Big City Family Fun

Top Things to do in Midtown Manhattan

Theater-District
Take in a show when you are in New York City. credit: Catherine Parker

A trip to New York City is a bucket list destination for most. From Central Park to the Statue of Liberty, there is so much to see. Between the Park and the Stature, explore Midtown, an area from south of Central Park to 14th St. Packed with parks, museums, along with skyscrapers, it is one of the most popular areas for visitors in NYC. Here’s the  top things to do in Midtown Manhattan

A Broadway Show

Catching a show tops many people’s to-do list during their trip to NYC. The productions in New York are more elaborate than the traveling stories with different sets and more special effects. This is one of the top things to do in Midtown Manhattan.

For school-age kids, one of the Disney productions is an excellent introduction to live theater. Packed with tunes they know by heart, elaborate sets and glittering costumes, kids stay glued to their seats. For older kids, Harry Potter kept my dudes (18 and 14-years-old) entertained for the entire show, and they said they would attend another production with me (yea!).

The theater district runs from 40th to 54th Streets and from 6th to 8th Avenues. Choose from matinees or evening performances.  Purchase tickets before your trip.

Bryant Park

Depending on the season, find different activities at Bryant Park, from a winter ice rink and a holiday market to summer picnicking, it’s a favorite with locals and visitors alike. Additionally there is bistro tables, a handful of quick-service food outlets along with a carousel ($4 a ride, open daily with seasonal hours).

Located between 5th and 6th Ave. between 40th and 42nd Streets.

Circle Line Circles

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.

Departs from Pier 83 at W 42nd St. First Cruise at 10 a.m. Admission based on age and type of cruise and you can use a CityPass.

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Empire-State
The view from the Empire State Building headed west. credit: Catherine Parker

Empire State Building 

As the favorite building and known worldwide, the Empire State Building is a symbol of NYC. Opening in 1931, it’s an Art Deco masterpiece and National Historic Landmark.

Head to the Observation Deck on the 86th floor, the backdrop to many a movie. Another observation deck on the 102th floor.

Located at 20 34th St. Open from 10 a.m. to midnight. Admission based on age and you can use a CityPass.

FAO Schwartz

The legendary toy retailer now lives at Rockefeller Center with life-sized stuff animals, games, toys and even candy. It’s a must even for big kids.

Located at 30 Rockefeller Plaza, Open daily 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. (8 p.m. on Friday and Saturday). Free to enter.

Flatiron Building

Though its undergoing a renovation, the Flatiron Building is still one of the most recognizable buildings in New York City.

Located at 175 5th Ave.

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 

Walk through the Beaux Arts Masterpiece and the largest train terminal in the world. It’s a hub for subways and commuter trains along with a shopping and casual dining center. 

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 floors. 

Located at 89 E. 42nd St. Terminal Open From 5:30 a.m. to 2 a.m. Free to enter.

High Line

Created from an abandoned New York Central Railroad Spur, the nearly one and a half miles elevated walking path and park is a must. 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.

Located from Gansevoort St. to 34th St. with multiple entrances, some with elevators. Open 7 a.m. to 11 p.m. during the warmer months. Closes at 7 p.m. during the winter. Free

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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. Credit: Catherine Parker

Intrepid Sea, Air and Space Museum 

Clamber across the deck of the USS Intrepid to see a retired Concorde and one of NASA’s retired space shuttles. The Space Shuttle Enterprise is one of several on display across the U.S.

Then explore the USS Growler, a submarine. Along with several different different military aircraft.

Located at Pier 86 W.46th St. at 11th Avenue. Open 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Admission based on age and you can used a CityPass.

Junior’s Restaurant and Bakery 

With all the walking, it’s time for dessert. I recommend NYC-style cheesecake. Topping the best cheesecake list for years, it’s a dense, not-too-sweet and creamy cheesecake. I ordered plain and I didn’t share. It also holds for next day snacks if you have a refrigerator. I might have eaten leftovers for breakfast.

Located at 1515 Broadway at 45th St. and 1626 Broadway at 49th St. Open Sunday and Monday from 7 a.m. to 11 p.m. Tuesday to Thursday from 7 a.m. to midnight and Friday and Saturday from 7 a.m. to 1 p.m.

Macy’s Flagship Store

Visit the Herald Square location for floors of shopping. Its front displays are legendary during Christmas.

Located at 151 W. 34th St. Open Monday to Thursday from 10 a.m. to 9 p.m., Friday and Saturday from 10 a.m. to 10 p.m. and Sunday from 11 a.m. to 9 p.m.

Madison Square Park

With the original Shake Shack, this park is a good stop for lunch. Find lots of tables, mostly in the shade.

Located at 11 Madison Ave. Open daily from 6 a.m. to 11 p.m.

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

MoMA

See some of the most recognizable works of art, head straight for the Fifth Floor of the Museum of Modern Art. Find Starry Night by Vincent Van Gogh, Dance by Henri Matisse along with works from Andy Warhol, Frida Kahlo and Pablo Picasso. Great for kids with short attention spans.

Kids under 16 get in free and the MoMA hands out guides for family visits. Walk through the gift shop for unique souvenirs. 

Located at 11 W. 53rd St. Open From 10:30 a.m. To 5:30 p.m. Adult admission. 

The Morgan Library and Museum

Explore Pierpont Morgan’s three-story library, rotunda and study. The opulent interiors are a must for readers and Harry Potter fans since it looks like Hogwarts.

Located at 225 Madison Ave. Open Tuesday though Thursday, Saturday and Sunday from 10:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. and Friday from 10:30 a.m. to 7 p.m. Closed Monday. Admission based on age.

Museum of Mathematics

In a facility dedicated to math, learn how it provides structure along with pattern to the world. With hands-on exhibits learn about the importance of math in the everyday world.

Located at 11 E. 26th St. Open daily from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Admission based on age.

New York Public Library

Between the iconic stone lions, this building is the headquarters for New York Public Library. It opened in 1911 and is in the Beaux Arts style.  The steps in front of the buidling are also a popular place to eat a snack. Visitors can walk through the first four floors and the ground floor features rich architectural details.

Located at 476 5th Ave. Open Monday to Saturday from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Free to enter.

Radio-City-Music-Hall
The exterior of the Radio City Music Hall. credit: Catherine Parker

Radio City Music Hall

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. Art Deco theater features rich architectural details from a bygone era along with some of Bob Mackie’s Rockettes costumes.

Located at 1260 6th Ave. Tours are for private groups only at this time.  Reservations required.

Rockefeller Plaza 

Walk through Rockefeller Plaza with seasonal displays, like the Christmas tree, ice skating rink, or summertime cafe. Promethus statue is another must during your visit to Rockefeller Plaza.

The LEGO Store feaatures  NYC landmarks built in LEGOs, a must for all ages.  Find a Food Hall inside of Rockefeller Center’s concourse level. Free to enter. 

Located at 45 Rockefeller Plaza. Plaza. Open 24 hours a day.

Top of the Rock

With the some of the best views of Central Park, heading up to the observation area of the Rockefeller building  is also the best way to see landmarks like the Chrysler Building and Empire State Building.tickets online. A quick elevator ride later, explore three different floors all with incredible views.

Located at 30 Rockefeller Center. Open from 9 a.m. to 11 p.m.  Admission based on age. Reservations are a must during the busy season. A CityPass can be used for the Top of the Rock.

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 Tram

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.

Located at the intersection of 59th St. and 2nd Ave. Ride for free, if you purchased a MTA MetroCard for the subway, or $4 roundtrip.

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

Regardless of religion, St. Patrick’s is one of the pieces of architecture. Take a few minutes and 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.

Located at Fifh Ave. Between 50th  & 51stSt. Open daily from 9 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. Free to enter, though donations accepted. There is also an iPad-led audio tour available, narrated by Cardinal Timothy Dolan.

The Edge 

Not for everyone, though if the idea of standing on a glass floor 100 floors above the street below sounds fun, there’s your chance. And there’s more, you can harness up and climb on the outside of the building, 1,100 feet above the ground. The observation deck seems tame with its angled glass walls that allows visitors to lean against the glass and see below. Also find a champagne bar if you need a drink, before or after.

Note: The outdoor areas close in inclement weather.

Located at 30 Hudson Yards. Open daily from 8 a.m. to midnight. Admission based on age. Reservations are required.

the Vessel
The Vessel is 16 stories high and located in Hudson Yard. credit: Catherine Parker

The Vessel

A 16-story sculpture with 154 flights of stairs inner connected  with 80 landings. It was originally opened to the public in 2019 though it was closed in 2021, and remains closed.

Located at 20 Hudson Yard.

The Shed

Is a performance and display space for the creative arts ranging from performance art, to visual art to pop culture.

Located at 575 Hudson Yard

Times Square

As a top NYC destination, Time Square offers 24-7 lights and energy. Though head to Times Square in the evening or after a show to see just how bright it truly is.

Find street performers, art installations, shopping and dining.

Located at the intersection of Broadway and 7th Avenue. Always open and free to enter.

United Nations Headquarters

As the headquarters for the United Nations,  the complex includes gardens along with the General Assembly , the Secretariat and Conference Buildings. For an in-depth tour, reserve the guided one-hour tour (available in six languages)

Located at 46th St. and 1st Ave. Open Monday to Friday from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Admission for the tour is $22 for adults and $12 for kids 5 to 12 (kids under 5 not allowed on tours).

Where to Stay

Disclosure: Consideration for brands mentioned.

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.

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, you’d be surprised how much walking you can do in NYC.
  • The streets of New York are safe but be aware who and what is around you at all times.

One of the top areas to explore in New York City is Midtown Manhattan. From the Empire State Building to the MoMA find lots to experience. With parks and even cathedrals to see, spend a day walking between Central Park South and 14th Street. Here's the Top Things to do in Midtown Manhattan. Where to go in Midtown Manhattan | Top Sites in NYC | Best Tours in NYC #Manhattan #NYC

Catherine Parker has a passion for travel and seen all 50 U.S. States. As a former flight attendant with one of the largest airlines, there isn't a North American airport that she hasn't landed in at least once. Since clipping her professional wings after 9/11, she combines her love of the open road with visiting architectural and cultural icons. She is based out of Central Texas dividing her time between writing and restoring a 95-year-old house. She shares her life with her three kids and her husband.

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