Visiting New York City with Kids | An Activity Guide

Enjoy the New York City skyline from the 102nd floor of the Empire State Building.

When visiting New York City with kids, there is so much to see and do that you will be hard pressed to fit in everything. The city that never sleeps is an overwhelming celebration of sights and sounds.  We recommend a couple of strategies to target the most family-friendly attractions with confidence and style.

First, make a list of your must-see destinations. What are your priorities? Making such a long trip and then missing something on your wish list would be tragic, especially if its due to poor planning. Plot your go-to destinations on a map of the city and then fill in other activities around them.

Second, divide the city up into areas. You don’t want to be racing from one end of the city and back again. Not only would it waste valuable time—a lot of valuable time if you are riding the subway—but your resources will dwindle if you’re taking ubers or cabs. Focus your time in one or two close areas per day and be systematic, not only will you be able to see more of the city, your feet will thank you for it later.

Free New York City Family Travel Map.

Enter your name and email to receive a custom Google map with directions and details on all of the attractions listed in this article.  Utilize this map on your smartphone to plan out your next visit to New York City.

Make sure everyone is wearing comfortable shoes because you WILL be doing a lot of walking. If traveling to New York City with younger kids I recommend taking a stroller or if you have more than one kiddo under five, a double stroller. They may think they are too big to ride, but they will be begging for it at some point during the day.

We strongly recommend getting a New York City CityPASS as it will give you access to the top attractions (we’ve marked them in the list below), save you 40%, and allow you to skip ticket lines. New York CityPASS is one of first places available for mobile vouchers, eliminating the need for a booklet or printed vouchers. Simply use your smartphone for access to your attractions of choice. And don’t worry about trying to fit them all into one day since CityPASS gives you nine days after your first attraction.

Here is a starting point for some fun family adventure ideas while visiting New York City with kids.

Times Square

The iconic crossroads where everything comes together in NYC. The perfect NYC picture opportunity.

NYC Bus Tour

You don’t see double-decker buses often in the States but NYC seems to have its own supply. Visitors wishing to get an overall lay of the city while tour guides educate you on its history should definitely consider this as one of the first things to do. Gray Line Bus Tours offer Hop on Hop off tours that allow you to get off the bus if something catches your eye, then jump back on the next bus that comes along. They also offer multiple day passes allowing you to see more of the city while saving the treads of your favorite shoes.

Empire State Building

The tallest building in NYC for over 30 years and the 2nd tallest in New York City to date, attracting 4 million visitors every year. If you are afraid of heights you may want to skip this popular attraction as the observation deck sits on the 102nd floor. If you really want to feel like you are on top of the world then this iconic tour is for you. You can check wait times to the top here.

*CityPASS Attraction.

M&M's World

If you have kids, most likely they have a sweet tooth and this larger than life M&M store is the perfect place to indulge.

The Lego Store at Rockefeller Square

If your kids are Lego lovers you won’t want to miss this amazing store sporting the largest pick a brick wall to date. See a large replica of Rockefeller Center or check out the displays of American history lining the walls near the ceiling. Be prepared for crowds, however, as this store is always full of people and doesn’t offer a public restroom (although one can be found easily on the lower level of Rockefeller Center).

Top of the Rock

The observation deck on top of Rockefeller Center offers some of the most amazing panoramic views of the city skyline.  With sheer plexiglass walls lining the deck you get 360 degrees of unobstructed views ensuring the most picturesque memories of your vacation.

*CityPASS Attraction (Either/or option. Choose this or Guggenheim Museum)

Guggenheim Museum

One of the unique stand out buildings in New York City, the Guggenheim is committed to interpreting, collecting, and preserving contemporary and modern art. This museum is not an adults only museum and they have multiple family events. Check out their tips for parents and other family guides before visiting the museum.

*CityPASS Attraction (Either/or option. Choose this or Top of the Rock experience)

Central Park

This could take you a day or two on its own. Central Park is BIG, and no matter what season you are visiting, there is a variety of things to do. Here are a few you might enjoy.

  1. Explore a myriad of statues, sculptures, fountains, and bridges
  2. Climb, slide, or swing at the playgrounds scattered around the perimeter of the park
  3. Visit the Central Park Zoo
  4. Take a ride on the famous vintage Central Park Carousel.
  5. Take a picnic lunch to enjoy on the grass
  6. If your kids are older, experience the iconic Tavern on the Green or the prestigious Loeb Boathouse
  7. Interested in model boats? Visit the Kerbs Memorial Boathouse and rent a model sailing boat to race around the pond.
  8. Tour Belvedere Castle
  9. Watch a beloved children’s story come to life through the movement of puppets at The Swedish Cottage Marionette Theater .
  10. Rent a bicycle and go for a leisure ride through the maze of paths winding through Central Park.
  11. Grab some skates and glide around the ice at the Wollman Rink
  12. Take a horse and carriage ride through the park.

The options are boundless.

The Met

Standing as a sentinel on the Northern East side of Central Park is the world renown Metropolitan Museum of Art. You wouldn’t know it by the name, but this classy museum offers kids a way to engage and discover art in a fun and interactive way.

*CityPASS Attraction

The American Museum of Natural History

Opposite the Met on the North-West side of Central Park sits the Museum of Natural History. This museum is home to a large and vast number of intriguing exhibits that the kids are sure to love. Want a fun sneak peak at what this museum has to offer? Check it out in the blockbuster movie Night at the Museum (2006) with Ben Stiller.

*CityPASS Attraction

DO Cookie Dough Confections

If you love to eat cookie dough, this dessert haven of awesomeness is worth a stop. DO serves up a large scoop of safe to eat cookie dough for immediate eating pleasure, or to take home and bake later. For all you cookie dough eaters out there, there is only one word: Bliss.

Statue of Liberty and Ellis Island

Take a ferry to liberty island to see the most iconic statue representing America, freedom, and democracy. Walk around and tour lady liberty up close and personal. Truly an awe-inspiring moment not to be missed. Then venture over to Ellis Island to catch a exclusive glimpse into history. View genealogical records and research your family history. Many people can trace a family member back to this building, as it was once a major immigration hub.

*CityPASS Attraction

St. Patrick's Cathedral

Regardless of religion, this Neo-Gothic style cathedral is an architectural masterpiece worth seeing, at the very least from across the street at Rockefeller Center. Step inside and instantly leave the noise of the city behind you. Feel the almost palpable history in the air as you take in the magnificent wonder of the towering columns and sensationally high ceiling. The quiet and ancient reverence of the building will leave you contemplating the meaning of life as you walk out its doors back into the hustle and bustle of the city.

Sports Games

Catch a basketball game in the heart of downtown NYC with the New York Knicks or ride the subway over the river to see the Brooklyn Nets. Baseball, with its historic nickname of America’s pastime, is also an option. Watch the infamous Yankees play at Yankee Stadium or catch the New York Mets at Citi Field.

9/11 Memorial and Museum

Spend part of a day remembering those that died on that tragic day in recent American history at this beautiful and inspiring memorial. Get a glimpse at the history and majesty of the twin towers and what once was at the adjacent museum.

*CityPASS Attraction (Either/or option. Choose this or Intrepid Sea, Air and Space Museum)

Intrepid Sea, Air and Space Museum

If you are looking for a cool way to bridge the past and the future, look no further than the Intrepid Sea, Air and Space Museum. This unique experience is one kids are sure to find fascinating. Featuring the legendary aircraft carrier Intrepid, the space shuttle Enterprise (the world’s first space shuttle), the Concord (the fastest jet to cross the Atlantic), and a guided missile submarine, this museum is sure to please! If that is not cool enough, this museum also offers overnight adventures (not a part of the CityPASS experience) great for kids ages 6-12. Experience flashlight guided tours, unlimited flight simulator rides, pop-up planetarium shows, as well as dinner, a late-night snack, and breakfast in the morning.

*CityPASS Attraction (Either/or option. Choose this or 9/11 Memorial and Museum)

And there you have it. Approximately 32 activities that you can do when visiting New York City with kids. We hope you enjoy at least a few of them! We would love to hear about your experience. Happy Travels!

Travel Resources | Visiting New York City With Kids

Free New York City Family Travel Map.

Enter your name and email to receive a custom Google map with directions and details on all of the attractions listed in this article.  Utilize this map on your smartphone to plan out your next visit to New York City.

We strongly recommend getting a New York City CityPASS as it will give you access to the top attractions (we’ve marked them in the list above), save you 40%, and allow you to skip ticket lines. New York CityPASS is one of first places available for mobile vouchers, eliminating the need for a booklet or printed vouchers. Simply use your smartphone for access to your attractions of choice. And don’t worry about trying to fit them all into one day since CityPASS gives you nine days after your first attraction.

Mykee Saunders

Mykee Saunders

Owner/Founder

As a writer and mom of four who loves to travel, Mykee designed this website to share tips, tricks, and destinations for meaningful family adventures.  She is passionate about service and recently spearheaded the #familyservicechallenge movement.

5 Comments

  1. We and the kids love New York. It’s an amazingly happy place to be, on vacaion 😀 But there are some places on here we have yet to see. I’m going to save this post to refer to the next time we visit, probably in the summer. Thanks

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