The 50 best family attractions in NYC

These must-visit family attractions are the best in NYC! Check out spots like the High Line, The Plaza and more!
Photograph: Shutterstock
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Think sightseeing's just for tourists? These family attractions will have you thinking otherwise—they're too good to pass up, even if you're a local!

Whether you're seeking mild adventures, like walks through the New York Public Library, National Geographic: Encounter or a ride on Seaglass Carousel, or you're after more thrill-focused experiences, such as loops around Coney Island's Cyclone, rest assured: There's something for everyone on our list. Here are 50 the best family attractions NYC has to offer (in no particular order!).

For even more family fun, browse our roundups of the 101 best things to do with kids in NYC, our favorite free activities for kids and our monthly kids' events calendar that'll clue you in to all the best family events happening around town.

Best family attractions in NYC

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Attractions, Monuments and memorials

The Statue of Liberty

icon-location-pin Liberty Island

Perhaps no other New York attraction is as iconic as Lady Liberty. The famous monument’s interior, including the 337 steps to the observation deck inside the statue’s crown (which was not available to visitors for a long time), has returned—though you’ll need to reserve your spot in advance online, and kids in attendance must be at least four feet tall and be able to handle the stairs, since there’s no elevator inside the statue. Go to nps.gov for more information.

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Museums, Science and technology

American Museum of Natural History

icon-location-pin Upper West Side

Where else can you walk beneath the belly of a blue whale or measure yourself against the legs of a 122-foot-tall Titanosaur? A visit to the American Museum of Natural History is a quintessential New York experience every kid should have, and with news of an upcoming expansion that will offer a captivating insectarium and updated butterfly conservatory, it's certain the institution will forever hold a huge piece of our hearts. Don't forget: AMNH often holds museum sleepovers too!

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Attractions, Libraries, archives and foundations

New York Public Library, Stephen A. Schwarzman Building

icon-location-pin Midtown West

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. It’s also right next to Bryant Park, so be sure to explore the fun free offerings (like the art cart and free games) in summertime. Fifth Ave at 42nd St (917-275-6975, nypl.org)

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Attractions, Historic buildings and sites

Grand Central Terminal

icon-location-pin Midtown East

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. 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), grab a snack at Shake Shack or shop for treasures at Kidding Around or Piq. 89 E 42nd St between Lexington and Vanderbilt Aves (212-532-4900, grandcentralterminal.com)

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Attractions, Monuments and memorials

Empire State Building

icon-location-pin Midtown West

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 (though it isn’t today). 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)

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Attractions, Parks and gardens

The High Line

icon-location-pin Chelsea

This urban gem—historic railroad turned public park—is a true treasure trove for all ages. Opt to stroll its entirety from Gansevoort Street to West 34th while pit-stopping at pockets of nature along the way (look out for Chelsea Thicket, a two-block long mini-forest!) Or, take part in various seasonal activities for children and families, like dance, art, music, gardening and storytelling events. During the summer, you can even swing by at night for free stargazing events. Whenever you go, be sure keep your eyes peeled for cool new outdoor art installations, or get lost watching taxicabs whiz by down below.

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Shopping, Shopping centers

Chelsea Market

icon-location-pin Chelsea

When you've run out of steam exploring the High Line, take a break and visit Chelsea Market (enter around 16th St 9th Ave) to fill your bellies. Thanks to in-house eateries like Amy's Bread, Chelsea Creamline, Friedman's Lunch and Los Tacos #1 (just to name a few), you're sure to find something for everyone. There's also great shopping, like Posmans, Anthropologie and now Pearl River Mart. Stop by the water fountain to toss a penny and make a wish.

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Museums, Art and design

The Metropolitan Museum of Art

icon-location-pin Central Park

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. Workshops for kids help introduce little ones to different works of art; the museum also hosts family days on select days. 1000 Fifth Ave at 82nd St (212-535-7710, metmuseum.org

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Museums, Art and design

Museum of Modern Art (MoMA)

icon-location-pin Midtown West

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. Now that’s what we call family-friendly. 11 W 53rd St between Fifth and Sixth Aves (212-708-9400, moma.org)

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Attractions, Parks and gardens

Central Park

icon-location-pin Central Park

Manhattan’s green getaway is a lifesaver for local families. You’ll find 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 ultra-exotic critters but it more than makes up for their absence with the colorful birds and frogs, the endlessly fascinating penguins and the separate petting zoo (see Tisch Children's Zoo). Best of all, the space 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)

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Photograph: National Geographic Encounter

National Geographic Encounter: Ocean Odyssey

No snorkeling skills are required for this digital deep-sea dive! The attraction, which debuted in Times Square fall of 2017, takes you through all depths of the Pacific Ocean. Brought to you by the award-winning effects team behind Hugo and Game of Thrones, the self-guided experience features 60,000 square feet of photo-real animations and a video projection dome. In the first half, virtually meet sea lions, rays and dolphins, or lock eyes with a humpback whale or a great white shark. Then, wander over to the learning area for holograms, activities on the latest in ocean research, and cool photo moments—all spotlighting the magic of where science, entertainment and the big blue collide.

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Bronx Zoo
Attractions, Zoo and aquariums

Bronx Zoo Wildlife Conservation Society

icon-location-pin The Bronx

This wildlife park garners fans far and wide for a number of reasons—approximately 4,000 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, red pandas and rhinos. 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)

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Museums, Childhood

Children’s Museum of Manhattan

icon-location-pin Upper West Side

Little ones will love this cultural playspace made just for them. Wander five floors of curiosity and fun with exhibits like “Dynamic H2O,” “EatSleepPlay” and a newly launched “Let’s Dance!” where they can shimmy and shake under a dome dance portal and choreograph their own show, complete with costumes and musical instruments. Kidy can also enjoy regular story times, parachute play and scavenger hunts. And if they’re still bursting with energy afterwards, the museum is located near Central Park and Riverside Park, both complete with playgrounds and plenty of picnicking room.

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Attractions, Towers and viewpoints

One World Observatory

icon-location-pin Financial District

One World Observatory at World Trade Center lets visitors experience panoramic views of NYC on levels 100, 101 and 102 from atop the tallest building in the United States, 1,776 feet above the ground. Kids will love arriving at their destination Jetsons-style via Sky Pod elevators (some of the fastest in the world) which lead to a two-minute video presentation of gorgeous city images on the 102nd floor. Check out City Pulse on the 100th floor, showing HD videos featuring notable NYC landmarks and neighborhoods, then daredevil kids (and parents!) can brave the Sky Portal, where a 14-foot wide circular disc gives you a view of real-time, high-definition footage of the streets below.

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"Top of the Rock" Observation Deck, 30 Rockefeller Plaza
Attractions, Towers and viewpoints

Top of the Rock Observation Deck

icon-location-pin Midtown West

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)

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Museums, Military and maritime

Intrepid Sea, Air & Space Museum

icon-location-pin Hell's Kitchen

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. Pier 86, Twelfth Ave at 46th St (877-957-7447, intrepidmuseum.org)

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Museums, Art and design

The Cloisters

icon-location-pin Washington Heights

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. Prepare to be chatting the rest of the day about whether or not unicorns are real. Fort Tryon Park, 99 Margaret Corbin Dr (212-923-3700, metmuseum.org)

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Museums, Childhood

Brooklyn Children’s Museum

icon-location-pin Crown Heights

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. “Neighborhood Nature,” another exhibit in the permanent collection, helps little ones learn about the many creatures and habitats found right in their own Brooklyn backyard. 145 Brooklyn Ave at St. Marks Ave (718-735-4400, brooklynkids.org)

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New York Botanical Garden
Attractions, Parks and gardens

New York Botanical Garden

icon-location-pin The Bronx

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—kiddos can climb boulders to get a good view, plus there are plenty of fun science activities and experiments to keep ‘em busy in every season. Bronx River Pkwy at Fordham Rd, Bronx (718-817-8700, nybg.org)

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Attractions, Parks and gardens

Brooklyn Botanic Garden

icon-location-pin Prospect Park

Here at the Brooklyn Botanic Garden, you'll find dedicated kids' programming for young children and tweens (including children with sensory limitations) that is generally free with grounds admission. Learning about nature and science is easy when some of the world's most interesting plants are right at your fingertips and there's a newly-expanded Discovery Garden to explore. BBG also celebrates year-round with colorful fests like Sakura Matsuri (Cherry Blossom) celebration, Chile Pepper festival and Ghouls & Gourds festival. 900 Washington Ave at Classon Ave (718-623-7200, bbg.org)

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Museums, Natural history

Brooklyn Museum

icon-location-pin Prospect Park

Learn everything you’ve wanted to know about the borough and more at this Prospect Heights cultural hub. Peer into the windows of old farmhouses to see how the neighborhood’s people used to live, or creep up next to mummies and other ancient artifacts—including some in the new Soulful Creatures exhibit!— from a past Egyptian life. When little legs start to tire, take a cookie and coffee break by the Steinberg Family Sculpture Garden, then leave some time to peruse the goodies in the gift shop (every museum’s must-do!)  

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Attractions, Historic buildings and sites

Brooklyn Academy of Music (BAM)

icon-location-pin Boerum Hill

BAM plays host to plenty of spectacular programming throughout the year, including theater, dance, opera, film events and family-specific opportunities. If you check out options on their Kids dropdown menu, you’ll find cool classes that offer an intro to animation and digital art, plus interesting theater and improve options. BAM also hosts youth summer programs if your little ones are restless during the warmer months. Multiple venues in Fort Greene, Brooklyn (718-636-4100, bam.org)

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Museums, Science and technology

New York Hall of Science

icon-location-pin Queens

Originally built for the 1964 World’s Fair, the Queens institution demystifies its subject through colorful hands-on permanent exhibits such as “Connected Worlds" or "Design Lab." NYSCI also offers sleepovers on select dates! 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)

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Photograph: Courtesy Sonja Haroldson
Attractions, Historic buildings and sites

Washington Square Park

icon-location-pin Greenwich Village

At the heart of New York University’s campus, this kid-friendly park is the perfect place to spend an afternoon. Pose for a picture under its famous Roman triumphal arch (built in the 1800s!) or let kids explore the park’s three play areas featuring climbing mounds and a fountain. Spot pooches roaming the dog park or, during warmer months, catch weekend scavenger hunts, free kids yoga, and dance classes (tango anyone?) Don’t forget to munch on an iconic New York hotdog or some sweet Italian ice at one of the park’s many food cart vendors.

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Photograph: Courtesy Virtual Tour Group
Sports and fitness

Chelsea Piers

icon-location-pin Chelsea

Bring the whole family down to jump, run, skip, climb, and play at this Manhattan sporting space. Drop in for bowling, ice skating, batting cages, rock climbing, or gymnastic activities (for all ages!) plus so much more. Little daredevils can even try out a parkour class, while tinier tots can crawl through the toddler gym, built just for children ages 4 and under. For caretakers who need a bit of R&R, there’s a spa and salon, plus various dining options for when the whole crew needs to refuel.

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Attractions, Historic buildings and sites

Brooklyn Bridge

icon-location-pin Manhattan

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. 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)

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Museums, Childhood

Staten Island Children's Museum

icon-location-pin Staten Island

Give your kids a hands-on experience with science, art and even cooking at Staten Island's Children's Museum, where they're encouraged to learn through play. The venue offers a Big Games section where they'll try out huge versions of dominoes, bowling, connect-four and checkers, as well as a Green Living Room play area where kids can play house and learn about efficient energy in the process. We especially love the outdoor Sea of Boats, where families can try Morse Code, play in the water and go "fishing" and "oystering."

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Attractions, Parks and gardens

Brooklyn Bridge Park

icon-location-pin Brooklyn Heights

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 (bring your water shoes!), 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 multi-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)

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Sports and fitness, Stadiums

Citi Field

icon-location-pin Queens

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—what’s not to love? 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)

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Attractions, Theme parks

Coney Island

icon-location-pin Brooklyn

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 Brooklyn Flyer. 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)

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Photograph: Courtesy Timothy Schenck
Attractions, Parks and gardens

Governors Island, NY

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 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. Visitors will be especially excited to check out The Hills, a portion of the Island that was completed in summer of 2016 and includes overlooks with amazing views of the city skyline and Statue of Liberty. Did we mention that Slide Hill also has four amazing slides, one of which is currently the longest in the city? Open in summertine; govisland.com.

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Museums, Special interest

New York Transit Museum

icon-location-pin Boerum Hill

Train fanatics and history buffs alike will love indulging in this immersive flashback into the city’s transportation past. See up-close how the subways have evolved over the decades, from a fleet of vintage cars, to the collection of tickets, tokens, and MetroCard designs that have changed with each era. If you’re visiting in the cooler months, don’t miss the Annual Bus Festival in September— step aboard more than a dozen vintage bus cars—and the Holiday Train Show (a long time city favorite!) which runs from November to February.

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"Behind the Screen" at the Museum of the Moving Image
Museums, Movies and TV

Museum of the Moving Image

icon-location-pin Astoria

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. “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 Invaders36-01 35th Ave at 37th St, Astoria, Queens (718-777-6888, movingimage.us)

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Attractions, Parks and gardens

Flushing Meadows–Corona Park

icon-location-pin Queens

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/)

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Attractions, Historic buildings and sites

Historic Richmond Town

icon-location-pin Staten Island

Hop aboard the ferry to Staten Island for this time-traveling day trip. The Town— also known as the Staten Island Historical Society as of 1856—invites you to relive the history of the borough through a variety of family-friendly activities. From old-fashioned county fairs and homestyle breakfasts to seasonal pumpkin picking and evening candlelight tours, there’s something for everyone. Wander through four different sites (think: one massive museum!) to catch costumed farmers and various handmakers, plus stop by Toys! to see what tots were playing with way back during the 19th century.

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Attractions, Arcades and amusements

Jane’s Carousel

icon-location-pin DUMBO

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. 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)

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Museums, Science and technology

Museum of Mathematics (MoMath)

icon-location-pin Flatiron

Rather than being a place to learn math, the 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)

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Photograph: Alex Strada
Museums, History

New-York Historical Society

icon-location-pin Upper West Side

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)

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Attractions, Libraries, archives and foundations

Brooklyn Public Library, Central Branch

icon-location-pin Prospect Heights

With its grandiose 50-foot-high concave entry outlooking the iconic Grand Army Plaza arch, this library’s Central branch is even grander on the inside. Little ones will enjoy weekly storytimes and morning programs in a cozy kids-only area (complete with stroller parking), while older techies can hang out in the computer loft for a variety of activities. After catching a live reading or talk, grab a slice of pie at Four and Twenty Blackbirds, a locals’ favorite and recent library addition.

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Attractions, Parks and gardens

Prospect Park

icon-location-pin 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 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)

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Museums, Special interest

Queens County Farm Museum

icon-location-pin Queens

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)

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Photograph: Courtesy Children's Museum of the Arts
Museums, Childhood

Children’s Museum of the Arts

icon-location-pin West Village

No matter your medium, this hands-on art museum is a delight for all young Picassos (or sculptors! or illustrators!) Creators under the age of 5 can stop by the WEE Arts Studio and to play with flubber or sing along during music time. Meanwhile, older modern artists can explore the Media Lab, creating animations or learning about film and photography. Be sure to sculpt your own animals at the Clay Bar (advance sign-up recommended), or take some time to tumble around on the Swirl Studio’s tilting chairs. There’s even a Quiet Room if tiny guests need a space to wind down. 

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Hotels, Spa hotels

The Plaza

icon-location-pin Midtown West

The closest thing to a palace in New York, this 1907 French Renaissance-style landmark reopened in spring 2008 after a two-year, $400 million renovation. Although 152 rooms were converted into private condo units, guests can still check into one of 282 elegantly appointed quarters with Louis XV-inspired furnishings and white-glove butler service. The opulent vibe extends to the bathrooms, which feature mosaic baths, 24-carat gold-plated sink fittings and even chandeliers—perhaps to make the foreign royals feel at home. Embracing the 21st century, the hotel recently equipped every room with an iPad. The property’s legendary public spaces—the Palm Court restaurant, the restored Oak Room and Oak Bar, and Grand Ballroom (the setting for Truman Capote’s famed Black and White Ball in 1966)—have been designated as landmarks and preserved for the public. There’s also an upscale food hall conceived by celebrity chef Todd English. Last but not least, kids will enjoy learning about Eloise, The Plaza's fictional resident (and youngest troublemaker). The Plaza offers Eloise-themed parties and events of all kinds, so check their website to stay updated with the newest details.

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Theater

New Victory Theater

icon-location-pin Midtown West

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)

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Museums, History

South Street Seaport

icon-location-pin Financial District

During Hurricane Sandy, much of South Street Seaport was destroyed. Today, it's made a comeback with the reopening of the South Street Seaport Museum, five historic ships to check out at Pier 16 and plenty of local restaurants/shops for snacking and browsing. 19 Fulton St at Front St (212-732-7678, southstreetseaport.com)

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Museums, History

New York City Fire Museum

icon-location-pin West Village

This formerly active firehouse-turned-museum is the perfect place for aspiring firefighters to marvel. Discover a wealth of art and artifacts from the 18th century to today (including a horse-drawn ladder wagon!) throughout two exhibit floors. Little ones will see and learn all about the tools, hats, and hoses firefighters have used throughout time. Be sure to check out the latest exhibit, Hit One Out of the Park: FDNY Sports Teams as well as the memorial exhibit honoring firefighters on site after the World Trade Center attack.

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Photograph: Courtesy Victoria Stevens
Movie theaters

Alamo Drafthouse City Point

icon-location-pin Downtown Brooklyn

With seat-side meal service (cookies and milkshakes included!), this recent addition to the Brooklyn borough is quickly becoming a local fave. And since all screening seats are reserved in advance, you can get prime pick for nearly every flick. Their Kids Camp Signature Series also features classic family favorites (past films included Matilda, Jumanji, The Iron Giant and Muppets From Space) at choose-your-own ticket prices—as low as a buck! Do-good perk: All sales from this series go towards helping a variety of community nonprofits.

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Attractions, Sightseeing

Madame Tussauds New York

icon-location-pin Midtown West

Can’t get a table at Nobu? No worries—you can rub shoulders with Madonna, Hillary Clinton and Oprah (or their paraffin equivalents, anyway) at this world-famous wax museum. They've also recently opened up a new permanent exhibit, "Ghostbusters Experience," which leads fans through scenes from the newest Ghostbusters movie. Little ones will get the chance to meet ghosts and (wax) characters from the film—theres even an interactive space where you can try out being a Ghostbuster for yourself!

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Photograph: Courtesy Seaglass Carousel
Things to do

SeaGlass Carousel

This giant nautilus shell houses 30 luminescent fish—a perfect pick for little mermaids! It was created to honor The New York Aquarium at the Castle (which closed back in 1941) and is located in The Battery. The $5 per ride price tag isn't half bad when you see how epic this thing really is, either. Unlike many local carousels, guests climb into each fish, plus there's no center post—all motors are underneath the floor. Open year-round, $5 per ride.

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Renderings: Courtesy FRCH Design Worldwide
News, Shopping & Style

American Girl’s (future) Rockefeller Center store

Making every kid’s doll-dreams come true, this iconic toy wonderland left its Fifth Avenue flagship and moved into a Rockefeller home. Brace yourself for two floors of stylish fun including party rooms (dream birthday, here you come!), special kid spaces for health and wellness activities and a signature studio for all things personalized, from matching outfits to snazzy accessories. There's also a salon for kids and dolls to get their hair done together!  

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