finest. I lived in NYC for two years, though I didn’t introduce my kids to the metropolis until they could walk all day without whining.

In a city that never sleeps, travel lessons abound. In my experience, the skills I learned in NYC helped me navigate any of the world’s capitals. From parks to museums and shopping to snacking, New York City offers a week of teen fun.

Top Attractions in New York City

  • Statue of Liberty & Ellis Island

  • Rockefeller Center

  • 9/11 Memorial & Museum

  • Museum of Modern Art – MoMA

  • Grand Central Terminal

  • Times Square

  • A Broadway Show

  • American Museum of Natural History & The Hayden Planetarium

  • Central Park

  • The Plaza Hotel

  • Intrepid Sea Air and Space Museum

  • The Metropolitan Museum of Art

Day One Downtown Manhattan with Kids

Explore the oldest part of New York City to catch some of the best views along with the city’s rich history. A must for families with school-age kids since the Statue of Liberty tops the list.

Tip: All the destinations are close together so put on the walking shoes and grab a bottle of water to explore. An umbrella and a rain jacket are great additions to your backpack too.

Visit the Statue of Liberty during your 4 day NYC itinerary.
The Statue of Liberty is a must for your trip to NYC. Photo Credit: Catherine Parker

Statue of Liberty and Ellis Island – First Stop

New York City Harbor
Admission Varies

How to get there: Depart your hotel and grab some breakfast before heading south to the southern tip of Manhattan at Battery Park. Use MTA subway stop Whitehall St/South Ferry on the 1 or the R train.

Make the effort and visit the Statue of Liberty, especially if you are traveling with kids. When I lived in NYC I never visited it. Instead I opted to take the Staten Island Ferry to see it from the water. Don’t make my mistake.

As a symbol of freedom and liberty known world-wide, the Statue of Liberty sits on a 12-acre island in the middle of New York Harbor. Learn about its construction in the museum under the pedestal. Then climb the stairs to the top of the pedestal or head to the crown to capture views of downtown Manhattan (additional tickets required). Take lots of pictures and it’s OK to stand at the base and look up at her in wonder.

Operated by Statue Cruises, the ferry departs from Battery Park in Lower Manhattan. Explore the Statue of Liberty first then re-board the ferry to tour Ellis Island, an additional stop. First ferry leaves at 9:30 a.m. and last one departs at 3:30 p.m. with extended hours during peak seasons. Ferry ticket required for everyone and admission based on age.

Ellis Island

From 1892 until 1954, Ellis Island welcomed 12 million immigrants to the United States. The Ellis Island Immigration Museum walks visitors through the facility that processed close to 5,000 people a day.

Concessions are available at the Statue of Liberty National Monument and Ellis Island Museum or grab some to-go before boarding the ferry. I stopped at Inatteso Café, 38 West St., for sandwiches and cookies to take with us.

Tip: To tour both islands, give yourself the morning. Reservations are a must and book months in advance for the pedestal tour and six months in advance for the crown tour. A Junior Ranger Booklet is available. All passengers will go through airport-style security screening.

Explore Castle Clinton on your 4 day NYC itinerary.
Next to the Statue of Liberty ferry is the Castle Clinton National Monument. Photo Credit: Catherine Parker

Castle Clinton and Battery Park – Second Stop

Battery Park
Open Seven Days A Week From 7:45 a.m. to 5 p.m.

After disembarking the Statue Cruises ferry, explore the Castle Clinton National Monument for more immigration history, located steps from the ferry dock. For war buffs in the family, it’s also a fort from the War of 1812 with antique cannons. Junior Ranger booklets are available.

After the history lesson, walk over to the newest carousel in New York City, SeaGlass Carousel, in Battery Park. Built in 2015, hop on a fish to whirl around the pavilion to classical music. Open seven days a week from 10 a.m. to 10 p.m. and admission is $5 per person. 

Walking Tour of Lower Manhattan

Top Sites

  •  Charging Bull and Fearless Girl

  •  Trinity Church

  •  New York Stock Exchange

  •  Federal Hall

  •  9/11 Memorial

Walk up Broadway from Battery Park, a quick .5-mile walk, to take some selfies at the Charging Bull Statue and Fearless Girl, Broadway at Morris St.

Continue up Broadway and walk by Trinity Church, located at 75 Broadway at Wall St. The first church was built in 1698 and rebuilt two times. A notable building from the American Revolution and people fleeing the 9/11 attacks found shelter in the church from falling debris.

Next walk by the New York Stock Exchange (NYSE), at 11 Wall St., unfortunately tours are no longer available so grab another picture.

I would pick either the Federal Hall National Monument or the 9/11 Museum to tour, depending on interest and time.

Visit Federal Hall during your 4 day NYC itinerary
Next to the New York Stock Exchange is Federal Hall, a National Park Site. Photo Credit: Catherine Parker

Federal Hall National Monument – Fourth Stop

Federal Hall National Monument
26 Wall Street
Open Monday Through Friday From 9 a.m. To 5 p.m.

This building served as the first Capitol of the United States, the Supreme Court and the Executive Branch offices. George Washington took the oath of office as the first President of the United States at Federal Hall as well.

Located at 26 Wall Street, Federal Hall’s visitor center is at the Pine Street entrance. It’s open Monday through Friday from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. During the summer, it’s open Saturdays as well. Free to enter and Junior Ranger booklets available.

To get to the 9/11 Memorial, head north from Federal Hall to Cedar St. Walk a couple of blocks west to Greenwich Street then take a right. The memorial is in the following block.

4 Day NYC Itinerary
Take a moment and remember those who lost their life on that day. Photo Credit: Catherine Parker

9/11 Memorial and Museum – Fifth Stop

180 Greenwich St.
9/11 Memorial
Open from 7:30 a.m. to 9 p.m.
9/11 Museum
Open from 9 a.m. to 8 p.m.
Admission depending on age, 6 and under free 

How to get there: For the 9/11 Memorial, head north from Federal Hall to Cedar St. Walk a couple of blocks west to Greenwich Street then take a right. The memorial is in the following block.

As a former American Airlines flight attendant that lived through that horrific day, I visit the 9/11 Memorial to remember my former colleagues. The memorial is somber space that gives visitors a place to reflect.

For visitors with more time, reserve tickets to the museum, located steps from the memorial. It uses artifacts from the World Trade Center and actual recordings of emergency calls. Touring the museum is an emotional experience though the area around the WTC has recovered, experiencing a rebirth.

Tip: Please be respectful of other visitors at the Memorial and Museum.

Time to eat so head to a downtown NYC icon.

Where to eat in NYC with teens, try Katz's for pastrami on rye.
The pastrami on rye is a NYC icon though teens might not get it. Photo Credit: Catherine Parker

Dinner at Katz’s Delicatessen – Sixth Stop

Katz’s Delicatessen
205 E. Houston St.

How to get there: Walk east along Cortlandt St. to the MTA Fulton St. Station for the Brooklyn-bound J train (it will be headed north). Exit the Essex St. Station and walk north along Essex Street to 205 E. Houston St.

Katz’s Delicatessen is an NYC icon. The pastrami-on-rye sandwiches are pricey but I ordered half and got a bowl of Matzo ball soup. This location is as original as it gets, with locals dining alongside the travelers.

Tip: You can order at the counter and seat yourself or sit at a table with table service. Don’t lose the paper ticket the waiter gives you, you will have to hand it to the person working the door.

Time for dessert so walk to Little Italy.

Have dessert in Little Italy on your 4 day NYC itinerary.
Grab a seat and a cappuccino in Little Italy. Photo Credit: Catherine Parker

Dessert in Little Italy – Seventh Stop

Ferrara Italian Bakery
195 Grand St.

How to get there: From Katz’s Deli, walk south on Orchard St. for two blocks until Grand St. and head west eight blocks (about half a mile).

Stop at Ferrara Italian Bakery for a cannoli and cappuccino fix with table service. Or grab a gelato on the street and walk around Little Italy that sparkles at night.

Time to head back to your hotel so grab one of the three MTA Subways at Canal Street with service on the N, 6, Q, Z trains.

Day Two – Exploring Midtown and the Theatre District

As a beacon of culture and shopping, Midtown offers all the big city thrills one expects from a trip to NYC. Wear the walking shoes and Broadway shows that appeal to families don’t require dressy outfits.

Tour the Top of the Rock during your 4 Day NYC itinerary.
I prefer Rockefeller Center to see NYC from above. Photo Credit: Catherine Parker

Rockefeller Center – First Stop

Rockefeller Center
45 Rockefeller Plaza
Free, Tours Additional Admission

How to get there: After breakfast near the hotel, take the MTA subway D or F and exit the 47-50th St./Rockefeller Center Stop.

After reserving tickets online, bypass the ticket line for the Top of the Rock. After a quick elevator ride, explore three different floors all with incredible views. With the best views of Central Park, this is also the best way to see landmarks like the Chrysler Building and Empire State Building.

Next, tour the legendary theater and home to the Rockettes. After the Top of the Rock tour, stay at Rockefeller Center and tour Radio City Music Hall (admission ticket required). Art Deco theater features rich architectural details from a bygone era along with some of Bob Mackie’s Rockettes costumes.

After the Radio City Music Hall tour, walk around the Rockefeller Plaza (located at the base of Rockefeller Center) and stop by the LEGO Store to see NYC landmarks built in LEGOs.

Time to feed the kids so I recommend staying at Rockefeller Center to eat. Between the Plaza and the concourse level, I found close to 30 different places to eat.

Bribe the kids with a chocolate chip cookie from Jacques Torres Chocolate, located on the concourse of Rockefeller Center and head to the some of best art in New York City.

Visit the MoMA during your 4 day NYC itinerary.
Take in the art at the MoMA, like Starry Night by Van Gogh. Photo Credit: Catherine Parker

Museum of Modern Art MoMA — Second Stop

11 W. 53th St.
Open From 10:30 a.m. To 5:30 p.m.
Admission For Adults, Kids Under 16 Free

How to get there: From Rockefeller Center, walk .5-mile north along 5th or 6th Avenues to the MoMA, located at 11 W. 53th St.

If your kids have short attention spans, head straight for the Fifth Floor. That’s where I found Starry Night by Vincent Van Gogh, Dance by Henri Matisse along with works from Andy Warhol, Frida Kahlo and Pablo Picasso.

Kids under 16 get in free and the MoMA hands out guides for family visits. Walk through the gift shop for unique souvenirs. After art comes architecture so head to a grand Gothic Cathedral located on 5th Ave.

Tour St. Patrick's Cathedral during your 4 day NYC itinerary.
Walk through St. Patrick’s Cathedral for one of the top architectural sites in NYC. Photo Credit: Catherine Parker

St. Patrick’s Cathedral — Third Stop

Fifth Ave. Between 50th And 51st St.
Open 6:30 a.m.to 8:45 p.m. Every Day

How to get there: From the MoMA, walk three blocks down Fifth Ave. to 51st St.

Next up, great architecture so walk through the Neo Gothic Cathedral in the center of midtown. During my last visit, I saw a girls’ choir performing and the acoustics were unbelievable.

Up next, walk .5-mile to a grand train station and some dinner.

Walk through Grand Central Terminal during your 4 day NYC itinerary.
Grand Central Terminal is a transportation hub along with a top tourist attraction. Photo Credit: Catherine Parker

Grand Central Terminal — Fourth Stop

89 E. 42nd St.
Terminal Open From 5:30 a.m. To 2 a.m.
Dining Concourse Open From 7 a.m. To 9 p.m. Monday Through Saturday, Sunday 11 a.m. To 7 p.m.
Free To Enter

How to get there: From St. Patrick’s, walk down 5th Ave for seven blocks to 43rd St. then walk east for two blocks.

Walk through the Beaux Arts Masterpiece and my favorite building in New York City. As the largest train terminal in the world, Grand Central Terminal is a top destination for locals and travelers with dining and shopping along with commuter trains and subways.

The ceiling of the main concourse features an astronomical ceiling, a four-sided brass clock and Tennessee marble was used for the stairs and the floor. The exterior features granite with expanses of divided-light windows and sculptures.

Lots of options for dining, The Oyster Bar, is the oldest business in Grand Central and offers an iconic NYC dining spot. Or walk to the concourse level for more casual dining, with options like Shake Shack. The Great Northern Food Hall offers Nordic-inspire menus in the Vanderbilt Hall on the Main Concourse. Grand Central Market offers prepared food, coffee, cut flowers and specialty food items.

After dinner, it’s time to see a Broadway show. If this is your kids’ first theater production, I recommend a Disney on Broadway show.

See a Broadway show during your 4 day NYC itinerary.
If it’s your family’s first theater experience, I recommend a Disney production. Photo Credit: Catherine Parker

Theater District for a Show — Fifth Stop

The theater district runs from 40th to 54th Streets and from 6th to 8th Avenues.

How to get there: Grab a MTA S Train in Grand Central Terminal and exit at Times Square Station.

With audiences full of families, a Disney on Broadway production is my choice for kids’ first theater performance. Packed with tunes they know by heart, elaborate sets and glittering costumes, kids stay glued to their seats. During my last visit, we saw Aladdin.

Tip: Sure, you can hope for last-minute reduced seats though I reserved my seats way before my trip to ensure my family sat together.

Times Square – Sixth Stop

Intersection of Broadway and 7th Avenue

After a show, celebrate a great trip with the brightest lights in the city. The best time to walk through Time Square is after dark. Times Square also features street performers and lots of shopping.

Tip: Times Square is also a major MTA subway stop with service on the N, QRS123, and trains. 

4 Day NYC Itinerary
My favorite New York Style cheesecake is Junior’s with large slices of creamy, not-too-sweet cheesecake and available to-go. Photo Credit: Catherine Parker

Junior’s Restaurant and Bakery – Seventh Stop

1515 Broadway at 45th St.
Open From 6:30 a.m. to Midnight

With all the walking, it’s time for dessert. I recommend heading north on Broadway to Junior’s for cheesecake. Topping the best cheesecake list for years, it’s a dense, not-too-sweet and creamy NY-style cheesecake. I ordered the plain and didn’t share.

Top of the Rock – Eighth Stop

Rockefeller Center
45 Rockefeller Plaza
Free, Tours Additional Admission

How to Get There: From 47th St. and Seventh Ave. (Times Square) walk north two blocks to 49th St. then head east for one long block to Sixth Ave.

If you purchased the Sun and Stars ticket at Top of the Rock, head back to the Rockefeller Center. After sun sets the crowds ease up and the lights of New York City twinkle.

Day Three — New York City’s Park & Animals

This day will focus on the animals in the Natural History Museum and exploring Central Park, both favorites among kids. After learning the history of New York City and its early residents, it’s time to learn about its famous park.

Tour the Natural History Museum during your 4 day NYC itinerary.
A trip to the American Museum of Natural History will keep the kids engages for hours. Photo Credit: Catherine Parker

American Museum of Natural History and the Hayden Planetarium — First Stop

American Museum Of Natural History
Central Park West At 79th St.
Open From 10 a.m. To 5:45 p.m.
Admission Depending on Age

How to get there: After enjoying breakfast at your centrally located hotel, take the  A or B  MTA subway train and exit the 81st / Museum of Natural History.

A must for families, even my teen daughter spent hours exploring. A sprawling museum that could take all day so hit the highlights, like the Hall of Dinosaurs, “Lucy” the early human, the giant blue whale and the Theodore Roosevelt Rotunda along with the Hall of North American Mammals.

Carve out a little time for the Hayden Planetarium to learn more about the world beyond our atmosphere. It’s located on-site and requires an additional timed ticket.

Tip: I recommend eating lunch at the Natural History Museum and the Museum Food Court on the lower level features family favorites. During our visit we enjoyed salads though pizza, burgers, sandwiches and a selection of desserts are available. Reserve tickets to the Hayden Planetarium before arriving to make the best use of your time.

After exploring the museum, walk across the street to Central Park.

Tip: First load a Central Park map on your phone and find your phone’s compass. Even after living in New York City for several years, I still get turned around in the park since all its paths curve and meander.

Visit Conservatory Water during your 4 day NYC itinerary.
Walk to Conservatory Water to see the sailboats. Photo Credit: Catherine Parker

Walking Tour of Central Park — Second Stop

Enter Central Park right across the street from the Natural History Museum and grab some water from a street vendor lining the park’s edge.

Head for the Swedish Cottage and stay out of the Ramble, a thicket of woods. I used my phone’s compass to navigate out of it and I lived in the city for years.

After Swedish Cottage, walk through Shakespeare’s Garden and tour Belvedere Castle (donations accepted for tour) to grab a NYC skyline photo from the top.

Next head south to Conservatory Water for a charming area dedicated to the young-at-heart. Rent a wind-powered sail boat ($11 for 30 minutes) or just enjoy the scenery.

Walk through Central Park during your 4 day NYC itinerary.
The Alice in Wonderland statue is another must for families. Photo Credit: Catherine Parker

The Hans Christian Anderson Statue is close along with the Alice in Wonderland Statue. Both offer must dos for families.

If the kids want to paddle a boat, head to Loeb’s Boathouse to rent one. Then grab an ice cream cone at the Loeb Boathouse Café Express for an afternoon snack.

Up next, Bethesda Terrance, Fountain and Arcade, tops for pictures of the park. If the kids need a pretzel, find a street cart near Bethesda.

Tour Central Park during your 4 day NYC itinerary.
Bethesda Terrace is a top spot in Central Park. Photo Credit: Catherine Parker

Next walk south along The Mall, a wide sidewalk shaded with trees. Another must for families, the 1908 Carousel is open April though October from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Admission is $3 per person, cash only.

After riding the Carousel, walk by the Chess and Checker House and play a game. Then move on to The Diary, a visitor center for Central Park.

Another must for families, the Central Park Zoo boasts a sea lion exhibit that visitors can see while walking along a free path through the zoo.

I found lots of playgrounds sprinkled throughout Central Park so take a minute and let the kids play.

The Plaza Hotel Food Hall — Third Stop

The Plaza Hotel Food Hall
1 W. 59th St.
Open From 11 a.m. To 8 p.m.
Where to eat in NYC with teens. Try the Lady M Mille Crepes Cake
The best thing I sampled in NYC, Lady M Mille Crepes Cake that I found in the Plaza Food Hall. Photo Credit: Catherine Parker

How to get there: From Central Park exit at its southeast corner, The Plaza Hotel is across 59th Street.

After romping through the park for the afternoon, take a break and eat. I recommend The Plaza Hotel Food Hall. The food hall is around the corner from the lobby and in the basement offering lots of options for families.

I found sandwiches, salads and pasta in family-friendly quick service formats. Even the city’s best desserts can be found at The Plaza Food Hall, like Lady M Crepe Cakes, Billy’s Bakery and Chef Daniel Boulud’s Épicerie Boulud.

After grabbing dessert, shop downstairs at the gift shop selling Plaza merchandise. And for Moms with girls, the Eloise Shop is a must.

After sitting for a bit and recharging, walk about .5-mile east on 60th St. to the Roosevelt Island Tram.

Take the Roosevelt Island Tram during your 4 day NYC itinerary.
Hop aboard the Roosevelt Island Tram for the best views of Midtown. Photo Credit: Catherine Parker

Roosevelt Island Tram — Fourth Stop

At the intersection of 59th St. and 2nd Ave. 

How to get there: From The Plaza Hotel on 59th St. walk five blocks east to Second Ave, about half a mile.

Take the family on a tram ride for free, if you purchased a MTA MetroCard for the subway (or $4 roundtrip). The bright red tram cars climb up and over the East River to get to Roosevelt Island. Get off and re-board to return to mid-town for some of the best views of Midtown.

After a full day, head back to your hotel. The MTA Lexington Ave./59th St. Station offers service on the NR45, and 6 trains, two blocks from the tram station. Another day of exploring awaits in New York City.

Here's your itinerary for the Ultimate Family Trip to New York City. Got the must-see tours along with top museums and even some cheap eats for the kids along with walking and subway directions.

Day Four More to Explore

After three packed days, NYC still offers more neighborhoods to explore. Start the day in the trendy neighborhood of Chelsea in Lower Manhattan, packed with boutiques, foodie destinations and one of the NYC hot spots–High Line Park.

Chelsea — First Stop 

Chelsea Market
75 9th Ave.
Open 7 a.m. to 9 p.m.

How to get there: From your centrally located hotel, take the downtown-bound C or E trains to the 14th St. Station. Walk west on 14th St. to 9th Ave. Chelsea Market is one block north.

Chelsea Market is a food hall and shopping complex across several floors. After grabbing a bite at any number of places for breakfast, wander around the market for unique shopping.

Head across the street to the High Line for an urban hike, a top destination.

Walk High Line during your 4 day NYC itinerary.
Explore a converted railroad platform that’s been transformed into a park. Photo Credit: Catherine Parker

High Line Park — Second Stop 

High Line Park
Runs from Gansevoort St. to 34th St.
Open 7 a.m. to 10 p.m.

How to get there: Located across the street from Chelsea Market, take the elevator to the High Line from the western side of Chelsea Market Building.

Next walk High Line Park, an elevated walking path and park created from an abandoned New York Central Railroad Spur on the west side. Created in 2009, High Line is a destination for locals and travelers alike. As a bonus it’s free, unless if you want to grab a snack or a quick coffee along the route.

Take the High Line to its northern end at 34th St. After returning to the street level, hail a cab to the next destination, Circle Line Circles for a NYC cruise.

New York City Cruise — Third Stop

Circle Line Circles
Departs from Pier 83 at W 42nd 
First Cruise at 10 a.m.
Admission based on age and type of cruise

How to get there: You can walk from High Line Park to Pier 83 via 10th Ave. but it’s 13 blocks. Or hail a cab.

Sure you can take a bus tour but a scenic cruise is better. No street traffic and lots of fabulous city views and as a bonus, see NYC’s bridges from the water.

Tip: Check out the schedule before arriving to see which cruise appeals to you. During peak periods reservations are recommended.

After cruising the open water of the New York Harbor, time to explore another ship at the Intrepid Museum. But take a lunch break first.

Gotham West Market — Fourth Stop 

600 11th Ave.
Open 7:30 a.m. to 11 p.m.

How to get there: From Pier 83 walk along W. 43rd St. to 11th Ave. Gotham West Market is one block north.

Food Halls offers lots of options, especially for families, and I rely on them for eating in NYC on the cheap cheap. The Gotham West Market offers options like burgers and noodle bowls along with a bar and desserts.

Visit the Intrepid during your 4 day NYC itinerary.
With a retired Space Shuttle and the Concorde along with a submarine, the Intrepid offers all kinds of kid fun. Photo Credit: Catherine Parker

Intrepid Sea Air & Space Museum — Fifth Stop

Pier 86 W.46th St. at 11th Avenue
Open 10 a.m. to 6 p.m.
Admission based on age

How to get there: From Gotham West Market, walk west W. 43rd St. to Pier 86.

As a top destination for kids along with the American Museum of Natural History, this is a must for school-age kids. Don’t let the aircraft carrier throw you off, I found more than military aircraft.

Clamber across the deck of the USS Intrepid to see a retired Concorde (I miss seeing her at JFK),  and of course seeing one of the retired space shuttles is a must. The Space Shuttle Enterprise is one of several on display across the U.S.

If you or your group doesn’t have problems with claustrophobia, explore the USS Growler, a submarine.

After exploring the Intrepid and seeing the Space Shuttle, time to switch gears again. This time I offer some choices.

Visit The Met during your 4 day NYC itinerary.
As the largest art museum in the U.S. The Met is a must for art lovers. Photo Credit: Catherine Parker

The Metropolitan Museum of Art

1000 5th Ave. 
Open Sunday through Thursday from 10 a.m. to 5:30 p.m.
Friday and Saturday 10 a.m. to 9 p.m. 
Adult admission suggested, kids under 12 free

As the largest art museum in the U.S. you can explore all day and still not see it all. So check out the map when you enter and concentrate on your interests.

My favorites are The Temple of Dendur, the Medieval Art for it imposing display and the American Wing. Yet don’t miss the extensive collection of European Masters.

Tip: Need a break? Grab a snack or light meal at any of the cafes located in The Met.

A Baseball Game

NY Yankees Stadium 
1 E. 161 St., Bronx
Tickets Required 

How to get there: From Midtown, take the Bronx-bound D train to the 161st St./Yankee Stadium  Station. Yankee Stadium is just outside the subway station and for a game the subway is the best way to get to there.

The energy at a Yankees game could power a medium sized city on its own. If you have baseball fans, make the effort and see a game.

If it’s an away game, take the Classic Tour instead. Led by a tour guide, visitors see all the best of Yankees Stadium, like the historic baseball artifacts. (Admission based on age.)

Tip: For baseball fans, this is a must. Check the schedule way in advance and purchase tickets before your trip. Be ready for some fun, Yankee fans are loud and the energy at the games is electric, even for non-fans.

Using A NYC MetroCard With Kids

Use the subway to get around, a must-have skill for teens who will be exploring on their own in a few years.To explore NYC via the subway, head to the nearest subway station to purchase a MTA pay-per-ride subway card.

I prefer to use the MetroCard vending machines but cards can be purchased at the subway station booths. The vending machines accept credit cards and usually faster than the booths, which might be closed.

Each fare is $2.75 when using a MetroCard and you get a 5% bonus when you load more than $5.50 on each card. A single ride ticket is $3 via the vending machines or booth.

The MTA unlimited passes come in 7-day and 30-day options. Stick with a pay-per-ride card unless you will ride the subway more than 14 separate times.

Tips and Hints for the NYC Subways

  • MetroCards can be used on subway trains and local buses.
  • $1 new card fee applies to all new cards.
  • Free transfers between trains in the same station.
  • Metro cards bend easily so keep your cards in a protected place, like a wallet.
  • If this is your first trip to NYC, stay away from Express trains and buses.
  • Up to three kids 44″ and under can ride for free with an accompanying adult.
  • Free kids usually crawl under the turnstile before the paying adult swipes their card or use the nearby accessible gate.
  • Get a card for each person to swipe so you don’t look like a tourist. Kids 12 and older should be able to navigate swiping Metrocards and moving through turnstiles.
  • Know if you are traveling Uptown (Bronx/Queens) or Downtown (Brooklyn). Trains and subway platforms will be labeled and maps are in each train car along with multiple spots in the subway station.
  • Since there are lots of stairs to navigate, pack your lightest stroller.
  • Hold hands if traveling with smaller kids, especially during peak periods.
  • Make sure your child knows to go to a NYPD officer or MTA personnel if lost. Give kids a card with contact information in case of emergency.

Plan a Youth Group Trip to NYC

Don’t rule out taking a group of kids to NYC, I did. I kept costs within budget with a week-long stay at the HI Hostel on the Upper West Side and lots of cheap NYC eats.

I told the teens we’re urban camping and hiking. And we did with packed backpacks and walking shoes.

What to pack in your NYC Bag:

  • Water bottle
  • Protein bars
  • Hand Sanitizer
  • Bleach Wipes
  • Hand Wipes
  • Umbrella
  • Packable Rain Jacket or Poncho
  • Phone Battery Charger and Cord
  • Cash
  • Something to sit on for parks

Know Before You Go: 

  • Travel like a New Yorker and take the subway. I’ve got the directions for you. Or grab a cab or other car service.
  • Free public restrooms are hard to find. Pack hand wipes, bleach wipes and hand sanitizer to clean up. McDonald’s is reliable but be prepared to buy a dink to get the key.
  • Wear comfortable shoes and pack the FitBit to track those steps.
  • The streets of New York are safe but be aware who and what is around you at all times.

Consideration for brands mentioned. I used a complimentary CityPass New York for admission to several attractions.




12 Haunted Cave Tours to Get Your Brood in the Mood this October

Take a Haunted cave tour.
Take your crew to a haunted cave this season for bone shivering scares. Photo Credit: Pixaby

Need a real scare this season? I’ve got 12 haunted cave tours across the U.S. to get your brood in the mood this October.

What about clumsily climbing through a cave so dark you close your eyes to get away from the suffocating darkness. How about knowing a thousand tiny, blind bats hang inches above your head with only an old-fashioned lantern to protect you?

Your skin crawling? Do you feel the goosebumps as a mysterious breeze crawls through a cave without wind? Have a facial twitch you can’t explain?

How about watching the lights of your EMF only to hear a researcher whisper, I haven’t see that phenomenon before.

Grand Canyon Caverns in Arizona

Take a hour tour outfitted with a lantern and a K2 an EMF meter to register disturbances in the electromagnetic field.


Every day in October at 6 p.m.

Located at mile marker 115 along Route 66, that’s 63 miles northeast of Kingman, Arizona. Admission for adults is $22.95 and kids 6 to 12 is $16.95 with kids under 6 enter for free.

Cave of the Winds in Colorado

Take an adventurous lantern tour of Manitou Gran Caverns while listening to ghost stories with a little history thrown in.


Every day in October at 11:00 a.m., 1 p.m., and 3 p.m.

Located at 100 Cave of the Winds Rd., Manitou Springs, that’s miles 8 miles northwest of Colorado Springs, Colorado.

Explore a haunted cave this October.
Lights are optional on haunted cave tours, most use lanterns. Photo Credit: Catherine Parker

Spook Cave in Iowa

Take a tour with a Halloweeny name, Spook Cave. After the cave tour, kids can trick-or-treat.


Every day 9 a.m. to 5:30 p.m.

Trick-or-Treating Friday October 20, Saturday, October 21, Sunday, October 22 and Saturday, October 28 from 5 p.m. to 7 p.m. only.

Located at 13299 Spook Cave Rd. McGregor, Iowa that’s 110 miles from Madison, Wisconsin.

Wabasha Street Caves in Minnesota

Would you let a lost soul guide your candlelit tour? Take an hour tour and hear the stories of the Lost Souls. Two different tours offered.


Lost Souls Tours on Sundays October 8, October 15, October 22 and October 29 at 12:30 p.m. Admission is $10 per person, cash only.

Spirited History Cave Tour on Mondays, October 16, October 23 and October 30 at 4:00 p.m. Admission is $8 per person, cash only.

Located at 215 Wabasha Street South, St. Paul, Minnesota.

Your crew over the neighborhood haunted house? How about clumsily climbing through a cave so dark you can't remember if your eyes are open? What if the cave was full of bats? And a legendary ghost. Check out my list of 12 Haunted Cave Tours through the U.S.

Lockport Cave in Lockport, New York

Take an hour-and-half candlelit tour while walking along the Erie Canel then touring the Lockport Cave.


Friday, October 20 and Saturday, October 21 at 7:00, 7:20 and 7:40 p.m.

Every day from Wednesday, October 25 to Tuesday, October 31 at 7:00, 7:20 and 7:40 p.m.

Tour starts at 5 Gooding St. in Lockport, that’s about 30 miles northeast from Buffalo, New York. Admission is $17.50 per person and kids must be 8 years to take tour.

Lewisburg Haunted Cave in Ohio

Who wants to tour a limestone cave 80 feet below ground with 30,000 live bats?


Fridays: October 6,  October 13, October 20,  and October 27 from 7:00 p.m. to Midnight.

Saturdays: October 7, October 14, October 21, and October 28 from 7:00 p.m. to Midnight.

Located at 4392 Swisher Mill Road, Lewisburg, that’s 25 miles west of Dayton, Ohio. Admission Adults $17 and Children 10 and under $8.

Crystal Cave Park in Pennsylvania

Take lantern tour with guides dressed in Victorian clothing as they recount the hauntings in the 1800s.


Fridays: October 13,  October 20, and October 27 at 6:00 p.m.

Saturdays: October 14, Saturday, October 21, and October 28 at 5:30 p.m.

Located at 963 Crystal Cave Road, Kutztown, that’s 65 miles northwest of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. Admission for Adults is $20 and kids 8 to 11 is $12. Not recommended for children under 8.

Haunted Cave tours across the U.S.
With haunted caves from across the U.S. find a tour near you. Photo Credit: Pixaby

Lincoln Caverns in Pennsylvania

Take the kids on a haunted cavern tour followed by a haunted hayride.


Fridays: October 6, October 13, October 20, and October 27 from 6:00 p.m. to 9:30 p.m.

Saturdays: October 7, October 14, October 21, and October 28 from 6:00 p.m. to 9:30 p.m.

Located at 7703 William Penn, Huntingdon, that’s 95 miles west of Harrisburg, Pennsylvania. Admission $22.98 for adults and $13.98 for kids.

Appalachian Caverns in Tennessee

Take a haunted Halloween tour of the Appalachian Caverns.


Fridays: October 6, October 13, October 20 and October 27 from 7 p.m. to 11 p.m.

Saturdays: October 7, October 14, October 21 and October 28 from 7 p.m. to 11 p.m.

Located at 420 Cave Hill Road, Blountville, that’s about 100 miles from Knoxville, Tennessee.

Bell Witch Cave in Tennessee

A cave so haunted it terrorized generations of locals. One man even died.


Fridays: October 20 and October 27 from 6 p.m. to midnight.

Saturdays: October 7 and October 14 from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. October 21 and October 28 from noon to midnight.

Sundays: October 8 and October 15 from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. October 22 and October 29 from noon to 6 p.m.

Located at 430 Keysburg Road, Adams, that’s 42 miles north of Nashville, Tennessee. Admission $12 per person. No Children under 2, under 18 must have parental consent.

Cave of the Mounds in Wisconsin

Take a tour through a candlelit cave while trick-or-treating for gemstones. A family-friendly cave tour where costumes are encouraged.


Thursday, October 26 and Friday, October 27, from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.

Saturday, October 28 and Sunday, October 29 from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m.

Located at 2975 Cave of the Mounds Rd, Blue Mounds, that’s 25 miles west of Madison, Wisconsin. Admission for adults $17.95 Children 4 to 12 $9.95 and children under 3 free.

Ledge View Nature Center in Wisconsin

A family-friendly candlelight cave tour, packed with fun and facts.


Friday, October 20 from 5:30 p.m. to 8:30 p.m.

Saturday, October 21 from 4:30 to 8:30 p.m.

Located at W2348 Short Road, Chilton, that’s 76 miles north of Milwaukee, Wisconsin. Admission: $8 for adults and $6 for 17 and under, minimum age 5.






30 Ways to Feed a Teen on the CHEAP CHEAP in NYC

Where to eat in NYC with teens, grab some ice cream.
Teens are still kids so ice cream hits the spot for an afternoon snack in NYC, like this one at Loeb Boathouse Express Café. Photo Credit: Catherine Parker

The kids voted and they want to head to New York City for their teen trip. I couldn’t wait to get there until I realized I would have to feed them regularly on a budget. Since I used to live in NYC, I had a few ideas. But I still had to research so I’m sharing my list of where to eat in NYC with teens.

Our Trip to NYC

Years ago, our scout group decided to go to New York City when they graduated from eighth grade. So after raising money for years, our group boarded a plane for NYC.

Planning a a NYC trip for a youth group
Designed by famed Architect Richard Morris Hunt and built in 1883, the HI Hostel features dormer windows and a mansard roof. Photo Credit: Catherine Parker

Since urban travel skills and traveling on a budget topped our travel lessons list, we booked a week at a hostel. Hosteling International’s Hostel on the Upper West Side provides private rooms for youth groups under 18 with bathrooms down the hall and an inexpensive café.

Our teens came up with a list of must-dos and then I added notable buildings and museums. Since our budget was tight, we bought NYC MetroCards and used the subways along with ferries and the tram to get around.

Where to Eat in NYC with Teens

Feeding teens can be tricky. Some have allergies or other food restrictions and some teens are just plain picky.

For youth group trips, the budget offers additional restrictions as well. Then the space needed to accommodate a teen group for meals offers more challenges in NYC where space is limited, especially in restaurants.


Our hostel offered a traditional breakfast for an additional charge. Though we wanted to sample some of the best bagels in the city.

Where to eat in NYC with teens, bagels for breakfast.
Tops for breakfast in NYC, the bagel of course. Photo Credit: Catherine Parker

Top Bagels and More

A bagel is a must for NYC and not all bagels are the same. I recommend making the effort to sample some of the best bagels in the city. As a bonus, most kids will eat a bagel and it’s filling enough to hold teens until lunch.

For about $3 you get a bagel schmeared with flavored cream cheese. For $10 you can get melt-in-your-mouth smoked salmon with scallion cream cream on a toasted everything bagel, my favorite. Order a regular coffee (NYC term for coffee with cream and sugar) to complete your breakfast. Though bagel shops offer juice for non-coffee drinkers.

Try one of the following for the best bagels in Manhattan.

Absolute Bagels, located at 2788 Broadway in the Upper West Side.

Russ and Daughters, located at 179 E. Houston in the Lower East Side.

Murray’s Bagels, located at 500 6th Ave in Greenwich Village.

Where to eat in NYC with teens, try French pastries.
A plate of croissants, including the cro-nut. Though honestly, it’s too sweet so skip it and order a regular croissant instead. Photo Credit: Catherine Parker

Dominique Ansel Bakery, located 189 Spring Street in SoHo (NYC term for South of Houston), is famous for the cronut.  But skip it since it’s way too sweet, even for my teen. Order one of their other croissants instead and ignore the sometimes snotty counter help.

Museum Eats

After breakfast, we headed to a museum most days since New York offers some of the best museums in the U.S. Most museums offer cafés for a quick bite while exploring their collections. I found this to be a convenient option to feed the kids though sometimes the offerings are limited and a bit pricey.

Where to eat in NYC with teens, take a break in the Museum cafe.
Take a break while exploring the MoMA Museum and grab a panini at their Cafe 2. Photo Credit: Catherine Parker

Museum of Modern Art (MoMA), 11 W. 53rd St., offers several restaurants though Café 2 is the most kid-friendly. With a seasonal menu prepared by a chef, we enjoyed one of its paninis and a salad.

The Metropolitan Museum of Art (The Met), 1000 Fifth Avenue, offers several restaurants though The Great Hall Balcony Café offers the best option for kids. We enjoyed a grab-and-go salad and soup during our visit.

Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum1071 Fifth Avenue, features a small coffee bar with snacks at its Café 3. 

The American Museum of Natural History, Central Park West at 79th St., offers several restaurants though the Museum Food Court on the lower level features family favorites. During our visit we enjoyed salads though pizza, burgers, sandwiches and a selection of desserts are available.

The Loeb Boathouse Express Café, East 72nd and Park Drive North, offers another option close to several museums in Central Park. With breakfast items, burgers, soups and salads along with my favorite soft-serve ice cream, I found lots of outdoor seating for feeding a group of kids.

Food Halls across New York City

New York City offers food halls, a group of quick service outlets that share a common dining space. I relied on food halls to feed the teens because they could pick and purchase what they wanted. As a bonus, food halls offered lots of seating and tipping is not required.

A tad bit more expensive than traditional fast food (Subway or McDonald’s) but worth the extra dollar or two. And I found the top chefs from around the globe offered their quick-service concepts in the food halls.

Where to eat in NYC with teens. Try the Lady M Mille Crepes Cake
The best thing I sampled in NYC, Lady M Mille Crepes Cake that I found in the Plaza Food Hall. Photo Credit: Catherine Parker

The Plaza Food Hall, located at 1 W. 59th St. in the basement of The Plaza Hotel, offers gourmet quick service outlets. Our group dined at The Plaza Food Hall before our theatre matinee and found some of the top chefs in NYC, like Chef Daniel Boulud.

Grand Central Terminal’s Dining Concourse or the Great Northern Food Hall, both located at 89 E. 42nd St., offers 35 different places to eat. Walk through the transportation hub and enjoy the Beaux-Arts building before herding the teens downstairs to eat. I found lots of options, like Jacques Torres Chocolate and Shake Shack, with lots of seating along with clean restrooms.

Where to eat in NYC with teens, a burger at Genuine Roadside Burger.
Enjoy a burger break at the Gotham West Market at Genuine Roadside Burger. Photo Credit: Catherine Parker

Gotham West Market, located at 600 11th Ave, offers long tables and several options for teens. I grabbed a burger at Genuine Roadside Burger, another grabbed pizza from Corner Slice.

Rockefeller Food Court, located on the lower level at 45 Rockefeller Plaza, offers lots of options for dining.

Hotdogs, Pretzels and the Black-and-White

A NYC hotdog topped the kids’ list and as a budget bonus, hotdogs are super-cheap. Not healthy or vegetarian but they’re a NYC icon.

Gray’s Papaya, located 2090 Broadway St. at 70th St, features hotdogs and fresh fruit juices. As a bonus, Gray’s Papaya has been featured in several movies and a must-do for movie fans. The recession special offers two hotdogs for under $6 and I found standing room only.

Need to feed some kids in New York City? Here's a list of quick service options that won't kill the budget.

A hotdog cart, located along most streets in NYC and especially Central Park, to grab hotdogs, drinks and pretzels.

Nathan’s Famous Hotdogs, several locations and carts across the city, offers another top choice for hotdogs.

Don’t forget to grab a black-and-white cookie, it’s a NYC icon. Easily shared and available at most delis and bakeries.

More Teen Eats

Where to eat in NYC with teens, grab a Shake Shack Burger.
Burgers go a long way with teens so order up a NYC original, the Shake Shack burger. Photo Credit: Catherine Parker

Shake Shack, several locations across the city, another place to grab a burger, a shake and an order of fries. Solid cheeseburger but I found lines at all hours. They offer an app but our order was too large so we stood in line.

Katz Delicatessen, located at 205 E. Houston St., is an icon. The pastrami on rye sandwiches are pricey but huge. I ordered a half and got a bowl of Matzo ball soup along with a seltzer. The adults in our group loved Katz’s though it fell flat for the teens.

Where to eat in NYC with teens, try Katz's for pastrami on rye.
The pastrami on rye is a NYC icon though teens might not get it. Photo Credit: Catherine Parker

Xi’an Famous Foods, several locations across the city, offers hand-pulled noodles in a tiny storefront. For the foodie adventurous in your group, I enjoyed the spicy cumin lamb hand-ripped noodles. Knocked me over into a carb-induced coma but worth it.

Pret A Manger, several locations across the city, is a UK-based quick-service outlet. During our visit we ordered a salad, soup and a sandwich along with coffee and bottled drinks.

Time for Dessert!

Managing a group of teens in NYC is exhausting, I recommend frequent dessert stops. NYC requires a ton of walking so desserts helped me keep my energy up and a smile on my face.

I found lots of super yummy desserts for under $10 though not everyone enjoys rich, creamy, chocolatey desserts like I do. Grab them an ice cream cone, a gelato or a chocolate chip cookie instead.

The Magnolia Bakery, several locations across the city, is known for their cupcakes. Though I loved the individual cheesecakes the best and the shops are girly-cute.

Ferrara Italian Bakery, located 195 Grand St. in Little Italy, offers a cannoli and cappuccino fix with table service. Or grab a gelato from their walk-up counter and walk around Little Italy.

Where to eat in NYC with teens, Jacques Torres Chocolate.
Seriously the best chocolate chip cookie ever at Jacques Torres Chocolates. Photo Credit: Catherine Parker

Jacques Torres Chocolate, several locations across the city, offers a fine selection of chocolate. The chocolate chip cookies are the go-to item on the menu and during my trip, I ate three.

La Maison Du Chocolate, several locations across the city, offers more divine-looking chocolate. I sampled their èclair and angels sang. Skip it for the teens since they will eat it in one bite and the chocolate angels will cry.

Where to eat in NYC with teens, La Maison du Chocolate for eclairs.
Chocolate lovers will weep when they sample La Maison du Chocolate’s eclair. Photo Credit: Catherine Parker

Lady M Confections, several locations across the city, sells the crêpe cake. I sampled the signature mille crêpes cake with layer after layer of crêpey goodness. The best thing I ate in the city but I love my desserts. I found individual slices for about $8 at the Plaza Food Hall.

Épicerie Boulud, located in the Plaza Food Hall and Lincoln Center, offers more French pastries. Chef Daniel Boulud’s quick service outlet tempted me with an assortment of desserts. I choose the raspberry pistachio tart, a tiny work of food art.

Where to eat in NYC with teens, Epicerie Boulud.
Like a tiny piece of food art, I sampled the raspberry-pistachio tart at Epicerie Boulud in the Plaza Food Hall. Photo Credit: Catherine Parker

Junior’s Restaurant, a couple of locations in midtown and the original in Brooklyn, offers a full-menu though I grabbed cheesecake to-go. The original NY Plain tops lists for best cheesecake so if you love cheesecake, grab a slice. Makes the ultimate midnight snack.

Ladurée, located at 398 Broadway in SoHo, offers delightful French macarons for an afternoon treat. I loved the rose and orange blossom macarons the best. Grab some macarons to go in a pretty box for a souvenir.

Where to eat in NYC with teens, Laduree for macarons.
A rose-flavored French macaron from Ladurée made me swoon. Photo Credit: Catherine Parker

Soft Swerve, located at 85B Allen St. in Chinatown, is an Instagram sensation that topped my teen’s must-eat list. Ube, a purple root vegetable from the Phillipines, is the flavor of choice here. My daughter had to try it so we stopped by. Not my thing but the kids loved it and snapped it to all their friends.

Where to eat in NYC with teens, Ube soft swerve.
Ube, a purple root vegetable from the Philippines, topped my teen’s list of food to sample in NYC complete with Fruity Pebbles sprinkles. Photo Credit: Catherine Parker

Brooklyn Bridge Eats

During our trip, we walked across the Brooklyn Bridge to add another borough to our list. As a reward, I promised the kids real New York pizza.

Grimaldi’s Pizza, located at 1 Front Street, bakes their pies in a coal-fired oven. A pizza costs less than $15, a bargain. Make reservations for larger crowds since tables seating more than four are hard to get.

Brooklyn Ice Cream Factory, located at 1 Water St. in Brooklyn Heights, makes their ice cream in-house (Cash only). Steps away from the DUMBO ferry pier, take the ferry back to Manhattan ($2.75/ticket).

Know Before You Go:

  • Public restrooms are hard to find. Even McDonald’s requires a purchase so buy a bottled water and take a scheduled potty break.
  • Pack hand sanitizer, baby wipes and bleach wipes to clean up everything from hands to tables.

Where to Stay in New York City with a Youth Group

Planning a a NYC trip for a youth group
Designed by famed Architect Richard Morris Hunt and built in 1883, the HI Hostel features dormer windows and a mansard roof. Photo Credit: Catherine Parker

As a family traveler writer and a youth group leader, I got voted to plan our trip to New York City for a handful of high school girls. Packed with an itinerary full of museums and must-dos, I needed budget-friendly lodging for a group. My go-to for Europe, a HI hostel, provided what I needed for planning a NYC trip for a youth group on a budget.

Our mission, to learn urban travel skills so the girls had the skills they needed to travel the world as young adults.

Urban Travel Skills

What are urban travel skills? Knowing how to travel in urban areas using public transportation along with budget-friendly lodging options.

Planning a NYC trip for a youth group. Plan on using the subway.
Buy a Metrocard and use the subway, just a block away from the HI Hostel in New York City. Photo Credit: Catherine Parker

Traveling in the U.S. is a bit different than traveling other parts of the developed world. Travel can be expensive in the U.S. especially for young adults and college students who don’t have reliable cars or are too young to rent cars.

Traveling exclusively by air is expensive and cumbersome. Just think about hauling yourself and your luggage to-and-from airports without the use of a car. Train travel, like Amtrak, is inconsistent throughout the U.S.

I wanted to teach our girls how to travel using different modes of transportation, like subways, ferries, commuter trains, trams, ride-share and cabs. To do that, New York City topped my list for destinations more than any other urban center.

Planning a NYC trip to a youth group take the Roosevelt Island Tram for fun.
New York City offers many modes of transportation, like the Roosevelt Island Tram along with ferries, commuter trains, cabs and subways. Photo Credit: Catherine Parker

With transportation figured out, I wanted to show the girls where to stay when traveling on their own as young adults. During my 20s, I strapped on a backpack and explored Europe with a rail pass and hostel membership card. It was fun and I wanted to give the girls the confidence to do it on their own.

Hosteling 101

A hostel is an inexpensive place to stay that provides basic lodging for all. Some are private and others are part of a federation, like Hosteling International.

Hosteling International (HI) is a federation of 70 national youth hostel associations. Formerly known as the International Youth Hostel Federation, Hosteling International began in 1932 and is classified as a charity.

Planning a youth group or student trip to New York City, it can be overwhelming especially with a limited budget. Top of the list, where to stay while exploring NYC. I've got all the information about staying at the HI Hostel in New York City with high school students.

Years back, there was an age limit for hostels but that’s been eliminated at most hostels. Open to all, though it still appeals to college-age students.

Planning a NYC trip for a Youth Group

According to HI, a group is 10 or more people traveling together. For students under 18, the group must be in a room of their own and have adult chaperones staying at the hostel.

Hosteling International caters to groups with a special reservation line to handle groups sales. For our nine-person group, we bought out a ten-bunk room.

Breakfast can be prearranged for a reasonable cost. Sack lunches can also be prearranged.  Luggage can be stored before and after the stay. Free tours and entertainment are available at the hostel too.

HI Hostel NYC

Located in the Upper West Side between 103rd and 104th Streets along Amsterdam Ave., the HI Hostel is actually an historic building. Designed by Richard Morris Hunt, the famed architect of the pedestal of the Statue of Liberty and the Biltmore Estate, the hostel was built in 1883.

Originally for the Association for the Relief of Respectable Aged Indigent Females, the building offers dormer windows and a mansard roof along with rich architecture details throughout the building.

The HI Hostel NYC offers free Wi-Fi, free linens, a coin-operated, self-service laundry, a kitchen to use, a café, a game room, along with an outdoor courtyard. Space for your group to meet is also available. The hostel can assist in charter bus parking too.

Our Dorm Room at the HI Hostel New York City

A reasonably sized room featured five sets of twin-sized bunks with sheeting and a couple of fleece blankets per bed, think basic linens. Daily towel service was available though we had to grab towels off the laundry cart. Used towels are deposited in the bathrooms.

Planning a NYC trip for a youth group then think about staying in a hostel.
Urban camping at the HI Hostel in New York City with bunks beds the girls loved. Photo Credit: Catherine Parker

Our room was dim with just a single light fixture but it featured two large windows with black-out shades. We had air-conditioning with the controls in our room. A bonus since we visited in the summer and New York is hot and humid.

Each bunk features an overhead light with a couple of standard 110-volt household outlets. I plugged in my phone and left it on the light fixture and charging station.

Planning a NYC trip for a youth group, a hostel offers budget-friendly lodging.
Each bunk gets a metal school-type locker to store luggage and I purchased a lock for $4 from the lobby. Photo Credit: Catherine Parker

Each bunk also has a standard school-type metal locker though I forgot to bring a lock. I purchased one in the registration area for $4. The locker fit my standard carryon-sized rolling luggage with no problem.

The Shared Bathroom at the HI Hostel NYC

I found two bathrooms on each floor. Each was newly renovated with white tile and individual stalls for toilets and showers.

Planning a NYC trip for a youth group then book a stay at the HI Hostel.
The outdoor courtyard features Ping-Pong along with lots of seating. Photo Credit: Catherine Parker

The vanity features several sinks with lots of lighting and plugs for hair dryers. I never had to wait for a stall or sink though other people were always in the bathroom.

Shared Space at the HI Hostel New York City

The main floor of the hostel features a registration and reception area open to the public. A set of locked doors to the rest of the facility require a key card to open, just like a regular hotel.

Planning a NYC trip for a youth group, the hostel offers a cafe.
The cafe, located on the first floor, offered quick-service items along with a coffee bar and beverage cooler. Photo Credit: Catherine Parker

The café serves fresh coffee drinks along with assorted pastries. Cold and hot sandwiches are available along with salads, yogurt, fruit and cold, bottled drinks. I found the prices reasonable, especially for NYC and it offered extended hours.

A large dining area, game room, computer room, and lounging room completed the first floor. I also found restrooms, stairs and an elevator.

Planning a NYC trip for a youth group consider the HI Hostel NYC.
The HI Hostel in New York City offers a game room with free pool. Photo Credit: Catherine Parker

The HI Hostel New York City features a large outdoor patio. Guests gathered under the party lights and enjoyed talking with several tables and chairs. I even found a Ping-Pong table and hammock outside.

My Take Away from the Hostel

Our stay was a great experience for the girls. For girls who have attended camp, it was very camp-like. And I called it Urban Camping.

It was a bit like college dorm living too. So that gave them a taste of what’s ahead. None of the girls had any complaints and fought over the top bunks.

For a Mom, the beds were OK. My bunk mate, my 14-year-old, made the bed squeak and shake each time she flipped over in her sleep.

Walking down the hall to the restroom got old after several days. After a week, I was ready to have some private space. But this trip wasn’t about me, it was teaching kids how to travel within their budget.

The location was great. Two blocks to Central Park and one block for the 1 subway train. We used the subway to get around extensively.

The area was safe though we were aware and traveled as a group at night.

Things to Think About:

Some of the guests were under-dressed for the public spaces. Think college-aged dudes roaming the halls without shirts and girls in tiny shorts. But my Mom googles were on and we really saw more flesh in Times Square.

Hostel Must Haves:

  • Flip flops for shower and walking around the room.
  • Earplugs and eye mask. NYC is noisy.
  • Electronic chargers and even a small surge protector if you have multiple devices.
  • A lock for the locker.
  • A plug-in air freshener if staying with students for several days.

12 Out of this World Destinations in Northern Alabama

Little River Falls is one of the things to do in Huntsville.
I discovered several waterfalls in Alabama like Little River Falls. Photo Credit: Catherine Parker

Huntsville stands out as the hub of Northern Alabama, offering diverse options in dining, recreation and the arts. For visitors, NASA history and Space Camp top the list of must-dos though residents enjoy nearby recreational opportunities in the nearby Cumberland Plateau, part of the Appalachian Plateau. I’ve pulled together a list of 12 things to do in Huntsville and the surrounding areas.

U.S. Space and Rocket Center

Explore the U.S. Space and Rocket Center as one of the things to do in Huntsville.
One the Saturn V rockets hangs from the ceiling of the U.S. Space and Rocket Center. Photo Credit: Catherine Parker

A must for every visitor to Huntsville, the U.S. Space and Rocket Center features a sprawling complex where I found the largest collection of rockets and space memorabilia in the world. A day’s worth of discovery and learning awaits along with an IMAX theater and glimpse into Space Camp.

As a Smithsonian affiliate and the Official Visitor Center of NASA’s Marshal Space Flight Center, the U.S. Space and Rocket Center features a rocket park with 27 missiles and rockets that grew into the NASA program. I also found the Space Shuttle Pathfinder, a test simulator along with one of the original Saturn V rockets.

Explore Rocket Park as one of the things to do in Huntsville.
Walk through Rocket Park to see the largest collection of missiles and rockets in the world. Photo Credit: Catherine Parker

The U.S. Space and Rocket Center is located at One Tranquility Base and open 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. everyday. Adult admission is $24 and $16 for students 5 to 12 with kids 4 and under entering for free.

Space Camp for Families

With programs for kids as young as 9 all the way until high-school seniors, Space Camp offers STEM-based camps in a variety of topics ranging from two-day introductory mini-camps to week-long summer resident camps. For families that share a love of space, Space Camp offers family camp. In a three-day program, families work together to learn about rocket construction and use training simulators.

Space Camp is one of the things to do in Huntsville.
Space Campers use mock-ups of the International Space Station at Space Camp. Photo Credit: Catherine Parker

Space Camp is located at the U.S. Space and Rocket Center. Meals and lodging are provided in camp-like dorms.

Marshall Space Flight Center Bus Tour

The Marshall Space Flight Center houses NASA’s research and development facility for programs like the mission to Mars. Take a guided bus tour of the facility that remains closed to the public.

The Marshall Space Flight Center is one the things to do in Huntsville.
Take a tour of the Marshall Space Flight Center when visiting Huntsville, Alabama. Photo Credit: Catherine Parker

A bus tour departs daily from the U.S. Space and Rocket Center for a two-hour guided tour. Stops include the historic test site of former rockets, the International Space Station (ISS) payload operations and the Propulsion Research and Development Laboratory.

Tours are limited to U.S. citizens and a picture ID is required for all over 16. Tickets are $20 for all over 5-years-old and kids 4 and under are free.

Are you a NASA geek? Got a kid that's all about the rockets? Then you have to explore the World's Largest Collection of Rockets and Missiles. It's closer than you think. And I found a Space Shuttle too.

A.M. Booth’s Lumberyard

Dine on the patio of a restored 100-year-old lumberyard while enjoying live music. This complex features several restaurants and hosts special events. I found A.M. Booth’s Lumberyard at 108 Cleveland Ave.

Tour the craft breweries as one of the things to do in Huntsville.
Huntsville features a craft beer trail with 10 breweries located downtown. Photo Credit: Catherine Parker

Campus No. 805

Across 13-acres of a revitalized high school campus, I found a complex of craft breweries, restaurants, food trucks, retail shopping, live music and a speakeasy. Campus No. 805 is located at 2620 Clinton Ave. W.

DeSoto State Park

DeSoto Falls is one of the things to do in Huntsville
A stop by the 104-foot DeSoto Falls tops my list for DeSoto State Park. Photo Credit: Catherine Parker

Developed by the Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC) in the 1930s, DeSoto State Park preserves the CCC-built Desoto Lodge and cabins. Though my favorite feature of the park, the 104-foot Desoto Falls is a must.

DeSoto State Park offers camping along with the lodge, cabins and restaurant. Pick up a Junior Ranger booklet for the kids and take a hike to discover the rugged beauty of northern Alabama. DeSoto State Park adjoins the Little River Canyon National Preserve.

Located at 7104 DeSoto Parkway NE, 75 miles southeast of Huntsville, DeSoto State Park is free to enter.

Little River Canyon National Preserve

From Lookout Mountain, Little River flows through sandstone carving Little River Canyon as it passes over Little River Falls. One of the wildest and cleanest rivers in the Southeast, Little River offers recreational opportunities like rock climbing, kayaking and hiking.

Little River Falls is one of the things to do in Huntsville.
The waterfalls of Alabama enchant visitors, like Little River Falls. Photo Credit: Catherine Parker

Stop by the Little River Canyon Center for a map, a Junior Ranger booklet and an educational movie. Located at 4322 Little River Trail NE and open from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m., Little River Canyon National Preserve is open from sunrise to sunset and is free to enter.

Trail of Tears National Historic Trail

In the early 1800s, the Cherokee, Chickasaw, Choctaw and Seminole people were forcibly removed from their lands and relocated to the Indian Territory, present-day Oklahoma. Using several routes, including land and waterways, visitors can retrace the Trail of Tears.

The Benge Route passes through the Little River Canyon National Preserve where I found interpretive information.

Russell Cave National Monument

Near the Tennessee border, the Russell Cave National Monument offers a glimpse into the history of human civilization 1,000 years before European contact. Russell Cave provides one of the most extensive archeological records on the East Coast.

Explore Russell Cave from the boardwalk only. Located at 3729 County Road 98 in Bridgeport, 70 miles northeast of Huntsville. Russell Cave is free.

Find a treasure at Unclaimed Baggage Center

The Unclaimed Baggage Center is one of the things to do in Huntsville.
Find a treasure at the Unclaimed Baggage Center in Scottsboro, Alabama. Photo Credit: Catherine Parker

In the tiny town of Scottsboro, I stumbled upon the final destination for lost baggage. After airlines spend 90 days looking for a bag’s rightful owner, unclaimed bags end up in Alabama.

Bargain hunters from across the country take a side trip from Interstate 59 to hunt through a retail space that spans several buildings. During my visit, I found wedding dresses, racks of men’s suits, a coat of armor and high-end watches like Rolex and Cartier.

The Unclaimed Baggage Center is one of the things to do in Huntsville.
Find a treasure at the Unclaimed Baggage Center in Scottsboro, Alabama. Photo Credit: Catherine Parker

Be prepared to dig, though I found clothing sized and grouped by color. I found dressing rooms and a café serving Starbucks along with gourmet sandwiches and pastries in the facility.

The Unclaimed Baggage Center is located at 509 West Willow Street, Scottsboro, 40 miles southeast of Huntsville. Open Monday to Friday from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. and Saturday from 8 a.m. to 7 p.m. and closed on Sunday.

Brunch at the Wildflower Cafe

Tucked away in a woodland fairyland, I stumbled upon Wildflower Café. A charming eatery that appeals to grandmothers and grandchildren equally.

Brunch at Wildflower Café is one of the things to do in Huntsville.
Sample southern cuisine favorites like Shrimp and Grits at Wildflower Café in a homespun dining room. Photo Credit: Catherine Parker

As I meandered through the rooms of the old house, I stopped to enjoy the local artists’ work that covered the walls. My eyes darted around the dining room as I sat in a mismatched chair and I sipped on a glass of iced tea.

I sampled remakes of southern stables on flowered pottery that reminded me of my grandmother’s pattern. The standout at Wildflower Café, the Famous Tomato Pie, boasts a tender yet flaky crust with layers of tomato and cheese. Firm and flavorful, it’s a must. The Polenta Shrimp Grits topped my list as well, with an elevated remake of the southern favorite. I finished out my brunch with a ham and cheese quiche with a hearty mouth-feel and tender, savory crust.

The Wildflower Café is located at 6007 Alabama Highway 117 in Mentone, 70 miles southeast of Huntsville.

Savor the Arts

After a hearty brunch at Wildflower Café, walk next door to Kamama Gallery for a collection of local artists’ work. I found pottery, landscapes and sculpture in the cultural hub of Mentone. Grab a cup of coffee at the Kamama Gallery’s café, located at 5951 Alabama Highway 117.

Miracle Pottery is one of the things to do in Huntsville.
Miracle Pottery teaches classes and features ceramics by Valinda Miracle in Mentone. Photo Credit: Catherine Parker

Another gallery, the Miracle Pottery, features the work of Valinda Miracle, who used ceramics as a form of physical therapy after a major car accident. In addition to a gallery, Miracle Pottery features classes in ceramics and located at 7811 Alabama Highway 117.

More Information:

I always suggest Lonely Planet Guides for more information, including this region.


Consideration for some brands listed. This post uses affiliate links in which I receive a commission if a book is ordered.


Raising Travelers, Not Tourists

East Coast Road trips with kids, Maine with kids
Blueberry Land in Maine is CLOSED. We drove all the way from Texas to visit it!

The carful of kids drove over 7,000 miles during our East Coast road trip to get to the eastern edge of North America from Texas. Along the way we lost a SUV and nearly all of our electronic devices but we didn’t lose our sense of adventure or our will to continue.

Why We Travel

Years ago, I vowed to drive my kids through the lower 48 to experience the vastness of our country in a way you can’t experience by popping into places. So far the carful of kids have driven to 43 states and four Canadian provinces.

I am a traveler and I have been a traveler for years; I have a packed bag sitting in the corner of our room just waiting for the next trip. Because I value the time I spend with my kids on the road exploring and seeing new things, I spend weeks planning and organizing our trips.

We spend the summer passively learning without any pressure and that’s fun–Really. The carful of kids spend less time bickering and complaining when we’re on the road and that’s music to a mother’s ears.

The traveling we do has been great for all my kids but especially for my struggling student. Reading and writing is a constant battle with him but now he’s coming into his own with social studies and science because I can relate those subjects to our travels.

What I Thought of Our Trip

This trip was our most ambitious to date and full of great moments. I especially liked stopping at the Maid of the Mist in Niagara, the Bay of Fundy, Acadia National Park and the Statue of Liberty–all epic moments for us.

If I had the trip to do over again, I would spend one less day in Cavendish, Prince Edward Island, and visit Halifax, Nova Scotia, instead. I would have entered the Cape Breton Highlands National Park from the south entrance and explored that area and not driven the whole park.

Due to the hurricane, our whale watching trip on the tall ship got cancelled, which was disappointing. I wanted to see some puffins in the wild and we really tried to get to Newfoundland Island and Labrador–maybe another trip.

I would have skipped Montreal and visited Quebec City instead, the obvious reason is they stole my car. Besides that, Quebec City has more to offer in the way of history and it’s the North American city that feels most like a European city.

So as I wrap up my recap of the carful of kids’ travels, I’m looking forward to our next trip. It is in the final stages of planning and I getting that giddy feeling of excitement.

If you are looking for ideas for your own road trips, reach out, I love researching and exploring new places. I encourage all families to travel to places that excite them as well.

Note on replacing our stolen stuff– Thanks to our insurance and more importantly our replacement insurance, we have replaced all of our stolen items. We have even upgraded some of the technology. Of course, I think we might have a flag on our policy now.

Until next time, safe travels.

Lady Liberty for All

The Statue of Liberty with kids.
The Statue of Liberty tops the list of must-dos for East Coast Road Trips and New York City trips but make those reservations.

The carful of kids stand in the shadow of the New York City skyline waiting for the Statue of Liberty ferry to arrive. We are finishing up a three-week road trip that took us from Central Texas to Quebec, the Canadian Maritimes and Boston.

Though I lived in NYC for several years, I never visited the Statue of Liberty so I’m just excited as the kids. I chose to depart from New Jersey because of the convenience for day trippers and the availability of tickets.

Top Tips for Families

  • Pack a lunch though keep it small since nothing can go inside the Statue of Liberty
  • Depart from New Jersey if you’re a day tripper with a car.
  • Make reservations early, crown tour fills six months out, pedestal six weeks out for weekends and holidays.
  • Arrive before you departure time.
  • If short on time, skip Ellis Island.


Visit the Statue of Liberty with kids.
Standing on the pier in New Jersey’s Liberty State Park awaiting our ferry to the Statue of Liberty.

Manhattan skyline mesmerizes the carful of kids as we waited for the ferry. It’s amazing to see for the first time. My 11-year-old daughter looked over to lower Manhattan with a look I know. She’s dying to get there and I hope she loves the city as much as I do.

The Ferry Ride

I pulled the SUV into the paid parking lot and found a spot with ease. After an airport-like security screen, the carful of kids fight a competitive New Jersey crowd to jockey our way to the top level of the ferry. We want a view and the Statue of Liberty amazes the crowd.

Our ferry departed from Liberty State Park in New Jersey and stopped at Ellis Island first before heading to the Statue of Liberty. Since we left at noon, we skipped the Ellis Island tour. We’ll come back another time and tour Ellis Island along with the other National Park Service sites of NYC like Governors Island.

What families need to know when visiting the Statue of Liberty.
The passengers rush to the edge of the ferry to snap pictures of the Statue of Liberty.

After disembarking the ferry, we headed to the information center for a Junior Ranger booklet since the Statue of Liberty is a national monument.

The Pedestal Tour

I booked pedestal-access tickets months in advance for our visit over a summer weekend. After clearing an additional security checkpoint to enter of the Statue of Liberty, the carful of kids headed for the stairs. After 215 steps, we arrived at the top of the pedestal for an epic view.
Visit the pedestal of the Statue of Liberty with your kids.
Snap a family photo from the pedestal of the Statue of Liberty.
Along the way, we saw the framework and giant screws that Gustave Eiffel designed. The carful of kids took a few minutes to absorb the view before heading back downstairs to the Liberty Island Museum for a history lesson.

The Statue of Liberty is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and an enduring symbol of freedom worldwide.

Take a tour of the interior of the Statue of Liberty with your kids.
The screws and bolts holding the Statue of Liberty together are as big as a baby.

Statue of Liberty History

In 1865 Edouard de Laboulage first proposed a gift from France to the United States for its Centennial. Artist Frederic Bartholdi was commissioned to sculpt the Statue of Liberty.

But where to erect the statue? Bedloe’s Island offered a spot with 12-pointed star-shaped building. Laboulage and Bartholdi both agreed on Bedloe’s Island.

Top tips for visiting the Statue of Liberty with kids.
The Statue of Liberty guides visitors to New York and New Jersey as an enduring symbol for the world.

For the Centennial Exposition in 1876, the Statue’s hand holding the torch was displayed in Philadelphia. Fundraising continued in both countries to complete the project.

In 1879, Alexandre-Gustave Eiffel replaced the first engineer after his death. He designed a structure to hold the weight and height of the statue and to withstand the winds of the New York Harbor.

Statue of Liberty tops lists for East Coast Road Trips, I've got all the tips for visiting the icon with kids.

In 1881, Richard Morris Hunt, the architect of the Biltmore Estate, designed the pedestal. He designed a pedestal half the height of the statue with poured 20-foot thick concrete walls and a granite block facade to sit on top of the 12-pointed star building already in place. Back in Paris, the statue started to take shape with its copper skin.

Completed and gifted to the United States on July 4, 1884, in Paris. The Statue of Liberty was dedicated on October 28, 1886, after it was reconstructed and placed on its pedestal.

Explore the Liberty Island Museum during your visit to the Statue of Liberty with kids.
The original torch was replaced during the 1980s remodel of the Statue of Liberty.

The Statue of Liberty was designated a National Monument in 1924. During the 1980s, the Statue of Liberty underwent a major restoration and a gold-leaf torch replaced the original one. I found the original on display in the museum.

Statue of Liberty with Kids

Explore the Statue of Liberty with kids during your visit to NYC.
Kids always find fun and my boys as liberty boogers.

The Junior Ranger Program is the go-to program for families to learn more about a National Park Service site. It’s free and takes about two hours to complete. My kids love the badges that the Rangers present them after completing their booklet.

The carful of kids explored the entire complex and filled out our Junior Ranger booklets along the way. The last thing on our list, take the Junior Ranger oath and accept our badges before jumping on the ferry back to New Jersey.

Getting our Junior Ranger Badges at the Visitors Center.
Getting our Junior Ranger Badges at the Visitors Center.

Security at the Statue of Liberty

To board the ferry, all passengers must pass through an airport-style security. You can bring a backpack though further screening will be required.

For pedestal or crown tour ticket holders, an additional security checkpoint is required. You aren’t allowed to bring ANYTHING with you, except a small camera and medication, including water and unopened food.  I rented a locker for $2 for the backpack and everything in my husband’s pockets–like keys and pens.

Ferry Tickets

The Statue of Liberty National Monument is free though a ferry ticket is required for all passengers.

Reserve and Pedestal Access Tour

Adults $18.50

Seniors 62+ $14.00

Kids 4 to 12 $9

Toddlers 3 and under Free

Crown Access Tour

Adults $21.50

Seniors 62+ $17.00

Kids 4 to 12 $12

New York or New Jersey?

We skipped New York City this trip since we had only one day to explore. My boys, 6 and 10, are a tad too young to enjoy it.

The New Jersey Statue Cruises ferry offers paid parking and more availability for tickets.

Where’s the ferry?

All visitors must take a Statue Cruises ferry to The Statue of Liberty and Ellis Island. The first ferry departs at 9:30 a.m. and the last ferry departs at 3:30 p.m. and 6:45 during the summer. The Statue of Liberty is open every day except December 25.

The New York ferry departs from Battery Park in Lower Manhattan. Parking is limited so use public transportation.

The New Jersey Ferry departs from Liberty State Park at 1 Audrey Zapp Drive. Parking is available for a fee. I found plenty of parking during my visit.

Know before you go

  • Give yourself the majority of day to explore the Statue of Liberty and Ellis Island.
  • Purchase tickets ahead of time for the Statue of Liberty pedestal access.
  • Crown access tickets sell out six months in advance during the holidays and summer.
  • Even with tickets I found long lines for the ferry and security.
  • I found a line for the pedestal elevator during our visit.

Boston in a Day with Kids

Walking on Boston's Freedom Trail we run into Benjamin Franklin.
Walking on Boston’s Freedom Trail we run into Benjamin Franklin.

How much can you do in one day in Boston with kids? With a little planning, we walked the entire Freedom Trail, earned a Junior Ranger badge, toured Old Ironsides and walked through Harvard University.

Since Boston is steeped in U.S. history, it’s a must for school age kids, like mine, 7,9 and 12. But we’re on the homeward stretch of an East Coast road trip that included the Bay of Fundy and Nova Scotia and Prince Edward Island so we only have one day to explore.

After exploring Acadia National Park in Bar Harbor, Maine, during the day. I drove into the night and walked into our hotel in Boston’s Back Bay at 1 a.m–powered by Dunkin’ Donut’s coffee.

Hotel Deals for Boston

When I was planning my road trip, I had sticker shock when I saw the Boston hotel rates. I just couldn’t commit $300 a night.

I waited and scored a room in a great location within walking distance of all the sights a couple of days before we arrived with a hotel consolidator. I didn’t know the hotel brand until after purchasing.

I know some people might have an issue with that though I don’t. I always select a room that’s at least a 3.5-star property just to be careful.

When road tripping through a major city, the car needs to be parked. In Boston, I paid $30 for 24-hour parking. I opted to leave it in the hotel’s garage parking lot. We just checked out, packed the bags in the back and walked to the Freedom Trail. Street parking is nearly impossible to find in Boston.

After our car was stolen from a paid parking lot in Montreal, Canada, I’m really careful about where I park my cars.

The Boston Common with Kids

After a Sorry, No  when the kids beg for room service, we check out of the hotel. Grabbing some Dunkin Donuts, we walk to the Boston Common.  Where the Freedom Trail, a 2.5-mile long paved trail along the streets of Boston, begins.

On our way, we stop at Trinity Church, a National Historic Landmark. Designed by Henry Richardson and finished in 1877. It’s and one of the ten most significant buildings in the U.S. by the American Institute of Architects.

Waiting for the legendary Swan Boats to open for the day.
Waiting for the legendary Swan Boats to open for the day.

Moving along, our next stop is the Public Garden for the Swan Boats, a Boston tradition since 1877 when Robert Paget launched his first swan boat. This is a must for any visitor and the carful of kids get in line for the first boat at 10 a.m. ($3.00 adults/$2.00 kids 2-15).

Across the street from the Swan Boats is the Boston Common, the oldest park in the US that dates back to 1634. Originally used as a cow pasture until 1830, then as a British Army camp during the Revolutionary War–today it is the official start of the Boston Freedom Trail.

The Freedom Trail with Kids

The Carful of Kids in Boston
Our Goal for the day.


I found several tour companies offering guided tours but I choose to use the official Freedom Trail app. The Freedom Trail is a national park (open year round and free, admission to several buildings along the route) and the NPS arranges guided tours too. The carful of kids will be earning a Junior Ranger Badge, the booklets are available at the visitors center on the first floor of Faneuil Hall (open year round from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m.).

The carful of kids find the red line in the sidewalk that will guide us through Downtown Boston and start walking; our first official stop is the Massachusetts State House. Finished in 1798 but it didn’t get its distinctive gold dome until many years later, it is still the home to the Massachusetts Commonwealth government and tours can be scheduled in advance Monday through Friday.

He is imitating the soul effigy.
He is imitating the soul effigy.

After walking past the Park Street Church, we find our first graveyard, Granary Burying Ground, where Paul Revere and John Hancock are buried. It was established in 1660 and has 2,300 gravestones including some with a soul effigy, a creepy little skull with wings. The kids love it–who knew.

The grave of Paul Revere.
The grave of Paul Revere.

The King’s Chapel and the King’s Chapel Burying Ground are the next stops before the carful of kids check out the Boston Latin School. Founded in 1635, it is the oldest public school in the US and Benjamin Franklin is its most notable dropout.

At the Latin School with Ben Franklin.
At the Latin School with Ben Franklin.

The carful of kids walk past the Old Corner Bookstore, the oldest commercial building in Boston, that was built in 1718 before finding our next stop.

The Old South Meeting House was built in 1729 and was the largest building in Colonial Boston. The carful of kids walk in ($6/adults $1/kids 6 to 18, open 9:30 to 5:00, spring to fall) to get an in-depth history lesson of the Boston Tea Party.

Writing with a quill at the Old State House
Writing with a quill at the Old State House

The Old State House was built in 1713 to house the Colonial government and is the site for several important events in Colonial history. The Declaration of Independence was read from its balcony for the first time in 1776. Today, it houses a great interactive tour for kids ($10/adults, free/kids under 18, open 9:30 to 5:15, spring to fall).

Outside the steps of the Old State House is the site of the Boston Massacre. Where on March 5, 1770, five Colonists were killed by British soldiers after a confrontation.

Having a crepe near Faneuil Hall
Having a crepe near Faneuil Hall

Faneuil Hall is the next important site on the Freedom Trail, it has been a busy marketplace since 1741. It has been named the “cradle of liberty” and there are historical talks every 30 minutes from 9:30 to 4:30. This is where Colonists protested against the Sugar and the Stamp Acts. It is operated by the NPS, there’s a visitors center and it’s free to enter.

The Faneuil Hall Marketplace is behind Faneuil Hall and it’s packed with tourists, street performers and food carts. It’s hard to pull the carful of kids away and get back on the red line walking towards our next stop.

The Paul Revere House ($3.50/adults, $1/kids, open 9:30 to 5:15, spring to fall) was built in 1680, but purchased by Paul Revere in 1770 and this is where he lived at the time of his fabled ride. He shared this house with his mother, his wife and nine of his 16 children–eight from each of his two wives. The Paul Revere House is an interesting look into the domestic life of Colonial Boston and is a must for school-age kids.

The Old North Church opened its door in 1723 but was immortalized when two Sons of Liberty put a couple of lanterns in the steeple on April 18, 1775, signaling the advancement of the British Redcoats. It is open 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. from spring to fall and donations are requested.

The carful of kids are tired but we still want to see a couple of sights. It is a mile to the USS Constitution so we catch a cab and drive by the Copp’s Hill Burying Ground.

Old Ironsides is our last official stop for the Boston Freedom Trail.
Old Ironsides is our last official stop for the Boston Freedom Trail.

The USS Constitution with Kids

The USS Constitution, Old Ironsides, was commissioned in 1797 and earned its nickname during the War of 1812. It is still an active warship with the US Navy and the tours are lead by sailors (open 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. on Saturdays and Sundays, free guided tour, check website for up-to-date hours).

The USS Constitution is to enter dry dock in April 2015 for a three-year restoration project but will be open for tours. The carful of kids enjoy the tour and love the hammocks and cannons on deck.

Below Deck>
Below Deck

The carful of kids turn in their booklets at the USS Constitution for our Boston National Historical Park Junior Ranger Badges. It is has been a full day of history for the carful of kids and a great refresher for me.

Cambridge with Kids


After a day of exploring, we still want to visit Harvard so we grab a cab and head over to Cambridge. Though college is years away for my 12-year-old, a campus walk-through never hurts.

After a walk through campus and a stop by the bookstore for a Harvard t-shirt, we want to eat. Our destination, Pinocchio’s Pizza, tops the list as one of Mark Zuckerberg’s haunts during his college days. We grab some plates of square pizza and head to Winthrop Square. Pinocchio’s Pizza is located at 74 Winthrop St. from 11 a.m to 2 a.m.

After a pizza picnic, the carful of kids stroll through MIT on our way to our first subway experience together. The T, Boston’s subway, won’t be crowded since it’s after hours but I’m still a little anxious herding my kids onto the train.

After a good look at the T map, I find the station closest to our car. Grab a CharlieCard for each one of us at the self-serve kiosk and swipe all the cards to get the kids through the turnstile.

Sweet sound to my ears, the roar of the train pulling into the station. Once inside, I remind the boys to hold on. I hide my smile when the boys trip over each other looking for something to grab when the train lurches forward.

Riding a subway for the first time.
Riding a subway for the first time. 


I have to admit, I’m a little relieved–we did it. Sure it would have been easier, faster and a little cheaper to take an Uber but now the carful of kids have been on a subway and that is a valuable experience for later in life.It’s late and the sun has set as the carful of kids straggle up to our SUV, two seconds and they’re asleep but I still have to drive to Connecticut. Now where is that Dunkin Donuts?

Know before you go

Be prepared for long lines for the airport style checkpoint at the U.S.S. Constitution and an ID is required for adults.

It requires a couple of hours to clear security and tour the boat on a busy day. During the restoration process, please consult the ship’s website for the most accurate information.


All the Way to Acadia National Park

Carful of Kids at Acadia National Park
Walking to the ocean in Acadia National Park, the first national park on the East Coast. Photo Credit: Catherine Parker

The carful of kids are in Maine to explore Acadia National Park on our way home from a three-week road trip. We started in Central Texas and drove to the tip of Nova Scotia and now we are headed back home to Texas.

Maine and especially Acadia National Park have been on my list for years; it’s a long way from home, just over 2200 miles away. It’s worth the trip and I wish I had made it here sooner. The carful of kids have one day in Acadia and it’s not enough so we are going to see as much as possible.

Bar Harbor

The Bar Harbor area is a popular summer gateway and the hotel prices reflect that. Since we’re inbound from Prince Edward Island it’s a push to get Bangor, Maine, to spend the night but the lodging is less expensive. The carful of kids start early and it’s an easy 45-mile drive to the Hulls Cove Visitors Center.

At the Hulls Cove Visitors Center (open 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. during the summer) we watch an introductory film about Acadia National Park and pick up our Junior Ranger Booklets. Acadia National Park is busy in the summer months and parking can be a problem at the popular sites. Acadia offers free buses from Bar Harbor to the park and within the park itself, thanks to LL Bean.

Having a picnic at Sand Beach in Acadia NP
Pack your swimsuit, there’s a beach in Acadia National Park. Photo Credit: Catherine Parker

Acadia in One Day

The carful of kids hop on the free Island Explorer for our first stop, Sieur de Monts Nature Center, for a Junior Ranger activity. A schedule of events can be found in the park newspaper and it’s a requirement for the Junior Ranger patch. While the carful of kids learn about the animals and plants of the park, I look over some information I picked up at the visitors center.

It’s inching towards lunchtime and the carful of kids love the beach, good thing there’s one along Park Loop Road. I packed a towel, water bottles, sandwich fixing in the backpack so we are ready for a picnic lunch. Sand Beach, in Acadia National Park, has plenty of space to spread out on a busy day. Beware, the Atlantic Ocean is cold, mid-fifties even at the height of summer.

I start making sandwiches as the kids head to the water to chase waves. Before I have slapped the bread together, my eleven-year-old son is thigh-high in the water. Geez. Well, I’m not the one who will be walking around in wet shorts for the rest of the afternoon.

Sand Beach has bathrooms, changing rooms and an area to wash the sand off your feet. This is a great place to spend the day in a beach chair with a good book. The carful of kids wash off our feet and head to the bus stop for our next destination, Thunder Hole.

Along Park Loop Road
All along Park Loop Road in Acadia National Park are scenes like this. Photo Credit: Catherine Parker

Thunder Hole is a natural inlet and if a wave hits just right, you hear a big boom. If you want to get wet when the waves crash against the rocks, walk out on the landing. Thunder Hole also has a small, seasonal hut filled with souvenirs and cold drinks. The carful of kids find a local blueberry soda and refill the water bottles before getting on the bus again.

We heard there are blueberry bushes at Jordon Pond House and my oldest son wants to pick some blueberries. We drove from Texas because he did a school project on Maine and wanted to visit and pick blueberries.

Jordan Pond House is a restaurant that has been serving popovers and tea since the 1890s when Nellie McIntire started the tradition. It is a lovely area with outdoor tables on a expansive lawn next to Jordan Pond and the Bubbles, the mountains nearby. Reservations are recommended if you plan to eat.

There are several hiking trails in this area, the carful of kids take the Jordan Pond Nature Trail for a better look at the Bubbles. After a quick hike the carful of kids find the blueberry bushes and start darting along the foot paths among the knee-high bushes looking for tiny blueberries. My son finds one and looks to each side before popping it into his mouth.

The carful of kids need to turn in their Junior Ranger Booklets to get our Junior Ranger Patches so we hop aboard the bus back to the Hulls Cove Visitors Center before they close. With minutes to spare, the carful of kids take the oath to protect our public lands.

The seawater cookers at Trenton Bridge Lobster Pound
Be sure to eat some fresh lobster, there are several lobster pounds right outside of Acadia National Park. Photo Credit: Catherine Parker

We’re hungry and it’s Maine so the carful of kids are on a quest for lobster. Right outside Acadia National Park is Trenton Bridge Lobster Pound (1237 Bar Harbor Road, open from 11 a.m. to 7:30 p.m.), serving up lobster since 1956. Walk inside and to pick out your lobster according to weight, they’ll throw them all into a numbered bag and to cook outside.

The Carful of Kids at Trenton Bridge Lobster Pound
Our dinner is in the bag and ready to go into the seawater cookers at Trenton Bridge Lobster Pound. Photo Credit: Catherine Parker

A line of wood-fired cookers filled with fresh seawater awaits–minutes later, the best lobster in the world is ready to eat. We eat fresh lobster several times a year since it’s a favorite of mine but I have never had lobster like this before, perfection.

Lobster is our Favorite.
Lobster is our Favorite.

After eating lobster, clams, corn-on-the-cob and a cup of melted butter, we finish off dinner with blueberry pie. I wish I lived in Bar Harbor just so every day could be as a great as this day has been.

The carful of kids have a reservation in Boston to get tonight and that is 275 miles away.

Getting to Acadia National Park:

Acadia National Park is open year round but there are seasonal road closures November through March, admission is $ 25 per car for a 7-day pass or you can purchase a NPS annual pass for $80. Acadia National Park is just south of Bar Harbor, Maine, and 275 miles northeast of Boston, Massachusetts.

Up Next: Boston in a Day

Making our Way Back to Maine

The Reversing Falls in Saint John River
The Reversing Falls in Saint John River

The carful of kids trekked through the Anne of Green Gables Heritage Place on Prince Edward Island, transported back in time as described by L. M. Montgomery’s famous books. We’re on the move again heading back to the US, but first, we want to see more of New Brunswick that we missed due to Hurricane Arthur.

The Confederation Bridge joining Prince Edward Island to New Brunswick.
The Confederation Bridge joining Prince Edward Island to New Brunswick.

The carful of kids took a ferry to Prince Edward Island (PEI) from Nova Scotia but now we will take the Confederation Bridge across the Abegweit Passage of the Northumberland Strait to New Brunswick. Remember it’s free to get to PEI but there’s a charge to get off–across the bridge or on the ferry; the toll for the bridge is $45.50 CAN. Ouch, but the ferry is more–for us it’s $ 75.00 CAN.

The tidal action of the Bay of Fundy cause this phenomenon.
The tidal action of the Bay of Fundy cause this phenomenon.

Back on the mainland of New Brunswick, the carful of kids want to see the Reversing Falls of the Saint John River which are caused by the tidal shifts of the Bay of Fundy. If you catch it during high tide the water of the Bay of Fundy goes against the downstream current of the Saint John River. During low tide, the Saint John River rushes into the Bay of Fundy making some intense rapids.

The best place to watch this phenomenon is at Fallsview Park on Fallsview Avenue in Saint John. The admission is free for the observation deck and there is a restaurant on site.

At the Junior Ranger swear in ceremony at the St. Croix National Park.
At the Junior Ranger swear in ceremony at the St. Croix International Historic Site.

The carful of kids head to the Saint Croix International Historic Site (84 Saint Croix Drive, Calais, Maine), open year-round during daylight hours and the admission is free. There is a Canadian park and an American park dedicated to Saint Croix Island. You will not be able to visit the island from either side and the Canadian National Park is not staffed so we stop at the American park.

In the winter of 1604-1605, Pierre Dugua’s French Expedition spent a hard winter on the island without fresh water or game, half of the men died. During the spring the expedition moved on but this was the beginning of the French presence in North America, especially throughout the St. Lawrence River region.

After taking the self-guided trail with bronze statues commemorating the expedition, we arrive at an overlook to see Saint Croix Island. The carful of kids fill out their Junior Ranger booklets and the Park Ranger gives us a great history of the area before we take the Junior Ranger Oath and get our patches.

Down the road from the Saint Croix International Park is Roosevelt Campobello International Park, where F. D. R. spent his summers as a child. It is open from sunrise to sunset during the summer and there is no admission fee but you will have to take a ferry and pass through Canadian Customs.

East Coast Road trips with kids, Maine with kids
Blueberry Land in Maine is CLOSED. We drove all the way from Texas to visit it!

The carful of kids are in Maine because my oldest son did a school project on Maine and wanted to pick some blueberries. Unfortunately, they had a hard winter so the season is running a little late. The blueberries are not ready.

While researching, I found this roadside stop that we are racing to see before they close in Columbia Falls, Maine. Wild Blueberry Land is a building that is shaped like a giant blueberry and everything is blueberry-themed, but alas it is closed.

Time for a Whoopie Pie instead, the official state treat of Maine.

Up Next: Acadia National Park