New York City is the most populous city in America, boasting over 8 million inhabitants. And children under the age of 14 account for 15% of that! With New York being depicted as a place of grit and competition, it’s easy to forget that it’s home to a huge population of youth and children.
So, whether you’re a New Yorker like me, or someone visiting on holiday or vacation, you’ll be pleased to know there is plenty to do with your kids in this great city. But with so many options, it can be hard to make a choice.
To help with that, I’ve made a list of some of my favorite things to do, broken down roughly by age groups. Let’s get into it!
Top Things to do in NYC with Toddlers
As precious as toddlers are, it can be a challenge to find activities geared toward them. But again, we’re talking about New York City — if you can dream it, it’s already here in NYC. Toddler-friendly places and activities are just around every corner, but some of my favorite are:
Storytime at libraries and bookstores
Story time is a hidden resource for parents in the city. Bookstores such as Books of Wonder and Book Culture, and libraries across the city offer read-aloud stories for your little ones.
Not only are these a great way to spend time and bond with your child, but these story time events can also connect you with other parents and help your little one make friends!
Toddler sized playgrounds
Without question, playgrounds are a staple of childhood everywhere. These structures come in all shapes and—fortunately for New Yorkers and anyone visiting—all sizes too! NYC has an abundance of playgrounds scaled down for toddlers who still aren’t the most confident bipeds.
Some of my favorites across the city include the Garfield Tot Lot, the Imagination Playground, and the always-photogenic Pier 1 Playground at Brooklyn Bridge Park.
Visit New York Children’s Museums
Children’s museums are great educational and entertainment resources. Offering interesting exhibits, activities, and programs, children’s museums such as the Brooklyn Children’s Museum (the first to have opened in the U.S.) or the ‘five floors of fun’ at the Children’s Museum of Manhattan are gems you won’t want to pass up.
Children’s museums have benefits galore for toddlers and parents. These well-designed institutions take into account the experience of both parents and children, making them exceptionally fun and simple to go through. In addition, they provide great sensory learning experiences, and facilitate other types of play that encourage social, emotional, and physical development.
Top Things to Do in New York with Kids 4-6
Older kids or or kids who are adventurous often crave activities that are engaging and exciting. The city has tons to offer for this, whether your child needs to burn off some energy or is interested in learning about fascinating topics. Here are some of the best activities:
Yes, playgrounds are great for kids of all ages, encouraging physical activity, socialization, and critical thinking skills. They’re also downright fun! Kids can’t get enough of this city's exceptional and bountiful playgrounds.
Some of the best include the beautiful and modern Domino Park Playground, the naturally interactive playground at Governors Island’s Slide Hill, or any of Central Park’s 21 unique playgrounds.
New York’s Many Museums for Kids
A trip through the past can inspire awe that will last for years, and New York has an abundant selection of top-tier museums for kids. Some of the best include the jaw-dropping exhibits at the American Museum of Natural History, the always-fascinating Intrepid Sea, Air, & Space Museum Complex, and the Liberty Science Center, which boasts the largest planetarium in America!
Visit a Zoo
Perhaps some of the most famous and historic family attractions in New York City are the zoos. These educational and engaging places can introduce your child to rare animals and teach them about conservation, wildlife, geography and more.
Some of New York’s best zoos include the Bronx Zoo, which first opened in 1899 and is now the largest metropolitan zoo in America, the Central Park Zoo, which is even older and showcases over 70 penguins for your child to observe, or the New York Aquarium, providing children insight into unknown underwater worlds.
Top Things to See in New York with Kids 7-10
As older kids' personalities and interests develop and become more refined or focused, many of the activities they enjoy may change. Fortunately, the diverse selection of activities and places throughout New York are ready to accommodate your child’s interests, whether they be in art, history, sports, or entertainment. Check out some of these incredible experiences:
Visit the Best Art Museums in the World
It’s no secret that New York City is a linchpin in the world’s art scene today as Paris was in the 1800s. And naturally, the city is home to some of the greatest museums and works of art in existence.
To inspire the young artists, check out such marvels as the Metropolitan Museum of Art, the Guggenheim Museum, or the Museum of Modern Art, home to artworks by Jackson Pollock, Piet Mondrian, Mark Rothko, Picasso and many more legendary names. Plus, all three of these museums—and many more throughout the city—are free to children.
See Historical New York Landmarks
New York’s fame, success, and population are all in part due to its unique history and location. To explore that history, check out some of these unique historical landmarks:
The Statue of Liberty: The Statue of Liberty was a gift from the French in 1886, and is as much an icon of New York as it is an icon of America itself. Visiting the Statue of Liberty, now managed by the National Park Service, is an incredible and moving experience.
Ellis Island: America’s past, present, and future are all influenced by immigrants. Nothing illustrates this influence more than Ellis Island, the immigrant processing station that operated from 1892 through 1954. To provide your child a window into the past and America’s incredibly diverse social fabric, check out Ellis Island.
Check Out New York’s Incredible Views
New York’s skyline is probably the most recognizable in the world, perhaps only contested by the likes of Dubai and London. Not only can you view the city’s skyline from places such as Hunters Point South Park in Queens and the Brooklyn Bridge Park, but there are a number of exceptional views to be had from atop the skyscrapers themselves! Consider a visit to one of the city’s famous towers, such as the Empire State Building, One World Trade Center’s observatory, or the Top of the Rock in the Comcast building for outrageous views of New York.
New York Has It All
Clearly there’s a lot to do in New York. It would be generous to say that this list even scratches the surface of everything there is to do with your children. These are some great activities for you and your family, and whether you choose to visit any of these locations or somewhere else, you’re bound to find something amazing no matter where that is.
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