Soar to the top of towering skyscrapers. Choose a family-friendly show on Broadway. Spend the day discovering the parks and sights at the edge of the Hudson River. Or, take your muggles to the Harry Potter store for a butterbeer. However you choose to spend your days, there are always fun things to do in New York with kids.
Whether it’s your first time in the Big Apple or you’re a repeat visitor, here are some of the highlights from across New York’s boroughs.
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Check out Midtown Manhattan’s Highlights in Times Square
From the New Year’s Eve ball drop in Times Square to the lights of Broadway, Midtown Manhattan is the epicenter for NYC tourists. Toy stores, Madame Tussauds Wax Museum, Ripley’s Believe it or Not! and the Disney Store are family favorites.
The New York Public Library claims the title of second-largest public library in the country and the fourth-largest in the world. Inside, make your way to the children’s section of the library where you’ll find the stuffed animal that served as the inspiration for the beloved Winnie the Pooh stories.
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Visit Bryant Park for Seasonal Activities
Nearby, Bryant Park hosts events throughout the year. It’s particularly nice in winter when the park’s green space converts to an ice skating rink.
It’s one of the free things to do in NYC and is a nice alternative to the always crowded Rockefeller Center ice skating rink. Bryant Park is also home to a lovely holiday market.
Book a Family-Friendly Broadway Show
The lights of Broadway shine bright in Midtown Manhattan’s theater district. From Aladdin to Harry Potter and the Cursed Child to Cinderella and The Lion King, there are numerous family-friendly Broadway shows to choose from.
Shop, Ice Skate and Explore at Rockefeller Center
The home to New York’s famous Christmas trees, Rockefeller Center attracts thousands of visitors, especially during Christmas in NYC. The Rockefeller Center ice skating rink is a bucket list experience for many NYC visitors. But no matter what season you’re visiting, the kiddos will enjoy a visit to the flagship LEGO store.
Rockefeller Center’s Top of the Rock attraction delivers stellar skyline views.
Find the Playgrounds in Central Park
Sometimes playing brings the most fun to a family vacation. In Central Park, there are numerous places to play. The park houses 21 playgrounds – each with its own unique theme.
Inspired by the nearby Metropolitan Museum of Art, the Ancient Playground features stone pyramids, tunnels and treehouse-like wooden forts. The Heckscher Playground offers separate play areas for older and younger kids along with fun water features to cool off on a sunny summer day.
Not to be missed, the bronze Alice in Wonderland statue is a Central Park favorite. This unique art piece features Alice and her kitten, Dinah, atop a giant mushroom. Of course, they’re surrounded by the Cheshire Cat, Mad Hatter, Dormouse and the White Rabbit from Wonderland. Enter the park from the Upper East Side at East 74th Street to find Alice and her Wonderland friends.
While exploring Central Park, check out Belvedere Castle’s Henry Luce Nature Observatory. Designed for kids, this educational exhibit shares information about the flora and fauna of the park.
The kids will also enjoy a ride on the Central Park Carousel and, of course, a trip to the Central Park Zoo.
Picnic Along the High Line in Chelsea
One of the best free things to do in New York, The High Line spans 1.45 miles atop an elevated railroad structure. Experience art and beautiful views of the Hudson River as you stroll along this popular park.
The High Line lawn makes an ideal spot for a family picnic.
Experience Playtime at Chelsea Piers Sports and Entertainment Complex
Need a little sports time? Chelsea Piers Sports and Entertainment Complex delivers, with more than 25 different sports to choose from. The Toddler Gym keeps little ones entertained. Older kids and adults can enjoy gymnastics, rock climbing, batting cages, bowling and more.
Enjoy some Downtime at the Chelsea Green Playground
Chelsea is also home to the Chelsea Green Playground. Opened in 2019, the Chelsea Green features an engaging playground and shaded seating. The park also hosts performances and displays of public art.
Explore NYC’s Westside on the Hudson River
Located on Manhattan’s west side along the Hudson River, the Hudson River Park is an excellent place to spend an afternoon. Here you’ll find Little Island, a former pier converted to two acres of beautifully landscaped grounds. Little Island opened on May 21, 2021, as an oasis for New Yorkers and visitors with dazzling views and an abundance of free education programs and performances.
Farther downtown in Hudson River Park, tennis courts, miniature golf, basketball courts and bike trails keep the whole family entertained.
Ride the Seaglass Carousel in Battery Park
In lower Manhattan near the Staten Island Ferry terminal and Battery Park, sits the Seaglass Carousel. Riders sit inside iridescent fish in an aquatic setting for this magical carousel ride.
Explore the American Museum of Natural History on the Upper West Side
Located on Manhattan’s Upper West Side, the American Museum of Natural History is a must-see attraction for the whole family.
Home to more than 32 million specimens, museum favorites include the iconic Tyrannosaurus Rex skeleton and Easter Island head that inspired characters in the movie, Night at the Museum. Download the museum’s free Explorer App for behind-the-scenes stories about exhibits.
Board an Aircraft Carrier at the Intrepid Sea, Air & Space Museum
Housed in an aircraft carrier berthed on the Hudson River, the Intrepid Sea, Air & Space Museum displays tons of military and aviation history, shares insights into life aboard ship and maintains a collection of notable planes.
In addition to the aircraft carrier, the museum is home to the Space Shuttle Enterprise, a British Airways Concorde and the Growler submarine. Hands-on experiences keep the whole family engaged.
Experience the New York Transit Museum in Brooklyn
Housed in a decommissioned subway station, the New York Transit Museum shares an interactive look at the city’s transportation system.
The only museum of its kind in the country, the museum houses a large collection of vintage subway cars you and the kids can board. There are also buses and hands-on exhibits to capture everyone’s attention.
Check the museum’s website for special family programs where the kids explore alongside a museum educator through crafts, games and projects.
Hop on the Ferry to Liberty Island
If it’s your first visit to NYC, paying a visit to Lady Liberty is a must-do. Located on Liberty Island, the Statue of Liberty is reached by Statue Cruises from Battery Park in New York City and from Liberty State Park in New Jersey. Ellis Island is also included with the ferry ticket.
Take a Day Trip to Coney Island
Venture to Coney Island for a day trip filled with amusement park rides, ice cream and, of course, Nathan’s hot dogs. Located in the southwestern section of Brooklyn, Coney Island sits on a peninsula in the Atlantic Ocean. A favorite for beachgoers in summer, Coney Island also has year-round attractions, including the New York Aquarium.
Take in Performing Arts at the New Victory Theater
An integral part of New York City’s cultural landscape, the New Victory Theater performing arts venue presents theater, dance, circus, opera and music from around the world with a focus on kids and families.
Visit the Observation Deck at One World Observatory
One World Trade Center claims the title of the tallest building in the Western Hemisphere. Hop in a sky pod to be whisked up 102 stories to the One World Observatory. You’ll be treated to 360-degree views of New York. One World Observatory occupies three levels and includes a cafe and bar.
Schedule Some Playtime at Brooklyn Bridge Park
Spanning 1.3 miles along the East River, Brooklyn Bridge Park boasts 85 acres of waterfront green space. Activity options include fishing, roller skating, kayaking and playtime on the park’s playgrounds.
Hop on the historic Jane’s Carousel for a ride. Housed in a glass pavilion beneath the Brooklyn Bridge, Jane’s Carousel showcases 48 carved horses and two chariots.
Bike, Hike, Skate and Picnic in Brooklyn’s Prospect Park
A 585-acre oasis, Prospect Park serves as a giant backyard for Brooklyn residents. An ideal place to spend a sunny day, the park provides space for hikes, bike riding, roller skating and picnics.
View the City from the Observation Deck of the Empire State Building
One of NYC’s most iconic landmarks, the Empire State Building showcases views of the city’s skyline from its 82nd-floor observatory and even more incredible views from the 102nd floor.
Given the attraction’s appeal, the best way to experience the Empire State Building is with a VIP experience. Observatory packages can now be purchased in tandem with the Empire State Building’s art deco-styled restaurant, STATE Grill and Bar. The package provides a skip-the-line VIP pass for the observatories paired with a two-course lunch or three-course dinner on the ground floor.
Packages are available at the Empire State Building Observatory and online via esbnyc.com
Meet at the Clock in Grand Central Terminal
No trip to NYC is complete without a visit to the historic Grand Central Terminal. Built in 1913, this architectural treasure was restored to its original glory in 1978 in efforts spearheaded by First Lady Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis.
Be sure to meet at the clock – a longtime New York tradition. There are also secrets to discover including the whisper gallery. Stand with your ear up against the tile work in the domed interaction of walkways on the lower floor and chat with your kids across the way at another column!
Highlights in the Bronx
When you visit for the first time, your New York City itinerary will most likely include visits to Times Square, the Empire State Building, the Statue of Liberty, and Central Park in Manhattan. It’s just what you do.
But if you really want to get to know New York you should check out the other boroughs. One that may surprise you is the Bronx. More than graffiti, hipsters and noise, the Bronx is a cultural haven most visitors to New York City never explore.
The Bronx is home to the New York Botanical Gardens where each season brings a unique experience. Explore a winter wonderland with tours, musical performances, and children’s activities. In warmer months the Haupt Conservatory displays a stunning array of orchids. In autumn take in the visual splendor of the Fall Flower Festival.
And during the holiday season enchanting model trains weave through a display of 150 landmarks including Grand Central Station, the Empire State Building, the Brooklyn Bridge, and Yankee Stadium, each re-created with bark, leaves, and other natural materials all under a canopy of twinkling lights at the Holiday Train Show.
Visit the Bronx Zoo
Home to more than 6,000 animals, the Bronx Zoo spans 265 acres that re-create the diverse natural habitats of its fascinating and entertaining residents. The Zoo Center – originally known as the Zoo’s Elephant House – is the historic center of the Bronx Zoo. Built in 1908 it was designed to look like a palace and is a New York City Historic Landmark.