Amazing Things To Do In New York With Kids

New York City, NYC, the Big Apple, the city that never sleeps… New York has many nicknames and no matter what you call it there is no denying that it’s an amazing and exciting place to visit as a family. This post shares some of the best things to do in NYC with kids, including:

  • all the top sights and NYC attractions for kids,
  • the best New York City museums to visit
  • parks and green spaces
  • kids activities in NYC
  • things to do on a rainy day
  • unusual things to do in New York
  • free things to do in New York City
  • a month-by-month calendar of annual NYC events
  • the highlights of each season
  • and more!

Things to do in New York with kids

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Visiting New York with children can be a daunting experience – it’s a big, busy, fast-paced city. The good news is that there is a huge number of family-friendly, fun things to do in New York with kids of all ages, from tots to tweens to teens. Read on to find out some of the best New York City attractions for families.

Top sights and attractions

If you’ve been wondering what to do in New York with kids, start with the top sights and attractions. Touristy? Yes. Worth it? YES! Incredible views, educational history, bright lights, open space and architecture – New York City really does have it all.

New York City Explorer Pass

The New York CityPass is a one off fee pass which then allows access to six NYC attractions at a discount of around 40%. These include the Empire State Building, the Museum of Natural History, The Metropolitan Museum of Art, the Statue of Liberty, the Intrepid Sea, Air & Space Museum or 9/11 Museum, the Top of the Rock Observatory or Guggenheim Museum, amongst others.

At most places there is expedited entry for CityPASS holders (except security lines) and save over 40% on the price. Well worth it for families.

Statue of Liberty

Paying a visit to the iconic Statue of Liberty is an essential thing to do in New York with kids. Catch the ferry across to Liberty Island from Battery Park. A stop at Ellis Island, where over 12 million immigrants were processed into America at the start of the 1900’s, is also included in the ferry ticket price. There are three different options for visiting the Statue of Liberty.

1/ You can climb all 393 steps (there’s no elevator) up to the lookout at the top of the crown for breathtaking skyline views across New York City. You’ll need to book tickets (an extra $3 on top of the ferry price) at least six months in advance, be ok with confined spaces and remember that children need to be at least four foot tall to be allowed up.

2/ If heights aren’t your thing or if you have little ones with you, you can visit the pedestal instead which also has fantastic panoramic views of New York Harbour. Tickets for this don’t cost any extra but they do also need to be booked in advance as space is limited. With crown and pedestal tickets you get access to the Statue of Liberty Museum inside the pedestal as well.

3/ Take a guided ranger tour or self guided audio tour (included in your ferry ticket) around the grounds at the base of the statue. The views back to the Manhattan skyline are still excellent and there’s a bit more space for tots to run around.

The Statue of Liberty

Empire State Building

The Empire State Building, one of the most recognisable symbols of New York, boasts two observation decks offering spectacular views over the whole of New York City. The 86th floor is open air and has telescopes that little ones will love peering through to see close ups of distant part of the city.

The 102nd floor observation deck is enclosed and hosts live jazz music on certain nights. Sunset is a popular time to go and kids will enjoy seeing the city being illuminated with it’s night-time lights switching on and starting to twinkle just as the sun goes down.

If you have a CityPASS ticket, you’ll be able to see New York’s most famous skyscraper during the day and again that same evening so you can gaze at the city lit up at night.

The Empire State Building

Top Of The Rock

An alternative option for outstanding views of New York is Top of the Rock, on the 70th floor at the Rockefeller Center. It has less crowds than the viewing platforms at the Empire State Building and bigger observation decks.

Plus it has views of the Empire State Building itself. The impressive art deco skyscraper lights up in a multitude of colours every night depending on the season and any special events that are happening. Kids will love watching this dynamic light show from the best seat in the city.

One World Trade Center

One of the best places to visit in New York is the One World Trade Center. Children will be excited to know that it’s the tallest building in America and the fourth tallest building in the world.

They’ll enjoy the electronic world map in the Global Welcome Center on the ground floor before you head up in a Sky Pod elevator to the 102nd floor in just 47 seconds.

Two floors down on level 100 is the One World Observatory which has extraordinary views across New York’s most famous landmarks as well as three adjoining states.

One World Trade Center
(Photo by Daniel McCullough on Unsplash)

Brooklyn Bridge and DUMBO

Brooklyn Bridge and DUMBO (which stands for ‘Down Under the Manhattan Bridge Overpass’) are really fun places to go with kids in NYC.

Walking across the world’s first suspension bridge (and admiring the views as you go) is a must-do on your travel checklist. Kids who are fans of ‘The Greatest Showman’ will be amazed to learn that in 1884 P.T. Barnum marched 21 elephants over the bridge to prove that it was safe to cross.

The Brooklyn end of Brooklyn Bridge is flanked by Brooklyn Bridge Park and Empire Fulton Park, both of which have playgrounds and family friendly activities suitable for all. More about both of these areas later on in this post.

Brooklyn Bridge
(Photo by Alexander Rotker on Unsplash)

Times Square

Children (and adults!) of all ages will be enthralled with the bright neon lights and relentless hustle & bustle of Times Square. Considered to be the beating heart of New York and ‘the crossroads of the world’, it’s high energy buzz has to be seen and experienced to be believed.

Little ones will enjoy spotting all the costume-clad characters posing for photos and might even get to meet their favourite superhero. Grown ups can people-watch to their heart’s content from the bleachers overlooking the square.

Times Square

The Vessel

The Vessel is a relatively new installation and is one of the coolest things for kids in NYC. It’s Labyrinth-esque, beehive style structure comprises of 154 intricately connected flights of stairs, 2500 individual steps & 80 landings, all of which offer superb views over the city, enabling you to get a completely different and unique perspective of New York.

The Vessel
(Photo by Yoav Aziz on Unsplash)

Museums

New York City is jam-packed full of museums of every kind imaginable. Some unmissable museum highlights and dedicated kids museums in NYC are listed below, though there are many, many more you could explore together as a family.

American Museum of Natural History

The American Museum of Natural History is the largest of it’s kind in the world. It definitely needs to be on your list of things to do in New York with kids.

Spanning four blocks, it’s home to more than 30 million specimens and cultural artefacts including dinosaur fossils, mammals, ocean life, biodiversity and gemstones.

It also hosts the Rose Center for Earth and Space, containing the Hayden Planetarium. Fans of the cosmos will have their eyes opened and their minds blown by the out-of-this-world exhibits on display.

From September through to May there is also a glasshouse Butterfly Conservatory featuring beautiful butterflies from all across the globe.

American Museum of Natural History
(Photo by Aditya Vyas on Unsplash)

Museum of Modern Art (MOMA)

Art lovers will adore the Museum of Modern Art (MoMA), which houses a collection of almost 200,000 paintings, sculptures, photographs, drawings and architectural designs.

A visit to this museum is a great way to introduce little ones to the fascinating world of art, and you’ll get to see masterpieces by Van Gogh, Matisse, Picasso, Cezanne and Warhol.

National September 11 Memorial and Museum

Most adults remember exactly where they were on September 11th 2001 whereas our children weren’t even born. A visit to the National September 11 Memorial and Museum is one of the most important things to do with kids in NYC. Children (younger ones in particular) may not fully understand the events but learning about what happened and the effects of the aftermath is a key part of history.

It’s a deeply moving experience and you’ll see the Reflecting Pools; the ‘In Memoriam’ Gallery which has the names and photographs of those who perished; plus over 10,000 objects in the museum’s collection. Interactive touch screens, videos, audio recordings and testimonials make this a fully immersive experience not to be missed.

For the skip the line and deals see Get Your Guide prices here

National September 11 Memorial
(Photo by Aaron Lee on Unsplash)

Metropolitan Museum of Art (The Met)

One of the top things to do in NYC with kids is to spend time at the Metropolitan Museum of Art (‘The Met’). In total it showcases over two million pieces of art. It has incredible collections of ancient Egyptian, Greek & Roman art; European paintings (including several by Rembrandt and Caravaggio); and American fine art.

There is also a roof garden with a cafe and stunning views over New York City and Central Park.

The Met provides a brochure and map designed specifically for children and holds numerous kid-friendly events on a regular basis, so it really is a great place to explore as a family.

For skip the line tickets via Get Your Guide see here.

Guggenheim Museum

For even more visual decadence, visit the architectural phenomenon that is the Guggenheim Museum. The spiral structure is almost a piece of art itself, both on the inside and from the exterior.

Kids will love winding their way up (or down!) the ramp to see the abstract art collections. There are also pieces by big name artists such as Picasso, Pollock, Monet, Van Gogh and Degas.

Family activity packs are available and various events are run each week including Open Studio, Saturday Sketching and Stroller Tours for those with under 2’s.

For skip the line tickets via Get Your Guide see here

The Guggenheim Museum

New York City Fire Museum

The New York City Fire Museum might not be an obvious choice of New York attractions for kids but it’s actually one of the surprisingly kid friendly things to do in NYC and a great way to spend an hour or so.

It comprises of a fantastic collection of historic equipment and memorabilia located in a 1904 firehouse. Plus there is a dedicated September 11th exhibition honouring the fire fighters who perished, so if you can’t make it to the National September 11 Memorial and Museum mentioned above, this is a smaller-scale alternative.

Children’s Museums

There are several museums specifically designed for children in New York City.

The Children’s Museum of Manhattan describes itself as being “five floors of fun”. With exhibits centred around art, water, the human body, dance and time plus a play area for under 4’s, children up to about 12 years old will love this colourful and interactive learning experience.

The Children’s Museum of the Arts encourages children of all ages to get involved with actively creating a variety of art from sculpture to collaborative murals to book design and more. There are also rotating exhibitions and family movie nights.

The brightly coloured, hands-on Brooklyn Children’s Museum holds over 30,000 artefacts to do with history, science, the environment and culture and is ideal for children aged 1-5 years old.

Parks and Green Spaces

For a city that is home to 8.5 million people (plus tourists and visitors!), it’s surprising how much open green space there actually is and how many parks there are to explore in New York.

Being in a new city is exciting and sometimes kids need a bit of space to run off some energy and play before being ready for more skyscrapers and sightseeing action. Listed below are some of the best parks for family fun in NYC.

Central Park

Top of the list has to be Central Park, a huge rectangular oasis of nature right in the middle of the city. It’s beautiful no matter what season you visit and the options for families are limitless – there are an astonishing amount of things to do in Central Park with kids.

Go for a picnic; visit the Central Park Children’s Zoo and Wildlife Centre; admire the view from the lookout at Belvedere Castle; hire a bike to explore the many meandering pathways and have a ride on the carousel.

Little ones will love seeking out the Alice In Wonderland and Hans Christian Anderson statues. Another fun activity for children is to count how many bridges and archways they can find in total throughout the park – there are a lot! They’ll also enjoy the Victorian amusement park that’s there throughout the summer months.

Hire a rowing boat (or even a gondola!) on The Lake; watch one of the many free outdoor concerts on the Great Lawn if you’re there in the summertime; play chess; and visit the Music Clock to see which song it’s going to play that day.

Depending on the season you can either swim in an Olympic-sized pool or ice skate to your hearts content. Visit the Bandshell where Martin Luther King Jr gave a speech and where John Lennon’s eulogy was read out to the people.

There are also playgrounds and waterfalls and flower gardens and cafes to keep everyone entertained – it’s a wonderful place to spend an afternoon (or a whole day) if you need to escape the hustle and bustle of the city for a few hours.

Central Park

The High Line

The High Line is a unique linear public park built on a disused, elevated rail line. It offers a fascinating overhead glimpse into the neighbourhood streets below as well as impressive views across the Hudson River and ample space for children to explore.

It’s great as a stop-gap for some fresh air and greenery in between sightseeing destinations and there are usually food carts serving coffee, ice cream and snacks. Take a picnic and relax on one of the benches, enjoy the public art installations and let the kids go wild at the jungle gym play area.

Prospect Park

Prospect Park in Brooklyn is similar to Central Park with it’s lake, pathways and trees, but on a smaller scale. The highlight here for kids is the ‘Children’s Corner’ which is the home of a vintage 1912 carousel (originally from Coney Island) and Prospect Park Zoo.

Brooklyn Bridge Park

Brooklyn Bridge Park runs along the waterfront of East River right by Brooklyn Bridge. It’s punctuated by six piers, each of which offers something different for families to enjoy. If you’re looking for things to do with kids in NYC, this place has you covered.

There are numerous fantastic playgrounds, several viewpoints to sit and admire the views, Brooklyn Heights Promenade to wander along, volleyball and basketball courts, fitness equipment to try out and even a small beach where you can paddle and play (but not swim).

In the summer there is a wealth of family friendly entertainment and activities on offer including free open air cinema screenings with the Manhattan skyline as a stunning backdrop; live music, dance and yoga classes.

Brooklyn Bridge Park

New York Botanical Gardens

Home to more than a million species of plants, the New York Botanical Gardens can be found in The Bronx, NE of Manhattan. It’s one of the oldest and largest botanical gardens in the world and kids will have fun exploring the fifty acres of forest as well as the Victorian conservatory, which contains both a tropical rainforest and arid desert plants.

There is a Children’s Adventure Garden plus drop-in nature exploration and gardening activities for little ones. Throughout December the famous Holiday Train Show takes place, where model trains whizz past over 175 New York landmarks all created out of natural materials.

The gardens are right opposite The Bronx Zoo, which is considered by many to be the best Zoo in New York. It’s easy to combine both of these two fun things to do with kids in NYC in one day.

Family Activities in NYC

New York City is an incredibly family friendly place and ideal for exploring with children of all ages. In addition to the top sights, museums and parks already mentioned above there are tons of fantastic things to do in NYC with kids that will leave them with unforgettable memories.

See a Broadway Show

Going to see a Broadway show has to be top of the list of fun things to do with kids in New York. There are plenty of spellbinding musicals to choose from. Older children and teens might enjoy Wicked, Hamilton or Chicago whilst younger ones might prefer to see The Lion King, Matilda or Aladdin.

Either book your tickets months in advance or, if you don’t mind too much which show you see, head for the dazzling TKTS Booth to snag same-day discounted tickets for both Broadway and off-Broadway performances.

Off-Broadway shows that are fantastic for children include Frozen and The Gazillion Bubble Show.

Broadway

Watch a sports game

Sports are life for many Americans and watching a live game of one of their national sports of baseball, basketball or (American) football is a fantastic experience to have as a family.

Cheering on a New York City team at a home game is something that the kids will remember for the rest of their lives.

Catch a New York Yankees baseball game at the Yankee Stadium (April to October); watch the New York Knicks play basketball at Madison Square Garden (October to May); and see the New York Giants play football (August to February) at the MetLife Stadium, which is actually across the river in the neighbouring state of New Jersey .

Visit Coney Island

An hour out of Manhattan on the subway, south of Brooklyn, is Coney Island. Coney Island is a must-visit, nostalgic New York seaside town from a bygone era and it’s one of the most fun things to do in NYC with kids.

Luna Park has kitsch rollercoasters and other amusement park attractions that kids will love, long stretches of sandy beach and a beautiful boardwalk to stroll along soaking up the carnival atmosphere.

The New York Aquarium is nearby and if you haven’t managed to score tickets to a Yankees game, you can catch a minor-league baseball game at the Waterfront Stadium instead.

Ride the Wonder Wheel in Luna Park at Coney Island
(Photo by STLLR Photo on Unsplash)

Go to the Zoo

As previously mentioned, Bronx Zoo is considered by many to be the best in New York and it’s one of the best kids activities NYC has to offer. It’s home to over 6,000 animals ranging across 700 species: aardvarks through to zebras and everything in between.

It places a strong emphasis on conservation, education and fun – there is a children’s petting zoo for little ones to get up close and personal to some of the animals plus animal feeding time shows and numerous exhibits, rides and experiences.

If you haven’t got a full day to spare, Central Park Zoo or Prospect Place Zoo are also good, just on a smaller scale and with fewer exotic animals.

Play Mini-Golf

A family holiday wouldn’t be a family holiday without a game of mini-golf. The 18-hole mini-golf course at Pier 25 in Hudson River Park is impressive and reasonably priced for a family game.

Obstacles such as waterfalls, streams, bunkers and a cave make it a fun challenge and there are different sized clubs so everyone from tots to teens can get involved.

Go for a gondola ride or hire a bike

See Central Park from a different perspective by hiring a rowing boat (or a gondola!) from the Loeb Boathouse on The Lake. Kids will love being in charge of the oars and steering the boat around the lake.

You could also hire a bike to enable you to cover more ground along the miles of meandering pathways through Central Park. Trailers (single and double) and tag-a-long bikes are usually available for littler children who can’t cycle as far.

Hire a rowing boat from the Loeb Boathouse in Central Park

Wander through Chinatown and Little Italy

New York City is about as multicultural as they come and you can travel the world in a day without going anywhere near the airport.

Spend an hour or so wandering through Chinatown, one of the most interesting places to take kids in NYC. The sounds, smells and colours are a feast for the senses – try some noodles or steamed pork buns from a street stall, watch a game of mah-jongg, get lost in the back alleys branching off of the main thoroughfare of Canal Street and visit some of the beautiful Buddhist temples.

Nearby Little Italy is only a few blocks long, stretched out along one main street, but it’s packed with restaurants and coffee shops offering traditional Italian fare like delicious gelato and huge bowls of pasta – perfect for people-watching and keeping little ones’ hunger pangs at bay.

Watch the sunset

There are plenty of places to watch the sunset in New York City – the towering observation decks of the Empire State Building and Top of the Rock are two examples previously mentioned in this post.

However, if you head for Brooklyn Bridge Park or Empire Fulton Ferry State Park, just east of Brooklyn Bridge and in the northern part of DUMBO, you’ll have spectacular views of Manhattan with the added bonus of a pirate-ship themed playground and the famous ‘Jane’s Carousel’ for little ones.

Sunset at Brooklyn Bridge Park
(Photo by Mathew Schwartz on Unsplash)

Things to do in New York with kids when it rains

The weather can never be guaranteed when you travel and, depending on the season you’re visiting New York, you might encounter some wet days that could dampen the excitement of all the outdoor activities for kids in NYC.

If this does happen, there are plenty of rainy-day options for fun things to do with kids in NYC. You could pop into any of the museums already mentioned above or you could try out some of the suggestions below.

Play indoor mini-golf

If the weather spoils your plans to play the Pier 25 mini-golf course, head for Shipwrecked Miniature Golf in Brooklyn instead.

It’s indoors, pirate-themed and has specially themed light and sound effects to add to the experience. There are also mini-escape rooms and an arcade, providing endless rainy day fun for all ages and families.

Be amazed at Ripley’s

Ripley’s Believe It Or Not Museum in Times Square is a fascinating glimpse into the unusual and the unexpected. It’s an unforgettable experience guaranteed to leave children mesmerised and open-mouthed in awe at the exhibits and curiosities they see here.

There is also an interactive mini-escape room challenge for age 5+. A perfect family friendly attraction for a rainy day.

Go bowling

Bowling is a great activity for all the family and Brooklyn Bowl is an excellent choice. It has 16 lanes, dedicated family sessions, squashy sofas, exposed brick walls and good food.

Head to an indoor play area

If you’re travelling with young children, soft-play and indoor play areas are always a great alternative to outdoor playgrounds on a wet weather day.

Twinkle Playspace in Brooklyn is a fabulous indoor play area for ages 6 and under that invites children to use their imaginations and creativity as they play. Remember to take socks with you.

Visit a Board Game Cafe

Take playing board games as a family to a whole new level with a visit to Uncommons Cafe in Greenwich Village, New York City’s first ever board game cafe.

One of the most unique New York family activities you can find, it’s a great way to spend a couple of hours during a downpour.

For a small fee you can stay and play for as long as you like and there is a huge selection of games to choose from including all the classics like chess and scrabble through to more unusual games. A selection of food and drinks are also available.

Image from Uncommons Board Game Cafe website gallery

Watch a puppet show

A perfect option for younger children is to go and see a brilliant puppet show at Puppetworks Theatre in Brooklyn on a rainy weekend day. Hand-carved marionettes are used to present children’s classics. Public performances are at 12.30pm and 2.30pm on Saturdays and Sundays.

Read at ‘Books Of Wonder’

For bookworms and bibliophiles, head for Books Of Wonder in the Flatiron District – a bookshop devoted to children’s and young adult titles. Browse the bookshelves for current releases, classics and even rare editions.

At weekends at 11.30am they host ‘Storytime’ where a member of staff or sometimes even a children’s author read books out loud to children and their families. A perfectly relaxing place to go on a rainy day.

Unusual things to do in New York with kids

New York City is diverse and interesting and unique in all sorts of ways. If you’re after something a little bit different to do with kids in NYC, take a look at some of these suggestions and ideas for slightly more unusual family things to do in NYC.

Ride on a carousel

There are several beautiful carousels dotted around the city. Jane’s Carousel, Central Park Carousel and the Bug Carousel at Bronx Zoo are all popular.

Perhaps the most individual and quirky is the stunning Seaglass Carousel at Battery Park – younger children will adore the iridescent colours and oceanic theme.

You could even make it into a family challenge to ride every carousel in New York!

Go on a Street Art treasure hunt

There are several hotspots for incredible street art in New York City. Go on a street art treasure hunt to see if you can find them all.

Check out over fifty murals at The Bushwick Collective; visit the 100 Gates Project gallery (the murals are all painted on shops security shutters and are only visible after-hours); search for the inconspicuous Freeman Alley; and admire over 130 artworks at the Welling Court Mural Project in Queens, to name just a few.

Coney Island Art Walls are also a popular location for street art and there are several Banksy’s dotted around New York City as well if you look closely enough.

Street Art in Manhattan
(Photo by Renee Fisher on Unsplash)

Visit the ‘Friends’ apartment

NYC has been the setting for hundreds of films and TV shows over the years and various New York City tours for families are available. If you don’t want to take a tour it’s easy enough to seek out specific locations yourself.

The TV show ‘Friends’ has become synonymous with New York. If you’re of the generation that grew up with Rachel, Ross, Phoebe, Joey, Chandler and Monica, you may have introduced your older kids or teens to the show too. If so, head for 90 Bedford in the West Village to see the apartment block that was their fictitious home.

You can also see Carrie’s apartment and the four women’s favourite bar from Sex and the City.

Be a kid in a sweet shop

If you have a sweet tooth, a visit to Dylan’s Candy Bar – the world’s largest confectionery emporium – is a must. There are three locations throughout the city, including the flagship store on Third Avenue.

Kids will be in heaven at the sight of thousands of sweets of every colour and flavour. The luminescent staircase embedded with sweets and the oversized lollipop tree are particularly fun to see.

Sweets galore at Dylan’s Candy Bar

Learn circus skills

For something completely different, kids aged 6 to 14 can learn circus skills on an all-day experience at the New York Trapeze School in Brooklyn. They can practice the flying trapeze, master the trampoline, learn some ground acts, have a go at aerial art and more.

Free things to do in New York with kids

New York City is notorious for being an expensive place to visit. However, there are plenty of completely free things to do with family in NYC that won’t cost you a cent.

All the parks and playgrounds provide unlimited free family fun and simply wandering around people-watching can be just as interesting as visiting all of the main attractions.

Riding the Staten Island Ferry in the middle of a Polar vortex! Brrrrr

Ride the Staten Island Ferry

Catch the free Staten Island Ferry across New York Harbour for unrivalled views of the Statue of Liberty. Ferries depart every half an hour – make sure you avoid busy rush hour commuter times if you want a more peaceful trip with little ones.

Staten Island Ferry

Visit a museum

The National September 11 Memorial is always free to visit.

Many of New York City’s museums also open their doors for free on certain days between certain times. For example, MoMA is free on Fridays from 4-8pm and the Guggenheim is free on Saturday evenings.

Others are ‘admission by donation’ where you can technically enter for free if you wanted to or you can leave a small donation to be able to visit.

Chill out in a hammock

On weekend mornings from May to October you can take a free 10 minute ferry ride from Lower Manhattan over to Governors Island.

Governors Island is car-free and therefore perfect for kids. There are plenty of things to do. You could wander along some of the walking trails; enjoy the views from the Great Promenade; chill out in ‘Hammock Grove’ (complete with 50 hammocks for your enjoyment); rent a bike; or whizz down the longest slide in New York at The Hills.

Go kayaking

Adventurous, outdoorsy families might enjoy free kayaking on the Hudson River. Head for Pier 26 in Hudson River Park at Tribeca at the weekend May and October. It can be as relaxing or as energetic as you want it to be and you’ll get to see the city from a different point of view.

Visit the New York Public Library

The impressive New York Public Library is beautiful inside and out with dramatic staircases and majestic lion statues. It’s free to visit, free guided tours are available and sometimes has author talks and other events going on.

Be sure to visit the Reading Room and admire the stunning ceiling, arched windows and eighteen chandeliers. The Map Room and Periodicals Room are also worth a peek. It’s been the setting for numerous films, including Ghostbusters and Breakfast at Tiffany’s.

New York Public Library

Head for the beach

Coney Island isn’t the only beach near New York City for those wanting to feel the sand between their toes. Long Beach is only an hour on the train from the city, and crescent-shaped Orchard Beach in The Bronx is great for families too.

Rockaway Beach and Jacob Riis Park Beach, both SW of Brooklyn and accessible by subway, each have different draws for families. Between them there is a boardwalk, a wildlife refuge, recreation areas, surfing, food trucks, space to build sandcastles and even a decommissioned old fort (Fort Tilden) to explore.

Calendar of events: things to do in New York with kids month by month

New York has a rich calendar of fantastic annual events and celebrations that are well worth attending if you happen to be in the city at the right time. Here’s a month-by-month guide to the best ones to enjoy with kids…

January

Chinese New Year usually falls towards the end of January. Head to Chinatown to see streets decorated with lanterns, a celebration parade, exciting fireworks displays and dragons dancing into the night.

Chinese New Year

February

Chocoholics will want to visit New York City in February to enjoy the Annual Hot Chocolate Festival hosted by City Bakery. A steaming mug of hot chocolate is a firm favourite with children all over the world so a whole month dedicated to it’s deliciousness is sure to be a winner during the coldest month in New York. A different flavour of hot chocolate is offered every single day – will you try them all?

March

The St Patrick’s Day Parade along Fifth Avenue is New York City’s oldest and largest parade. Dress up in green, watch the floats and enjoy the entertaining atmosphere.

April

April sees the Tribeca Film Festival take place. Over 150 films get screened and plenty of them are premieres (many haven’t been given an age rating yet so be mindful of that with little ones in tow). There are also live music performances, various talks and the film director & cast are often present after a screening as well.

The Easter Day Parade down Fifth Avenue on Easter Sunday is fun to see. Families dress up in their best clothes and ladies wear hats of all different sizes from traditional to outrageous.

Tribeca Film Festival

May

Foodies will be in their element at the Ninth Avenue International Food Festival which serves up an enormous variety of foods from around the world.

Fleet Week sees Manhattan celebrate the US Navy, Marines and Coast Guards. Huge naval ships dock in New York after being on active service overseas which allows crew and servicemen to experience NYC. Tours of the ships are available and there are often demonstrations and air shows too.

Memorial Day is a public holiday honouring fallen servicemen and women. Each borough of New York City holds a parade.

June

If you’re in New York in June with children, be sure to head for Coney Island on the last Saturday of the month to see the Mermaid Parade. Enjoy the quirky costumes as the parade makes it’s way along the Boardwalk.

The Bryant Park Summer Film Festival kicks off in June and runs through July and August as well. It offers free screenings of classic Hollywood films every Monday evening from sundown – kids will love watching a movie under the stars.

July

4th July – Independence Day – is one of America’s biggest celebrations. A truly spectacular fireworks display takes place the Hudson River. One of the best viewpoints to watch them from is the Hudson River Park.

Highly anticipated Legoland New York is also due to open it’s doors for the first time on 4th July 2020.

Independence Day fireworks display

August

Central Park’s SummerStage Music Festival runs from June right the way through to August and has a special Kids Programme alongside it too. Music and dance acts make up the majority of the line-up and most events are free.

September

September sees the Feast Of San Gennaro take place in Little Italy. A plethora of all the best Italian foods plus music and games means this will be a hit with children.

October

The Village Halloween Parade along Sixth Avenue is an event not to be missed. Marvel at the intricately detailed costumes or maybe even join in the revelry with a costume of your own.

New York Comic Con also takes place in October so fans big and small can enjoy cosplay to their heart’s content in the midst of their favourite characters.

New York Comic Con

November

The fourth Thursday in November is Thanksgiving, another big celebration. The Thanksgiving Day Parade outside Macy’s Department Store is watched by millions of people and there is a fantastic atmosphere.

There are giant helium balloons, marching bands, decorated floats, the Rockettes, plus Santa usually makes his first appearance of the holiday season, which younger children will really love.

December

The first week in December is traditionally when the tree-lighting ceremony at the Rockefeller Center takes place. The Rockefeller Christmas Tree is the tallest Christmas tree in America and is decorated with over 25,000 twinkling lights. It’s a magical experience for children.

If you have older children with you who can stay up late, squeeze yourselves into Times Square on New Years Eve to count down to the new year and get sprinkled in the celebratory confetti that’s released as the clock strikes midnight.

The Christmas tree at the Rockefeller Centre

Seasonal things to do in New York with kids

New York City has distinctive seasons and each one is special in it’s own way. There really is no bad time to visit because there is always something interesting or exciting going on.

Spring in New York with kids

Spring in New York City is beautiful with colourful tulips bursting into life and green leaves starting to unfurl on the trees. Temperatures are a bit warmer meaning it’s a good time to explore the city on foot.

The Cherry Blossom Festival in Brooklyn Botanic Garden is a wonderful place for kids in NYC in the springtime. The arrival of Spring is celebrated with traditional Japanese performances, tea ceremonies, games, origami workshops, samurai sword demonstrations and more. 

Cherry Blossom Festival at Brooklyn Botanical Gardens
(Photo by Pascale Amez on Unsplash)

Summer in New York with kids

Summer in the city means that from June onwards splash parks, water playgrounds and outdoor swimming pools become some of the best things to do with kids in NYC as temperatures soar.

Head for the beaches and waterfronts, or seek out open air cinemas (try Socrates Sculpture Park), festivals and outdoor entertainment to make the most of the glorious weather.

Autumn in New York with kids

In Autumn the greenery of the parks makes the transition to red, gold and orange as the fall foliage puts on it’s annual spectacular show. Central Park in particular looks absolutely stunning at this time of year.

For something a little different to do in New York City with kids in Autumn, head out to Dyker Heights to see all the elaborately decorated houses ready to celebrate Halloween. Dyker Heights is most well known for it’s Christmas lights displays, but throughout October it’s transformed into spooky Dyker ‘Frights’ instead.

Dyker Frights

Winter in New York with kids

Winter in New York can be bitterly cold and there is likely to be snowfall, but it’s also a time where the city really comes alive with Christmas holiday cheer.

Ice skating, holiday markets, shop window displays and carol singers make New York a magical place to be in the wintertime.

Read this post for ideas for things to do in New York in Winter with kids and if you are planning to be in NYC over the festive season, read this post on things to do in New York at Christmas with kids for ideas on how to celebrate the most wonderful time of the year in New York City.

Ice skating in Central Park

More things to do in New York with kids

New York City really is a fantastic place to visit as a family, no matter what age your children are. There’s something for everyone in the Big Apple and this post only touches the surface of what’s possible.

Whether you are there for a city break, a stopover, a long weekend, a week, two weeks, an extended trip or something else entirely, see this post for more ideas on visiting New York with kids.

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