Planning an NYC itinerary with kids isn’t as hard as it sounds. Whether you want to spend the day exploring museums, traversing Central Park, or taking classic city culture, this itinerary is for you. Divided into locations, we’ve gathered up some of the best things to do in popular places like The Upper East Side, Midtown Manhattan, and even Brooklyn. As a plus, the schedules are super flexible, so you could always mix and match whatever options appeal to you. Maybe you want to spend time shopping or seeing a Broadway show? Or, perhaps, you’d prefer to spend the day outdoors at a playground. Whatever NYC vacation you have in mind, we’re sure it’ll live up to your expectations. We’ve even included some optional choices that don’t necessarily fit into this itinerary, but are still worth considering. Keep reading for our Exciting 5-Day NYC Itinerary With Kids of All Ages!
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Day 1: Explore the Upper East Side
Spend your first day exploring the Upper East Side. Here, you’ll find classic NYC itinerary options like Museum Mile and the Lexington Candy Shop.
Option 1: Take a Stroll Down Museum Mile
If you have teens who love art or history, Museum Mile is a must. Spanning 82nd Street to 105th Street along 5th Avenue, this crowded stretch is famous for its string of world-class institutions. Of course, you should start with the Metropolitan Museum of Art, also known as the largest museum in the United States. You can see anything from Egyptian artifacts to modern art in its huge collection! Meanwhile, European art is in abundance at the Neue Galerie New York. Get your daily dose of modern art at the Solomon R Guggenheim Museum. Then, see art in an upscale mansion at the Frick Collection. Or, visit the Jewish History Museum. Families can also visit El Museo Del Barrio on 104th Street to learn more about New York’s diverse culture. Nearby, The Museum of the City Of New York gives a great backstory on the city.
Option 2: Satisfy Your Sweet Tooth
What better way to spend a day in New York City than by sampling some delicious dessert? While you’re on the Upper East Side, you can visit local candy shops like Dylan’s Candy Bar. Located on East 60th Street and 3rd Avenue, kids who visit here can fill their bags to the brim from two floors of tasty goodies! If you’d rather have a sit-down experience, try Serendipity 3 for incredible frozen hot chocolate or unique ice cream flavors. Other candy shops in the area include The Sweet Shop NYC and 85th Candy. Kids will also love the retro, old-school diner ambiance at Lexington Candy Shop, which specializes in egg creams, milkshakes, and other classic sweet treats. Families looking to enjoy afternoon tea accompanied by pastries, scones, and other delicacies can book a table at Alice’s Tea Cup. Or, channel your inner Eloise at The Plaza Hotel!
Day 2: Wander Around the Upper West Side
The Upper West Side offers plenty to do for families, including must-see locations like the American Museum Of Natural History, the Swedish Marionette Theater, and Riverside Park.
Option 1: History, Culture, and Creativity
Manhattan’s Upper West Side is the next stop on our NYC itinerary with kids. First, head to the American Museum Of Natural History, a must-visit for young or elementary school-aged children. Kids will love looking at the dinosaur fossils, watching stars twinkle in the Hayden Planetarium, and seeing the giant blue whale in the main area! Children who want to challenge their creativity can’t miss the Children’s Museum of Manhattan on West 83rd Street between Broadway and Amsterdam Ave. Here, you’ll find a variety of hands-on exhibits, as well as an outdoor section. History buffs may also fancy a visit to the New-York Historical Society. Inside, you’ll find a special section dedicated to kids between the ages of eight and thirteen called the DiMenna Children’s History Museum. Parents with younger kids may want to consider seeing a show at the Swedish Marionette Theater on 79th Street and Central Park West.
Option 2: Get Active Outdoors
Would you rather spend your New York City vacation enjoying the great outdoors? It may sound surprising at first, but the Upper West Side is a great place to do so! Try one of the best free things to do in New York City with young kids and Roam Riverside Park. Spanning 72nd to 158th Street along the Hudson River, this waterfront park is popular with families thanks to many playgrounds. Check out the Hippo Playground by 91st and Riverside Drive, the Dinosaur Playground on 97th Street and Riverside Drive, or the Elephant Playground on 76th Street. In the summer, kids will love spotting ships travel through the 79th Street Boat Basin. Afterward, you can take a walk along Riverside Drive and spot all the old-style buildings. Or, rent a bike to cruise down the Hudson River Greenway, a 12.9-mile path that runs along Manhattan’s West Side.
Day 3: Chill in Central Park
Central Park deserves a day all to itself! But there are a few ways you can enjoy one of NYC’s best sites. Here are some ideas for families!
Option 1: Visit the Zoo and a Playground (or Two!)
A trip to New York City would be incomplete without a stop in Central Park. Of course, kids will adore the Central Park Zoo, home to a Snow Leopard section, a Grizzly Bear Overlook, and a Polar Circle, among other habitats. Also located along East 65th Street, ride the famous Central Park Carousel. Near 79th Street, there’s the historic Belvedere Castle, which provides a great view of the landscape. Want to visit a playground with your kids? Head to the Ancient Playground near East 86th St and 5th Avenue, the Billy Johnson Playground near 67th Street, or the Heckscher Playground on 65th St. Other seasonal activities to enjoy in Central Park include summer picnics, free summer concerts, and biking. Families can also go boating, race model sailboats, and have fun at the annual Victorian Gardens Amusement Park. In the winter, ice skate at Wollman Rink.
Pro Tip: Remember Central Park is huge, so you could easily keep exploring beyond this list. Or, head elsewhere in NYC by mix and matching one of the options from this NYC itinerary with kids!
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Day 4: Meander Midtown Manhattan
Ready for a bit of shopping? Midtown Manhatten offers a vareity of shops, shows, and more!
Option 1: Browse the Shops, Then See a Show
Midtown Manhattan is a hotspot for shopping and entertainment, so we definitely recommend a little bit of both! Kids will love the toy shops located around Rockefeller Center, like FAO Schwarz. Take a photo with the guard, then head inside to play with the interactive piano! If your child has an American Girl Doll or wants one, you can’t miss the American Girl Place. Prospective artists will love the MoMa Design Store. Meanwhile, gamers can visit The Lego Store on 5th Avenue or the Nintendo Store. Parents will find plenty of luxury stores on 5th Avenue, ranging from Saks to Versace. Afterward, see a local show in Midtown. Of course, the area is famous for Broadway, which boasts kid-friendly classics such as The Lion King and Frozen. To see a more casual show, buy tickets for The Gazillion Bubble Show. Young kids will love this interactive spectacular!
Option 2: Visit Famous NYC Landmarks
Get your steps in by seeing some of New York City’s famous landmarks. Start on 34th street and 5th Avenue at the Empire State Building for a 360-degree view of the city. Families can even book a Premium Historical Tour to get a better look at the behind-the-scenes. Then, make your way to Bryant Park, which offers family fun no matter the season. You can go ice skating in the winter, visit the Christmas market, or ride Le Carousel. Nearby, there’s the main branch of the New York Public Library. Even if you don’t go inside, appreciate the sheer size of the ornate building. Kids can take pictures with the lion statues. Afterward, you’re just a few blocks away from Times Square, an attraction for all ages. Little kids will love all the flashing lights and the opportunity to meet their favorite characters like Elmo or Mario!
Day 5: Get to Know Downtown Manhattan
You will find a lot to love about Downtown Manhattan! From meandering SoHo to attractions along the water, your kids will love spending the day exploring downtown.
Option 1: Enjoy Family Fun Overlooking the Water
Want to enjoy quality time by the waterfront? Head to The Battery, formerly known as Battery Park. Here, you can stroll through The Battery Gardens, pack a picnic to eat on The Battery Woodland, or rent a bike to ride along the Battery Bikeway. Kids will love taking a spin on the Seaglass Carousel or cooling off in the Bosque Fountain! The Battery is also an access point for boats going to The Statue of Liberty, so it’s ideal for families who want to see both places. Afterward, you can branch out into the surrounding area and see some other famous New York City attractions. About a fifteen-minute walk away, you can visit One World Trade Center, then the 9/11 Memorial Museum. It may not be a suitable stop on an NYC itinerary if you have young kids, but older kids will appreciate it.
Option 2: See the Sights in SoHo
SoHo is known for its shopping, culture, and incredible dining scene. Save at least one afternoon to explore during your NYC itinerary with kids, because it’ll be totally worth the time! Shops like Adidas, The Northface, and Uniqlo are usually popular with families. Have a potential artist in the family? Take them to The Drawing Center. Little ones will also love getting their hands dirty at the Sloomoo Institute, where they can touch different kinds of slime and even make their own. Of course, nothing says interactive museum quite like the Museum Of Ice Cream. Slide down the three-story ice cream portal, dance through the Rainbow Tunnel, and then hop in a pool full of sprinkles! If you want to taste some more sweets, head to Georgetown Cupcake for an afternoon delight. Or, you could take a short walk to nearby Little Italy and try some authentic Italian gelato!
Day 5: Have a Blast in Brooklyn
Families will adore Brooklyn! From iconic bridges to family-friendly playgrounds and museums, there is so much to do in Brooklyn with kids!
Option 1: Walk the Brooklyn Bridge
Walking the Brooklyn Bridge is a classic New York experience. Though many people choose to start on the Brooklyn side and proceed to Manhattan, you could do the opposite. You’ll still get the same great views, but with fewer crowds as you make your way to Brooklyn. Once you reach the other side, make your way to Brooklyn Bridge Park to overlook the waterfront. Here, you’ll find playgrounds for kids, the Environment Education Center, and Jane’s Carousel. Depending on what time of year you’re visiting, there’s plenty of seasonal ways to keep entertained too, like the summer reading storytimes. Then, you can walk around Dumbo, and maybe take a picture on the iconic Washington Street with the bridge in the background. The Brooklyn Flea, open seasonally on Sundays, is great for bargain hunting. If you’re hungry for a bite to eat, visit Grimaldi’s Pizzeria for a brick oven pie.
Option 2: Learn Something New at One of the Many Museums
Museums are a treasure trove of knowledge for kids, especially in Brooklyn. First, visit the New York Transit Museum in Downtown Brooklyn. It’ll feel like you’re traveling back in time as you spot old subway artifacts like turnstiles, conductor uniforms, and more. Kids will be super excited to walk through the museum’s collection of restored fleets. See and actually touch the inside of old subway cars and buses! For a quick pick-me-up after your museum visit, head to nearby Junior’s Restaurant & Bakery for an awesome slice of cheesecake (and maybe a coffee for parents). Though it’s a little out-of-the-way in a residential neighborhood, the Brooklyn Children’s Museum is another great option for curious young kids. Or, you could head further south to visit the famous Brooklyn Museum. Make it a two-for-one trip on a sunny day and stop for a picnic in Prospect Park or the Brooklyn Botanical Gardens.
Additional New York City Activities with Kids
There are a few New York City attractions that don’t fit neatly into this itinerary, but are still worth mentioning. On a sunny day, walk along The High Line, a 1.45-mile public park along 10th Avenue from Gansevoort Street to 30th Street. Once you reach the conclusion, walk a few blocks to reach Hudson Yards. Here, you’ll find a variety of stores, plus The Hudson Yards Vessel. Afterward, you can get your daily dose of maritime history at the Intrepid Air & Space Museum, located on Pier 86 on West 46th St and 12th Ave. If the Central Park Zoo wasn’t enough to satisfy your little animal enthusiast, then The Bronx Zoo should do the trick. Or, head to South Brooklyn to visit The New York Aquarium and Coney Island. New York City also has a few other islands worth seeing: Ellis Island, Little Island, and Governors Island.
Where to Stay in New York City with Kids
Need family-friendly hotels in New York City? If you’re staying in Lower Manhattan, you’ll 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 Omni Berkshire Place, which also has a Kids’ Club. For a true luxury experience, we also recommend the nearby St. Regis New York. Regardless of which hotel you choose, you’ll be nearby a variety of activities on this NYC itinerary with kids!
We hope you liked this Exciting 5-Day NYC Itinerary With Kids of All Ages! Whether you’ll be visiting Brooklyn, Manhattan, or the Bronx, we know you’ll love the Big Apple. Enjoy New York City with your kids!
*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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