Looking for things to do with kids in NYC? Search no further: Our list of the city's 101 can't-miss activities, events and places will make exploring New York so much fun for the whole fam!
From checking out the best kids museums in NYC, to the amazing kids' playgrounds NYC youngsters love, to sitting down for some real-deal New York pizza, we serve up the best of the city to you. This roundup is totally lit.
Culture, shopping, parks, sports, restaurants, attractions: Our list will 101% inspire you to visit unfamiliar neighborhoods, try new things and eat new foods. So grab the kids and set out on an urban adventure—we want you to take advantage of what makes this city so special!
Best things to do with kids in NYC
Dinosaurs, whales and elephants, oh my! The Upper West Side institution isn’t just beloved in NYC, it’s a global attraction that draws visitors from all over the world. And for good reason: From learning about species in the Hall of Biodiversity, to walking under the giant whale in the Milstein Family Hall of Ocean Life, museum-goers could marvel at the displays all day long and still not see everything in this palace-like complex. If the kiddies (or even if you and your spouse) want to tuck in under the giant whale, have a look at the venue’s sleepover offerings. Yep, The Night at the Museum movie can be your reality...well, sort of!
For a NYC experience like no other, head to this former military base of brick buildings and leafy lawns: It feels like a New England college was transported to an island in New York Harbor. Hop on a ferry (the island is just 800 yards from Manhattan!) and you'll be transported to a park-like setting with winding paths and play zones and some very good food trucks. It’s a paradise for kids, a place where they can run around and get all their sillies out. This seasonal venue reopens every spring, and it comes alive in the heat of the summer, when cooling ocean breezes make a visit to Governors Island a very good idea.
We all agree that pizza is an essential part of the diet of every New Yorker. Where you will find the best pizza in town is up for discussion—although we have an opinion on the matter. From classics like di Fara to new-style places like Paulie Gee’s, to curveballs like Archie’s (been yet? didn’t think so), NYC pizza places keep us coming back hungry for more. We may never settle on who makes the best pizza in town. Instead: Visit all of the greats and decide for yourself?
Central Park's unique history, accessibility and design make it New York City's most famous park, and one of the most celebrated greenspaces in the history of the world. It was the first public park built in the United States, sees about 25 million visitors per year and contains 36 bridges and arches and around 50 monuments, sculptures, fountains and a castle! Perhaps most important to families, the park contains 21 playgrounds, Swedish Cottage Marionette Theater, charming paddleboat rentals and, of course, the Central Park Zoo.
Check out our list of the best ice cream shops in NYC for kids! No matter what you and the crew are craving, these destinations are nothing short of fabulous. From cones and cups to the more avant garde, these can't-miss venues serve up sweets for days.
The moment the curtain rises in this gorgeous jewel-box of a theater, kids sense that something truly amazing is about to happen— the New Vic brings Broadway-quality productions of thought-provoking theater to a young crowd. These family-friendly productions are 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. 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 and other themed programming adds to the audience’s enjoyment and understanding of the show. Parents will love the venue’s family-centric ethos—affordable ticket prices, Autism-aware performances, stroller parking, free lockers and plentiful booster seats—these thoughtful touches remove the drama out of taking kids to the theater.
Though 750,000 visitors pass through its doors daily, Grand Central Station’s celestial ceiling in the 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.
If you only have a New York minute to spare, let Time Out help you discover the best of the city. We promise it's easier than ever. Time Out Market New York, the 21,000 square-foot-eatery and cultural center, lets hungry visitors big and lil' indulge in the city's tastiest dishes in one location. From hearty breakfast dishes at Clinton St. Baking Co to a margherita pizza at Juliana's and mac and cheese from Jacob's Pickles, we've got you covered. All ages.
In the classic kids book “From the Mixed-Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler,” a resourceful sister and brother live in the Met, spending the days in the galleries and the nights in the recreated bedrooms of a chateau. Wander through the museum and you can see why that fantasy still resonates: You can walk from an Egyptian temple into a Frank Lloyd Wright house to the armor of Henry VIII, and have only explored one corner of one floor of this vast building. Advice for families: Use the family entrance to the left of the grand stairs on the plaza level (stroller-friendly! no lines!); ask for the free Family Guides that make the museum come alive for young minds; and check out the storytime events at the Nolan Library.
The best view in New York is from the middle of the East River: There's nothing quite like sitting on the upper deck of an NYC Ferry as it cruises under the Williamsburg, Manhattan and Brooklyn Bridges. Officially a part of the city's transportation system, a ride on the ferry costs just $2.75—and children under 44 inches tall are free. More ferry routes are added every year—there are seven so far, with another to be added this year and a Coney Island service scheduled for 2021. It's always more fun to get where you're going when you're on a boat.
The American Museum of Natural History isn’t just home to an amazing collection of fossils, sea creature and artifact displays—it’s also where you’ll find 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 “Worlds Beyond Earth,” a space show introduced in 2020.
Symphony Space’s weekend family program is a kid-friendly celebration of the arts with a lineup of music, literary, dance and theatrical events that will have your little ones grooving, singing and rolling in the aisles. Youngsters experience everything from circus acts and rock bands, to puppetry and beatboxing, and during the Thalia Kids Book club, young readers take part in creative writing exercises and engage in dynamic Q&As with their favorite authors. You have a weekend home on the corner of 95th and Broadway.
You’ll have a whale of a time at the Wildlife Conservation Society’s 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. Visitors looking for an experience with more teeth should definitely check out the sharks.
Stretching 1.3 miles along the East River, this beautiful revamped waterfront is proof that this city is serious about its leisure. Pier 2 is tricked out with recreation facilities for basketball, handball, bocce, shuffleboard and roller-skating. Post up at Pier 3 with a blanket and book, or take a peaceful stroll minus traffic noise thanks to Sound Attenuating Hill. Kids will want to head straight for Pier 6 to explore a playground featuring wonderfully landscaped play spaces, including the Water Lab—a stone-strewn area with water underfoot to splash in—plus, New York's largest sandbox.
A visit to Snug Harbor keeps families busy thanks to 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. Remember to see the Connie Gretz Secret Garden, where kids can wander through the maze-like shrubbery inspired by Frances Hodgson Burnett's classic novel. Make a point of visiting when the Winter Lantern Festival transforms the grounds into an eight-acre wonderland of dazzling displays with an Asian flair: Think pandas, dragons and florals.
Boasting 18 miles of books, the Strand has a mammoth collection of more than 2 million discount volumes, and the store is made all the more daunting by its chaotic, towering shelves and surly staff. Reviewer discounts are in the basement, while rare volumes lurk upstairs. It also hosts a wide variety of lively readings by fiction writers, graphic novelists, biographers and political analysts. The bookshop also hosts weekly staff-run storytimes, readings by popular children's writers and "visits" from book characters.
Handheld, schmandheld: Kids love to go to arcades and play the real deal. Step through the door of a place Dave & Buster’s or Chinatown Fair and the eyes of your little one will light up like the pinball machines at Modern Pinball. Remember: Don't hog the games—you should give the kids a turn.
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. While you’ll be jostled by the thousands of other tourists crossing the East River (a total bummer), but the views can't be beat. If you’re coming from Manhattan, reward tired legs with a scoop of something sweet at Ample Hills Creamery, conveniently located at the base of the bridge in DUMBO. If you worked up an appetite, make sure to stop by the forthcoming Time Out Market New York on Water Street, which is a taste of the city’s best chefs under one roof.
This retro-cool flagship of Morgenstern's is bigger than the original ice cream shop on the Lower East Side, serving a whopping 88 flavors from five different scooping stations. There's also a full-on kitchen for the handmade cakes, pies and black-and-white profiteroles—be sure to check out the ever-changing selection of limited-edition frozen treats.
Do they sometimes play baseball in Yankee Stadium? Supporters of NYCFC know that while this might not be the best venue for soccer, it's a great place to bring the kids: The family-friendly crowd is filled with little David Villas, and the ticket prices are significantly lower than what you find at other pro sporting events. To top it off, NYCFC is a legit contender for the title, the reigning Eastern Conference champs. As for that other MLS team in the area, we hear they're the best in all of Harrison, NJ.
Consider this an amusement park ride run by the MTA: The red tramway cars make for most unique commute in the city. Hop aboard at the 59th St and Second Ave station and check out the Queensboro Bridge as you are carried high above the water. Wander over to the Franklin D. Roosevelt Four Freedoms State Park, then head back for the return trip—and more jaw-dropping views.
Most of the amazing original sculptures, paintings and multimedia creations at the Children’s Museum of the Arts are made fresh everyday by the artists...which are actually the visitors. Little ones from across the city and around the world convene at this kid’s museum to let their imaginations and creativity run free as they take part in the daily workshops and studio activities.
Yes, 28 acres of gorgeous greenery does exist in the Bronx—and we’re not talking about the New York Botanical Garden 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. If you manage to wake the kids up early enough on Saturdays, admission is free before noon.
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 mini golf at the massive Science Playground and Rocket Park. Trust us, this place is worth the trek.
The Children's Library at the Central Branch of the Brooklyn Public Library is one of the best anywhere, full stop. Housed in a striking 1941 Art Deco building designed to look like an open book, the library is Brooklyn's largest: About one million people visit it each year. The plaza overlooking Grand Army Plaza, is a buzzing summer gathering place for Brooklynites. Among the library's strongest suits is its first-floor Youth Wing, with designated spaces for toddlers, grade-schoolers, tweens and teens to read, work on homework and use game-equipped computers. Plus, a new state-of-the-art performance space puts on more than a hundred events per month, many of which are aimed squarely at kids.
Josie Robertson Plaza is the pulsing heart of Lincoln Center, the cultural campus located on the Upper West Side. Kids love the playful fountain, which rises and falls to a syncopated rythm—it seems like its dancing. Lincoln Center is also where you'll find Lincoln Center Kids, the New York Philharmonic's Young People's Concerts and the Metropolitan Opera's family-friendly performance of the Magic Flute—Jazz at Lincoln Center and the home of the Very Young People's Concerts are close by. So much to do, so much to see, so much to experience.
One World Observatory at World Trade Center lets visitors experience panoramic views of NYC from atop the tallest building in the United States. 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 provides a view of real-time, high-definition footage of the streets below.
Seeing a Broadway show is the birthright of every little New Yorker. Just watch their faces when the lights go down and the curtains go up: Even fidgety children will be fully immersed in the make-believe happening onstage! There are shows to suit all tastes—be sure to check out what’s on offer at the TKTS booths and online at TheaterMania.com. You may get lucky and score a discount!
NYC foodies revel in the selections that abound from Brooklyn’s hippest culinary experience. Make sure your stomach is empty, then make your way to Williamsburg Saturdays and Sundays in the Winter, and to Williamsburg, Prospect Park and the World Trade Center in Summer for a plethora of options that will appeal to all palates in your brood. The vendors change every season, but rest assured: You and yours will find the food you LOVE.
Art-loving parents and their babies (even fussy ones) can enjoy before-hours tours of the Whitney’s exhibitions, led by Whitney Teaching Fellows and Ph.D. candidates. On Saturdays and Sundays, kids can even use inspiration from the galleries to make a masterpiece during Open Studio For Families.
Goats, sheep and ponies—oh my! Families don’t have to travel far from the city to get a tranquil agrarian experience. At the Queens County Farm Museum, the the oldest continually farmed site in the state, barnyard animals are available for feeding, petting and your “oohs” and “ahs,” too. 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 and activities such as pumpkin picking and a haunted house.
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 20 blocks worth of car- and bike-free strolling. Besides plenty of seating and a killer view of the Meatpacking District and Chelsea, there are fun opportunities for little ones such as monthly family festivals, partnerships with schools and camps as well as teen programs.
While convincing your children to use their feet and quit their whining about wanting to take a taxi 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 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.
When the Museum of Modern Art reopened in 2019 it expanded its kid-friendly activities. If you have little ones, head to the Heyman Family Art Lab, a cheerful art studio that overlooks the garden. The lab has books, toys and a small play area in addition to activity stations stocked with amazing art making. Older kids ages 10 and up will want to go to the new Paula and James Crown Creativity Lab on the second floor—this studio is geared for children, teens and adults, with more sophisticated projects. Free family-friendly tours turn the museum into a playland of shapes, colors and ideas. Art should always be this amazing, and this much fun!
Look for the big yellow roof to find this Crown Heights favorite, 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 workshops that’ll keep them entertained.
You can’t beat the bustling Washington Square Park when it comes to people watching: 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 mini replica of the Arc de Triomphe). Dress the little ones in their swimmies—it will be difficult to keep them out of the water zone in the playground on hot days!
It's time to lace up for the best ice skating NYC has to offer. Classic options such as Rockefeller Center are just as thrilling as newcomers like the rink at Industry City. After gaining the necessary stamina with a cup of the best hot chocolate in NYC, it's time to hit the ice with your crew!
Lady Liberty has been watching over New York Harbor for more than a century, and she’s never looked better. It doesn't matter if you’re a local or just visiting, this icon of America is a must-visit attraction. The recently-renovated Statue of Liberty Museum includes an immersive theater that provides a glimpse into Lady Liberty's history and ideals, an engagement gallery where visitors can get a behind-the-scenes of Frédéric Auguste Bartholdi’s creative process the inspirational gallery that provides an up-close-and-personal look at the monument’s original torch.
Some things never change: The sun rises in the east, the Kicks will lose and kids love subways and trains. You will feed that interest with a trip to the New York Transitanist Museum, which is located in an authentic 1930s subway station under the streets of Downtown Brooklyn. The museum uses pictures, models and vintage cars (which you can hop aboard!) to tell the fascinating story about New York’s iconic underground tunnels.
Want to rub elbows with your favorite celebs? There’s no need to head to Hollywood—just visit Madame Tussauds for a taste of Tinseltown in the heart of Midtown. The Times Square museum is in a league of its own, housing wax figures of our beloved stars and starlets: Jimmy Fallon, Princess Meghan Markle, Oprah and so many more. It’ll be hard to keep up, and chances are you might get a bit starstruck along the way. Make sure your phone battery is fully charged, as you’ll want to snap start-studded selfies throughout your visit.
When the Empire State Building was completed in 1931 it was the tallest in the world. Other towering buildings have been sent since, but the Empire State is still first in our hearts. Take your time enjoying the scene from the 86th floor, then head to the newly renovated observation on the 102nd floor, where kids will take in a breathtaking view—and feel like they’re floating above the city.
People have a common misconception that NYC is lacking greenspace. Clearly, these people have not made a visit to the Edible Academy at the New York Botanical Garden. The renovated greenspace has one goal: Get kids in the dirt. Thanks to classrooms, lecture spaces, gardens and other facilities, the Edible Academy immerses little New Yorkers in all-things botany, nutrition and nature. Head to the Bronx to explore the classes, camps and cool event offerings.
Whether your toddlers loves getting their hands dirty with a gardening class or your book-loving big kids want 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.
NYC is definitely a concrete jungle, but don’t be fooled—there are plenty of ways to keep active, even if backyards are few and far between. You can take on new heights without venturing to the top floor of a skyscraper. Rock climbing spots throughout the five boroughs, such as Brooklyn Boulders, offer a chance for participants of all ages to master their moves while making their way to the top. Classes and party options are available at most venues, so take a gander and see what suits your little adventurer’s needs.
When the weather isn’t cooperating and a trip to Coney Island isn’t in the cards, bring the fun indoors to Dave & Buster’s. The Times Square arcade offers something for everyone in the family—bowling, shuffleboard, virtual reality, Dace Dance Revolution and plenty of snacks to help you refuel when you are in need of a pick-me-up. Kids and adults will be equally enamored with the fun offerings. Make sure to give the games your all—cool prizes are at stake!
The animals who inhabit the Bronx Zoo have no problem climbing on rocks and finding the tallest tree branch to call their own, so you should be able to experience the grounds from new vantage points, too. Thanks to the Bronx Zoo Treetop Adventure, visitors (ages 7 and up) are treated to a whole new perspective thanks to a zip-lining and a rope adventure course. After a walk through the exhibits, get your adrenaline pumping with something adventurous, and if you walk away feeling inspired, make sure to book your child’s next birthday party at the course!
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.
Imported to the U.S. from Sweden in 1876, this venue is the coziest in all of NYC. Employing handmade marionettes and beautiful sets, the resident company mounts citified versions of well-known stories.
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. 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).
Built in 1880, this teeny structure is a beloved nod to the city’s history. The lighthouse served as the inspiration for Hildegard H. Swift's 1942 children's book, The Little Red Lighthouse and the Great Gray Bridge, plus it plays host to an annual festival in late September.
Pip's Island is here to stay: The kid-focused theater experience will include immersive sets, exploratory spaces and audiovisual features that'll have pint-sized visitors calling the shots (think of it as starring in a video game). The chief creative officer describes it as "a special blend of the creative arts including interactive space design, performance art, music, animation, digital gadgetry and play—all brought together with seamless storytelling and audience engagement."
Now that Nitehawk Cinema has two Brooklyn locations, you have no excuse for not checking out the All Ages family-friendly programming—it allows junior film buffs to take their movie excursion to the next level. The kid-centric offerings at the Park Slope location—made even more perfect by Prospect Park across the street—are can't miss treats.
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. If volleyball isn’t your game, take to the 18-hole mini golf course, complete with a pond, streams, footbridges, waterfalls, sand traps and even a cave. Young Masters-in-training will also love the Play Area outfitted with a sandbox, swings and water features.
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 more unknown 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. The venue’s fun workshops and school programs teach children how to identify their feathered friends and care for the environment, too.
This legendary house of worship counts Presidents, movie stars and business moguls among past and present attendees. While its intricate marble towers are a marvel of Gothic Revival architecture, St. Pat’s interior—including the Louis Tiffany–designed altar and spectacular rose window—is tremendous as both a feat of master craftsmanship and a source of spiritual inspiration.
Rain, rain, go away—and if it doesn’t, then head to one the indoor playgrounds that will allow your little ones to get some healthy physical activity while sheltered from the elements. Check out our list of the most awesome indoor playgrounds across the five boroughs and you won’t have to put the adventure on hold because of the forecast. These venues have jungle gyms, slides, bounce houses and other exciting features.
Thinking of a career in espionage? Test your skills at Spyscape in NYC, the interactive Times Square exhibit that lets visitors uncover the truth with lie detectors, put their flexibility to work in a room full of laser beams and learn about spies like Alan Turing, who cracked the Enigma code. See you there...or will we?
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. Check out this season’s lineup to see what you and your crew will enjoy!
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.
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, whether it’s biking along the park’s shaded paths or gliding on the 16,000-square-foot roller rink. Rent equipment on-site 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 20 water jets of the LeFrak Center’s awesome Splash Pad feature (for those who are under 12).
One of the great joys of summer in the city is boating on the East River with the Manhattan skyline as your backdrop. Every year, from May until August, Brooklyn Bridge Park offers free (free!) kayaking—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.
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. Even better? 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.
Brunch, also known as lunch with eggs, is a part of the New York weekend ritual that can be super fun for kids—that is, if you know where to look! Our list curates the best family-friendly options in town. 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.
These fantastic escape rooms for kids offer themed challenges that no kid—even your teens—can resist! New York's biggest new family entertainment trend lets you strategize an escape from a thief's house, help a spaceship make its way home and even pretend to be Indiana Jones right here in the city. While some escape rooms are better suited for an older crowd, these picks are perfect for visitors of most ages. Read on for our recommendations!
We've been crossing days off our calendars, waiting for the moment when FAO Schwarz promises we'll "return to wonder." Well NYC, wonder no more! The beloved toy store opened the doors to its new permanent home at 30 Rock, and the endless stacks of empty red shopping bags aren't going to fill themselves. Although there are a great deal of shelves to peruse, which are chock full of stuffed animals, Hatchimals, Barbies, STEAM toys and anything else you can imagine, the store boasts plenty of fun (and even free) interactive activities. Children can enjoy magic acts, science experiments, toy race cars, spa treatments and loads of other fun.
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.
Before they’re old enough to appreciate the New-York Historical Society, bring budding history buffs to the DiMenna Children's History Museum. The venue 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.
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.
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.
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
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 (such as the art cart and free games) during the summertime.
As your brood strolls up Fifth Ave 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.
The American Girl Place at Rockefeller Center is a little girl's dream. The 40,000-foot shop spans two levels and offers some amazing features that include a salon for dolls— and kids. There’s a studio that allows kids to personalize a doll with their own designs (your American girl can make her own American Gir!), and a hospital where dolls can get a little surgery and physical therapy. Be sure to visit the American Girl Cafe, where your little one and her little-er pal can sit down for a full tea service, or simply grab a delicious snack.
It’s no secret that life in NYC doesn’t come cheap: Rent skyrockets, cab fares surge and little boutiques nestled in your favorite Brooklyn nabe sell beloved, handmade toys for a pretty penny. Despite hefty costs that are often associated with Gotham, there are plenty of freebies to enjoy...if you know where to look. Explore your local libraries, parks and attractions for free classes and events. Story time at Books Are Magic is free over the weekends, and Saturday games at Brookfield Place are cost-free. Dollar signs can seem daunting, but we assure you that there’s some relief!
When little ones ask to go to the zoo, there’s no doubt they mean the Bronx Zoo, NYC’s best and biggest. Bustling with more than 4,000 creatures, the go-to attraction is home to lions, tigers and bears (oh my!), the World of Reptiles (including the famous cobra who went missing a few years back), 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.
Much to the delight of fantasy fans, NYC is getting a Harry Potter flagship store this summer—the first of its kind in the world! Expect three floors of all-things witchcraft and wizardry. The shop will have interactive experiences and photo ops, and who can say no to that? The only downside is that we have to wait until the summer is here!
Hipsters have rediscovered the Coney Island scene, but kids never stopped loving the amusement parks, the corn dogs, the New York Aquarium. Luna Park is a summertime go-to, as is Deno’s and the famed Wonder Wheel. (A word to the wise: Get the amusement park thrills out of the way before lunch at Nathan’s.) You can always check out the sideshows, or catch a minor-league ball game down at MCU Park—and never want to pay Big League prices for tickets again. In steamier months you’ll want to hit the beach and play in the surf. No wonder Coney Island is still famous for warm-weather fun.
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.
Just because you have kids in tow doesn't mean you can't enjoy a frosty beverage. Spectacular NYC venues like Greenwood Park allow kids during certain hours so parents can mingle and enjoy some time away from the playground/apartment—same with Habana Outpost, which both serves alcohol and frequently offers movie nights and free crafting hours for families.
Literature abounds in NYC, and kids can get in on the action. The city’s quaint and charming independent bookstores offer plenty for little wordsmiths and bibliophiles to love. Not only are they able to peruse shelves of their favorite authors, but these spots also offer story times, events, book clubs and subscription boxes. Be warned, Mom and Dad: The kids might stay up well past their bedtime once they find a new read.
Although the Great White Way has some sensational theater productions, Off-Broadway shows are not to be overlooked. Kids will delight in the whimsical experience of The Gazillion Bubble Show and they’ll get a kick out of the percussion experts in the Blue Man Group. Explore all the shows available for kids and book your tickets ASAP!
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 bums are between the ages of 5 and 15, they’re welcome to take part in lessons, week-long surf camps, or simply rent a stand-up paddle board or boogie board. Don’t bother packing a picnic because the food options here are too good to miss, like the bangin’ burgers at Ripper’s.