NYC Family Tours
NYC Tour Tips
- Tip #1: Do a tour! They’re an easy and convenient way to see the city. Guides are great at making it fun and interesting for kids (and adults). Believe me, you won’t regret doing a tour.
- Tip #2: Book early! Tours are super popular and sell out months in advance. When you see something you like, reserve your dates.
- Tip #3: Check age requirements for all tours and tickets. For some tours you need to be age 6 or more. Broadway shows are typically age 4 or more. And the 9/11 museum is probably best for those 10 or older.
The Best NYC Tours for Kids
- Get Your Guide – Great site for finding tours and getting large discounts.
- New York City Explorer Pass
The pass allows free access to the Empire State Building, the Museum of Natural History, The MET, the Statue of Liberty, the Intrepid Sea, Air & Space Museum, the Top of the Rock Observatory, and many more top attractions. It’s a great deal for families.
- Half-Day Pizza Tasting Bus Tour
History meets pizza. The tour takes 4.5 hours and visits the best pizzerias in Brooklyn, Queens, and the Bronx. Very kid-friendly.
- Brooklyn Food and Culture Bus Tour
Great NYC food tour for families. Lots of fun.
- Cupcake Tour of Greenwich Village
2 hours of cupcakes and gelato from 6 different shops. An easy going tour through this historic neighborhood. To say this tour gets 5 stars from kids would be an understatement.
- Helicopter Tour of NYC
Incredible views and an unbelievable experience. Expensive (but worth it).
- Disney on Broadway Behind the Magic Experience
It doesn’t get much better than this: try on original costumes (Little Mermaid, Aladdin, Lion King, and more), see backstage and in the prop room at the New Amsterdam Theatre, get the history on some of Disney’s biggest hits. Both kids and adults love this tour.
- 5.5-Hour New York City Tour
Great if you don’t have a lot of time. See the top sites from Harlem through the Upper West Side, Mid-town, and down to the Financial District and Battery Park.
- Skip The Line (highly recommended): Empire State Building • One World Observatory • Statue of Liberty & Ellis Island • 9/11 Museum • Museum of Natural History • Intrepid Sea, Air & Space Museum
The 48 Best Things To Do in New York with Kids
A visit the Empire State Building with its dazzling city views from the 86th floor is a great New York experience, but it can be a hassle without careful planning. You’ll have two potential lines to cope with—buying tickets and waiting for the elevator. Skip the long ticket lines and order tickets online (recommended) and eliminate both the ticket and elevator lines. (If you don’t, minimize the elevator wait by coming at the least crowded hours, first thing in the morning or late in the day). Tips: Dusk is an ideal time to see the city and watch the lights twinkle on, a magical sight. Make the most of your time by using the rest room on the second floor before you ascend. Everyone must go through a security check so speed things up by being prepared—no liquids, no tripods. There is no check room, so don’t bring anything you cannot carry comfortably. If you must visit at busy times, bring something to entertain the kids while you wait as lines can be long (unless, of course, you bought the express tickets).
Open every day, 365 days a year rain or shine. 8am to 2am.
Allow several hours as there’s a lot to see—exploring the historic (and enormous) aircraft carrier itself, nearly 30 vintage planes on the flight deck, a guided missile submarine, and the space shuttle Enterprise. The Exploreum on the hangar level is full of interactive fun for kids like climbing into a helicopter and steering the wings of a plane. Save time, skip lines, and buy tickets online in advance. But be forewarned: many enticing exhibits, guided tours, and the space shuttle pavilion require extra fees. However, there is plenty to do without the extras. The Intrepid is best suited to older children who can appreciate the history. There is lots of walking, much of it outdoors, so sunscreen and hats are advisable. The best way to get here is the #50 crosstown bus headed west, which brings you right to the door.
Spring/Summer Hours: (April 1 – October 31) Monday – Friday: 10:00am – 5:00pm. Saturday, Sunday & Holidays 10:00am – 6:00pm. Fall/Winter Hours: (November 1 – March 31) Daily (including Holidays) 10:00 am – 5:00pm.
If you’re traveling with young children, visit this nirvana designed for ages six and under. Age-specific exhibits include Playworks for the youngest visitors and Adventures with Dora and Diego for ages 2 to 6. Changing exhibits show how children live in other lands. City Splash water play is a favorite in warm weather and offers the chance to sail a boat, paint with water, and play with sand. The museum provides waterproof smocks but it may be wise to bring a change of clothes in case of splashes. Stop at the information desk for the daily schedule of special workshops and performances, all included with admission. No food or drink is available in the museum but hand stamps at admission allows you to come and go all day. Grab a sandwich at Café 82 at Broadway & 82nd, then head to nearby Riverside Park for a picnic and playgrounds. Subway: 1 train to 79th Street. M104 Broadway bus to 82nd Street.
Tuesday to Friday: 10am – 5pm. Saturday: 10am – 7pm. Sunday: 10am – 5pm.
This great museum covers two square blocks and can’t be covered in one day, so start by looking at the floor plan and deciding on the exhibits that best match your own family’s interests. The dinosaurs are the biggest draw but don’t forget the giant blue whale, the African elephants, the animal dioramas, or the fabulous gems and minerals with treasures like the 56-carat Star of India sapphire. Check out the Discovery Room where kids can hunt for animals in a replica African baobab tree or examine specimens such as minerals or skulls. The museum adjoins the Rose Center for Earth and Space with exhibits and spectacular shows at the Hayden Planetarium. Nature films on the huge IMAX screen are another draw. When you want a lunch break, look down. Spoon and fork displays in the floor point the way to the nearest restaurants. The museum shops have wonderful selections of educational toys as well as inexpensive treats for the kids. Order tickets in advance to skip the long lines. For a real adventure, check the schedule for the next Night at the Museum sleepover for families, with comfortable accommodations and featuring a midnight fossil hunt, films, and other diversions. Subway: C train to 81st Street (take 79th Street exit), M79 bus to Central Park West.
Open daily from 10am – 5:45pm.
Get the camera ready for this walkway high above the East River from Manhattan to Brooklyn with endless panoramas of the skyscrapers of Wall Street and lower Manhattan along the way. Biking is fun but walking allows for easier stops The walkway is 1.3 miles long and can take 30 minutes to an hour depending on your pace. You’ll get the best views if you start on the Brooklyn side with the city ahead. Stay left (the side closest to the Statue of Liberty) for great souvenir photos of your gang with the skyline as an unforgettable background. The closest subway stops in Brooklyn are York Street on the F line or High Street on the A and C lines – all stops are several blocks from the bridge so be sure the kids are up for a good walk. In Manhattan, the 4, 5, and 6 trains stop at nearby City Hall. Bring water along if the day is warm and try not to choose a breezy day as it’s always windier on the bridge than you expect.
Open 24 hours. Free.
6. Central Park
New York’s “back yard” is full of family fun from a carousel and a marionette theater to a zoo that is the perfect size for children. An amazing variety has been packed into this compact zoo, from a tropical rainforest to a sea lion pool to a polar world of penguins. At the separate children’s zoo, little ones can feed sheep and goats and other furry friends. Be sure to see the Delacorte clock just outside the zoo on the hour or half-hour when a parade of whimsical bronze animal musician sculptures plays popular tunes. In winter you can rent ice skates for a whirl on the Wollman Rink and in summer the site becomes the Victorian Garden with slides and rides. Take a walk through the Ramble to discover deep woods and waterfalls in the middle of the city. Every Saturday at 11am from June through September storytelling for ages 6 and up takes place at the Hans Christian Andersen statue near 72nd Street and Fifth Avenue. On weekends, cars are banned and park roads turn into miles of scenic, traffic-free bike paths. Bike rentals for the park are available from 9am to 7pm at 56 West 56th Street between Fifth and Sixth avenues.
Open daily during daylight hours.
An abandoned overhead freight railway has been transformed into a remarkable elevated park running roughly from 15th to 34th streets on the city’s far west side. A great stroll, it offers river and city views from a lofty perspective and features lush landscaping that reflects the wild plants that grew up along the neglected railbeds. Along the way are art installations, videos, a place to take off your shoes and wade in an inch-high pool, or to sit back, relax and take it all in. Kids especially enjoy the Pershing Square Beams, specially designed for climbing. Family Festivals with special events are scheduled on many Saturdays; printed family guides can be downloaded on the website. Food and treats are available at several places along the way. A visit can mean a 30 minute walk or can fill several hours. Subway: A, C trains to 14th Street; M14 crosstown bus to 10th Avenue.
Open 7am to 11 pm June to September, to 10 pm spring and fall, to 7pm December to March.
Housed in a 1936 decommissioned subway station, this museum tells the amazing story of New York’s subways, beginning with how tunnels were dug underground from 1904 to 1927 for the opening of the system. Exhibits continue to follow the construction of the enormous 842 miles of track to the present. Visitors can walk through actual vintage subway cars and see the many kinds of tokens used to enter the subway before the advent of the Metrocard. Another popular interactive exhibit, On the Streets, traces the development of trolley and bus transportation in the city and invites kids to board a 12-seat bus and child-size trolley. Plan to come on weekends when free programs for young visitors are offered every Saturday and Sunday at 1:30pm. The free Grand Central Terminal branch is small but worth a stop for changing exhibits and model train displays.
Tuesday – Friday 10am to 4pm. Saturday and Sunday 11am to 5 pm. Closed Mondays and major holidays.
Children at this excellent museum are so busy having fun they hardly realize that they are learning. Science, space, sound, light, physics, astronomy, technology, and math are some of the areas explored through 450 hands-on exhibits, demonstrations, films and workshops. Enticing exhibits include Realm of the Atom, The Search for Life Beyond the Earth, Seeing the Light, Hall of Mirrors and Sound Sensations: The Inside Story of Audio. Favorites include the “Build-It” hall downstairs, the Hall of Mirrors, and the Sports Challenge where kids can test their reflexes with activities like jumping, arm wrestling, and wheel chair racing. Preschool Place and an outdoor Science Playground entertain the youngest visitors, and there is a miniature golf course outside. Tips: Avoid New York school holidays when the museum is most crowded and be aware that admission is free on Fridays from 2 to 5pm and Sundays from 10 to 11am. Don’t miss a look at the Great Hall, originally constructed to wow crowds at the 1964 Worlds Fair, with undulating walls that rise 100 feet with no corners or straight segments.
April 1 – August 31: Monday – Friday 9:30am – 5pm. Saturday & Sunday 10am – 6pm. September 1 – March 31: Tuesday – Friday 9:30am – 5pm. Saturday & Sunday 10am – 6pm.
Think Candyland come to life, with a giant lollipop tree in the center, candy patterns on the walls and embedded in the stairs. Dylan’s Candy Bar claims to house over 7,000 confections making it one of the largest selections of candies anywhere and enough sweet stuff to satisfy the wildest cravings. Pick up a bag and take your pick from the dozens of bins (you pay by the weight) or choose from the endless array of chocolates and other boxed treats. Pillows, pajamas, and personalized mugs are among dozens of candy-theme souvenirs. Fudge-makers are at work downstairs and upstairs the gigantic sundaes come with three scoops and three toppings. Perfectly Peanut Butter is among several unique choices. While the kids indulge in ice cream parents can relax with a pink cotton candy martini.
Sunday: 11am – 9pm. Monday to Thursday: 10am – 9pm. Friday & Saturday: 10am – 11pm.
This 25 minute, five-mile sail is one of the world’s best free rides with unbeatable views of New York harbor, the Statue of Liberty, Ellis Island, and the skyscrapers and bridges of Lower Manhattan. At the Whitehall Terminal at the tip of Manhattan, a 75-foot-high entry hall greets riders with panoramic views of the downtown Manhattan skyline. On fine days a rooftop viewing deck with benches is an excellent place to go while waiting for the next boat. The closest subway station is South Ferry, served by the 1 and 9 lines. The ferry is basic transportation to Manhattan for residents of Staten Island so avoid morning and evening rush hours when commuters crowd the terminal. This is one city attraction that is quieter on weekends.
Departs every half hour.
The first museum created expressly for children when it was founded in 1899, this museum remains an innovator. Recently doubled in size, the Collections Central area now has room to show off some of the enormous permanent collection of nearly 30,000 objects, from minerals and fossils to a complete skeleton of an Asian elephant to musical instruments, masks and dolls. In Neighborhood Nature kids can get a fish-eye view by crawling in a tunnel inside the pond aquarium, and dig, play and harvest pretend plants in the garden. New World Brooklyn, a world of kid-sized shops, highlights diversity with stores where you can build a lantern for Chinese New Years, make pretend dough at a Mexican Bakery, and create cloth patterns, construct slat chairs or have a go at drumming in a West African emporium. Whether kids choose to be shoppers or play cashier, the International Grocery is a chance to see products from around the world, The only drawback to this terrific museum is the trek to get there. The subway ride from Manhattan takes nearly one hour and any route requires a six or seven block walk from the station. If you have the time and energy, however, it is a worthwhile trip.
Tuesday to Sunday 10am – 5pm.
13. Bronx Zoo
Allow a whole day for the largest city zoo in America and home to some 4000 animals. Many of the residents are found in open natural settings. Among many highlights are Tiger Mountain and the Congo Gorilla Forest where glass walls put you close-up to these wondrous animals. The African Plains populated with zebras, giraffes, and lions and the Madagascar exhibit with its acrobatic lemurs are can’t miss sights. At the children’s zoo little ones can climb into a birds nest and feed tame animals. Camel rides and the bug carousel are fun diversions. You can cut down the walking in this enormous zoo with rides by tram or monorail. Special times to arrive are feeding times for lions at 11am and 3pm and for penguins at 3:30pm. A daily calendar lists other special events. Order tickets online to save standing in line and try to schedule this outing on less crowded weekdays.
March 23 to November 3: Monday-Friday 10am – 5pm. Weekends & Holidays 10am – 5:30pm. November 4 to April 4: Daily 10am – 4:30pm.
A former movie and TV studio houses a unique treat, a museum devoted to the development of moving pictures from flip books to the digital age. Parents often are as intrigued as the kids at the chance to see exhibits that tell of the development of film and television cameras, projectors, television sets, video games, and sound recording equipment. Visitors can play vintage arcade and console games and have a variety of interactive experiences like recording a sequence of still photos that can be printed to make a flipbook or creating stop-motion animation that can be saved and emailed to friends. You can dub your voice over dialogue from a film or add sound effects and music. A simulated TV control room is the chance to watch the director call for varying shots to cover a baseball game. Clips from some of the earliest films are displayed and modern films are shown at the museum’s theater. The newest major permanent exhibit features Jim Henson, creator of the Muppets. More than 300 exhibits include storyboards, film and TV clips, costumes and 47 puppets, including favorites like Kermit, Miss Piggy, Big Bird and Elmo. Kids can even have a try at being a puppeteer. The subway ride from Manhattan is about half an hour. Not recommended for toddlers but highly recommended for older children.
Wednesday to Thursday: 10:30am – 5pm. Friday: 10:30am – 8pm. Saturday and Sunday: 11:30 am – 7pm.
With exhibits from every period from ancient to contemporary, the country’s largest museum includes galleries with special appeal for families such as the chance to see mummies and explore an Egyptian temple, see life size knights of old in their arms and armor, and marvel at fascinating masks from Africa and Asia. You can plan your visit by downloading a family map and children’s guides or pick up these free materials at the desk when you arrive The guides have titles like Kings, Wings, Mysterious Mummies or Creature Features that help make the museum more fun for kids. Family audio guides are also available. This world-famous museum is often packed with visitors but you can avoid crowds by going during Friday or Saturday evening hours. Buying tickets in advance also helps. Children under 12 are admitted free. M1,2,3, 4 bus to 82nd Street.
Sunday to Thursday: 10am – 5:30pm. Friday and Saturday: 10am – 9pm.
Teens, who can be hard to please, usually love this museum. Why? Because they can take endless photos for their Facebook pages with the lifelike wax figures of everyone from Jimmy Fallon to Barack Obama. The themed sections feature superheroes like The Hulk and Spider Man, sports stars including Carmelo Anthony and Derek Jeter, politicians from Abraham Lincoln to Bill Clinton, TV stars like John Hamm, movie idols past and present from Marilyn Monroe to George Clooney. Smaller fry will enjoy seeing Sponge Bob and ET. The Marvel Comics Super Heroes 4D film boasts some great special effects. Buying advance tickets online saves up to 25% off the admission price and this is often a Groupon offering, as well.
Late May to early September and holiday periods: 9am – 10pm daily. Rest of year, Sunday to Thursday: 10am – 8pm. Friday – Saturday: 10am – 10pm.
The city views from the boat ride and from Liberty Island are spectacular and standing close-up to the Statue of Liberty is a guaranteed thrill for everyone. For kids who are old enough the climb up the torch is an adventure to cherish. The same boats that go to Liberty Island continue to Ellis Island, a visit recommended for children old enough to appreciate the chance to walk in the footsteps of the millions who came to America from other lands. But be forewarned: Even advance tickets for the Statue of Liberty sell out months in advance, especially tours that include access to the Liberty torch (the highest point you can climb to inside the Statue of Liberty). If you don’t order tickets ahead, arrive very first thing in the morning or be prepared for long ticket lines and waits that can be hours for the timed departures.
Boats leave regularly from 8:30am – 5pm. Last boat back departs at 6:45pm.
Children ages 8 to 13 are invited to become history detectives learning about early life in New York through a series of engaging exhibits. Turn a dial to see photos of a street as it was 100 years ago and as it looks today, put your face into a cut-out of George Washington and imagine your own inauguration speech, practice making a cross-stitch like early New Yorkers who had to sew their own clothes, meet the young newsboys who went on strike against the city’s biggest dailies—and won! The library areas is a place to rest, play interactive games, see early children’s books and find current books about the city. The museum offers programs to entertain tykes while older siblings explore. Storytime for ages 4 to 6 is at 11:30 am on Sunday and Songs and Stories for Little New-Yorkers age 3 to 5 takes place on Tuesday and Friday at 3:30 pm. Pay what you wish every Friday 6-8 pm.
Tuesday to Thursday and Saturday: 10am – 6pm. Friday: 10am – 8pm. Sunday 11am – 5pm.
This little gem is a hands-on museum inviting families to explore art through intriguing exhibits and the chance to actually experiment with art materials, clay, sound and animation. The Fine Arts Studio is open for everyone to paint, draw, or sculpt a take-home art work and the Clay Bar lets novice sculptors go to work. Check for hours when the Media Lab and Sound Booth are open, places where you can learn how to animate a short film or record a song. Children under five have their own WEE Arts studio and the Ball Pond lets everyone work off excess energy before you leave. Some smocks are available but its best to come dressed in clothes that can take a bit of paint or glue. Be sure to sign up as soon as you arrive for a 35-minute session in the popular Clay Bar and for the day’s special workshop. Pay what you wish on Thursdays from 4 to 6pm.
Saturday and Sunday: 10am – 5pm. Monday and Wednesday: 12pm – 5pm. Thursday and Friday: 12pm – 6pm. Closed Tuesday.
Temptations abound in this nirvana for chocoholics, a mouth-watering reward for good boys and girls. How about a Chocolate Chunks Pizza made with melted chocolate and topping choices of hazelnuts, bananas, peanut butter, or roasted marshmallows? Or maybe a Cookieshake, white chocolate ganache blended with Oreo cookies and ice? The menu of hot chocolates is amazing along with the O.M.G Chocolate Chunk Cookies, served with whipped cream, berries and melted chocolate. There’s a food menu as well, and the super crunchy mac and cheese gets kudos. But it’s chocolate that makes this worth the trip. Be sure to make a reservation as the dining room is often packed. It can get noisy, crowded, and a little chaotic at peak meal times and on weekends.
Monday to Thursday: Sunday: 9am – 12am. Friday and Saturday: 9am – 2am.
21. Chelsea Piers
Children who dutifully trudge through sightseeing deserve a reward. At Chelsea Piers, once defunct piers on the Hudson River have been transformed into a 27-acre riverfront sports complex that can be a welcome break. Activities include a bowling alley and indoor ice skating in winter and a summer skate park. The Field House, which serves many leagues and classes, offers a selection of Drop-In Programs for its facilities between scheduled sessions. These include batting cages, soccer fields, basketball courts, a gymnastics area, and a rock wall. Children age 4 and under have their own indoor play area. Call to find out what is available on the day you want to visit. The 23RD Street crosstown bus headed west brings you right to the entry.
Hours vary with seasons: phone 212-336-6100 to check.
New York’s first major theater devoted entirely to family entertainment offers troupes from around the world presenting a changing array of plays, circus acts, dancing, puppets, and surprises. Arrive an hour early for Arts Express, pre-performance hands-on activities inspired by what is on stage. “Try This” in the lower lobbies gives the chance to engage with props and design elements from the current show. Some performances have “talk-backs” where the audience has the chance to ask questions of the performers. Many workshops are scheduled with the artists teaching performance skills from puppetry to circus arts to hip hop. These are mostly for ages seven and up though there are a few for ages four to seven.
Check the web site for upcoming performances and programs – each listing indicates the recommended ages.
TIP: New York City for Families
If you’re in NYC with children then the New York City Explorer Pass is a great deal. The pass allows free access to the Empire State Building, the Museum of Natural History, The MET, the Statue of Liberty, the Intrepid Sea, Air & Space Museum, the Top of the Rock Observatory, and many more top attractions. It’s a great way to save money.
A restored actual tenement building gives a rare chance to experience what brave immigrant newcomers actually faced in their confusing new world from 1863 to 1935. Most of these immigrants came from Ireland, Italy and Eastern Europe. The recently restored addition at 103 Orchard, the building housing the museum shop, brings the story up to the 1970s, adding the stories of Holocaust survivors and Chinese and Puerto Rican arrivals. Among the many tours offered, families will most enjoy interactive sessions where costumed interpreters represent past residents, from countries Though many tours are recommended for age eight and up, the museum says youngsters as young as five can appreciate the Victoria Confino tour, visiting the apartment of a Greek Sephardic family and meeting 14-year-old “Victoria” who lived in this tenement in 1916. Visitors can also play-act, taking the role of new arrivals and asking questions about life on the Lower East Side. Children are allowed to handle the household objects. Tours are popular and may sell out, so reserve ahead on line or by phone to avoid waits and disappointment All tours meet at the Visitor Center at 103 Orchard Street. The Center has an excellent selection of New York City souvenirs. Walking tours of the neighborhood are available, as well. For help selecting the activities best suited for your family, phone 877-975-3786 Subways: B,D to Grand Street, F to Delancey Street, J/M/X to Essex Street. M15 bus to Grand and Allen streets.
10am to 6:30pm daily, Thursday to 8:30pm
This still-growing 84 acre park covering 1.3 miles between the Dumbo and Brooklyn Heights neighborhoods has transformed Brooklyn’s East River waterfront. A former industrial space and decaying piers have become a world of gardens, promenades and bike paths with spectacular views of the Brooklyn and Manhattan bridges and the New York skyline. The park has activities galore. Pier 2 offers courts for basketball, handball, bocce, shuffleboard and hopscotch, as well as a roller skating rink. Pier 4 is a sandy beach with a boat launch. Pier 6 has a volleyball court. Pier 3 is reserved for quiet walks and reading. Several playgrounds are located around the park and an old fashioned carousel awaits near the Dumbo entrance. The pleasantest and most direct way from Manhattan is by boat. Ferries run from 39th Street and the East River, Water Taxis from 39th Street on the river. By subway, choices include the A or C train to High Street, F train to York Street, 2 or 3 to Clark Street, 4 or 5 to Borough Hall. All these stops require a 10-15 minute walk to reach the park.
Piers open 6am to 11pm, playgrounds open dawn to dusk.
There’s a fairy tale quality to this medieval castle high on a hill overlooking the Hudson River. The late John D. Rockefeller, Jr donated the land and the building, which holds his incomparable collection of medieval art. To make this art more fun for children. make a game of searching for the heroes, saints and fanciful figures like unicorns to be found in the tapestries, paintings and glowing stained glass windows. On many Saturdays and Sundays at 1 p.m. free family workshops for ages 4 to 12 cover topics such as Robes and Regalia, pointing out what heroes wore from monks’ robes to knights’ armor, or Looking at Shapes, showing how medieval artists used familiar forms like circles, squares, and triangles. Check for workshop dates. Fort Tryon Park surrounding The Cloisters is a treat, with soaring views along its promenades and terraces, plus playgrounds and eight miles of paths, many of them meandering through woodland. To reach the Cloisters, take the A train to 190th Street, a 30-minute ride from midtown, then a ten minute walk through the park or one stop north on the M4 bus. The M4 runs all the way from midtown, about an hour’s ride.
Daily 10am to 5:15pm March through October, rest of year to 4:45pm.
26. Coney Island & the New York Aquarium
Come for the sea breezes along the 2 ½-mile boardwalk, the surf, the rides, the arcades, the legendary hot dogs at the original Nathan’s, and a visit to the growing New York Aquarium. A great family day is guaranteed! The Luna Park amusement center boasts classic rides like the 1918 Wonder Wheel and the 1927 Cyclone roller coaster along with plenty of state of the art scream new machines and gentle thrills for little ones including a carousel. It would be worth the trip just for the New York Aquarium and its spectacular newest exhibit, Ocean Wonders: Sharks. Enter through a clear 40-foot tunnel with creatures from the Great Barrier Reef swimming right beside you on both sides and overhead as well. The exhibit offers 18 kinds of sharks along with rays, skates, sea turtles—some 115 fascinating species in all. There’s a daily sea lion show in the Aquatheater as well. Baseball fans can add a game at the friendly, affordable MCU Park, home of the Brooklyn Cyclones, a New York Mets farm team. And there are fireworks every Friday night in summer. Subway: F, D, Q or N to Stillwell Avenue, about 45 minutes from midtown.
Aquarium entry: Late May to early September, Monday to Friday 10am-5pm, Saturday Sunday, 10am-5:30pm; rest of year, last entry at 3:30pm.
Almost every TV show ever filmed can be viewed at this center which boasts an archive of more than 150,000 TV shows, radio broadcasts and commercials. Visitors have their own TV consoles and ear phones and can call up favorites past and present, from I Love Lucy to early Sesame Street. , This is an entertaining nostalgia trip for all ages, and a favorite for teens old enough to remember the old shows. Curators have compiled intriguing Top Ten lists of classics including The Beatles, Seinfeld, Nickelodeon, the Olympics. Super Bowl ads and Halloween specials. Themed screenings take place.in the downstairs theater and personal appearances are often featured. Recently the cast of Veep and Anthony Bourdain have appeared.
Wednesday-Sunday 12pm to-6pm.
This spectacular collection of historic fire engines and equipment from the late 18th century to the present tells the story of firefighting from the days of bucket brigades to hand pumps, horse drawn steam engines to high-tech fire boats. The accessories are fun to see, as well; who knew that some firemen once wore top hats to work? The enormous, shiny fire wagons of old will wow all ages and everyone can enjoy the fun of posing for souvenir snaps in firemen’s coats and hats, available in sizes from toddlers to grownups. Prepare for plenty of temptations in the gift shop. A moving memorial gallery to the firefighters lost at the World Trade Center in 2001 is tactfully set apart so that families can decide whether they wish to visit. Occasional special events for children include coloring contests, Easter egg hunts and a kids’ Halloween party. Check the web site for schedules. The museum is housed in a 1904 triple bay firehouse with its sliding doors, brass sliding pole and winding staircase intact. To round out the day, the Children’s Museum of the Arts is just a few blocks away.
Open daily 10am to 5pm.
For a peaceful afternoon and a look at a different side of New York, head for this newest waterfront neighborhood, begun in the 1960s partially on landfill created from the building of the original World Trade Center, and mostly completed by 2011. The 92-acre complex, now home to some 10,000 residents, offers miles of beautifully landscaped, art-studded paths for strolling or biking with peerless State of Liberty views as well as parks and playgrounds with many activities for children. The two residential sections are centered by Brookfield Place (formerly known as the World Financial Center) an office complex with many shops and dining places and a big, tranquil outdoor terrace overlooking a marina of sleek yachts and sailboats. Rockefeller Park at the north end of the area, has basketball and handball courts, swings and a Parkhouse with ping pong and billiards tables, a play kitchen and toys, games and play equipment free to borrow from May through October. The waterside walkways continue to Battery Park and beyond. .1/2/3 or A/C to Chambers Street. Walk west along Chambers and cross the West Side Highway into BPC.
Noisy, crowded, and utterly fascinating, Chinatown makes for a colorful stroll and tasty dining. Start on Canal Street where food stands are stacked with mysterious vegetables and dried foods, and all manner of seafood shimmering on beds of ice. Turn onto Mott Street, the main artery, for a sampling of lures like chopstick shops, bakeries beckoning with cookies and soft buns filled with roasted pork or beef, and souvenir stands selling slippers, back scratchers, dolls, toys, and bamboo plants, which the Chinese consider good luck. Buy a mini-stalk to take a little luck back home. Stop into the Eastern States Buddhist Temple at #64 to see offerings piled high on altars and over 100 golden Buddha gleaming in the candlelight. Turn left to Bayard Street for the Chinatown Ice Cream Factory’s unique homemade flavors. Stay on Bayard to Columbus Park for a playground and the chance to see residents practicing Tai Chi. Then return to Mott and choose among the many restaurants for a final Chinese treat. One caveat: the crowds and commotion may not be ideal for young children and there is little room for strollers. Take the 6, N or R trains to Canal Street.
31. Nintendo World
Paradise for fans of Wii or Nintendo games, this store offers the chance to try out all the newest games and find a host of unique souvenirs, including hard-to-find plush characters. The second floor is a mini-museum displaying every console and character ever created, a great nostalgia trip for older kids (and many parents). The “ambassadors” around the floor all are enthusiasts who seem to enjoy showing visitors around and teaching how to use various devices. Fans line up outside for product introduction days and to see life-size costumed favorite characters like Mario or Pikachu when they appear for photo ops. Check the web site for dates. It’s all free, but guaranteed you won’t leave without a purchase.
Monday-Thursday, 9am to 8pm; Friday, Saturday 9am to 9pm; Sunday 11am-7pm.
32. Best Bowling Alleys for Kids
When the weather is too hot, too cold, or too rainy, New York’s bowling alleys are great escapes for family fun. Many of these swank, state-of-the-art facilities become singles hangouts after dark, when age restrictions are the rule, but all welcome families during the day. Frames Bowling Lounge (550 Ninth Avenue between 40th and 41st Streets, 212-268-6909) in the Port Authority Bus Terminal offers family packages Monday through Saturday before 5pm, and all day Sundays. They include two hours of bowling, shoe rentals, arcade games, a pizza-chicken bites platter and drinks. Bowlmor Times Square (22 West 44th Street between Seventh and Eighth Avenues, 212-680-0012) features 50 lanes in seven NYC-themed lounges, from Chinatown to Central Park. Advance reservations are suggested.at this popular midtown spot. The Bowlmor at Chelsea Piers (Pier 60, 23rd St and West Side Highway, 212-835-2695) is smaller and less crowded and offers an arcade, a small laser tag arena and an aerial ropes course for children 48 inches and up. Lucky Strike Lanes and Lounge (624–660 West 42nd Street, 646-829-0170) adds billiard tables to the fun and a nice food selections like burgers of the month, tacos, and wings. Rates are lower Monday to Wednesday.
The world’s largest collection of modern art and sculpture is housed in a striking contemporary glass building with soaring sightlines that families will enjoy as they escalate from floor to floor. The chance to see iconic paintings such as Vincent Van Gogh’s Starry Night, Salvador Dali’s melting watch in The Persistence of Memory and Pablo Picasso’s Three Musicians certainly merits a visit. The problem for families is the size of this museum, which can seem overwhelming. A wise approach is pre-visit research to decide which of the many galleries will most appeal and to locate the don’t-miss paintings. (You can also buy tickets in advance.) Art activity cards and gallery games to make the most of the visit can be picked up at the museum or downloaded in advance. MOMA also offers many Saturday and Sunday morning family tours and hands-on art programs divided by age, for 4-year-olds, ages 5 to 10 and tweens ages 11 to 14. Most programs meet at the Cullman Education and Research Building, 4 West 54th Street, with registration beginning online ten days in advance. Check schedules on-line and time your visit for these free events if possible. The lovely sculpture garden outside is a nice break if kids grow weary.
Daily 10:30am to 5:30pm, Friday to 8pm Free admission ages 10 and under, free for all Friday 4pm-8pm.
It’s hard to imagine a museum more intriguing to children than this Frank Lloyd Wright masterpiece where the “galleries” are a spiraling ramp with art on one side and amazing views from floor to domed ceiling on the other. The Guggenheim’s permanent collection, especially known for its Kandinsky paintings, is not always on view but temporary exhibits are usually intriguing and there is always a trove of masters like Picasso, Cezanne, Renoir, and Monet on display in the Thannhauser Collection galleries off the main ramp. If schedules allow, plan to visit on the second Sunday each month when family tours are held at 10:30am and hands on workshops take place at 1pm. You can buy tickets in advance or there’s pay what you wish Saturday 5:45pm-7:45pm.
Friday-Wednesday 10am to 5:45pm, Saturday to 7:45pm. Closed Thursday.
35. Sports Arena Tours
Sports fans will find action year round in New York at arenas that are as exciting as their teams. Some are iconic, like Yankee Stadium, home to baseball’s winningest team, and Madison Square Garden Tour, where the basketball Knicks and Liberty and hockey Ranger teams play. There are exceptional newer venues, as well including the glistening Barclays Arena (tours unavailable, at present), host to Nets basketball and Islanders hockey, and retro Citi Field where the Mets play baseball and the food stands get rave reviews. It is exciting to be part of the cheering crowd, but these arenas are fun to see even when the teams are not in action and all offer behind-the-scenes guided tours. Each tour is unique, but you can expect to go on the field or the court, visit locker rooms and dugouts, see the exclusive VIP boxes, and tour the teams’ halls of fame.
Tour times vary with seasons and schedules. Check web sites for current schedules.
The New York City Ballet, one of the world’s great companies, dances at Lincoln Center in fall, winter and spring with many programs that are ideal for families. During the holiday season, George Balanchine’s beautiful, whimsical Nutcracker is a traditional treat for generations of New York families. Classics like Sleeping Beauty, Coppelia with its dolls come to life and A Midsummer Night’s Dream and its dancing donkey are great introductions to this art. The ballet also has special performances introducing children to ballet and many inexpensive 45-minute workshops on weekends for children ages 5 to 8 and 9 to 12 where participants actually learn steps from professional dancers. Workshops are usually held before family-friendly matinees and are great introductions to the performance.
The season is usually mid-September through October, late November through December, mid-January through February and mid-April through May.
Working shops and classic ships help tell the story of the days when this area was a bustling port, its piers crowded with ships from around the world, bringing trade that helped build a thriving New York and the growing United States. Start at the museum for interpretive displays and the ongoing exhibition, Millions:Migrants and Millionaires aboard the Great Liners. Then head for the “street of ships, Pier 16 at John Street where several vintage vessels are docked. Two may be toured, the 1907 lighthouse ship Ambrose, and the 1886 Wavertree, the cargo ship that is the flagship of the fleet, fresh from a 13-million-dollar restoration. From May through October, visitors can actually go for a sail on the Pioneer, an 1885 four-masted schooner, and help hoist the sails. The Bowne Printshop at 207-211 Water Street, is the chance to see demonstrations of early letterpress printing and examples of 19th century crafts such as woodcarving. The rest of the Seaport area is a collection of shops, and restaurants with wonderful water views. Much of the action is at recently renovated pier 17, which features musical entertainment on the rooftop. There’s also a very upscale multi-screen cinema serving food and drinks to movie goers. Take subways 3, 4, 5, A, C, J, or Z to Fulton Street walk east towards the river for about 10 minutes. The M15 bus stops right at the Seaport on Fulton Street.
Wednesday to Sunday, 11am to 7pm; Bowne Printshop open daily 11am to 7pm.
An inexpensive 10-minute ferry ride brings you to this former U.S. military base, an important part of the system of early forts designed to guard New York City. When the base closed in 2006, some 22 acres of the 172-acre site because a National Monument offering wide open spaces, gardens, bike and walking paths with city views and an interesting slice of history. National Park Service Rangers-lead tours that include Castle Williams, the first American circular fortification ever built, and the star-shaped Fort Jay, which has served over time as fort, music school, and prison for Confederate prisoners. Weekends bring special events from art shows to concerts. The rest of the island is in the midst of development that by 2017 will include The Hills, a 10-acre park where man-made mounds from 25 to 70 feet high will offer climbers peerless perspectives. There will be a shortcut to the top for children, and one mound called Slide Hill will have four slides down, sure to be a kids’ favorite. Bike rentals and food are available on the island. Open Memorial Day to end of September.
Ferries leave Marine Maritime Terminal in lower Manhattan 10am to 4pm weekdays to 5:30 p.m. weekends and holidays.
39. Gulliver’s Gate
The wonders of five continents, all in miniature, await at this unusual attraction near Times Square. From the Great Wall of China to the Swiss Alps, the Taj Mahal to the Pyramids, there are some 967 buildings and myriad moving cars, trains, and planes in a model-train scale display that covers 50,000 square feet. Destinations include Russia, the Middle East, Latin America, Asia, New England, and New York. It took 16 model makers over a year just to create the lavish New York City replicas. Kids especially like the Gulliver’s Gate Key, given to visitors to activate moving parts throughout the exhibit. Look carefully to find whimsical details like a couple kissing, New York firefighters rescuing a cat in a tree or a group of tourists with a rope vainly trying to straighten the Leaning Tower of Pisa. For a fee, you can scan yourself to create a 3-D model to be placed in the display. Go online to book and look for discount offers to save on the rather steep admission fee.
Open Daily 10am-8pm.
40. Bryant Park
This popular green oasis right behind the New York Public Library between 5th and 6th avenues is fun for families year round. Activities include a putting green, ping pong, petanque, a stocked reading room, an art cart with supplies, and table games like chess and backgammon. Younger visitors will find arts and crafts sessions, story time, and rides on Le Carousel. Lessons might be offered in juggling, fencing, yoga or Tai chi, and there is frequent musical entertainment. In winter there’s ice skating, with a holiday bazaar in November and December. Only the carousel and skate rentals have a fee. This is also a fine spot if all you want to do is find a quiet corner to relax, have a sandwich, and/or find a pleasant clean restroom in the heart of the city.
Hours: 7am-12am; most activities, 11am-8pm.
This unexpected new attraction amid Broadway’s theater marquees is a spectacular introduction to ocean life. Using the latest animated technology and National Geographic’s superb photography, it is a simulated underwater journey from Australia to the Pacific Coast that seems to immerse you, allowing amazing close-up views of ocean life without ever getting wet. Among the highlights are a kelp forest maze, the chance to experience ocean life at night, and a spectacular finale showing sharks, sea lion, dolphins, and all manner of sea life at home in the sea. (The Humboldt squid attack is not for the faint-hearted!) The visit ends in Exploration Hall, with simulated interviews with the photographers in diving gear who captured these scenes, as well as holograms, learning games, and lessons on the importance of conservation. This is a unique experience for older children but with one caveat: the whole encounter only takes about an hour and the tickets are expensive. Be sure to check the internet for any available discounts.
Sunday-Thursday 10am to 9pm, Friday, Saturday, 9am to 10pm.
This introduction to chocolate (with tastings!) will please anyone with a sweet tooth. The self-guided visit is housed in a building adjoining the spacious shop of Jacque Torres, one of New York’s leading chocolatiers. It includes a film showing the commercial process from tree to treat followed by two live demonstrations. The first, showing the traditional Mayan way of making cocoa by hand, gives the chance to see close-up the big pods that must be split to get at the chocolate beans, and how they were dried, ground into a powder, and boiled with water to make a beverage. The taste is not as sweet as the cocoa we know but a little added sugar goes a long way. The tour highlight is the making of bon bons. Guests see how chocolate blocks are blended with butter and sugar and heated to just the right temperature to be poured into trays of small molds and cooled to make a scrumptious shell. The shells are filled with the melted confection and chilled once again. Finished candies are on hand and unlimited tastes are allowed! All of this takes only 30 to 45 minutes, but those who plan ahead can add classes; Cookie Decorating for 3 to 7 year olds, and Make Your Own Mediants for older children. For little ones who can’t sit through demonstrations, there is a play area with a sand pit and a play kitchen. Check the web site for class and demo schedules.
Wednesday to Saturday, 10am to 5pm.
43. Best NYC Book Stores for Kids
Even as bookstores continue to dwindle, New York still boasts several really great children’s book stores, good for whiling away a peaceful hour or two and for a special selection of books to take home. Books of Wonder (18 West 18th Street, 212-989-3270) celebrated its 35th birthday in 2015 as a delightful source of new children’s literature as well as rare collectible children’s books and a selection of book-oriented art and posters. The store features story hours for young readers every Saturday and Sunday morning and many author events where older children can meet their favorite writers. The well-stocked Book Culture (114th Street and Broadway, 646-402-3000) has three locations in the Columbia University neighborhood and another more convenient store on Columbus Avenue between 81st and 82nd Street, (450 Columbus Avenue, 212-595-1962). Story hours are scheduled here every Tuesday and Saturday at 11am. The Broadway store devotes the entire downstairs to a Children’s Reading Room, open from 10am to 8pm daily and an ideal spot for a rainy afternoon.
44. Best Skating Rinks for Kids
Skating amidst the skyscrapers is a big city winter pleasure in New York, where many scenic outdoor ice skating rinks beckon. The Rink at Rockefeller Center is famed, so much so that online advance reservations are strongly advised. The numbers are kept at 150 to avoid crowding and there is often a waiting line (212-332-7655). Not far away at Bryant Park’s Winter Village, skating is free (though you’ll have to pay for rental skates and helmets (212-768-4242). Central Park has two fine public rinks: The Wollman Rink (212-439-6900) near the 59th Street and Fifth Avenue entrance is popular and you might consider splurging for a VIP reservation package to avoid waits. The Lasker Rink between 106th and 108th streets is less convenient so less crowded (917-492-3856). Downtown, the Rink at Brookfield Place (the former World Financial Center, 212-417-2445) is even bigger than the Rockefeller Center space and another option awaits at Fulton and Front Streets in front of South Street Seaport (212-732-825). If you don’t want to brave the cold (or the summer heat), you can skate indoors year-round at the Sky Rink at Chelsea Piers (212-336-6100).
Most rinks open mid-October to mid-November, close early to late March. Check individual listings for dates and hours.
For a taste of country in the city, take a trip to Floral Park and the 47-acre Queens County Farm Museum. a 300-year living history of farming. The restored Adriance Farmhouse was built as a three-room Dutch farmhouse in 1772. The surrounding 7-acre historic area shows the changes from a colonial homestead to a truck farm that served a growing city in the early twentieth century. The historic outbuildings, orchards, fields of crops, vineyard, and an herb garden bring history to life and the kids will love seeing the cattle, sheep, goats, pigs and hens at home in the barnyards. Farmhouse tours and hayrides are offered every weekend and a host of special events like sheep shearing and a corn maize keep things lively. In mid-September visitors can take in the Queens County Fair, an old-fashioned event with corn husking and pie-eating contests, pig races, hayrides, livestock competitions and midway rides. The easiest way to get there is by car, about a 35 minute drive from midtown. The Long Island Railroad is another option. The ride from Penn station to Floral Park takes 37-minutes, and cabs waiting at the Floral Park station will take you to the site for around $10.
Open daily 10am to 5pm.
An excursion across the river to Jersey City leads to this big imaginative, interactive museum that will engage kids of all age. Dual-level exhibits like Skyscraper let everyone learns what it takes to design tall buildings. Then older kids can walk a high steel girder (wearing safety vests) and enter a wind tunnel, while little ones build with blocks and stack them using a magnetic mini-crane. Other popular exhibits include the da Vinci surgical robot trying the kind of simulators used by surgeons, the Lightning Show, the Touch Tunnel, and the Infinity Climber, a suspended enclosed multi story play space for climbing and crawling through paths suspended high overhead. Several exhibits are designed for younger visitors. The museum is located in Liberty State Park, with playgrounds and picnic areas and rentals of bikes and Segways to enjoy paths with Hudson River and New York skyline views. Statue of Liberty ferries can be boarded here, as well. Get here by car or take the Liberty Landing Ferry from Brookfield Place to the park, where a 20-minute walk leads to the museum. Or take Path trains to Exchange Place and transfer to the Bergen-Hudson light rail.
Tuesday to Friday 9am-4pm, Saturday, Sunday 9am-5pm.
There’s a ton of fun packed inside this small store-front dedicated to the era when games meant going to the nearest pinball game arcade. A ticket gives unlimited play for one, two, or three hours on some two dozen classic machines that line the walls. The choices range from Shreck, Asteroids, and Star Wars and to Slugfest Baseball and Game of Thrones. All come with flashing lights and sound effects; Beatlemania even features songs and photos of the Fab Four in their heyday. It’s a nostalgia trip for some but for kids and teens used to video games, it’s an introduction to a time when you had to get more actively involved in games, and they love it. Step stools are provided for smaller players. Also billed as a museum, Modern Pinball has an educational component: a transparent machine with all its pulleys, gears, motors and magnets visible – pull the control knob and watch what makes the game go. School field trips have visited for a lesson in science, math, and mechanics. If you fall in love with one of the machines, they’ll be happy to sell it to you. Subway: 6,N,R to 28th Street. M102, 103 bus to 26th Street.
48. FAO Schwarz
It was good news for families when this ultimate toy store came back to life with new headquarters in Rockefeller Plaza behind the skating rink. It is filled with an almost overwhelming selection of toys both familiar and unique and a stuffed animal menagerie like no other. Parents should likely be prepared to be wheedled into at least one purchase, but there are many changing amusements that are free, like watching magic tricks, filling a shopping cart with play food, learning how to make a boomerang work, building a railroad track, steering a car, seeing science experiments, and playing a tune on the store’s famous walk-on piano. For those willing to invest, youngsters can design their own racing car; choosing their own color, shape, and tire type. Kids can have hair streaked or nails painted. If you buy a baby doll, that can visit the store “pediatrician.” There’s a branch of Build-A-Bear Workshop in the store and the whole rear space is a candy emporium. The store is absolutely packed on weekends, especially in the afternoon, so it’s best to try visiting on quieter weekdays or mornings. Subway: D,F to 50th Street. Bus: M5 to 50th Street.
Monday-Tuesday 10am-8pm, Wednesday-Thursday 10am-9pm, Friday-Saturday 10am-10pm, Sunday 10am-7pm.
The Best Playgrounds in New York City
- Pier 25, Hudson River Park
- Union Square Park. Lots of fun, new, and interesting equipment.
- Central Park has 21 different playgrounds. The Ancient Playground, Billy Johnson Playground, Diana Ross Playground, and Tarr Family Playground are the among the favorites.
- Madison Square Park. There’s a Shake Shack (burgers, fries, shakes) in the middle of the park.
- Silver Towers Playground is the closest playground to Times Square.
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