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Best Things To Do In New York City With Young Kids

A young girl rides her bike with the Manhattan skyline behind her.
Photo Courtesy: Elizabeth Dank MacIntyre

If you’re searching for things to do in New York City with young kids, you’re in the right place! From Brooklyn to the Bronx, parents with little children won’t have to worry about keeping busy in this dynamic city. Though NYC may be renowned for its nightlife, cultural sites, and more excursions geared toward older kids or adults, you’ll still be able to plan a great itinerary if you’re visiting with young kids. Families can walk around Central Park, for example, or visit one of the city’s many museums. Animal lovers will treasure their time at the Bronx Zoo; meanwhile, the whole family can enjoy a Gazillion Bubble Show. So, next time you need things to do in New York City with young kids, our list can tell you everything you need to know, including hotel suggestions. Keep reading for our parent-approved advice! 

Things to Do in Central Park With Young Kids

Central Park is a classic NYC attraction, and should definitely be on your itinerary! Plus, it’s also one of the best free things to do in New York City with young kids! If you need suggestions on things to do in Central Park with young kids, keep reading! 

Walk Around Central Park

A mom and two kids sit on a large rock surrounded by fall foliage while exploring Central Park, one of the best things to do New York City with young kids.
Photo Courtesy: Nophar Levy Palumbo

Central Park’s sprawling landscape is great for a day of relaxing and roaming with young kids. Take a spin on the famous Central Park Carousel, located along East 65th Street. Near 79th Street, enjoy the view from the historic Belvedere Castle. Kids will delight in all the funky equipment at the Ancient Playground near East 86th St and 5th Avenue. We also recommend checking out the unique architecture at the Billy Johnson Playground near 67th Street. Or, the Heckscher Playground on 65th St. During the summer, pack a picnic to eat on the lush greenery. Listen to a free summer concert, go boating, biking, and race model sailboats. Book a fishing trip through the Charles A. Dana Discovery Center. At Wollman Rink, enjoy the annual Victorian Gardens Amusement Park. Or, head to Wollman Rink in the winter to ice skate. Another, Lasker Rink, is located further north near 110th Street.

Spot Wildlife at the Central Park Zoo

A zookeeper feeds a seal at the Central Park Zoo, one of the best things to do New York City with young kids.
Photo Courtesy: Central Park Zoo

Get the New York Sightseeing Pass here! The Central Park Zoo is an admissions option with this pass.

The Central Park Zoo is another fantastic place to spend the day with young kids. Located along East 65th Street and 5th Avenue, this family-friendly establishment showcases grizzly bears, sea lions, and more unique creatures. Grab a map before your visit, because there’s a lot to cover! Kids will love walking through immersive exhibits like the Tropic Zone, with lemurs, Victoria-crowned pigeons, and other exotic animals. Of course, don’t miss other popular exhibits, like the Snow Leopard section or Grizzly Bear Overlook. In the Polar Circle, see penguins, puffins, and harbor seals. Then, say hello to sea lions in the Central Garden. Remember to stop by the Temperate Habitat to spot rare red pandas and snow monkeys! Interactive experiences for the whole family include 4-D Theather showings, or penguin and sea lion feedings. There’s also a small petting zoo for children. Buy your tickets beforehand to avoid any waiting. 

See a Performance at the Swedish Cottage Marionette Theater 

Three puppets, two people and one duck, on stage at a production for the Swedish Cottage Marionette Theater, one of the best things to do New York City with young kids.
Photo Courtesy: City Parks Foundation

Looking for an enriching way to entertain young kids in Central Park? Try The Swedish Cottage Marionette Theater on 79th Street near Central Park West! Located in a historic Swedish cottage from the 1800s, this quaint theater puts on super fun puppet shows for families of all ages. No wonder it’s one of the best things to do in New York City with young kids! Based on children’s classics, like Peter Pan, these interactive shows are perfect for children who aren’t quite ready for Broadway yet. Enjoy incredible music, acting, and even lighting optical illusions during the 50-minute show. Parents usually sit on the sidelines to give kids a good view of the stage, so they can have fun among friends too. The City Parks Foundation also provides some other activities for young kids to complete at home or during their visit, like special coloring pages or arts and crafts. 

The Swedish Cottage Marionette Theater is currently closed temporarily due to COVID-19, but plans to reopen soon following state guidelines.

Things to Do in the Upper West Side with Young Kids

If you’re exploring the Upper West Side and need things to do with young kids, you won’t be hard-pressed to find options. Here are some family favorites! 

Get to Know the Animals at the American Museum of Natural History

The American Museum of Natural History is an admission option with CityPass New York City or The New York Sightseeing Pass!

Watch fossils come to life at the American Museum of Natural History! Kids will feel like they’ve entered their very own viewing of Night at the Museum – complete with thousands of prehistoric artifacts! Accessible via the B or C train to 81st St, this family-friendly museum splits exhibits based on location, such as Asia, America, and Africa. See the amazement on your kids’ faces as exhibits display life-size dinosaurs, Alaskan brown bears, sea creatures, and other animals. Watch out for the giant blue whale hovering over the main area! Visit in the morning so you have enough time to see as much as possible because one day might not be enough with young kids. Between Hayden Planetarium, a Sea Lion movie, and special rotating exhibitions, it’s entertainment for the whole family! No wonder this is one of the best things to do in New York City with young kids.

Challenge Your Creativity at the Children’s Museum of Manhattan

Left Image: A young girl plays at the presidential exhibit at the Chidlren's Museum. Right Image: A young toddler walks across a colorful bridge inside the Children's Musuem of Manhattan, one of the best things to do New York City with young kids.
Photo Courtesy: Rachel Rapisarda

Enjoy five floors of fun at the Children’s Museum of Manhattan! Located on West 83rd Street between Broadway and Amsterdam Ave, you could easily add this stop to your vacation itinerary. After all, it’s one of the best things to do in New York City with young kids! Exhibitions will get little ones thinking, from the environmental center, which has an outdoor water section, to the first-floor art gallery. Kids will surely get a kick out of climbing through a giant, kaleidoscopic sculpture! There’s also a hands-on, interactive exhibit where kids can pretend they’re the stars of their very own comic book. Don’t forget about joining Diego and Dora on their adventures on the second floor! Every exhibit caters to different ages, but most are suitable for kids between two and ten years old. The Children’s Museum of Manhattan also provides families with various educational resources, like classes for kids. 

Roam Riverside Park

A young boy peeks his face outside of a hippo mouth while playing at a local NYC playground.
Photo Courtesy: Alison Minde

Searching for the best free things to do in New York City with young kids? Roam Riverside Park! Spanning 72nd to 158th Street along the Hudson River, this waterfront park is popular with families thanks to its abundance of entertainment for all ages. One of the best attractions here for kids is the various playgrounds located throughout the park, like the Hippo Playground by 91st and Riverside Drive. It features a large lawn area, sandboxes, and also some famous hippo sculptures that spout water during the summer months! If you have a dinosaur lover in your family, don’t hesitate to also visit the Dinosaur Playground on 97th Street and Riverside Drive. Other fun playgrounds for kids include the Elephant Playground on 76th Street, or the Little Engine Playground on 67th Street. Aside from the playgrounds, feel free to explore the park, sit by the water, and enjoy the view!

Things to Do in Downtown Manhattan with Young Kids

Need things to do in downtown Manhattan with young kids? We have lots of suggestions, so keep reading! 

A young girl rides on the The Seaglass Carousel, one of the best things to do New York City with young kids.
Photo Courtesy: Rebecca Giguere

What if you could take a spin on a beautiful underwater carousel? The Seaglass Carousel at Battery Park Conservatory can recreate this one-of-a-kind experience! Enclosed within its own building, this magical merry-go-round glows and changes color as it spins. But, instead of horses, it’s all vibrant fish! The Seaglass Carousel will transport your kids into an underwater fantasy far removed from the hustle and bustle of New York. If you’re sightseeing in the area, make a quick stop here to liven up your trip. (Visit after nightfall for even more spectacular visuals!) Open all year round, it’s always a great family activity regardless of the season. It’s also a great rainy day activity in New York City with young kids. Plus, ticket bundles save you money, so it makes more sense for the whole family to ride! Afterward, you can also take kids to the Imagination Playground on South St.

Visit the Children’s Museum of the Arts

Left Image: A young boy smiles as he paints at the Children’s Museum of the Arts. Right Image: A young girl dabs her paint brush while sitting with her easel at the Children’s Museum of the Arts, one of the best things to do New York City with young kids.
Photo Courtesy: Gunjan Prakash

Visiting the Children’s Museum Of The Arts is definitely one of the best things to do in New York City with young kids! Located in Lower Manhattan’s Hudson Square neighborhood, kids and adults alike can get their hands dirty at this family-friendly museum. Enjoy interactive exhibits and unique workshops designed to inspire children and spark creativity. The Children’s Museum of Arts consists of two sections: the galleries and the workshops. In the galleries, children can immerse themselves in the hands-on exhibits to learn more about the artistic process. Past versions have included shows about space, among other subjects. Then, in the workshops, they can put their knowledge to the test! From Screenprints to oil painting, clay, collages, sculpting, animation, and sound art, your little one will leave class feeling like a budding artist. Check the schedule for when you’re visiting, because a few workshops require sign-up ahead of time. 

The Children’s Museums of The Arts is temporarily closed due to COVID-19, but plans to reopen soon in line with New York City’s guidelines. Learn more here.

Touch Slime at the Sloomoo Institute

The Sloomoo Institute is your family’s one-stop-shop for all things slime! Located between Broome and Grand Street along Broadway, this experimental pop-up lets kids get up close and personal with all types of funky textures. Sink your hands into over 30 vats of slime, experience the ASMR sound station, and see some CGI renderings. Little ones can even “tag” the museum’s slime wall by smearing all different colors on it! Or, build slime sandcastles in the toy area. To make your own slime, they can do so at the DIY slime bar. Plus, if you really want to get down and dirty, the Sloomoo Institute offers the ultimate slime adventure. Walk through 250 gallons of it as you take a special “slime shower!” Beware that your visit here can get sticky fast, so we suggest bringing some wipes or even a vinegar solution to remove the slime.

Burn Energy On A Playground

Six kids play amongst several large blue foam pieces at the Imagination Playground, one of the best things to do New York City with young kids.
Photo Courtesy: NYC Parks

Exploring downtown Manhattan with young kids and need a break from all the sightseeing? You’ll be happy to know there are plenty of playgrounds to stop in for a respite! Not only is this a fantastic way to get your kids tired and ready for bed, but it’s also one of the best free things to do in New York City with young kids. In Battery Park, stop by Nelson A. Rockefeller Park overlooking the Hudson River. It has a large garden to roam through, plus a traditional playground kids will love. Families visiting Chelsea will cherish the opportunity to stop at Chelsea Waterside Playground on West 23rd Street. Kids will delight in spotting the park’s most popular guest: a 22-foot long rainbow structure in the shape of a pipefish! There’s also a sandbox, water play area, and more for little ones. 

Things to Do in Midtown Manhattan with Young Kids

Midtown Manhattan houses some of the best things to do in New York City with young kids, so you should add it to your itinerary. Enjoy Times Square, the famous 42nd St Library, Pips Island, and more! 

Watch the Gazillion Bubble Show

A performer on stage creates a huge bubble during the Gazillion Bubble Show.
Photo Courtesy: Rachita Sethi Reddy

Watch thousands of bubbles float around you at the Gazillion Bubble Show! Located on 50th Street and 8th Ave, adjacent to Manhattan’s Theater District, this off-broadway production provides fun for the whole family. During this interactive, one-hour show, you’ll be transported into a whimsical world of bubble magic, complete with special laser lighting effects! Watch in amazement as you see all kinds of funky shapes fill the room, made from just soap, water, and some dry ice. Plus, the closer you are to the stage, the bigger the chance some bubbles will land on you! It’s also great entertainment for little kids because the performers usually pick volunteers from the audience to come on stage and participate. Show off your skills to an audience, then get some bubbles to take home with you. It’ll truly be an unforgettable experience for everyone! 

Browse the Toy Shops

Four kids watch a staff member make a customized race car for kids at FAO Schwarz, one of the best things to do New York City with young kids.
Photo Courtesy: FAO Schwarz

Midtown Manhattan is home to some of the best toy stores in New York, so definitely take advantage of the location while you’re visiting. Many families head to Rockefeller Plaza just to visit the famous FAO Schwarz, a must-see attraction for any age. Before you head in, stop to take a picture with the security guards dressed in Buckingham Palace attire! Kids will love exploring all the giant stuffed plush toys in the store. Plus, they’ll also be excited to learn there’s a special Build-A-Bear Workshop inside! Little ones can design and dress their very own furry friend to take home as a memento of your trip. If you’d rather visit a bigger Build-A-Bear Workshop, there’s a larger location near 34th Street. Other toy shops around Midtown include The Lego Store on 5th Avenue or the Nintendo Store. Budding artists may even enjoy a visit to the MoMa Design Store!

Listen to Story Time at the Stavros Niarchos Foundation Library 

A large lion mascot holds a book outside the NYPL The New York Public Library.
Photo Courtesy: NYPL The New York Public Library

Though New York City is renowned for its 42nd Street Library, it isn’t the only library in Midtown. Since the 42nd Street Library is temporarily closed, head to the nearby Stavros Niarchos Foundation Library to get your daily dose of literature. Recently opened, this new destination features a ton of books kids can browse, plus other fun stuff to do! Visit the new Children’s Center, which provides anything from story time to homework resources. If you feel like reading with a view, you can also grab a book and head to the Event Center and Rooftop Terrace. Stop here for a quick bite at the cafe or simply to look around. Afterward, head to nearby Bryant Park for family fun no matter the season. Kids can ride Le Carousel, check out the outdoor reading carts, or go ice skating in the winter! 

Meet the Characters in Times Square 

Two kids stand with characters such as Hello Kitty, Elsa, and Mickey Mouse while exploring Times Square, one of the best things to do New York City with young kids.
Photo Courtesy: Gunjan Prakash

Times Square should be on every family’s bucket list! Between wandering cartoon characters and flashing bright lights, this popular area on 42nd street is sure to dazzle any kid. Though it may seem a bit corny, young children are sure to love taking photographs with Elmo, Pikachu, and other characters wandering the area. You may even spot the tin man or infamous naked cowboy! Plus, aside from walking around, there’s so much to do in Times Square with young kids. Visit the Disney Store, take a trip to Midtown Comics, or see Ripley’s Believe It Or Not! Then, when you’re ready to satisfy your sweet tooth, head to the M&M Store. No matter what you choose to do in Times Square, we’re sure it’ll be a highlight on your trip. After all, it’s one of the best free things to do in New York City with young kids! 

Enjoy an Afternoon at the American Girl Place

Doll lovers can’t miss a chance to visit the American Girl Place! Located off Rockefeller Plaza, this huge department store is a one-stop shop for buying, dressing, and enjoying quality time with American Girl Dolls. If kids don’t own one yet, visit the store to buy your first! With limited-edition dolls and permanent models, you’ll be able to choose from a variety of adorable options, each with a unique style. (Kids can even help customize their own to look like them!) Then, browse the store to find accessories, clothes, and whatever else you need. There are also other special experiences to enjoy with your doll. Make a reservation for lunch or dinner and kids can eat a tasty meal alongside their favorite companion. Or, head to the salon for a makeover to match your doll! To make the experience even more memorable, parents can hire a personal shopper. 

Learn about Maritime History at the Intrepid Air and Space Museum

Two boys stand in front of two large planes at the Intrepid Air & Space Museum, one of the best things to do New York City with young kids.
Photo Courtesy: Kelli Levesque Wein

The Intrepid Air and Space Museum is included as an admissions option through CityPASS New York City or The New York Sightseeing Pass!

Learn about maritime history at the Intrepid Air & Space Museum! Nestled on Pier 86 on West 46th St and 12th Ave, kids will love how this family-friendly museum is located on an actual ship. It also has comprehensive exhibits detailing the history of The Cold War, nuclear submarines, airplanes, and anything else you can think of. Aside from the actual history, the experience is more about hands-on interaction, which is perfect for young kids. Little ones will love the replica aircraft carriers they can climb in, and, of course, the star of the show: The Space Shuttle. You can also visit the crew’s quarters and try the 4D simulator. It’s so realistic you’ll feel you’re actually on a plane! Afterward, check out the Submarine Growler, the only American guided missile submarine open to the public. Get a glimpse at the crew’s quarters, control center, and even the torpedo room! 

Things to Do in Brooklyn with Young Kids

If you’re exploring Brooklyn and wondering what to do with young kids, look no further! From museums to outdoor parks, there’s plenty for little ones to enjoy. Here are our favorites!

Book a unique food tour or a pizza walk through Brooklyn with Viator here!

Put Your Imagination to Work at the Brooklyn Children’s Museum

Left Image: A mom and her young child play at a water table at the Brooklyn Children's Museum. Right Image: A mom and her young child play in a bus exhibit at the Brooklyn Chidlren's Musuem, one of the best things to do New York City with young kids.
Photo Courtesy: Sherry Chen

Spending a few hours at the Brooklyn Children’s Museum is one of the best things to do in New York City with young kids. Located in a primarily residential neighborhood near Prospect Park, this hidden gem has lots of fun exhibits to keep families entertained. Permanent installations include The Sensory Room, where kids can enjoy touch, sound, and sight exercises, and The Nest, an outdoor climbing structure located on the museum’s terrace. There’s even a Totally Tots section for the museum’s tiniest visitors, with water, sand, and other sensory games. At the Science Inquiry Center, learn about the environment and local animals in the area. Right now, families can also enjoy a temporary maze exhibition on the second floor. The Brooklyn Children’s Museum also hosts a range of programs for all ages. Try your hand at Making Art in the Color Lab to inspire your little budding creative! 

Explore Brooklyn Bridge Park 

A brightly lit carousel with the Brooklyn Bridge Park in the distance.
Photo Courtesy: Rebecca Giguere

Explore Brooklyn Bridge Park as a family to see DUMBO from a new vantage point! Providing a great view of the bridge, families can sprawl out in this urban oasis. (It’s also one of the best free things to do in New York City with kids!) With multiple picnic areas throughout the park, spend an afternoon in the shade. Once you’re done, feel free to explore! Kids will love the many playgrounds scattered throughout the park, some of which have sprinklers to cool down on a hot day. Visit the Environment Education Center to learn more about the history, architecture, and ecology of the waterfront. Sometimes, the park also hosts various events families may enjoy, including summer reading storytimes. Of course, the Brooklyn Bridge Park is also a convenient gateway to the famous Jane’s Carousel. Take a spin on this antique merry-go-round while you overlook the twinkling Brooklyn Bridge! 

Travel Back in Time at the NYC Transit Museum

Two kids look at an interactive screen at the New York Transit Museum.
Photo Courtesy: New York Transit Museum

Dive into the city’s underground history at the New York Transit Museum! Located in a vintage subway car, this downtown Brooklyn museum features fun, interactive exhibits the whole family can enjoy. In addition to rotating shows, the museum also has a permanent collection for guests to learn more about the transit system. Kids will love spotting old subway artifacts such as turnstiles, conductor uniforms, and more. Even better, since the museum is housed within an old subway station, it’ll be a completely immersive experience – almost as if you’re traveling back in time! Don’t forget about the museum’s restored fleets of subway cars and buses, which you can see inside, touch, and pretend you’re really riding. You’ll learn lots of contextual information, and it’s a wonderful place to let kids run around for a few. There’s also a food court on-site if you’re hungry afterward, and a Shake Shack nearby. ‘

The NYC Transit Museum is closed temporarily due to COVID-19, but plans to reopen soon following state guidelines. Learn more here.

Things to Do in the Bronx with Young Kids

If you’re visiting the Bronx with young kids, you’re probably wondering about things to do. Here’s our suggestion! 

Encounter Wildlife at the Bronx Zoo

The Bronx Zoo is an admission option through The New York Sightseeing Pass! Reserve your pass here!

The Bronx Zoo puts exotic animals right in the heart of New York City! Luckily for nature-loving families, you don’t have to travel far to get a glimpse at some. You can get here via the Metro-North to Fordham, a short car ride, or by taking the subway uptown. From penguins to lions, tigers, owls, and snakes, the Bronx Zoo has every animal kids love and then some. Though it’s open all year round, most of the famous animals are on display during the summer. Kids will love various experiences like feeding sea lions or penguins, riding the Bug Carousel, or taking the Nature Trek. Visit during winter and you can see the holiday light show! Families who really want to know more about the animals can even consider booking a tour, which will make tackling the zoo much easier. Wear comfortable shoes, because you’ll be walking a lot! 

Where to Stay in New York City with Young Kids

The entrance lobby to the Greenwich Hotel in Manhattan.
Photo Courtesy: Greenwich Hotel

Need accommodations in New York City for young kids? Families staying in lower Manhattan will love the Millenium Hilton Hotel in the Financial District or the trendy Greenwich Hotel in Tribeca. If you’re looking for somewhere to stay in Midtown Manhattan, try the Loews Regency New York or the Crowne Plaza Times Square Manhattan, which also has a Kids’ Club. For a true luxury experience, we also recommend the nearby St. Regis New York.

Looking for NYC hotel deals? Try booking through Kayak here!

Happy Travels! 

Photo Courtesy: Sherry Chen

We hope you liked this list of Best Things To Do In New York City With Young Kids! Whether you’ll be visiting Brooklyn, Manhattan, or the Bronx, we know you’ll love visiting the Big Apple as a family. Enjoy New York City with kids! 

Prepare kids for your upcoming trip to NYC by doing some of the activities listed in our Travel From Home: New York City guide!

*Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, some of the attractions, accommodations, or things to do on this list may be closed. Please ensure availability before making your decision. 

*This post may contain affiliate links that may earn us a small commission, at no additional cost to you. Affiliate links in no way inform the hotels, sights, products, or other recommendations included in our articles. All opinions and recommendations expressed here are compiled from submissions submitted by the generous members of our Families Who Love To Travel community.

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