New York City might not be the first destination that comes to mind for a family getaway, but it has entertainment for all ages. We’ve partnered with Chicago family travel writer Kirsten Maxwell from the blog Kids Are A Trip as she shares her favorite spots for spending time with kids in the Big Apple.
At first glance, New York City might not appear child-friendly, but it certainly can be. While it can be very busy, there are many attractions families will enjoy. With spacious parks, unique entertainment options, and world-class museums, families will find a wealth of options at their fingertips. With so much to see and do, it is hard to choose our favorites, but here are the best things to do with kids in New York City.
First and foremost, most children want (and need) to be outside. Fortunately, there are plenty of parks in New York City, but nothing is quite like Central Park. It is the perfect urban oasis with its zoo, playgrounds, sailing pond, carousel, and rocks for climbing. Parents should pick up a map at the one of the information kiosks so they can explore the famous statues, fountains, and landmarks throughout the park while kids explore the grounds. Plan on spending a couple of hours discovering the gems of Central Park—and if that’s not enough, come back another day.
The Ride isn’t your typical tour of New York City, and it’s one that won’t soon be forgotten. Passengers take a tour through Manhattan in a state-of-the-art bus featuring stadium seating and floor-to-ceiling windows, with 40 LCD TV screens, 3,000 LED lights, and surround sound. It’s a party on wheels. As the bus travels through the city, there are stops along the way where bus passengers interact with talented performers on the street. In the fall, there is The Ride in Masquerade, where the tour discovers the ghosts of New York; in winter, The Ride Holiday Edition features seasonal music and performances. Everyone in the family will love it because they get to be goofy, participate in the tour, and see and learn some pretty amazing things along the way.
A Broadway show
The good news is that families don’t have to spend a fortune to see a Broadway show. With the help of technology, namely apps like TKTS and TodayTix, families can find good seats to quality shows at a substantial discount. TKTS of course has their main booth in Times Square under the red stairs where tickets can be purchased the day of a show for up to 50% off. Most shows are here, but some of the big names aren’t available. TodayTix will help you find tickets at a reduced cost up to a week in advance. Don’t be quick to dismiss the possibility of a Broadway show with your kids. These days many shows are family-friendly and offer afternoon matinees so families don’t have to stay out late.
The Statue of Liberty and Ellis Island
Before planning a trip to the Statue of Liberty, it is important to know that tickets to visit the museum, pedestal, or head up to the crown for a view must be booked well in advance. Without them, it is only possible to go into the base of the statue and walk around Liberty Island. For many, a simple ferry ride to the island will suffice. It provides opportunities for some pictures of Lady Liberty, and then the boat continues on to Ellis Island.
Ellis Island is an entirely different experience, with a very hands-on interactive museum. It tells the story of the 12 million immigrants who passed through the doors of the island’s main building from 1892 to 1924. The museum highlights the various ethnicities that make up our country and gives voice to their experiences, sharing the story of select immigrant families and how they came to be in America. Kids will love the computer exhibits and seeing the artifacts families brought with them on their journey to a new life.
One World Trade Center and the 9/11 Memorial Fountains
It’s hard to put into words the emotions one feels when seeing One World Trade Center and the fountains for the first time. Children might grasp the enormity of their meaning and what they represent, but even if they don’t they will remember the experience. The sheer size of the fountains, the height of One World Trade Center—it all has meaning. A 60-second elevator ride to the top of One World Observatory shows the evolution of New York City over the last 500 years, mesmerizing adults and kids alike. On the 100th floor are panoramic views of the entire city. A visit to New York City wouldn’t be complete without a stop here.
Photo credit: Kirsten Maxwell
American Museum of Natural History
Many children will recognize this museum from the Night at the Museum series of films. Kids will love the dinosaur fossils, the blue whale suspended from the ceiling, the African animals, the gems and minerals, and the IMAX or planetarium shows. The Discovery Room is a favorite stop for most families: Children can be hands-on with science and see behind the scenes of the museum. Plan on spending several hours here because the museum is quite large and awesome exhibits are endless.
Photo credit: © NYC & Company
The High Line
Located on the west side of Manhattan (it runs from Gansevoort Street in the Meatpacking District to West 34th Street, between 10th and 12th Avenues), The High Line is a public park built on a historic freight rail line. It sits elevated above street level, offering a unique perspective of the city. The park has multiple entry points, and features restaurants, gardens, public art, stunning views, and green spaces for kids and parents to enjoy. It is one of the most unique parks in the country, and kids will love it.
The Empire State Building
When in New York City, everyone wants to go to the top of a building for a view, and the Empire State Building provides one of the best. Purchase tickets in advance if possible (CityPASS sells them) as this helps avoid the constant lines. The lines are worth the wait, though, as visitors are transported to the 86th floor (102nd floor if they want a VIP experience) for a 360° view of the entire city. From the Statue of Liberty to the Chrysler Building, visitors see it all. Try to time your visit an hour before sunset for amazing views.
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