14 Things To Do With Kids in NYC

Do you already know what plans you'll be making 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're planning a family trip to New York, chances are you'll want to set aside some time to make plans with the kids. That way they can also have fun and make the most of their holiday in this city.

With these 14 things to do with kids in New York, you're sure to have a great time and plenty 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 theatre mecca) is one of the most fun things to do as a family in the city.

Even if you're not a fan of these types of shows or don't speak English, the kids will love immersing themselves in the fantasy world that the fabulous musical numbers, characters and spectacular staging full of colour, music and special effects will transport them to.

The best musicals for children

In addition, there are many and varied options of musicals specially designed for children, an experience the little ones will never forget!

  • Book tickets for Radio City Christmas Spectacular: first performed in 1933, this musical for all ages is a Christmas tradition in New York City. If you're travelling 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 on Broadway. It is a classic that has already been seen by 60 million people from all over the world. However, this show is recommended for children over 8 years old.
  • Book tickets for Aladdin Broadway: another Disney classic that is also a hit on Broadway and that you can enjoy with your children, as long as they are over 6 years old, they will be thrilled!
  • Book tickets for Harry Potter and the Cursed Child: If you have a fan of the Harry Potter universe in your family, this is the perfect plan if you are travelling 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 be familiar with the Back to the Future trilogy, but this Broadway show is suitable for ages 6 and up, so you can all enjoy it together.
  • Book tickets for Wicked: what better way to rediscover the magical world of Oz with your kids than 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 with your family, how can you not take advantage of being in New York to fulfil a dream and attend a New York Knicks game or see the Brooklyn Nets in person?

You'll have a blast! Not just because you're 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't miss with the kids in New York. It will be an unforgettable memory of your holidays!

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

3. Go to the Bronx Zoo

Feeding the Sheep at Bronx Zoo| ©Jim Naureckas
Feeding the Sheep at 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 a trip to 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'll have a great time and it'll be one of the best memories of their holiday in New York!

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

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've got to take the kids to Brooklyn to see the Dyker Heights neighborhood! It's a place that's become famous because every year the locals, imbued with the Christmas spirit, put on a huge display of decorations and lights to carefully decorate their homes "American style" for Christmas.

Kids will love it because there are snowmen, elves, reindeer and Father Christmas 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 see the most picturesque spots in the neighbourhood!

Be prepared because you've never seen anything like it! If you like the idea of seeing the Christmas lights in this Brooklyn neighbourhood, before you go with the kids I recommend you read my article How to Visit 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

While New York may seem like an asphalt jungle, it actually has plenty of parks where you can take a stroll as a family and let the kids play freely. Both in the gardens and in the playgrounds that are usually set up there. Here are some of the parks in New York that you can visit on your holiday.

  • 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 bit of fun. The ride costs $3.
  • Battery Park (Lower Manhattan): one of the most beautiful parks in New York with spectacular views of the harbour. 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 swimming costumes 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're up for it, you can even take the plunge yourself, even if you're not a kid anymore.

and don't miss Central Park

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

  • Take a guided tour of Central Park: for two hours you can explore the nooks and crannies of the park and a guide will explain its secrets and curiosities. The little ones will be fascinated when they get to the zoo, the setting for the film Madagascar, and if they are a little older they will be amazed by the Bethesda Fountain, the location of the final scene of The Avengers.
  • Book tickets for the Central Park Zoo: surprise your little ones by taking them to the set of the film Madagascar. And, who knows, you might even 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'll enjoy themselves, do some sport and use up their energy while you cycle around the most famous park in the world in a fast and fun way.

Book a tour of Central Park

6. Visit New York's most special museums

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

Who says 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:

  • Be amazed by the wax figures at Madame Tussauds: the kids will have a blast and it's an experience they'll remember forever. They can walk around the Madame Tussauds Museum from bottom to top taking all the photos they want of the wax figures and posing on the sets with characters such as E.T., King Kong or the Ghostbusters.
  • Become spies at the Spyscape Museum: Do your kids dream of being spies? In this interactive adventure designed by a former head of the Intelligence Service, young and old alike will discover what kind of spy they would be and put themselves to the test by overcoming different challenges.
  • Discover the American Museum of Natural History: Visit what is arguably 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, planes or spaceships, you can't miss this museum, which is also located on the aircraft carrier Intrepid, at 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 exotic flavoured ice creams from all over the world, go down a three-storey slide or take a dip in a bathtub full of coloured shavings. A real sensory experience!

Book a ticket for the Sea, Air and Space Museum

7. Explore 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 for 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, but 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. Plus, you can take a tram ride through the 50 different gardens at the botanical gardens, which your kids will love.
  • Book tickets to the Nickelodeon Universe theme park in New Jersey: go for a super fun day out at one of New York's best amusement parks. Characters like the Ninja Turtles and SpongeBob SquarePants await you on roller coasters for all ages. Plus, the park is covered, so it's perfect for 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 travelling with kids for several reasons: on the one hand, almost all children like to try different means of transport, and they definitely love sailing on a boat. On the other hand, it's a great way to unwind after a day of walking or visiting the various 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 most breathtaking

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.

That's why visiting one or more of the viewpoints in the city that never sleeps is a great plan for children and adults alike:

  • 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 every 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 amazing pictures.
  • Book tickets for SUMMIT One Vanderbilt: if going up to the height of the clouds will thrill your little ones, when you take them to the hall of mirrors they'll be left open-mouthed. Not to be missed!
  • Book tickets for The Edge Observatory: thisobservation deck is located at 345 metres above sea level, and from it you will be able to 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 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 head to the Upper East Side to ride the Roosevelt Cable Car, which connects Manhattan to Roosevelt Island. It's great fun for the whole family and quite inexpensive as you only need a Metrocard, the same card you use to travel by bus or underground.

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

Kids can take the opportunity to run and jump around the island's playgrounds in the Main Street area and 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

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

If you're visiting New York during the winter, you'll have the chance to go ice skating at one of the rinks that are set up all over the city. It's one of the coolest things to do with kids in New York and the perfect place for them to play for a while and have fun doing tricks.

What's more, you'll get some fantastic photos with a very wintry look. Which ice rinks can you go to in New York?

  • Wollman Rink (Central Park): has beautiful views of the park landscape on one side and the city's iconic skyscrapers on the other. When you've finished skating you can go for a hot chocolate at Wollman Café, the ice rink café.
  • The Rink (Bryant Park) is located on 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 you don't, don't worry, you can rent them.
  • Rockefeller Rink (Rockefeller Plaza): you will recognise this ice rink from hundreds of movies. It is one of the most typical ones 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 holiday? 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 another 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 riding the NYC Ferry is only $2.75 and children under 1.10 metres are free.

It's a great experience to do, especially in spring and summer when the weather is nice and you can enjoy the sunshine, 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 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'll find many shops in the city where their eyes will glaze over and they'll lose track of time. It'll be because of the toy shops in New York! Here are some of the most curious ones to visit with children.

  • FAO Schwarz: this is the most iconic toy shop in the city and you'll find it in Rockefeller Center. At the entrance you'll 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 love the Disney, Marvel or Star Wars universe, you can't miss the shop 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'll find the famous building blocks shop, with two floors! If you're a Lego fan, you'll love it.
  • Build-A-Bear Workshop at this toy store, kids can get their own personalised 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, isn't it?

14. And don't forget the sweet shops!

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

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

  • Economy Candy: You'll find this candy paradise on the Lower East Side. Despite its small size, the shop is packed to the rafters with candy of all flavours, colours and shapes. Plus, the prices are pretty cheap (items are available 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 shop has three floors brimming with over 7,000 types of candy! A dream come true for millions of children.
  • M&M's World: another must in Times Square for those with a sweet tooth. Here you can buy lots of sweets and merchandising from 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's no wonder that many of its attractions are packed with visitors.

It is essential to plan your trip to New York and book your tickets in advance to ensure that everything goes smoothly. Oh, and remember that in Hellotickets you will find many tickets with direct access option, to avoid long queues that could bore and impatience your children.

When buying tickets, you should take into account the following tips:

  • Most Broadway theatres do not admit children under the age of 4 (these are policies set by individual theatres).
  • None of the theatres sell children's tickets for Broadway musicals, so all patrons must pay the same price for tickets.
  • As for whether children can go to 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" can get in for free if they share a seat with a ticketed adult who accompanies them.

Choose the best time for activities

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

  • 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 of charge before 11am.
  • If you want to see the Christmas lights at Dyker Heights, I recommend arriving a little before dark to catch 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's less crowded. Don't forget that it's a means of transport that connects Roosevelt Island to Manhattan and that New Yorkers use it to get around. So it's best to avoid the rush hours between 7 and 9am and 5 and 7pm.
  • 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 get to the stadium at least an hour in advance so you don't get caught in the middle of the game. That way you can go through security calmly, browse the souvenir and snack shops, find your seats in the stands and experience the pre-game atmosphere with the cheerleaders' dances, the anthem and the players' entrance onto the court.

Plan how to get around

No one likes to waste time getting around, least of all impatient children who are eager to get to their destination. So 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 underground, but depending on the route and the day of the week there are different frequencies. My advice is to check the schedules on the website beforehand so that you can board on time.

However, a great way to get around while taking advantage of the time to see the sights of the Big Apple is to book a seat on the New York sightseeing bus, which has many advantages:

  • You can choose tickets for one or two days, depending on how long you'll be in the city.
  • You can hop on and off as many times as you like, so you can use it to get a first look at the city, as a means of transport between attractions or just to rest your legs for a while.
  • Thanks to the 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 Madison Square Garden, Fifth Avenue, Times Square, the Metropolitan Museum, MoMa and Central Park; and DownTown, which passes Broadway, Wall Street, Battery Park, Little Italy, Chinatown and Soho.

Book a seat on the New York City Sightseeing Bus