Think the Big Apple is only for grownups? Think again! New York City is an awesome destination to visit with your kids. There are the quintessential must-sees like the Statue of Liberty, as well as hundreds of lesser known sites for kids to see and things for them to experience. From world famous icons to hidden gems, there’s plenty that will entertain your young travel buddies for hours.
Here are our top recommendations for things to do in New York with kids.
Sail over to the Statue of Liberty and Ellis Island
One of America’s most enduring symbols and one of the New York area’s most popular attractions, the Statue of Liberty is one of those must-see landmarks for visitors. The statue is located on Liberty Island in New York Bay. Run by the National Park Service alongside Ellis Island, it is a National Monument. Both the statue and the Immigration Museum on Ellis Island can be visited together by ferry and making the effort to do both is highly recommended. Kids will not only enjoy the ferry ride but also come to understand the awe-inspiring symbolism of the statue in line with historical context of immigration and New York’s role as a gateway to America.
Operating hours vary depending on the season. Weather conditions may affect ferry scheduling as well. Whenever you hope to visit, it’s a good idea to plan for plenty of time to enjoy both Liberty and Ellis Islands; just make sure to be on a ferry to one of them before 1 p.m. It’s also strongly advised that you book well in advance to ensure you can go, especially during peak vacation season.
Learn to Love History at the Lower East Side Tenement Museum
The Lower East Side Tenement Museum at 97 and 103 Orchard Street in the Lower East Side neighborhood of Manhattan is a National Historic Site comprised of two historical tenement buildings where an estimated 15,000 people from more than 20 nations lived between 1863 and 2011. The museum does a wonderful job transporting the imaginations of kids and adults to the different eras of the buildings, sharing the story of the people who lived there.
The museum is open daily from 10 a.m., closing at varying evening times throughout the week.
Go Play on Governors Island
Less than a quarter mile off the southern tip of Manhattan, and even closer than that to the shores of far west Brooklyn, the 172-acre Governors Island offers loads of big outdoor fun for kids. First of all, to get there you get to take a scenic ferry ride that children will really enjoy. Once there, you’ll have a grand selection of awesome options. Open air movies, ziplining, kayaking, artist studios and galleries, food trucks, and bikes for rent are but some of the fun stuff to keep the whole family engaged while on the island. When it’s time for the older folks to take a break, let the younger ones head to The Yard — a 50,000-square-foot kids only play area (there are adult staff members on hand). Governors Island is also home to the largest slide in NYC; you’ll find this 57-foot curvy slide at The Hills playground.
Dream about Dinos at the American Museum of Natural History
Whether you plan on catching flights from Dallas to New York or take a road trip from Philadelphia, you and your family cannot miss this stop! Home to the 122-foot-long Titanosaur — the largest dinosaur skeleton on exhibit in the world — the American Museum of Natural History on Manhattan’s Upper West Side near Central Park is a great place to visit for all ages. Children will be amazed at the fascinatingly detailed exhibits and artifacts great and small.
The museum is open daily from 10 a.m. to 5.45 p.m. every day except Thanksgiving and Christmas Day.
Reach New Heights at the Empire State Building
The 360-degree views across Manhattan from the observation deck on the 86th floor of the Empire State Building are certain to elicit a “wow!” from even the most blasé of teenagers and get a “whoa!” from children of every age.
The observation deck of the titan of the New York skyline is open daily from 8 a.m. to 2 a.m. Booking in advance is highly recommended.
Take it Easy at the Sculpture Garden at Pratt Institute
If you’re looking for a low-key way to spend an hour in Brooklyn, head to the Pratt Institute campus. The entire area is covered by sculptures from artists around the world, including luminaries such as Richard Serra, Donald Lipski, and Mark di Suvero. Curated by the renowned Professor David Weinrib, the Pratt Sculpture Park has been hailed by major arts publications as one of the best university campus art collections in the U.S. Kids can frolic and have some much-needed outdoor time, and parents can take in great art. Talk about a win-win!
Go a Few Rounds on Jane’s Carousel – Brooklyn Bridge Park
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Although the park at the Brooklyn Bridge is a great stop for any visiting family, a ride (or two) on Jane’s Carousel is sure to delight travelers of all ages. Located in the Empire Fulton Ferry section of Brooklyn Bridge Park, the carousel dates back to 1922. It was fully restored and donated to the park by Jane and David Walentas. Artsy parents will love the fact that this magical carousel is housed in a glass pavilion designed by the award-winning French architect Jean Nouvel.
Jane’s Carousel runs Thursday to Sunday from 11 a.m. to 6 p.m.
Add Some Color to Your Day at the Children’s Museum of the Arts
One of the only fine arts museums in the country dedicated solely to children, SoHo’s Children’s Museum of the Arts (CMA) aims to introduce children and their families to the transformative power of the arts by providing opportunities to make art side-by-side with working artists. To this end, they sponsor a variety of classes and workshops geared specially for kids (check out their website to see what will be happening when you’re in town). The CMA also maintains a permanent collection of over 2,000 paintings and drawings of children’s art from over 50 countries, dating back to the 1930s.
General admission is from noon to 5 p.m. on weekdays and 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. on weekends.
Are there any other NYC hot spots that are perfect for the whole family? Share them with us in the comments!