Midtown Manhattan is jam-packed with fun things to do. From shopping and museums to Broadway and the architecture. Midtown has so much to offer. This post is the second installment of my ‘New York City’ posts. I hope you enjoy these top picks as much as you enjoyed our top picks for Lower Manhattan.
My family enjoys visiting New York so much that we will ‘tag along’ on Clint’s work trips just to have some fun. This gives us the opportunity to spend some family time even when my husband needs to travel. As always follow us on social media.
- 1. Times Square
- 2. Radio City Music Hall & Broadway
- 3. Rockefeller Center
- 4. The Lego Store, Nintendo, FAO Swartz & American Girl Doll
- 5. Whispering Wall at Grand Central Station
- 6. Bryant Park & New York Public Library
- 7. M&M’s World & Hershey’s Chocolate World
- 8. Intrepid Sea, Air & Space Museum
- 9. Spyscape
- 10. United Nations
Times Square is “CENTRAL” midtown Manhattan. The billboards, the lights, the action -it’s what most people think of when you say New York City. It is all that and more. For us, a trip to New York City isn’t complete unless we walk through Times Square. It’s a treat day and night. I highly recommend going during the day first and then at night. You will have your barrings better that way.
There are always people dressed up as characters – all different characters. Just be aware, they may say ‘take a free picture’ but they really want some money. Know what you are getting into when doing this. However, it is fun and my husband will sometimes stop for a photo opt.
Within Times Square there are several things to do. There is the Madame Tussauds museum, Gulliver’s Gate as well as Ripley’s Believe it or Not! These are fun museums but the costs can add up very quickly. I suggest getting a ‘build your own’ attractions discount ticket if you’d like to do a few of them. CityPass, The New York City Sightseeing Pass and Go New York have this option of tickets and allow you to customize your trip for your family’s interests.
Discount Broadway Tickets in Times Square
If a Broadway show is on your agenda there is a kiosk in midtown Manhattan called TKTS, it’s in Times Square. The tickets are for same-day performances. However, at their Lincoln Center and South Street Seaport locations, they also have next day matinee tickets. The key here is to be flexible with the show you want to see. In fact, it’s a good idea to have a few shows in mind. Just know these tickets, are the ones the theatre has released to sell. They are going to give you the ‘best available seats’ they have. They aren’t always the cheapest seats available but they are cheaper than their original price. We’ve had luck with some tickets here but we’ve also gone right to the theatre for tickets. Either way, sit on their infamous red stairs and people watch.
Radio City Music Hall & Broadway
I highly recommend seeing a show in New York City. There are so many that everyone can find one they would enjoy. We’ve seen the Radio City Music Hall Christmas Spectacular which is so much fun. The girls got a real thrill from seeing the Rockettes. Santa shows up at the theatre to start the show and it’s just magical. To see the beauty of Radio City Music Hall ‘behind the scenes’ take their Back Stage tour. You will even meet a Rockette.
We’ve also seen the Lion King and Aladdin. Both of them are amazing. After Aladdin, my whole family couldn’t stop talking about how the magic carpet really flies. Of course, as adults, my husband and I were scanning the whole stage for any mechanical equipment that helped the carpet fly and we honestly couldn’t see anything. It really is a magical show.
There is a lot to see and do around Rockefeller Center as well. As I mentioned in my post on Lower Manhattan, choose 1 of the observation decks around the city to visit. Top of the Rock (Rockefeller Center) is a quieter space with amazing views of Central Park and northern Manhattan. However, there is an obstructed view of the Chrysler building which is one of my favs. If you visit during Christmas time you will also get a great view of the Christmas tree and ice skating rink. Even if you are there at another time you can see three secret roof gardens from your vantage point.
Visiting the Today Show can be a ton of fun. A few things to note. To be next to the barriers you need to get there early like 6 am early. The cast as a whole doesn’t come out till the 8 o’clock hour so you will be waiting a while. We brought our trusty folding stool (see below) which made it so much easier for the kids (and parents.) We used these stools while watching the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade as well. You can either make your own sign or use one of their posters to make a sign. We were lucky to shake hands with Al Roker the last time we went. You do need to go through the security gates – it’s just like airport security – which is on 48th St between 5th & 6th.
The Lego Store, Nintendo, FAO Swartz & American Girl Doll in Midtown Manhattan
I couldn’t write this post without mentioning a few of our favorite stores to visit in Midtown Manhattan. In Rockefeller Center, there is the Lego Store, FAO Swartz, American Girl Doll, and Nintendo. They will be crowded no doubt but it’s always fun to see what new toys are offered this year. We either try to limit the time in a store or direct them to the ‘item’ the girls think they want to buy.
The Lego store has the figurine making station if you would like to get your kiddo something small. The store is quite small and very crowded. You must enter by the entrance to Rockefeller Center. You exit onto 50th street.
The American Girl Doll Store is quite large and has 2 floors for you to enjoy. If you plan to eat here or have any salon experience make reservations.
Nintendo has vintage old and new items for purchase. You can also play a game on their huge screen on their Nintendo switch. Our girls don’t know any of these games so we lost quickly. However, it was still fun for them. Be prepared to wait in line for this.
Do you remember the movie ‘Big’ with Tom Hanks? Well, the scene with the piano keyboard on the floor that Tom dances on, it’s shot inside FAO Swartz. You can play on this lifesize piano upstairs as you look out onto Rockefeller Center.
Whispering Wall at Grand Central Station
The Iconic Grand Central Station in midtown Manhattan is so beautiful and worth a visit on any trip but for some fun head downstairs. In front of the Oyster Bar & Restaurant, you might see people facing the corner like they’ve been naughty. They haven’t, they’re just having some fun. If you whisper into the corners the tiled arches above will carry your words across to the person in the opposite corner. Have some fun but be careful of who you are talking to on the other end. If you are into finding geocaches or would like to try there is one not too far from Grand Central. Have fun finding it.
Bryant Park & New York Public Library in Midtown Manhattan
Bryant Park is small but oh so lovely. Known affectionately as the ‘Town Square’ in Midtown Manhattan. There is a carousel, an outdoor market, food stalls and sometimes even performances. The Christmas market is a lot of fun to peruse and they even offer free ice skating in winter. However, my favorite was the variety of food offered. See all that Bryant Park offers.
The New York Public Library, next to Bryant Park is an impressive structure with its lion’s Patience and Fortitude sitting out front. I do love my architecture and New York City, and especially this part of midtown Manhattan has a ton of amazing architecture. The library is one of them. The children’s room at this library is really special, especially if you like Winnie the Pooh. For the original Winnie the Pooh and friends are housed in the library. Just seeing the original stuffed bear and other animals are special. The library offers many children’s programs to enjoy as well.
M&M World & Hershey’s Chocolate World
We love the M&M World store so much that we visit every time we are in Midtown Manhattan. It’s a must for us and we have even waited at the door and been the first people into the store. Yes, we are crazy! And yes, we love our M&M’s. Therefore it’s no surprise my family bought me M&M pajama pants for Christmas one year. *** Thankfully they don’t have a dispenser for the bags you use to select your M&Ms. You will need to see an associate to get a bag. This ensures an adult is helping any child.
The M&M store and Hershey’s World are quite different but both are worth a stop. Hershey’s World is great for samples as you enter as well as treats in the store. They have a snack bar that you can order cupcakes, s’ mores and their lovely hot chocolate. If you are looking for a sit-down meal they offer that as well with a chocolate theme to the menu. Some fun things to do while there are to personalize a candy wrapper (we did this as a Christmas present- it was super fun), create your own candy bar and taking a tour which includes a ride. The tour is free but the other experiences cost money. Check their website for prices and to book.
Intrepid Sea, Air & Space Museum
For General Admission – $33 for adults, $31 for seniors and $24 for kids 5-12-years-old. For prices on all tours and simulator experiences check their website.
The Intrepid Museum is the epitome of hands-on museums in Midtown Manhattan. These are the kinds of museums I think come alive for kids, and adults. It doesn’t matter if you like boats -OK ships, submarines, airplanes or the space shuttle, they are all here for you to explore. Don’t miss seeing the international space center in the ISS VR Experience. As for the planes, there are so many it’s unbelievable. They have planes from all 5 branches of the US Military but also from other countries as well. Of course, no trip would be complete without seeing the Concord up close and personal.
To enhance your visit you can get the audio tour or to see and experience the intrepid deeper consider a guided tour. The Anchor’s aweigh tour is for kids ages 5-12 while the below decks tour is for 16 and older. Either way, you will need to plan ahead and make your reservations as these tours are only offered on the weekend.
For General Admission – $39 for adults and $32 for kids 3-12 years old. For prices on extra experiences check their website.
If you like all things spy, you’ll like Spyscape. This interactive spy museum has you answer a series of questions and go through 5 stations to see what kind of spy you would be. The 5 stations were a lot of fun testing everything from your ability of observation to agility. I think our favorite station was the laser tag tunnel. You need to hit the lit circles fast if you want a high score. However, don’t get in the path of a laser beam or you will lose 5 seconds off your allotted time. The questions at the kiosks are meant to calculate your intelligence, trustworthiness, and cunning ability, among other things. It felt like one of those tests you take where you are asked the same questions in several different ways. I personally answered them differently just to see what I’d get at the end.
The picture on the left is Clint on the monitor, with only 10 seconds left when the lasers go away and you can hit every button possible to get a high score. Clint got 122 on that try. You can go multiple times to beat your score. Evelyn is about to go into the laser tunnel here. You can see all the lasers you need to avoid while hitting the circles. We all had a lot of fun with this task.
In the end, the computer reads the chip in your wrist band (Evelyn is wearing the wrist band in the picture above)and tells you which type of spy you would be. Clint is supposed to be a Special Ops Officer, Ainsley would be a Technical Ops Officer, Evelyn would be an Intelligence Operative and I would be an Intelligence Analyst. Mine sounds the least fun of all of them. Also, the gift shop had some really great spy-related games, toys, and books.
*** A side note, there is a bunch of reading for all the kiosk questions so I wouldn’t recommend this for young children.
$20 for adults, $13 for seniors and students 13+, $11 for kids ages 5-12 years old. For tickets and to book tours check their website.
The United Nations is located right on the East River in Midtown Manhattan with stunning views of the river, Roosevelt Island, and Queens. The first floor of the UN and the grounds are open to the public. However, to really get an understanding of what happens at the UN you should take a tour. For kids ages 5-10 (no one under 5 can take a tour) there is a great kids tour that teaches them to be global citizens. The UN has a special Kids Corridor that has interactive maps and memorabilia. These tours are on Monday-Friday at 3:50 pm but you really need to book your tour ahead of time. If you go on Friday the bookstore offers a storytime at 3:15 pm which is a nice way to start your tour.
For kids older than 10 there is the adult’s tour which goes more in-depth into the workings of the UN. The tour shows the different chambers from the security council to the economic and social council. You will also see many gifts given to the UN by the countries of the world. These gifts range in size and type from sculptures, to murals, to donating a room in the building. Seeing all the gifts is one of the best parts as far as I’m concerned. Therefore, do not miss the garden. The sculptures are amazing.
***Top Tip: Make sure to arrive 1 hour prior to your tour time. You need to go through security. In fact, you start the process across the street at the Visitor’s Check-in Office at 801 1st Ave at 45th St. See all the Security requirements and restrictions here.
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Have you been to any of these places? or museums? Which one is your favorite? Have you seen a Broadway show? Which one?