Thinking of visiting New York City with kids? Planning a family trip to NYC can be daunting. The city offers so many amazing family-friendly activities, it can be hard to sift through all the suggestions and find the best ones. Below we uncover 10 of the best fun and amazing things to do in NYC with kids.
No trip to the Big Apple is complete without a visit to Central Park. This magnificent green space is the unofficial backyard for millions of New Yorkers. The locals’ love of this park is especially evident during the spring when the Central Park cherry blossoms are in bloom. Watch as winter-weary New Yorkers emerge from their homes to picnic, sunbathe, and play sports in the park.
Central Park has many great features that kids will love, not least of which is the historic carousel. Other fun things for kids to do in Central Park are rent remote-control sailboats, take a bike ride, climb on the Alice in Wonderland statue, or play in the many playgrounds.
Central Park Zoo
Located within Central Park, this small zoo has wonderful exhibits showcasing penguins, fascinating birds, monkeys, and more.
One of the highlights of the Central Park Zoo is watching the daily sea lion feedings. Kids and parents will marvel at the speed and agility of the sea lions as they zoom through the water and jump onto land.
South Street Seaport Museum
This museum chronicles the history of Seaport, one of New York City’s oldest neighborhoods. There is a heavy emphasis on 20th-century seafaring, specifically the experience of crossing the Atlantic Ocean via large cruise liners.
The main exhibit compares the experiences of first- and third-class passengers aboard these ships. For example, first-class passengers enjoyed lush, private rooms with ensuite toilets, while third-class passengers shared rooms and toilets with strangers.
Admission to the South Street Seaport Museum is free and includes a visit to Bowne and Co. Stationary where you and your family can see first-hand how a 19th-century printing shop operated. Your ticket also includes admission aboard the museum’s fleet of ships, which include a tugboat and a 19th-century sailing vessel.
Before leaving the Seaport District, be sure to stop for a meal at the Tin Building, a Jean-Georges food emporium offering an array of mouth-watering dining options.
Walk the Brooklyn Bridge
Walking the Brooklyn Bridge is a quintessential New York City experience and one that’s great fun with children. One highlight of walking the Brooklyn Bridge is the incredible view of downtown Manhattan. Bring a camera to capture stunning shots of the One World Tower and Manhattan’s iconic skyline.
The bridge is just over a mile long and connects lower Manhattan with Brooklyn. Walking the length of the bridge takes approximately 45 minutes but requires doubling back and retracing your steps into Manhattan.
Alternately, turn your Brooklyn Bridge walk into a full-day experience by continuing into Brooklyn and heading to Time Out Market New York, another food market selling ramen, pizza, sandwiches, and more.
Time Out Market also has an outdoor rooftop patio where visitors can sit, eat, and enjoy views of the Manhattan and Brooklyn Bridges.
After eating, head over to Brooklyn Bridge Park to let the kids run around and blow off steam. They can even ride Jane’s Carousel, a historic 1920s carousel that’s recently been restored.
Staten Island Ferry
Riding the free Staten Island Ferry is another wonderful family-friendly activity in New York City. Board the ferry at Whitehall Terminal, situated on the southernmost tip of Manhattan, for the 30-minute ride to Staten Island. While on board you’ll have amazing views of the Financial District and even pass by the Statue of Liberty.
The ferry alights at Staten Island’s St. George Ferry Terminal. Unless the plan is to spend some time exploring Staten Island, make a mad dash for the return ferry which departs just five minutes after arrival. Just follow the crowds!
Empire State Building
It’s practically impossible to visit New York City and not ascend to the top of one of the city’s many skyscrapers. New York has five different sky-high observation decks to choose from, deciding where to spend your time and money is overwhelming. However, for a truly classic NYC skyscraper experience, plan a visit to the Empire State Building.
This iconic observatory is fun for the whole family. Snake through the queue toward the elevator while enjoying a riveting exhibit on the building’s construction. Learn how the building’s construction crew never stopped working, even at night, and how the building took less than two years to complete. Exhibits also highlight the building’s iconography as a symbol of NYC and its many references in pop culture.
Kids will especially love the elevator ride to the top, which includes a video simulation of the skyscraper being built. Views from the top are phenomenal. Look north over Central Park, and south towards the Financial District. Have fun identifying the various New York City landmarks, and perhaps start a friendly competition with the kids to see who can correctly identify the most buildings.
Statue of Liberty and Ellis Island
Lady Liberty has been synonymous with the NYC harbor since she was erected in 1876. For the past 150 years, she has stood tall in the mouth of the harbor, welcoming immigrants to her shores.
Visiting the Statue of Liberty and Ellis Island can be an especially formative experience for young children as they learn about the United States’ complex relationship with immigration.
On Liberty Island, interactive exhibits highlight the history and construction of the statue. The statue’s interior is open to visitors, including a walk up into Lady Liberty’s crown. The experience is interesting but be forewarned that the views are nothing to get excited about.
On Ellis Island, learn the history and stories of immigrants arriving in the United States via New York. This former processing station saw 12 million people pass through, hoping for a better life and new opportunities in the US. Learn about their stories and trace your family roots at the Ellis Island Family History Center.
New York Transit Museum
This unique New York City Museum covers the history of the city’s public transit system. NYC transit was originally operated by multiple private companies competing for patronage. Today, the system is a public service run by the local city and state governments.
The museum is built inside a retired subway station and contains a collection of subway cars dating as far back as 1907. Visitors are welcome to enter the cars, take a seat, and imagine what it would have been like to commute on any of these trains and trams. It’s especially fun to read the original advertisements still posted on the walls.
The Transit Museum is located in Downtown Brooklyn, just a ten-minute walk from Dekalb Market Hall, a great spot to grab a meal. With over 40 international food vendors, including an outpost of Katz’s Deli, everyone can find something delicious to eat.
Roosevelt Island Tram
The only aerial tram in New York City, the Roosevelt Island Tram connects Manhattan and Roosevelt Island. Riding the tram will delight kids as they soar between tall apartment buildings and over the East River. The ride takes approximately 5 minutes. Once on the island, enjoy walking along the western perimeter and taking in views of Midtown Manhattan.
At the southernmost point of Roosevelt Island is Four Freedoms State Park, dedicated to the memory of Franklin D. Roosevelt. The park has lots of open space for kids to run around in, and during the summer vendors sell ice cream. It also offers stunning views looking south along the East River, with Queens to the east and Manhattan to the west. Keep an eye out for the United Nations Headquarters along the Manhattan riverfront.
Roosevelt Island is a quiet refuge from the hustle and bustle of Manhattan. Before returning to the chaos, grab a meal at Anything At All, a trendy modern-American restaurant with a plush library-inspired interior.
Intrepid Sea Air and Space Museum
The Intrepid Museum is the perfect NYC activity for children interested in space shuttles and fighter jets. Built atop a retired aircraft carrier, the museum houses military fighter planes, a British Airways Concorde, and the Enterprise space shuttle. Kids will especially love the Exploreum Hall full of hands-on exhibits. They’ll be able to climb into an actual helicopter, steer the wings of an airplane, and more.
New York City is a wonderful place for a family holiday. With so many kid-friendly museums, parks, and activities, visiting New York City with kids is a thrilling vacation that will leave you and your children with wonderful memories that will last a lifetime.