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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 are planning to travel to New York as a family, chances are you will want to set aside some of your time in the city to make plans with the kids. This 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 New Amsterdam's Aladdin show| ©Julian Paredes
Pass to the New Amsterdam's Aladdin show| ©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 are not passionate about this kind of shows or do not speak English, the kids will love to immerse themselves in that fantasy world where they are transported by the fabulous musical numbers, the characters and the spectacular staging full of color, music and special effects.

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 live in this zoo!

Around 6,000 animals of hundreds of different species live here. Amazing, isn't it? Many of these creatures are endangered, so coming to 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 specially dedicated to children called The Children's Zoo where they can pet and feed the animals in the pen. 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 in advance your visit to the park. In the post Bronx Zoo Tickets I tell you all about it!

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 neighborhood of Dyker Heights!

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 houses 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 Brooklyn Christmas tour

4. Ice skating in New York

Skating at the Wollman Rink| ©Charley Lhasa
Skating at the 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 things to do with kids in New York and the perfect scenario for them to play for a while and have fun doing tricks.

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

  • WollmanRink (Central Park): It has beautiful views of the landscape of the park on one side and the legendary skyscrapers of the city on the other. When you finish skating you can go for a hot chocolate at Wollman Café, the ice rink cafeteria.
  • 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 hundreds of movies. It is one of the most typical but sometimes there are lines 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'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 stroll around as a family and let the kids play freely. Both in the gardens and in the playgrounds that are usually installed there. Here are some of the parks in New York that you can visit on 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 nicest parks in New York with spectacular views of the harbor. Near Castle Clinton is The Battery Fountain, a curious fountain with jets coming out of the ground that the kids love to play in during the 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 kids can play on the giant slides of Slide Hill and if you're up for it, you can even go for a ride even if you're not a kid anymore.

6. Ride on the Roosevelt Cable Car

Roosevelt Cable Car Trolley| ©Joisey Showaa
Roosevelt Cable Car Trolley| ©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 since you only need the Metrocard to travel, 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 above 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.

Kids can take the opportunity to run and jump around the island's playgrounds on Main Street and in The Octagon. Even visit a cat sanctuary and meet these cute little animals - they'll have a blast!

7. Take a stroll through New York's toy stores

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 because of the toy stores in New York! Here are some of the most curious ones to visit with children.

  • FAO Schwarz: This 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 the paradise of toys. 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, the kids can get their own personalized souvenir of New York. All they have to do is choose a stuffed animal and there they can fill it out and dress it up as they like. Cool, 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 are 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 is 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 will be able to buy a lot of trinkets and merchandising of the brand. It will be hard not to leave with a bag of candy.
  • Dylan's Candy Bar: A must for the sweet-toothed on the Upper East Side, the store has three floors full of candy! More than 7,000 kinds! The dream come true for millions of children.

9. Be amazed by the wax figures at Madame Tussauds in New York

Entrance to Madame Tussauds Museum| ©Ajay Suresh
Entrance to Madame Tussauds Museum| ©Ajay Suresh

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

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 can walk around 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 screening you will feel as if you are in the middle of a battle between the forces of good and evil. Absolutely great!

10. Navigate 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 allows you to see the beautiful Manhattan skyline from a different perspective, and 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 riding the NYC Ferry is only $2.75 and children under 1.10 meters are free.

It's a great experience to do, especially in spring and summer, because when the weather is nice you can enjoy the sun, sea breeze and 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 itch.

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

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

If at home you always watch NBA games on TV with your family, 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 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 tickets for the NBA in New York and get your team's jerseys to encourage them to get the title!

I want to see an NBA game

Tips to make the most of these family experiences in New York City

Sunset in New York City from a Roftop| ©Quintin Gellar
Sunset in New York City from a Roftop| ©Quintin Gellar

On Broadway musicals

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

  • 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 go for a musical that you have already seen at the movies, such as Aladdin, The Lion King or Frozen. This will make it easier to follow the show!
  • Most theaters do not admit children under 4 years old (these are individual theater policies).
  • None of the theaters sell children's tickets for Broadway musicals, so all patrons must pay the same price for the tickets.

At New York's ice rinks

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

At New York's playgrounds

Kids love to run wild on playgrounds, jumping and running around. However, this can lead to a trip if they are not careful. Pack 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 animals at the zoo 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 at the zoo either.

Seeing the Christmas lights at Dyker Heights

If you feel like going to see this quaint Brooklyn neighborhood during your vacation, I suggest you go to Dyker Heights a little before dark so you can catch the lights switch-on, 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 to 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 Madame Tussauds Museum in New York City

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

On the NYC Ferry

The frequency of the ferry is less than the subway so to avoid having to wait too long on the dock for it to arrive it is best to plan well the tour 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 get to the stadium at least an hour in advance so you don't get caught in the middle of the game. This way you will be able to pass the security check calmly, browse the souvenir and snack stores, find your seats in the stands and experience the pre-game atmosphere with the dances of the cheerleaders, the anthem and the entrance of the players to the court

As for whether children can go to NBA games for free, the truth is that it depends on each team. In New York, teams have their own rules. Let's take a look:

  • New York Knicks: Madison Square Garden's policy states that children who have reached their second birthday must have a 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.