Saturday, 28 September 2019

26 Fun Things to do in New York with Kids

New York City.

It's my favorite city ever and one of the few places that I'm happy to visit over and over again on vacation. With so many amazing places to visit around the world I like to spend my vacation time visiting somewhere new, but there's something about New York City that always draws me in.  There's always something new to see, something new to taste, something new to experience. You could visit over and over again and never do the same things twice. There really is something for everyone no matter where your interests lie.


While I find New York to be a very family friendly destination, I often see questions pop up in travel groups about just what to do and where to go while visiting there with kids. So today I thought I'd share twenty six of my favorite kid friendly activities in New York City.


Some of these are popular destinations on every visitor's list, while others are lesser known in tourist circles, but still definitely worth a visit.


So here they are, in no particular order, my top twenty five things to do when visiting New York City with kids...

Say hello to Lady Liberty
Each time we've visited New York the kids have been super excited to see the Statue of Liberty. Every time she pops up into view there's a flurry of excitement. Whether we're on a boat, cycling around an island, walking along the waterfront, or spotting her from high above the city streets, seeing her iconic green form appear brings joy. The kids are yet to visit Liberty Island to see her close up (government shutdowns and Summer crowds have made it tricky on our visits) but I've been there myself and it's definitely on my list for our next visit. If you can't make it to Liberty Island, the Staten Island ferry gets nice and close, plus it's a free trip! There are also great views from Governor's Island (where the pic below was taken) and Battery Park.


Satisfy your sweet tooth at Dylan's Candy Bar
Is there anything better than being a kid in a candy store? Not much, right? Dylan's Candy Bar is a candy lover's dream come true. If it's sugary sweet, there's a good chance you'll find it here. With several stores dotted around the city you're never far from a sweet treat, but the flagship store on 3rd Avenue is the must see location with walls of colorful candy, giant candy installations and an ice cream bar serving up over the top desserts.


Walk the Highline
The Highline is a wonderful place to get outside and take a stroll above the hustle and bustle of the city streets below. This raised walkway was once a long abandoned train line that was re-imagined to become an urban park stretching along Manhattan's lower west side. With lush gardens, fountains, seating areas, viewing decks and even playground spaces, there's plenty to keep kids occupied as you take a walk through the city. Access is via staircases and elevators along the way.


Take a ride on the subway
There's something about trains that kids just love. No matter what kind of train we come across, my kids are always keen to take a ride. Even though we took BART all the time in the Bay Area, taking trains in other cities is always somewhat the novelty. They enjoy exploring the stations, checking out the maps, watching the performers that inevitably end up in our carriage, and they all insist on seeing how long they can stand up without holding onto anything! New York's subway is always fun to catch when we're in town. It's always exciting to see just where we're going to pop out and what we'll find upstairs. Plus, it's one of those quintessentially New York things that kind of feels like we're in a movie or on a tv show!



Marvel at the architecture of the Oculus
New York isn't a city that shies away from daring architectural design, and the Oculus building at the World Trade Center site is the perfect example of just what an architect can do when their creativity is allowed to let loose. This amazing building is home to the World Trade Center subway station and a Westfield shopping center, yet it's so much more than that. My kids were happy to marvel at the design of the building from various vantage points both inside and out for the longest time. It was also a great place to cool off from the Summer heat outside. They were even happier to find delicious sushi in the food court!


Pay respects at the 9/11 Memorial
Travelling with kids sometimes means explaining the hard parts of history to them. Sometimes it's ancient history that seems so removed from our every day lives that we don't really connect with it, while other times it's recent history that many adults remember clearly like it was yesterday. The events of September 11th 2001 are concreted in the minds of everyone who visits New York, and a visit to the 9/11 Memorial to pay respects to those who lost their lives is a must.


Take in the view from One World Tower
As you can probably imagine, New York's tallest building affords epic 360 degree views over the city and far beyond. With floor to ceiling windows on the 102nd floor there is a jaw dropping view no matter where you look. But the views aren't the only thing here that make a visit worth it. Before taking the elevator up visitors will experience the bedrock that New York City is built on, hear voices of those who built this amazing feat of engineering, and learn about the evolution of city over time. The elevator ride itself is amazing, with hundreds of years of history zooming by as you ascend 102 floors in just 47 seconds. Be prepared for your ears to pop! But the reveal at the top; that was my favorite thing - and I'm bummed that I didn't know to expect it. But you do now, so be prepared for a stunning reveal when you reach the top!


Find colorful street art
Finding colorful street art when we travel is a passion of mine, and New York certainly is a wonderful city for it. While there are amazing murals spread throughout the five boroughs, one of my favorite places for vibrant and fun street art is right by the World Trade Center. You may very well recognize this wall of color from, well, everywhere on my blog, Instagram and Facebook! If you've ever received a business card from me, you'll recognize it from there too! In stark contrast to the glassy blues of One World Trade Center, the white curves of the Oculus building, and the somber waterfall of the 9/11 Memorial, this wall is a burst of color. I love the vibrancy and joy that it brings to the area - and the kids loved posing for fun pics with it!


Eat your way through Chelsea Markets
Chealsea Markets have long been known as a food lover's paradise and for good reason. Here you'll find all sorts of tasty treats to satisfy the whole family and within easy walking distance of the Highline it's a great spot to pick up picnic supplies. If you visit in October be prepared for ghastly Halloween decorations! My kids were a little freaked out at first as these were much more gory than we're used to, but they were still pretty cool to see.


Take the aerial tram to Roosevelt Island
When you think of public transport in New York City, the underground subway tends to be the first thing that springs to mind. But not all of New York's transit system is located under ground. Of course, there are buses and taxis that run along the city streets, but it you look up you just might spot an aerial tram! What? Ok, so there's only one, but New York does have an aerial tram. Located on 2nd Avenue between 59th and 60th streets, visitors can find the Manhattan station of the Roosevelt Island tram. This aerial tram takes visitors above the city streets on a 4 minute ride to Roosevelt Island in the East River. This small island is a great place to take a walk with stunning views over the Manhattan skyline. The old smallpox hospital is off limits but makes for an interesting stop to learn a little history. Take the aerial tram back, walk across the Queensboro Bridge or take the ferry to Brooklyn.


Walk across the Brooklyn Bridge
You can't visit New York without taking a walk across the Brooklyn Bridge! It's a must do! While it's a relatively short bridge and easy walk, if you're travelling with small children your best bet is to take the subway (or a ferry) across to the Brooklyn side and walk back to Manhattan. You can't beat that view! Unlike the Golden Gate Bridge and many others we've walked across, pedestrians walk above the traffic on a separate platform. This makes the walk much more kid friendly than other bridges as there are no cars zooming past.



Ride Jane's Carousel in Brooklyn
Carousel rides are something my kids can never get enough of, so when we comes across carousels on our travels we're always sure to stop for a ride. Jane's Carousel along the waterfront in Brooklyn is a vintage carousel filled with the most gorgeous wooden horses - and surrounded by stunning views. Located right by the Brooklyn Bridge, Jane's Carousel is a great place for a bit of magical fun before a walk across the bridge.


Take a ferry ride
When we travel to new places I like to take the kids on as many different forms of transportation as possible. It's always fun to get around in a new way, even if we're not really going somewhere. Boats are always a big hit with my kids, so that can mean anything from spending the afternoon kayaking, riding in a swan shaped peddle boat or just simply taking a ferry across a river/bay/harbor instead of a bus or train. Being on the water is always more fun that being on a road, right? It may not always be the fastest way to get around, but it certainly is one of the most fun, so we always make sure to take a ferry trip when we're in New York. The views are stunning and there's nothing like feeling the breeze blow through your hair.


Spend a day on Governor's Island
Governor's Island is one of my favorite places to visit in New York City - even though it feels a world away. Located just south of Manhattan Island, this large island is a wonderful place to get away from it all. Open from early May to late October each year, Governor's Island is home to sprawling parks, fun playgrounds, community gardens, walking and cycling trails, National Parks historical sites, art exhibitions, action packed attractions, the most amazing "glamping" campground (definitely staying there next time!), delicious restaurants, and the most stunning views over New York, the harbor and a certain green lady. The kids loved riding around the island on surrey bikes (they make for hilarious races!) as well as hanging out in the playgrounds. Governor's Island is accessible by ferry from both Manhattan and Brooklyn, and is car free - although watch out for crazy surrey bike drivers!



Play in Central Park
New York's biggest backyard! You can't visit New York without spending time here. Whether it's simple a stroll along the tree lined pathways, a picnic with friends, a visit to the zoo, ice skating in Winter, rowing a boat on the lake, a stop at a playground, visiting a beloved monument, or even taking a horse and carriage ride, there's something in this 840 acre park. It's a great break from the concrete jungle. Just a short walk inside the park and you'll feel a world away.



Climb and play in Heckscher Playground
Sightseeing is fun and all, but I find that when we travel with the kids, some downtime at a playground is always a must. It gives the kids a chance to do something just for them and gives the grown ups a chance to recharge while the kids play. Especially if there is coffee and somewhere comfy to sit involved! New York has amazing playgrounds of various sizes all over the city. Some have been loved by kids for decades and others just popped up yesterday; but one of my favorite playgrounds happens to be one of the city's oldest. Sprawling over almost two acres, Heckscher Playground in Central Park is also one of the city's biggest playgrounds. Traditional playground equipment such as swings, slides and climbing structures sit side by side large rocks for climbing, tunnels and mazes for exploring and a water park for Summer fun.


Strike a Pose with a favorite statue
Ok, I may be a little biased, but this is one of my favorite photos ever! Seeing my fearless girl standing with THE Fearless Girl was pretty cool, and despite a bit of a wait to take out turn, all three of my girls were excited to take their picture with this iconic statue. When we travel I love to track down famous sculptures and art works and take fun photos with them. The Charging Bull sculpture nearby was another fun one for the kids to pose with.


Ride the Seaglass Carousel
I've already mentioned our love of classic carousel rides, but one thing I really enjoy about them is finding rides with quirky animals. This stunning carousel located in Battery Park at the southern end of Manhattan is a beauty like no other. Rather than traditional wooden horses, riders find themselves sitting inside pastel fiberglass fish that change colors ever so subtly as they bob around the carousel. It's a magical experience whether you're riding or watching.


Step back in time at the Lower East Side Tenement Museum
Travelling with older kids? Make sure to check out the Lower East Side Tenement Museum for a little taste of New York's history. We're yet to take the kids here as Mathilde is still a little young, but I visited this amazing museum by myself years ago and it was one of the highlights of my trip. Forget about stuffy museums filled with displays behind glass. This museum features tenement homes set up just as they would have been back in the late 1800s. The tours are an eye opener to just how hard life was back in those days for the tenants who lived, and worked in these small spaces. The tours vary depending on the home, but the one that I took was based on a home and sweatshop and was incredibly interesting. A lot of walking up narrow steps is involved and the spaces can be quite tight, so it's definitely not a tour for small children.

Visit Dinosaurs in Museum of Natural History
Got dino loving kiddos? You won't want to miss a visit to the Museum of Natural History. This beloved museum has been a favorite with New York kids and visitors alike for generations. With a large collection of dinosaur and mammal skeletons, biodiversity halls featuring creatures from all walks of life, space exhibits and cultural exhibits there's something here for everyone. To avoid crowds at the entrance on busy days, enter through the 81st Street subway station. It will lead you straight into the museum.


Splash in Domino Park
What could be better than playing under a sprinkler on a hot day? Not much, right? But when that "sprinkler" is a splash park with views over the Manhattan skyline, well, that really is about as good as it gets! Brooklyn's Domino Park is relatively new and has been a hit with locals and visitors alike. With a stunning year round playground, splash park for hot days, a taqueria serving up tasty treats and the aforementioned views over the city, you can't go wrong with a stop at Domino Park. With a ferry stop and the Williamsburg Bridge right nearby it's an easy trip from Manhattan.


Explore the rainbow at Color Factory
Our last visit to New York happened to be just two weeks before Color Factory opened to the public, but having visited the San Francisco location, I can tell you that it's definitely a must see for color lovers. With a ball pit larger than most city apartments, rooms filled with colorful ribbons suspended from the ceiling, lighting and sound displays, tasty colorful treats, and more color than you can poke a stick at, there is something to delight everyone. Camera booths set up around the venue provide fun selfie opportunities, but don't forget to bring your camera too.


Take a dip in a sprinkle pool at Museum of Ice Cream
It's not here just yet, but the latest incarnation of the wildly popular Museum of Ice Cream will be popping up in SoHo this Fall. The Museum of Ice Cream first appeared as a pop up museum a few years back with a location in the Meatpacking District and was a huge hit. Since then the museum has popped up in various different cities around the country with a permanent location in San Francisco (which we've been to several times and have loved) and New York coming very soon. Rather than a museum in the traditional sense, think of MOIC as an ode to all things frosty and sweet. Fun backgrounds and props for selfies, one of a kind experiences such as a pool full of sprinkles, and lots of tasty treats along the way. It's sure to be a hit with kids (and adults) of all ages.


Look down from the Empire State Building
It's a classic. You can't visit New York without taking in the view from the top of the Empire State Building. The views over Manhattan and beyond from this world famous skyscraper are stunning at any time of day. Whether you choose to visit in the early morning, at sunset, or at night when the city sparkles with millions of tiny lights you're guaranteed a view you won't soon forget. Make sure to book in advance and prepare for a long security line when you enter the building. If you're unable to book in advance, early morning when the observation deck first opens is your best bet for smaller crowds.


View the city below from the Top of the Rock
The Empire State Building is most visitors' go to when it comes to classic skyscrapers with sweeping city views, and with good reason, but there's one thing you can't see when you're up there, and that's the Empire State Building itself! For this reason I love visiting the observation decks of both the Empire State Building and the Rockefeller Center. Like the Empire State Building at Top of the Rock you'll experience stunning city views from both inside and outside viewing decks, but the crowds here tend to be a little smaller. To maximize the views, visit one during the day and one at night, that way you won't have to chose between daytime views and twinkling lights.

Take a Circle Line tour
This is actually something I haven't done with the kids yet, but Kim and I took a Circle Line boat tour around Manhattan the first time we visited New York back in 2005 and it was such a great way to see the city. I've already mentioned that taking ferry trips is one of my favorite ways to see a city, but with the Circle Line tour you get to see so much more. Our tour took us all the way up the East River to the very top of Manhattan and back down the Hudson. I never realized just how green New York is before this tour. Or how many bridges there are!


Have you visited New York? Do you have any favorites that I missed? I'd love to hear so make sure to leave a comment.


Don't forget to check out our visits to New York City here:
New York 2013: Day 1
New York 2013: Day 2
New York 2013: Day 3

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