14 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

18 min read

14 Things To Do With Kids in NYC

Enjoying New York | © Leo Rivas

If you are planning to travel to New York as a family, you will probably want to set aside some time to make plans with the kids. This way they can also have fun and make the most of their vacation in this city.

With these 14 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, characters and spectacular staging full of color, music and special effects.

The best musicals for children

In addition, there are many and varied options of musicals specially designed for children, an experience that the kids will not forget!

  • Book tickets for Radio City Christmas Spectacular: premiered in 1933, this musical suitable for all audiences is a Christmas tradition in New York City. If you are traveling with your family to the Big Apple for Christmas, you can't miss it!
  • Book tickets for The Lion King Broadway: this famous Disney movie is also present on Broadway. It is a classic that has already been seen by 60 million people from all over the world. Of course, this show is recommended for children over 8 years old.
  • Book tickets for Aladdin Broadway: another Disney classic that also triumphs on Broadway and that you can enjoy in the company of your children, as long as they are older than 6 years old, they will be amazed!
  • Book tickets for Harry Potter and the Cursed Child: if there is a fan of the Harry Potter universe in your family, this is definitely the plan par excellence if you are traveling to New York with children over 10 years old.
  • Book tickets for Back To The Future: who doesn't remember Doc Brown, Marty McFly and his inseperable DeLorean? Yes, I know, your kids are too young to know the Back to the Future trilogy, but this Broadway show is suitable for ages 6 and up, so you can definitely enjoy it together.
  • Book tickets for Wicked: what better way to rediscover with your children the magical world of Oz on Broadway, where better? This musical is recommended for ages 8 and up.

I want to see a Broadway musical

2. 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 as a family, how can you not take advantage of being in New York to fulfill a dream and attend a New York Knicks game or see the Brooklyn Nets in person?

You'll have a blast! Not only because you are passionate about basketball, but because NBA games are a true spectacle of music, dancing and partying- a show in capital letters! 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

3. 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 things to do with kids in New York. 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 kids about 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

4. 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 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 Brooklyn Christmas tour

5. Jump and run in the playgrounds of New York City

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 with your 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 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 children can ride for some fun. The ride costs $3.
  • Battery Park (Lower Manhattan): 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 with jets coming out of the ground where 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.

and you can't leave Central Park behind!

Central Park, the most visited park in the United States, deserves a special mention and will delight young and old alike, whether simply strolling through its 340 hectares or enjoying many of the leisure and fun options that this park has to offer:

  • Tour Central Park with a guided tour: for two hours you can walk through the corners of the park and a guide will explain its secrets and curiosities. The little ones will be fascinated when they get to the zoo, scene of the movie Madagascar, and if they are a little older, they will be amazed by the Bethesda fountain, site of the final scene of The Avengers.
  • Book tickets for the Central Park Zoo: surprise your little ones by taking them to the Madagascar movie set. And, who knows, maybe you'll meet Alex, Melman or Gloria...
  • Rent some bikes to ride around Central Park: what could make a child happier than riding a bike? This way they will enjoy themselves, do some sport and use up their energy while you ride around the most famous park in the world in a fast and fun way.

Book a tour of Central Park

6. Visit the most special museums in New York

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

Who said visiting museums is boring? This could be a cliché in any city, but in New York there is a wide variety of museums for all tastes and ages, including, of course, for the little ones of the house:

  • Be amazed by the wax figures at Madame Tussauds: children will have a blast and it is an experience they will always remember. They can 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.
  • Become spies at the Spyscape Museum: do your kids dream of being spies? In this interactive adventure designed by a former Intelligence Service chief, young and old alike will discover what kind of spy they would be and test themselves by overcoming different challenges.
  • Discover the American Museum of Natural History: Visit what is undoubtedly the best family attraction in New York. The American Museum of Natural History has no less than 35 million objects including animal fossils, life-size reproductions and minerals, which will amaze young and old alike!
  • Book skip-the-line tickets for the Sea, Air and Space Museum: if your little ones are crazy about ships, submarines, airplanes or spacecraft, you can't miss this museum, which is also located on the aircraft carrier Intrepid, Pier 86.
  • Enjoy with all five senses at the Museum of Ice Cream: what child doesn't like ice cream? In this original interactive museum you can taste ice cream with exotic flavors from around the world, go down a three-story slide or take a dip in a bathtub full of colored shavings. A sensory experience!

Book a ticket for the Sea, Air & Space Museum

7. Tour the city's theme parks

fish in the water|©Andreas  L
fish in the water|©Andreas L

Aquariums, botanical gardens, sensory experiences... New York is the perfect city to do everything your kids have always dreamed of and more!

Be sure to visit one or more of these attractions on your visit to the city that never sleeps, it will be absolutely unforgettable!:

  • Book tickets to the New York Aquarium: this is the oldest aquarium in the United States, home to 350 marine species. Not only will you be able to observe penguins, sharks and sea lions, you will also be able to see how their keepers feed them and interact with them.
  • Book tickets to the New York Botanical Garden: being surrounded by nature in the middle of the asphalt is a break for the senses that your kids will appreciate. In addition, you can tour the 50 different gardens of this botanical garden aboard a streetcar, something your kids will love.
  • Book tickets to the Nickelodeon Universe theme park in New Jersey: go and spend a super fun day at one of the best amusement parks in New York. Characters such as the Ninja Turtles or SpongeBob SquarePants await you on a myriad of roller coasters for all ages. In addition, the park is covered, so it's perfect in case of a rainy day.

Book tickets to Nickelodeon Universe theme park in New Jersey:

8. Sail aboard a cruise on the Hudson River

Sunset Cruise|©Daniel Wang
Sunset Cruise|©Daniel Wang

Taking a cruise is always a good plan if you are traveling with kids for several reasons: on the one hand, almost all children like to try different means of transportation, and they definitely love sailing on a boat. On the other hand, it's a great way to relax after a day of walking or visiting the different attractions New York City has to offer. Depending on your tastes, you have several options:

Book a Circle Line daytime cruise on the Hudson River

9. See the New York skyline at its best

boy walking up a tall building|©Maarten van den Heuvel
boy walking up a tall building|©Maarten van den Heuvel

If there's one thing New York has, it's an amazing skyline. And if there's one thing most children like to do, it's to climb to the heights and contemplate, as if they were birds, the views at their feet.

Therefore, visiting one or more of the viewpoints that offers the city that never sleeps is a great plan for both children and adults:

  • Book tickets for the Empire State Building: go up to the main observatory of the Empire State Building, located on the 86th floor, and admire the incredible views of the Big Apple from any possible perspective. Your kids will be amazed!
  • Book tickets for the Top of the Rock observation deck: from the top of Rockefeller Center, you'll get another 360º panoramic view of the Empire State Building and Central Park. Get your camera ready, and get ready to take some breathtaking photos.
  • Book tickets for SUMMIT One Vanderbilt: if climbing to the height of the clouds will thrill your little ones, when you take them to the hall of mirrors they will be left with their mouths open. Not to be missed!
  • Book tickets for The Edge Observatory: thisobservation deck is located at 345 meters high, and from it you can enjoy a full panoramic view of the Big Apple. The glass floors will test the vertigo of the little ones... or yours!

Book tickets for SUMMIT One Vanderbilt

10. Ride the Roosevelt Aerial Tramway

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.

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

11. Ice skating in New York City

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 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. 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 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.

12. Sail 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 only costs $2.75 and children under 1.10 meters are 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.

13. 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 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, the little ones 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?

14. 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's something for everyone!

  • Economy Candy: this candy paradise is located 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.
  • Dylan's Candy Bar: a must stop for those with a 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.
  • M&M's World: another must-stop in Times Square for those with a sweet tooth. Here you can buy a lot of candy and merchandising of the brand. It will be hard not to leave with a bag of chocolates.

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

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

Buy your tickets in advance

New York is one of the most visited cities in the world each year and it is not surprising that many of the attractions offered to tourists are packed with visitors.

Scheduling in advance the activities you are going to do on your trip to New York and booking tickets in advance is essential for everything to go smoothly. Oh, and remember that in Hellotickets you will find many tickets with direct access option, to avoid long lines that could bore and impatience your kids.

When buying tickets, you should keep in mind the following tips:

  • Most Broadway theaters do not admit children under the age of 4 (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.
  • As for whether children can attend NBA games for free, it really depends on the team: the policy at Madison Square Garden (home of the New York Knicks) says that children who have reached the age of two must have a ticket. Meanwhile, at the Barclays Center (home of the Brooklyn Nets), children up to 34" inches can get in for free by sharing a seat with a ticketed adult who accompanies them.

Choose the best time for activities

Generally speaking, kids get up early and go to bed early. This is ideal in a city like New York, where many of the attractions receive fewer visitors first thing in the morning:

  • A good time to go skating with the kids 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 of charge before 11 AM.
  • If you feel like going to see the Christmas lights at Dyker Heights, I advise you to arrive a little before dark so you can attend the lighting, which in New York happens around 4:30 PM in December. It's a magical moment!
  • 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 rush hours between 7 and 9 AM and 5 and 7 PM.
  • The best time to visit museums is usually early in the morning on weekdays. Plus, the kids will be more receptive and less tired from the day. Afterwards, get outdoors and explore!
  • NBA game days are a special time 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 dances, the anthem and the entrance of the players on the court.

Plan how to get around

Nobody likes to waste time getting around, least of all impatient children who are impatient to get to their destination. That's why in a city as huge as New York it is even more important to consider how best to get to each attraction.

For example, the NYC Ferry is less frequent than the subway, but depending on the route and day of the week there are different frequencies. My advice is to check the schedules on the web beforehand so you can board on time.

However, an excellent way to move around while taking advantage of the time to admire the monuments of the Big Apple is to book a seat on the New York sightseeing bus, an option that has many advantages:

  • You can choose tickets for one or two days, depending on how long you are going to be in the city.
  • You can hop on and off as many times as you want, so you can use it to take a first look at the city, as a means of transportation between attractions or just to rest your legs for a while.
  • Thanks to its mobile app, you'll know exactly when the bus is due, so you can plan your transfers to perfection.
  • There are two routes to choose from: Uptown, which passes through Madison Square Garden, Fifth Avenue, Times Square, the Metropolitan Museum, MoMa and Central Park; and DownTown, which passes through Broadway, Wall Street, Battery Park, Little Italy, Chinatown and Soho.

Book a seat on the New York City Sightseeing Bus