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Family attractions in NYC: The 50 best sights and attractions

We've chosen New York City's must-visit family attractions, from noteworthy museums and parks to historical landmarks and cultural institutions.

In this city, sightseeing isn't just for tourists—our A to Z guide of the best family attractions highlights the destinations every city kid (and their parents!) should visit at least once. Popular attractions like the Empire State Building, American Museum of Natural History and the Bronx Zoo are perennial favorites, but we're also recommending newcomers such as the Museum of Mathematics and Jane's Carousel. Other lesser-known kids' attractions, like Wave Hill and the Queens County Farm Museum, also made our list. Read through our top 50 picks, below, then start planning some outings to these family attractions.

  • Family attractions in NYC: The 50 best sights and attractions

    American Museum of Natural History
    No matter which wing you wander through or where your little one’s curiosities lie (dinosaurs, ocean life, space), it’s hard to explore this Upper West Side fixture without being awestruck. The thrills begin when you cross the threshold of the newly renovated Theodore Roosevelt Memorial and spot the rotunda’s hulking Barosaurus skeleton replica. Head to the fourth-floor dinosaur halls and you’ll find astonishing fossil specimens. When the kids tire of dinos, make your way to the Milstein Hall of Ocean Life to gawk at the famed 94-foot-long blue whale model. Central Park West at 79th St (212-769-5100, amnh.org)

  • Family attractions in NYC: The 50 best sights and attractions

    Bronx Zoo
    Tweeting cobras aside, this wildlife park garners fans far and wide for a number of reasons—approximately 5,000 animals call it home. Strolling through the 265 acres, families may spot such exotic creatures as the fossa (a predatory, tree-climbing mammal) and snow leopards. More common favorites, including gorillas, also reside at the nature park. Kids will likely want to ride the Bug Carousel (choose from 64 enormous, brightly painted insect replicas) and take the Wild Asia Monorail to tour the exhibits that house the elephants and deer. Keep an eye out for the daily penguin and sea lion feedings, plus other seasonal activities like Boo at the Zoo. 2300 Southern Blvd at Fordham Rd, Bronx (718-220-5100, bronxzoo.com)

  • Photograph: Caroline Voagen Nelson

    Family attractions in NYC: The 50 best sights and attractions

    Brooklyn Academy of Music (BAM)
    For the last few years, big dreams for little kids have been taking shape in Brooklyn. As the blueprints were being drawn up for an ambitious expansion plan at the Brooklyn Academy of Music, Suzanne Youngerman, the center’s director of education and family programs, was secretly scoping out festivals, creating a dream roster of concerts, plays and readings for everyone from toddlers to teenagers. Finally, those dreams are coming true: The BAMfamily program launched earlier this year. Many of the programs will take place at BAM Fisher, the first new performance spot added to the campus since 1987. Multiple venues in Fort Greene, Brooklyn (718-636-4100, bam.org)

  • Family attractions in NYC: The 50 best sights and attractions

    Brooklyn Botanic Garden
    If you don’t know where the BBG is, you’re hardly likely to stumble upon it. Just as it’s hidden from the city at large, the city is hidden from it once you set foot inside. Wooded trails, rose gardens and a gem of a Japanese hill-and-pond garden await on the other side of the lovely new visitors’ center—a far more garden-worthy entrance than any other to date. And if nature alone doesn’t do it for you, the BBG also puts on some of the most colorful (and kid-friendly) fests in the city, from the Sakura Matsuri (Cherry Blossom) celebration to fall’s Chile Pepper Fiesta and Ghouls & Gourds festival. Plus, admission is free till noon on Saturdays, except on special event weekends. 900 Washington Ave at Classon Ave (718-623-7200, bbg.org)

  • Photograph: Courtesy Big Onion Walking Tours

    Family attractions in NYC: The 50 best sights and attractions

    Brooklyn Bridge
    We’ve got plenty of bridges in New York, but for inspiration and beauty, none can compare with the majestic double arches of the Brooklyn Bridge. On a sunny day, the pedestrian walkway is the perfect span for a family stroll, roughly one mile of magnificent views of the Statue of Liberty, the Manhattan skyline and Ellis Island. If you start on the Manhattan side, you can wind up in Dumbo’s Brooklyn Bridge Park; start in Brooklyn and you can finish the day exploring the goodies at J&R Junior. Either way, your family will fall back in love with our city from a one-of-a-kind vantage point. Enter at Cadman Plaza East near Prospect St, Dumbo, Brooklyn or at Centre 
St just south of Chambers St in Manhattan (nyc.gov)

  • Photograph: David Rosenzweig

    Family attractions in NYC: The 50 best sights and attractions

    Brooklyn Children's Museum
    When it was founded in 1899, the BCM was the country’s first museum specifically made for children. Today it’s one of the most comprehensive, with a huge permanent collection, including musical instruments, masks, dolls and fossils, and a green building design. Kids have fun while learning (sneaky!) at interactive exhibits like “World Brooklyn,” a pint-size cityscape lined by faux stores where young’uns can weigh ingredients and knead pretend dough at the Mexican Bakery, or shop for cans of Indian ghee and Turkish candy at the International Grocery. At themed weekends throughout the year (think Dino-Day, Presidents' Day and Science Fun), kids can take part in special workshops and events. 145 Brooklyn Ave at St. Marks Ave (718-735-4400, brooklynkids.org)

  • Photograph: Virginia Rollison

    Family attractions in NYC: The 50 best sights and attractions

    Brooklyn Museum
    The beaux-arts beauty adjacent to the Brooklyn Botanic Garden places a premium not only on cutting-edge exhibitions but also on art that will engage New Yorkers of all ages. The past several years alone have seen such kid-friendly exhibitions as "Murakami," "Keith Haring: 1978-1982," "Jean-Michel Othoniel: My Way" and now "Gravity and Grace: Monumental Works by El Anatsui" grace its walls. The Brooklyn Museum's permanent collections deserve a look too, especially its contemporary-art galleries, Egyptian wing and mummy exhibition, and two actual Dutch farmhouses, in the decorative arts section. 200 Eastern Pkwy at Washington Ave, Prospect Heights, Brooklyn (718-638-5000, brooklynmuseum.org)

  • Photograph: Anna Simonak

    Family attractions in NYC: The 50 best sights and attractions

    Brooklyn Public Library, Central Branch
    One of the most buzzing children's rooms in the city is Central Library—the imposing institution at Grand Army Plaza built to look like an open book (the gold-figure-inscribed entryway is the spine). Renovated in 2000, the kids' area on the ground floor hosts weekday visits for local schools. It also has a cozy, carpeted room for storytimes (complete with a spot for stroller parking), a dedicated, kids-only tech loft with computers, and an upstairs room for a wealth of after-school programs that attract kids from family-studded Park Slope, Prospect Heights and Crown Heights. Among the offerings are the tween book club and Ezra Jack Keats bedtime story sessions. 10 Grand Army Plaza, Prospect Heights, Brooklyn (718-230-2100, brooklynpubliclibrary.org).

  • Photograph: Marielle Solan

    Family attractions in NYC: The 50 best sights and attractions

    Brooklyn Bridge Park
    Some city parks were built to replicate rustic fields and preserve serene woodland. Brooklyn Bridge Park, however, was not—and that’s precisely why it has become so popular in the almost three years since it debuted. The project has transformed a chunk of the Brooklyn waterfront into a nearly 85-acre expanse; we're big fans of the Pier 6 Playground and its wonderfully landscaped play spaces, including the Water Lab, a stone-strewn area with water underfoot to splash in, and Sand Village, a huge sandbox with a molecular-looking climbing structure flanked by two long metal slides. Add clean bathrooms, a food court, spots for fishing and the newly-opened mutli-purpose sports fields at Pier 5 and there’s not much room for improvement—especially when views of downtown Manhattan and New York Harbor are the backdrop. From Jay St and John St to Atlantic Ave and Furman St, Brooklyn (718-222-9939, brooklynbridgepark.org)

  • Photograph: Virginia Rollison

    Family attractions in NYC: The 50 best sights and attractions

    Central Park
    Manhattan’s green getaway is a lifesaver for local families. The Olmsted and st sighVaux–designed space brims with kid-friendly attractions, including an ice-skating rink–cum–amusement park (see Wollman Rink and Victorian Gardens), the Swedish Cottage Marionette Theatre, an Egyptian-themed playground, the famed carousel, and plenty of free and cheap workshops throughout. The park’s zoo may not have giraffes and zebras, but it more than makes up for their absence with the colorful birds and frogs in the rain-forest exhibit, the endlessly fascinating penguins and the separate petting zoo (see Tisch Children's Zoo). Best of all, the 843-acre plot gives city dwellers a taste of the country with its countless trees and expansive green lawns. Between Fifth Ave and Central Park West from 59th St to 110th St (212-310-6600, centralparknyc.org)


  • Photograph: Marielle Solan

    Family attractions in NYC: The 50 best sights and attractions

    Children's Museum of Manhattan
    This one’s for the little guys: Many of CMOM’s exhibits are geared to tots ages six and under, including a Dora the Explorer play area. But with five floors of exhibits, there’s fun for big kids, too, including the popular (and interactive) "EatSleepPlay" exhibit. The museum also hosts traveling exhibits and special programs throughout the year (recent standouts have been The Grinch's Holiday Workshop and Bjork's Biophilia). 212 W 83rd St between Amsterdam Ave and Broadway (212-721-1223, cmom.org)

  • Photograph: Marc S. Levine

    Family attractions in NYC: The 50 best sights and attractions

    Citi Field
    While they haven’t been as successful as their Bronx rivals in recent years, the Mets can certainly be happy about their newish stadium (and its amazing selection of food), which opened in 2009. Aspiring sluggers are invited to practice their swings and check the speed of their pitches on the Kiddie Field in the Mets' Fan Fest section. The hot spot also includes a dunk tank and an area where kids can get their photos snapped with Mr. Met. Diehard fans will want to wander through the Mets Hall of Fame & Museum—keep an eye out for the 1969 and 1986 World Series Championship trophies and the wall of team jerseys. Roosevelt Ave at 126th St, Flushing, Queens (718-507-6387, mets.com)


  • Family attractions in NYC: The 50 best sights and attractions

    The Cloisters
    Set in a lovely park overlooking the Hudson River, the Cloisters houses the Met’s medieval art and architecture collections. A path winds through the peaceful grounds to a castle that seems to have survived from the Middle Ages. (It was built less than 100 years ago, using material from five medieval French cloisters.) Be sure to check out the famous Unicorn Tapestries, including the famous 16th-century Hunt of the Unicorn. Fort Tryon Park, 99 Margaret Corbin Dr (212-923-3700, metmuseum.org)


     

  • Photograph: Virginia Rollison

    Family attractions in NYC: The 50 best sights and attractions

    Coney Island
    While Hurricane Sandy gave Coney Island a major whupping in October, there was never much doubt that the historical amusement park would pick itself up, wipe itself off and get back into the business of entertaining America (Luna Park is set to reopen in March). Adults may dig the retro hipster tackiness of the scene, but kids just unabashedly love the thrills: ogling sword swallowers, chowing down on hot dogs, watching the Mermaid Parade from Dad’s shoulders and screaming through the most awesome rides ever. If you’re tall enough, dare yourself to ride on the Cyclone; otherwise, try something a little tamer, like the Teacups or Balloon Expedition. You can even catch a good old-fashioned minor-league ball game down the beach at MCU Park. 100 Surf Ave at 8th St, Coney Island, Brooklyn (lunaparknyc.com)



  • Photograph: Marielle Solan

    Family attractions in NYC: The 50 best sights and attractions

    Discovery Times Square
    The Discovery Channel is one of the sponsors of this large-scale exhibition center, located in the middle of Times Square, which offers limited-edition runs of unique exhibits from across the globe (think "Dead Sea Scrolls: The Exhibiton" and the "King Tut Exhibition"). The 60,000-square-foot space has introduced kids to everything from spy gear and gadgets to props and costumes from the Harry Potter movies. Adding to the cool factor is the fact that the exhibition center is inside the former New York Times building. 226 W 44th St between Seventh and Eighth Aves (866-987-9692, discoverytsx.com)

     

  • Family attractions in NYC: The 50 best sights and attractions

    Empire State Building
    Try imagining New York City’s skyline without the towering spire of the Empire State Building. Impossible, right? Taking a mere 11 months to construct, the 1,454-foot-tall emblem became 
the city’s highest building upon completion in 1931. (When One World Trade Center is finished, it will tower over the ESB by a good 300 feet.) During your family’s visit, pay special attention to the lobby, restored in 2009 to its original Art Deco design. Kids, though, will be most impressed by the high-speed elevators that shoot them to the 86th-floor observatory; there they can peer out at the city from a glass-enclosed pavilion or brave the elements on the open-air deck. 350 Fifth Ave between 33rd and 34th Sts (212-736-3100, esbnyc.com)

  • NYC Parks

    Family attractions in NYC: The 50 best sights and attractions

    Flushing Meadows–Corona Park
    Give the city’s second-biggest park a day and it’ll show you the world: Its most enduring icon is the Unisphere, the mammoth steel globe created for the 1964 World’s Fair. But there’s also first-rate culture and sports at the New York Hall of Science, Arthur Ashe Stadium, Queens Museum of Art and Citi Field. The rolling green fields also encompass a zoo, a carousel, a boating lake, a skate park, a barbecue area, playfields, and a $66 million aquatic and hockey center. The area's Playground for All Children, built in 1984, was designed to accommodate children with and without disabilities—it was the first of its kind in the country. From 111th St to Van Wyck Expwy and Flushing Bay to Long Island Expwy, Flushing, Queens (718-760-6565, nycgovparks.org/parks/fmcp/)

  • Photograph: Donald Yip

    Family attractions in NYC: The 50 best sights and attractions

    Governors Island
    The magic starts as soon as you board the ferry—is that dude riding a unicycle? Why are all those people dressed like extras from The Great Gatsby? Do I smell barbeque? In the eight minutes it takes to journey (for free!) from Battery Park or Brooklyn to Governors Island, families are transported to a world a million metaphorical miles away from the bustling city, where lush green lawns are dotted with quaint Victorian homes, giant outdoor sculptures beg to be climbed on, car alarms are replaced by jangling bicycles, and there’s always a quirky festival going on (hence the unicycles and costumes). With a full roster of free kids’ activities, including arts and crafts and mini golf, you can save your cash for the gourmet food trucks and ice-cream stands. And while the island is currently closed for the season, an ongoing $250 million renovation means that 64 more acres will open in summer 2013, including new ball fields, hammocks and gardens. We’ll be first on line for that ferry. Open weekends from May through September; govisland.com.

  • Photograph: Noah Fecks

    Family attractions in NYC: The 50 best sights and attractions

    Grand Central Terminal
    Train stations are usually something kids suffer through on their way to visit Grandma (let’s be honest, no one would choose to hang out at Penn Station), but Grand Central is a wondrous playground all on its own. You should begin any visit in the awe-inspiring main waiting room, where starry constellations dance across the cerulean-blue ceiling (see if you can spot the small patch left uncleaned after a 1990s renovation). Then take a tour to discover the building’s secrets (hidden stairways, the Whispering Gallery near the Oyster Bar, a private apartment that’s now a fancy bar), snack on Two Boots pizza or Magnolia cupcakes, or shop for treasures at Kidding Around or Little Missmatched. And 
don’t forget to wish Grand Central a happy 100th birthday—art exhibits, parties, concerts and a parade of antique trains will celebrate the anniversary all 
year long in 2013. 89 E 42nd St between Lexington and Vanderbilt Aves (212-532-4900, grandcentral
terminal.com)

  • Photograph: Wendy Connett

    Family attractions in NYC: The 50 best sights and attractions

    Greenwich Village
    Home to college students and famous artists, old bohemians and young families, Greenwich Village promises kids a surprise around every corner. The neighborhood is proudly off the grid (literally—instead of numerically ordered streets and avenues, you get oddities like the corner of Waverly and Waverly), dotted with tiny houses, secret gardens, quirky shops selling hand-carved toys and theaters where you can catch the best Japanese animé or a free summer musical for kids. But all roads lead back to Washington Square Park, where magical things happen on a daily basis: a classical musician tows his grand piano to a spot under the trees, while a spontaneous Beatles sing-along breaks out by the benches; tweens skateboard around the fountain while a team of street acrobats turns gravity-defying flips. Sure, NYU may own most of it, but the Village still belongs to free spirits.

  • Family attractions in NYC: The 50 best sights and attractions

    The High Line
    There’s something uniquely New York about this part of the city. Built on an abandoned railway track, the space is ingenious in its use of reclaimed industrial detritus, a necessity in footage-starved Manhattan. But what we like best is how the pathway takes you above the city while keeping you rooted in urban life: Where else can your kids walk through a field of wildflowers or go on a bug hunt as cabs zoom along the street below? The last section, the High Line at the Rail Yards, is scheduled to debut in 2014. From Washington St at Gansevoort St to Tenth Ave at 30th St (thehighline.org)

     



  • Family attractions in NYC: The 50 best sights and attractions

    Historic Richmond Town
    Youngsters today tend to think they have it so hard. But one trip to the historic village and museum complex will surely change that. Farmers, shopkeepers, blacksmiths and shoemakers—er, costumed interpreters—lead demonstrations and show children how Staten Islanders lived in the 17th and 18th centuries. A gander at the heavy labor people undertook in days of yore will have your kid thinking twice before complaining about his chores. The area also hosts food festivals, performances and kid-friendly seasonal events. 441 Clarke Ave at St. Patricks Pl (718-351-1611, historicrichmondtown.org).

  • Photograph: Virginia Rollison

    Family attractions in NYC: The 50 best sights and attractions

    Hudson River Park's Pier 25
    The dazzling makeover of Tribeca's pier, a stone’s throw from Battery Park City to the south, is a dream for sporty types of all ages. Tots have their own swing area and jungle gyms, while older kids can test their mettle on two climbing walls, a huge geodesic-dome-shaped climbing net and an elegant, Space Age–inspired play structure. Fountains with a mind of their own make cooling off fun for all. But what stands out most here is that the playground is surrounded by myriad diversions—a skate park for tweens and teens, a miniature golf course, an on-site snack bar and a field where kids can play tag or soccer or just settle in for a picnic. It’s also located relatively close to the Hudson River bike path and tennis and basketball courts, so when the gang’s had enough of one offering, you can easily move on to the next. Hudson River Park between Harrison and North Moore Sts (hudsonriverpark.org)

  • Family attractions in NYC: The 50 best sights and attractions

    Intrepid Sea, Air & Space Museum
    For little ones, the highlight of the aircraft carrier turned science museum is the Exploreum, an indoor activity zone divided into areas with nautical, aviation, cosmos and life themes. In traversing the zone, kids get to board small boats, learn why huge metal ships don't sink, wander around the living quarters of the Intrepid's former crew and try on astronaut gloves. The Intrepid gave families one more reason to visit in 2012 with the opening of its Space Shuttle Pavilion. Once inside, kids will get an almost tangible feel for outer space as they make their way under the Enterprise, which sits just ten feet off the ground. As they tread up the elevated viewing platform to the shuttle’s nose, they’ll even catch a rare glimpse of the astronaut’s life—and just how confined their quarters are when they’re in orbit. (Note: The Space Shuttle Pavillion is currently closed due to Hurricane Sandy, but word is that it will reopen by summer 2013.) Pier 86, Twelfth Ave at 46th St (877-957-7447, intrepidmuseum.org)

     

     

     

  • Photograph: Lee Magill

    Family attractions in NYC: The 50 best sights and attractions

    Jane’s Carousel
    For years, kids walking down Water Street in Dumbo got a tantalizing “look but don’t touch” peek at a magnificent 1922 carousel frozen in time (and inside a studio), waiting to leap once more to life. But patience was rewarded in 2011, when the carousel was given a permanent home 
in a specially designed, transparent pavilion steps away from the East River in Dumbo’s Brooklyn Bridge Park. The carousel is named for its benefactor, Brooklyn artist Jane Walentas, who purchased it at auction in 1984 and then spent more than 
20 years painstakingly restoring the ride to its former beauty. For $2 kids can climb aboard one of the 48 horses or two chariots, absorbing breathtaking views as they go around. And then they’ll want to go again, and again, and again… . 56 Water St between Main and New Dock Sts, Dumbo, Brooklyn (janescarousel.com)

  • Photograph: Caroline Voagen Nelson

    Family attractions in NYC: The 50 best sights and attractions

    Lower East Side
    Nowhere in New York does the Old World and the New mix as seamlessly as the Lower East Side. Family-friendly cultural institutions such as the Museum at Eldridge Street and the Tenement Museum give kids a glimpse at how New York’s children lived more than a century ago (tip: bring your American Girl doll Rebecca—she grew up around Rivington Street!), and the dizzying array of food options gives you a taste of what your great-grandparents loved to eat, no matter where they came from. Within a few blocks you can sample kosher pickles, lox, and knishes, dim sum, Italian gelato, Turkish kebabs, or gobs of British and German sweets at Economy Candy. Turn another corner, and you’ll pass restaurants and shops that are so trendy you have to wear shades. It’s the true Melting Pot.

  • Photograph: Courtesy of The Metropolitan Museum of Art

    Family attractions in NYC: The 50 best sights and attractions

    The Metropolitan Museum of Art
    Sprawling doesn’t even begin to describe this Manhattan institution: It’s one of the few spots in the city where your family could spend literally an entire day and see only a fraction of the holdings. Among the permanent exhibitions beloved by children are the Arms and Armor Hall and the Temple of Dendur. (Special exhibitions merit return visits year after year—recent blockbusters have featured the works of Pablo Picasso.) Workshops for kids, like Start with Art and Art Trek, help introduce little ones to different works of art; the museum also hosts family days on select holiday Mondays. 1000 Fifth Ave at 82nd St (212-535-7710, metmuseum.org)

     

     


  • Photograph: Caroline Voagen Nelson

    Family attractions in NYC: The 50 best sights and attractions

    Museum of Mathematics (MoMath)
    Rather than being a place to learn math, the newly opened museum near Madison Square Park is a place to realize all the remarkable things math can be used to create. Its 30-plus interactive exhibits include the Wall of Fire, a laser “wall” showing you that cross sections aren’t always what you think they are; Math Square, a JumboTron on the floor that connects each person standing on it by the shortest path possible, changing the moment anyone moves; and a studio where kids can create a 3-D design on a screen, for a chance to have it made into an actual sculpture via a 3-D printer. Most vital of all is that the museum appeals to kids’ sense of fun, their innate curiosity about the world around them and their penchant for discovery. 11 E 26th St between Fifth and Madison Aves (212-542-0566, momath.org)

  • Photograph: Robin Holland

    Family attractions in NYC: The 50 best sights and attractions

    Museum of Modern Art
    MoMA’s exhibits may be among the most adult out there—think mind-bending, esoteric and conceptual—but that doesn’t mean kids take a backseat. The museum’s wealth of family programming covers a wide children’s age range (4 to 14) and offers kids and accompanying adults everything from hands-on art workshops—in the past, kids ages 7 to 9 have done mixed-media works of the human form—and gallery tours to special family-only artist talks and kids’ film programs. Even more amazing: All of MoMA’s family programs are free, and entitle participants to free admission to the museum (note that some offerings require advance online registration). Now that’s what we call family-friendly. 11 W 53rd St between Fifth and Sixth Aves (212-708-9400, moma.org)

  • Family attractions in NYC: The 50 best sights and attractions

    Museum of the Moving Image
    Only 15 minutes from midtown, the Museum of the Moving Image is one of the city’s most dynamic institutions for families. The museum, which reopened in 2011 after a $67 million renovation, features a state-of-the-art 267-seat cinema and expanded gallery spaces to hold touring exhibits (recent shows have included "Jim Henson's Fantastic World" and "Spacewar! Video Games Blast Off"). “Behind the Screen," a permanent exhibit. examines every step of the filmmaking process, with artifacts from more than 1,000 different productions, and 14 classic (playable!) video games, including Asteroids, Ms. Pac-Man and Space Invaders. 36-01 35th Ave at 37th St, Astoria, Queens (718-777-6888, movingimage.us)

  • Photograph: Camille A Fernandez

    Family attractions in NYC: The 50 best sights and attractions

    New Victory Theater
    You have to push through the solid wall of humanity crowding 42nd Street to get to the New Vic, but what’s inside is well worth the effort. This gem of a theater was built in 1900 by Oscar Hammerstein and survived burlesque and the sleazy ’70s to become the finest showcase for children’s theater in New York. Each season brings a full slate of wondrous acts from around the world: Chinese circuses, Shakespearean comedies, French puppets and acrobats. The artists often lead families in workshops before the show, and happily meet the audience and sign programs afterward. Best of all, tickets cost a fraction of what you’d pay for other shows down the block. 209 W 42nd St between Seventh and Eighth Aves (646-223-3010, newvictory.org)

  • Photograph: Melissa Sinclair

    Family attractions in NYC: The 50 best sights and attractions

    New York Botanical Garden
    Every city park offers its own brand of escapism, but this lush expanse goes beyond landscaped flora. In addition to housing swaths of vegetation—including the 50-acre forest, featuring some of the oldest trees in the city—the garden cultivates a rotating roster of shows that nod to the world’s most cherished green spaces. During the year, visitors head to the garden’s Holiday Train Show, which features miniature NYC landmarks crafted from plant materials, and the Orchid Show, which offers a stunning display of blooms and exotic plants. The NYBG's Everett Children's Adventure Garden is also a must-stop for little ones. Bronx River Pkwy at Fordham Rd, Bronx (718-817-8700, nybg.org)

     

  • Photograph: Courtesy NY Hall of Science

    Family attractions in NYC: The 50 best sights and attractions

    New York Hall of Science
    Originally built for the 1964 World’s Fair, the Queens institution demystifies its subject through colorful hands-on permanent exhibits such as “Marvelous Molecules” and “Seeing the Light.” (Recent touring exhibits have included shows about skateboarder Tony Hawk and animation.) In the summer, children can burn off excess energy—and perhaps learn a thing or two—in the outdoor science playground or play a game of minigolf beneath the shadow of two retired NASA rockets. 47-01 111th St at 47th St, Flushing Meadows–Corona Park, Queens (718-699-0005, nysci.org)


  • Photo: Caroline Voagen Nelson

    Family attractions in NYC: The 50 best sights and attractions

    New-York Historical Society
    A massive renovation, completed in 2011, not only made the exhibits at this UWS institution more interactive, but introduced city kids to the DiMenna Children’s History Museum. Occupying 4,000 square feet on the Historical Society’s lower level, the space is the ideal spot for young history buffs to bone up on knowledge about their city through hands-on exhibits and more family programs than we can count. The permanent collection at the N-YHS—much of which is on view in the open-storage galleries on the fourth floor—offers kids a glimpse into quotidian urban living, with items  like vintage toys. 170 Central Park West between 76th and 77th Sts (212-873-3400, nyhistory.org)

     

  • Photograph: Moira Brazier

    Family attractions in NYC: The 50 best sights and attractions

    New York Public Library Stephen A. Schwarzman Building
    Two massive Tennessee-marble lions, dubbed Patience and Fortitude, flank the main portal
    of the NYPL’s century-old main branch and have become the institution’s mascots—and a prime spot for a family photo. Once inside, check out the children’s room, where kids big and small will get a kick out of the Pooh area, wallpapered with renderings of the Hundred Acre Wood. Inside, you’ll find a glass case containing Christopher Robin Milne’s vintage stuffed animals, the inspiration behind his dad’s Winnie the Pooh books. Fifth Ave at 42nd St (917-275-6975, nypl.org)


  • Photograph: Cinzia Reale-Castello

    Family attractions in NYC: The 50 best sights and attractions

    New York Transit Museum
    Other archives may offer broader perspectives on city history, but we love the Transit Museum because it goes deep into one essential element of New York life: the public transit system. Opened in 1976 in a former IND subway station, the museum displays historic artifacts—including a collection of vintage train cars—as well as more timely pieces, such as works from the MTA’s Arts for Transit program. The museum's simulated traffic intersection (replete with traffic lights and DON'T WALK signs) cleverly brings the city down to kid-scale, just as every child dreams it should be. Tots can interact with different generations of turnstiles and subway cars, gawk at tokens and play at driving a real, decommissioned bus. Boerum Pl at Schermerhorn St, Brooklyn Heights (718-694-1600, mta.info/mta/museum)

     

  • Family attractions in NYC: The 50 best sights and attractions

    Prospect Park
    After Olmsted and Vaux unveiled Central Park in 1859, they turned their attention south to create this bucolic Brooklyn destination. There’s plenty of room in Long Meadow and the Nethermead to have a family picnic on a patch of grass, while the Ravine, a towering indigenous forest, offers a woodland respite unparalleled in the borough. In the park’s children’s corner, kids can ride a super-fast carousel, visit with animals at the zoo and compete in sack races at the 18th century–built Lefferts House. At the zoo’s recently reopened Discovery Center, families can read nature books together and explore wildlife using a magnifying glass. From Prospect Park West to Flatbush Ave and Prospect Park Southwest to Ocean Ave, Brooklyn (718-965-8951, prospectpark.org)


     

  • Photograph: Fiora Watts

    Family attractions in NYC: The 50 best sights and attractions

    Queens County Farm Museum
    The oldest continually farmed land in NYC, the now 47-acre stretch offers guided tours of the historic farmhouse, hayrides through the farm's woods and a petting zoo for little ones. A recent expansion of the growing fields means everyone can benefit from the vegetables, wine and meat that the farm cultivates, sold on-site and at the Union Square Greenmarket. During different events in the fall, kids can pick their own pumpkins at the farm, test their navigation skills in a corn maze, take part in pie-eating and corn-husking contests and sample fresh apple cider. 73-50 Little Neck Pkwy between 73rd Rd and 74th Ave, Floral Park, Queens (718-347-3276, queensfarm.org)

     

     

     

  • Family attractions in NYC: The 50 best sights and attractions

    Rockefeller Center
    You’ll find plenty of iconic New York sites in this complex: the ice-skating rink, the rinkside Prometheus statue, Radio City Music Hall and Top of the Rock, which rivals the Empire State Building in city views. The area’s buildings also have a number of Art Deco murals inside. Kids may want to check out the plastic bricks at the Lego Store and the behind-the-scenes tour at the NBC Experience Store, too. 48th to 51st Sts between Fifth and Sixth Aves (212-332-6868, rockefellercenter.com)

  • Photograph: Courtesy of the Sony Wonder Technology Lab

    Family attractions in NYC: The 50 best sights and attractions

    Sony Wonder Technology Lab
    Young techies can revel in this midtown spot's hands-on activity stations—all for free. At the Dance Motion Capture exhibit, kids dance in front of the camera, choose an avatar and watch as the character performs their moves; the Music Maker section puts kids in the producer's chair as they mix (and remix) "Empire State of Mind" by Alicia Keys. Little ones can even feel what it's like to perform open heart surgery in the Virtual Surgery area. Every Saturday at 11am, the center's high-def theater hosts free screenings for families. With only 73 tickets available for each show, you'll want to call to reserve yours two weeks before the screening. (The center also hosts special workshops throughout the year for a small fee.) 550 Madison Ave at 56th St (212-833-8100, sonywondertechlab)

     

  • Family attractions in NYC: The 50 best sights and attractions

    Snug Harbor Cultural Center
    The woodland area is renowned for its quiet, reflective spots, like the New York Chinese Scholar's Garden and the Garden of Healing, which features the World Trade Center Educational Tribute. Kids, though, adore it for a completely different reason. At the Connie Gretz Secret Garden, fans of Frances Hodgson Burnett's classic children's novel can play in a real hedge maze; it leads kids into a miniature castle and rose garden. The Staten Island Children's Museum and performing arts centers which often host kids' shows (Elizabeth Mitchell, the Wiyos) are also located on the grounds. 1000 Richmond Terrace at Snug Harbor Rd (718-448-2500, snug-harbor.org)

  • Family attractions in NYC: The 50 best sights and attractions

    South Street Seaport
    One problem with being an active sightseeing draw right on the water: When a big storm rolls into town, you’ll almost certainly sustain some damage. Hurricane Sandy shut down many of the attractions at the waterfront hub, but things are slowly starting to open. Bowne & Co Stationers, Pier 17, Imagination Playground and the Seaport Museum (currently under the management of the Museum of the City of New York), which charts the former wharf’s history, are now welcoming visitors. 19 Fulton St at Front St (212-732-7678, southstreetseaport.com)



     

  • Photograph: Beth Levendis

    Family attractions in NYC: The 50 best sights and attractions

    Staten Island Ferry
    The price of a harbor crossing between lower Manhattan and Staten Island may be the only city activity that’s cheaper today than it was in 1817. Back then, it was 25 cents; today, it’s free. Snag a spot outside on the boat’s deck so kids can admire the downtown skyline, Governors Island, Ellis Island and Lady Liberty. After disembarking the ferry in Staten Island, visit the Richmond County Bank Ballpark (home to the Staten Island Yankees), the historic St. George Theatre or the St. George Library Center. Come 2015, the area will also be home to the world’s tallets ferris wheel. South St at Whitehall St (siferry.com).

  • Family attractions in NYC: The 50 best sights and attractions

    Statue of Liberty
    Perhaps no other New York attraction is as iconic as Lady Liberty. The famous monument’s interior, including the 383 steps to the observation deck inside the statue’s crown, was scheduled to reopen the day before Hurricane Sandy hit (it had been under renovation for a year). Now closed once again due to post-storm damage, families can still admire the beauty on a cruise around Liberty Island—and get excited about a future walk up all of those steps. Go to statuecruises.com for more information.

     

  • Photograph: Julie Larsen Maher

    Family attractions in NYC: The 50 best sights and attractions

    Tisch Children's Zoo at the Central Park Zoo
    The Central Park Zoo itself is so kid-friendly it feels like a children’s zoo—think kid-level stoops in the penguin house, sea lion feedings and a tropical rain forest house. But secreted away just a short walk north is the separate Tisch Children’s Zoo, a hands-on oasis (free with CPZ admission) designed especially for up-close interactions with animals. Little ones will encounter a new cavy exhibit, including two baby cavies born in August, a lovely duck pond and an enormous aquarium filled with the likes of piranha. But what’s most exciting here is the barnyard-like space along Fifth Avenue, where fauna-loving kids of all ages can feed sweet llamas, sheep, goats, a black steer named Othello and even potbellied pigs handfuls of feed, which can be purchased for 50 cents apiece. Southeast corner of Central Park (212-439-6500, centralparkzoo.com)

  • Photograph: Bart Barlow

    Family attractions in NYC: The 50 best sights and attractions

    Top of the Rock Observation Deck
    The 86th floor observatory at the Empire State Building may be the city’s original place to go for an eagle’s-eye look at New York, but at 70 stories up, the observation deck at Rockefeller Center’s Top of the Rock affords a spectacular vista of Central Park without the crazy lines. After you’ve scoped out the unobstructed panaromic views, put a few quarters in the coin-operated binoculars and snapped some family photos, take the elevators back down to the building’s subterranean mall for a bite to eat. 30 Rockefeller Plaza between 49th and 50th Sts (212-698-2000, topoftherocknyc.com)

  • Photograph: Richard Cadan

    Family attractions in NYC: The 50 best sights and attractions

    Toys "R" Us Times Square
    With a 60-foot indoor Ferris wheel, 20-foot-high animatronic T. rex and a 4,000-square foott Barbie house, this store has become more of a city attraction than a regular toy store. While visiting, children can also check out a Willy Wonka candy area, a make-your-own robot lab and a Lego shop. 1514 Broadway at 44th St (646-366-8800, toysrus.com)

  • Photograph: Wave Hill

    Family attractions in NYC: The 50 best sights and attractions

    Wave Hill
    This well-groomed, 28-acre city-owned park in the north Bronx retains the same horticultural traditions that it had when it was a private estate. You’ll find some of the area’s most meticulously groomed gardens, as well as stunning, sweepeing views of the Hudson River and the New Jersey Palisades. The center hosts a number of free days throughout the year and frequent art workshops for kids in the Ecology Building. Their seasonal offerings for families—Raptor Day, Honey Weekend, Mow-Down Weekend, Hibernators Pajama Pop-In—are some of the best celebrations around. W 249th St at Independence St, Bronx (718-549-3200, wavehill.org)

  • Photograph: Andrew Fladeboe

    Family attractions in NYC: The 50 best sights and attractions

    Wollman Rink and Victorian Gardens
    Say what you will about Donald Trump: One thing all families can agree on is that he puts up one heck of a great ice-skating rink. There’s no experience more blissful on a brisk winter day than gliding around the ice to the latest One Direction hit while nestled in the woods of Central Park with the towers of Manhattan rising in the distance. Come summer, the ice disappears and the space magically transforms into Victorian Gardens, an old-fashioned amusement park with a fun slide, mini roller coaster and Whac-a-Mole, making it a kiddie paradise for all seasons. Enter at W 59th St at Fifth Ave (212-439-6900, wollmanskatingrink.com; 212-982-2229, victoriangardensnyc.com)

  • Photograph: New York Yankees

    Family attractions in NYC: The 50 best sights and attractions

    Yankee Stadium
    Despite opening in 2009, the Yankees' new Bronx ballpark teems with the storied team's history. Young baseball enthusiasts can browse artifacts and memorabilia, including World Series trophies and more than Yankees' autographs, at the New York Yankees Museum or check out plaques that pay homage to baseball greats in Monument Park. 1 E 161st St between Jerome and River Aves (718-293-4300, newyork.yankees.mlb.com)

Family attractions in NYC: The 50 best sights and attractions

American Museum of Natural History
No matter which wing you wander through or where your little one’s curiosities lie (dinosaurs, ocean life, space), it’s hard to explore this Upper West Side fixture without being awestruck. The thrills begin when you cross the threshold of the newly renovated Theodore Roosevelt Memorial and spot the rotunda’s hulking Barosaurus skeleton replica. Head to the fourth-floor dinosaur halls and you’ll find astonishing fossil specimens. When the kids tire of dinos, make your way to the Milstein Hall of Ocean Life to gawk at the famed 94-foot-long blue whale model. Central Park West at 79th St (212-769-5100, amnh.org)



Top family attractions in Brooklyn

  1. 145 Brooklyn Ave, (at St. Marks Ave)
More info

Coney Island

  • Price band: 4/4
  1. 1000 Surf Ave, (at 10th St)
More info





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