104 Best Things to Do in New York City: A Local’s Guide
Check out my ultimate local's guide to the best things to do in New York City. Including non-touristy things to do, it'll be a trip you won't soon forget.
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With New York’s reputation as “The City That Never Sleeps”, it’s hard for some to imagine that it’s a great place to take children.
In fact, until my sister had my nephew, I never really had a reason to pay attention to all the marvelous things there are to do around New York with kids.
And while I have to admit, there really isn’t a ton to do if you’re bringing a super young baby with you, there’s a ton for older children.
If you’ve got kids who are toddlers, pre-teens, or teens, this city is an amazing destination for your next family trip.
They will marvel at the lights of Times Square, laugh at a Broadway show, and love indulging in all the food and shopping the city is famous for.
Below I’ve outlined all my favorite recommendations on things to do in NYC with kids. I hope it helps you plan the perfect outing with the children in your life.
New York City offers fun for all ages, including cool playgrounds, world-class museums, amazing Broadway shows, and mouth-watering restaurants.
Times Square can be fun in theory, since kids will love the view, but fair warning, dealing with the chaos of Times Square everytime you walk out the door can be hectic with kids.
If you want a more relaxed experience, stay just outside Times Square, or in a less touristy, like the Upper West Side, or Chelsea.
Anyone who knows me well understands my addiction to seeing Broadway shows.
So it’s no surprise that this is the first place I want to take my nephew when he comes to the city.
Broadway doesn’t have a ton of new shows for families, but there’s always the good old standbys, Disney’s The Lion King, and Aladdin.
I’ve seen both, and found The Lion King to be far more impressive, even after 25 years on Broadway!
If you’ve got older kids, who like Harry Potter, you need to check out Cursed Child.
It’s a play that follows the kids of the original characters, as they make their way through Hogwarts.
The show is next level magical! Seriously, both kids and adults will be in awe of the illusions they pull off in this show.
Local’s Tip: If you’re booking tickets to The Lion King, try to get center aisle seats in the Orchestra.
The Circle of Life number involves animals coming down the aisles, and it’s truly magical to see the looks on kids’ faces as Bertha the elephant and other animals stroll by on their way to the stage.
Book your tickets to see The Lion King on Broadway today!
There’s a reason Central Park is one of the most famous places in NYC.
Not only is it absolutely stunning, but there’s a million things to do inside.
There’s even storytelling and occasional performances at the Swedish Cottage Marionette Theatre.
During the summer, this is also the perfect spot for a family picnic.
Don’t miss out on crossing this iconic park off of your NYC bucket list!
I haven’t been here yet, but a friend of mine, who’s a nanny, said the kids love visiting the Brooklyn Children’s Museum.
She says there are tons of interactive activities and play areas, special exhibits, plus special cultural events throughout the year.
I really like that this museum is engaging and gives kids a chance to learn about people from all over the world.
Fun Fact: Brooklyn Children’s Museum was the world’s first children’s museum when it opened 123 years ago!
Unleash your family’s imagination at the Sloomoo Institute where you can all play with slime.
Plus, you can even get slimed if you want to cross off your childhood Nickelodeon dream—don’t worry, they give you a plastic rain jacket to put on over your clothes!
The best part is each ticket comes with the option to create your own slime.
I have a sneaking suspicion this might be your kids’ favorite spot during their trip to the city.
Plus, they’ve got tons of cool souvenirs in their gift shop that you will love.
Everyone wants to catch at least a glimpse of Lady Liberty, so if your kids are into history, consider booking a trip out to Ellis Island and The Statue of Liberty to give them a hands-on history lesson.
I’m not a parent, but as an aunt, I’d say avoid taking kids under 10, because I think they’ll just get bored and not appreciate it.
Seriously, at minimum, you’re looking at about three hours to do this trek quickly. Or more like six hours if you do the tour correctly.
If you have younger kids, skip down to my text suggestion for a quicker way of letting them spot the statue.
Riding the Staten Island Ferry is my favorite way to catch magnificent views of not only The Statue of Liberty and Ellis Island but also stunning views of downtown Manhattan, and Governors Island.
The best part is it’s free to ride, and only takes 25 minutes, making it perfect for kids with short attention spans.
For the best experience, avoid riding the ferry at rush hour (6am-9am and between 5pm-7pm).
Local’s Tip: If you find yourself over in Staten Island around dinner time, check out Enoteca Maria. It’s a delicious restaurant run by legit Italian nonnas.
This fish-themed ride inside Battery Park, is easily one of the most magical carousels that you’ll ever ride.
You and your kids will ride inside an iridescent fish and experience a 360 degree underwater adventure.
It’s one of my out-of-town friend’s favorite things to do in NYC with their kids.
Even adults with no children flock to this unique ride, which also is a magnificent spot to shoot photos.
Double check their schedule before heading over, as they aren’t open year-round or during certain types of weather.
Fun Fact: The carousel pays homage to the park’s history, since it was home to New York’s first aquarium.
Everyone comes to New York wanting to see the lights of Times Square, so don’t miss out on the opportunity to see the awe on your kids’ faces the first time they experience it.
I realize some people think Times Square is dangerous after dark, but honestly, it feels a bit like an incredibly crowded Disney World with all the cartoon characters walking around.
In fact, the main thing I’d caution you about are the people dressed up in these costumes.
Your kids will inevitably get excited when they spot their favorite character.
These people will harass you for payment if you interact with them at all.
So have cash on hand if your kid’s going to want a photo or meeting with Spiderman or one of his friends.
Local’s Tip: This place is always busy, especially at night. I’d avoid venturing into with a stroller, as it’s going to make pedestrians annoyed and you’re going to have an awful, and much slower time, making your way through the giant crowd.
The High Line is a beautiful almost two-mile stretch of greenery, flowers, walkways, and art, making it a brilliant spot to spend a few hours with the family during the warmer months.
Kids will love running around the Pershing Square Beams, which are an original network of steel beams that have been remodeled with kids in mind.
Every time I wander by, I see at least a few kids climbing and running around on them.
The whole family will also love checking out the different art exhibits and performers that normally occupy The High Line.
The Color Factory is fun for all ages, especially for teens and young adults who want to get some cool photos for social media, or your family scrapbook.
This art exhibit features playful interactive installations, immersive rooms, and some well placed cameras to capture photos along the way.
When you arrive, you’ll get a code to scan at all the photo booths, and can take as many photos as you want.
Then after your visit, they email you all of them for free!
If your kids like trains, then plan on swinging by the NY Transit Museum.
It’s got tons of art, old trains, and information about the history of the NYC subway system.
Plus, it’s housed inside the old Court Street subway station, which closed in 1946!
I’d say this is a spot that’s more for older kids and teens, since I’m guessing most kids will lose interest quickly.
Also, don’t forget to hit up the gift shop. They’ve got tons of cool souvenirs, plus some really cool model trains.
I went for the first time a few years ago with friends and had an absolute ball chilling at the beach, eating on the boardwalk, and riding all the rides.
My friend’s kids went wild over the selection of mini rides for rides. It was seriously impressive how much they had geared toward children.
If you’re in the city during the summer and want to take a break from the heat, plan on hitting up Coney Island for the day. I can guarantee it’ll be fun for the whole family!
Also, both driving and taking the subway will run about an hour each way, so bring activities to occupy your kids.
Local’s Tip: If you’re planning on picnicking at the beach, stock up on snacks and drinks before you hop the train to Coney Island. Bodegas there are more expensive!
What kid wouldn’t want to learn a bit about the history of ice cream?
Take your family to The Museum of Ice Cream for a sweet afternoon filled with colorful interactive experiences, a bit of history, and fun playrooms, including a slide that goes into a pool of sprinkles!
Your kids will think they’ve found heaven, especially when they get to sample some delicious ice creams during the experience.
Local’s Tip: This place’s design is super fun and colorful, making a great space to take cool family photos in.
Get your tickets today to guarantee a sweet visit to The Museum of Ice Cream!
They’ve got rock walls, indoor ice skating, batting cages, a gymnasium, tennis, and even golf.
The driving range is especially fun if you need to get a bit of stress and tension out while the kids enjoy the center.
Museums can be dull for kids, but not the American Museum of Natural History, especially if they’ve seen Night at the Museum.
It’s got tons of cool fossils, including some epic dinosaur bones, that are sure to impress your kids.
If that doesn’t impress them, they’ve also got rocks from space and an epic planetarium that will.
Oh, and don’t forget to check out the famous giant blue whale while you’re there!
Guarantee entry by booking tickets today!
Don’t waste time waiting in line, secure your tickets today!
If you’re in town on a beautiful day, add walking across the Brooklyn Bridge to your to-do list.
You’ll get incredible views of the Statue of Liberty, plus both the Manhattan and Brooklyn skylines, not to mention you can teach your kids a bit about the history behind the most famous bridge in NYC.
Then after you can stroll around Brooklyn and grab a bite at Time Out Market.
Fun Fact: This was the longest suspension bridge in the world until 1903, when the Williamsburg Bridge beat it.
One of NYC’s newest parks is Little Island at Pier 55, and it’s perfect for a chill afternoon picnic while the kids run around the grass playing.
There are adorable play areas for children, including a musical area, dance chimes,and spinning chairs.
Plus, some beautiful views of downtown and even The Statue of Liberty if you head to the Southwest Overlook.
They even have a few food kiosks for you to pick up lunch and have an impromptu picnic.
The city has a bunch of great restaurants, but some stand out more than others when you want somewhere extra fun to bring your family to.
These are the spots that I always suggest when friends bring their kids to the New York.
One of my nephew’s favorite things to do is visit the zoo anytime we bring him to a big city.
The Staten Island Zoo has a great reptile collection, a lovely aquarium, and lots of animals from different continents.
I really like sending people with kids to this zoo because it’s not massive, yet you still feel you’ve seen a wide variety of interesting things.
It’s also pretty accessible for families with strollers, which is always a delightful bonus.
Looking for a green space for your kids to run free with no cars?
Head to Governors Island for a day of biking, playgrounds, art exhibits, museums, and food trucks.
They also have concerts and lots of annual events, so be sure to check their schedule to see if anything will take place during your visit.
Local’s Tip: Check out Collective Governors Island glamping experience for a night under the stars your family will never forget!
The MET is my all-time favorite NYC museum, mainly because it’s got something for all tastes.
I really enjoy the Anna Wintour Wing, which showcases fashion history. The MET Gala, which kicks off each new fashion exhibit, is always one of the most talked about events in the city each year.
But if fashion is not your thing, don’t worry, they’ve got tons of Egyptian stuff, a massive amount of European paintings, a gallery on Asian art, and even one on medieval swords, which is sure to impress your kids!
Local’s Tip: During the summer, don’t miss heading up to The Met’s rooftop, which features a cool new exhibit, plus amazing views of Central Park, and a little
Buy your tickets early to avoid waiting in line!
NYC has tons of amazing food, including a crazy selection of every dessert imaginable.
Even after over a decade in the city, I’m still discovering new places.
As a bit of a dessert addict, I’ve tried a lot of places around the city over the years.
These are the ones that I love so much, that I always find an excuse to visit:
Everyone should see Grand Central Terminal when they visit New York.
It’s one of the most grand train stations in the world with its starry ceiling, whispering wall, oyster bar, food court, and even a speakeasy that you’ll hopefully get to check out later without the kids.
Children are sure to be impressed by both the ceiling and whispering wall, so don’t miss out on showing them those while you’re in the station.
Want to learn more about Grand Central? Book this fun walking tour!
One of my nephew’s favorite things to travel anywhere we travel is to find a mini golf course.
NYC has a couple of courses to choose from. These are the ones that are the most popular:
Don’t forget to check their schedules, as some of these are only open seasonally.
In case you haven’t guessed, the Museum of the Moving Image dedicates itself to the history of film and television.
Their Jim Hansen Exhibit is especially cool, and will blow away fans of The Muppet Show.
It features tons of memorabilia, including some of the original puppets!
This is a really great place to have fun engaging experiences, while still learning about the history of film and TV.
Using immersive experiences, Spyscape lets you test your spy skills, all while learning about the history and techniques that spies have used for ages.
I went there ages ago with friends, and we all had so much fun.
They even have the Batman Experience now where you get to save Gotham.
I can’t wait to take my nephew the next he visits since, like most kids, he’s obsessed with superheroes.
Head to Coney Island to check out the oldest continually operating aquarium in the United States.
You’ll get to gaze at colorful fish, see penguins and sharks, and more.
Don’t miss the sea lion show, touch pool, and 4-D theater.
Walking around the New York Aquarium will easily take up 2-3 hours of your afternoon, though if you rush, you could probably do it in one hour.
If you’re already planning on taking the Staten Island Ferry to see the view of The Statue of Liberty, make a day out of it by also seeing the Staten Island Children’s Museum.
This museum has tons of things to do for kids.
My friends say their kids could spend all day running around this place playing.
With roughly 860 animals, a discovery trail, sea lion court, a barn, and a garden, Prospect Park Zoo is a fun way to spend the afternoon learning.
My friends say their kids love visiting the petting zoo here.
Look out for the peacocks that roam around the zoo.
It’s a great competition to see who can spot the most while you’re walking around.
If you’re looking for a fun interactive museum that will leave your kids in awe, and the older ones with cool photo backdrops, make your way to the Museum of Illusions.
Head here either in the morning or late afternoon for the best experience.
The museum isn’t very large. You can get through the whole thing in about an hour.
Want to ride a vintage carousel from the 1920s?
Just head to Jane’s Carousel in Brooklyn Bridge Park, next to the East River.
You’ll have beautiful views of the Manhattan skyline and the Brooklyn Bridge while you and your family go round-and-round.
Head Off-Broadway to The New Victory Theater to find shows geared toward children and families, plus some cool special activities and events throughout the year.
If you’ve already seen all the Disney shows on Broadway, or want to see a more affordable show, this is the venue to check out.
This is the best park in Brooklyn to spend the afternoon chilling with family and friends while your kids run around the wide open spaces.
Prospect Park also offers a ton of fun throughout the year, including horseback riding, concerts, playgrounds, a zoo, concerts, ice skating, roller skating, biking, and boating.
No matter what time of year, the park has activities everyone in the family will love.
One of the most popular winter activities in NYC is to go ice skating.
Thankfully, the city has a bunch of skating places to choose from.
These are the rinks that are the most popular:
Head to the Bronx to spend the afternoon wandering around the New York Botanical Garden.
My friends with kids in strollers love pushing their kids around this place.
It’s over a century old and really gorgeous during the spring and summer.
They also do really fun events throughout the year, like the popular Holiday Train Show.
Book your visit today!
I haven’t been here yet, but my friend, who is a nanny, says that the kids love going to the DiMenna Children’s History Museum.
Just head to the lower level of the New York Historical Society on the Upper West Side to find it.
They’ve got interactive exhibitions, games, a children’s library, and more.
Plan to spend at least an hour here before moving on to check out the rest of the building.
One of the most popular things to do when I was growing up was to hit up the local roller rink on the weekends.
Turns out, it’s still on trend today. New York City has a bunch of different places that offer roller skating throughout the year.
I haven’t been roller skating in the city yet, but friends tell me that these are some of the most popular spots:
Learn all about New York’s history at the South Street Seaport Museum.
You’ll see model ships, paintings, scrimshaw, and even vintage ships at the dock outside.
If you’re wondering what a scrimshaw is, don’t worry, I didn’t know either.
It’s decorated bone or ivory objects with carvings etched into them. Sailors used to do these with whale teeth and walrus tusks.
I haven’t been here yet, but my pirate obsessed five-year-old nephew said he thought it sounded cool.
Head to Brooklyn Bridge Park for a gorgeous view of Manhattan’s Skyline and the Brooklyn Bridge.
This spot is especially beautiful at sunset and is perfect if you’re looking to add a bit of romance to an outing with kids.
Head to the Queen’s Museum to check out their famous panorama of New York City from the 1964 World’s Fair.
This art gallery and education center also has an exhibit on the World’s Fair, plus a bunch of other interesting areas, and sometimes even art classes or other special events.
Oh, and the best part is that it’s free to visit. Just be sure to reserve a spot ahead of time.
Obviously, this isn’t the most exciting activity for adults, but kids love riding the Roosevelt Island Tram. To them, it’s exciting, like riding a ride at the fair.
It runs every 7-15 minutes from 59th and 2nd Ave. Have a loaded subway card with you, as you’ll all need to swipe in to ride.
You’ll ride 250 above the East River as you make your way to Roosevelt Island.
The whole thing takes about four minutes each way.
Local’s Tip: They will make everyone exit on the other side, so be ready to have to swipe again for the ride back to Manhattan.
As someone who didn’t love math growing up, I wasn’t totally convinced this place was going to be fun, but boy, was I wrong.
The National Museum of Mathematics in NoMad has tons to do for kids and adults, including puzzles, play areas, and an area that shows how math applies to everyday life.
Hit up Sugar Hill Children’s Museum of Art & Storytelling for a day of hands-on activities, art, and some world-class storytelling.
I haven’t been, but my friend, who is a nanny, says the kids love hitting up story time when they’re in the neighborhood.
Bryant Park is one of my favorite small parks in the city.
It’s got movies under the stars during the summer, an amazing holiday market, ice skating, a carousel, food stands, and even a mobile library with story time during the summer.
This place truly has everything.
Local’s Tip: Hit up the Whole Foods across the street to pick up picnic supplies during the summer.
Take your kids to the top of the Empire State Building to see one of the most iconic views in the city.
I’ve been a couple times, and once you get past the massive line to get to the top, it’s pretty spectacular.
This is one place where I urge all of you to splurge on skip-the-line tickets. Trust me, you’ll thank me as you stroll past the giant line of people waiting.
Oh, and don’t worry, besides the view, there’s also plenty of historical information available so that you can teach the family a bit of history while you’re up there.
Skip waiting in a massive line for ages by purchasing your tickets to the top ahead of time!
Kids will love all the science demonstrations and displays at the New York Hall of Science.
They also have a great 3D theater, a science playground, cafeteria, and gift shop to hit up while you’re there.
This is another place I haven’t been to yet, but have heard marvelous things about.
Heard to this renovated old firehouse in Tribeca to discover tons of history on the NY Fire Department.
Your kids will marvel at the old fire trucks, tools and uniforms, and you can have a teaching moment while viewing the 9/11 displays.
I haven’t been to the New York City Fire Museum, but it’s on my list for the next time I’m in town.
If you’ve got Harry Potter fans in your family, you’ve got to stop at The Harry Potter Store.
This place is super magical and everything is Harry Potter themed, including the elevator.
You’ll be blown away by all the cool things they sell here, including butterbeer and a wall of wands!
This place is massively popular, so don’t forget to join the digital entry queue early!
I hope this list has given you all the inspiration you need to plan your next visit to the city.
Let me know in the comments below what things that you’re most looking forward to checking out with your kids in NYC!
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