Things to Do in New York With Kids – A Guide for Newcomers

If you are planning to relocate to the Big Apple with your family soon, you’re probably wondering about exciting things to do in New York with kids. And even though it may seem like a jungle, don’t let the sheer size of the city scare you. There are plenty of activities for you and your children because The Capital of the World is packed with numerous attractions, playgrounds, parks, museums, and much, much more.

If you’re moving to New York from a smaller town, you might be worried about your children’s future. But, believe it or not, New York is a wonderful place for families with toddlers and teens. It is not just because of the safety records that are among the best for American cities, but also because of many things to see and do. Everyday activities are transformed for children into wonderlands. For example, the Statue of Liberty and the ferry ride to Ellis Island are must-see entertainments. Even the subway can become an adventure in itself, and some of the best restaurants in New York are packed with kid-friendly options. The truth is that children just adore spending their time in the Big Apple.

So, if you’re wondering What can a family do in New York?, or What is there to do in NYC today with kids?, you can rest assured that relocating to this metropolis will be a real adventure not just for you, but for your kiddos as well. So, let’s find out what amazing kid-friendly activities are hidden in this concrete jungle.

There Are Plenty of Exciting Things to Do in New York With Kids

If you’re moving from a small town to a big city, which the City That Never Sleeps certainly is, navigating the metropolis with the youngsters can be a daunting task. But, if you look beyond the hustle and bustle of congested streets, you’ll find a long list of family-friendly attractions. To mention just a few:

  • Central Park has 21 playgrounds, zoo, face painters, balloon artists, gondola rides… and that’s just a tiny fraction of what this parkland provides for children
  • Staten Island Ferry is free for everyone and it will give you amazing views of the Manhattan, Brooklyn, and Verrazzano Bridges
  • Statue of Liberty and Ellis Island are iconic landmarks that require taking a ferry if you want to visit a museum located in the statue’s pedestal and the crown (there are 377 steps from the lobby to the crown platform)
  • A lot of museums with interactive exhibits and activities for children
  • NY Public Library offers plenty of engaging activities for kids and their families – from e-books to learning aids to help with projects and homework
  • Botanical Garden is full of interesting surprises for children: they are free to run here, find their way through Beth’s Maze, play on natural instruments or be occupied with puppet theater

For all newcomers, NYC might look like a giant where one can easily get lost in the sea of wishes, expectations, and goals. The truth is there are so many opportunities for adults and lots of fun for children. If you dig a little deeper, you’ll discover countless venues and recreational facilities where your kids will enjoy and fall in love with this amazing metropolis in a minute.

Today, Ellis Island is part of the National Park Service along with the Statue of Liberty

Take Some NYC Tours

How to experience real New York with your children and see their eyes light up? If you decided to use auto transport services in order to bring your vehicle to NYC, it’s excellent, but exploring NYC in your car is not really the most suitable solution. There’s no better way to get to know the city than touring it. If you ask people what place is on top of their bucket list, most of them will tell you it’s the Big Apple. So, if there are so many things that capture people’s imagination, you can just suppose how strong the impact this city has on children.

Strolling the city’s streets and enjoying its architecture, food, and energy is an excellent way to spend a family-friendly weekend. And if your children are happy and have a good time, you’ll also be able to take pleasure in such family gatherings.

Walking History Tour in New York

If you have a teenager, you know how challenging it is to get him interested in something and keep his attention, especially after moving away from friends. Luckily, the Big Apple has a bit of everything for everyone, so you can be certain that your adolescent will learn something valuable and simultaneously have a great time. We’ve narrowed down the list of some of the best family-friendly history tours you should note:

  • Catacombs by candlelight – this tour offers you and your child the possibility to see the parts of the Basilica of St. Patrick’s Old Cathedral where visitors usually aren’t allowed.
  • Bronx, Queens, and Brooklyn half-day tours – you can visit parts of the Big Apple that aren’t usually highlighted on city tours. New York boroughs are a real melting pot of America. There’s no better way for your kid to learn about cultures from all around the world.
  • Brooklyn graffiti lesson – this hands-on graffiti workshop allows your kid to create a graffiti art project with the help of an authentic graffiti artist
  • 4-hour bike rental – explore NY at your own pace with a free map and helmet, after choosing among over 200 bikes. An excellent opportunity to see historical attractions and classic architecture with your kiddos. Baby seats and baby trailers are at your disposal if needed.
  • Wall Street insider tour – with this tour, your kid has a chance to learn about four centuries of Wall Street history, from a Dutch trading post to the global financial hub. The guide will inform you about stories that only an insider would know, so you and your children will be informed and entertained listening about billion-dollar deals and the economy’s development.
  • 2-hour Brooklyn bridge guided bike tour – your kiddos will learn more about the architecture, art, and history of the Bridge
  • Broadway Theatre District Tour – there is no child who is not fascinated by Broadway and its most famous theatres. That’s why this is an excellent chance to hear backstage stories and industry secrets, learn about how Times Square became the famous spot it is today, and visit 45th Street, a mecca of theatres.

Painting in Central Park With Kids

If your child has always been an art-lover, painting with acrylics in Central Park might perk up your kiddos’ mood. The best thing about this course is that no experience is necessary. You and your child will learn how to choose the most suitable materials and the basic techniques for painting motives you’re interested in. Spending a day in beautiful surroundings with your family will provide you all with a once-in-a-lifetime experience.

NYC Statue of Liberty Kayak Tour

For those braver and adventurous, kayaking the Hudson River Estuary will be one hell of a ride. Some prior experience is a must, and you should be prepared to get wet. You will visit several places that most people have never seen before. This is a great way to see NY from a unique perspective – from water, including sites such as:

  • NY harbor
  • The Statue of Liberty
  • Caven Point Beach
  • NY skyline from various vantage points

Enjoy Some of the Best Views of NYC

Known as the City of Skyscrapers, The Big Apple is a place where many architectural icons are located, such as the Empire State Building, One Trade Center, Rockefeller Plaza, etc. It is home to more than 200 buildings measuring 500 feet or taller, and if you would like to spend an unforgettable afternoon with your little ones, there are many ways to catch a bird’s eye view and visualize how big NY actually is.

Head to the Top of the Rock at the Rockefeller Center

A visit to Top of the Rock is one of the most exciting things to do in the Big Apple thanks to the 360-degree views of the city surrounding you. Don’t miss a chance of taking amazing pictures with an unmatched view at the top. An insider tip: make sure to book a tour about 40 minutes before sunset, so that you and your kid won’t miss the spectacular sight. It’s definitely the best view of the Empire State Building and Central Park from here. Just keep in mind that there are three viewing levels. The lower two may cause reflection on your photos due to thick glass, which usually has finger marks. The top-level is the better alternative since it’s open and the most exposed to wind and cold weather.

Empire State Building with its 102 Stories Is a Must

In case you want the most classic NY skyline experience and the best views of Lower Manhattan and the Financial District, Empire State Building will provide you with iconic and unforgettable views. Also, if you’re interested in Art Deco and the building’s history, the Empire State is definitely the most representative structure in NY.

Before you reach the 102nd floor, you should take a break on the 2nd and 80th floors and visit exhibits. Your kiddos will be delighted with Kong’s hands breaking through the walls, and even more, it’s possible to touch them and feel them vibrate. There are several more exciting exhibits focused on the Empire State Building beginning, construction, and opening day. Some of the most interesting shows that will keep yours and your kids’ attention are:

  • Modern Marvel
  • Otis Elevators
  • Urban Campus
  • World’s Most Famous Building
  • Artistry in Light
  • Stephen Wiltshire’s Drawing
The Empire State Building has two observatories - on the 86th and 102nd floors

Which Museum You Shouldn’t Miss

Needless to say, but NYC has some of the best museums worldwide. Still, it’s important to highlight plenty of kid-friendly museums and venues for children of all ages. These cultural institutions offer remarkable exhibitions and educational content where your offspring might find an excellent opportunity to interact and learn something new.

Whether you have a toddler who needs to run around or an older kid who will want to engage in the art of discovery, the Big Apple is loaded with incredible museums that the youngsters will enjoy. Fortunately, the Metropolis will grant wishes of the parents itching to escape from their homes, and exposing their kiddos to culture matters.

Children’s Museum of Manhattan

The Children’s Museum of Manhattan offers five floors of exhibits, discovery, fun, learning, performances, and workshops, and it’s a cultural institution dedicated solely to young children and families. If you decide to visit all the floors you’ll enjoy the following interactive exhibitions:

  • Superpowered Metropolis: Early Learning City (lower level, for children from birth to 6 years) – the exhibit help children develop, enhance, and practice their executive function skills, and by stepping into the comic-book-inspired NY world, parents and their kiddos meat the team of Pigeons with superpowers
  • Inside Art (first floor, ages 3-10 years) – giant installations and giant sculptures will help your kid to connect not only with art but space and design, too. Children will be excited due to the possibility to crawl under, pass through, or walk through sculptures and installations.
  • Adventures With Dora and Diego (2nd floor, ages 2-6 years) – your toddlers will have a chance to join Diego on an animal rescue mission and help Dora and her friends get to the fiesta. This way, they will learn how to solve problems and develop math and language abilities.
  • PlayWorks (3rd floor, for children from birth to 4 years) – by combining play and learning, parents can observe their children’s learning style and prepare them for school
  • EatSleepPlay: Building Health Every Day (4th floor, all ages) – provides interactive ways for families to create healthier habits and lifestyles. Your kid can learn by doing some incredible activities such as crawling through a digestive system, exploring the power of play while running or jumping with other family members, or pretending to drive the city’s bus.

New York Transit Museum

If your children are subway-lovers, this place will leave them speechless. Founded in 1976, Transit Museum offers visitors the stories of mass transportation in the authentic environment – it’s housed underground in a subway station in Downtown Brooklyn from 1936. Children can try out different turnstiles from different periods, see how the subway was constructed, which might be a really convenient activity on a cold or rainy day. The little ones can see the trains evolving with the times and explore at the same time. There’s even a simulated bus for children to play and learn.

Color Factory

You probably know how colors are important to children of all ages. As a matter of fact, they choose which food they would like to try based on its color or which piece of clothing will wear relying on their first impression. The Color Factory combines the use of color, fun, art, and sweets into an interactive experience you will never forget. You walk through each exhibit, enjoy magical art and colorful treats along the way. At the end of the path, you’ll be welcomed by the pool with blue balls where you can jump with your little ones and play together.

There are lots of kid-friendly museums, like The American Museum of Natural History - it boasts more than 33 million pieces in its collection

Each Park Has Its Own Story

Have you ever wondered why Central Park is so important to American citizens, besides its lush greenery and beautiful scenery? Actually, it was the first public landscaped green area in all of the US. Since 1908, it has appeared in over 240 films and become the most filmed public parkland in the world. It’s an excellent place to blow off some steam, or, if you’re moving with pets, take a stroll with your dog. In NY there are more than 1,700 parks across the five boroughs, and the biggest parks in the Big Apple are:

  • Pelham Bay in Bronx – 2,765 acres
  • Greenbelt on Staten island – 1,778 acres
  • Van Cortlandt in Bronx – 1,146 acres
  • Flushing Meadows in Queens – 898 acres
  • Central in Manhattan – 843 acres

The Green Area of the Wealthy and Working Class Alike – Central Park

The site for the most famous NY green area was chosen due to its terrain – it was not suitable for a commercial property. Since it was located too far uptown to be within walking distance for the working population, it became the oasis to the wealthy. As time went on, the area has become the place where the working class gathered, bringing their children to playgrounds. So, it ceased to be a place for the elite and was shaped by the needs of the city’s growing population. By the middle of the 20th century, there were many “Please keep off the grass” signs, and ball clubs were allowed in the parkland.

Today, it’s an urban green area between the Upper West and Upper East Sides of Manhattan. Central Park is the most visited urban parkland in the US – about 38 million people visit it annually. Its main attractions are the Ramble and Lake, Sheep Meadow, the Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis Reservoir, and these kid-friendly attractions:

  • Belvedere Castle’s Henry Luce Nature Observatory – is an amazing educational site that teaches your kiddos about wildlife and nature in Central Park. The second floor of Observatory is a great location for bird watching.
  • 21 playgrounds with unique design and theme
  • Kids’ Adventure Theater – with interactive shows, children will encounter a unique and mythical world designed solely for them (Tooth Fairy, puzzles, games, castles, etc.)
  • Boat Rides on the Lake – riding Venetian gondola with your kiddos is an exciting experience, both for your toddler or teenager. You’ll have a chance to get a closer view of waterfowls, Bow Bridge and Bethesda Terrace.   
  • Ice Skating – Wollman Rink is one of the favorite Central Park’s attractions among tourists, parents, kids, and people of all ages. You can glide across the ice and enjoy a star-covered sky while surrounded by fantastic Manhattan’s skyline.  
  • Swimming at Lasker Pool – the pool is free of charge and it’s a perfect place for your kiddos to get free swimming lessons

Domino Park in Brooklyn Shares Its History With Sugar Refinery

This green area is a 6-acre public parkland located in the Williamsburg neighborhood in Brooklyn. It is built on the grounds of the former Sugar Refinery, which was once the most productive sugar refinery in the world. It closed its doors in 2004, and Domino Park is a tribute to the story of this place. It is dedicated to the resilience and diversity of Domino workers and their families.

Today, this parkland boasts many spots appealing to parents with children, such as playgrounds where kids can play with history. The little ones can go from the Sugar Cane Cabin to the Sugar Centrifuge – each designed to resemble the same parts of the real factory that stood once here. Besides, for those sports aficionados, the beach volleyball court is open to people of all ages. And if you’re looking for a piece of your own oasis, the flex field will satisfy all your kids’ wishes. This 4-season turf lawn is game-ready seven days a week, all year round.

The First Luna Park in Coney Island Was Opened in 1903

The first Luna Park was opened in 1903 and was destroyed by a fire in 1944. It was situated partly on the grounds of Sea Lion parkland, but after it was burned, it was demolished and never reopened. In 2010 a new amusement area with the same name was opened, though without connection to the first Luna Park.

If you and your youngster prefer rides that raise adrenaline, this is the place to be. Rollercoaster enthusiasts come here from around the globe to enjoy some of the best rides and feel an extreme thrill. Of course, rides are adapted to all ages, so even your toddlers can have fun and joy. Depending on your degree of courage and wish for excitement, you can try some of these popular rides:

  • Zenobio
  • Sling Shot
  • Thunderbolt
  • Atlantic Aviator
  • Steeplechase
  • Windstarz
  • Circus Coaster

What Can a 12-Year-Old Do in NYC?

If your child’s wish is to be a real hero, an interactive adventure for kids of all ages can help them achieve their dreams. Pip’s Island has educational value due to its tactile experience. Children are active participants in storytelling, and it’s especially valuable learning for younger students. While spending their time on the Island, children develop neurological skills like teamwork, curiosity, communication, and empathy. Besides cognitive learning, the youngsters will be transported to another world, meaning they’ll get sensory experience too.

If you want to create unforgettable memories celebrating your children’s birthdays, this place, located in Brooklyn, will meet all your requirements. What’s so special about Max Adventures? It’s big (two-floor, 7,000 square foot), unique, and much more than just being a place where your child will sing a birthday song, blow out the candles and spend several hours playing with his friends. There are numerous interesting and fun activities for children, such as: soft play gym, laser maze challenge, glow in the dark parties, magic mirror photo booth, virtual reality, wax hands, etc.

How does it sound to take part in an underwater journey with your family? Scary? Or even impossible? Believe it or not, you can dive into an ocean of fun in the middle of Times Square. And you won’t get wet. You can actually feel, hear, and see what it’s like being under the sea thanks to the high technology and photorealistic animation. Children will enjoy this breathtaking adventure and unique experience, while National Geographic photographers and explorers will just intensify this Encounter Ocean Odyssey spectacle for all ages by telling amazing stories.

Another interactive experience for children and adults that will provide unforgettable and stress-free adventure is called Sloomo Institute. If you like slime, this place will provide endless opportunities to explore. Whether you’re an adult, a toddler, or a teenager, playing with the slime will awaken your deepest emotions and the inner child in you. What’s so unique about slime is that it involves touch, scent, and sound. Besides, there are plenty of interactive options you can choose to become a child again or the same age as your own kid, for example: ASMR tunnel with visual and audio stimuli, EEG machine to show your brain “on slime”, and the 150-foot long DIY bar where you can design your dream slime.

Is your teenager fond of animals? If so, there’s no better move than taking him to visit the AKC Museum of the Dog, the place that celebrates and preserves the role of dogs in history and society. The venue features exhibits about dogs in film, war dogs, dogs of presidents, dogs in exploration, and offers an extensive collection of all things related to the man’s best friend. The most interesting part is the interactive exhibit offering to take your own photo and match it to a specific dog breed (which resembles you) and an interactive play “Meet Molly” intended to train a virtual dog.

You definitely shouldn’t miss this venue since it offers a variety of educational programs for children and families. Located in Theodore Roosevelt Park in Manhattan, the American Museum of Natural History is one of the largest natural history museums in the world dedicated to the exploration of human cultures, the natural world, and the known space. Your kiddos will be fascinated with special exhibitions that are 3D, showing science as a way of thinking and being in the world: The nature of color, Worlds Beyond Earth, Volcanoes: the fires of creation, The butterfly conservatory, Addressing the statue, and T. Rex: the ultimate predator.

If you want to impress your hungry teens, after an active day, go to dinner at Bubby’s. This place serves pancakes, biscuits, and typical child-friendly fares, such as burgers, chicken strips, and mac n’ cheese balls. The friendly staff will try to satisfy all wishes, even the pickiest ones, so rest assured that your moody teenager will find a meal to his liking. But, don’t miss homemade pies, which are so juicy, tasty, and fluffy that will leave you speechless.

What to Do With Kids in Times Square?

If you ask locals what places you should avoid as uninteresting for children, they would probably tell you Times Square. It’s often considered overpriced, touristy, and crowded, which is true when speaking about the typical tourist attraction, such as Madame Tussauds. This area is packed with fun spots for people moving to New York City alone, but if you look a little closer, it has plenty of amenities for you and your little ones, as well:

  • Midtown Comics
  • Local playgrounds (the most popular is Playground designed by artist Tom Otterness)
  • Bowling alleys
  • Children’s Center (the branch of the NY Public Library)
  • Broadway Walking Tour
  • Gulliver’s Gate
  • New Victory Theater
Times Square is one of the most visited attractions worldwide - about 50 million visitors come annually here

What to Do in NYC for Free With Your Children?

It’s well-known that the cost of living in New York is high, but the Big Apple is also a place that knows that the best things in life are free. That being said, whether you’re relocating in the summer or moving in winter, there are plenty of activities that will entertain your kiddos and let you keep your credit card in your pocket. Whether you choose to visit historic sites or take amazing photos of the city’s views and scenic sunsets, there’s no shortage of free, cool activities with children in NY. Activities that don’t cost a dime but still are excellent entertainment due to the mix of nature and education are:

  • Riding the Staten Island Ferry
  • Relaxing at the City’s public beaches
  • Taking a walking tour
  • Letting little ones explore the City’s inventive playgrounds
  • Seeing Shakespeare at the open-air
  • Visiting Brooklyn Botanical Garden
Whether you prefer outdoor activities or indoor places to play for free with children, NY has it all

Moving to the Big Apple Means a Lot of Things to Do in NYC With Family

Relocating to the City That Never Sleeps means having countless possibilities to spend some quality time with your family. Simply put, the metropolis is a vibrant place filled with an enormous amount of energy that drives people forward. So, being in a large city such as NY means providing your children with quality educational and cultural options, and giving them a chance to feel good vibes of the melting pot such as the Big Apple.

It doesn’t matter whether your offspring is a toddler or a high-schooler since this cosmopolis can satisfy every palate, taste, and wish. So, when relocating with long-distance New York City movers, leave your fears aside and step into a new and magical world together with your little ones in order to embrace all of the assets NYC offers. But don’t expect that booking moving and packing services will mean that you’ll get an instant grip on how to easily accept the New York way of living. Getting used to this unique lifestyle requires time. But, don’t worry, it won’t bypass you.

So, after you become a proud New Yorker, remember what John Steinbeck said about this fantastic place: “Once you have lived in New York and it has become your home, no place else is good enough.”

Written By: Mila Tacon