As a city of nearly nine million, New York can be a bit intimidating, even for New Yorkers. Despite its size, NYC is a lot more accessible than you might think. That's why we decided to stop off in the Big Apple on a recent road trip from Boston to Washington, D.C. for a family overnight adventure.
A lot of people might shy away from driving into Manhattan for just one night with the whole family, especially during a long trip. Fortunately, over the years I've learned the secrets for a stress free single night stay in the Big Apple. Here’s a few.
DRIVE OR RIDE?
For a single night trip with the family, I recommend driving over taking the train into New York.
Don't worry. Getting into and out of Manhattan is a lot easier than you think. It just requires some planning. If you drive in, do yourself a favor and avoid traffic and tolls by using the Waze App. There are plenty of bridges into Manhattan that don't cost a dime, unless you're coming from Jersey. Getting out of the city is even better, as nearly all the bridges and tunnels out of Manhattan are free.
HOTEL OR HOME STAY?
For a one night stay, I recommend staying in a hotel in New York over AirBnB.
Anyone who knows me knows I'm a huge believer in AirBnB. But for just one night, AirBnB's cleaning fees are just not worth the expense. Not to mention the added complication of locating your apartment and the key (often not at the same place). I've always had great experiences with AirBnB on multi-day trips. But if you have precious few hours at your disposal, you'll thank yourself for choosing the convenience of a 24x7 hotel front desk during your one night stay in New York.
PARKING: ON-STREET, GARAGE, OR VALET?
I've always prided myself on my ability to find on-street parking in Manhattan and squeeze into spots like a contortionist. But while my parallel parking skills are great for day trips, I tried this approach on our overnight with mixed results.
We found a space right in front of the hotel, but it had to be vacated by 7:00am the next morning. No problem. I woke up early and moved to a metered spot around the corner. Of course, I had to pay the meter every two hours. All said and done, I shelled out over $15 in four trips to the meter.
In hindsight, between the cost, the hassle, and the risk of leaving my vehicle on the street overnight, I should have opted for garage parking, which would have run about $25-30 for a 24 hour period in the Upper East Side.
For hotels in Manhattan, I recommend you call ahead to see if they have a garage in the building and a valet service. Again, for a single night, every minute of your time counts.
WHAT TO DO?
As a choleric sanguine, I love to go everywhere, meet everyone, and do everything. But Manhattan is a busy and exhausting place if you try to see it all in a day. So, for our recent overnight, we took a more focused approach and explored the Upper East Side only.
Since we used to live only two blocks from the hotel we stayed in, I thought this might be too boring. But there is something new everywhere you turn in New York City, so I wasn't disappointed in the least, especially since Cecilia got to see our old apartment on 90th Street and favorite East River hangout, Carl Schurz Park. And honestly, with kids in tow in Manhattan, it's great to stay within reasonable distance of your hotel anyway.
Bottom line, I think the best approach to a one night stay in Manhattan is to just keep it simple. Avoid the stress and high costs we normally think of with NYC and just enjoy being in your own little corner of it. Drive to a cozy quiet neighborhood, relax, explore a park or two, and drive home. Done. Save the trains, double decker buses, and fancy restaurants on rooftops for another time. For a quick enjoyable NYC adventure, you'll definitely want to take a bite sized approach to the Big Apple.
What's your family experience? How do you tackle quick trips to big cities? Do you have any funny stories about visiting New York City? I'd love to share them!