New York City has something for visitors of all ages – including the youngest ones.
This world capital is home to fascinating museums, inventive restaurants and beautiful parks, which (with a little planning) kids can enjoy as much as adults. Read on for the best things to do in New York City with children.
Is New York City good for kids?
The city’s hustle and bustle can quickly tucker out children – and parents. Long city blocks can be exhausting to little limbs. Cozy cafes are a tight squeeze for strollers. Yet exploring Gotham with the kids is also a magical experience, one that lets grown-ups experience one of the world’s most famous places through new eyes. Here are a few ways to make your next New York City trip a family-friendly delight.
Best things to do in New York City with kids
American Museum of Natural History
You don’t have to be a science buff to enjoy the renowned American Museum of Natural History. From the life-sized dinosaur skeletons (including a scary Tyrannosaurus rex) to the galaxy-spanning presentations of the Hayden Planetarium, this thrilling museum has enough to occupy families for days. Your kids will be especially impressed with the jaw-dropping, 94ft-long hanging blue whale made out of 21,000 pounds of foam and fiberglass.
New Victory Theater
Few visitors to New York City can resist its spectacular selection of Broadway shows – but kids don’t always have the stamina for two-hour-plus productions, and the outlay for tickets may not seem worth it if you end up in the lobby with a rambunctious child.
Luckily, there’s New Victory Theater. Located in the heart of Times Square yet one of NYC’s best-kept secrets, this nonprofit venue produces shows geared exclusively toward kids and families. Each performance has a suggested target age, ranging from babies to older kids, making it easy for parents to plan. Once the house lights go down, spectators will be captivated by the theatrical fare of the highest quality, which might include puppets, fairytales, magic shows and more – all at an affordable price point. Sensory-friendly performances are often also available.
One of the most mesmerizing attractions to hit the city in recent years, the SeaGlass Carousel is a vision of aquamarine, pink and coral spinning under a spiral-domed pavilion. The fiberglass fish are best seen at night when a light show is projected against the walls, creating the feeling of being underwater. Kids can choose from a dozen types of fish to ride; instead of moving around a pole, the fish spin on turntables, which adds to the ethereal experience.
The 843-acre urban oasis of Central Park is New York’s most beloved (and most famous) green space. With well-maintained meadows for picnicking, beautiful paths for walking and an unbelievable 21 playgrounds for playing, the park tops most visitors’ lists.
Don’t miss stopping by Wollman Rink for ice skating in the winter, and check the events calendar ahead of visiting in the summer for free concerts, scavenger hunts, birdwatching tours and more. Young park-goers, in particular, will adore the Swedish Cottage Marionette Theatre, a fairytale-like cabin that hosts astonishing puppet productions.
Taking the subway to Coney Island is a summer rite of passage for New Yorkers of all stripes. Located on the last stop on the D, F, Q and N subway lines in Brooklyn, this only-in-New York spot boasts two amusement parks along a glorious beachfront boardwalk. As you slowly rotate the 150ft-high Wonder Wheel and chow down on a Nathan’s hot dog, you’ll enjoy a bit of urban Americana. Older kids will enjoy riding the Cyclone, a wooden roller coaster that’s been generating screams of (we think) delight since 1927, while younger kids will find thrills in the kiddie rides. Stay late on Friday nights for a weekly fireworks show.
There’s nothing more fun for the entire family than an afternoon in Manhattan’s Chinatown. Numerous attractions here will keep everyone engaged, from family programming at the Museum of Chinese in America to the unexpected flavors on offer at the Original Chinatown Ice Cream Factory.
For a unique brunch experience, families should stop by the spacious and ornate dining rooms of Golden Unicorn in the heart of the vibrant neighborhood. This multi-floor Cantonese dim-sum restaurant is as much an experience as a place to fuel up. Steaming carts whiz past tables as customers make their selections, choosing from dumplings in the shape of pigs, pork buns, sweet sesame balls and more. Even picky eaters will find something to love here.
Recommended New York City neighborhoods for families
There are countless wonderful neighborhoods in New York, with almost unlimited hotel options catering to all price points and interests. Visiting families often choose to stay on the Upper West Side, which offers easy access to restaurants, museums and glorious Central Park. At the other end of Manhattan, the area around South Street Seaport beckons with historic streets and plenty of playgrounds. One of the more unique areas to stay is Brooklyn’s Dumbo, where cobblestone streets (with few cars) meet the East River under the shadow of the Brooklyn Bridge and Manhattan Bridge overhead.
The eco-friendly 1 Hotel Brooklyn gives families the perfect spot to rest their weary heads. Kids are welcome all over the hotel, including at the rooftop plunge pool, which offers a view of the Manhattan skyline, and the cafe, which has a kids' menu. (Pets are also welcome, so feel free to bring furry little ones, too.)
The hotel is situated on Pier 6, part of Brooklyn Bridge Park, a sprawling waterfront green space offering sports fields, playgrounds, expansive lawns and even kayaking. Kids of all ages will love riding the restored Jane’s Carousel, a 101-year-old merry-go-round offering views of Manhattan across the river.
Hungry youngsters can participate in a time-honored New York tradition: finding the perfect slice. Grimaldi’s is a classic coal-brick-oven pizzeria whose pies are so good Frank Sinatra was once rumored to have them delivered by jet to the West Coast. You’ll know you’re there by the line snaking out the door. (Don’t worry, it moves fast.)
How to get around New York City with kids
There’s no better way to get around New York City with kids than riding the subway. It’s also economical, as children under 44 inches (112cm) can ride the subway for free when accompanied by an adult (up to three kids per adult). Not all subway stops have elevators, so parents with strollers should take heed.
Parents still on diaper duty will be happy to know that since 2019, all new public buildings and gathering spaces like restaurants, retail spaces and movie theaters have been required to provide diaper-changing stations, helping you avoid those bathroom emergencies.