New York family vacation

21 Family Friendly Activities in New York in 2023

Check out these awesome family friendly activities in New York! A couple of days ago, I published a blog post about things to do with kids in New York. Those places and activities mentioned in the article are recommended by my 5-year-old daughter, after our family vacation in NYC.

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Today, I am sharing a longer list of entertaining and educational activities for the whole family in New York.
If your time in the Big Apple is limited, definitely do the things recommended by Thea. You can find the full article below:

Best things to do in New York with kids: Recommended by a 5-year-old

However, if you have more time to spend and explore NYC, check out the 21 family friendly activities in NYC. There’s more to New York than Central Park and the Empire State building!

Pro tip: The easiest way to get to the city from the airport with all that luggage after a long flight is by taxi. Unless you bring your own travel seat, book a car service that comes with a child’s car seat included.

Pro tip 2: A family vacation in the Big Apple deserves more than selfies! I recommend a Flytographer photoshoot of the traveling family to capture those precious memories. After all, aren’t the memories from the trip the best souvenir? (Use the code LITTLETRAVELLER for $25 off)

Family friendly activities in New York City:

1. National Museum of Mathematics

These kinds of lists with activities for family vacation in NYC, or the best things to do in New York with kids, usually start with Staten island ferry, the Empire state building, or the Statue of Liberty. While all of those attractions are indeed nice, have you heard anyone recommending a museum of… maths?

I can hear it now, “EWWWW, math!” In fact, that’s how I’ve felt about maths my entire life… However, The National Museum of Mathematics in New York is definitely worth stopping by.

I can’t promise that you will fall in love with mathematics (I didn’t, and most likely never will), but I guarantee that your little travelers will have a blast! Surprisingly, this museum is exceptionally entertaining and educational. Even someone who does not like maths (me, again) can have a great time!

For example, would you like to ride a tricycle with square wheels? How about using digital canvas to paint? Solving quizzes and puzzles? Experiencing a multitude of educational and fun hands-on activities? Trust me, you don’t want to miss this place.

2. New York Edge

The sky is the limit. I think all of us have heard this saying at some point in our lives. Well, when it comes to Edge, the highest outdoor sky deck in the Western Hemisphere, the sky is not the limit. It’s just the beginning.

Rising over 1,100 feet in the air, Edge, a marvel of architecture, engineering, and technology, is designed to take visitors out of their comfort zone. During your family vacation in NYC, experience the Big Apple as it has never been seen before!
The outdoor sky deck is made of frameless glass panels boldly angled outward.

Take a step forward and look 100 stories straight down and see the city streets directly under your feet! Moreover, at the edge of Edge, there’s space for one person to stand alone. Surrounded just by the glass, air, and sky. Do you have a head for heights?

NYC: Edge Observation Deck Admission Ticket

3. Helicopter sightseeing tour over New York

While Edge is definitely a go-to place for more than a bird’s eye view of New York, the Big Apple offers something even more thrilling! We absolutely loved the helicopter sightseeing tour over Manhattan.

While it’s rather pricey compared to other attractions in New York, it definitely is worth every single cent. This was the highlight of our family vacation in NYC couple of months ago.
Breathtaking views of this beautiful city and incredible flight experience from liftoff to landing. Lots of smiles and positive memories guaranteed!

From Westchester: Shared Helicopter Tour over New York City

New York City: Manhattan Private Helicopter Flight

New York City: Doors-Off Helicopter Experience

4. Sugar Hill Children’s Museum of Art & Storytelling

The perfect place for those who love all things art and the telling of stories. Sugar Hill Children’s Museum of Art & Storytelling is for the younger group of little travelers. The museum is recommended for ages 3-8. This museum is a two-story former housing project in Harlem.

Explore exhibits on display, join storytelling series, or/and participate in a variety of workshops for the little ones. What child would not enjoy an adventure like this?

5. The Metropolitan Museum of Art

Speaking of art, while Sugar Hill Children’s Museum of Art & Storytelling is aimed at little children, the MET is a brilliant place for the entire family!
It’s pretty much a must-do and must-see place in New York that you should visit during your family vacation in NYC.

For some children, a museum may not sound like a great activity to spend time in while visiting a city like New York. However, the MET has got everyone covered. Bare with me.

You can get two kinds of museum maps at the information counters. One is the usual map of the galleries and works of art on display. However, the other map is way more exciting and aimed at kids of all ages. It features a mix of seemingly thousands of works of art mixed together on one sheet. See the picture below.

The MET NYC best things to do

On the sides of it, there are prompts. For example, ‘an elephant with a clock on its back- 4 points’. Who will find it on the map first? Once you find it on the map, how about finding ‘the real thing’ in one of the museum’s amazing galleries?

NYC: Metropolitan Museum of Art Entry Ticket

New York City: Metropolitan Museum of Art Guided Tour

6. The New York Botanical Garden

When you hear “botanical garden” you most likely DON’T think, “Oh, this is the perfect place to take my little traveler to!” I get it. However, it truly is. If you will be spending family vacation in NYC, do include this into your to-visit list. Along with the astounding show of flora and fauna, there are boulders and mazes provided by The Everett Children’s Adventure Garden.

If you happen to be there in the winter, no worries, the botanical garden has you covered with a fabulous holiday train show! It is perfect for all ages!

New York Botanical Garden: Orchid Show & All-Garden Pass

Visit: 2900 Southern Blvd., Bronx, New York 10458

7. SEA LIFE Aquarium

Do you have a child who loves all things fishy? My daughter loves going to aquariums, especially looking at the sharks. While living in Singapore, we used to go to Singapore S.E.A Aquarium on Sentosa island almost every weekend. 

Anyway, I was pleased to find out that there is an aquarium in New Jersey! It is a perfect addition to your family vacation in NYC! Visit SEA LIFE Aquarium which is located in New Jersey’s American Dream mall. Come face-to-fin with thousands of the ocean’s most amazing creatures, including… Baby shark, doo doo doo, doo doo doo doo doo. Baby shark! (If you have a toddler, you certainly know what this catchy tune is)

New York Aquarium

One of the many highlights of this aquarium is a walk-through of City Under the Sea. This underwater tunnel features panoramic views of Manhattan landmarks that rise from the seabed amidst schools of tropical fish, sharks, and rays. Isnt’t that the perfect attraction for your family vacation in NYC?

American Dream: SEA LIFE® Aquarium Entry Ticket

8. Bronx Zoo

No family vacation in NYC is complete without a trip to the zoo! The Bronx Zoo is spread out on a 285-acre area, making it the largest urban zoo in the United States.

There are many different animals (just as you would normally expect from a zoo), including Children’s Zoo Farmyard, where you can feed some of them.

family vacation in New York with kids

However, if you want to see the more exotic animals, you’ll have to hop onboard the Wild Asia Monorail. It is a 20-minute ride allowing you to see red pandas, elephants, and Rhinos. By the way, there is also a 400-foot zip line and ropes courses to make the trip one of a kind!

NYC Bronx Zoo Family friendly New York

During our family vacation in New York, we went to the Central Park zoo instead. My daughter loved it, and you can read more about it in this article below.

Visit: 2300 Southern Blvd, Bronx, NY 10460

New York City: The Sightseeing FLEX Pass

9. Bryant Park

Bryant Park, known as Manhattan’s Town Square, is located behind the NYC Library. It’s a beloved, year-round destination with a multitude of free activities, and al fresco dining. The park hosts over 1000 free activities, classes, and events every year.

Bryant park New York family vacation in NYC

Kids can watch movies on Monday evenings, learn to juggle, play ping-pong, ride a carousel, and ice skate in the winter. It is one of the busiest public spaces in the world, with over 12 million people visiting it annually!

Visit: Bryant Park is located between Fifth Avenue and Avenue of the Americas and between 40th and 42nd Streets in Midtown Manhattan

10. Staten Island Ferry

The Staten Island Ferry can offer so much for so many all in one. What child doesn’t like to watch boats slide through the water, let alone ride a boat? The 25-minute one-way trip allows little eyes to soak up the history of NYC.

family vacation in NYC

Slightly older children will have learned about the Statue of Liberty and the tales of immigrants coming to America in the NYC Harbor. Little travelers will be awestruck at the magnitude of Lady Liberty and the water splashing over the railings of this vessel.

NYC: 1-Hour Cruise Around Statue of Liberty & Ellis Island

NYC: Guided Tour of Staten Island Ferry & Statue of Liberty

11. Chelsea Piers Sports and Entertainment Complex

This is a perfect place for active kids! If you need to burn some energy with your little ones (or not so little anymore), visit the Chelsea Pier Sports and Entertainment Complex. There is a bowling alley, driving range, football field, ice skating rink, and a pool for a full day of fun! This thrill-filled attraction is located on the Hudson River behind the Chelsea Piers.

Visit: 23rd Street & Hudson River Park
62 Chelsea Piers

12. Brooklyn Bridge Park

unique things to do and see with kids in NYC

If you want to enjoy fresh air and sunshine, head over to Brooklyn Bridge Park. This park is made of 6 overhauled piers and provides 85 acres of pure childhood bliss. The Manhattan skyline is one of the scenes you can get lost in while your children happily play. Surrounding the park are the trails of Slide Mountain, Pier 2 rollerskating rink, and the Empire Fulton Ferry vintage carousel.

13. Brooklyn Bridge

Brooklyn bridge in itself is a great attraction to visit. No trip to New York would be complete without an idyllic walk across the famous bridge! It is one of the best things to do with kids in Lower Manhattan. By the way, did you know that 21 elephants thundered across the iconic bridge over 100 years ago?

unique things to do and see with kids in NYC

Apparently, city officials organized this parade to show the citizens of the Big Apple how sturdy and safe the new bridge is. Pretty creative!

Manhattan: Brooklyn Bridge & Dumbo 2.5-Hour Walking Tour

14. Ancient Playground

After visiting the Metropolitan Museum of Art, stop by the Ancient Playground in Central Park. It’s just outside of the Egyptian wing of the museum. This playground will whisk the littles back in time to experience forts, tire swings, pyramids, tunnels, and kid-activated waterfalls. There is also a sundial and a huge sandbox. Your little traveler can burn off some energy while being exposed to the ancient artifacts turned into a play!

In fact, there are 21 playgrounds in Central Park. Thea recommends visiting them all!

15. New York City Fire Museum

Let’s travel to Soho to see the firetrucks! So many littles love the idea of firemen and firetrucks. This New York City museum has vintage fire trucks and teaches your traveling tot all about fire safety and the history of the iconic NYC Fire Department.

The museum itself is in the 1904 Beaux-Arts firehouse and is a piece of history itself.

Visit: 278 Spring St, New York, NY 10013

16. FAO Shwartz

Let’s go shopping! That might get an “Ugh” or a “Yippee”, but whatever the response, this shopping trip is to the iconic toy store seen in many of the movies you have family friendly activities in NYCwatched with your munchkin. This toy store was closed in 2015, but now it is back, better than ever! Have you watched the movie “Big”?

family vacation in NYC

Its iconic massive piano is there, along with the giant clock tower standing 28-feet tall. The store is now located in Rockefeller Center and will be a mouth-dropping adventure for you mini travel buddy.

Visit: 30 Rockefeller Plaza, New York

17. Broadway

As a child, I dreamed of the time I could get to Broadway and see a show. Broadway has a whole list of shows designed just for kids. What would a trip to New York City be without Broadway? Take a look at their website to see which shows are available for the time you will be in NYC, and watch your child delight in a theater. Lights down and curtains up!

NYC: The Lion King Broadway Tickets

NYC: Aladdin on Broadway Tickets

family friendly activities in NYC

18. Top of the Rock

There are several places in New York where you can get a bird’s eye view of the city. From helicopter tours to the Empire state building, there is something for everyone.
One of such places is the Top of the Rock observation deck. Let your kids experience New York with a 360-degree view!

family vacation in NYC Top of the Rock

Top of the Rock is an observation deck 70 floors above Rockefeller Center. Your children will have eyes wide opened, and mouths too, as they have an unobstructed view of the Big Apple all the way around. Be ready to take lots of pictures and have some coins to allow your child to look through the telescopes at all things NYC. That’s one of the many amazing things to do in New York City.

NYC: Top of the Rock Observation Deck Ticket

19. 9/11 Memorial and Museum

This museum may work better for slightly older children, but no trip to NYC seems complete without visiting the site of the World Trade Centers.

21 Family Friendly Activities in New York

The videos, artifacts, and accounts will hold everyone captive as they learn about one of the most tragic and difficult days in our history. This experience will provide a backdrop for conversations you may have with your little ones for a long time moving forward.

Upon one of our morning strolls in Central Park, we stumbled across the sculpture of the beloved writer Hans Christian Andersen. Apparently, this sculpture is dedicated to children who lost their parents during the 9/11 attacks.

NYC: 9/11 Tribute Museum & Optional Memorial Walking Tour

New York City: 9/11 Tour, Memorial, Museum & Observatory

20. Old Time Arcades

Ok, ok, this may be a little more for grown-ups than the young tourists, but kids of today think they have the best video games, and I beg to differ. There are a number of these old-fashioned arcades across NYC.

21 Family Friendly Activities in New York 

These arcades offer games like “Frogger” and “Pac-Man” like we adults used to play. I also have a little secret, go to the arcade called Barcade. You can join in the fun with your kids, but they have a craft beer selection as well. Who says you can’t mix the business of traveling with kids and the pleasure of being an adult?

21. Sculptures in Central Park

Family Friendly Activities in New York

There are so many fun kid- friendly activities in New York’s Central Park that it deserves its own blog post. However, the activity that Thea and I recommend in Central Park is finding sculptures! Yes, there are beautiful sculptures scattered all around the park, and it’s so much fun discovering and learning something new about each of them.

Some of Thea’s favorites are the sculptures of Balto, Hans Christian Andersen with the ugly duckling, and the group of characters from Alice in the Wonderland. See if you can find them too!

And with that, I finish this article with ideas and attractions for your family vacation in NYC. If you have something cool to add to the list, share it in the comments below!


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