Whether you're exploring with your children or awesome family friends, these 101 things to do with kids in NYC are a surefire way to have the best afternoon ever! We're lucky enough to live in a city where spectacular fun is around every corner (including our favorite family attractions), and—like most NYC kids—we don't want to miss a thing! This list makes sure you'll see it all.
Picking our top 101 things to do with kids in NYC wasn't easy, but we've made sure to include classic favorites like the Museum of Natural History, the New York Botanical Garden and the Brooklyn Bridge. Since great new things open every year (looking at you, National Geographic Encounter!) we also try to regularly update our list with fun new additions. Seriously, there's no doubt that NYC is the best place to raise a family! Happy exploring!
Want to catch up on all the great things you can't miss this year? See our list of other incredible things to see.
Top ten things to do with kids in NYC
Though 750,000 visitors pass through its doors daily, the celestial ceiling above Grand Central Station’s main terminal has the power to practically stop time. But despite its beautiful, dark green-hue and portrayal of the traditional zodiac, there’s just one problem: It’s technically inaccurate. Shortly after its installation in 1913, a visitor noticed certain astronomical inconsistencies, for instance, the placement of Orion. Kids, however—unless they’ve just finished a particularly intensive constellation unit in school—will be awed nonetheless.
Consider this park NYC’s best example of recycling on a mega scale: Built atop an abandoned train track, the High Line offers more than twenty blocks’ worth of car- and bike-free strolling. Besides plenty of seating and a killer view of the ritzy Meatpacking District and Chelsea, there’s also weekly free drop-in workshops for kids during the summer, like art projects every Saturday, insect and plant life classes on Wednesdays, plus Thursday morning structured lawn time, where families can enjoy stories, bubble-blowing, music, and storytelling.
The American Museum of Natural History isn’t just home to wonderfully colossal dinosaur, sea creature and artifact displays—it’s also home to the Rose Center for Earth and Space, a glass enclosure that houses the stunning 87-foot-diameter Hayden Sphere. Families can explore the 13-billion–year history of the universe, pick up cool facts about planets, stars and galaxies and watch space shows. The Museum collaborates with NASA to keep all their visual maps up to date.
Get a bird's eye view at One World Conservatory
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. One World Trade Center, 285 Fulton St (844-OWO-1776, oneworldobservatory.com). Ages 13–64 $32, children ages 6–12 $26, ages 5 and under free with ticket.
At this way-cool Queens museum, kids can get hands-on with hundreds of interactive exhibits and activities that bring science, technology, engineering and math to life. Built for the 1964 World's Fair, NYSCI is home to a revolving lineup of displays about light, 3-D printing, outer space and robots, plus the Design Lab, where kids can tackle activities at five stations: Backstage, Sandbox, Studio, Maker Space and Treehouse. Kids can also climb on a rope web and play minigolf ($6, kids $5) at the massive Science Playground and Rocket Park. Trust us, this place is worth the trek—even after a few hours of exploring, you'll be planning your next visit.
In the eight minutes it takes to journey from Battery Park or Brooklyn to this former military base, families will be transported to a world a million metaphorical miles away—lush green lawns are dotted with quaint Victorian homes, car alarms are replaced by bicycle bells, and there’s always a quirky festival going on (think the annual Labor Day weekend Unicycle Festival). And as of this summer, the island’s open seven days a week, meaning families can hang around Hammock Grove or climb over the interactive sculpture garden, even on an otherwise normal Tuesday.
This Williamsburg theater doesn’t always screen kid-friendly flicks—they specialize mainly in new indie releases and quirky throwbacks—but when the occasional PG-rated program come about, tickets go fast! Families can chow down on brunch options like breakfast tacos, waffles and cheeseburgers while they watch live-action or animated films on the big screen—a worthy alternative to cereal and cartoons on the couch. Parents with really little ones (ages 1 or younger) will also dig the theater’s Hawks With Babies screenings, which invite cinema-loving moms and dads to bring their bundle of joy along on Tuesday afternoons, with full food and beverage service. No need to worry about glares if the baby gets fussy!
The moment the curtain rises at this gorgeous jewel box theater, kids sense that something truly amazing is about to happen. And it does. The New Vic is beloved for its high-quality productions of entertaining and thought-provoking theater sourced from all over the world, with fantastic stories that feature everything from breathtaking new plays to re-imagined classics, and gigantic puppets to breakdancing daredevils. Audiences could be transported to the depths of the ocean, Ancient Rome, the plains of Africa, the circus, or maybe even Mars, with actors, dancers, jugglers, clowns and artists of every stripe keeping everyone enthralled. Most performances are designed with specific age groups in mind—pre-schoolers, grade-schoolers, tweens and teens—and activities such as pre-show crafts, professional workshops ($17) and other themed programming build on the young audience’s enjoyment and understanding of the show. Parents, meanwhile, love the New Vic’s family-centric ethos—affordable ticket prices, Autism-aware performances, stroller parking, free lockers and plentiful booster seats—thoughtful touches that take the drama out of taking kids to the theater.
New York is world-famous for it’s over-the-top dedication to the holidays each December, and few places in Gotham better sum up this city’s love for the season than this annual tradition. Since 1933, the Radio City Rockettes have been bringing cheer to audiences faces with each in-unison high kick in their fabulous, sparkling costumes. The massive set pieces and new technology mix with classic elements like the dancing Santas and wooden soldiers to create an experience nostalgic grandparents and first-time viewers will equally enjoy. Afterward, make sure to grab a picture around back at Rockefeller Center’s gigantic holiday tree.
A must-do for any city kid worth her salt, the mile-long stroll from end to end of the Brooklyn Bridge offers spectacular views of downtown Manhattan, including the Freedom Tower, the Statue of Liberty, Governors Island, and of course, the iconic double arches that have come to signify NYC’s hippest borough worldwide. While you’ll mostly be joined by the thousands of other tourists and locals crossing the East River, be on the lookout for the occasional cyclist attempting to make their way through the crowds. If you’re coming from Manhattan, reward tired legs with a scoop of strawberry at the Brooklyn Ice Cream Factory, handily located at the base of the bridge in DUMBO.
Things to do with kids in NYC: 11–20
You’ll have a whale of a time at the Wildlife Conservation Society’s sea-side home to marine life. Located off the Coney Island Boardwalk, the aquarium is where you’ll find plenty of fish, starfish, and the mammals and birds that live among them. Otters, seals and penguins take in the sun from the stony cliffs, before cooling off, or searching for food, under the water, while sea lions show off amazing behaviors in the aquatheater for special shows daily (weather dependent) at 11 am, 1pm, and 3pm. Visitors looking for an experience with more teeth, should check out the sharks. Finish the day with a short 4-D adventure film with Spongebob and friends in The Great Jellyfish Rescue.
See floats at Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade
The Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade is more than just your average street fair—and you definitely aren’t just limited to watching it on TV. Get there early and line up along 6th Ave to see classic balloons like Snoopy or newer additions like Hello Kitty, the Pillsbury Doughboy, SpongeBob and Paddington Bear. There’s also a balloon inflation area on the Upper West Side the evening before festivities begin—usually outside the American Museum of Natural History—if you aren’t interested in battling the crowds on Thanksgiving.
In addition to Sunday services, this massive Gothic cathedral hosts concerts and tours. Annual events include both winter and summer solstice celebrations; the Blessing of the Animals during the Feast of Saint Francis, which draws pets and their people from all over the city; and, would you believe it, the Blessing of the Bikes, which kicks off the bicycle season each spring. Youngsters are invited for a very special sleepover at Knightwatch Medieval Slumber Parties. They'll spend the evening searching for clues in a scavenger hunt led by a court jester, singing, dancing, crafting and listening to stories ($135, one chaperone must be on-site for every three children).
Though the Museum of Modern Art might seem a bit intimidating for a family excursion, many young visitors love the expressive, colorful works of masters like Picasso, Matisse, Gogh and Jackson Pollack. Talented tour guides on specific days offer tours of the modern and contemporary galleries specifically for four years olds, kids 5 to 10 years old and for tweens. On each group trip through the legendary museum, kids share their ideas about the art and are taught new ways of looking at and thinking about the material through conversation and hands-on activities, like drawing and movement. Can’t find a tour to go on? Explore the space yourself and later stop by the Art Lab, a room with multimedia tools kids can use to express their own creativity.
Enjoy a trip on the Staten Island Ferry, and this time actually leave the terminal! A visit to Snug Harbor makes the journey much more worthwhile, keeping families busy with the scenic cultural center and interactive Staten Island Children's Museum. Wander through hands-on exhibits, engage in song and dance and get in on craft projects, all led by museum educators. Don't forget to visit the Connie Gretz Secret Garden, where kids can wander through the maze-like shrubbery inspired by Frances Hodgson Burnett's classic novel. There's a miniature castle and rose garden to be found at the end of the trail!
Go on a themed walking tour
While convincing your children to use their feet and quit their whining about wanting to take a taxi (or a scooter, or your arms) to the next location might be a challenge, they’ll happily keep pace with the crown on a special tour about their interests. Broadway babies (and bigger fans) will love the Broadway Up Close ($35, kids $30) tour of the Theater District, where guides not only share stories about the iconic stages and their actors, but also can get into the nitty gritty on the real (non musical) life of one particular founding father with a trip downtown for the “Hamiltour.” For those local history buffs, learn about New York during the Revolutionary War, or the very localized history of your neighborhood like Chelsea or the Lower East Side, check out a walk with the extremely well-informed guides at Big Onion Tours ($25, students $15). Lil’ foodies also have their pick of plenty of food tours specializing in everything from Pizza and neighborhood eats to sweets.
Every now and again we covet the multiple bedrooms and green-lawned gardens of suburbia. And then we remember that we’re raising our children in New York City because it’s fascinating and diverse and beautiful, and because we have World-class cultural institutions such as Symphony Space on the Upper West Side. The venerable old venue’s weekend family program is an utterly kid-friendly celebration of the arts with a lineup of music, literary, dance and theatrical events that will have them grooving, singing and rolling in the aisles. At the ultra-popular Saturday morning Just Kidding series, youngsters experience everything from circus acts and rock bands, to puppetry and beatboxing (the latter comes with massive playground-bragging rights), and at the Thalia Kids Book club, young readers take part in creative writing exercises and engage in dynamic Q&As with their favorite authors. Add a raft of concerts, plays and even screenings of Britain’s finest National Theatre productions, and you’ve got yourself a weekend home on the corner of 95th and Broadway.
Go biking along the Belt Parkway Promenade
Pedaling a bicycle on the streets of Manhattan can be downright terrifying, especially with kids bringing up the rear. Better to find spacious paths where they can roll along at their own speed. Running 4.5 miles along the Belt Parkway, the Bay Ridge stretch has a smooth bike lane for little cyclists. Head out for a ride at sunset, when you can catch incredible views of the Verrazano-Narrows Bridge, the Statue of Libary and the Manhattan skyline. Enter at Shore Rd and 68th St, Brooklyn (nycgovparks.org)
This New York institution's claim to fame is the rich, fluffy cheesecake, which comes in several varieties like red velvet and devil’s food—but your picky eaters will be plenty pleased with the original. Work our way up to the sweet slab of loveliness by chowing down on diner fare first. Perfectly salty-sour pickles and other crunchy bites are served while little ones peruse the appropriately-titled Junior Menu and choose from a selection of kiddie diner favorites, like grilled cheese and chicken fingers.
This Brooklyn park straddles the two hipster-fied nabes of Greenpoint and Williamsburg but continues to be a family favorite, too. There are baseball, football and soccer fields, dog runs, a track, tennis courts, a skate park and more. Stop by on select summer nights for outdoor film screenings, food trucks and music, or a romp in the playground at Lorimer Street and Driggs Ave. The park also transforms into a winter destination, with the ever-popular McCarren Park Pool operating as an ice rink during the colder months.
Things to do with kids in NYC: 21–30
Goats, sheep, and ponies—oh my! Families don’t have to travel far to get the full, tranquil agrarian experience without leaving city limits. Here, at the the oldest continually farmed site in the state, barnyard animals are available for feeding, petting and your “oohs” and “ahs” at just how cute they are. Explore the full 47-acres on a tractor-pulled hay ride, or stick to the gardens. Come harvest-season there’s a special corn maze on weekends as well as country fairs that bring music, rides, tasty treats and even occasionally piglet races to the idyllic museum.
Most of the amazing original sculptures, paintings, and multimedia creations at the CMA are made fresh everyday by the artists, which,are actually the the visitors. Kids from across the city and around the world convene at this downtown space to let their imaginations and creativity run free as they take part in the daily workshops and studio activities. Tiny Picassos gather inspiration from the colorful exhibited works by professional artists, both emerging and established, and then get to work drawing or painting their own masterpieces on easels in the Fine Arts Studio, while animal-loving future-Rudins craft critters, magical monsters, and aliens at the Clay Bar (sign up early for a spot). Older kids can also use cutting-edge technology in the Media Lab and Sound Booth to design animations and awesome beats (you can even listen at home on Soundcloud!).
Prospect Park’s all-in-one recreation center effortlessly transitions from an icy wonderland in winter to a summer-fun hot spot for Brooklyn families. There’s a full day’s worth of entertainment, whether it’s biking along the park’s shaded paths or gliding on the 16,000-square-foot roller rink. Rent equipment on-site (pricing available online) and move at your own pace with the kids, or improve their skills in a roller-skating or roller-hockey class. Pack a swimsuit, because you won’t be able to duck out without dashing through the 41 sprinklers of the LeFrak Center’s awesome Splash Pad water feature (for under-12s).
Gotham really is a green place, if you know where to look! Garden-starved city kids will jump at the chance to get their hands in the soil and discover that fresh produce grows on plants—not in supermarket aisles. Journey downtown to Battery Urban Farm—a one-acre educational plot where more than 100 varieties of organic veggies, fruits, grains, flowers and other plants. The farm, which is run by student farmers, donates its produce to food pantries and local school cafeterias and is open April through November. The whole family is welcome to pitch in during open volunteer hours every third Saturday of the month from 10am to 1pm (you must register in advance). When visiting, kids should be sure to keep their eyes peeled for Zelda, the resident street-smart wild turkey. She can often be found cruising the park, sitting under a tree or wandering around Castle Clinton.
If your youngster pulling on your arm while you’re trying to listen in on a gallery tour sounds nightmarish, opt for The Whitney’s tot-friendly version. Art-loving parents and their babies (even fussy ones) can enjoy private tours of the museum’s most buzz-worthy exhibitions, led by Whitney Teaching Fellows and Ph.D. candidates. On select Saturdays, kids can even use inspiration from the galleries to make a masterpiece during Open Studio For Families. A Museum Educator will be on hand during each session to lead in the activities.
If you’ve never been to Murray’s, you’re missing out! First, there are always samples on offer. No complaints here! Second, it’s really more like a cheese library than a cheese store. This West Village staple has hundreds of cheeses on offer and super knowledgable staff that can help you find what you’re looking for (that won’t make you feel silly for saying “I want cheese...but I don’t know what kind of cheese...”). Murray’s also has specialty items like homemade pastas, cured meats, dried fruit, pickles and infused oils and vinegars. Grab your loot (and a bench nearby) and eat your fill!
Does your kid have a flair for the dramatics? Then maybe it’s time to nurture that talent into something good. Eight Is Never Enough has garnered praise and laughs through their sketch comedy, ridiculous scenes and interactive skits since 2004 and in Improv 4 Kids, the comedy group teaches young jokesters how to do the same. Professional performers pick volunteers from the audience and guide them through various prompts that’ll have them flexing their onstage chops. Soon they’ll be hooked to the laughter of their adoring fans. All ages are welcomed, but if your child is a bit older, the Improv 4 Teens program offers improv and standup comedy classes and performance opportunities for grades 6 through 12.
You can’t beat this bustling spot when it comes to people watching! All types can be seen strolling through, and some kind of performance is practically guaranteed on weekends. It’s not rare to see musician Colin Huggins wheeling his baby-grand piano right in the square to play classical tunes beneath the majestic arch (a replica of Paris’s Arc de Triomphe). Dress the little ones in their swimmies—it will be difficult to keep them out of the fountain on hot days!
Meet your avian neighbors with NYC Audubon
We’re all familiar with the bouncy brown sparrows, speckled European starlings and the smattering (or should we say, splattering) of pigeons that live on every block. But look—and listen—a little closer and you could meet some of the more-fabulous city dwellers, such as glorious red Northern Cardinals, shimmering Blue Jays and orange-chested American Robins. Nature-nurturing organization New York City Audubon protects the birds, wildlife and their natural habitats in our area and, with its fun workshops and school programs, it teaches children how to identify their feathered friends and care for the environment, too. Ongoing weekly bird walks at the major parks are free and open to all, and fascinating events such as twilight bat tours, sunset bird-watching cruises and shorebird observations in Jamaica Bay, give fledgling ornithologists a chance to experience wildlife in the parks, woodlands and wetlands of the five boroughs. Audubon also offers a free kids membership for birders age 8 to 12 years, that offers special member’s only events, first dibs and discounts on family excursions, plus regular newsletters and a subscription to Audubon’s children’s magazine, Look Around New York City. Various locations, times and prices (nycaudubon.org)
Times Square’s newest massive attraction is also it’s tiniest at this 50,000 square foot space dedicated to miniatures. The $40 million project brings hundreds of itty-bitty trains, planes and automobiles (and wagons!) whiz through scaled down landmarks from around the world, including New York’s very own Times Square. This isn’t just an impressive diorama however — each ticket holder is given a high-tech key (that looks like a skeleton key) that reveals special secrets about the locations. Folks interested in seeing how the lights and motors work can also look into the control room, and, for an additional fee, can make themselves mini with the special 3-D printer.
Things to do with kids in NYC: 31–40
The fact that this teeny pizzeria deep in the Midwood section of Brooklyn attracts hordes of Manhattanites on a daily basis is a testament to its incredible pies. Painstakingly crafted in the Neopolitan style, the crust, made from one of the day’s fresh batches of dough, is cracker thin, and topped with mozzarella, San Marzano tomatoes, and herbs grown inside a flower box on the pizzeria’s windowsill. Owner Domenico DeMarco has been making them himself the same way since 1964.
New Yorkers can thank the French for this iconic gift on America’s 100th birthday, which has welcomed both immigrants and tourists to the country for generations. After reopening on the Fourth of July in 2013 following nearly two years of renovations and Hurricane Sandy-related closures, the Statue of Liberty is finally back to her former glory. Though reservations are required for a tour of the statue’s interior, the pedestal, and a trek up to her iconic crown, your ferry pass is also valid to make a second stop at Ellis Island for an extra dose of Americana.
Get photo ops galore as your kids meet and mingle with more than 200 life-like likenesses of their favorite stars at the famous Times Square wax museum. Superheroes like Iron Man, the Hulk and Captain America are ready for their closeups, Rihanna, Bob Marley and the Beatles need temporary bandmates, Jennifer Aniston, ScarJo and Marilyn Monroe could always use some help walking the red carpet, and Jimmy Fallon needs a guest to interview. Little history buffs will be thrilled to meet Abraham Lincoln, JFK and Gandhi, sports fans can dunk with Carmelo Anthony and huddle with Eli Manning—and who doesn’t want to squeeze in for a selfie with the Queen and Prince Harry? Madame Tussauds, 234 W 42nd St (madametussauds.com). Sun–Thu 9am–10pm, Fri, Sat 9am–midnight. $29–$59.
One of the great joys of summer in the city is boating on the East River with the Manhattan skyline as a backdrop. Every year, from June to August, Brooklyn Bridge Park offers free (free!) kayaking on Thursdays and Saturdays, just head to the boathouse between Piers 1 and 2 for a 20-minute session of paddling bliss. All the equipment is provided, there are single and double kayaks—some doubles have room for a small child to sit in the middle—lifejackets are mandatory and you should know you’ll probably get a little wet, so wear swim clothes or something that dries quickly. Paddlers should be at least 36 inches tall and kids under 14 must be in a double kayak with an adult; teens aged 14–17 years can use a single kayak, but a guardian must be present. Otherwise, just arrive early to get online and be prepared to wait up to an hour or so at peak times, bring the sunblock and then paddle out into the sheltered embayment area to soak up the fun. Brooklyn Bridge Park, Piers 1 and 2. Saturdays 10am–3pm, Thursdays 5:30pm–6:45pm, June through August. Free.
As the tallest building in the world—well, at least it took the title when it was completed in 1931—this marvel of art deco architecture still offers arguably the best view of Manhattan around. Take your time enjoying the scene from the 86th floor, the open-air observatory, and the enclosed rotunda on the 102nd floor, where kids will be shocked to learn they’re standing nearly a quarter of a mile above the streets below. To avoid hour-plus-long wait times, try your best to arrive when the building opens to the public at 8am—though if you can’t, no worries—it stays open until 2am every night.
Seeing a first-rate show on the Great White Way is a rite of passage for every little New Yorker. When the lights go down and the curtains go up, suddenly kids are fully immersed in onstage make-believe and the magic happens before their very eyes. There are shows to suit all tastes: Charlie and the Chocolate Factory is a delicious treat for Roald Dahl fans and anyone with a sweet tooth; Disney’s megahits The Lion King and Aladdin are dazzling interpretations of the beloved animated movies; Wicked makes an electrifying prequel to the Wizard of Oz, and School of Rock is a full-on frenzy of fist-pumping, chair-dancing fun. Performances often run two hours or more, so wait until your little wrigglers can sit still long enough to enjoy the show without distracting other, and be sure to check out what’s on offer at the TKTS booths in Times Square, the South Street Seaport, or Downtown Brooklyn—you may get lucky and score discounts of up to 50% off.
There’s always something in bloom at Brooklyn’s answer to the New York Botanical Garden, which separates itself from busy Prospect Park and Crown Heights with tall gates, providing the feeling that all who enter are somewhere far more bucolic than its location in the heart of Brooklyn suggests. Meander through the Japanese pond and garden, plant seeds in the Children’s Garden, or simply follow a wooded path and see where you end up. On many weekends throughout the year, there are kid-friendly fests, like Sakura Matsuri for April’s cherry blossoms, or the annual Chile Pepper Fiesta.
Following a 2007 renovation, the Liberty Science Center lets kids nerd out over four floors of exhibits like “Block Party,” where they’ll dream up giant structures made of foam and wooden blocks, or “Eat and Be Eaten,” where kids will find out how animals like tamarin monkeys and black widow spiders—who actually live at the museum—have adapted to outsmart both their predators and prey. At the end of a long day exploring, catch a film inside the IMAX studio, which on any given day can include features on robots, humpback whales or the Hubble telescope.
Young or old, born-and-raised New Yorker or out-of-towner visiting for the holidays, everyone can find something to tempt their taste buds at Mario Batali’s sprawling testament to Italian cuisine. Though there are a whopping seven restaurants, each devoted to specialties like seafood or seasonal produce, as well as dozens of mini shop-in-shops manned by experts in the fields of gelato, roasted meats, condiments, and others, savvy kids will bee-line it to one thing: the Nutella cafe.
Yes, 28 acres of gorgeous greenery does exist in the Bronx—and we’re not talking about the NYBG or the Bronx Zoo. This 19th-century estate is home to a historic mansion and public woodlands perfect for getting lost in—or better yet, being led through on a nature walk. Be sure to check the event schedule before visiting—chances are there’s an art project or family festival going on, like Honey Weekend in September or Enchanted, a fairy-themed fest every October. If you manage to wake the kids up early enough on Saturdays, it’s free to enter before noon.
Things to do with kids in NYC: 41–50
Whether your toddler loves getting their hands dirty with a gardening class or your book-loving big kid wants to see a classic setting come to life in Snug Harbor’s maze-like Connie Gretz Secret Garden (which was inspired by Frances Hodgson Burnett’s classic novel), New York has a children’s garden for your family. Young McDonald’s can sing E-I-E-I-O at urban farming co-operative South Brooklyn Children’s Garden, where they’ll frolic among the strawberry patch and herb box, or they can enjoy a leisurely afternoon by the koi pond and under the natural shade at Jefferson Market Garden. Should you find your way to the New York Botanical Garden’s 250-acres, kids will find activities perfect for them including green-thumb workshops.
This kid-pleasing venue offers food, bowling, shuffleboard and—best of all—a pretty impressive arcade. Favorite games include Jurassic Park Arcade, where kids can use “tranquilizing guns” to help restore order to the island and save over 30 species, Candy Crush Saga, Kung Fu Panda, Batman, Mario Kart Arcade Grand Prix Deluxe, Star WarsBattle Pod and tons more—many games offer prize tickets, too. If you’re only in the mood for a little bit of arcade time, grab the Dave & Buster’s Eat & Play Combo ($16.99 for an entrée and a $10 game card), but if you’re committed for a few hours, visit on Wednesdays for half-price games.
Ample Hills is on point with unique kid-pleasing favorites like Ooey Gooey Butter Cake, Chocolate Milk and Cookies, The Munchies and Snap, Mallow and Pop—it also doesn’t hurt that there are great flavors for grownups like Salted Crack Caramel, Butter Pecan Brittle and Mexican Hot Chocolate. The Gowanus location boasts a roof deck complete with colorful chairs, super cute murals, a stationary bike kids can ride to help make ice cream and a build-your-own-sundae option with whipped cream, brownie, sprinkles and your ice cream of choice.
Barclays is home to many a fantastic thing, but one thing you MUST do there is catch a Brooklyn Nets home game. Even if you grab a seat in the nosebleeds, big screens give you access to all you’ll want to see. The kiddos will love the halftime shows with giveaways, energetic performances by the kids-only dance team (Brooklyn Nets Kids) and traditional sports arena fair available throughout Barclays—though we prefer walking across the street to Shake Shack. Your mini-mes will also be glad to know there’s a Brooklyn Nets gear shop not far from their seats in the stadium so they can walk away repping their favorite team.
A 20 plus year tradition at NYBG, the Holiday Train Show is every curious kid’s dream. They’ll be eye level with over 150 iconic NYC buildings re-created with bark, leaves and other natural materials, seeing G-scale choo choo trains weave around the Statue of Liberty, Rockefeller Center and even cross the Brooklyn Bridge on a quarter-mile of track in the conservatory. While you’re there, visit the Garden’s other indoor exhibits or walk through portions of the 250-acre grounds. During the warmer months, you’ll see plenty of flowering plants in the gardens—be sure to see what’s going on with Edible Academy, NYBG’s platform for kid-friendly hands-on gardening activities.
With origins as far back as 1888, Katz’ Deli is certainly worth a visit. It’s been family-run for over 100 years, offering huge servings of delicious corned beef, pastrami and brisket (among others) all cooked to perfection. Kids will love the hot pastrami sandwich, matzo ball soup, knishes, and mouth-watering New York cheesecake (some items come in kids’ sizes as well). The cool décor is also worth checking out—there are pictures, hand-written signs and other artifacts from famous guests. We’d suggest visiting in off-peak hours to minimize the wait. Pro tip: Parents, hold onto your family’s meal tickets! You won’t be able to leave without giving them to the cashier (and will face a hefty fine if you lose them).
Believe it or not, hours of waterfront fun can be found right in Tribeca! At Hudson River Park, athletic kiddos can tackle a massive playground and get their toes in the sand and play on regulation-size beach volleyball courts. For families who want to face off in a game together, there are drop-in community sessions on Saturdays (11am–3pm) for just a $5 suggested donation (reservations required). If volleyball isn’t your game, take to the 18-hole minigolf course, complete with a pond, streams, footbridges, waterfalls, sand traps and even a cave. Young Masters-in-training can drop in from 10am to 10pm for friendly games until winter arrives (children under 14 $5, 14 and up $6; cash only). Little ones will also love the Play Area outfitted with a sandbox, swings and water features.
Geek out at New York Comic Con
Brave the intense crowds at this insanely-popular annual event to celebrate your favorite brave caped crusaders. Each October during the four day event, the Javits Center becomes a mecca for all things nerdy and super hero. Check out the vendors selling toys, comic books, manga, and games that deserve a spot in your toy box or book shelf and maybe discover new fandoms you’d never even heard of. Little fanatics will be amazed by the costumes worn by other visitors—and might come away with new plans for their own Halloween outfit. That Sunday is family day, the best day (at the best prices) for pint-sized batmen and wonder women to visit the fest—but act fast, these tickets go quickly starting in May.
Take a bus tour around the city
Sure, your little might have been born and bred here in in New York, but there’s no denying the pull of a gigantic, brightly-colored bus. While they might be begging you for the chance to jump aboard for the vroom-vroom of it all, these tours actually a ton of fun and informative! From up high on one of those iconic bright red double deckers your family can discover the secrets of the Greenwich Village and Soho on the City Sightseeing Downtown Tour, or opt for a bus trip that also includes access to top attractions like the Empire State Building or One World Trade Center.
At this low-tech playhouse, kids will gladly cast phones and gadgets aside to see amazing handmade puppets in action. Founder Nicolas Coppola adapts classic tales for his marionettes to perform in the cozy theater (kids sit on rugs at the front, parents are on benches at the back). This season’s offerings include Goldilocks & the 3 Bears, Beauty & the Beast, and Alice in Wonderland. Families will be swept away by the artful scenery, lively music and intricate puppets as they take on a life of their own, moving across the stage as if by magic.
Things to do with kids in NYC: 51–60
We love this city like life itself but let’s be honest, it’s disgustingly hot in summer, bitingly cold in winter and our apartments are too damn small all year long. When the kids get cabin fever and the playground’s a no-go, it’s time to embrace the indoor play space. They’ll find room to run and equipment for them to clamber over under and around, and you’ll find yourself feeling smug that for once the little-kid whirlwind isn’t happening at your place. In Chelsea, City Treehouse has a splashy water-play zone and a giant treehouse to explore, Apple Seeds (Chelsea, the Upper West Side) offers a multitude of classes and soft-play galore, Recess Dumbo raises play to an art form with it’s sleek play area and complimentary crafts, and in Queens, the children’s educators at Raising Astoria have created a serene playspace and lead classes in everything from breakdancing to yoga. Various locations, times and prices.
During the winter season, the New York City Ballet presents the crème de la crème of NYC holiday performances: company co-founder George Balanchine’s The Nutcracker. But the NYCB’s calendar is teeming with reasons why you and your child should book a ticket any time of the year. This season’s lineup includes its signature spring performance of Shakepeare’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream (May 23–28) as well as a four-day Here/Now Festival that honors the contemporary works created at the NYCB over the past 30 years with 43 ballets from 22 choreographers (April 25–May 21). If the magic of ballet has leapt into your child’s heart, grab tickets to Family Saturdays for child-friendly interactive presentations and insight on classical dance ($22 per person, ages 5 and up). Or better yet, book a children’s workshop for 45 minutes of music and pliés before the curtain rises on the matinee show ($14 per person, ages 5–8). David H. Koch Theater, 20 Lincoln Center Plaza (212-496-0600, nycballet.com) Various times and prices ** Workshop is at New York City Ballet Rehearsal Studios, Samuel B & David Rose Building, 165
If you’ve never visited The Cloisters, now’s the time: It’s a must-see for the little ones. Devoted to the architecture of medieval Europe (and home to the ever-magical “Unicorn Tapestries”), this branch of the Metropolitan Museum of Art is full of incredible medieval artifacts and indoor-outdoor gardens. Pack a picnic lunch and set up camp on one of the grassy areas on your way to The Cloisters (food inside can get a bit pricey), then enter the museum to check out jewelry, sculptures, paintings, metalwork and furniture. After, go for a walk overlooking the Hudson or hit the Fort Tryon Park playground with swings, playhouses and a splash pad with spray fountains as you meander back to the subway (that is, if you remembered your towels).
AMNH’s collection of dinosaur fossils in the Hall of Saurischian Dinosaurs is one of the most impressive things your kids will ever lay eyes on. They’ll gaze up at a toothy Tyrannosaurus rex, check out a Velociraptor skull, learn about maniraptora (whose evolutionary trajectory extends to birds) and see the first fossil dinosaur specimen collected by AMNH researchers. While the dinosaurs are definitely our favorite part, pay a visit to the Hall of Ocean Life (you’ll see the famed big blue whale!), Hall of North American Mammals and the Hall of Biodiversity.
Imagine a boat cruise around the New York harbor with views of the Statue of Liberty, Governors Island, the Brooklyn Bridge, and the Manhattan skyline—now try to think of one that’s free! While many Staten Islanders use the boat simply as a way to get to work, this hour-long trip is also one of the best totally free things to do with kids in NYC. What’s more, the frequent schedule makes the need for careful planning unnecessary. Depart from Whitehall Terminal in Manhattan or the St. George Ferry Terminal on Staten Island (siferry.com). Free.
Little adventurers like Eloise will love being treated like Plaza royalty. Whether you’re visiting with the kids for a planned birthday party (we hear there are some rawther fancy options), dropping in to see the second most famous Eloise painting in the Palm Court (the first remains stolen and missing to this day!) or catching a children’s Eloise Ballet/Yoga Class or Summer Dance Party, there’s always something exciting on The Plaza’s event calendar. There’s also plenty of stuff for parents to enjoy kid-free too—if you’re feeling fancy yourself, grab a drink at the Rose Club or a gourmet bite from the Todd English Food Hall.
New York has plenty of kid-friendly brunch options…that is, if you know where to look! Whether your hungry munchkins are craving a heaping plate of syrup-drenched pancakes, a pick-your-own-ingredients omelet or a soul-warming plate of chicken and waffles, this city has it all. Check out Sweet Chick, Sarabeth’s and more to feed the belly before a full day of play.
478 scenic acres (and over 560,000 permanent residents) make up Green-Wood Cemetery, one of the oldest cemeteries in America. Founded in 1838, it’s the final resting place of Civil War generals, sports legends, artists and politicians; famously, Green-Wood is also a Revolutionary War historic site. Visitors can ride the site’s green trolleys to see monuments, Green-Wood’s historic chapel and Battle Hill. Every year, the Cemetery also hosts a commemoration of the Battle of Brooklyn—you’ll see cannon fire, historic cooking demos and re-enactments.
With tall, reflective buildings and beautiful waterfronts, NYC has some of the most unique sunsets around. Catching a stunning sunset is free, fun and your kids certainly won’t forget it. To get the best view, climb up on the High Line, find a rooftop or park yourself at a bench or pier at Hudson River Park. Don’t forget to look up the dates each year for Manhattanhenge (it happens twice in a 12-month span), when the sunset aligns with the east-west grid of the city.
New York is blessed with some of the finest dining options in the world, but sometimes even the most sophisticated families just want to play with their food. If the kids are Willy Wonka fans, Max Brenner Chocolate Bar and Restaurant is just the (golden) ticket: crazy pipes pump molten cocoa around the sweet-scented room while kitchen pumps out hot-chocolate shots, chocolate pizza and the aptly named Chocolate Mess Party (bring your own wet wipes). Got a houseful of LEGO Ninjago nuts? Ninja in Tribeca will have them jumping out of their skins as black-clad warriors leap out and perform magic tricks at your table in this dimly-lit, temple-like spot. Looking for something less intense? Dainty real-life tea parties are on the menu at American Girl Cafe, where you dine with dolls, or Alice’s Tea Cup, where the Mad Hatter, Cheshire Cat and White Rabbit adorn every wall. Food is served with a side of show tunes at Ellen’s Stardust Diner in Times Square, where Broadway-quality performers belt out classics while your family feasts on burgers, wraps and super-stacked sandwiches.
Things to do with kids in NYC: 61–70
Before they’re old enough to appreciate the New-York Historical Society, bring budding history buffs to its next door neighbor. The museum caters to the 8-to-13-year-old set by featuring exhibits on children throughout the city’s history, from an18th century Dutch merchant’s daughter to Alexander Hamilton, as well as the newsies who worked the streets in the 20th century. Daily events like Little New-Yorkers also let kids explore a particular theme with storytelling, crafts, and time to play with historic toys.
Dominque Ansel and his cronuts can move aside. There’s a new dessert darling in town! Raw cookie dough, once an ill-advised treat swiped from the mixing bowl, is now safe-to-eat and still totally delicious! Head to DÕ for flavors like Signature Chocolate Chip, Sugar Cookie, Brownie Batter and Oatmeal M&M made with natural ingredients, pasteurized egg products and heat-treated flour. The confectionery shop is a sweet tooth’s delight with other cookie-based yummies like sundaes, milk shakes, chocolate fudge filled and topped with cookie dough, cookie-dough-ice-cream pie, cookie-dough brownies, a 9" cookie cake, an ice cream sanDŌwich and, if you’re the plain vanilla type, freshly-baked cookies. DŌ, 550 LaGuardia Pl (646-892-3600, cookiedonyc.com) Various prices
Catch a baseball game at an NYC stadium
Instill a sense of team loyalty in your little sluggers by heading to Citi Field or Yankee Stadium for a family ballgame. Don caps and jerseys for your team of choice and get to the stadium early—both teams often hand out free swag (think trademarked gear like water bottles, bobbleheads, T-shirts, etc) to prompt fans. Cheer on the players, munch on popcorn and hotdogs and get in on fun, kid-friendly activities in the park. On select days, families can enjoy face painting and balloon artists at Citi Field or run the bases with Mr. Met! Citi Field, Roosevelt Ave at 126th St, Queens (718-507-6387, mets.com). Yankee Stadium, 1 E 161st St, Bronx (866-800-1275, yankees.com). Ticket prices vary; check website for info.
As your brood strolls up Fifth Avenue with the shopping bags in hand, make sure to drop by this iconic locale. In the wintertime, this spot draws major crowds who want to take a spin around the beautiful skating rink or ogle at the largest Christmas tree in the world. The handmade ornaments and other trimmings on the massive spruce make a great backdrop for a family photo, but not to worry if you can’t make it over the holiday season. On balmy days the plaza is still a fun sightseeing stop, plus a farmers market and nearby shops like the LEGO Store provide plenty of opportunities to browse.
Manhattan’s sprawling green space is made for leisurely strolls, but there’s a lot of ground to cover with little ones in tow. Add something special to your day of exploring by treating the tots to an old-timey ride aboard a horse-drawn carriage. The kids can fulfill their dreams of being chauffeured around like royalty while you take in views of Wollman Rink and the serene pond, then pass by the Central Park Zoo, Sheep Meadow and whimsical carousel. Schedule your ride ahead of time or track down a carriage in the area for a walk-up ride. Don’t forget to tip your driver! Central Park South between Fifth and Sixth Aves (centralparknyc.org). Available daily, price negotiated with driver.
You can reach this narrow island in the middle of the East River by bus or subway, but the red tramway cars make for a unique commute. Hop aboard at the 59th Street and Second Ave station and check out the Queensboro Bridge as you make your way across the water in mid-air. There’s tons to see once you get to the other side, from public gardens to waterfront art. On weekends, explore on two wheels by renting bikes from Blazing Saddles near the 103rd Street pedestrian bridge—there are adult- and child-size bikes available. With two miles of paved pathways and significantly less traffic than Manhattan, you won’t have to worry about your wobbly little ones.
Get tickets to a children's film series
Parents know that for every Oscar-worthy, critically-acclaimed children’s movie, there’s at least a dozen other stinkers with annoying characters and clichéd plots. But that’s not the case at these curated film series that the whole family can enjoy. On select Sundays every spring BAM screens special matinees (at special discounted prices) of kid flicks that span film history like Jacques Tati’s Mon Oncle (1958) or Studio Ghibli’s The Secret World of Arrietty (2012). Nitehawk Cinema’s “Lil Hawk Friendly” series highlights movies where kids as young as 6 are welcome at the cool, dine-in cinephile hotspot, while Film Forum Jr. brings the whole brood in for bonafide classics like Great Expectations as well as new favorites like Harry Potter.
While living with your family in a New York City apartment can feel pretty cramped, at least you and your brood don’t have it quite as bad as the immigrants who called this Lower East Side building their home in the 19th and early 20th centuries. Big kids (children under 6 are not admitted) can see how their ancestors and New Yorkers who came before them lived on a one hour tour of the former tenement ($25, $20 students), which covers in great detail how the German-Jewish and Irish families struggled to find their way in their new country through grueling labor and tough living conditions. You also see taste how these immigrants ate, with a sit-down meal of various foods that were sold around the neighborhood with a Thursday evening Tasting at the Tenement ($35, students $30).
There’s no better way to get out that excess energy than with either a trip to the park or a full-body dance party, so why not combine the two experiences? Every summer some of New York’s best public spaces host super fun kid bands like Mister G and Lucy Kalantari at Riverside Park’s Summer on the Hudson: Children’s Performance Series, or Hot Peas n’ Butter at Union Square’s Summer in the Square. The big season-long festivals like Celebrate Brooklyn! at the Prospect Park Bandshell and city-wide SummerStage also schedule performances with bands of many different genres that the whole family can cut loose to. Best of all? Many of the performances are free!
Jack Sparrow wannabes will flip over the fleet of historic ships docked at this harbor on the southern tip of Manhattan. At the South Street Museum’s active waterfront (admission $10, children under 9 free), they can get up close with vessels including the Ambrose, which served as a floating lighthouse, and an 1885 schooner named Pioneer South—you can even set sail aboard a few! Back on dry land, families can fuel up on tasty food at Smorgasburg (Saturdays and Sundays 11am–6pm) and track down just-for-kids activities like workshops with FiDi Families, live KidAround performances or free Front Row Cinema screenings of flicks like Goonies, Charlie and the Chocolate Factory and Frozen.
Things to do with kids in NYC: 71–80
“Wait, Prospect Park has horseback riding?” is a common parental reaction to hearing about this 85-year-old institution, even for veteran Brooklynites. While technically located just southwest of the park near the parade grounds, most rides take place within it, including sessions for beginners up to advanced riders. You’ll be led alongside a three-and-a-half-mile stretch of the park, entering through the Park Circle gates and continuing alongside the lake to the Nethermead Arches. If your little one is still in her “pony” phase (a.k.a. under the age of six), there’s also the Kensington Stables Pony Club, a weeklong program offered during school breaks where she’ll learn to groom, manage, and ride a pony. 51 Caton Place (718-972-4588, www.kensingtonstables.com). Hour-long ride $37 per person ages 11 and up; children under 11 $57 per hour, $34 per half-hour. Must be six and up.
When little ones ask to go to the zoo, there’s no doubt they mean this one, NYC’s best and biggest. Bustling with more than 5,000 creatures, the zoo is home to lions, tigers, and bears (oh my!), the World of Reptiles (including the famous cobra who went missing a few years back, Mia), adorable snow leopards of the Himalayan highlands, an outdoor baboon reserve, the sea lion pool, and an exhibit dedicated entirely to lemurs and other animals of Madagascar. While every kid will have their own favorite part, no trip is complete without a ride on the Wild Asia monorail, which tours 38 acres of exhibits that house elephants, red pandas, rhinos, antelope, tigers, deer, and wild horses.
Look for the big yellow roof to find this Crown Heights behemoth, which when it opened in 1899 was one of the first museums in the country geared specifically to kids. It doubles as an ode to the borough, however, with permanent exhibits like “World Brooklyn,” a pint-sized cityscape where little ones can shop at fake Mexican bakeries and international bodegas, or “Neighborhood Nature,” which explore the critters and plants found in everyday Brooklyn backyards. Plus, every day, there’s a slew of drop-in workshop that’ll let them either meet insects, learn yoga, or touch real sea creatures.
It’s hard for kids to choose whether they’d rather go ice-skating or visit an amusement park, but luckily, this multi-use space changes with the seasons. From October through spring, it acts as Trump Rink, an outdoor skating arena with public hours and drop-in private lessons, but when the ice melts, it turns into Victorian Gardens, a delightfully old-fashioned amusement park. Expect nostalgic rides like the classic round swing, bumper boats, and a train track, plus carnival games parents will remember, like Whac-A-Mole. (212-982-2229, wollmanskatingrink.com).
Though little ones may never tire of watching Frozen for the millionth time, many art house theaters in NYC have launched series dedicated to exposing them to family-friendly films from throughout history. There’s Film Forum Jr., where on Sunday mornings throughout the year, the downtown theater picks a selection that can include anything from Who Framed Roger Rabbit to Ghostbusters. On select Saturdays, MoMA also has free family-friendly live-action and animated films in its theater, complete with a post-screening discussion with a museum educator. Various locations, information, and prices.
Sure, maybe the prices are cheaper on Amazon, but there’s nothing like watching kids’ imaginations run wild in between the aisles of a bookstore. Favorites include indie shops like Word, which, fun fact, is located near Henry Miller’s Greenpoint home, BookCourt, where about a third of the space is dedicated to children’s titles, and of course, Books of Wonder, the city’s largest kids-only bookshop (it was used as inspiration for the film You’ve Got Mail!), where they’ll stumble upon rare and out-of-print editions alongside newer titles. Launch parties and author visits at bookshops like powerHouse Arena, Greenlight, and McNally Jackson are common as well, and nearly always free. Various locations.
Take a bite out of a classic NYC bagel
No other foodstuff is quite as synonymous with New York City as the bagel, and with practically infinite ways to eat it (lox and cream cheese! breakfast sandwiches! pizza bagels!), it’s also one kids will never tire of. Start your bagel tour with the classic lox and cream cheese at Jewish deli Russ & Daughters (or better yet, nab a seat at their nearby cafe), before moving on to trendy newcomer Black Seed in Nolita for a ricotta, apple, and honey midday sandwich. From there, you’ve got two options: Trek to either bagel-replete ends of NYC for a bite of TONY-winning bagel shop Absolute Bagels on the Upper West Side, or the Mayor de Blasio-approved Bagel Hole in Park Slope. Various locations and prices.
Even if your little rides public transportation every morning, they probably still get a kick out of playing with toy trains, cars and buses. You can give in to that obsession, and teach them a few fascinating facts that might even be new to you, while at this spot dedicated to the history of the city’s subway system. Located in an authentic 1930s subway station, the museum uses pictures, models, and vintage cars (which you can hop aboard) to tell the fascinating story about how New York got its iconic underground tunnels. Beware, if you enter the gift shop you might find it near impossible to leave without a train or shirt immortalizing your local subway line.
For a spectacular show at a fraction of the cost of The Lion King, consider off-Broadway productions, many of which have been running for as long as some Broadway shows. For kids, there’s percussive acts like Blue Man Group and Stomp, or the Gazillion Bubble Show, which is exactly what it sounds like. From time to time, there are also stage adaptations of stories kids will recognize, like the Berenstain Bears Live! or The Lion, The Witch, and the Wardrobe. Various prices, location, and information (212-541-8457, www.broadway.com).
Don’t be intimidated by all the surfboards—this expansive Queens beach, which emcompasses more than 170 acres of sand, is always full of families looking to get away from the hot concrete jungle. If your little beach bum’s between the ages of 5 and 15, however, they’re welcome to take part in lessons or weeklong surf camps, or simply rent a stand-up paddleboard or boogie board. Don’t bother packing a picnic, either—the food options here are too good to miss, from the bangin’ burgers at Ripper’s to the breakfast burritos at Anna Bow.
Things to do with kids in NYC: 81–90
You can’t beat the original location of this fast food favorite, which, as New York’s answer to L.A.’s In-N-Out, offers kid-friendly portions at reasonable prices—a single ShackBurger costs just $4.60. No burger is complete, however, without a side of crinkle-cut fries and a concrete (that’s a frozen custard milkshake blended with mix-ins like cookie dough or peanut butter sauce). Be sure you’ve blocked out a big chunk of time, as it’s the most popular location and summer wait times have been known to exceed an hour. Southeast corner of Madison Square Park.
At 17,000-square feet, Bryant Park is the city’s best and biggest ice rink, and with its proximity to the festive Winter Village holiday shops, the warm-up lounge Celsius, and plenty of hot chocolate, it’s the perfect place to bring out-of-town holiday visitors. Make note, however, that rental skates do cost a hefty $14, so if you and your family plan on going on more than a few times per season, it’s worth buying your own skates.
Dinner and a show doesn’t have to involve a television set—just ask NYC’s crop of rooftop restaurants that come summertime, are filled with families looking to dine al fresco. In Manhattan, there’s the uber kid-friendly ‘wichcraft, whose Flatiron location has a second-level deck, or Eataly’s always-bustling rooftop beer garden La Birreria. But Brooklynites get the brunt of the outdoor options, with Williamsburg bars like Northern Territory and Berry Park catering to families with kid-friendly hours (before 8pm!), plus the picnic table-replete roof on the new Whole Foods Gowanus, which carries burgers as well as fare the downstairs hot buffet.
Handily located directly adjacent to the playground’s inspiration, the Egyptian Wing of Metropolitan Museum of Art, Central Park’s Ancient Playground lets kids work off post-museum energy with stone pyramids, tunnels, treehouse-like wooden forts, tire swings, a sundial, nine slides, and a sandbox anchored by a mini obelisk. As the park’s most recently renovated playgrounds, there are also cool features like a kid-activated waterfall that runs across two bridges and cascades into an open area.
Looking for something different from the usual round of parks, museums and playgrounds? It may seem like just another fun activity with fresh air and exercise, but taking your kids to the Golf Club at Chelsea Piers could be, quite literally, a game changer. Mini golfers will have a blast on the driving range, whacking ball after ball into voluminous nets that overlook the Hudson River, but if your child dreams of becoming the next Michelle Wie or Rory McIlroy, the Golf Club’s robust junior program can take them to the next level. There are classes, clinics and even summer camp for players of all levels, beginners to elite, ages four and up. The impressive 2,000-square-foot center is open year-round with 52 individual hitting stalls (heated in winter) over four levels, with professional-grade equipment such as indoor sand bunkers, putting greens, chipping stations, and a high-tech swing analysis system. Memberships are required for the 37-week Elite Junior Program (37-weeks, $2,700, ages 10–18), but you can just sign up for Tots Golf (4-weeks $345, ages 4–5,), Family Clinics (4-weeks $425, ages 4–11,) and Saturday Program (7-weeks $425, ages 5–14,). If that’s too much commitment, you can drop in and buy a ball card (from $30), rent a club ($4) and get out there and start swinging. 94–158 balls $30, depending on peak and off-peak hours. 541–911 balls $150.
The Children’s Center of the main branch of the NYPL, located inside the gorgeous Stephen A. Schwarzman Building, boasts over 40,000 books for kids up to age 12, as well as plenty of DVDs and computers to watch them on. If it’s nice out, your best bet is to choose a good read and post up outside in Bryant Park, but there’s also occasional storytelling and performances indoors for babies through tweens.
Simply say the words “Coney Island” to a kid in the summertime and they'll think of one thing: the Cyclone. Actually, two things: the Cyclone, followed by a giant Nathan’s hot dog. While no visit is complete without a few spins around Luna Park and a dog, any kid who braved the F-train trek to Brooklyn’s southernmost border deserves an ice cream cone on the boardwalk and a visit to the New York Aquarium, too.
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).
Go under the sea with National Geographic Encounter (New in 2017!)
Opening in the fall 2017 is National Geographic’s state-of-the-art interactive exhibit that will bring the Pacific Ocean to a space just blocks away from the Hudson River. The Times Square attraction uses jaw dropping visuals to recreate in studding detail the ocean habitat and the life forms that call the deep sea and its coasts home. An award-winning visual effects and creative team with experience in film, television and music is working with cutting edge technology to make the exhibit one that the whole family can participate in. Virtual animals like humpback whales, sea lions and squids and great white sharks will seem to react to visitors in surprising, magnificent ways.
Nestled in the strip of the East River bordered by Harlem, the Bronx, and Queens, this island park is an active family’s paradise: There’s a complex for football, soccer, baseball, and other field sports, not to mention trails for walking and cycling. Green thumbs can also stop by the Urban Farm, where on summer weekends kids can meet chickens and learn about growing fruits and veggies. When little legs get tired, simply sit back and enjoy the view of the Manhattan skyline.
Things to do with kids in NYC: 91–101
Give your little one a Very Merry Un-Birthday party at Central Park’s most kid-approved statue: Alice! At 11 feet tall, she’s also one of the most climbable (yep, that’s allowed!) in the whole park. After sipping make-pretend tea with the Mad Hatter, the White Rabbit and the rest of the Wonderland gang, head over to the nearby Conservatory Water, where from April through October, there’s always a mini model boat regatta to cheer on. Central Park at East 74th Street. Free.
A Park Slope parents’ go-to destination for picky and adventurous eaters alike, both Dizzy’s locations (there’s one on busy Fifth Avenue and a quieter outpost closer to Prospect Park) caters to kids with old-school comfort food like banana and chocolate chip pancakes, malted milk shakes, and egg creams topped with a scoop of ice cream. Naturally, there’s plenty for hungry moms and dads as well, like a sweet potato and kale hash and no less than six variation on the classic Eggs Benny. Perhaps best of all, breakfast is served all day, but be sure to stop at the ATM beforehand—it’s cash-only.
When it comes to out-there carousels, NYC’s certainly takes the cake, both in sheer quantity and in elaborateness. There’s the Bronx Zoo’s Bug Carousel, which trades in the traditional horses for enormous insects ($5, plus zoo admission), the Central Park Carousel, one of the country’s largest, and Le Carrousel in Bryant Park, which, as its name suggests, is a nod to the park’s Francophone style with blaring cabaret tunes. But the best of the bunch might be Jane’s Carousel, the recently renovated 1922 structure that boasts 48 hand-carved horses—and since it’s protected inside a giant glass enclosure in Brooklyn Bridge Park, it spins year-round.
This Upper West Side institution’s two permanent exhibits activate different aspects of kids’ imaginations: First, there’s “EatSleepPlay,” where kids can crawl through a digestive system, help pump a giant heart, and burn energy by ducking lasers and balancing on a beam, all in the name of helping them build healthy habits. The other, “PlayWorks,” lets little siblings (ages four and under) interact with a talking dragon, climb on fire trucks and MTA busses and crawl through sandy and soft structures. In the summertime, there’s also “City Splash,” where they’ll launch boats down a stream and create lakes and rivers at an Erosion Table.
Every summer, NYC’s crop of free outdoor movie series take to the city’s parks for an evening activity that’s way more fun than a living room movie night—and way less expensive than the cinema. Though all New Yorkers know of the Monday night series at Bryant Park, for a less-crowded (and kid-friendlier) experience, opt for Hudson River Parks’ RiverFlicks for Kids series on Friday nights, where everyone gets free popcorn, Syfy’s Movies with a View on Thursday nights, or if you don’t mind a trip across the Hudson, Hoboken’s Movies with a View at Pier A Park. There’s also the Intrepid Museum’s summer movie series—just be sure to check the rating before heading over, as some films in the series are for adults only. Various locations. Free.
The old expression “like a kid in a candy store” doesn’t even begin to describe little one’s excitement once they enter this newly renovated, three-floor ode to all things sugar-filled. Among the dizzying rows of gummies and giant swirly lollipops, there’s also decadent desserts like hand-dipped chocolate bars and peanut butter popcorn. Naturally, though, kids will flocked to the characters they love most, like the Minion or Hello Kitty–themed candy bars, or the array of products that can be personalized with their own name. For the ultimate Dylan’s experience, stop by the café, where families can split a s’mores dessert pizza ($12) or a chocolatey pot of Fun-Due ($30).
While the highlight of most museums is what’s inside, simply climbing aboard this former aircraft carrier, which fought in World War II, the Cold War and the Vietnam War, and survived five kamikaze attacks is one of the most exciting parts about visiting. No trip is complete without stepping inside the Bell 47 helicopter, navigating the interacting submarine, or steering the wings of an airplane in the Exploreum hall, but don’t miss the Space Shuttle Pavilion, either, which houses the giant NASA orbiter Enterprise.
The oxymoronic name for this Upper East Side dessert lover’s paradise may confuse grammar-patrolling parents, but to kids, it makes perfect sense: Made of whole milk, crushed ice, whipped cream, and a secret blend of no less than 14 different kinds of chocolate, the Frrozen Hot Chocolate is best enjoyed with a sibling through dueling straws. And for a creamy, decadent twist, there’s also a version that comes with peanut butter.
For curious kiddos who’ve visited “the dinosaur museum” one too many times, the Met offers an east side alternative that’s just as kid-friendly—as long as you know where to go. Start by walking through the Temple of Dendur in the museum’s Egyptian Wing, then say hello to Sphynxes, the statue of the Nile crocodile, and—for brave older siblings—a peek into the coffin of Khnumhotep, where they’ll gaze upon a real mummy! Other exhibits they’ll appreciate: the coats of armor inside the Medieval Wing and the sun-soaked marble statues inside the Greek and Roman collection.
Practically every inch of this Olmsted and Vaux-designed park (the same architects as Central Park, who—fun fact—preferred their Brooklyn creation) is suitable for a picnic, but families flock to Long Meadow on the northern end for its expansive, flat landscape and rare off-leash dog policy. After you’ve had your fill, be sure to hit up the Children’s Corner, where the carousel, the zoo, and the Lefferts Historic House live. Enter the park at 15th Street and Prospect Park West, Brooklyn, or Grand Army Plaza.
From April through November, more than 150 vendors set up shop on this Fort Greene high school courtyard, selling everything from fancy recycled furniture to kitschy trinkets, plus handmade-in-Brooklyn children’s items with twee details (think tees emblazoned with owls). Like its food-focused sister market, Smorgasburg, there’s plenty to eat, from Mexican sandwiches to Dough doughnuts. Be warned: On hot days, shade is difficult to come by—but luckily, there’s Blue Marble Ice Cream for cooling off.