We visited New York City a couple of weeks ago. It was everything I hoped and more. We drove up to New Jersey to stay with friends and hopped over to NYC from there. They navigated the city and I tagged along with both kids to be ultimate tourists. They also have a daughter who is one, so we had two one year olds, one 1 month old and 3 adults. We met up with two other friends mid-day who are locals to NYC too.
In order to get to and from the city, we took the New Jersey Transit which was a pleasant experience both ways. On our way there we ran from our cars to the train so we didn’t have to wait for the next departure (30 minutes later). Since we didn’t have time to buy tickets at the station, we planned to buy them on the train. However, the ticketmaster saw my military ID in my wallet and gave us our tickets for free – a wonderful gesture since my husband is deployed and every adult on our trip was a US Veteran. The train was a little dated, but clean. They had restrooms, trashcans and the seats can easily convert to face either way. They are bench seats, so you don’t get your own designated space, BUT with toddlers the bench seat proved to be a bonus since they wanted to climb/stand and possibly fall off the seat a few times. The trek was about 80 minutes each way and was very easy.
Once we got to Penn Station my friends started navigating the Subway. This is where we encountered our first and only real obstacle we had the entire day; elevators. When I had a single stroller I had no problem lifting the carrier up and down stairs, riding escalators, or folding the stroller down and carrying both my kid and my stroller. Now I have two babies under the age of two. Neither can navigate stairs alone, neither will ever leave the span of my arms’ reach in the NY Subway, and my stroller is gigantic. With two babies, I need a big stroller. I don’t love the weight of it, but all the conveniences of having two seats, a big basket, the cup holders, large canopies, etc help me so much during my days as solo-parent. So, the stroller stays. Now, back to navigating the Subway.
We realized that not all of the stations have lifts to take you to the street level, not all elevators work, not all elevators go up AND down, the elevators are super slow, they are small, they are smelly and sometimes they don’t exist at all for certain stops/directions.
As we moved through the station we received welcomed hints and tips from some of the subway’s dwellers. We ended up being able to find the lifts in most of our movements. However, we did exit at a stop where the lift was on the other side of the tracks, we struggled to find lifts above ground to take us down into the subway, and we carried strollers (yes, the huge double too) up and down stairs. (Thank you to my friend’s Mark & Karl who man-handled that thing up and down)
SO, for those of you taking your kids to NYC --- let me help you!! Here are some awesome resources I have since found to help the Brave parents out there navigate the Subway with ease.
1: Here you can see which stops have elevators by borough: MTA ACCESSIBILITY
2: Here you can see which elevators are out of service: MTA SERVICE UPDATE
3: Fares – “Up to three children 44 inches tall and under ride for free on subways and local buses when accompanied by a fare paying adult. Infants (under two years of age) ride express buses free if the child sits on the lap of the accompanying adult” - CHILD FARES
4: How to enter the Subway; this actually slowed us down a few times, so it’s important to know! –
“A stroller will not fit through the turnstile entryway point of the NYC subway system, instead you must do the following:
- With your metro card in hand, approach the window attendant of the subway station and inform him/her that you plan to enter with a stroller.
- He will likely instruct you to swipe the card at the nearest turnstile, turn the stile to complete the transaction, and then unlock the emergency exit door for you to enter.
- If there is no attendant, swipe your card at a turnstile near the emergency exit door, turn the stile and then open the door – it should be unlocked or you can ask a passerby coming out.” (info taken from: http://thebabybumpdiaries.com/newyorkcity/tips-riding-nyc-subway-stroller/)
5: Download the App “Wheely NYC” – It shows you how to navigate NYC with a wheelchair or stroller and includes all the accessible subway information and street view images!
6: If you only have one child, pack light and bring a really light stroller. It will be easier in some places to carry the child and stroller up and down the stairs rather than navigate to find the lifts!
Other than the Subway hiccups, the day was fabulous.
We toured the 9/11 Memorial which is definitely family friendly and handicap/stroller accessible. (https://www.911memorial.org/accessibility-information) The only place where the stroller got difficult is the actual museum within the museum. We went to NYC at one of the busiest times of the year, so it was PACKED and we were shoulder to shoulder with other people. Take a second to imagine me trying to push my giant double stroller through the crowd - hilarious. By the end of the night I was making “beep-beep” noises to notify other pedestrians of me coming through. TIP: Buy your tickets in advance OR if you don’t (we didn’t) walk across the courtyard just outside the entrance and buy your ticket at the kiosk there. It doesn’t cost any extra and there was no one using them. Seriously…no one…but the line to get tickets at the door was really long, so I don’t think many people know those kiosks exist! Once we bought our tickets, we skipped the long line and walked straight in. Also, they offer amazing discounts for Veterans AND Active Duty/Rescue workers get in Free, so take advantage of that! Buy your tickets HERE.
After we finished with the memorial we walked the short walk to Battery Park where we could see Lady Liberty and Ellis Island. It was pretty cool to see those national icons in person and one day I would like to go up. TIP: Children under 4 can’t go up and you have to get tickets 6 months in advance, so keep that in mind too! Check out the accessibility info HERE and the ticket info HERE.
Eventually we made our way over to Rockefeller Plaza to the see the famous Christmas Tree and we walked through Times Square on our way. We ended the evening like good tourists at a local Chinese restaurant where we were able to get the giant circular table in the back. It even had a giant lazy Susan in the middle. I felt like I was in a movie. The food was so delicious, the service was prompt and the company was fantastic.
Overall, New York City with two children under 2 is doable. It helps to know locals, so reach out to your friends!! Safe traveling!
Fly Brave, Travel Often, See Everything,