Edited by: Keri Stooksbury
- The Best Activities in New York City With Kids
- 1. Visit the Empire State Building
- 2. Head up to the One World Observatory
- 3. Go Ice Skating at Rockefeller Center
- 4. Grab a Slice of Pizza
- 5. Ride the Staten Island Ferry
- 6. Visit the Statue of Liberty and Ellis Island
- 7. Walk Through Times Square
- 8. Spot Celebs at Madame Tussauds
- 9. Climb The Vessel
- 10. Walk on the Edge
- The Best Museums in New York City With Kids
- The Best Sports in New York City With Kids
- The Best Parks in New York City With Kids
- Final Thoughts
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One of the most famous and most visited cities in the world is New York City. New York, also known affectionately as “The Big Apple,” is the most populous city in the U.S., a major business and financial hub, and a favorite tourist destination for travelers from around the world.
Famous for everything from pizza and bagels to Times Square and the iconic Statue of Liberty, even if you’ve never been to New York City, you’re probably already quite familiar with many of its claims to fame.
With direct flights from almost anywhere in the U.S. (and even the rest of the world), getting to NYC is relatively easy. When flying into John F. Kennedy International Airport (JFK), LaGuardia Airport (LGA), or Newark Liberty International Airport (EWR), you’re just a short drive (depending on traffic) or subway ride away from Manhattan.
Whether you’re planning on catching a show on Broadway, eating dinner in Little Italy, visiting the Empire State Building, or are in town to watch the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day parade, you will soon realize there is so much more to do than any guide could list for you.
This quick list is by no means exhaustive, but it is a good starting point to help start getting the travel planning juices flowing! With small kids in tow, the most important thing is to be flexible, and the suggestions below should be entertaining and affordable enough to keep the entire family happy.
Let’s jump in and check out some fun things to do with small children in New York City!
The Best Activities in New York City With Kids
1. Visit the Empire State Building
Located on the famed Fifth Avenue, one of the most iconic buildings in the world and a focal point of the Manhattan skyline is the Empire State Building.
The 102-story skyscraper in Midtown Manhattan welcomes about 4 million visitors per year to its observation decks on its 86th and 102nd floors.
Visitors can shoot up to the top floors and take in some self-guided audio tours along the way. With exhibitions highlighting the construction history, the building’s appearances in media, and even King Kong’s hands coming through the wall, there is plenty to see and do before even reaching the top.
As long as your little ones aren’t too afraid of heights, this will be a fun tour and a great way to see NYC from above.
2. Head up to the One World Observatory
The One World Observatory, also known as the Freedom Tower, sits on the site of the World Trade Center that was destroyed on September 11, 2001.
This massive tower in Lower Manhattan is the tallest building in the U.S. and the Western Hemisphere. The impressive building is home to some of the fastest elevators in the world (which the kids will love) and there is enough technology to keep everyone in awe.
One of the coolest features is a 14-foot wide glass disc made of HD screens that projects a video of the streets 100 stories below using real-time footage. So you will get the thrill of walking on a skywalk, without actually having to actually walk on one!
3. Go Ice Skating at Rockefeller Center
One of the most traditional things you can do in the winter in NYC is to go ice skating at The Rink at Rockefeller Center.
Open during the fall and winter months, locals and tourists alike can’t pass up the charming opportunity to do a bit of ice skating in the big city. With the iconic Rockefeller Center Christmas Tree in the background and lights decorating all around, you will be creating lasting family memories at this world-famous spot.
Of course, you aren’t expected to carry around your own skates through the streets of New York (although you can if you want), so you can rent them on-site for a small fee.
4. Grab a Slice of Pizza
Visiting New York City and not having a slice of pizza is like going to the beach but refusing to touch the sand — it’s a must-do.
With over 1,000 pizza joints in NYC alone, you will probably have an option for a slice on almost every corner. With everything from $1 slices to gourmet pies, your options are almost unlimited, and a good portion of those are pretty darn tasty.
And if there is 1 thing that almost all kids love, it’s pizza!
5. Ride the Staten Island Ferry
New York can get expensive, quickly. So when something fun and free shows up on multiple “must-do” lists, you should definitely consider it.
The Staten Island Ferry is a free (yes, free!) ferry ride through New York Harbor which will bring you to and from Staten Island via Manhattan. The 25-minute boat ride (each way) will take you past the Statue of Liberty and provide incredible views of the New York skyline.
Your little one will be sure to love a quick boat ride and parents will be able to enjoy the discounted tour as well.
6. Visit the Statue of Liberty and Ellis Island
The Statue of Liberty, also known as Lady Liberty, was a gift from the people of France back in 1886 as a universal symbol of freedom and democracy.
The Statue of Liberty and the Ellis Island Immigration Museum are 2 important national monuments that are educational and valuable for kids and adults to see in person. There are audio tours available for kids from 6 to 10 years old and kids over 4 feet tall can even climb to the top of the statue’s crown — which is a really unique experience when you think about it.
Visitors coming from Manhattan can hop on a ferry that leaves from Battery Park. While admission is free, you will need to pay about $25 for the boat ride; children ages 4 to 12 are half-price.
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7. Walk Through Times Square
When you think of New York City, one of the most common images that comes to mind is Times Square.
This major commercial intersection is famous for its massive digital billboards, advertisements, flagship retail stores, and the New Year’s Eve ball drop. With over 50 million visitors each year, it’s one of the world’s busiest tourist attractions — and it’s free!
Just be sure to hold your kids close, because it gets busy — almost 400,000 pedestrians make their way through these streets every day and it can get a bit chaotic!
Hot Tip: Yes, you can use points and miles to book a weekend trip to New York City!
8. Spot Celebs at Madame Tussauds
Located conveniently in Times Square, “The World’s Greatest Wax Museum” is a fun and family-friendly option when visiting New York City.
Madame Tussauds has 5 floors of celebrity fun, a 4D Marvel movie, a 7D carnival game, and even a glass dome that sticks out into Times Square to offer awesome views of the activity below!
Whether you want a selfie with your favorite Kardashian or to be a guest on “The Tonight Show,” a stop at Madame Tussauds is a must.
9. Climb The Vessel
One of the newest additions to New Yorks’s ever-changing attractions list is The Vessel at Hudson Yards.
This is a new development area and is home to The Vessel, a 16-story honeycomb-like structure with over 150 flights of stairs and 80 landings for visitors to climb and explore. The stunning copper and mirror-like finish will make for an impressive Instagram post.
Needless to say, the design is eye-catching and your kids will surely love the unique climb.
Note: The Vessel is currently closed. Access to the ground-level base is free and open to the public from 10 a.m. to 9 p.m. daily, with no reservation required.
10. Walk on the Edge
There is a lot of competition when it comes to offering the best view in New York City, and there’s a new player in the game that is conveniently located next to The Vessel.
Edge at Hudson Yards is the highest outdoor sky deck in the Western Hemisphere and offers 360-degree views of the city to make you feel like you are floating in the sky.
Standing 100 stories up on a glass floor is exciting and will be a memorable experience for everyone in the family!
Hot Tip: If you are traveling to New York City on a budget, don’t miss the best cheap hotels in Manhattan.
The Best Museums in New York City With Kids
11. Visit the American Museum of Natural History
Did someone say “the world’s largest collection of dinosaurs?” No? Ok, well if you or your kids want to check out some incredible dinos, you can’t miss the American Museum of Natural History in Central Park West.
With some of the most complete and impressive collections and displays, kids and adults will be blown away by this incredible museum. Kids can explore the Discovery Room where they can get hands-on with interactive experiences and get a unique behind-the-scenes look at the scientific research that goes into these exhibits.
Combine that with one of the best planetariums in the country and a kid’s guide to break it all down in terms your little ones will understand and appreciate, and a visit to the American Museum of Natural History is a must-do on your trip to New York City.
12. Explore the Children’s Museum of the Arts
As much as we want to show kids the incredible museums that we love, it is hard to compare them to a dedicated children’s museum. That is why you should consider a trip to the Children’s Museum of the Arts in the SoHo neighborhood of Manhattan.
The mission of the museum is to “unite children and artists to create and share ambitious works of art with their communities and their world” — what’s not to like about that?
There are over 10,000 square feet of kid-focused activities, hands-on workshops, and gorgeous artwork created by talented kids!
13. Indulge at the Museum of Ice Cream
If you are having a hard time trying to convince your kids to go to a museum, try the Museum of Ice Cream! Yes, you read that correctly — there is a museum dedicated to ice cream.
This is not your typical museum — think of it as more of a giant Instagram photoshoot revolving around all things ice cream and dessert.
The kids will be happy (and on a sugar high) thanks to all of the treats that are included throughout the museum, and mom and dad will be happy because the little ones may actually want to pose for some pictures thanks to all of the cool exhibits.
Tickets can be hard to come by, so if you are interested, start planning now before they all get “scooped” up!
14. Discover the National Museum of Mathematics
On the surface, the National Museum of Mathematics may not sound that fun for small children (especially after hearing about the Museum of Ice Cream!), but this museum is anything but boring.
The dynamic museum is full of fun, hands-on exhibits that highlight how math plays a role in our everyday lives. Everything from rollercoasters to basketballs to a square-wheeled tricycle is explained in a way that will only spark more curiosity from your little one (and probably you, too).
Located right near Madison Square Park, this under-the-radar museum should make it on your list.
Hot Tip: Are you ready to travel to NYC? Here are the best New York City hotels to book with points for max value.
15. Board the Intrepid Sea, Air & Space Museum
We couldn’t talk about museums in New York without mentioning the AvGeek paradise that is the Intrepid Sea, Air & Space Museum.
This museum is an actual aircraft carrier docked at Pier 86 and loaded with fighter jets, helicopters, submarines, and even a space shuttle!
You can easily spend at least a few hours here exploring this massive floating museum and all of the aircraft on it. A fan favorite for kids and adults.
Be sure to check out our guide to the best museums in New York for further ideas.
16. Play at the Children’s Zoo at the Bronx Zoo
One of the largest zoos in the U.S., the Bronx Zoo has over 265 acres of land and habitats right along the Bronx River. Easily accessible via public transportation or car, this zoo is a great way to spend a day — or more — since it is so big.
With everything from gorillas from the Congo to a stunning tiger exhibit, there is so much to see and be in awe of that you will forget you are in the middle of a massive city.
For the smaller guests, there is a Children’s Zoo inside the Bronx Zoo where kids can get up close and even pet some of the resident goats, sheep, and donkeys.
Hot Tip: Admission to the Bronx Zoo is free on Wednesdays, you just need to book your ticket online.
The Best Sports in New York City With Kids
17. Get Some Exercise at the Chelsea Piers Sports and Entertainment Complex
If walking around Manhattan isn’t enough to burn all of your kid’s energy, consider stopping by the Chelsea Piers Sports and Entertainment Complex.
Located (literally) on the Hudson River, this 28-acre sports complex has a little bit of everything, including a swimming pool, bowling alley, a year-round ice skating rink, a driving range, a fitness club, and even recreation classes for kids.
Whether the kids want to jump in the pool or mom and dad want to visit the driving range, the backdrop is like no other.
18. Check Out Madison Square Garden
One of the most famous and visited arenas in the world is New York’s Madison Square Garden. Also known as “MSG” or “The Garden,” Madison Square Garden is located in Midtown Manhattan right on top of Pennsylvania Station.
Opened in 1968, it is the oldest arena for both the National Hockey League and the National Basketball Association. The Garden is home to the New York Rangers (NHL) and New York Knicks (NBA), as well as a popular spot for major concerts, shows, and other events.
With something almost always going on, if you want to check out this iconic arena, there are plenty of opportunities to do so.
19. Visit Yankee Stadium
Baseball fans either love ’em or hate ’em — the 27-time World Champion New York Yankees play in the Bronx at Yankee Stadium.
This 47,000+ seat stadium opened in 2009, replacing the original Yankee Stadium, which was next door. With easy public transportation and relatively cheap tickets available during the regular season (summer months), spending a night watching the “Bronx Bombers” could be an exciting option for the whole family.
Even if you aren’t a baseball fan, the atmosphere is a lot of fun.
The Best Parks in New York City With Kids
20. Bryant Park
New York may seem like a concrete jungle from afar, but the city is full of unique and beautiful parks. One of the smaller, yet very popular parks is Bryant Park. This public park is almost 10 acres and is located between Fifth Avenue and Avenue of the Americas and between 40th and 42nd.
This charming little park is open year-round and is lush and green during summer and then converts to the Bank of America Winter Village at Bryant Park. With a skating rink, plenty of kiosks, and shops around the park, bringing the family here as a pit stop during your day will be welcomed by all.
With a picnic and a seat in the grass during the summer or a skate and a hot chocolate in the winter, no matter when you visit, you are sure to have a great time.
21. Brooklyn Bridge Park
One of the more fun and famous walks in New York is crossing the Brooklyn Bridge. Once you arrive, you will be right in the middle of Brooklyn Bridge Park, which is 85 acres of recreation and entertainment.
Separated into unique sections, there are multiple piers that are full of playgrounds, a vintage carousel, and stunning views of Manhattan. Thanks to some delicious food and beverage options throughout the park, you can easily spend a long afternoon here enjoying the amenities like a local.
22. Central Park
Probably one of, if not the most famous park in the world is Central Park in New York City.
Located between the Upper West and Upper East Sides of Manhattan (you can’t miss it on a map), Central Park is a massive 843-acre park that welcomes over 42 million visitors per year.
There are so many activities available that we had to create a separate guide just for things to do in Central Park. Some of the park highlights that the kids will enjoy include picnics, playgrounds, horse and carriage tours, and the famous carousel.
But with seasonal events like boat rentals, carnivals, ice skating, and a zoo, you may find something even better for your family.
Even without a plan, just strolling through the park is refreshing after navigating your way through the city.
23. Little Island
The newest addition to the New York City park scene is Little Island. Opened in May 2021, this “floating” park sits on the old pillars of Pier 54 in the Hudson River in the Meatpacking District and Chelsea neighborhoods of Manhattan.
The 2.4-acre park has multiple lawns, paths, and plants that create a stunning garden with an incredible view of Manhattan. Little Island offers activities and workshops for families and kids of all ages, which is a great perk for the little ones.
Admission is free and reservations are no longer required.
24. The High Line
Aside from Central Park, one of the most popular outdoor destinations in NYC is The High Line. Completed in 2009, the High Line is a 1.45-mile-long elevated greenway and park created from a repurposed former railroad spur that was destined for demolition.
Located on the west side of Manhattan, near the popular Chelsea Market, this icon of contemporary landscaping and architecture is an excellent way to see New York from a different angle and enjoy the outdoors at the same time.
Kids and adults alike will get a kick out of walking through a garden suspended in the air and it is a great way to get between destinations in the city without dealing with traffic or the subway.
For travelers, visiting New York City is bucket list material. Hey, it’s “a city so nice, they named it twice!”
Although the Big Apple may not be the first place that comes to mind when it comes to traveling with kids, the city is so diverse that there is more than you could ever fit in during a week-long trip.
No matter if you want to spend your time museum-hopping, relaxing in the parks outdoors, or visiting some of the most famous tourist attractions in the world, New York will be able to accommodate you and your small child to make sure that you have a memorable vacation.
It would be a much longer article if we covered all of the options for small kids in NYC, but if we missed something obvious, let us know in the comments or join our private Facebook Group, Level UP Travel!
Besides that, safe travels!
Featured Image Credit: Maarten van den Heuvel via Pexels
Frequently Asked Questions
What is there to do with kids outside in NYC?
There is so much to see and do in New York City with kids. You can take them to Central Park for a picnic, a zoo to learn about animals, the High Line for a unique view of the city, and so much more!
Is New York a good vacation spot with small children?
Yes! New York City is an excellent option for a family vacation thanks to the plethora of options of things to do. From museums to parks and playgrounds, everyone will enjoy their trip.
What is the best museum in NYC for kids?
There are so many museums to choose from. From the American Museum of Natural History to the Museum of Ice Cream, you and your kids will have a blast learning and exploring the city.
What are some fun activities for kids in New York City?
Grab your kids and head into the city because we put together a great list of activities they will love. From eating pizza and ice cream to visiting the zoo and museums, your next family vacation to NYC will be a lot of fun!
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