Best Things to Do in NYC With Kids: Top Family-Friendly Attractions

New York City offers an abundant array of attractions that cater to children, making it a vibrant destination for family trips. From the iconic Statue of Liberty and the historic Ellis Island to the towering Empire State Building, the city is bursting with sights that appeal to the young and the young at heart. Our experience tells us that the American Museum of Natural History is as educational as it is entertaining, with exhibits that bring science and history to life for curious minds.

Children playing in Central Park, riding carousels, and visiting the American Museum of Natural History. Skyscrapers and yellow taxis in the background

As seasoned visitors, we’ve found that entertainment in NYC is second to none, especially with Broadway shows like “The Lion King,” which captivate children with spectacular performances. Central Park, a verdant oasis in the heart of Manhattan, offers scenic horse carriage rides that provide a magical experience for the whole family. For those seeking interactive experiences, the Children’s Museum of the Arts and the National Museum of Mathematics engage kids with hands-on activities that are as fun as they are informative.

Considering a trip to New York with kids, we know the importance of planning a visit that’s enjoyable for all ages. We always recommend including a mix of educational, cultural, and purely fun activities to ensure a memorable family experience. Whether it’s marveling at the city’s skyscrapers or enjoying a day at Chelsea Piers Sports and Entertainment Complex, our adventures in NYC have consistently delighted and inspired our youngest travelers.

Iconic New York City Landmarks

The Statue of Liberty stands tall against the New York City skyline, with the Empire State Building and Brooklyn Bridge in the background. The city is bustling with yellow taxi cabs and people enjoying Central Park

New York City is packed with iconic landmarks that are perfect for families exploring the city’s rich history and culture. We’ll guide you through some of the most remarkable sites that have shaped the NYC skyline and are must-see attractions for kids.

Empire State Building

The Empire State Building stands as an Art Deco masterpiece in the heart of Manhattan. Once the tallest building in the world, it offers an Observation Deck on the 86th floor, where we can witness panoramic views of the city. It’s a monumental experience for children to see New York from such heights.

  • Location: 350 5th Ave, New York, NY 10118
  • Height: 1,454 feet, including its antenna
  • Completed: 1931

Statue of Liberty

The Statue of Liberty, a symbol of freedom and democracy, graces New York Harbor. Known locally as Lady Liberty, this gift from France is accessible via a short ferry ride, providing an educational trip as we learn about its history and significance.

  • Location: Liberty Island, New York Harbor
  • Height: 305 feet from ground to torch
  • Dedicated: October 28, 1886

Times Square

Times Square is an electrifying hub of lights, entertainment, and action, often seen as the “Crossroads of the World.” It’s a place where we can immerse ourselves in the bustling atmosphere, enjoy Broadway shows, and marvel at the never-ending neon landscape.

  • Geographical area: Bounded by West 42nd to West 47th Streets
  • Notable features: Broadway theaters, electronic billboards

Brooklyn Bridge

Connecting Manhattan to Brooklyn, the Brooklyn Bridge is a gothic-styled landmark offering stunning views of the city skyline, which makes for a memorable walk or bike ride with family. It’s a testament to the city’s architectural prowess and historical significance as one of the oldest roadway bridges in the United States.

  • Total length: 5,989 feet
  • Opened: May 24, 1883
  • Design: Suspension/cable-stay hybrid bridge

By visiting these landmarks, we’re able to share moments of wonder and learning with our children, as they gaze upon the monuments that have defined New York City for generations.

Parks and Natural Spaces

Children playing in a vibrant park with green trees, colorful flowers, and a playground. Families having picnics and enjoying the natural spaces in New York City

In New York City, we’re blessed with vibrant parks that offer endless adventures for children. From iconic landmarks like Central Park to thrilling carousels and nature discovery, each green space provides a unique outdoor experience for young minds eager to explore.

Central Park

Central Park is an urban oasis where children can unearth the wonders of nature. The 38-acre Ramble is a wilderness area brimming with paths for families to explore. They can also unravel the mysteries of Belvedere Castle, set atop Vista Rock, and learn about its history and architecture. The Central Park Zoo hosts an array of animals, igniting a child’s curiosity about wildlife.

Brooklyn Bridge Park

Pier 6 at Brooklyn Bridge Park stands out with its innovative playgrounds and ample space for picnicking and sports. The park’s Water Lab offers a fun escape from the summer heat, while the carousel featuring classic wooden horses enchants children of all ages. Sweeping views of the Manhattan skyline serve as a beautiful backdrop to a day filled with activity and discovery.

Prospect Park

At Prospect Park, we encounter a blend of natural landscapes and entertainment. Kids can enjoy the Prospect Park Carousel, which features hand-carved animals and is a treasured piece of New York nostalgia. Nature exploration flourishes at the park’s LeFrak Center at Lakeside where families can engage in boating, biking, and seasonal ice-skating.

Governors Island

Governors Island is a peaceful retreat just a short ferry ride from Manhattan. We encourage visiting the island for its interactive sculptures, vast play areas, and educational programs. It’s a place where imagination is kindled, surrounded by greenery and art installations that change with the seasons.

Each park boasts distinctive landscapes and enriching experiences, encapsulating the diversity and spirit of New York City’s natural havens. Whether it’s adventure, relaxation, or educational fun, we find these parks to be perfect settings for children to appreciate the great outdoors amidst the cityscape.

Museums and Educational Attractions

Children explore interactive exhibits in a bustling museum filled with educational attractions in New York City. Displays range from natural history to science and art, offering hands-on learning experiences for kids

New York City is rich with museums and educational attractions that cater to the curious minds of children. We’ll guide you through some of the best places where learning meets fun.

Museum of Natural History

American Museum of Natural History: As one of the largest museums in the world, it offers exhibits ranging from dinosaur fossils to the wonders of the ocean. The Rose Center for Earth and Space is particularly captivating with its planetarium shows and exhibits on the cosmos.

Brooklyn Children’s Museum

The first museum in the United States designed specifically for children, Brooklyn Children’s Museum in Crown Heights, invites kids to interactive exhibits that span natural science, global culture, and environmental awareness.

Children’s Museum of Manhattan

At the Children’s Museum of Manhattan, engaging hands-on activities are designed to nurture a love for learning and creativity. Their programs are focused on health, the environment, and the arts.

Transit Museum

Housed in a historic subway station in Brooklyn, the New York Transit Museum chronicles the development of the city’s public transportation system, from early horse-drawn carriages to today’s high-tech subway cars.

National Museum of Mathematics

For those with a penchant for numbers, the National Museum of Mathematics on East 26th Street is an instrumental environment to explore mathematical concepts through dynamic exhibits and interactive installations.

Metropolitan Museum of Art

The Metropolitan Museum of Art not only features historical masterpieces but also engages kids through family-friendly activities and storytelling sessions that make art history accessible and enjoyable for all ages.

New York Public Library

With its myriad of programs for young readers and the iconic lions Patience and Fortitude standing guard, the New York Public Library is a monumental resource for literary exploration and storytime sessions.

Interactive and Fun Zones

Children playing in colorful interactive zones, laughing and exploring. Bright lights and vibrant colors fill the space, creating a fun and lively atmosphere

New York City offers an abundance of interactive and engaging environments that are perfect for children to explore and enjoy. We have curated a list of exceptional venues that cater to youthful curiosity and the love of play, ensuring that our young adventurers can both learn and have fun.

Chelsea Piers

Chelsea Piers Sports & Entertainment Complex serves as an extraordinary hub for youthful energy and sports enthusiasm. We’re talking about a place where kids can engage in a variety of sports activities, from rock climbing to ice skating at the Sky Rink. It’s a dynamic environment where families can spend the entire day without a single dull moment.


SPYSCAPE brings the intriguing world of espionage to life. Here, our young sleuths can navigate through laser mazes, crack codes, and embrace their inner spy. It’s not just interactive; it’s an educational experience that sharpens the mind through games and storytelling, situated right in the heart of New York City.

The Rink at Bryant Park

Ice skating is a timeless winter activity, and The Rink at Bryant Park offers one of the best experiences in the city. Whether our little ones are first-timers or seasoned skaters, the rink provides a magical ambiance with the stunning New York skyline serving as a backdrop.

Lego Store

Nestled in the bustling area of Rockefeller Center, the Lego Store is more than just retail; it’s a playground for the imagination. With a plethora of sets and an opportunity to build right in the store, kids can let their creativity run wild amidst one of the most iconic toy brands known worldwide.

FAO Schwarz

The legendary FAO Schwarz toy store is an iconic destination set in the heart of Manhattan. From classic toys to exclusive modern playsets, the store offers a diverse selection that delights children and reignites the youthful spirit in adults. Memorable features include the giant piano, made famous by the movie “Big,” where kids can dance to create music.

Time Out Market

At Time Out Market, we find a celebration of food and culture in Brooklyn. It’s a paradise for the taste buds, yet it caters to kids with its engaging atmosphere. Children can savor delicious treats while enjoying the vibrant environment, making it a unique culinary adventure for the whole family.

Wildlife and Adventure

Lively zoo animals roam through Central Park, while kids explore nature trails and discover hidden treasures in the city's urban jungle

In New York City, we are fortunate to have access to some of the most exciting wildlife and adventure experiences, right within our urban environment. These locations offer us the chance to encounter a variety of animals, from the majestic to the marine, ensuring an educational and thrilling outing for children.

Bronx Zoo

The Bronx Zoo is one of the largest zoos in the United States, housing a vast array of animals within its sprawling 265-acre park. Here, we can explore world-class exhibits like the Congo Gorilla Forest and the Asian Monorail, immersing ourselves in different habitats. Children delight in seeing big cats, gorillas, and various bird species.

  • Highlighted Animals: gorillas, tigers, and lemurs
  • Exhibit to Explore: Tiger Mountain
  • Interactive Experience: Children’s Zoo

Central Park Zoo

Located in the heart of Manhattan, the Central Park Zoo offers us a more intimate wildlife experience. Here, our kids can marvel at snow leopards and watch the playful antics of sea lions in the daily feeding shows. This zoo’s compact size makes it perfect for young adventurers.

  • Highlighted Animals: snow leopards, grizzly bears, and red pandas
  • Exhibit to Explore: Tropic Zone: The Rainforest
  • Interactive Experience: Sea Lion Feedings

New York Aquarium

At the edge of the ocean, the New York Aquarium stands as a hub for marine exploration. We can come face to face with sharks in the Ocean Wonders: Sharks! exhibit, getting an up-close look at these fascinating creatures. The aquarium is not only a place to observe marine life but also serves as a reminder of our responsibility to the ocean’s health.

  • Highlighted Animals: sharks, sea turtles, and penguins
  • Exhibit to Explore: Coral Reef Tunnel
  • Interactive Experience: Aquatheater Shows

Cultural Experiences

Children explore diverse cultural activities in NYC: visiting museums, enjoying street performances, and tasting global cuisine in vibrant neighborhoods

In our search for enriching cultural activities for children in New York City, we’ve zeroed in on a selection of experiences that offer both entertainment and educational value. From the magic of Broadway to the interactive environments of art exhibitions and concerts designed for young audiences, these experiences are sure to foster creativity and curiosity in young minds.

Broadway Shows

New York City’s Broadway is synonymous with theater excellence. For families, catching a Broadway show can be both a thrilling and a culturally enriching experience. Shows like The Lion King immerse children in a world of visual and auditory delight while sharing timeless stories. When we choose a Broadway show, we also open the door for children to explore diverse narratives and witness world-class performances.

New Victory Theater

The New Victory Theater stands out as a cultural hub tailored specifically for young audiences. With its unique programming that ranges from plays to circus acts, it’s a place where children are encouraged to appreciate the performing arts in a setting designed just for them. Here, we find shows that are not only engaging but also age-appropriate, making it a must-visit destination on our cultural itinerary.

Art Exhibitions and Concerts

Art exhibitions and concerts provide a sensory-rich environment that sparks imagination. We see this especially in spaces like the Children’s Museum of the Arts, where interactive exhibits allow kids to directly engage with art. Moreover, family-friendly concerts offer an early introduction to the world of music, often featuring performances that are specifically arranged to captivate our younger audience members. Whether it’s classical, jazz, or modern genres, these events are crafted to provide an enjoyable and formative experience for the entire family.

Unique City Experiences

Children ice skating at Rockefeller Center, while others explore Central Park Zoo and ride the iconic carousel. The skyline of New York City provides a stunning backdrop

New York City offers a plethora of landmarks and experiences that are especially captivating for children. We’re taking a closer look at some places that combine learning with fun, allowing families to create lasting memories together.

Grand Central Terminal

At Grand Central Terminal, we encourage families to admire the celestial ceiling in the main concourse and whisper secrets across the vast space due to its unique acoustics. Don’t forget to visit the Transit Museum Gallery Annex, which often has kid-friendly exhibits.

One World Observatory

Heading to the One World Observatory, families can enjoy not just the ride up in the skyscraper’s thrilling elevators but also the unparalleled views of the city from above. As one of the highest observation decks in New York City, it’s a must-see to comprehend the city’s scale.

High Line

The High Line presents a remarkable walkway above the streets, lined with art installations and green spaces. Along this linear park, we can spot various city landmarks – a pleasant stroll that combines nature, architecture, and art, perfect for curious minds.

Rockefeller Center

Lastly, a visit to Rockefeller Center isn’t complete without a view from the Top of the Rock. With three floors of indoor and outdoor observation decks, we can experience extraordinary panoramic vistas of New York, making it an exhilarating experience for both kids and adults alike.

Food and Dining

A bustling New York City street with colorful food carts and families dining at outdoor tables. Tall buildings and bright signs create a lively atmosphere

Exploring New York City’s dining scene is as thrilling for kids as it is for adults. We’ll guide you to places where the whole family can savor the flavors of the city, from iconic pizza to delightful ice cream parlors, as well as restaurants that cater to all ages and the vibrant Chelsea Market.

Famous New York Pizza

New York pizza is a must-try for any visitor, especially families. We recommend seeking out local spots where the pies are large, the crust is perfectly thin and crisp, and the toppings are plentiful. Some famous venues offer a casual setting conducive to family dining, where you can all share a slice of authentic New York flavor.

Ice Cream Parlors

After a day of sightseeing, there’s nothing like enjoying a scoop from New York’s ice cream parlors, which often double as nostalgic soda fountains. We find these spots to be particularly delightful for the young and young at heart, offering a range of classic and inventive flavors to please every palette.

Family-friendly Restaurants

Family-friendly restaurants in New York are seasoned at accommodating both small and big appetites. Many restaurants, including those with Italian menus, go beyond offering a kids’ menu by serving generous portions ideal for family sharing. We’ve noticed eateries like these create memorable dining experiences for visitors and locals alike.

Chelsea Market

Venturing to Chelsea Market, we’re always impressed by the diverse culinary offerings available in this lively food hall. It’s an indoor paradise where families can dine on a variety of foods from local vendors. This is a vibrant spot where both tourists and locals love to gather for a casual meal, making it a great family-friendly destination to experience the heart of New York’s food culture.

Outdoor Activities

Children playing in a city park, flying kites, and having a picnic. A carousel and playground are in the background. Tall buildings and trees surround the area

In New York City, we’re blessed with an array of outdoor activities perfect for children, from energizing biking and walking tours to serene playgrounds and picnic spots, and the iconic free boat rides on the Staten Island Ferry with views of New York Harbor.

Biking and Walking Tours

Central Park is an oasis for both biking and walking tours, offering miles of scenic paths suited for families. With us renting bikes or simply lacing up our walking shoes, we can explore the park’s numerous attractions. Children delight in spotting the Alice in Wonderland statue and navigating through the park’s expansive greenery.

  • Recommended Paths for Biking:

    • Loop Drive (6.1 miles)
    • Reservoir Running Track (1.58 miles)
  • Recommended Paths for Walking:

    • The Mall (0.4 miles)
    • Bethesda Terrace and Fountain (short walk from The Mall)

Playgrounds and Picnic Areas

For a more laid-back day, we head to one of Central Park’s 21 playgrounds, each unique in character, providing kids with a safe and engaging environment. We pack our picnic baskets and savor a meal outdoors at one of the designated picnic areas, where children can freely run and play post-lunch.

  • Noteworthy Playgrounds:

    • Heckscher Playground
    • Adventure Playground
  • Picnic Areas:

    • Sheep Meadow
    • Great Lawn

Boat Rides on Staten Island Ferry

We can complete our adventure with a trip on the Staten Island Ferry, a free service providing majestic views of Manhattan and the Statue of Liberty. The ferry is not just a mode of transportation; it’s an experience, allowing kids to observe the bustling New York Harbor and the city’s skyline from a whole new perspective.

  • Key Points for Staten Island Ferry:
    • Duration: Approximately 25 minutes one way
    • Main Attractions: Statue of Liberty, Ellis Island, Manhattan Skyline

By partaking in these outdoor activities, we immerse ourselves in the vibrant life and nature of the city, making unforgettable memories with our children.

Shopping and Entertainment

Children laughing and playing in a colorful toy store, while families enjoy a live performance in a bustling Times Square

For families visiting New York City, it’s essential to know that the city’s retail and amusement offerings are as varied as they are exciting. We’re focusing on destinations that provide both shopping excitement and entertainment value for the younger crowd.

Fifth Avenue

Fifth Avenue is more than just an iconic street in New York; it’s a playground for shoppers of all ages. The LEGO Store at Rockefeller Center is a brick-building paradise for kids, featuring elaborate displays and an opportunity to buy unique LEGO sets. Not too far from there, the legendary FAO Schwarz toy store offers a magical experience with its fascinating collection of toys and the famous giant piano.

Hudson Yards

Hudson Yards is one of the most modern additions to New York’s shopping scene. While adults admire the architecture and retail variety, kids can have a blast at Camp, a family experience store that blends play and product. After shopping, the entire family can enjoy a round of bowling at Bowlero, a lively spot perfect for ending the day on a fun note.


SoHo is known for its trendy boutiques and artsy vibes, but it also caters to kids with boutique stores and options like the interactive children’s art space and shop. Here, the shopping experience merges with creativity, allowing children to engage with art and culture in a hands-on way.

South Street Seaport

At South Street Seaport, the historical meets the present. This area includes the South Street Seaport Museum, where hands-on exhibits and maritime artifacts keep children intrigued. The neighborhood combines charming shops and eateries, offering a quaint escape from the usual city buzz.

By exploring these areas, we ensure that every member of the family has an enjoyable and memorable shopping and entertainment experience in New York City.

Seasonal Events and Festivals

Children enjoying a carousel ride at a vibrant and bustling festival in New York City, surrounded by colorful decorations and lively music

In New York City, each season brings its unique events and festivals perfect for families and kids. We’ve curated a list of must-experience seasonal attractions that capture the city’s festive spirit and offer joyous activities for our young ones.

Ice Skating at Rockefeller Center

When winter arrives, the iconic Rockefeller Center transforms into a magical ice rink. It’s a tradition we cherish, allowing families to glide together across the ice with the towering Christmas tree standing guard. Ensure to bundle up the kids and enjoy one of New York’s most quintessential holiday experiences.

Summer Fun at Coney Island

Coney Island becomes a beacon of summer joy, offering a plethora of activities for families. Take our little ones for a thrilling ride on the Wonder Wheel, relax at the sandy beaches, dive into the swimming pool, or explore the many amusement park games. Coney Island defines summer fun in New York.

Holiday Markets and Fairs

As the holidays approach, New York is adorned with markets and fairs, each buzzing with unique gifts and festive treats. Stroll through the vibrant stalls, indulge in seasonal goodies, and find handcrafted treasures that kids will adore. These fairs are not just shopping destinations, they’re a full-fledged holiday experience for families.

Stephanie Creek

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