Earlier this month, I finally had the chance to take my kids to New York City. I honestly thought they would love it. Thankfully, I had already planned some things to do in NYC with kids prior to our arrival. But what surprised me the most was the things they love about NYC that I never expected.
I’ve spent a lot of time in New York over the years. Throughout my 20s and 30s, I spent a significant amount of time in NYC because two of my college friends lived there. More recently, one of my LA friends’ family is there, so we’ve made regular trips, up until covid happened. It had been almost three years since I had been in the city, so I was eager to explore New York City with kids.
11 Things to do in NYC with Kids
Climb Rocks in Central Park
If you’re looking for things to do in Manhattan with kids, there are a lot of obvious choices. One of which is visiting Central Park. We didn’t have time to explore all of Central Park because we only had 3 days in NYC with kids. Central Park is a place you could explore for hours, even days. But I wanted the kids to at least see parts of the park.
They were really excited about climbing the rocks at the entrance at Central Park South. I love that location because it has amazing views of the city and skyline. We also happened to arrive during fall, so there were still fall leaves and colors. If you want to visit Central park with kids, here is a link to kid-friendly activities.
Get Tickets to Summit One Vanderbilt
Thanks to Instagram, I actually found one of the newest landmarks and vantage points to take in all of NYC. Summit One Vanderbilt opened in October 2021 and offers breathtaking 360 views of NYC and the surrounding areas. If you’re looking for things to do in NYC for kids, this should be one of your stops. We visited after sunset, so we had amazing night views of the city. The kids were mesmerized by the view, but they also loved the different interactive elements. Their favorite room was the room with all the silver balloons. They would have stayed in that room for hours if I had let them.
Ride the Sea Glass Carousel in Battery Park
Another one of the really neat kids activities in NYC is the Sea Glass Carousel in Battery Park. I actually learned about this beautiful kid-friendly ride via Instagram too. It is quite beautiful and the kids really enjoyed riding on it. It was a great thing to do right before or right after you visit the Statue of Liberty and Ellis Island. Battery Park also has a really fun playground that the kids had a great time playing on. It’s called the Battery Playscape, and I think my kids would have stayed here a lot longer if I had let them. That’s the really cool thing about thinking of things to do with kids in New York. Even when you plan very specific activities, you will likely find other things they enjoy even more. Although they did love the Carousel, I would say they liked playing on the playscape even more.
Go to the Brooklyn Bridge Park
Speaking of unexpected activities my kids loved, if you asked them what their favorite part of the trip was, they would say our afternoon at Brooklyn Bridge Park. One of the reasons they had so much fun was because my college friend met us there with her son. They loved meeting their new friend and exploring the park with him. This park has tons of really cool areas that are perfect for kids. There were lots of different playgrounds, open fields and also really amazing views of the Brooklyn Bridge and Manhattan.
Visit the Statue of Liberty and Ellis Island
A very obvious must-visit if you’re in NYC with kids, is the Statue of Liberty and Ellis Island. Before we left for NYC, the one thing the kids told me they wanted to do was visit the Statue of Liberty. To be honest with you, they didn’t love the experience as much as I expected they would. The whole process to get to the Island is pretty time-consuming, crowded, and boring. Once you’re actually on Liberty Island, it’s equally crowded with tourists taking pictures. However, I know the kids found the experience memorable and I was teary-eyed when we got to Ellis Island and found my grandparents’ names on the plaques.
If we ever went back to NYC with kids, I would actually suggest riding the Staten Island Ferry and taking in the views of the statue from that vantage point. Honestly, It’s almost the same view, unless you want to get up close and personal to the statue. It’s also a lot cheaper to ride the Staten Island Ferry so they will still get the experience of being out on a boat and seeing lower Manhattan without all the effort involved in actually going to Ellis Island and Liberty Island.
Walk Through Times Square
Another obvious thing you’ll want to do with your kids is walk through Times Square. I would suggest not spending very much time here, honestly. I do not love Time Square. It is chaotic, loud, and can be overwhelming for kids. But it’s something worth seeing briefly. I coaxed my kids to do the walk with me from our Midtown East hotel to Times Square by offering them a cheesy NYC souvenir. Another good way to bribe them is the M&M store right in the heart of Time Square. Honestly, that was probably the highlight of our stop in Times Square. They were pretty excited to see an entire store dedicated to M&Ms.
Ice Skate at Bryant Park or Rockefeller Center
If you’re in NYC in November or December, you might want to take your kids ice skating at either Bryant Park or Rockefeller Center. Unfortunately, I didn’t think to reserve tickets far enough in advance to be able to do this on our quick trip to NYC. However, if you get the chance, I’m sure your kids would love it. Bryant Park also has a winter market going on that has lots of cute shops and tons of amazing food options if you happened to be there during the holidays.
Take a Trip to the Natural History Museum
Although this isn’t a stop we fit in on this trip, I’ve been to the American Museum of Natural History several times on other trips to NYC. If your kids like science of dinosaurs, this is a must-visit while you’re in the city.
Ride the Subway
By far, the most unexpected thing that my kids loved about NYC was riding the subway. They absolutely were so excited by the whole process of getting tickets, going through the turnstile, and riding on the trains. This is definitely a cheap and easy way to get around the city, not to mention the joy the kids derived from riding on the train really blew my mind.
Take a Taxi Over the Brooklyn Bridge
There are a couple of reasons I’d suggest taking a taxi. First, my kids were so excited to ride in a taxi in NYC. I suppose it is an iconic part of the city I often overlook. The second reason is that the views of the Brooklyn Bridge and the City when you’re coming back from Brooklyn is quite beautiful. We caught the drive during sunset, and it had some of my favorite views I’ve seen in awhile.
Hire a Horse and Carriage Ride near Central Park
Although I didn’t get the chance to do this with the kids, if you’re looking for things to do in NYC with kids, you might want to try a horse and carriage ride. Although this is often reserved for romantic couples, I think my kids would have loved this because they loved horseback riding and it is a unique experience you can do in NYC.
Overall, the kids did have an enjoyable time in NYC. I don’t think the fast-paced city life is for them. I think it was a bit too loud and crowded for them. But they did enjoy aspects of our trip, so if you get a chance to take your kids, definitely check out some of the ideas I mentioned.