Plan your next staycation with these cool staycation ideas (found right here near home)! NYC draws around 50 million tourists yearround, but this city's not just a great place to vacation—it's also a great place to staycation! With about eight million of us actually living here, there's plenty to see, even for New Yorkers.
RECOMMENDED: Full guide to the best family vacations from NYC
Though this particular feature focuses specifically on fun staycation ideas in Manhattan, we're excited to provide even more staycation suggestions down the line. Scroll through our list for some fun stuff to do without venturing too far from home!
Staycation ideas for families in NYC
Upper West Side
This expansive neighborhood is one of the most kid friendly in all of Manhattan—chock full of families and happy, shining faces. For an immersive day trip, venture to the American Museum of Natural History (212-721-1223) 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 (212-799-3006) 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 (212-362-0350), where you can make a variety of creations like birdhouses, bracelets, lamps, yummy edible crafts and more. Don’t forget to visit its ahh-mazing in house toy shop before you go. Using all that creative elbow grease is bound to work up an appetite, so head on over to Good Enough to Eat (212-496-0163) to end the day with some tasty comfort food like lemon parmesan chicken and buttermilk fried onion rings.
Upper East Side
The relaxed vibe on the east side of town will 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 (212-439-6500) 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! The kids will want to conquer it multiple times and you may not be far behind. 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 (212-570-4751). If a delectably whimsical dining experience is what you’re after, visit Serendipity 3 (212-838-3531) 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 Sunday, or their world famous frozen hot chocolate. For a simply delicious afternoon pick-me-up, head to Dylan’s Candy Bar (866-939-5267) and watch the kids marvel over the selection, while you pretend not to do the same. Upstairs there’s a cozy café with colorful glass-covered candy filled tabletops and a good selection of snacks and drinks.
The hipsters 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 (347-762-6840), 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 (212-227-8994), for a drink or some cinnamon waffles, while you wait. Afterwards, head to the Tribeca Saturday Greenmarket (212-788-7476) 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.
Not willing to touch Times Square with a ten-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 "Ghostbusters Experience" if you've never been (866-841-3505), and (of course!) explore the rest of the museum. You'll find realistic-looking wax sculptures of all your favorite celebrities! Wind down (well, wind up) at Ellen’s Stardust Diner (212-956-5151) for a 1950s vibe, singing waiters and a yummy blue-plate special like grandma used to make.
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 it’s lower entrance in the heart of this part of town, The High Line (212-206-9922) is a must see 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 a cozy ice skating rink. With cultural and seasonal events year round, and food vendors pedaling delicacies at its epicenter, a trip to this urban landscape will not disappoint. After all that walking, lunch is in order, and what better place to dine and thrill than Jekyll & Hyde Club (212-989-7701) for frightful dishes like the create-your-own-monster-burger, or the Mummy—a sirloin steak “bandaged” in cheese.
Looking for lighter bites? Unwind and engage your mind at The Uncommons (646-543-9215), the only 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 family to flavors like bacon maple and PB&J 2.0 at The Donut Project (212-691-5000), to infuse some yum into your vaca-day.
This bustling part of town, bursting with creativity and culture, has got something for everyone. Chelsea Market (212-652-2121) 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 (212-336-6100) for some indoor ice-skating, or get your strike on at Bowlmor Chelsea Piers (212-835-2695).
Lower East Side
The LES is New York City’s most historical neighborhoods —all old world charm and discovery, and the perfect place for a getaway. For a guided sojourn into the lives of our immigrant ancestors, visit the Tenement Museum (212-982-8420), 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 (212-219-0258), 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. And 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 (646-290-6866), a mind-blowing gallery and toy store brimming with collectable playthings from all over the world.