We found no shortage of things to do with our kids during our New York City trip if anything there was just too much to do and not enough time. We have compiled a list of suggestions of what you can do with the kids in New York City.
The Roosevelt Island Tramway
Running every 7-15 minutes from 59th Street and Second Avenue in Manhattan is the Roosevelt Island Tramway which takes you to Tramway Plaza on Roosevelt Island. The cost is covered within a 7-day metro card, so it’s practically a free activity for the kids. We had so much fun watching as the tram got higher and rewarded us with some great views of Manhattan. Instead of heading back straight away have a walk towards Four Freedoms Park, taking in the views of the United Nations headquarters and the ruins of the Renwick Smallpox Hospital.
Ripley’s Believe It Or Not
You can find Ripley’s Believe It Or Not in Times Square, not hard to miss when there are so many weird & wonderful items poking out of the door, be lured in by them and continue to explore the collection of curiosities inside. A highlight of our visit was the black hole; we may have had several goes on this exciting feature. Ripley’s Times Square is the only place in the world where you can touch and interact with the original Ball from the 2007 centennial countdown, as well as the Waterford Crystal podium used from the 2002 through 2014 countdowns. It’s the closest we would ever get to watch the ball drop for ourselves.
Intrepid Sea, Air & Space Museum
One of the coolest outside museums we have ever visited is the Intrepid Sea, Air & Space Museum, the American military and maritime history museum with a collection of museum ships. Highlights for us was hearing and seeing what life on board a ship like the Intrepid was like, as well as seeing a space shuttle up close. The visit was included in our New York CityPASS which gave us significant savings on visiting some iconic attractions.
You cannot take a trip to NYC and not visit the 843 acres that is Central Park, right in the heart of Manhatten. Kid’s love parks and they will be overwhelmed with just how much fun and adventure can be found here. We went from park to park, statue to statue and hill to hill as we ran, sat and relaxed in this wild wonder. Before we had even left for our trip, we had pre-booked a FREE heart of the park guided tour which was a great introduction to Central Park and something we would highly recommend looking into for your first trip.
Empire State Building
Another attraction that was included in our CityPASS was the Empire State Building. 86th and 102nd-floor Observation Decks offer the two highest vantage points in New York City and on a clear day, you can see up to five states – New York, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Connecticut and Massachusetts. We would highly recommend doing it during the day & the night for the different views you will be treated to, our eldest is who is afraid of heights quickly overcome this to be amazed at New York all lit up.
The High Line
One of those things we wanted to do in NYC which we thought the kids would find boring was The High Line, but the kids enjoyed our walk along the High Line more than what we did. There was much to see and do, from the gardens to all the art installations scattered along the line. Their favourite part was the pershing square beams where they ran, climbed and hid with other children.
Sea Glass Carousel
The Sea Glass Carousel in Battery Park is one of the most stunning carousel’s we had ever seen, sadly we didn’t get chance to have a go on it ourselves as we had a boat to catch, but it’s at the top of our list when we return one day! Can you imagine how amazing this looks lit up at dusk?
Statue of Liberty & Ellis Island
There are so many ways you can see the Statue of Liberty, but nothing can beat getting a boat to Liberty Island to stand right at her feet and marvel up at the beauty that is Lady Liberty. We used our CityPASS as this included a Statue Cruises ferry ride to and from Liberty Island and Ellis Island, audio guides, and admission to Ellis Island Immigration Museum. The kids loved walking around Liberty Island taking in the views and standing at bottom recreating this iconic pose. Exploring Ellis Island Immigration Museum is something I would recommend for everyone to visit in today’s world where immigration is such a hot topic, our eldest went around with his audio guide learning just how immigration worked back in the early 1900s.
Dylan’s Candy Bar
When we first walked into Dylan’s Candy Bar, a woman was blowing edible balloons, and that was it, the kids were in love with the place. There were shelves everywhere stocked full of yummy confectionary; we had so much fun taking in all the eye candy. What our daughter didn’t know is that we had booked a table in a cupcake booth in the third avenue cafe to celebrate her 3rd birthday, definitely a treat worthwhile! I would personally recommend the ‘pink cloud lemonade‘ if it’s still on the menu during your visit.
Hook & Ladder
If you and your kids are Ghostbusters fans like then, you have to visit Hook & Ladder Company 8, the New York City Fire Department fire station, located at 14 North Moore Street which is otherwise known to us fans as Ghostbusters HQ! Typically it was being renovated while we there so it was covered in scaffolding, but it still had us all excited knowing what has happened here! To discover another set that was used in the films head to 55 Central Park West for the Ghostbusters building.
The Metropolitan Museum of Art
Another suggestion in our CityPASS booklet was The Metropolitan Museum of Art, kids age 12 and under are free, but the man and I saved paying $25 each with our pass. The Met is the fourth most visited art museum in the world, and the fifth most visited museum of any kind, a fact alone which will amaze your children before they’ve stepped foot in the door. So many treasures to take in, we could have easily spent several days here instead of just the one day. For me, it tops the list of kids friendly museums, the kids were handed maps which were designed for families and gave them the ability of finding exhibitions they want to see, for our eldest the greek the Egyptian Art was the most fascinating and he gets to take the knowledge of what he saw and heard back to school with him.
New York Public Library
It isn’t just a library but an amazing place to explore, we went from room to room in utter wonder at the architecture of the building and soaking in all the history that graced the walls, from the books to exhibitions. The children enjoyed this, and it would go up the top of my free things to do in NYC list! We sat for a while in the Children’s Center reading books and checking out The Adventures of the REAL Winnie-the-Pooh.
Grand Central Station
The Grand Central Station is more than just a train station which we discovered after setting foot in the magnificent Main Concourse; we could have all happily stared at that beautiful ceiling for hours. Walking around we found the dining concourse which smelled great with all its delis and bakeries. Outside the Oyster Bar, is the Whispering Gallery, four arched entryways stand in a square formation. And if you whisper something into the arch and someone else stands with their ear to the arch diagonal from yours, they’ll be able to hear what you said clearly. We ended our trip into the station with a walk through the Grand Central market where we found more food stalls, definitely a place to go for the foodies.
Just a 10 minute away from Times Square is Bryant Park, a place where we spent much of time as it was a convenient location for our Times Square Hotel. There was always something going Aon which kept the kids entertained, there was the outdoor reading room where they sat with some books as we enjoyed a coffee, juggling and other bits equipment which was fun to play with and then there are the Ice Rink and the carousel, the kids loved going on the carousel in the evening when it was all lit up.
Top of The Rock
When I first looked at our CityPASS booklet and discovered that they had both the Empire State Building and Top of The Rock listed as venues, I wondered what the point was of having two buildings that give you views of NYC as an option to visit. And then we went to both of these places and discovered just how different they were and with what they offered. The views are so different, and the Top Of The Rock was the kids favourite for the views of the beautiful scenery of Central Park.
The Nintendo Shop
The Nintendo Shop is the perfect place to visit if like us; you have gaming mad children! Kids can have a go on the latest consoles and browse Nintendo’s 10000 square feet which is full of merchandise. Us adults too a trip down memory lane looking at the time vault cabinets which was filled with retro consoles from our youth. Great to show the kids just how gaming has evolved over the years.
One of the most iconic sights in NYC is the Brooklyn Bridge, a bridge so beautiful that you’ll walk it while in utter awe at it’s construction as well as the view’s you get to witness. It was slightly more chilly up on the bridge so do wrap the kids up warm especially if like us you went during a colder season, we would also recommend wearing sensible footwear, but then you’ve probably already nailed this if your family plan on walking around New York as much as what we did. The kids found the engraved plaques at the Manhattan-side tower that detail the construction of the bridge step-by-step a fascinating read.
Staten Island Ferry
This free ferry provides excellent views of the Statue of Liberty and the New York skyline, and the one-way trip takes about 25 minutes. Which for our kids is the perfect amount of time to enjoy the fact they are on a boat and take in the sights before it’s time to get off. The ferries run every 30 minutes, on the hour and the half-hour (12:00, 12:30, 1:00, 1:30 etc..) so no complicated timetable to understand (though during weekday rush hours, the ferries run every 15 minutes) plus they run 24 hours a day and 7 days a week.
Our favourite time to visit Times Square was in the morning before it got packed full of tourists; this way we were able to take in the sights without the crowd. Though we did get a sneak peek of it all lit up at night as we headed to McDonald’s one evening, it was very busy though, but it was rather cool to see it looking so bright with all the billboards everywhere. We just had to climb up the stairs that we saw in The Amazing Spider-Man 2, and we had some fun recreating Spidey’s and Electro’s moves.
Visit A Flea Market
What better place for the kids to find hidden treasure than at a flea market! We headed to Hell’s Kitchen Flea Market to see our kids could make any discoveries worthy of spending their dollars on. Indeed they found a couple of cars, the odd toy and the eldest came away with a few new comic books for his collection. If it wasn’t for the limited room in our suitcases, I’m pretty sure we would have come away with much more.
Located at Broadway and 48th is three storey’s of M&M magic in M&M World, you are in chocolate candy heaven. We enjoyed exploring the floors; there is so much to look as well as a couple of photo opportunities which the kids loved. There is also every colour and flavour of M&M to be found so definitely worth a visit if you have an M&M fan in your household.
Washington Square Park
When we suggested heading to Washington Square Park to see the Washington Square Arch (a replica of the Arc de Triomphe) the kids thought we were heading to an actual playpark type of park, well it didn’t disappoint, just to the side of the arch it a couple of playgrounds which the kids had lots of fun in while we sat and watched the world go by. There were lots going on in the area, but in a way which was calm and inviting, there were buskers entertaining, bubbles being blown across the sky and the smell of baked goods in the air.
The Disney Store
Every child or grown-up child loves Disney in some form or another. For us, Disney doesn’t just mean watching the films and taking trips to Disneyland but raiding the Disney store for the greatest kind of merchandise. The Disney Store in Times Square was huge and had stuff on sale for all our favourite characters, as well as a great selection of Disney NYC themed items. One Guest is selected daily to help open the store and receives an exclusive keepsake, now that’s a once in a lifetime opportunity.
Circle Line Sightseeing Tour
Our favourite family memory of the Circle Line Sightseeing Tour is eating chilli dogs while taking in the sights of NYC. This description from the guys themselves describes exactly what you’ll see on the ‘Best of NYC Cruise’ – Take in over 101 city sights by water, including the Intrepid, Yankee Stadium, the Cloisters and a magnificent close-up of the Statue of Liberty. It was a relaxing way to take in the sights, and it gave us a different view of what we would get if you were to see these locations on land. Circle Line sightseeing cruises is an option on the CityPASS instead of the Ferry Access to Statue of Liberty and Ellis Island.
The view below was what we were first greeted with when we got off the metro and walked a few minutes in the direction of Brighton Beach. After spending a few days surrounded by skyscrapers, there was this calming serenity to stare out at the Atlantic Ocean. We then walked along the Coney Island Boardwalk taking in the sights of Luna Park before stopping off at Nathan’s Hot Dog’s, famous for it’s Hot Dog Eating Contest. You’ll also find New York Aquarium along the boardwalk, our tip for that is to visit on a Wednesday afternoon, from 3:00pm to last entry, where admission is a pay-what-you-wish donation.
American Museum of Natural History
Another attraction included in our CityPass is the American Museum of Natural History which is at the top our must visit NYC attractions with kids. It is renowned for its exhibitions and scientific collections. We dedicated two days to explore all the halls and the Rose Center for Earth and Space as there was just so much to see. The Museum’s moai cast which featured in the movie Night at the Museum as ‘Dum Dum’ was a highlight for the kids as well as ‘Rexy’ the giant Tyrannosaurus Rex skeleton. If like us you have a child with Autism then do check out The Discovery Squad.
The site of the World’s Fair in 1939 and 1964, Flushing Meadows-Corona Park in Queens has so much for you to see in one area! From Citifield (home to the Mets) to the STA Billie Jean National Tennis Center (US open) but for us and the kids we loved getting to see the Unisphere with our own eyes, 90s kids and their kids will recognise it from the film Men in Black (also stop by The Brooklyn-Battery Tunnel Ventilation Building which posed as the Men in Black Headquarters if you’re a MIB fan.) It was a nice trip out the city with plenty of greenery for the kids to run around along with some play parks, definitely a place worth taking a picnic to.
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