New York in May
Ever wanted to visit the Big Apple? May is a pleasant time to go, with temperatures warming up nicely but not so hot you'll be uncomfortable, making sightseeing all the more pleasant.
And if you'd like to explore a bit more outside the city, why not combine a stay on Manhattan island with a road-trip out to the wider New York State? Stretching across tens of thousands of square miles of spectacular lake and mountain scenery, it's an adventure not to be missed.
In a nutshell
- Will suit: active families, those looking for an adventure, independent travellers
- Flying time: around 7 hours
- Time difference: GMT-5
- Average temperature in May: 22°C
- Tourist information: NYCgo.com
How to get there
- Fly UK to New York with BA or any of the American and European carriers.
- Connect to airports across Upstate New York or rent a car or travel by train.
Where to stay
- In Manhattan, check-out 1871house, a New York City style bed and breakfast. Located on the Upper East Side, not only is the location fantastic but the facilities enable those travelling with children to have home-from-home experience at the same price as a hotel room in the city. There are seven apartments in the five-storey townhouse (though be warned, there is no lift) and each has its own bathroom, lounge and kitchen area.
- Out in New York State, you can stay in castles, estates, vineyards, lighthouses, log cabins, even tepees.
What to do
- At the Children's Museum, kids can "drive" a bus, take an adventure with Dora the Explorer and visit PlayWorks, perfect for those aged four and under.
- The American Museum of Natural History has dinosaurs, animal dioramas and an updated planetarium. If your kids are ages 5-12, you can get a free ticket to the interactive Discovery Room, with puzzles and artifacts.
- What visit would be complete without going to Central Park? Play in the playground, run around, rent a rowboat or a bicycle, visit the zoo, take a carriage ride (horses line up on Central Park South near Fifth Avenue and 59th Street) or take a spin on the vintage carousel.
- FAO Schwarz is arguably the world's most famous toy shop, and is located at the top end of Fifth Avenue near Central Park.
- Times Square is a must, so you can marvel at the neon signs, ride a giant Ferris wheel inside the flagship Toys R Us or stop by Discovery Times Square to see its latest exhibit. Plus nearby is Madame Tussauds New York, so have a photo taken with NY icons Babe Ruth or Marilyn Monroe (or kid faves Miley Cyrus and Justin Bieber).
- Governors Island is open at weekends during the summer months - you get there by a free ferry (10 minutes from Lower Manhattan). There are usually lots of events going on, and the only traffic is maintenance vehicles, so it's a great place to walk, picnic, play or explore by bike. This is one of the best places to view the Statue of Liberty from the front, too.
- Prospect Park in Brooklyn is a nice alternative to Central Park if you fancy some more fresh air.
- Coney Island in Brooklyn has a fantastic beach. It also has the famous funfair and boardwalk. Its not actually an island, but part of Brooklyn and the subway takes you straight there from Manhattan.
- For other ideas, check out this guide to a child-friendly visit to New York, and this guide for teens.
Take a roadtrip
- New York State is similar in size to the United Kingdom. All 11 regions cover over 47,000 square miles, which includes 4,000 lakes and 1,500 towns and villages, so you'll need to plan, clearly. You could stop in Manhattan and make tentative moves out into the state, or go the whole hog and hire a car from the airport and not look back.
Some suggested routes:
- Broadway - from Manhattan to Albany
Trace an ancient Mohawk Indian trail and the growth of New York State on one of the world's best-known streets. Starting in Manhattan at Battery Park, trace the cultures of NYC and out onto New York State Route 9, into the Hudson Valley's lush countryside. End your tour in Albany, the State capital. Allow a full day.
- Seaway Trail
A 518-mile scenic driving route that follows the shores of Lake Erie, the Niagara River, Lake Ontario, and the St. Lawrence River in New York and Pennsylvania. One of the first roads in America to be designated as a National Scenic Byway, the Great Lakes Seaway Trail includes unique historical locations and cultural heritage sites in addition to outstanding views and scenic vistas Allow up to a week at a leisurely pace.
- North Fork Scenic Byway
The North Fork is home to Long Island's world-class wineries on this 36-mile drive. It only takes about two to three hours at a leisurely pace, so enjoy visits to many small farming communities producing fresh ingredients for local restaurants.
- In Manhattan, if you are taking your kids on the subway or bus, they ride free if they're shorter than 44in.
- Bring a sturdy, easily collapsible buggy since you will be spending a lot of time on foot.
- Don't try to see everything and don't try to cram too much into one day.
- If you're planning a lot of sightseeing, check out the attraction passes as these might provide better deals than buying entry individually. Before purchasing, though, cross-reference if any of the attractions offer free entry for children of certain ages. If they do (ie museums), you wouldn't need to pay for them anyway (eg MoMA is free to children aged 16 and under).
- There are ALWAYS free things to do in New York City - check NYCgo.com or ask in the tourist information centres upon arrival. Certain museums and zoos offer 'pay what you want' days or free entry during selected time slots. The Staten Island ferry is completely free and offers great views of the Statue of Liberty. The parks, bridges, Times Square - many of these icons can be enjoyed for free. During the summer months in particular, there are numerous free outdoor art exhibitions, theatre performances, concerts and cinema screenings. NYCgo.com also lists free activities just for the coming days.
- Street food is big news in NYC. Gourmet food trucks are a great place to grab a bargain lunch. There are also lots of outdoor food markets/farmers markets, plus supermarkets to grab snacks.
- Families with older kids might enjoy exploring by bike - lots of traffic-free bike lanes have been added in recent years. You can almost cycle the entire perimeter of Manhattan on paths only used by cyclists, joggers, roller-bladers and dog walkers.