The best staycation ideas for NYC families

Can't make it out of town? Let these staycation ideas inspire your family's next epic adventure!
Photograph: Courtesy Luna Park
By Yvette Berland and Danielle Valente |

If you're fortunate enough to call NYC home, you're never far away from a slew of amazing things to do. Thanks to these fabulous staycation ideas—great attractions, delicious eats and relaxing venues—you're going to need a staycation from your staycation! 

There's a reason NYC is the greatest place in the world, so instead of packing your bags this season, why not explore all that the five boroughs have to offer? Chances are you'll discover something new and irresistible! 

RECOMMENDED: Full guide to the best family vacations from NYC 

If you are leaving town or want to explore our staycation ideas at another time, check out these all-inclusive family resorts, weekend getaways from NYC and indoor water parks

Staycation ideas for NYC families

American Museum of Natural History
Photograph: Courtesy CC/Flickr/

Upper West Side

This expansive neighborhood is one of the most kid friendly in all of Manhattan. For an immersive day trip, venture to the American Museum of Natural History and join your kids in a hands-on experience in the Discovery Room, enjoy the Dark Universe space show at Hayden Planetarium and don’t forget to visit the dinosaur exhibits. After hours of exploration, sate that inquisitive palate at Alice’s Tea Cup for brunch, lunch or a decadent traditional English tea spread. For the crafty set, start the day by bringing a masterpiece to light at Craft Studio where you can make a variety of creations like birdhouses, bracelets, lamps, yummy edible crafts and more.  Using all that creative elbow grease is bound to work up an appetite, so head on over to Good Enough to Eat to end the day with some tasty comfort food like lemon parmesan chicken and buttermilk-fried onion rings.

Central Park Zoo
Photograph: Julie Larsen Maher

Upper East Side

The east side of town might leave you strolling aimlessly if you don’t know where to find all the hidden gems. Animal lovers would do well to venture to the Tisch Children’s Zoo to feed the llamas, pigs, goats and sheep before entering the larger Central Park Zoo to watch the seal show, spy on polar bears and study exotic birds. Don’t forget to visit Billy Johnson Playground next door to the zoo, and ride the giant curving slide carved right into a (small) mountain! While in the park, you can also take a peek at how the city Mayor lives, with a history rich tour of gorgeous Gracie Mansion. If a delectably whimsical dining experience is what you’re after, visit Serendipity 3 for upscale comfort food like crepes, omelettes, chicken that’s been deep fried, then oven roasted—and caviar burgers for the ‘rents! Then, indulge your sweet tooth with an out-of-this-world ice cream sundae, or its world-famous frozen hot chocolate. For a simply delicious afternoon pick-me-up, head to Dylan’s Candy Bar and watch the kids marvel over the selection, while you pretend not to do the same.



The hipster-and-filmmaker–set run this thriving downtown neighborhood, and there’s no shortage of inventive entertainment everywhere you turn. Build your own robot at Brooklyn Robot Foundry, where you can create as a family, or drop off the little ones for a kid only class while you pop into a local tavern like Warren 77 for a drink or some cinnamon waffles, while you wait. Afterwards, head to the Tribeca Saturday Greenmarket for a taste of local goodness. Open every Saturday, rain, shine or sleet—this farmers market meca of Tribeca has all the fresh produce, herbs, and sheep’s milk dairy you could hope for. It even features a healthy selection of fresh cut flowers! With cooking demonstrations, samples galore, seasonal activities and raffles every weekend, it’s a local favorite.

Madame Tussauds New York's Ghostbusters Experience
Photograph: Cindy Ord/Getty Images for Madame Tussauds New York

Times Square

Not willing to touch Times Square with a 10-foot pole? Embrace the kitsch for thrills! The lights never go out on Broadway shows for kids—from The Lion King to Gazillion Bubble Show, and sometimes you can even grab discount Broadway tickets to save yourself a few bucks. You might also (or instead) try a trip to Madame Tussaud’s, where you'll find realistic-looking wax sculptures of all your favorite celebrities! Wind down (well, wind up) at Ellen’s Stardust Diner for a '50s vibe, singing waiters and a yummy special like grandma used to make.

The High Line
Photograph: Shutterstock

West & Greenwich Village

Families are sure to enjoy the cool local flavor of this New York nook. There are hidden gems all around—and above! With its lower entrance in the heart of this part of town, The High Line is a must for all ages. This elevated mile-and-a-half-long stretch of public park, built directly along an old rail line, is bursting with artistic beauty and greenery, transforming into to a snowy wonderland in the winter, complete with an ice skating rink. With cultural and seasonal events year-round and food vendors pedaling delicacies at its epicenter, this urban landscape does not disappoint. After all that walking, lunch is in order, and what better place to dine than in Chelsea Market, which has tasty offerings for every palate. Looking for lighter bites? Unwind and engage your mind at The Uncommons, the first board game café in Manhattan. With hundreds of non-digital selections to choose from, family bonding is sure to be the order of the day! You might also treat the crew to flavors like bacon maple and PB&J 2.0 at The Donut Project to infuse some yum into your vaca-day.

Chelsea Market
Photograph: Shutterstock


This bustling part of town, bursting with creativity and culture, has got something for everyone. It's worth bringing up again: Chelsea Market runs right through the center of it all, complete with benches carved right into the smooth stone walls, and a mystical fountain with lights that change color. From shopping at Anthropologie to the fab fashions and original art collection at Artist & Fleas; from savoring the just-jumped-out-of-the-sea fresh seafood of The Lobster Place to tempting your sweet tooth at Fat Witch Bakery or Doughnuttery, there’s no shortage of visual and palate temptations for you and the kids, all under one giant roof. After your exquisite sensory overload, pop over to Sky Rink for some indoor ice-skating, or get your strike on at Bowlmor Chelsea Piers.

Tenement Museum
Photograph: Keiko Niwa

Lower East Side

The LES is one of NYC's most historical neighborhoods—complete with old-world charm, it's the perfect place for a getaway. For a guided sojourn into the lives of our immigrant ancestors, visit the Tenement Museum, where you can tour the apartments and businesses as they were over 150 years ago, venture on guided neighborhood walks and “meet the residents” of yesteryear. Hua Mei Bird Garden, operated by the Forsyth Garden Conservancy, is a hidden gem where the local residents bring their beautifully colorful birds in ornate cages, to gather and sing sweet songs for the public—a must see for adults and kids alike. In keeping with the theme of cute animal creatures, swing by Meow Parlour, where you can get cozy and mingle with a room full of cats...and even take a yoga class with them! For a stay-cay souvenir, visit My Plastic Heart, a mind-blowing gallery and store brimming with collectable playthings from all over the world.

Photograph: Lee Magill

DUMBO, Brooklyn

Home to Brooklyn Bridge Park and some delicious gourmet pizza offerings, DUMBO features a wide variety of family-friendly activities in the backdrop of the gorgeous NYC skyline and cobblestone streets. When you're not enjoying the playgrounds, pop-up pool or many other free activities in the park, go take a spin on Jane's Carousel as the views of lower Manhattan hang in the distance. If you don't mind a wait, a slice at Juliana's and Grimaldi's will always leave you full and satisfied. In the event of a long line, no sweat—Shake Shack is always another solid option for those looking for a burger and concrete. Round out your visit with a trip to Jacques Torres Chocolate—an exceptionally delicious way to end your adventures. 

Photograph: Courtesy Luna Park

Coney Island, Brooklyn

When the warm weather surfaces, Coney Island's beachfront adventures beckon visitors from all over the city. Hop on the F train and make your way to Deno's Wonder Wheel Park and Luna Park for an afternoon of rides, attractions and fun games. If you need a little breather after your ride on the new AstroTower or beloved 90-year-old Cyclone roller coaster, go relax in the sand and put your feet in the water. "Ocean Wonders: Sharks!" at the New York Aquarium features 115 species of sharks that call New York waters home, so you might want to head over to take a look at your underwater neighbors! You'd be remiss to leave the area without a pitstop at Nathan's for a hot dog and curly fries. 

Photograph: Courtesy NYC Parks

Long Island City, Queens

Keep this Queens nabe on your radar—there are plenty of spots that the kids will love. Let them test their strength with a visit to The Cliffs LIC, an epic rock-climbing gym that makes for the perfect playdate or birthday party. If you'd rather go the artistic route, a visit to MoMA PS 1 or Noguchi Museum is a great way to spend an afternoon. But don't forget to stroll through Hunter's Point South Park to catch a glimpse of the waterfront venue's gorgeous grounds. 

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