21 Things To Do In NYC With Kids
If you’re in New York City with little ones, you won’t run out of things to do. However, there are many activities that can be boring or tiresome for children. Pack your to-do list with these things to do in NYC with kids. These are the top family-friendly activities to do in NYC whether you’re visiting or a local.
1. See the Animals at the Bronx Zoo
The Bronx Zoo is a wonderful place to see animals in their habitats. The zoo plays a vital role in conservation, helping to rehabilitate sick and endangered animals and reintroduce them to the wild. You can visit a wide variety of wildlife, including gorillas, bison, tigers, elephants, rhinoceros, sloths and zebras. The children’s zoo is open seasonally and offers a farmyard where kids can pet donkeys, goats and sheep.
Don’t miss the rides. The bug carousel gives children a chance to ride on grasshoppers and other insects while they whirl around in circles. A monorail transports you through the Asian wilderness. Adults and children can also ride on a camel for a once-in-a-lifetime experience.
2. Play in Central Park
Central Park is huge. If you don’t go with a plan, your kids might get tired of walking the 843 acres. You could go back to the park daily and never get bored.
Stop by Belvedere Castle if your children are excited about exploring and experimenting. The Henry Luce Nature Observatory is an educational facility that lends out free Discovery Kits, telescopes and microscopes so that kids can use the scientific method to learn more about the park.
The historic carousel in Central Park is one of the largest in the world. For only $3.25, kids can ride one of the hand-carved horses or sit in a chariot.
If everyone is tired after a long day of sightseeing, you can take a 20-minute carriage ride for $50. This is an excellent way to scope out some of the best spots in the park, including some playgrounds, for your next visit.
3. Rise to the Sky at One World Observatory
Kids will be just as awestruck as adults at One World Observatory. After you buy tickets, you’ll start with a brisk ride up the SkyPod elevators, which climbs 100 floors in less than a minute. At the top, you’re expertly guided into an experience to remember. You’ll start by watching a movie about the history of One World Trade Center.
Then, you enter the Observatory, which offers 360-degree views of New York City. Standing at the floor-to-ceiling windows will take your breath away. The Observatory is indoors, though, and it’s completely safe for children to explore.
Check out One World Explorer for a virtual guided tour while you’re visiting. This mobile application lets you match up the skyline with what you see on an iPad and learn more about each location.
If the kids are hungry, you can always grab a bite to eat at One Dine, the on-site bar and restaurant that offers seasonally inspired dishes with an incredible view.
4. Go Ice Skating at Rockefeller Center
The Rink at Rockefeller Center is a popular attraction, especially around the holidays. The rink is open from October to April for 90-minute skating sessions. The rink offers skate rentals for kids and adults as well as private lessons. You can make reservations to avoid waiting in long lines.
5. Take an Expedition at Ocean Odyssey
The National Geographic Encounter Ocean Odyssey is a virtual-reality aquarium. You and the kids will be mesmerized by the interactive experience. You’ve likely never been so close to sharks, whales, sea lions and other sea creatures. You can play as much as you want without getting wet. It takes approximately 60 to 90 minutes to view the exhibits, which is the perfect amount of time to capture a child’s attention.
6. Play for Free at CAMP
CAMP is one of the best stores in NYC for kids. You can shop for unique, fun toys. But the best part is probably the free play area. This isn’t your typical indoor play space. You have to walk in through a secret door, and you feel like you’re at a kid’s summer camp. There’s even a bunk bed that doubles as a play structure with a slide.
Each area features products and play surfaces, and the staff rotates the activities regularly. The kids are encouraged to play with everything. You can check out the schedule to find out when special activities, such as workshops and performances, are happening too. This is one of the best free things to do in NYC with kids.
7. Have Some Sporty Adventures
Aviator Sports in Brooklyn is another great place to spend time with the kids, especially during inclement weather. The indoor event space is located in a refurbished airplane hangar. It features an arcade, a climbing wall, basketball and volleyball courts, a 12-foot bungee trampoline, a golf course and a public ice-skating rink.
8. Go to a Virtual Reality Theme Park
VR World is the biggest mixed-reality entertainment venue in the U.S. Guests can purchase a 2-hour or all-day pass to explore the future in a whole new way. The destination features plenty of gaming experiences as well as curated movies, art, immersive theater and music.
This is an excellent place to bring older kids. Children under age 7 aren’t permitted. Guides will help you learn how to experience each activity, and parents will have just as much fun as the little ones.
9. Be a Giant at Gulliver’s Gate
If you love model trains and miniatures, you’ll be entranced by Gulliver’s Gate. This attraction is enthralling even if you aren’t into railroads and tiny worlds.
Miniature scenes cover 50,000 square feet of indoor space. They detail more than 25 cities from five continents. When you buy a ticket, you get a key that unlocks these tiny worlds. Use your key to make things move around in the diminutive landscapes.
If you look closely, you’ll find hidden items, adorable stories being played out before your eyes and funny situations that befall the characters in each setting. You could spend hours here and continue to find something new.
10. Go to the Library
The New York Public Library is a famous landmark. Introduce your children to it by visiting the Children’s Center at 42nd Street. The library contains more than 50,000 circulating books, including the original Winnie the Pooh collection. Grab a book and get cozy. You can also check out the website for special events and performances that take place at the Children’s Center.
11. Watch a Live Performance for Kids
The New Victory Theater is dedicated to introducing children to the performing arts. This nonprofit venue puts on theatrical narratives that showcase various cultures and artistic endeavors.
The New Victory Theater encourages family engagement. Families can participate in free art activities in the lobby before and after the shows, meet the cast and participate in workshops that promote creativity.
They can also attend talk-backs. At these live question-and-answer sessions, audience members get to know more about the team on stage.
12. Climb on a Unique Playground
There are plenty of playgrounds in New York City. In some areas, you might find a playground on every street corner. The Silver Towers Playground features one of the most interesting play structures around. It’s nestled in a small public park on 42nd street and is more like a work of art than a jungle gym.
The sculpture resembles a human figure, with slides for legs and other small structures dotted around the main body. Kids will enjoy playing around, and parents will appreciate the artistry of the piece.
13. Explore Bryant Park
Bryant Park is another outdoor destination where you can spend several hours or a full day. There’s always something for kids and families to do. Le Carrousel runs throughout the year, and you can skate on the only free admission rink in New York City throughout the winter. In the summer, take advantage of free concerts. Check out the calendar to learn more about the other free activities for kids that might be taking place during your visit.
14. Meander Through Pier 6
One of the best playgrounds in the city is in Brooklyn. Located on the Promenade, with sweeping views of the city, this play area at Pier 6 consists of several spots nestled into the landscape. Each has a different theme.
The swing park contains various types of swings, which are laid out on small hills for extra fun and adventure. One area is made up of slides of different shapes and sizes, which will captivate kids of all ages. This park also features the largest sandbox in the city.
The most impressive feature might be the water playground. In the summer, dress your children in their swimsuits and splash around the water lab, which has fountains, streams and natural features to keep kids entertained for hours.
15. Visit the Museum of Natural History
Even if your kids groan at the thought of visiting a museum, they’re attitudes will change when they enter the American Museum of Natural History. It’s easy to be enchanted by the exhibits, which feature dinosaur fossils, giant gemstones and impressive, life-sized dioramas. If you want to kick your feet up, stop by for a show at the Hayden Planetarium or take in a giant-screen film.
16. Have Some STEM Fun
You might not want to tell your children that you’re heading to a math museum. Once they arrive, they’ll be fascinated by all of the hands-on exhibits and won’t realize that they’re learning at the same time.
The National Museum of Mathematics won’t bore kids with mathematical equations. Instead, it features more than 40 interactive displays that encourage kids to explore, investigate and play.
Kids will scratch their heads in wonder when they ride the bike with square wheels, which delivers a deceptively smooth ride. It’s difficult not to be curious about learning in this space.
17. Go to a Farm
If you're looking for unexpected things to do in NYC with kids, you can get your hands dirty and grab a taste of the country life without leaving the city. New York is home to several urban farms. It’s important for kids to learn where their food comes from and how it’s produced.
At the Queens County Farm Museum, you can explore the 47 acres, pet the animals and taste produce from the children’s garden. It’s the largest continuously farmed space in New York State.
18. Check Out a Children’s Museum
One of the most family-friendly things to do in NYC with kids is visit a children's museum. There are several museums in New York City that are geared to the younger crowd.
The Children’s Museum of Manhattan features permanent and rotating exhibits to help kids get creative, use their imaginations and learn something at the same time. The Children’s Museum of the Arts has exhibits, classes and activities that get kids working on music, animation, painting and other art forms. NYSCI is a children’s science museum with more than 450 exhibits located in more than 100,000 square feet of space.
19. Try Authentic Chinese Food
If your kids are used to the Chinese food that you get from your local take-out restaurant, treat them to a new experience in Chinatown. Bakeries in the area offer custard buns and other delicacies, such as sesame balls filled with red bean paste. Try dim sum or hand-pulled noodles.
For dessert, head to the Chinatown Ice Cream Factory. Encourage your kids to try a unique flavor, such as black sesame, pandan or Thai iced tea.
20. Cool Off in Washington Square Park
On hot summer days, people are encouraged to play in the Washington Square Park Fountain. It’s a fun experience for people of all ages. Just bring a change of clothing so that you don’t have to go about the rest of your day feeling soggy.
21. Hang Out at South Street Seaport
You could spend an entire weekend at South Street Seaport, one of the best things to do in NYC with kids. Whether you want to shop, eat, ice skate or learn about history, you’ll have fun.
(Updated January 26th, 2020)