Think sightseeing's just for tourists? These family attractions will have you thinking otherwise—they're too good to pass up, even for local families! Check out our lineup of the best family attractions and plan your visit to iconic destinations like the Empire State Building and American Museum of Natural History, or check out other fun things like our favorite zoos in NYC. Our picks range from popular stuff like the Statue of Liberty and Jane's Carousel to lesser known spots like the Lowline Lab. These great kids' attractions will certainly please the whole crew, so hit the arrows to scroll through our top 50 picks below and wow the littles with your knowledge of the coolest free activities for kids in NYC (many items on our list come cost-free)!
The best family attractions in NYC
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 (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.
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. Head to the fourth-floor dinosaur halls and you’ll find astonishing fossil specimens, which really steal the show. As of January 2016, the Titanosaur made its home in AMNH; believe it or not, it surpasses the T. Rex in size…it’s 122 feet long! When and if 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)
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)
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), snack on Two Boots pizza, or shop for treasures at Kidding Around or Piq. 89 E 42nd St between Lexington and Vanderbilt Aves (212-532-4900, grandcentral terminal.com)
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)
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, marked the completion and ends at 34th St. From Washington St at Gansevoort St to 36th St between 10th and 12th Aves (thehighline.org)
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)
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)
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)
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)
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, red pandas, rhinos 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)
This one’s for the little guys: Many of CMOM’s exhibits are geared to tots ages six and under, including a permanent 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. 212 W 83rd St between Amsterdam Ave and Broadway (212-721-1223, cmom.org)
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, 1,250 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.
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)
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)
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)
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)
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 (new features will be added to this classic in 2016!), 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)
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 from ten til noon on Saturdays, except on special event weekends. 900 Washington Ave at Classon Ave (718-623-7200, bbg.org)
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. There are plenty of spectacular rotating exhibits, but 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)
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)
Housed in a distinctive Romanesque Revival building (a former public school), P.S.1 mounts cutting-edge shows and hosts an acclaimed international studio program. Artwork crops up in every corner, from the stairwells to the roof. P.S.1 became an affiliate of MoMA in 1999, and sometimes stages collaborative exhibitions. Reflecting the museum’s global outlook, it has focused in recent years on such luminaries as Janet Cardiff and Olafur Eliasson. It also hosts summer’s popular Saturday-afternoon party, Warm Up.
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 Tiny Giants 3D and Journey to Space 3D). 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)
After nearly 50 years in its Marcel-Breur-designed building on Madison Avenue at 75th Street, the Whitney Museum decamped in 2015 to a brand new home in Lower Manhattan's Meatpacking District, conceived by international starchitect Renzo Piano. Planted at the foot of the Highline along Ganesvoort Street, the new Whitney building boasts some 63, 000 square feet of both indoor and outdoor exhibition space. Founded in 1931 by sculptor and art patron Gertrude Vanderbilt, the Whitney is dedicated to presenting the work of American artists. Its collection holds about 15,000 pieces by nearly 2,000 artists, including Alexander Calder, Willem de Kooning, Edward Hopper (the museum holds his entire estate), Jasper Johns, Louise Nevelson, Georgia O’Keeffe and Claes Oldenburg. Still, the museum’s reputation rests mainly on its temporary shows, particularly the exhibition everyone loves to hate, the Whitney Biennial. Held in even-numbered years, the Biennial remains the most prestigious (and controversial) assessment of contemporary art in America.
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 and Hunger Games. There’s always something new and exiting to see, and their lineup changes frequently. 226 W 44th St between Seventh and Eighth Aves (866-987-9692, discoverytsx.com)
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)
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)
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)
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)
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.
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)
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 Invaders. 36-01 35th Ave at 37th St, Astoria, Queens (718-777-6888, movingimage.us)
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/)
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).
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)
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)
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)
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. 10 Grand Army Plaza, Prospect Heights, Brooklyn (718-230-2100, brooklynpubliclibrary.org).
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)
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)
The Lowline is an innovative city project that uses solar technology to illuminate a historic Williamsburg Bridge Trolley Terminal beneath the streets of NYC. Eventually, the Lowline will be developed into an underground park capable of becoming home to trees, plants and the work of talented architects and engineers; it's projected to fully open in 2020. Currently, the Lowline Lab is open to the public and serves as an education and community space!
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.
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)
South Street Seaport has made a serious comeback after damage sustained from Hurricane Sandy, where most attractions were wiped out or destroyed. The South Street Seaport Museum is back in action, and you’ll also find old favorites like Imagination Playground, Bowne & Co. Stationers and Bowne Printers. You’ll also find plenty of markets, retail opportunities and fun weekend programming that’s great for families. 19 Fulton St at Front St (212-732-7678, southstreetseaport.com)
An active firehouse from 1904 to 1959, this museum is filled with gadgetry and pageantry, from late-18th-century hand-pumped fire engines to modern equipment. The museum also houses a permanent exhibit commemorating firefighters’ heroism after the attack on the World Trade Center.
Visitors to Chelsea Market (which is conveniently located right off the High Line) will certainly have trouble figuring out what to have for lunch. There's a lot on offer, including asian fusion, italian, several bakeries and an ultra-delicious fish market with a sushi bar. You can even grab premade lobster rolls and sushi, too! Kids will also dig visiting Posmans Bookstore, where there are plenty of trinkets, toys and books to keep everybody entertained.
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!
Nitehawk...for kids? Believe it or not, this Brooklyn venue not only screens new indie releases and has a robust retro program for adults—it's also great for families too. Keep an eye out for kid-friendly film series often screening in the early afternoon when families can order up tasty menu items to much while they watch—you'll find everything from classics to quirky indie releases. There on date night? Each individual theater has full-service meals, plus there is a lobby bar and a downstairs café that stays open late.
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). 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.
New York’s iconic American Girl store on Fifth Ave is making a move to 75 Rockefeller Plaza—and the store’s location isn’t all that’s about to change. The brand new retail space will span 40,000 square feet over two levels (around the same size of the Fifth Ave location) and will offer some pretty amazing new features (especially in terms of parties and personalization).