There's nothing sleepy or slow-paced about the Big Apple, but it won't take more than a New York minute to get swept up in the exciting rhythm and pace of the streets, the subways, the traffic (both people and cars). Plus, there are endless choices of things to see, do, eat, and buy. Although the city might seem sprawling, the close proximity of museums, parks, stores, and restaurants makes it doable for children.
There are very few times of year when the Center of the Universe isn't bustling -- meaning no real high or low season for hotels or other rates. Although school holidays are extra busy with travelers, many museums have special activities or programs during these times to give NYC schoolchildren something educational to do on their time off.
Most locals agree that the weather's best in spring and fall, with temperatures ranging from the 50s to the 70s. Winters can be cold, but city-blanketing snowstorms are rare. Summer gets a smattering of pleasant days with stretches of muggy, oppressive weather. Since the city's mostly concrete, summer nights don't mean cooler temperatures. View more weather info.
New York is served by two large international airports, John F. Kennedy (JFK) in Jamaica, Queens, and Newark Liberty (EWR) across the river in New Jersey. Closer to the city is LaGuardia Airport (LGA) in northwestern Queens, which is mostly served by domestic carriers. Amtrak trains take out-of-staters to Penn Station and buses arrive at the enormous Port Authority Bus Terminal just west of Times Square.
Non-driving locals favor buses and the ever-running subway system. Kids shorter than 44" ride the rails for free with a parent. Metrocards are good on trains and buses, and can be bought with cash or credit at subway station booths, machines, and some stores (like newsstands). Or make like a real New Yorker and use those legs; wander the city's many parks and eclectic, walking-friendly neighborhoods. Taxis are plentiful most times of day, but it may be tough finding an empty one at morning and evening rush hours or at lunchtime weekdays. If you have time, it may be worthwhile to venture out to some of the locals' favorite hangouts to get a true picture of how the natives live, such as Brooklyn's Park Slope, the Upper West Side, Lower East Side & Chinatown and Lower Manhattan & the Financial District.
Some would argue that every day in New York is a festival -- just the normal transit of people feels like a parade. That said, there are some notable annual events:
The New York Convention and Visitors Bureau Information Center should be your first stop -- either by calling or visiting the website before your trip or stopping by in person when you arrive. Other useful websites: Gocitykids.com has information and been-there ratings from other parents on tons of sites and Nycgovparks.org's got info on parks and playgrounds.
Terrific restaurants and tempting shopping make it easy to spend a lot of money. But lots of hidden (and not so hidden) deals exist. Check out the TKTS window, where you can buy same-day discounted Broadway tickets for even the most popular shows. As for food, leave the heavily-traveled tourist areas like Midtown and Times Square for low cost and high culture. A noodle shop in Chinatown will bring an authentic meal at a lower price than a Midtown restaurant. Are the kids craving burgers? Avoid the showy theme restaurants and check out one of New York's famous diners instead.