Looking to spend a little quality time with the young ones? Check out our top picks for the best places to take kids in New York City. Whether you're a New York parent or hosting little visitors from out of town, you can't miss these classic NYC activities and venues. You'll never run out of things to do (and the adults will love them too!)
Walk Amonst Dinosaurs at the American Museum of Natural History
A trip to the American Museum of Natural History is an adventure for both kids and adults. In one room you will be admiring gigantic dinosaur fossils. In the next, underwater ocean life or a butterfly garden. There is even a planetarium to show off the wonders of outer space. Repeat visits never get boring with so much to see — especially if your kid is an aspiring astronaut or archaeologist. Tip: The museum hosts unforgettable sleepovers on occasion, too. Admittance to the museum is pay-what-you-wish.
Frolic in Nature in Central Park
Central Park is an urban oasis that offers lots of fun activities for parents and kids. Give your bikes or rollerblades a spin, go ice-skating during the winter, take a boat ride during the summer, or run around the playgrounds. And don't forget to visit the zoo where kids can see monkeys, penguins and grizzly bears. Another highlight is the petting zoo. It's free to get into Central Park. The zoo costs $19.95 for adults and children 13 & over. Children 3-12 cost $14.95. Seniors cost $16.95 and children under 2 are free.
Meet Your Favorite Characters at the Children's Museum of Manhattan
The Children's Museum of Manhattan offers a fun, hands-on learning experience for kids. The rotating exhibits feature such kid favorites as Dora the Explorer, Clifford the Big Red Dog, and Alice in Wonderland. During warm weather the outdoor activity area lets kids splash around and learn about the scientific properties of water. Children under 4 get an area all to themselves. Children and Adults $14, Seniors $11, and children under 1 year free.
Climb to the Top of the Statue of Liberty
The famous Statue of Liberty, America's beacon of hope and freedom, has awed adults and children since it was built almost 150 years ago. It's an unforgettable experience to take the ferry to the monument, admire it from up close, and ascend to the top. Kids under four are allowed as high as the pedestal. Older children can make their way all the way to the crown. There is no better view of New York City. Children under 4 get in free. Children 4 to 12, $9; Adults $18.50; seniors $14 (it's an extra $3 to climb to the crown.)
Sing and Dance in a Broadway Play
New York City has some of the best theater in the world, and many of its famous Broadway productions are perfect for kids. Children will love "Aladdin," "Lion King," and "Wicked." Teenagers should head to some of the newer hits including "Mean Girls" and "Harry Potter and the Cursed Child." Grab a playbill, let the curtain rise, and sing and dance your heart out. For reduced ticket prices head to TKTS in the heart of Times Square to see what bargains are available that day. Go to Broadway's official website to find out what is showing when you're in town.
Take in the Views From the Top of the Empire State Building
At 102 stories and 1,454 feet tall the Empire State Building is the place to go for stunning views of New York City. In addition to the observation decks, the site has a lobby with an exhibit about the building's history. Families should aim to visit between 8 am and 11 am when there are fewer crowds and more space to run around. Get Express Passes online to skip the ticket line. As a bonus, kids under 6 get in free (it's $38 for adult, $32 for children and $36 for seniors).
Ride the Waves on the Staten Island Ferry
The Staten Island Ferry was built to transport people between Manhattan and Staten Island before any bridges were built for cars. And while it still does that today it's also used by tourists who want to take to the seas to see New York City from a different angle. On the 5-mile, 25-minute-ride, you'll get unrivaled views of The Statue of Liberty and Ellis Island. Your kids will love seeing the city skyline and all the bridges that run between the buildings. The boat is spacious giving all the kiddies room to run around. The ferry runs often especially on weekends. Each Sunday and Saturday there are 96 trips. And the best part of the experience: it's free for everyone. Check the schedule here.
Get Up Close to Sharks at the New York Aquarium
The New York Aquarium, located on the beach in Coney Island, has always been a fabulous place for animal lovers. You can see sea lions jump for food, rare fish hiding in colorful coral, and penguins nesting on cliffs. In the summer of 2018 a new exhibit opened with sharks. Inside little ones can crawl in tunnels under the water to get nose to nose with the creatures. The exhibit ends on a rooftop where the family can pick up a snack, look out onto the ocean, and imagine all the sharks swimming below the water. Tickets cost $24.95 for adults and children 13 and over; $19.95 for children aged 2 to 12, and $21.95 for seniors. Children 2 and under get in free.
Ride a Seahorse at the SeaGlass Carousel
The Battery Conservancy is a park located at the very southern tip of Manhattan. Its highlight is an imaginative SeaGlass Carousel. Meant to commemorate the site of New York City's first aquarium (one of the first public institutions of its kind in the country!) it's a ride that takes everyone, both kids and adults, on a sensory journey. You'll be assigned a glass fish to ride that will bob up and down while gliding through an underwater world. It's something your kids will be talking about long after it's over. Tickets are $5. Check the carousel's Facebook page for up to date information on hours and special events.
Build a City at the Imagination Playground
The Imagination Playground, located in downtown New York's Seaport District, is no ordinary playground. Designed by award winning architect David Rockwell, it's a place where kids get to build the playground, house, or building of their dreams. The area has giant foam blocks, mats, wagons, fabric, crates, sand, water, and other loose parts. Kids can use them to build whatever they choose, and it's free.
Go on a Treasure Hunt at the Metropolitan Museum of Art
The Metropolitan Museum of Art can be daunting even for adults. There are rooms and rooms of treasures, it seems, from every time period and culture. But inside the vast complex are impressive spaces dedicated solely to families. In Nolen Library, children aged 18-months to 6 years can read art-themed picture books and go on a self-guided gallery hunt to find treasures around the room. Children aged 7 to 11 will love the treasure trek; just pick up a map at the welcome desk and run around the museum finding the marked prizes. There are special classes and activities where families can create their own art. Check the schedule on the website.
Smell the Flowers at the New York Botanical Garden
Founded in 1891 the New York Botanical Garden is one of the largest in any city in the United States. It's an oasis in the city, a vast green space with flowers and trees from all over the world. But as much as the garden is known for its greenery, it's also famous for its fun and educational programming. At the Everett Children's Adventure Garden, children of all ages can explore nature hands-on. At the Edible Academy, they can tend their own gardens, digging in the soil and picking fruit when it gets ripe. For an up-to-date schedule check out the family section of the website. Hint: Tickets are cheaper on a weekday than weekends.
Master the Skies at the Intrepid Sea, Air & Space Museum
If your kid is into exploration there is no better place to go than this museum. It houses the world's fastest jets, a missile submarine, a legendary aircraft carrier named The Intrepid, and a space shuttle named The Enterprise. Your kids will not only admire these machines from the past (and the humans who steered them), they can learn about new technology helping humans explore space and the sea today. Don't miss the sleepover parties where kids can go on a flashlight tour of the flight deck, see planetarium shows, and go on as many simulator rides as they want. See the schedule on the website.
Fall in Love with Books in the Children's Room at the New York Public Library
At the grand New York Public Library building on 42nd and Fifth Avenue there is an elaborate kid's center. There are tons of books for children of all ages: picture books for toddlers, easy reads for new independent readers, and novels for readers aged twelve and older. There are special librarians who can find every child the perfect book. Kids needing some R & R can check out a musical CD or browse the internet. Entire families will love the programs including musical performances, guest appearances by authors, and storytelling shows. Head to the library's website for a schedule. Also don't miss the Winnie-the-Pooh exhibit where kids can see the original stuffed animals that inspired the series. Kanga, Piglet, Eeyore, and Tigger are all on display.
Get a Hole-in-One at Pier 25
Pier 25, the longest pier in Hudson River Park, is a gold mine for children in the summer. There is an 18-hole miniature golf course where families can have a friendly competition against each other under the stars. When you're finished order some food from the snack bar or head to the sand volleyball court or children's playgrounds. A few blocks uptown, along the walking path, is free kayaking where kids can try a new sport in a protected area in the Hudson River. Kids 16 and under must paddle with an adult.
Need a large place for your children to play and run free? Chelsea Piers has everything your family needs for a day of fun. The athletic facility has almost every sport imaginable from soccer to boxing to gymnastics. There are ice rinks for ice skating and ice hockey and a driving range to perfect golf swings. Many of the sports are offered daily and casually. Others require you to sign up for classes. There are also places to eat, change, and unwind.
The New York City Fire Brigade is one of the best in the world, and all their history, gear, and tactics are on full display at this museum. The museum, housed in an old firehouse, tells the story of how humans have fought fires from the late 18th century to the present. Your little ones will love trying on the gear and hearing the stories of our country's heroes. They will even walk away with some new skills: the Fire Safety Learning Center was just renovated, and it teaches families what to do if disaster strikes. Definitely book a tour with an expert fireman. Admissions is $10 for adults, $8 for students, seniors, and firefighters, and $5 for children.
Make Math Fun at the National Museum of Mathematics
At this museum, nicknamed by locals as MoMath, math is anything but boring. Every exhibit sparks curiosity in both adults and children making them think about why numbers add up to what they do and the patterns of our world. Take a roller coaster ride over unusual shapes, dress yourself in symmetrical patterns, use a robot to shoot hoops; every exhibit is more fun than the rest. It's the only museum in North America dedicated solely to math. It is located in Manhattan's Flatiron district and open seven days a week. Entry for Adults is $17, Children and Seniors are $14, Children under 2 get in free.
Indulge in Frozen Hot Chocolate at Serendipity 3
This restaurant has been the go-to place for sweet lovers of all ages. For 60 years there has been a line of people out the door hoping for a taste of the frozen hot chocolate or over the top ice cream sundaes (it's worth the wait so bring fun activities to do while in line). The wonderfully whimsical decor adds to the experience, making it feel like a real life Willy Wonka Factory. Whether the kids are in tow, or you're simply ready to feel like a kid again, head to Serendipity 3.
Fly High at the Trapeze School New York
If you were ever tempted to encourage your kids to run away with the circus, here's your big chance to get them off to a flying start – literally. Trapeze School New York proposes one of Manhattan's most unique activities, for both kids and adults alike, with assorted training programs dedicated to the aerial art of flying trapeze. Contact the school for more information and to find out about special seasonal workshops taking place.