[Photos to be added later. Hopefully.]
Several people have asked for our tips/tricks/things we learned. Here they are, in no particular order.
Added 7/25/16: This is the original list of sights and recommended restaurants we started from. Of the restaurants, we were only able to try Chelsea Market, Schmackary's Cookies, and The Melt Shop on this trip. I've previously eaten at Dos Caminos. All were fantastic.
- Don't drive into the city. Just don't do it. We park in the large transportation center in Stamford CT and take the Metro North commuter train (which runs 2-4 times/hour even on weekends) to Grand Central. Easy peasy.
- I prefer staying in midtown Manhattan - it's easy to get pretty much anywhere in a reasonable time. But the trade off is cost. It can get pricey. And midtown hotel rooms are small and very restricted about fitting a fifth person into a room designed for four. We would've had to pay for two hotel rooms, so found that renting a weekly apartment through vrbo.com was a better solution for us.
- Don't try the restaurants around Times Square. Nearly impossible without at least an hour wait which is unpleasant with hungry tired kids. Walk a block or two straight across to 8th or 9th Ave and you'll find ten bazillion fantastic unique restaurants to suit just about any taste and fanciness-level without the throngs of tourists.
- Speaking of restaurants, any of the well-known tourist places (even away from Times Sq) will have long lines. But if you're willing to try the hole-in-the-wall across the street you'll probably find a true gem. NYC is definitely a place for foodies. Chelsea Market is always a good choice - dozens and dozens of little counter places that are really one-of-a-kind and so good. And the Food Network studios are right upstairs in the building!
- We found the routine that worked well for us was to have a full breakfast at the apartment we rented; grab a light snack-y lunch wherever we were midday; then get a full dinner (either sit-down restaurant or take out) at the end of the day.
- I do wish there was an app that combined the subway and bus routes. We never took the bus (even though our MetroCards covered both) because it was difficult to figure out the bus routes/schedules in conjunction with the subway routes.
- The Met, Natural History Museum, and Statue of Liberty/Ellis Island are all pretty much full day activities unless you really want to curtail things to just the minimal highlights.