New York City is one of the world's most popular tourist destinations, thanks to historic sights like the Statue of Liberty and Empire State Building, world-class museums and dining, and an array of activities that satisfy every traveler. Keeping kids entertained and happy while traveling can be difficult, but fortunately, the Big Apple is packed with child-friendly leisure options to make it a bit easier. Check out our picks below for the 10 best things to do with kids in New York City.
1. Head to a kid-friendly museum.
Whether your kid loves dinosaurs, science, or fire trucks, there’s a museum for them in NYC. Bring their “Night at the Museum” fantasies to life with sleepovers at the American Museum of Natural History, where kids can see a towering Tyrannosaurus rex and go on fossil-finding missions with flashlights. For more creative activities, head to Children’s Museum of the Arts, which offers playdough, drums, puppet-making, a media lab for creating animation, and more for children of all ages. Other standouts include the kid- and adult-friendly National Museum of Mathematics, which has hands-on learning and numerous exhibits; the Children’s Museum of Manhattan, with areas for toddlers and older kids; and the New York City Fire Museum, which occupies an old firehouse.
2. Explore Central Park.
The streets of New York are not the place to let kids run free, which is why both locals and tourists head to the 843-acre Central Park set between the Upper East and Upper West Sides. Wide lawns, a carousel, a pond for motorized sailboats, an Alice in Wonderland statue, and Belvedere Castle (closed for the rest of 2018) are just a few of the beautiful park’s offerings that can keep kids busy, no matter the season. Bring a frisbee in the summer or a makeshift sled during winter. There’s also a popular skating rink until around April. And don’t forget to grab a hot dog or hot chocolate from one of the park vendors.
3. Watch a theater show.
Watching the magnificent “Lion King” or “Aladdin” musicals on Broadway are bound to be cherished memories for the whole family, with spectacular performances, elaborate sets, and well-known songs. “SpongeBob SquarePants,” “Wicked,” and “School of Rock” are a few other kid-friendly Broadway shows, and same-day ticket purchases at the Theatre Development Fund’s TKTS booth in Times Square can mean big discounts.
For a more affordable show, the nearby New Victory Theater is specifically geared toward kids and families, putting on plays, dance performances, and circus-type acts for kids as young as two. Additionally, they have autism-friendly performances that mean reduced noise levels, a relaxed atmosphere that allows talking and getting up as needed, and on-hand autism specialists.
4. View the city from above at One World Observatory.
Best for older children, experiencing the One World Observatory in Lower Manhattan begins with an elevator ride up 102 stories in 47 seconds. From there, visitors can take in a 360-degree view of the city skyline, East and Hudson Rivers, Statue of Liberty, and Brooklyn Bridge. Interactive iPads can be rented at the top, which, when held up, provide information on the buildings and landmark sights visitors are looking at.
5. Ride roller coasters and a Ferris wheel at Coney Island.
Locals and families visiting New York between late-March and October can make their way to Brooklyn‘s Coney Island for amusement park rides, a sandy beach, and Nathan’s Famous hot dogs. Luna Park offers the historic 1927-opened Cyclone wooden roller coaster, a 150-foot Ferris wheel, and lots of other rides and games for children of all ages. Summers at Coney Island bring fun Friday night firework shows and the annual Mermaid Parade.
6. See animals at Queens County Farm Museum.
For a change of pace from the skyscrapers and crowded sidewalks, grab the kids and go to Queens County Farm Museum. Dating back to 1697, the 47-acre farm is the longest continuously farmed site in New York State. In 1975, ownership was given to the Department of Parks & Recreation to protect the site from future development. Open year-round aside from a few holidays, the museum offers visitors a chance to see animals — cattle, pigs, goats, and sheep — and learn about farming practices. Events take place throughout the year, including a children’s carnival, family cooking class, powwows with over 40 Indian nations, and fall festivals. It’s about a 40-minute drive from Midtown Manhattan.
7. Stop by Chelsea Piers Sports and Entertainment Complex.
During inclement whether or whenever the family is museum’d out, head to the Chelsea Piers Sports and Entertainment Complex along the Hudson River for a host of fun activities. In addition to seasonal sports leagues and classes, families can drop in and take advantage of the skating rink, rock-climbing walls, batting cages, bowling lanes, gymnastics facilities, toddler gym, and teen parkour setups. Most drop-in sessions are in the $10 to $35 range.
8. Meander through the New York Botanical Garden.
Located in the Bronx, the New York Botanical Garden’s 250 acres encompass dozens of gardens that are beautiful and unique in each season and the Enid A. Haupt Conservatory — a historic, Victorian-style greenhouse. Kids can stay entertained in the 12-acre Everett Children’s Adventure Garden, which provides hands-on nature exploration and gardening. While warmer months bring water lilies and lotuses and blooming lilacs, wintertime means a tree lighting, carolers, and a model train show that consists of miniature replicas of iconic sights such as the Brooklyn Bridge, Yankee Stadium, and the Empire State Building amid greenery. A free tram can take visitors through the gardens.
9. Feel like a giant at the Gulliver's Gate exhibit.
Set within Times Square, Gulliver’s Gate is a 50,000-square-foot space that’s reportedly the largest interactive museum of miniatures in the world. By the numbers, the exhibit showcases 25 cities across five continents, with a total of 967 buildings, 102 bridges, 233 cars, and most importantly, 47 pizzas. New York is well-represented with a 9/11 Memorial, Grand Central Terminal, and Brooklyn Bridge, plus you’ll find Peru’s Machu Picchu, India’s Taj Mahal, Jerusalem, Moscow‘s Red Square, Rome, and much more. Visitors are given keys that unlock interactive elements throughout the exhibit. Plus, you can be scanned and turned into a small figurine for the exhibit.
10. Indulge in iconic New York treats.
For an afternoon pick-me-up after a day of walking, or a treat for well-behaved museum touring, head to one of the many establishments selling iconic desserts. The famed frozen hot chocolates at the cutesy Serendipity 3 are a tourist favorite, while Junior’s, known for its rich, creamy cheesecake, has been a beloved institution since it opened in 1950. American Girl lovers can head to the store’s cafe to have treats with their doll, while chocolate enthusiasts will be struck by the candy walls displaying M&Ms in seemingly every color at M&M’s World. Other dessert-centric shops include DŌ, selling edible cookie dough, and Dominique Ansel Bakery, inventor of the Cronut.
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