Things to do in New York in Winter With Kids

If you are visiting New York over the holidays and also want to enjoy some bucket list must do items, then this guide of things to do in New York in Winter With Kids will help. We visited during a polar vortex(!) and NYC was in a deep freeze, but we still managed to tick off some bucket list items and avoided hotel cabin fever!

Family Enjoying the view on a freezing cold January morning - Empire State Building  - Things to do in New York in Winter With Kids
Enjoying the view on a freezing cold January morning – Empire State Building

I’ve visited NYC many times pre-kids, and one thing is always consistent: New York City radiates with a vibrant buzz which means there is always plenty of things to do all year round, and the cold winter months are no exception.

Although you and your kids may have to wrap up to keep warm and wear some thermals and layers, you can all still enjoy NYC’s outdoor attractions and save the indoor must-do’s when everyone needs warming up. 

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.

The New York winter skyline from the free Staten Island Ferry
Frrrrrrreeezing on deck during the polar vortex on the Staten Island Ferry – toasty warm inside though!

1. Staten Island Ferry

The Staten Island ferry is a free taxi boat which offers incredible views of the Manhattan skyline and the Statue of Liberty and Ellis Island. It was bitterly cold when we visited, but the sky was a perfect blue and crystal clear. Seeing the iconic Statue Of Liberty for themselves was a huge highlight for them!

This free ferry operates between the St. George Ferry Terminal on Staten Island and the Whitehall Terminal in Lower Manhattan. The trip is about 25 minutes long.

  • Suitable for: All ages
  • Nearest Subway: South Ferry (1 and 9 lines) The St. George Terminal is located at 1 Bay Street, Staten Island. The Whitehall Terminal is located at 4 South Street, Manhattan. 
  • Open: Everyday, all day. Departs every half hour except during public holidays where it runs on a holiday timetable.
  • Price: Free
  • Top Tip: Avoid the busy commuter times in morning and evening rush hour. Weekends are quieter.
  • Reviews
Things to do in New York in Winter With Kids  include voting the Empire State building and enjoying the view.
Amazing view from the Empire State Building during winter in NYC.

2. Empire State Building

Another iconic landmark which is available on almost every bit of tourist merchandise available. The views from up above are stunning. Queues are notoriously long in the summer but in the winter the lines are shorter, especially first thing or later in the evening.

Unless you have bought advance tickets you will face two queues – buying tickets and waiting for the elevator. Skip the long ticket lines and order tickets online  and eliminate both of these. Express tickets are available if you want to speed up the process. You can bring a stroller but it must be folded on the observation decks.

  • Suitable for: All ages
  • Nearest Subway: You can catch the 1, 2 or 3 train to Penn Station/34th Street and walk east two blocks, or you can take the B, D, F, M, N, Q, or R trains to 34th Street/ Herald Square 
  • Open: 365 days 08:00 – 02:00
  • Price: From $38 adult and $32 child . Kids under 6 are free
  • Top Tip: Have your camera ready to record when you get into the lift and get there early if you can.
  • Reviews

3. Madame Tussauds

Just like its counterpart in London (and other places around the world), Madame Tussauds NY  is a popular place to get close to you kids’ idols. Perfect for and teens who love to Snapchat or instagram themselves next to their favourite wax figure, plus it is a good way to keep warm if it is really cold, in New York City in the winter. Plan for about 1.5 hours at this attraction.

The themed sections feature superheroes like The Hulk and Spider Man, Ghostbusters,  King Kong, sports stars, music stars such as Taylor Swift, politicians, movie stars past and present from Marilyn Monroe and Judy Garland to George Clooney and Robert Pattinson. Teens may enjoy the Zombie Attack experience and the Marvel Comics Super Heroes 4D film boasts some great special effects. Buying advance tickets online saves up to 25% off the admission price.

  • Suitable for: All ages
  • Nearest Subway: 1, 2, 3, 7, N, Q, R, S (at 42nd Street-Times Square) A, C, E (at 42nd Street & 8th Avenue) B, D, F, M (at 42nd Street & 6th Avenue)
  • Open: Over winter, Sunday to Thursday: 10:00 – 20:00. Friday – Saturday: 10:00 – 22:00 and in May to early September from 09:00-22:00 daily.
  • Price: From $29.95
  • Top Tip: Buy tickets online and skip the line!
  • Reviews

4. Ice skating at Rockefeller Center

A bucket list must do! The Rockefeller Center and ice rink is an iconic New York City scene and the perfect place to tick off one of the famous winter activities.

NYC also has a LEGO store which is next door to the Rockefeller and the New York Fire Department Fire Zone, where kids can play in a mock up fire truck, press buttons and if you are lucky participate in evacuation with pretend smoke and fire. The Fire Zone is small, but the kids happily played in it twice for 30 minutes at a time.

Although Rockefeller Center ice rink is a NYC bucket list attraction, there are other ice rinks including:

  • The Citi Pond at Bryant Park is open for family ice skating from October through February each year. Best of all its free admission and ice skate rentals are available.
  • NYC’s Central Park has two ice skating rinks: Wollman Rink and Lasker Rink and you can rent skates at both.
  • Suitable for: Children under 6 must be accompanied by an adult. Admission is free for children under 4, but all skate rentals must be paid for, regardless of age.
  • Nearest Subway: Take the B, D, F, or M to the 47-50th Street Rockefeller Center stop
  • Open: 0830 – 22:30 most nights.
  • Price: Varies
  • Top Tip: Splurge on the Rockfeller ice rink but head there later to avoid crowds or save and head to Bryant Park. Tickets for VIP, Santa and other experiences are open in August.
  • Reviews

5. Holiday Nostalgia Trains

One of the fun things to do in NYC in the winter for little kids is visiting the historic vintage subway trains at the New York Transit Museum. in downtown Brooklyn. Dates for the train rides are not announced til later on in the year but it usually runs on Sundays from the end of November til the end of December. Check the calendar here. However, there is still plenty to see and do from vintage trains and buses.

  • Suitable for: All ages
  • Nearest Subway: The Transit Museum is located in a decommissioned subway station at 99 Schermerhorn Street Brooklyn, NY 11201, and accessible by over 20 bus and subway lines. The entrance to the Museum is down two flights of stairs. A second, wheelchair-accessible entrance is located on the corner of Schermerhorn and Court Streets.
  • Open: Tuesday-Friday: 10am – 4pm Saturday & Sunday: 11am – 5pm
    Closed Mondays and major holidays
  • Price: $10 for adults $5 for children
  • Reviews

6. American Natural History Museum

This Natural History museum was one of the only places open during our polar vortex visit and the employees were very kind in letting people with young children queue in the warm. (We chose the day the subway wasn’t operating and NYC was very quiet around the streets – probably because everyone had decided to come here!

The dinosaurs were a huge hit as was the the minerals and gems section. There are several places to eat and despite a long queue to enter, it didn’t feel overcrowded inside.

  • Suitable for: All ages
  • Nearest Subway: C train to 81st Street (take 79th Street exit)
  • Open: Open daily from 10:00 to 17:45
  • Price: from $23 for adults and $13 for children
  • Reviews

7. New York City Fire Museum

A fabulous collection of historic fire engines and equipment for fireman fans! Be aware there is no restaurant on site and food and drink are not permitted on the exhibit floors.

  • Suitable for: All ages
  • Nearest Subway: “C” or “E” train (8th Avenue Local) to Spring Street. Walk west 1 ½ blocks.
  • Open: Daily 10:00 to 17:00
  • Price: $10 for adults and $5 for children aged 3+
  • Top Tip: Plan to go after you have eaten as food is not allowed on exhibit floors
  • Reviews

8. Metropolitan Museum of Art

The Met has lots on for kids including fun, interactive programs for kids of all ages. Kids will love the Egyptian room, the armoury A great place to keep warm and keep busy!

  • Suitable for: All ages
  • Nearest Subway: Lexington Avenue, three blocks east of Fifth Avenue, at 77th Street (#6 train) and 86th Street (4, 5 and 6 trains)
  • Open: Sunday – Thursday: 10:00 am – 17:30 pm
    Friday and Saturday: 10:00 am – 21:00
  • Price: Adults $25 children under 12 free
  • Top Tip: Purchase special combination passes to see The Met, plus top New York City attractions for one price, including the New York CityPas
  • Reviews

9. Serendipity 3 Frozen Hot Chocolate

One of the things to do in NYC in the winter is to enjoy a warming hot chocolate, but how about a frozen hot chocolate? This whimsical dessert restaurant (yes, the movie was named after it) is a fun place to brings kids for a treat after sightseeing. It does serve hotdogs and other snacks too.

  • Suitable for: All
  • Nearest Subway: 4. 5. 6. Lexington Ave – 59th St.
  • Open: 11:00 til late
  • Price: Varies
  • Top Tip: Try the Frozen hot chocolate!
  • Reviews

 10. Museum of Modern Art (MOMA) (reopens October 2019)

MOMA offers tours, art workshops, and films to interactive spaces, activity, and audio guides. There are free tours for different age groups too: for 4 years old, 5-10 and tweens. The sculpture garden is a great place to burn off some energy if the weather is kind. 

  • Suitable for: All
  • Nearest Subway:
  • Open: Daily 10:30 to 17:30, Friday to 20:00  Free admission ages 10 and under, free for all Friday 16:00-20:00
  • Price:Adults $25 children free
  • Reviews
Things to do in New York in winter with kids

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