Are you planning a trip to New York City, but not sure which attractions are kid-friendly? Don’t worry—the bright lights of the Big Apple appeal to more than just adults. The fun things to do in NYC for kids range from larger-than-life Broadway shows to kid-geared museums. With this list, you’ll discover all the ways to keep your kids entertained in New York City that’ll keep you smiling too.
See the Spectacular Sights
The skyscrapers of the Big Apple don’t just impress adults, kids think they’re pretty cool too. Climb to the top of one of New York City’s iconic observation towers or check out the sights from Liberty Island, which boasts views of lower Manhattan.
Empire State Building: One of the original New York City skyscrapers is also one it’s most popular attractions. Book tickets to go at dusk, so your kids can watch the cityscape change from daylight to dusk to dark.
Top of the Rock: I love Top of the Rock because of its views of the Empire State Building and Central Park. I think it’s the most captivating at dark, as the entire city twinkles with light.
Liberty Island: Home to the Statue of Liberty, which is a total must-see, Liberty Island is an ideal place to get panoramic views of the lower Manhattan skyline. Be sure to bring some quarters for the viewfinders! Even if you don’t pay to visit the Statue of Liberty, you can hop aboard the Staten Island Ferry free of charge. It’s a nice little boat ride with endless views of the city.
Attend a Broadway Show
Don’t make the mistake of thinking Broadway is only for adults. The creative resurgence in Broadway the last several decades has produced several shows ideal for kids.
The Lion King: Simply one of the best, this beloved Disney movie is even more impressive with a live cast. The emotion and movement of the animal characters mesmerize, and the fact your kids (and you, be honest) know all the songs makes it all the more fun.
School of Rock: The beloved Jack Black movie comes to life on Broadway with insanely talented kids and the genius of Andrew Lloyd Weber. Watch as the students come together to compete in the Battle of the Bands and change the minds of the adults along the way. This show is appropriate for older kids, as the original movie is rated PG-13.
Aladdin: Let your kids experience a whole new world by attending Aladdin: The Musical. The sets and costumes will dazzle, and the street urchin turned prince charms the audience. The well-known soundtrack to the show makes it an even more memorable show.
Visit a World-Class Museum
The idea of going to a museum might not sound like fun for a kid. In New York City, though, museums are over-the-top displays of animals, history, and art.
American Museum of Natural History: Families love exploring the American Museum of Natural History as you’re never too old or too young to appreciate marvels of the world. Larger-than-life displays of dinosaurs, blue whales, and exotic animals will keep kids rapt with attention. Likewise, a Discover Room lets them take a hands-on approach to science while the Hayden Planetarium will have them seeing stars, both literally and figuratively. It’s easy to make a day of it, as there are 45 exhibition halls to cover.
Children’s Museum of the Arts: Let your child express their artful side at the Children’s Museum of the Arts. Almost all of the museum takes a hands-on approach. So, kids can actually play with (and learn about) animation, sound, sculpting and more. Take time to let them paint and draw a The Fine Arts Studio, then record a song in the Sound Booth or create cartoon at the Media Lab. Keep in mind, the museum is pay what you wish Thursdays from 4-6pm.
New York Hall of Science: Science can be hard. And let’s face it, sometimes boring. Luckily, this is totally not the case at the New York Hall of Science. Largely due to the fact all 450-exhibits are hands-on, kids will be learning while they play. (Shhh…it will be our little secret.) There’s a Preschool Place and Science Playground for the little ones. Kids a bit older enjoy engaging exhibits like The Search for Life Beyond the Earth, Sports Challenge, and Design Lab.
Go Wild in the City
If this was an article geared towards adults, this section would be about the best NYC clubs. Alas, this is about fun things to do in NYC for kids so when I say go “wild” I mean visit a highly rated NYC zoo or aquarium. Besides, every family is sure to have an animal lover who just can’t get enough of furry friends and life under the sea.
Central Park: New York City wouldn’t be the same without Central Park. Sure, it provides the city a natural reprieve, but it also boasts an amazing variety of entertainment. At the small yet charming zoo, spot snow leopards and sea lions. Kids can also feed animals at the children’s zoo. If you visit during the summer, there are special storytelling hours held at the Hans Christian Andersen statue, while in winter you can skate on Wollman Rink. On top of that, you can go on rowboat ride and explore Belvedere Castle (kids will know it from the Smurfs movie.) No matter when you visit, the activities at Central Park make it a perfect playground for families.
Bronx Zoo: You can easily spend a whole day at the Bronx Zoo. For one, it’s the largest urban zoo in America with over 4000 animals and more than 600 species calling it home. Secondly, it has up-close encounters with tigers, gorillas and more that really amaze. Thirdly, there is a children’s zoo where kids can play and even feed tame animals.
New York Aquarium: This is the only major aquarium in NYC, and even though it’s downsized since being hit by Hurricane Sunday, it’s still a delight for children. A daily sea lion show is a must-see. Similarly, outdoor touch pools, coral reefs, and walruses are highlights. Plus, the New York Aquarium, with a location on Coney Island, is right on the boardwalk. So, after you explore the depths of life under the sea you can eat a hot dog at Nathan’s or visit Luna Park.
Enjoy a Sweet Treat
Young or old, we all have a sweet tooth aching to be satisfied. In New York City, candy is taken to a whole new level at over-the-top sweet stores. It’s vacation, so reward the kids (and you) with a sweet treat.
Dylan’s Candy Bar: Prepare to go candy-crazy at Dylan’s Candy Bar. It’s a little bit like Willy Wonka and Candyland came together to create a massive homage to candy. There more than 700 sweet treats to choose. Further, there’s on-site fudge makers working and an ice cream parlor serving supersized sundaes.
Max Brenner Chocolate Bar and Restaurant: Chocolate lovers rejoice! The Max Brenner Chocolate Bar is heaven on earth. Their menu consists of chocolate delights like a Chocolate Chunks Pizza, layered with chocolate, peanut butter, marshmallows and more. Rounding out the offerings are special ingredient shakes, unique cookie creations, and various hot chocolates. Temptation is everywhere—and it’s awesome!
Discover All of the Fun Things to Do in NYC for Kids
Don’t delay your trip to the Big Apple just because the kids are coming along. As you can see, there’s plenty of fun things to do in NYC for kids. From educational museums to entertaining Broadway shows to outdoor pursuits, it’s easy to please the whole family during a visit to New York City.
Ashley is Reserve Direct’s travel expert, visiting New York City to find the best travel tips, money-saving deals and insider information. With over 10 years of experience in first-hand-travel adventures, she shares her stories, advice, and current events to help you stay in the know.