When visiting New York City with kids, there is so much to see and do that you will be hard-pressed to fit in everything. The city that never sleeps is an overwhelming celebration of sights and sounds. We recommend a couple of strategies to target the most family-friendly attractions with confidence and style.
First, make a list of your must-see destinations. What are your priorities? Making such a long trip and then missing something on your wish list would be tragic, especially if it’s due to poor planning. Plot your go-to destinations on a map of the city and then fill in other activities around them.
Second, divide the city into areas. You don’t want to be racing from one end of the city and back again. Not only would it waste valuable time—a lot of valuable time if you are riding the subway—but your resources will dwindle if you’re taking uber or cabs. Focus your time in one or two close areas per day and be systematic, not only will you be able to see more of the city, your feet will thank you for it later.
Make sure everyone is wearing comfortable shoes because you WILL be doing a lot of walking. If traveling to New York City with younger kids I recommend taking a stroller or if you have more than one kiddo under five, a double stroller. They may think they are too big to ride, but they will be begging for it at some point during the day.
New York City CityPASS will give you access to the top attractions (we’ve marked them in the list below), save you 40%, and allow you to skip ticket lines. New York CityPASS is one of the first places available for mobile vouchers, eliminating the need for a booklet or printed voucher. Simply use your smartphone for access to your attractions of choice. And don’t worry about trying to fit them all into one day since CityPASS gives you nine days after your first attraction.
Here is a starting point for some fun family adventure ideas while visiting New York City with kids.
The iconic crossroads where everything comes together in NYC. The perfect NYC picture opportunity.
NYC Bus Tour
- NYC Bus Tour
- Empire State Building
- M&M’s World
- The Lego Store at Rockefeller Square
- Top of the Rock
- Guggenheim Museum
- Central Park
- The Met
- The American Museum of Natural History
- DO Cookie Dough Confections
- Statue of Liberty and Ellis Island
- St. Patrick’s Cathedral
- Sports Games
- 9/11 Memorial and Museum
- Intrepid Sea, Air, and Space Museum
You don’t see double-decker buses often in the States but NYC seems to have its own supply. Visitors wishing to get an overall lay of the city while tour guides educate you on its history should definitely consider this as one of the first things to do. Gray Line Bus Tours offer Hop on Hop off tours that allow you to get off the bus if something catches your eye, then jump back on the next bus that comes along. They also offer multiple-day passes allowing you to see more of the city while saving the treads of your favorite shoes.
Empire State Building
The tallest building in NYC for over 30 years and the 2nd tallest in New York City to date, attracting 4 million visitors every year. If you are afraid of heights you may want to skip this popular attraction as the observation deck sits on the 102nd floor. If you really want to feel like you are on top of the world then this iconic tour is for you. You can check wait times to the top here.
If you have kids, most likely they have a sweet tooth and this larger-than-life M&M store is the perfect place to indulge.
The Lego Store at Rockefeller Square
If your kids are Lego lovers you won’t want to miss this amazing store sporting the largest pick-a-brick wall to date. See a large replica of Rockefeller Center or check out the displays of American history lining the walls near the ceiling. Be prepared for crowds, however, as this store is always full of people and doesn’t offer a public restroom (although one can be found easily on the lower level of Rockefeller Center).
Top of the Rock
The observation deck on top of Rockefeller Center offers some of the most amazing panoramic views of the city skyline. With sheer plexiglass walls lining the deck you get 360 degrees of unobstructed views ensuring the most picturesque memories of your vacation.
*CityPASS Attraction (Either/or option. Choose this or Guggenheim Museum)
One of the unique stand-out buildings in New York City, the Guggenheim is committed to interpreting, collecting, and preserving contemporary and modern art. This museum is not an adults-only museum and they have multiple family events. Check out their tips for parents and other family guides before visiting the museum.
*CityPASS Attraction (Either/or option. Choose this or Top of the Rock experience)
This could take you a day or two on its own. Central Park is BIG, and no matter what season you are visiting, there is a variety of things to do. Here are a few you might enjoy.
- Explore a myriad of statues, sculptures, fountains, and bridges
- Climb, slide, or swing at the playgrounds scattered around the perimeter of the park
- Visit the Central Park Zoo
- Take a ride on the famous vintage Central Park Carousel.
- Take a picnic lunch to enjoy on the grass
- If your kids are older, experience the iconic Tavern on the Green or the prestigious Loeb Boathouse
- Interested in model boats? Visit the Kerbs Memorial Boathouse and rent a model sailing boat to race around the pond.
- Tour Belvedere Castle
- Watch a beloved children’s story come to life through the movement of puppets at The Swedish Cottage Marionette Theater .
- Rent a bicycle and go for a leisure ride through the maze of paths winding through Central Park.
- Grab some skates and glide around the ice at the Wollman Rink
- Take a horse and carriage ride through the park.
The options are boundless.
Standing as a sentinel on the Northern East side of Central Park is the world-renowned Metropolitan Museum of Art. You wouldn’t know it by the name, but this classy museum offers kids a way to engage and discover art in a fun and interactive way.
The American Museum of Natural History
Opposite the Met on the North-West side of Central Park sits the Museum of Natural History. This museum is home to a large and vast number of intriguing exhibits that the kids are sure to love. Want a fun sneak peek at what this museum has to offer? Check it out in the blockbuster movie Night at the Museum (2006) with Ben Stiller.
If you love to eat cookie dough, this dessert haven of awesomeness is worth a stop. DO serves up a large scoop of safe-to-eat cookie dough for immediate eating pleasure, or to take home and bake later. For all you cookie dough eaters out there, there is only one word: Bliss.
Statue of Liberty and Ellis Island
Take a ferry to liberty island to see the most iconic statue representing America, freedom, and democracy. Walk around and tour lady liberty up close and personal. Truly an awe-inspiring moment not to be missed. Then venture over to Ellis Island to catch an exclusive glimpse into history. View genealogical records and research your family history. Many people can trace a family member back to this building, as it was once a major immigration hub.
St. Patrick’s Cathedral
Regardless of religion, this Neo-Gothic-style cathedral is an architectural masterpiece worth seeing, at the very least from across the street at Rockefeller Center. Step inside and instantly leave the noise of the city behind you. Feel the almost palpable history in the air as you take in the magnificent wonder of the towering columns and sensationally high ceiling. The quiet and ancient reverence of the building will leave you contemplating the meaning of life as you walk out its doors back into the hustle and bustle of the city.
Catch a basketball game in the heart of downtown NYC with the New York Knicks or ride the subway over the river to see the Brooklyn Nets. Baseball, with its historic nickname of America’s pastime, is also an option. Watch the infamous Yankees play at Yankee Stadium or catch the New York Mets at Citi Field.
9/11 Memorial and Museum
Spend part of a day remembering those that died on that tragic day in recent American history at this beautiful and inspiring memorial. Get a glimpse at the history and majesty of the twin towers and what once was at the adjacent museum.
* CityPASS Attraction (Either/or option. Choose this or Intrepid Sea, Air, and Space Museum)
Intrepid Sea, Air, and Space Museum
If you are looking for a cool way to bridge the past and the future, look no further than the Intrepid Sea, Air, and Space Museum. This unique experience is one kid are sure to find fascinating. Featuring the legendary aircraft carrier Intrepid, the space shuttle Enterprise (the world’s first space shuttle), the Concord (the fastest jet to cross the Atlantic), and a guided missile submarine, this museum is sure to please!
If that is not cool enough, this museum also offers overnight adventures (not a part of the CityPASS experience) great for kids ages 6-12. Experience flashlight-guided tours, unlimited flight simulator rides, and pop-up planetarium shows, as well as dinner, a late-night snack, and breakfast in the morning.
*CityPASS Attraction (Either/or option. Choose this or 9/11 Memorial and Museum)
And there you have it. Approximately 32 activities that you can do when visiting New York City with kids. We hope you enjoy at least a few of them! We would love to hear about your experience. Happy Travels!