Travel Journal #9: 24 Hours in NYC

This post contains affiliate links. Read the full disclosure here.

Ok y’all. If you follow me on Instagram, you know we took a pretty big trip to Scandinavia this summer. And I have SO MUCH content to share with you that I’m spreading out over the next several months. But first, we need to go back to the way this big trip started, with 24 hours in NYC.

When we first started planning this trip, going to NYC wasn’t part of the agenda. But as we started pricing out flights, we realized that we could get the best deal for our points if we flew out of JFK. So, we decided to give ourselves a long layover in New York City before heading across the Atlantic.

We flew in mid-morning on a Saturday and headed back to airport late afternoon on Sunday. And in between we had a great time packing our agenda with some of New York’s most popular tourist attractions since it was our daughter’s first time in NYC!

Checking in at Thompson Central Park

When we got in we took an Uber to our hotel: Thompson Central Park. This is a Hyatt property we used points for and it was such a treat! We loved absolutely everything about this hotel — it was comfortable and spacious and everything SMELLED SO GOOD.

Since we had already had a big morning flying into NYC and making our way into Midtown, we decided the easiest thing to do for lunch was to just grab something at the hotel.

Luckily Thompson Central Park is also home to Burger Joint, which opened in 2002 and has become one of the city’s most popular “secret” burger locations. It’s a tiny little restaurant, and we were so lucky we got there when we did because the line formed quickly behind us and I imagine the wait got very long. (So definitely go early if you want to eat here!)

The Statue of Liberty

The ONE thing our kiddo was most excited to do in NYC was see the Statue of Liberty because she has just learned about it in school. Unfortunately, because we were in the city for such a short time, we didn’t feel like we had the time to actually go to Liberty Island and buy the tickets to climb to the top and such.

So what we did instead of ride the (free!) Staten Island Ferry which goes right by the Statue of Liberty. You hop on near Battery Park, then when you get to Staten Island you can just get off (everyone has to get off), and walk through the building to get back on and head back to Manhattan.

This was the perfect way to see the Statue of Liberty for free and without it taking too much of our precious time in NYC. Plus, when we got off the ferry we were right next to the Battery Park playground, which was definitely what our kiddo needed.

Times Square + Rockefeller Plaza

To continue being the tourists that we were, we headed up towards Times Square. We really had no intention of spending a ton of time here, but you know, why not? A lot of what we wanted to do in NYC was show our kiddo things she might recognize and find some experiences we knew she would love (see Color Factory below).

But what we ended up doing was buying some pizza here, finding a little bench about a block down from Times Square to eat it on, and then braving the crowds because we needed to get to the other side.

After some pizza from Joe’s Pizza, I really wanted a sweet treat. So we decided to walk a few blocks to Rockefeller Plaza and get something at Magnolia Bakery. But while Gerrit thought his banana pudding was great, I was honestly I little disappointed in my brownie.

Then we hung out in Rockefeller Plaza a bit, stood in the Today Show Plaza, and watched everyone roller skate. Then it was time to turn in for the evening, because the last thing we wanted to do was wear ourselves out on Day 1 of our trip.

September 11 Memorial

One of the things I most wanted to do in NYC was see the September 11 Memorial. (Last time I was in NYC was YEARS ago…like really, when it was still Ground Zero.)

Unfortunately, I had assumed (wrongly) that because the Memorial is outside, it is accessible pretty much all the time. (Oops.)

While you can of course see it all the time, it didn’t technically open until 10:00 a.m., so we weren’t able to get up close to it. Instead, we walked around the roped off area around it, and watched the workers cleaning it (which was it’s own kind of special thing).

The thing about not being able to do exactly what you had planned though, is that it opens the door for you to see something else. Which is how we found the The Sphere in Liberty Park, just across the street and up some stairs from the main memorial.

This sculpture, which was once a central icon of the World Trade Center, was found damaged but mostly intact as Ground Zero. It’s become a symbol of hope and has been re-installed in Liberty Park and this was unexpectedly the thing that moved me the most on our short visit to the 9/11 Memorial.

The Color Factory

When I was planning our entire big trip, one of my biggest goals was to balance things Gerrit and I wanted to do (but that our kiddo may find boring) with things I knew she would love. Enter: The Color Factory.

This is an interactive museum all about color. In all honesty, it kind of feels like one big Instagram studio, but really we had a great time. There are treats and games and (he best part) a giant ball pit at the end.

When we first started going through it, I was a little skeptical. Like…this was it? But by the time we got to the end I was sold and this ended up being one of our favorite things we did during our 24 hours in NYC.

Central Park

After a little walk through SoHo, we took the subway back up toward our hotel to spend lunch time in Central Park. I had grabbed a sandwich at a bakery in SoHo and Gerrit and E got hot dogs in Central Park, and then we found a nice bench by a pond for a little picnic.

Really it was so lovely and the weather was great! Plus, already after walking through the city for a day, we were ready for a slightly quieter place and some green!

After lunch we headed to Heckscher Playground so our kiddo could run around just a bit and then we headed back to our hotel for one of the best decision I made on the trip.

Resting at the Hotel

When we were booking our flights one of the biggest questions we had was what we were going to do about having to check out of the hotel in the morning but not needing to head to the airport until late afternoon.

We decided to ask for a late check-out, and for $125 we were able to extend our check-out to 4:00. This ended up being some of the best money we spent on the entire giant trip because we were able to come back to the room, take showers (in one of my favorite showers ever), change clothes, rest for a bit, and head to the airport for our overnight flight feeling refreshed.

And that’s it! Our 24 hours in NYC! We had a great time and I’m so glad we got to add an extra little stop to our trip and take our daughter to New York for her first time. Now we need to get a proper New York trip on the calendar sometime!