"Start spreading the news
I'm leaving today
I want to be a part of it
New York, New York."
Sinatra's famous song could easily be my life's anthem. Though I have a great fondness for a number of cities throughout the world, none sings the siren call to my soul like New York City.
Recently Marvin and I had the pleasure of sharing our love of New York with our son for the first time.
In this post, I will tell you all my favorite things to do with kids in Manhattan. You will not find suggestions for the other boroughs, though I love the walk across the Brooklyn Bridge, the walk along the Brooklyn Promenade, the Bronx Zoo, and the New York Botanical Gardens.
Read more to find ideas for kid-friendly things to do in New York, NY.
1. M&M World
With M&M-themed merchandise, from clothing and accessories to coffee mugs to entire walls full of colorful M&Ms, M&M World is a fun little stop for the whole family.
2. FAO Schwarz
This iconic toy store has been around since the late 1800s. With every kind of toy under the sun, the kids will love browsing this toy store located at Rockefeller Plaza.
3. Disney Store
Can you find Disney stores elsewhere? Of course! But the Times Square Disney Store offers uniquely New-York-themed toys, like Minnie Mouse as the Statue of Liberty.
4. Hershey World
Get your chocolate fix and find lots of great souvenirs at Hershey World in Times Square.
It's never too early to introduce your kids to the wonders of shopping in Chinatown. Just be aware of the purveyors of fake watches and bags, and don't be afraid to haggle!
6. American Girl Place
My friend recently took her granddaughter to New York, and one of her favorite stops was at American Girl Place, located in Rockefeller Plaza. Spoil your special kid with a doll and companion book, and enjoy a drink or a bite from the cafe.
Parks and Green Spaces
7. Central Park
No trip to New York is complete without a visit to iconic Central Park. Sadly, the carousel is not operational at the moment, but the playgrounds are open, as well as the Central Park Zoo, where you and the kids can see penguins and puffins, land birds of all sizes, reptiles, and more! Visit the children's zoo to feed the goats and sheep. While at Central Park, you can also splurge a little on a carriage ride - sure to be an unforgettable experience for the smallest members of your family! You'll also find numerous photo opportunities on bridges, under bridges, overlooking the water, with the skyline in the background, and with the various statues around the park. You can literally spend an entire day in Central Park, so grab sandwiches from one of the many New York delis nearby and plan a picnic in the park.
8. Little Island
This completely man-made park at Pier 55 in the Meatpacking District offers food trucks and great views over the Hudson, including a view of Lady Liberty herself.
9. Bryant Park
With movies during the summer and ice skating in the winter, the nearly 10-acre Bryant Park offers fun year-round. Take the kids on a carousel ride, treat yourselves to a coffee from Joe Coffee, and enjoy a sweet treat from Wafels and Dinges.
10. Madison Square Park
This 7-acre park with views of the Flatiron Building offers tranquil green space, a dog park, a fountain, and perfect people-watching opportunities.
11. Union Square
Not only does Union Square have a nice green space for the littles to run around, but it also offers the Union Square Greenmarket, where you'll find artisanal foods and local produce, as well as unique gifts.
12. Battery Park
Battery Park itself offers tons of green space, plus the SeaGlass Carousel (definitely the most interesting carousel we've seen). It is also the jumping-off point for Liberty Island and Ellis Island tours.
13. Columbus Park
This park on the corner of Mulberry and Baxter in Chinatown is often the site of street musicians, older folks playing cards, and kids playing soccer.
14. Governors Island
South of Manhattan lies Governors Island. Take the ferry to the island for views of the Statue of Liberty and then wander around the island that is really just one large green space. Take a picnic lunch or enjoy a bite from a food truck. Your older kids may enjoy viewing the historical sites, like Castle Williams, Admiral's House, and Fort Jay.
Spectacular Views of New York
I would consider both of these splurges, and something I would probably not splurge on with kids who are not old enough to remember it. But for older kids, on a clear day, either option is perfect for making lifetime memories.
15. Top of the Rock
Location: Rockefeller Plaza, Midtown
16. Empire State Building
Location: 20 W 34th St, Midtown South
Museums of New York
New York offers a plethora of fabulous museums, from the well-known ones like the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, the Metropolitan Museum of Art, and the Museum of Modern Art, to the lesser-known (but still amazing!) museums like the American Folk Art Museum, the Tenement Museum, and the National Museum of the American Indian. The ones I list below, however, are my favorite museums specifically for kids.
17. Ellis Island
One of the most moving experiences I have had in New York was a visit to Ellis Island. In just 32 years, 12 million immigrants were processed through Ellis Island in search of new, better lives, starting with Annie Moore and her two younger brothers, who left Ireland and arrived in New York on January 1, 1892. Having seen the statue of Annie Moore and her brothers in Cobh, Ireland, makes the experience all the more moving. If you take your children to no other museums in New York, take them to Ellis Island.
18. Children's Museum of Manhattan
This hands-on museum is perfect for younger kids. Located on the Upper West Side, this museum is both fun and educational!
19. American Museum of Natural History
Few museums rival the kid-friendly vibes of the Natural History Museum. Especially if your kids love the Night at the Museum movies, take them to see the huge stuffed animals and other rare displays at the Museum of Natural History in New York's Upper West Side.
20. The Color Factory
This interactive art museum located in SOHO is a big hit with both kids and adults!
21. Museum of Ice Cream
Another SOHO museum for younger kids, older kids, and the young at heart, the Museum of Ice Cream is sure to be a sweet treat!
22. Intrepid Sea, Air, and Space Museum
Located along the Hudson River in Hell's Kitchen, the Intrepid Sea, Air, and Space Museum features very large, unique exhibits, like a submarine and space shuttle, and even the museum itself, which is housed on an aircraft carrier! Kids of all ages will love seeing all the things that go!
Interesting Dining Experiences
Some of these options you may have in your hometown; others you probably don't have.
23. Little Italy
Take a walk down Mulberry Street, peruse the menus on display outside, and enjoy a fantastic Italian meal. From superb pastas to excellent seafood dishes, and with sweat treats like cannolis and gelatos, your kids will certainly fill their bellies in Little Italy (and Mom and Dad will like the extensive wine lists!).
You'll find every variety of Chinese cuisine in New York's Chinatown, from Peking duck to soup dumplings to the spicy dishes of Szechuan Province. Definitely take your little foodies to Chinatown!
A great source of entertainment for the littles and bigs alike, excellent hibachi restaurants abound throughout Manhattan.
26. $1 Slices of Pizza
One of our favorite New York treats, slices of thin-crust New York pizza, can be found throughout the city, often for as little as $1 for a slice of cheese pizza. Our favorite is 2 Bros Pizza, but you'll find many other excellent options as well.
27. New York Bagels
Whether they like their bagels with cream cheese and lox, cheese cream and jam, as a breakfast sandwich, and with just plain butter, your kids are sure to love a legit New York bagel.
28. Brazilian Churrascarias
Your kids will delight in the show as gauchos bring spear after spear of hot meats to your table! We loved Churrascaria Plataforma on 49th Street.
29. New York Delis
Nothing beats a delicious deli sandwich from a genuine New York deli. Grab yours to-go and enjoy a picnic lunch in one of New York's beautiful parks.
Other Unique Experiences
30. Walk the High Line
Walking the High Line is one of my favorite things to do in New York. This fabulous walking trail sits atop a (no-longer-in-use) New York Railroad line. With trees, flowers, and ornamental grasses, you can use this walk as an educational experience to learn about the various flora you encounter. You'll also see sculptures, as well as butterflies and bees (seasonally), and great views of the city. Walk the entire 1.45-mile track, or just part of it.
31. See the Lights in Times Square
Though it's possibly the most "touristy" thing you can do in New York, a trip to the Big Apple isn't complete without wandering through Times Square in the evening, taking in the brilliant lights. Keep your kids close and watch as their eyes fill with wonder and amazement.
32. Visit Lady Liberty
One of the most iconic landmarks of the United States, the Statue of Liberty is a must-see. Whether you take the Staten Island Ferry for views of the Statue of Liberty or you take the Liberty Island Ferry to visit Lady Liberty in person, definitely, absolutely take your children to see this most iconic statue. For an added educational experience, help them memorize the poem "The New Colossus" by Emma Lazarus, which was originally inscribed on a plaque and installed on the inner wall of Liberty's pedestal.
33. Watch a Broadway Show
With options like The Lion King, Aladdin, and Harry Potter and the Cursed Child, even your littles can enjoy the magic of Broadway!
34. Ride the New York Subway
Few experiences are as authentic as a ride on New York's extensive subway system. Take a photo of the kids in front of the name of the stop each time you get off the train for a great way for them to look back and say "Oh yeah, I was there!"
35. Ride the New York Ferry
For the same price as a ride on the subway, you can also take a ride on the New York ferry. Two great routes are Midtown West (Pier 79) down to Battery Park City and 34th Street down to DUMBO (Brooklyn).
36. Ride the Roosevelt Island Tramway
This short sky tram runs from 2nd Avenue over to Roosevelt Island. You can take the Astoria-line ferry back to Manhattan or down to Brooklyn if you are so inclined.
37. Grand Central Terminal
Covering 48 acres of prime New York Real Estate in Midtown, Grand Central Station is just that - GRAND! Your little kids will especially love the acoustics and the shopping options, and your older ones will appreciate the grandeur of the architecture.
38. Stephen A. Schwarzman Building
The main branch of the New York Public Library System, the Schwarzman Building is located in Midtown by Bryant Park. Opened as a public library in 1911, the architecture and history draws visitors from all over the world. Take your little readers and explore the stacks.
39. Madame Tussauds New York
The New York branch of the world-famous wax museum is located in the heart of Times Square. A fun, family-friendly activity, Madame Tussauds allows you to take your picture with your favorite celebrities.
Other New York Photo Ops
40. Fearless girl and the Bull
Location: Broad Street, Lower Manhattan
Location: 200 W 53rd St, Midtown
Location: Rockefeller Center, Midtown
43. Flatiron Building
Location: 175 5th Ave, Flatiron District
I hope these ideas have inspired you to take your kiddos to New York and have given you some ideas of what to do while you're there!
For those of you who have taken your kids to New York, did I miss anything? What are your favorite kid-friendly must-do options in New York, NY?
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