I’ve always had a bit of a soft spot for New York and know where my favourite places are, but as we are heading to New York next year with the kids for the first time, so I put a callout for some fellow bloggers to tell me all about their favourite Things to do in New York with Kids.
Getting around – Things to do in New York with Kids
When you land at the airport be ready to pay $5 per luggage trolley. Having the kids moan about carrying their own suitcases is not the best start. Then head out to the taxi rank.
- Cabs – Taxis have a fixed fare into the city, so don’t worry about being ripped off. There is no legal requirement to use a car seat in a NYC taxi, but if you brought yours with you then feel free to install it.
- Subway – Just like The Tube, not every station is stroller friendly so be prepared to take the stairs. Alternatively check out the subway map before you start your journey and plan accordingly.
- Remember to submit your ESTA application on time. An ESTA is mandatory if you want to travel to the USA. Children also need their own ESTA, they cannot be included in the ESTA of their parents.
So in no particular order here are some ideas of things to do in New York with kids!
Here is also a post about things to do in New York with Teens.
Central Park is an oasis in the middle of the concrete jungle that kids will love to explore. Most people don’t realize how big it is and how much there is to do. Of course, there are several playgrounds like you might find at a typical park, but that’s only the beginning. You can even visit a zoo inside the park. There are several open spaces with views of the NYC skyscrapers perfect for picnicking and running around. The kids will have fun going out on a rowboat or piloting a remote-controlled sailboat. There are several nice paths to walk, hike, run, or bike in Central Park. In the winter, you must go ice skating. It’s a great thing to do in New York with kids.
My son and I stumbled upon Bryant Park while walking the streets of New York, an unexpected treat on our first trip to the city. The next time, Bryant Park topped our list of places to see. In Midtown, between 5th and 6th Avenues along 42nd Street, Bryant Park is a vibrant park that changes with the seasons. Year-round, it’s home to a carousel, ping pong tables and plenty of seating thanks to the park’s iconic green bistro chairs. The park offers a variety of activities like group fitness classes, juggling, kids’ story time, organized games (BINGO and musical chairs), and crafts and workshops. For the holidays, the park adds a holiday gift market and ice skating. Whenever you visit, soak in the magic of this park tucked among the city high rises.
Pro tip: Visit Bryant Park online for a complete calendar of events before you go and make the most of New York with kids.
Walk the High Line in New York with kids
The High Line is an elevated parkway that straddles the lower West Side of Manhattan and a visit to New York with kids wouldn’t be complete without walking at least part of it. The High Line promenades through New York City between dilapidated warehouses, striking new developments and over streets and sidewalks. Suzanne from The Travel Bunny tells us that imaginative planting, reflective spaces and intriguing art installations en-route will keep both you and your children entertained throughout your walk. The High Line, which used to transport cargo and freight across the city, closed in 1980. It was saved from demolition and re-opened in 2009 as a unique and unusual public landscape as individual as the High Line itself. The High Line runs from West 34th Street to Gansevoort Street in the Meatpacking District.
Kids of all ages will enjoy “The Ride”, an interactive, guided tour of New York City’s landmarks. “The Ride” is an experience unlike any others as visitors are transported through the streets in a high tech bus, while the hosts entertain you with their wealth of knowledge and jokes. The tour isn’t limited to inside the bus though, everyone can interact with people on the street through performers stationed along the route. There are different experiences depending on the time of year (special ones at Halloween and the Holidays), and the improvisation of the hosts is on point. We’ve never laughed so much on a tour, and we always recommend to our friends visiting New York with kids, or without! . “The Ride” does not disappoint.
The New York Public Library
Calculated Traveller Magazine recommends The New York Public Library is one of the most beautiful buildings in the city with its massive marble columns, archways, and majestically decorated high ceilings. With free exhibitions and docent-led tours, you can easily spend hours exploring the various rooms, books and displays. Children should head down to the ground floor to see one of their most famous exhibits — Winnie-the-Pooh and his friends Piglet, Eeyore, Kanga and Tigger — the original stuffed animals from the 1920’s that inspired the books.
Another great thing about the New York Public Library is that it is next to Bryant Park with big old trees, a fountain and gardens. Kids will love the classic French carousel ($3/ride), free puppet shows, story time, board games and ping pong tables. When the season turns cold, Bryant Park becomes a winter village with a skating rink, shopping and Santa.
Intrepid Sea, Air, and Space Museum
Museum of Math
Looking for a super-fun, educational, and totally hands-on experience while visiting New York with kids? Then head to the Museum of Math – located in midtown just north of Madison Square Park. This two floor museum dedicated to all things mathematics will have kids of all ages amazed at how interesting math can be! Exhibits we loved included riding the square-wheeled bike, building polyhedrons out of familiar shapes, and calculating our speed, acceleration and velocity (no knowledge of calculus needed, promise). The Museum of Math also has a great gift shop where you can find fun puzzles and games to bring home!
Read more about our visit to the Museum of Mathematics here
The American Museum of Natural History
Roving Vails tells us this is the perfect thing to do on a rainy or cold day in New York with kids, because all the fun can take you hours. When the kids get hungry, they have a full food court on site, so everyone can get what they want. Check out their website before you go, because the museum hosts all kinds of events throughout the month, including a sleepover in the museum!
When in New York with kids The Museum of Modern Art (MOMA) is a great place to start art appreciation in children at a young age. MOMA has two locations with one in Queens and one in Mid-town Manhattan. Both are close to subway stops and easy to get to. What is even better is that children 16 and under get free admission to the museum. With a city as expensive of NY, free is a great perk. MOMA offers a wide variety for your family. It allows you to take your older children to see works of art by the masters. You can see works by Monet and Gauguin and Picasso. For the younger children they offer hands on activity stations where children can drop in and make a contemporary art piece. These stations have specific dates and projects so check the website for more information. Also check the website for Family Films that are offered periodically. These family friendly films are a great way to introduce your kids to art. MOMA also has an Art Lab for children that is open daily that lets children explore different creative techniques. Grab a set of Activity Cards from the information Desk when you arrive. These cards will give your children unique things to do around the museum to make the whole day interactive. If I could give one set of advice it is pace yourselves. Art is a sensory experience and for younger children should be taken in smaller doses. Plan on spending anywhere from 1 1/2- 2 hours at the museum on a day. Weekend days tend to be more crowded so get there early and enjoy the amazing art they have for you and your family.
One World Trade Center
Empire State Building or Top of the Rock?
So which has the best view? The Empire State Building is one of the most iconic skyscrapers in New York City. Built in 1931 it was the tallest building in the world for 40 years. The exhibits on the way up to the viewing platform tell the story of its astonishingly quick construction – it was finished ahead of schedule! At the 360 degree open air observation deck there’s an especially good view of Lower Manhattan, the rivers and bridges.
Playgrounds along the Hudson River
FDNY Fire Zone
The FDNY Fire Zone is located within the Rockerfeller Center and is nice add on to your trip- especially if you need to escape the weather. It’s small inside but has lots of buttons and fire engine parts to play with. The best bit is the mock fire, where the firemen will run through a mock evacuation from a smoke filled room.
Carrie from Flying with a Baby visited twice whilst in New York with kids and the girls did not want to get out of the fire truck both times.
Visit to Coney Island
Eloise High Tea at the Plaza
A fancy afternoon tea at the iconic Plaza Hotel is a must do in New York with kids. Everything about this high tea, from the service to the scones, is exquisite. Order yourself a glass of pink bubbles to wash it all down and luxuriate in the elegant atmosphere. But the real excitement here is for the kids – the pink and pretty Eloise High Tea! Mischievous Eloise is the key protagonist in the book Eloise: a book for precocious grown ups and is a real favourite New York character. Her antics at the Plaza have kept kids entertained since the 1950s. The Eloise high tea is super cute for kids and celebrates everything pink – including pink lemonade, cotton candy and cakes. Fun!
Ellen’s Stardust Diner will give you a taste of Broadway with your meal. It is located on the corner of Broadway and West 51st Street. It’s popular, so after standing in line outside you will be pleased that all
tables have a great view of the action. Food is typically burgers and hot dogs and your order will be taken by waiting staff who have extra talents! The staff take it in turns to sing and dance around the diner and on a platform above the tables, because each of them is professional performer. They work at the Stardust Diner between acting jobs, and the standard of singing is top notch. It’s very family friendly; my kids were transfixed! Be prepared to tip well.
Dylan’s Candy Bar
When someone made up the phrase “like a kid in a candy store”, they must have been thinking of Dylan’s Candy Bar in NYC. This is the place where all your kid’s candy dreams come true.
It houses the largest collection of candies and candy-related gifts in the world – over 7,000 different confections! From its rainbow coloured pick n mix wall to the oversized lollipop tree and candy cane columns, this is a sugar high on steroids!
More than just a candy store, head upstairs to the café to continue your sweetly delicious experience. Get yourself seated in a giant cupcake booth and choose from a decadent selection of milkshakes, ice creams and desserts – including a 10-scoop sundae! There are sandwiches, burgers and salads too, but you’ve made it this far, who wants those?!
Mum and Dad aren’t forgotten either, there’s a fully stocked bar so a few alcohol-fuelled chocolate martini’s might help you deal with the sugar-fuelled excitement!
Take in a Broadway Show
Taking kids to a Broadway show is a great way to get them excited about the theatre and culture that New York has to offer. As a former public school teacher, our students adored taking a trip to see a show. They buzzed about it for weeks afterwards! A great way to save money is to get matinee tickets, which also helps make sure they will still be awake for the duration of the performance! While not all shows are age-appropriate, there are many great shows that kids will adore. If you choose to see Hamilton, there are many great spots in NY to explore Alexander Hamilton’s legacy before and after the performance
The SeaGlass Carousel
Every young child likes a merry-go-round so Globetotting guarantees that they’ll love the SeaGlass Carousel in New York. Located in Battery Park at the southern tip of Manhattan Island, this underwater-themed carousel is a magical, ethereal ride that looks like it should be on the pages of a fairy tale. Riders sit inside one of 30 enormous candy-floss-coloured fish and move up and down and swirl around as though swimming through the ocean. Lights change colour and individual speakers broadcast aquatic sounds and music that was composed especially for the ride. All the fish are modelled after an actual species and include clown triggerfish, angelfish and more.
Eat the original- cookie dough, Magnolia cupcakes, cronuts, crack pie
Kids love food – and they will love the fun food crazes that start in New York City. New Yorkers love cupcakes and kids do too! Magnolia Bakery, which started this whole cupcake craze, has several branches around the city, but my favourite is the original on Bleecker Street in the West Village. Red Velvet is a perennial favourite, but there are also fun seasonal flavours such as chocolate peppermint. Something else that kids love? Cookie dough. DO in Greenwich Village is the go-to place for cookie dough, and there can be lines. It’s quite safe to eat because they use pasteurised eggs and kids will love flavors like Nuts For Nuts (peanut butter + Reese’s Cups + Reese’s Pieces) and seasonal flavours such as Winter Wondoland (sugar cookie + white chips + sprinkles). Want more sugar? Crack Pie at Momofuku’s Milk Bar is an absolute must. Milk Bar has other fun foods, but Crack Pie is as addictive as – well – crack. It may not sound kid-friendly, but the oat cookie base and brown sugary filling will have your kids begging for more. These fun food crazes are fun treats for your kids that will make their vacation extra special and give them the full New York City experience.
One of the newest family attractions in NYC is Gulliver’s Gate. This little miniature world is so cool, the whole family will just love it!
This is the world’s most technologically advanced, interactive display of miniatures- everything is tiny, but you will have big-time fun at this attraction. This modern and interactive museum with plenty to discover,
offers miniature figures of world of famous buildings, all over the world at one time. There’s miniature worlds from the USA, Europe, Asia and even a fully operational miniature airport!
Kids and adults alike will love discovering new little detail in the various worlds and checking out cities that they have visited too. No doubt the little ones will particularly love the key they are given upon entry, which can be used used to activate different parts of the miniature sets.
Gullivers Gate is located right in the heart of time square and is open between 10am and 8pm. Great addition to New York with kids.
Roosevelt Island Cable Car
Water Taxi Around the Tip of Manhattan
When we visited New York two years ago with our then two-year-old son, we were debating about going across to the Statue of Liberty. We had also been recommended the Staten Island ferry. But while walking towards Battery Park we were met by a tour guide representative and we ended up on the Zephyr boat tour, a one-hour tour of New York provided by the Liberty Cruise company. And we all thoroughly enjoyed it.
The tour runs on a ferry boat from Pier 16, up under the Brooklyn Bridge, back down around the tip of Manhattan and half way up between Manhattan and New Jersey and down beside the Statue of Liberty before returning to Pier 16. For us adults, we had a narrated tour of New York and our host was very funny. He provided lots of jokes in between the facts about New York, New Jersey and Manhattan Island. For our son, he loved seeing the waves, other boats and also the helicopters flying in and out of Manhattan.
It costs us $30 two years ago, our son was free of charge due to his age and then length of the tour was more than sufficient for us. I believe children between the ages of 3 and 12 were charged at $19. We also got to see the Statue of Liberty from the water without needing to leave the boat and navigate our way through the crowds. The boat had plenty of both indoor and outdoor seating across two levels. There were toilets on board and also drinks and snacks available to purchase at the on-board bar. If we visit New York again we’ll be taking a tour like this again as it’s one of the best things to do in New York with a toddler and in New York with kids.
The Bushwick Chronicle
Bushwick is a small neighbourhood in Brooklyn and since the early 2000’s it has become a haven for artists and bohemian residents. Both new and old residents have worked at reinvigorating this area of New York, with one aspect resulting in the emergence of the Bushwick chronicle.
The streets and vacant lots have become Urban canvases which see resident artists and visitors putting their mark on the streets for the world to see. The Bushwick chronicle is a great place to witness stunning street art and learn about urban redevelopment projects and the unique way people can contribute. A short metro ride from Manhattan and the Brooklyn bridge, visiting the chronicle would be a day in New York with kids well spent.
Exploring Chinatown and a Visit to the Lower East Side Tenement Museum
If you’re looking for a fun and unique way to explore lower Manhattan, a great 1 Day itinerary (or even half a day), is wandering around Chinatown and taking a tour of the Lower East Side Tenement Museum. When my family and I did this itinerary, we began at the museum, followed by walking around and lunching in vibrant Chinatown. But please note the museum is best suited for kids ages 8 and up. If you have younger kids, I would skip the museum and just take in Chinatown for all that it has to offer! For those with older kids, the Tenement Museum is very well-done and educational in a fun and interesting way. It’s dedicated to New York City’s immigrants, and how they came to shape the NYC we know today. Real apartments with real life remnants from a bygone time can be toured, with the tour guide making it super engaging for the kids. My girls loved it, and most importantly, learned about a slice of New York history. Afterward, we walked around bustling Chinatown and had lunch at the ever-popular Nom Wah Tea Parlor, a must-try for anyone who likes dim sum! You can read more about things to do in Chinatown, as well as the Tenement Museum, in my Chinatown and Lower East Side Tenement Museum post.
Explore with Kids in Soho
People don’t typically associate this trendy Lower-Manhattan neighborhood with kids…fancy hotels, high-end shopping and late-night drinks are more of what come to mind! But as with everywhere these days, kid-oriented places and activities have popped up more and more. So if you’re visiting New York and want to hit Soho and all its fabulousness, don’t let having kids stop you. Take them to uber-popular Black Tap for their “crazy shakes” and burgers (they will thank you forever), visit the Jacques Torres chocolate museum and flagship store, or make some art at the amazing Children’s Museum of the Arts. These are some of the things you can do with kids in Soho, and you can read more about it in my post Things to do with Kids in Soho.
Indoor Things to do in New York with Kids
- The Children’s Museum of Manhattan – a little secret to the NY nannies and mommies, which we discovered. Five floors of fun, aimed at pre-schoolers. There is soft play and sensory for babies, a Dora the Explora floor and numerous other interactive and educational exhibits, sure to tire out your little ones. Strollers need to be checked in (for free), with the option of checking in additional bags too.
- Natural History Museum – I won’t say much about this because it’s self explanitory, although I think NYC’s version is better than ours in London (although our building is more impressive)
- Toys R Us, Times Square – giant T-Rex, floors of toys and an indoor ferris wheel, enough said.
- Disney Store, Times Square – Not many people realise this, but the store does a pretty cool opening ceremony in the morning, where one lucky child gets to open the doors with the giant key. Make sure you get there early and stand at the front.
- FAO Schwarz – Not only do they host the giant piano from the movie “Big”, but it’s open for kids to jump around on. You can also make your own muppet, super car or classic doll (pricey, but special)
- Dylan’s candy land and/or M&Ms World – Erm they are sweet shops on steroids and I cannot be held responsible for any sugar induced, hyperactive children.
- Serendipity – World famous dessert parlour, but you will need to book in advance if you want to guarantee great desserts. Nobody wants to deal with the disappointment on a child’s face after you have promised them ice-cream.
- Basketball games at Madison Square Garden – This one is from Mr D. During NBA (Basketball) season, which is October to April, Madison Square Garden hosts family friendly games in the afternoon on weekends and holidays. Tickets aren’t cheap, but it is quite an experience if you get to go.
Outdoor Things to do in New York with Kids
- Central Park – The only real green space in the concrete jungle, Central Park has a whole host of things to keep kids busy, including:
– 21 playgrounds
– the famous Alice in Wonderland statue that children can be found climbing and hiding in
– a zoo
– Sailing a toy boat in the Conservatory water (we took our six year old nephew who loved it)
– a rustic, wooden Swedish Cottage in the park that hosts weekend puppet shows at 1pm
- High Line – Ever wondered what it would be like to walk above a buzzing city? Now you can. This is my favourite place in NY and its great for adults and children. Once an abandoned rail track, it has now been transformed into a beautiful green space spanning several blocks. Great for a stroll when you want to escape the busy streets, a place to sit or lie down and take in the sun, buy a gelato and even dip you toes or have a splash about in the water fountains to cool off.
- Baseball games – Another one from my sport loving, Mr D. Baseball season is April to October and tickets for baseball games are much cheaper than basketball games because of the number of games played in a season. So put your NY baseball cap on and go enjoy the ballgame!
Seasonal Things to do in New York with Kids
There is always something going on in NYC to help take in the buzzing, metropolitan community and here are some of my faves throughout the year:
March – Things to do in New York with Kids
– St. Patrick’s Day Parade – Get dressed up in everything green and head to Fifth Avenue for some Irish loving. There is green beer galore, but don’t worry, this is definitely something you can still take the kids to.
April –Things to do in New York with Kids
The Sikh Day Parade in Manhattan is a celebration of the Sikh faith and is open to people from all communities. Fantastic for everyone, especially if you like Indian food. Just note, that this is a religious event so vegetarian food only and no alcohol.
September – Things to do in New York with Kids
Brazilian Day celebrates Brazil’s Independence Day and takes over 25 blocks in Manhattan. With over a million people visiting, this is one heck of a party.
November – Things to do in New York with Kids
The Macy’s Thanksgiving Parade is a holiday icon. Starting at 9am on Thanksgiving Day, this three hour long parade has some incredible floats, giant balloons that tower over the crowds and ends with Santa’s arrival to mark the start of the Christmas season.
November/December – Things to do in New York with Kids
Check out the Rockettes, a high-kicking, all singing and dancing, festive show at Radio City Music Hall.
November/December – Things to do in New York with Kids
The ice rinks at Rockefeller and Central Park can’t be beat. Just think of it as having an ice rink in Trafalgar Square under the tree or in the centre of Hyde Park.
I have tried to cover most of the touristy things to do with kids in NYC, but if you want to live like the locals then mommypoppins.com offers a whole host of things to do (just be prepared for info overload on the site).
Just in case I have missed anything, do share your top Things to do in New York with Kids in the comments below and start “spreading the news”… New York…. NEW YOOOOOORK!
Photo Credits in this post to Mommy Poppins; Thrifty Family Travel, Credit Collecting; The Travel Bunny; Dale Cruse; Fifi & Hop; Dolly’s Quest; Falcondale Life; Mum on the Move; Little City Trips; Super Travel Bitch;