The bright lights of the big city can be overwhelming for anyone, and with so many things to do in NYC with kids, it can be mind-boggling to plan a day or weekend across the Hudson. Do you start with the classics like Empire State Building and Central Park Zoo? Or do you head to the newer attractions in NYC like Little Island or the Edge? And then there are the museums—you could spend days hopping around, eyeing the iconic T-Rex at the Museum of Natural History to exploring the undercover world of intelligence at Spyscape, to seeing antique firetrucks at the New York City Fire Museum. Yup, it’s a lot, so that’s why we’ve done the planning for you. Read on for all the awesome things to do in NYC with kids (including a few in the outer boroughs), and if you’ve been there, done that, check out our unique guide to things to do in NYC with kids too.
Featured Photo Credit: @circlelinenyc
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Note: Many attractions require advance tickets, masks and/or proof of vaccination status, and other COVID-19 safety precautions. Be sure to call the venue before you go for the most current guidelines.
Here are 24 Things To Do in NYC With Kids
This elevated park sits atop tulip-shaped concrete pods and appears to be floating over the Hudson River. But Little Island isn’t just about the Instagram-worthy scenery—a 687-seat amphitheater offers a full range of family-friendly festivals and performing arts events, most of which are free and don’t require reservations. Check out the island’s mobile hub for DIY art activities, get a behind-the-scenes look at how artists create stage productions, or embark on a new creative challenge led by local museums. Little Island is open daily, and timed entry reservations are required to ensure safety.
Pier 55 in Hudson River Park at West 13th Street, New York, NY 10014
It may not be the tallest building in New York City (although it comes in at a respectable 4th place), but it’s undoubtedly the most iconic. Ride up the elevator, or take the steps if you’re feeling ambitious, to the 86th and 102nd-floor observatories for a 360-degree view of the city’s famous landmarks. On clear days, you can see up to 80 miles into the distance and get a glimpse of a whopping six states. The Empire State Building is open daily, and tickets start at $42 for adults and $36 for children.
20 West 34th Street, New York, NY 10001
For one of the most scenic things to do in NYC with kids, view the city’s most famous landmarks by boat. You’ll see all the icons, like the Statue of Liberty, Empire State Building, and Yankee Stadium, on a relaxing cruise with a comfortable outdoor deck that gives you incredible views of the skyline. Five cruises ranging from 45 minutes to 2.5 hours—depending on how much time you have and how patient your kiddos are—will offer an entertaining and informative glimpse into New York’s remarkable history while also offering a ton of great Instagram ops. Ticket prices start at $17 per person.
Cruises depart from Pier 83, West 42nd Street in Midtown or Slip 6, Battery Park in Downtown.
One of the coolest things to do in NYC with kids, littles, and bigs is to glide around this aquatic-inspired carousel ride inhabited by 30 giant fiberglass fish that feels as if you dove deep into the ocean. The whimsical architectural masterpiece in Battery Park resembles a chambered nautilus, and the color-changing LED lighting emits a dreamy, iridescent water effect. Tickets are $5 per person, and the carousel is open daily.
Enter across from 17 State Street
Be prepared to get a little messy at this sensory playground all centered around the wonders of slime. Travel through an immersive ASMR tunnel or stroll across a colorful lake of slime. The fantastical experience includes a custom eight-ounce jar of slime from the DIY bar. With an enhanced ticket, kids (and moms) can don a poncho and goggles and get “slimed.” General tickets are $39, and the experience is open Thursday through Monday.
475 Broadway, New York, NY 10013
Even if you dedicate the entire day to exploring Central Park, you won’t come close to making it to all of the family activities offered in this vast, 843-acre space. But we have a few favorite highlights, like the Central Park Zoo, where you can get to know the seals, red pandas, and snow leopards while taking in the beautiful city views. Or head to Belvedere Castle, a miniature castle located on top of Vista Rock, the park’s second-highest natural point. Though it is closed temporarily, the Central Park Carousel is a vintage merry-go-round dating back to 1908 that offers nostalgia and fun for the whole family. Ticket prices vary for the available programs and activities.
Central Park Conservancy, 14 East 60th Street, New York, NY 10022
Have your little ones ever dreamed of helping their favorite superheroes save the day or imagined themselves on a Broadway stage? All of their fantasies can come true at Madame Tussauds New York, where they will be face-to-face with amazingly lifelike wax figures and immerse themselves into the exciting world of celebrities. Strike a pose and walk the runway with famous supermodels, have a seat next to Jimmy Fallon on the set of The Tonight Show, battle the supernatural alongside the Ghostbusters, or sip a cup of tea with the Queen of England. Open daily, tickets start at $37 and should be ordered in advance to guarantee entry.
234 West 42nd Street, New York, NY 10036
Experience New York from a whole new perspective from the top of One World Trade Center (also known as the Freedom Tower) – the tallest building in the city and the sixth tallest in the world. Come for the spectacular views from the observatories on the 100th, 101st, and 102nd floors, and stay for the multimedia exhibits, like the largest curved indoor LED in the world and the See Forever theater showing a high-tech audiovisual display ending with a glimpse of the skyline. If you’re feeling brave, step onto the Sky Portal, a 14-foot glass circle with a view of the city streets 100 stories below. Tickets start at $43 (or $38 if purchased in advance online), and the venue is open Thursday-Monday.
One World Trade Center, 117 West Street, New York, NY 10007
Channel your inner James Bond with a series of high-tech, immersive spy challenges developed by a former head of training at British Intelligence. You and the fam will get debriefed on the top-secret world of intelligence and then enter interactive experiences testing your code-breaking skills, agility, powers of observation, and ability to lie (let’s hope the kids aren’t too good at that one). Check out ingenious spy gadgets that look like they belong on movie sets and learn about the fascinating spies, double agents, and hackers who have changed the course of world events. Tickets start at $32 for children ages 6-12 and $39 for adults and children ages 13 and up, and the museum is open Wednesday-Sunday.
928 8th Avenue, New York, NY 10019
There is nothing sweeter than this ice cream extravaganza in Soho. Thirteen interactive and multi-sensory installations will dazzle adults and kids alike. Go for a swim in a pool filled with 100 million sprinkles (currently, you can’t dive in due to COVID, but there’s an enhanced experience to enjoy), slide down a three-story indoor ice cream portal, and take a trip through the rainbow tunnel. Tickets are $44 each and include ice cream and admission into all 13 installations, open daily except Tuesday.
558 Broadway, New York, NY 10012
Inspired by the colors found in NYC, the unique and imaginative installations at the Color Factory will engage every last one of your little ones’ senses. The playful exhibits include ombre floating balloons, a walkable infographic that leads you to your “secret color,” and a giant ball pit, plus free treats along the way. And the fun continues long after—a free Color Map, provided at the end of your visit, will guide you through nearby neighborhoods and point out even more colorful surprises created by the Color Factory. Tickets are $28 for kids 3-12 and $38 for adults and children 13 and up, and the exhibit is open every day except Wednesday.
251 Spring Street, New York, NY 10013
Want to live life on the edge? Then this stunning outdoor sky deck—the highest in the Western Hemisphere—is the perfect place to bring the kiddos. You’ll all get a thrill from the 52-second high-speed elevator ride that will take you 1,100 feet into the sky, onto an out-of-this-world observation point. The glass-angled walls will make you feel like you’re suspended in mid-air, and the breathtaking 360-degree view lets you take in the entire NYC skyline, from Central Park to the Statue of Liberty. Ticket prices start at $31 for children and $36 for adults, and the deck is open daily.
30 Hudson Yards, New York, NY 10001
Candy, candy, and more candy—the flagship location of this confectionary emporium is a real-life Willy Wonka factory with over 7,000 sweet treats. Mouthwatering installations like a lollipop tree and massive candy cane columns will entice every child and child-at-heart, making this one of the sweetest things to do in NYC with kids. Children will love to fill their baskets with the bulk candy offerings along the wall, featuring yummy retro treats like malt balls and over 50 types of fruity gummies (gummy legos, anyone?). Another shop is also open at Hudson Yards.
1011 Third Avenue at 60th Street, New York, NY 10065
20 Hudson Yards, 4th Floor, New York, NY 10001
This museum is probably most famous for its fossil halls, and for good reason—those giant dinosaurs are pretty awesome to see up close for kids and adults alike. But there’s so much more to learn about and discover here, such as exhibits about ocean life, gems and minerals, and the evolution of humans, and you won’t want to miss the Space Show at the Hayden Planetarium. If your children have had a chance to see “A Night at the Museum,” they’ll be super psyched to see the parts of the facility featured in the movie (yes, “Dum Dum” has a special spot on the 3rd floor). The museum is open Wednesday-Sunday, and tickets start at $23 for adults, $18 for students with ID, and $13 for children 3-12.
200 Central Park West, New York, NY 10024
This welcoming and fun space is perfect for little ones, with loads of exhibits that inspire connection, exploration, and play. Step into the Superpowered Metropolis, a comic book version of NYC that lets your child be the hero, or take on an exciting animal rescue mission with Dora and Diego in a Nickelodeon-sponsored exhibit. If the weather allows, the kids will love to splash around at a 22-foot-long outdoor water table that offers hands-on entertainment while teaching them valuable lessons about the city’s water system and the environment. The museum is open Wednesday-Sunday, and tickets are $15 for children and adults. Reserving a time slot in advance is encouraged.
The Tisch Building, 212 West 83rd Street, New York, NY 10024
Housed in the former quarters of Engine Company No. 30, this renovated fire station honors New York City’s bravest with displays that span the history of firefighters from the early bucket brigades and highlight modern firefighting equipment and techniques. Hear remarkable stories of heroism from the retired FDNY firefighters who donate their time to the museum. Little ones can examine old horse-drawn ladder wagons, motorized apparatus, tools used on the job, both past and present, and firefighter uniforms through the years. The museum is open Wednesday-Sunday, and tickets are $10 for adults and $5 for children. Advance ticket purchase is preferred, but walk-ins are welcome, subject to availability.
278 Spring Street, New York, NY 10013
Indoor spaces at this maritime museum are currently closed, but visitors can still climb aboard historic ships in the Seaport’s fleet. Take a tour of the 1885 tall ship Wavertree and learn how people lived and worked on this cargo sailing vessel, and explore the Ambrose, a National Historic Landmark that was the first lightship to guard the largest shipping channel in and out of the ports of New York and New Jersey. And during the summer, enjoy a 75-minute cruise on W.O. Decker, the last remaining wooden tugboat built in New York. Tickets for the tugboat are $30 for adults and $15 for children (must be 10 or above). Tours of Wavertree and Ambrose are free during the 2021 Season of Seaport Museum Open Days, which runs Friday-Sunday through October.
12 Fulton Street, New York, NY 10038
The National Museum of Mathematics, otherwise known as MoMath, lets children discover a whole new side of math that is stimulating and inspiring. Trust us—it’s nothing like the algebra class you remember sitting through a couple of decades ago. Your kids will be all in on the innovative, hands-on exhibits like Hoop Curves, a fun game that combines statistics with basketball in a regulation-size free throw space, and Polypaint, where you can create intricate patterns with a paintbrush on a digital canvas. Tickets are $18 for children ages 3-12 and $20 for adults and children ages 13 and up, and the museum is open daily.
11 East 26th Street, New York, NY 10010
Geared toward kids ages 8-13, this museum will take the family on a fascinating journey through 350 years of New York City history. You’ll learn about famous historical figures who were crucial to shaping the city like Alexander Hamilton (yes, that guy from the musical!). There are also exhibits on lesser-known young people throughout the centuries, such as the children who rode orphan trains from NYC to rural America and the newsboys and girls who sold newspapers on the city streets. The American Dreamers exhibit features images of New Yorkers, past and present, as well as a photo booth that lets the kiddos snap their own pics and add the occupation they hope to have when they’re grown up. The museum is open Friday-Sunday, and tickets cost $6 for kids 5-13, $13 for students, and $22 for adults.
The New York Historical Society, 170 Central Park West at 77th Street, New York, NY 10024
The sheer size and breadth of the Met can seem overwhelming for a family outing, but there’s plenty to do and see for kids of all ages once you get a little direction. Grab a family guide from the information desk (or download in advance) to get a kid-friendly primer about popular exhibits. Then, pick up a family map (also available to download) and let the children lead the way to what interests them most, whether it’s ancient Egypt or Pop Art. Another great way to explore is with the audio guide, which gives tours suitable for kids ages 6-12 and their families. The museum is open Thursday-Monday, and tickets are $25 for adults and $12 for students (free for 12 and under).
1000 Fifth Avenue, New York, NY 10028
Located on the iconic aircraft carrier Intrepid, this museum is an educational and immersive experience the whole family will love. Young astronauts-in-training can explore the space shuttle Enterprise and make fascinating discoveries throughout 17 exhibit zones in the Space Shuttle Pavillion. A virtual flight zone and restored aircraft, including the world’s fastest military jet and spy plane and the famed Concorde, will inspire the imagination. Tickets are $33 for adults, $24 for children (veterans and active military are free), and the museum is open daily.
Pier 86, W 46th St & 12th Ave, New York, NY 10036
Things to do outside of Manhattan
Located on the beach at Coney Island, New York Aquarium is home to more than 500 species of marine wildlife, ranging from playful penguins and adorable sea otters to the often misunderstood sharks. Get a front-row seat at the outdoor Aquatheater and watch sea lions bond with their trainers during an unforgettable interactive show. The Spineless exhibit offers a peek at bizarre invertebrates like Pacific octopus, moon jellies, and zombie worms, and kids will love to don their special glasses in the 4D theater, which combines the drama of a 3D movie with built-in sensory effects. Certain exhibits and experiences, including animal feedings and A Wild Encounter, are currently unavailable due to COVID-19. Tickets start at $23 for children ages 3-12 and $27 for adults and children ages 13 and up, and the aquarium is open daily. Tickets are timed and must be purchased in advance.
602 Surf Avenue, Brooklyn, NY 11224
Whether your child goes bananas for apes or would rather slither on over to the reptile exhibit, you’re guaranteed to have a fantastic day exploring the 6,000 animals and 700 species of wildlife that call the Bronx Zoo home. At the Children’s Zoo, kids can get up close to a two-toed sloth or giant anteater and pet and feed the farm animals. When you need a break from walking around the expansive grounds, go for a spin on the bug carousel, ride a camel or watch a sea lion training session. The zoo is open daily, and tickets are $30 for children 3-12 and $40 for adults and kids 13 and over.
2300 Southern Boulevard, Bronx, NY 10460
If you’re seeking a break from the bustling city streets, a visit to the beautiful New York Botanical Garden may be in order. Meander around 250 acres of stunning landscapes that encompass lush gardens with native plants and flowers, interspersed with art installations by legendary artists like Yayoi Kusama. At the Everett Children’s Adventure Garden, kids can pick up a scavenger hunt pamphlet for fun, self-guided activities, and even pot and take home a polka dot plant. Tickets are $12 for children ages 2-12 and $25 for adults and kids ages 13 and up, and the garden is open Tuesday-Sunday.
2900 Southern Boulevard, Bronx, NY 10458