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Photograph: Imogen Brown

The best things to do with toddlers in NYC

For all ages fun that includes the littles ones, here are the best things to do with toddlers in NYC

Written by
Allie Early
,
Danielle Valente
&
Oliver Strand
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With a wealth of fun playgrounds, beautiful parks, family-friendly attractions and museums galore, NYC is a great place for kids, even toddlers. The littlest ones need a lot of extra attention most of the time, but fortunately NYC has plenty of options for things to do with toddlers that will allow them to run around, burn energy and of course give parents a little break.

Regardless of the season, you can find something to do with kids in NYC. Good weather? Check out these outdoor activities for kids. Chilly or rainy? NYC has indoor playgrounds as well as loads of fun indoor activities. It’s not all about playtime though; these toddler-friendly activities, museums and stores are fun for the whole family. Once you’re done, and surely have worked up an appetite, head to one of the best family restaurants in the city to share a delicious meal.

RECOMMENDED: The best things to do with kids in NYC

Best things to do with toddlers

  • Things to do

When the coolest kids’ playgrounds in NYC are available at your fingertips, you’re in for a fabulous adventure. From the new-ish Domino Park which opened in 2018 to the ever-popular Central Park green spaces to the amazing Brooklyn Bridge Park, the city's best playgrounds take recreation to a whole new level. Where else can pint-sized park-goers construct their own playground, play on a pipefish or hang out with dinosaurs? Of course, it's all up for grabs in NYC. 

  • Museums
  • Childhood

There's no shortage of family fun in NYC, especially when you visit the many incredible museums for kids in each borough. From classics such as The American Museum of Natural History and the Met, to the unique destinations such as the Intrepid Sea, Air & Space Museum and the Cloisters, every site offers something exciting. Regardless of what exhibit you opt for, one thing's for sure: You won't be hearing "I'm bored" at any point during your trip.

Get tickets to the American Museum of Natural History.

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  • Things to do
  • Literary events

Storytime for kids will allow your child's love for literature to blossom one picture book at a time. Make your way to the best bookstores, most engaging libraries for kids, charming toy stores and other creative locations (ice cream and books, anyone?) in NYC for fun read-alouds and interactive activities. Children will meet new friends and explore a wide variety of tales, from the latest bestseller to classic stories. 

  • Things to do

Summon the harvest season one Granny Smith at a time. We found the best places for apple picking NY families need to explore, so grab a basket and map out the fall activities for kids your brood can't miss.  Locations like Hurds Family Farm and Apple Dave's Orchard are not only great places to score a bushel of fruit; they also offer fun activities such hayrides for the whole fam, petting zoos for kids, corn mazes and more. 

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  • Things to do

When you venture to the best kid's library branches in NYC, your pint-sized bibliophiles are bound to get lost in the stacks.  Options abound for curious little ones, whether they're searching for kid's books about NYC or hoping to get involved in the library's coolest free classes for kids. Head straight for the children's room and check out the schedule for storytime. Don't forget to get your free library card and head home with an armful of books to read at bedtime!

  • Shopping

We scoured the boroughs for the best New York toy stores, and one thing's clear: With so many adorable options, it's pretty difficult to choose just one! A safe bet would be to put each charming location on your list of things to do with kids in NYC. Whether you're in search of the must-have seasonal item, or want to put the kiddo's STEM skills to good use, toy stores in NYC have patrons covered. From FAO Schwarz to LEGO and everything in between, these shops are a must-visit if you have birthday parties for kids coming down the pipeline...or if your own tykes deserve a little reward.

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  • Attractions

Swap the skyscrapers and overcrowded subways for some natural tranquility. NYC might be a concrete jungle, but its beautiful greenery is not to be missed at one of the five boroughs' nature centers and take in the scenery. Thanks to a variety of programs and activities, families can enjoy their surroundings and learn a bit more about the grounds. We have a feeling you'll be planting flowers in no time!

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  • Things to do

Picture this: Your tot is ready for a day at the park when grey clouds roll in and lightning strikes. Fear not! The best indoor playgrounds for kids are here to save the day, and there are plenty within the five boroughs that deserve your attention. These spaces are perfect for running, jumping, sliding and swinging, and options are endless—whether your child wants to play in ball pits or have fun in a dance class. Added bonus? Some cater to parents with designated café areas. A little rain won't ruin your kid's parade.

  • Theater
  • Puppet shows

The NYC theater scene is alive and well...but that doesn't necessarily mean everyone on stage is an actor. In fact, the city's younger fan base prefers marionettes. Thanks to these adorable puppet theaters, we certainly can't blame kiddos. NYC's most lovable venues are perfect for families in search of a show with style—from classic retellings to the avant garde performances. 

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  • Attractions
  • Zoo and aquariums

Thanks to the fantastic zoos in New York City, families have the opportunity to see incredible animals from all around the world. Each of the zoos on our list offer something for everyone—including special activities for kids! NYC zoos are some of the most impressive in the world, and from the massive Bronx Zoo (one of the biggest in North America) to the petite Central Park Zoo, these family attractions invite kids to learn about numerous species through storytimes, art activities, camps, classes and hands-on interactions with nature.

Experience the Central Park Zoo on a sightseeing tour.

  • Restaurants

Amplify Saturday-morning cartoon marathons with takeout orders from a cereal restaurant in NYC. Sweet spots like Kith will make breakfast a bit more interesting and a whole lot more delicious. Though some concoctions are better suited for dessert than the first meal of the day, we guarantee your kids are going to love their orders at these cereal restaurants. Why have Froot Loops with milk when you can throw in marshmallows and other tasty toppings? Sounds like a no-brainer to us.

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  • Shopping

Craving something sweet? Visit our favorite candy stores and feast your eyes on the swoon-worthy snacks that are mighty difficult to pass up.  Old-school shops such as Fferins of Brooklyn offer delicious imported treats while the popular IT'Sugar brand boasts a vibrant, whimsical vibe as guests fill their bags with all-things flavorful.

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  • Movies
  • Family and kids

Staying in? Then it's time to get comfy on the couch with the best cartoons for kids, all of which are worthy of a marathon (complete with friends and snacks). While kids will gravitate toward newbies such as Paw Patrol, it's up to '90s babies to show 'em the ropes with hits like Hey Arnold and Dexter's Lab. Don't forget about the classics like Tom and Jerry! No matter what you choose, you and the fam will be busy for quite some time with the best kids' cartoons around.

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  • Movies
  • Family and kids

Keeping little ones entertained is no easy feat, but we're here to guide you through the ups and downs. Check out our roundup of the best movies for toddlers—they're guaranteed to captivate your rambunctious youngsters for an hour or two. Chances are, kiddies won't be in a rush for family movie night to end. From classic films to beloved animated titles, this list has a little something for everyone (and we promise adults will swoon over the selections, too).

  • Things to do

The carousels in NYC are easily the world's best, some with intricate designs dating back to the early 1900s! Many have been painstainkly restored to their original splendor so generation after generation can enjoy painted wooden horses, woodland creatures and chariots. There are newer carousels on our list as well, including quirkier picks like the Bug Carousel at the Bronx Zoo and Totally Kid Carousel, which was actually designed by children!

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  • Travel
  • getaways

Taking one of these Disney cruises from NYC is as easy as packing a bag, boarding a massive ocean liner and posting up in your room before the festivities begin! (No long car rides, flights or other whine-inducing travel required.) Your kids will stay plenty busy with top-notch entertainment on board—pools, costumed characters, kids' clubs, daily activities and other great stuff, and many Disney cruises from NYC offer stops in areas that have Disney parks (and include park-hopper passes). These Disney cruises are basically your ticket to a stress-free, all-inclusive vacation.

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  • Restaurants

What makes the perfect sundae? Add a dusting of sprinkles, a dollop of whipped cream and douse it with hot fudge. Voila! Your taste buds will be grateful for the super-sweet expedition. No matter what you and the crew are craving—cones, cups or shakes—these ice cream shops are nothing short of fabulous.  These can't-miss venues serve up sweets for days, and no toddler will say no to that!

  • Things to do

The summer heat in NYC is no laughing matter. Thankfully, the best water playgrounds for kids throughout the five boroughs are unmatched! If your tots are a bit frightened by the slides and thrills at your local waterpark, these spots will help them stay cool without the plunging slides and overwhelming dump buckets. Littles can beat the 90-degree days with the help of fun splash pads, water cannons, play structures and other great, refreshing features. 

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  • Attractions

The picks on our list offer plenty for your smallest adventurers—including splash pads, interactive water features, water playscapes and other sweet options to enjoy as a family. Beyond our favorite water parks for toddlers, there are also some other great ways to cool off right here in town. Visit our favorite water playgrounds, indoor swimming pools and ice cream shops to beat the heat this season!

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