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11 Things To Do With Kids in NYC

Do you already know what plans you will make with the kids when you visit New York? Here are some fun ideas for all tastes.

Isabel Catalán

Isabel Catalán

13 min read

11 Things To Do With Kids in NYC

Enjoying New York | © Leo Rivas

If you're planning to travel to New York as a family, chances are you'll want to set aside some of your time in the city to make plans with the kids. That way they can also have fun and make the most of their vacation in the city.

With these 10 things to do with kids in New York, you're sure to have a great time and have lots of memories and anecdotes to take home with you when you return.

1. Experience the magic of Broadway as a family!

Pass to the performance of Aladdin at the New Amsterdam| ©Julian Paredes
Pass to the performance of Aladdin at the New Amsterdam| ©Julian Paredes

Taking the kids to see a Broadway musical, (New York's theater mecca) is one of the most fun things to do as a family in the city.

Even if you don't love this kind of shows or don't speak English, the kids will love to immerse themselves in the fantasy world to which the fabulous musical numbers, the characters and the spectacular staging full of color, music and special effects transport them.

The magic of Broadway musicals is unique and you won't find it anywhere else, it will be an experience the kids won't forget!

I want to see a Broadway musical

2. Go to the Bronx Zoo

Feeding the Sheep at the Bronx Zoo| ©Jim Naureckas
Feeding the Sheep at the Bronx Zoo| ©Jim Naureckas

Visiting the Bronx Zoo is one of the most fun activities to do with kids in New York City. Everyone loves animals and even more if they are as curious as the ones that inhabit this zoo!

Around 6,000 animals of hundreds of different species live here. Amazing, isn't it? Many of these creatures are endangered, so visiting the Bronx Zoo is a great way to teach children the importance of caring for the environment while having fun seeing them up close.

In fact, the Bronx Zoo has an area inside the park especially dedicated to the little ones called The Children's Zoo where they can pet and feed the animals in the barnyard. They will have a great time and it will be one of the most beautiful memories of their vacation in New York!

Remember to buy your tickets to the Bronx Zoo online because you will need to book your visit to the park in advance, I'll tell you all about it in the post Bronx Zoo Tickets!

Book your tickets to the Bronx Zoo

3. Enjoy the Christmas lights in Dyker Heights

Dyker Heights Christmas House| ©Hellotickets
Dyker Heights Christmas House| ©Hellotickets

If your trip to New York coincides with the Christmas season and you love Christmas-themed decorations and lights, you have to take the kids to Brooklyn to see the Dyker Heights neighborhood!

A place that has become famous because every year the neighbors, imbued with the Christmas spirit, make a huge decorative and lighting display to decorate their homes with great care "American style" during Christmas.

Children will love it because there are all kinds of snowmen, elves, reindeer and Santa Claus everywhere. Walking through the streets you'll think you're on the set of a typical American Christmas movie like "Home Alone" and the like. There are even guided tours of Dyker Heights that will take you to the most picturesque spots in the neighborhood!

Get ready because you've never seen anything like it! If you like the idea of seeing the Christmas lights in this Brooklyn neighborhood, before you go with the kids I recommend you read my article How to visit the Dyker Heights Christmas lights in New York where I tell you how to get the most out of this experience.

Book a guided tour of Dyker Heights

4. Ice skating in New York

Skating at Wollman Rink| ©Charley Lhasa
Skating at Wollman Rink| ©Charley Lhasa

In case you visit New York during the winter you will have the opportunity to go ice skating at one of the rinks that are installed in different corners of the city. It is one of the coolest plans to do with kids in New York and the perfect scenario for them to play for a while and have fun doing pirouettes.

In addition, you will get some great pictures with a very wintry aesthetic. Which ice rinks can you go to in New York?

  • Wollman Rink (Central Park): It has beautiful views of the park's landscape on one side and the city's mythical skyscrapers on the other. When you finish skating you can go for a hot chocolate at Wollman Café, the ice rink's coffee shop.

  • The Rink (Bryant Park): It is located in the grassy area inside the park and in the middle of the Christmas market stalls. If you bring your own skates, access is free, but if not, don't worry, you can rent them.

  • Rockefeller Rink (Rockefeller Plaza): You will recognize this ice rink from being featured in hundreds of movies. It is one of the most typical but sometimes there are queues to get in. However, skating next to the giant Christmas tree at Rockefeller Center is an unforgettable experience.

5. Jump and run in New York City's playgrounds

Visiting Domino Park in Summer| ©David Wilson
Visiting Domino Park in Summer| ©David Wilson

Although New York may seem like an asphalt jungle, it actually has many parks where you can walk with your family and let the children play freely. Both in the gardens and in the playgrounds that are usually installed there. These are some of the parks in New York that you can visit during your vacation.

  • Bryant Park (Midtown Manhattan): One of the smallest parks in the city where you can relax and enjoy nature. It has a small vintage merry-go-round where kids can ride for a little fun. The ride costs $3.

  • Battery Park (Lower Manhattan): This is one of the most beautiful parks in New York with spectacular views of the harbor. Near Castle Clinton is The Battery Fountain, a curious fountain whose jets come out of the ground in which the kids love to play in summer (bring swimsuits just in case!). And to the east of the park is the SeaGlass Carousel, which you can ride for $5.

  • Domino Park (Brooklyn): This park has a very unique industrial style because it was built on the site of a former sugar refinery in the area. Kids will love playing on the slides and grown-ups will love the beautiful views of New York City in the background.

  • Slide Hill (Governor's Island): On this island in New York Bay, the little ones can play on the giant slides of Slide Hill and if you dare, even you can take the plunge even if you are no longer a child.

6. Ride the Roosevelt Cable Car

Roosevelt Cable Car| ©Joisey Showaa
Roosevelt Cable Car| ©Joisey Showaa

In case the kids have never ridden a cable car before, in New York you can go to the Upper East Side neighborhood to ride the Roosevelt Cable Car, which connects Manhattan to Roosevelt Island.

It is a very fun plan to do with the family and quite economical because to travel you only need the Metrocard, the same card to move by bus or subway.

Although it is not one of the most popular tourist attractions, the Roosevelt Cable Car has a lot of charm and beautiful views of New York. You will be amazed when you see that you are floating in the air over the East River! On the way down you can take a short sightseeing tour of Roosevelt Island because there are several cool things to see.

The kids can take the opportunity to run and jump in the fresh air at the island's playgrounds located in the Main Street area and The Octagon. They can even visit a cat sanctuary and meet these cute little animals - they'll have a blast!

7. Take a stroll through the toy stores of New York City

Entrance to FAO Schwarz in New York| ©Ralph Daily
Entrance to FAO Schwarz in New York| ©Ralph Daily

If you want to buy the kids some souvenirs of their stay in the city, you will find many stores in the city where their eyes will glaze over and they will lose track of time. It will be for toy stores in New York! These are some of the most curious to visit with children.

  • FAO Schwarz: It is the most iconic toy store in the city and you will find it in Rockefeller Center. At the entrance you will be greeted by an employee dressed as a tin soldier who, if you ask him, will take a souvenir photo with the children. Inside you will discover a toy paradise - I'm not exaggerating!

  • Disney Store: If you are passionate about the Disney, Marvel or Star Wars universe, you can't miss the store in Times Square, in the heart of New York. It's amazing!

  • Lego Store: Also in Rockefeller Center and in front of St. Patrick's Cathedral you will find the famous building blocks store, with two floors! If you are Lego fans you will love it.

  • Build-A-Bear Workshop In this toy store, kids can get their own personalized souvenir of New York. All they have to do is choose a stuffed animal and they can fill it out and dress it up as they like, which is great, right?

8. And don't forget the candy stores

M&M's World in New York| ©Cameo Bryan
M&M's World in New York| ©Cameo Bryan

Even if they're traveling thousands of miles away from home, kids still have a sweet tooth and won't forgive a sweet tooth (neither will adults!). If you want to indulge your sweet tooth during your vacation in New York, you have to visit some of the most original candy stores in New York, there's something for everyone!

  • Economy Candy: You will find this candy paradise on the Lower East Side. Despite its small size, the store is packed to the brim with candy of all flavors, colors and shapes. Plus, the prices are pretty cheap (there are items for $0.99), hence the name.

  • M&M's World: Another must stop in Times Square for those with a sweet tooth. Here you can buy a lot of trinkets and merchandising of the brand. It will be difficult not to leave with a bag of chocolates.

  • Dylan's Candy Bar: A must for the sweet tooth on the Upper East Side, the store has three floors overflowing with candy, more than 7,000 kinds! The dream come true for millions of children.

9. Marvel at the wax figures at Madame Tussauds in New York City

Madame Tussauds Museum entrance| ©Ajay Suresh
Madame Tussauds Museum entrance| ©Ajay Suresh

If during your trip to New York you feel like going to a museum to have fun and spend a different time, there is no doubt that Madame Tussauds Wax Museum in Times Square is the place for you.

This is one of the best things to do with kids in New York because they will have a great time and it is an experience they will always remember. They will be able to walk through the Madame Tussauds Museum from bottom to top taking all the pictures they want to the wax figures and posing on the sets with characters like E.T., King Kong or Ghostbusters.

Also, if you love superheroes you can't miss the Marvel 4-D Cinema Experience, a 4D movie with special effects such as wind, water and even scents and incorporating 3D movie technology. During the projection you will feel as if you were in the middle of a battle between the forces of good and evil. Absolutely great!

10. Cruise the waters of New York aboard the NYC Ferry

New York City Ferry| ©Jana Markova
New York City Ferry| ©Jana Markova

I'm sure the kids would love to ride a boat and sail the waters around New York City like intrepid sailors in search of adventure, so how about taking them on the NYC Ferry for a little while during your vacation? If they've never been on a boat before, they'll be thrilled!

Plus, this option will allow you to see the beautiful Manhattan skyline from a different perspective, and you'll be able to travel to other New York boroughs for a trip to Brooklyn or Governors Island if you feel like exploring other areas of the city. And for very little money because to ride the NYC Ferry the ticket only costs $2.75 and children under 1.10 meters get in for free.

It is a highly recommended experience to do, especially in spring and summer, because when the weather is nice you can enjoy the sun, the sea breeze and the views from the top deck of the ferry.

The trip on the NYC Ferry is very pleasant and there is even a cafeteria on board where you can buy a snack in case the kids get the munchies.

11. Vibrate with the atmosphere of the NBA, the best league in the world!

Inside Madison Square Garden at the NBA games.| ©Emmanuel Milou
Inside Madison Square Garden at the NBA games.| ©Emmanuel Milou

If you always watch NBA games on TV as a family at home, how can you not take advantage of being in New York to fulfill a dream and attend a New York Knicks or Brooklyn Nets game in person?

You'll have a blast! Not only because you are passionate about basketball, but also because NBA games are a true spectacle of music, dancing and partying- a show with a capital "A"! The madness and the great atmosphere that this sport awakens in the city, is an amazing experience that you can not miss with the kids in New York. It will be an unforgettable memory of your vacation!

So now you know, get your tickets for the NBA in New York and get your team's jerseys to cheer them on to the title!

I want to see an NBA game

Tips for making the most of these family experiences in New York City

New York City sunset from a Roftop| ©Quintin Gellar
New York City sunset from a Roftop| ©Quintin Gellar

At Broadway musicals

When buying tickets for Broadway you should keep in mind several things:

  • Not all musicals have the same theme and duration, so when looking at the billboard be sure to choose a Broadway musical appropriate to the tastes and age of the children.

  • The offer is quite varied. If you don't know which one to choose, my advice is to opt for a musical that you have already seen at the movies, such as Aladdin, The Lion King or Frozen, so it will be easier for you to follow the thread of the show!

  • Most theaters do not admit children under 4 years old (these are policies set by individual theaters).

  • None of the theaters sell children's tickets for Broadway musicals, so all patrons must pay the same price for tickets.

Book a Disney on Broadway tour

At the ice rinks in New York

A good time to go skating with children at the ice rinks is early in the morning and on weekdays, as there are hardly any people. In addition, skating and standing "aids" are free before 11 AM.

At New York's playgrounds

Children love to run wild on playgrounds, jumping and running around. However, this can lead them to trip if they are not careful. Carry some band-aids and a little water in your backpack in case you need to treat a few scratches, as well as some sanitary wipes in case they get mud on their hands and face.

At the Bronx Zoo

Although it is very tempting to feed the zoo animals because they are so cute and funny, remember that it is forbidden- it can be dangerous for the children and the animals! Also, you can't touch the plants, flowers or trees in the zoo either.

Seeing the Christmas lights in Dyker Heights

If you feel like going to see this picturesque Brooklyn neighborhood during your vacation, I suggest you go to Dyker Heights a little before dark to be able to attend the lighting of the lights, which in New York happens around 4:30 PM in December. It's a magical moment!

On the Roosevelt Cable Car

I recommend riding the cable car around noon when it is less crowded. Don't forget that it is a means of transportation that connects Roosevelt Island with Manhattan and that New Yorkers use to get around. So it is best to avoid the peak hours between 7 and 9 AM and 5 and 7 PM.

At the Madame Tussauds Museum in New York City

The opening hours of the Madame Tussauds Museum are quite wide (Friday and Saturday from 10 AM to 10 PM and Sunday to Thursday from 10 AM to 8 PM) so you can go to see it when it best fits your schedule. However, if you want to go when there are less crowds I advise you to visit it in the morning on a weekday.

At the NYC Ferry

The frequency of the ferry is less than that of the subway so to avoid having to wait too long on the dock for it to arrive it is advisable to plan the tour well to arrive on time.

Depending on the route and the day of the week there are different frequencies, so I advise you to check the schedules on the web before so you can board on time.

At an NBA game

The days when there is an NBA game are very special in New York. I recommend that you go to the stadium at least an hour in advance so you don't get caught by the bull. That way you can go through security calmly, browse the souvenir and snack stores, find your seats in the stands and experience the pre-game atmosphere with the cheerleader's dances, the anthem and the entrance of the players to the court.

As for whether kids can get into NBA games for free, it really depends on the team. In New York, teams have their own rules. Let's take a look at them:

  • New York Knicks: the Madison Square Garden policy says that children who have reached the age of two must have their ticket.

  • Brooklyn Nets: according to the Barclays Center arena, children up to 34" inches tall can get in for free by sharing a seat with a ticketed adult who accompanies them. If this height requirement is not met, they will need to have their own ticket to enter the stadium.