New York City has unlimited opportunities for discovery and exploration – especially with your kids. The best attractions, sights, and tours that will make your family trip to New York an unforgettable experience are covered in this article.
Is it worth going to New York with the whole family?
Parents often ask us if a trip to New York City with kids is too strenuous – and while it certainly isn’t a simple weekend getaway, the trip is definitely worth doing. New York is a big adventure for the whole family. Your children’s eyes grow large with wonder at the big city and its a great place to explore for every generation. Skyscrapers, museums full of dinosaurs, riding the subway – these are all huge experiences for your little ones.
Family Trip to New York – Where you stay is important
There are indeed many hotels in New York that are family-friendly and centrally-located. You can generally request an additional bed (rollaway) free of charge. Many hotel rooms, like the ones of YOTEL at Times Square are already designed with families in mind. This hotel, for example, provides bunk beds so that the whole family can sleep in one room. The hotel chain Novotel has no surcharge for up to two kids under 16 years of age as long as no additional beds are requested. Additionally, kids can eat here for free!
What is there to do in New York for children?
Once you arrive in the Big Apple, you will have an incredible selection of activities and attractions that are interesting for both adults and children. When the weather is nice, we highly recommend you spend some time in Central Park. The countless lawns are inviting places to run around, play ball, or have a picnic. The views of the skyline from here are tremendous and the opportunity to relax here after some sightseeing should not be missed.
If it’s too hot or it’s raining, check out the American Museum of Natural History located on the Upper West Side next to Central Park. A life-sized replica of a blue whale and cute 3-D films of the smallest inhabitants of the planet are a hit with visitors both young and old. If you have a chance to watch the movie “Night at the Museum”, which was filmed here, beforehand, your visit will be even more exciting.
The USS Intrepid is a real highlight, especially for boys. The decommissioned US Navy aircraft carrier – also the film location of numerous movies such as “I am Legend” and “National Treasure” -not only features a variety of airplanes, but also NASA’s first space shuttle, the Enterprise.
Another favorite activity is going to one of the big musicals or shows on Broadway! Popular shows like The Lion King are always worth seeing and will no doubt entertain your kids as well as you! As this is a long time to sit still and be quiet for many kids, there are many playgrounds in New York which you can visit before or afterwards to make sure the little ones sleep well at night.
Tours in New York for families
Boat cruises around Manhattan
A cruise is a truly special experience that will give you the feeling of a little getaway during your holiday in NYC. Feelings of calm will wash over you while relaxing on the water with...
Families traveling to New York with children rank the boat cruises and Hop-on Hop-off bus tours among their favorite things to do. These tours are a comfortable and relaxing way to cover a lot of ground and see much of the city. We especially recommend the free Staten Island Ferry which leaves from Battery Park (you get to Staten Island in just 20 minutes and can combine your visit to the island with a stop at the Staten Island Zoo). The three-hour Full Island Cruise that goes all the way around Manhattan is also a fun adventure. This tour guarantees that you will see a lot of nature, something that is not often associated with New York.
Bike tours are another way to discover the city. You can just rent bikes from one of the many providers on your own (making a reservation for a child seat is generally not required), or take part in a guided tour. There are many beautiful routes – for instance along the East River or the Hudson River.
|Tours & Attractions||Age||Duration||Start / Guide|
|Boat Cruise around Manhattan*||2+||2.5 – 3 hours||12th Ave., 42nd Street|
|Boat Cruise “New York Highlights”*||2+||1.5 – 2 hours||12th Ave., 42nd Street|
|Cruise to the Statue of Liberty*||2+||1 – 1.5 hours||12th Ave., 42nd Street|
|Staten Island Ferry (free)||2+||1 hour||Battery Park / Lower Manhattan|
|Hop-on Hop-off Bus Tour*||2+||2 – 3 hours||Times Square|
|Observation Deck Empire State Building*||2+||1 – 3 hours||Midtown|
|Observation Deck One World Observatory||2+||1 – 3 hours||Lower Manhattan|
|Observation Deck Top of The Rock*||2+||1 – 2 hours||Midtown|
|Biking in Central Park||1+||1 – 2 hours||Midtown|
|Biking in Brooklyn||1+||1 – 2 hours||Brooklyn|
|Sport: Basketball: New York Knicks / Brooklyn Nets||4+||2 – 3||Madison Square Garden / Brooklyn|
|Sport: Football (soccer): New York Red Bulls||4+||2 – 3 hours||Harrison, New Jersey|
|Sport: Baseball (New York Yankees)||4+||2 – 4 hours||Yankee Stadium / Bronx|
|Sport: Ice Hockey (New York Rangers)||4+||2 – 4 hours||Madison Square Garden|
* These tours and attractions are included in the New York sightseeing passes. More information here.
3 tips on where to eat with your children in New York
Many restaurants in New York are geared towards children. Please note however, that many restaurants do not take reservations and you might have to wait for a table. Popular restaurant chains in New York for children generally feature appropriate seats, space, and play areas. Great entertainment can be found at theme restaurants like at the Jekyll and Hide Club. Here, your dining experience turns into a spooky adventure in a haunted house.
If you are looking for something sweet, you can’t go wrong with Dylan’s Candy Bar: here you will find a selection of 7,000 different sweets from around the world.
7 attractions for children in NYC
In addition to the usual sights, there are special attractions that will put your family vacation into high gear. In the summer, Coney Island provides the perfect combination of beach vacation and amusement park visit. Luna Park on Coney Island offers more than 20 fun rides and Brighton Beach is the perfect place to build sand castles.Should you find yourself in New York during the month of July, your children can participate in the annual Squirt Gun Water Fight NYC, which takes place on the boardwalk. If Coney Island is too far for you, the antique Jane’s Carousel below Brooklyn Bridge can provide some entertainment also.
If you are in New York during the winter months, skating on the city’s ice rinks is highly recommended. The most popular spot is the Rockefeller Rink in Midtown Manhattan. Let your kids glide around the rink for a while and they will be sure to get some good shuteye that night. For a more relaxing outing, you can visit the zoo. The Central Park Zoo, on which the movie, “Madagascar” is based, provides opportunities to watch wild animals, and the petting zoo the chance to actually touch them.
Where can I go shopping with children in New York?
New York is not only a shopping mecca for adults. There are also numerous toy stores that should put a smile on your child’s face. The Lego Store at Rockefeller Center has everything you can imagine relating to the popular plastic building blocks. The venerable F.A.O. Schwarz is a special toy store where you will find life-sized stuffed animals, a floor keyboard you can play with your feet, and a custom doll factory where you can have your personalized doll made. If you are there around Christmas, everything will be beautifully decorated and twice as exciting to see. Another great place to visit for kids is the M&M’s store next to Times Square. However, beware – this is likely to result in a sugar rush for both you and your kids.
Top 5 challenges & solutions – New York with children
- Getting around New York with children: If you are traveling without children, you can get around New York primarily on foot to absorb the city’s one-of-a-kind atmosphere. Of course, this is generally not an option if you are traveling with young children. But don’t worry – riding the subway or taking a Yellow Cab is an exciting event for kids and is an easy and efficient way to get around.
- Getting around with a stroller: In general, New Yorkers are very child-friendly. There is always someone there to help you if you need assistance getting your stroller up or down a flight of stairs.
- Your child is hungry: there is some type of food vendor on almost every street corner in New York. You will find everything from traditional hot dogs to falafels and bagels. There is a drug store on every other corner (for example CVS pharmacy) where you can find healthier food for your child also.
- Diaper Changing Stations: Are you in need of a changing station or public bathroom? Then we recommend the BabyPlaces app. This project, that has been developed by us, gives you an overview of all child-friendly places in New York.
- Your child is sick: Our database does not only included changing stations and bathrooms, but also playgrounds, doctors, and pharmacies. Should your child become ill during your trip to New York, you have one less thing to worry about: the BabyPlaces app shows you the doctor or hospital closest to your location.
New York with Children – overview of our articles
All articles and reports on how to make your trip to New York fun for you and your children can be found here:
Calling New York City home is still pretty surreal. After moving here 5 years ago, I still see it as my dream life. Ever since I’ve been exploring this amazing city for Loving New York I’ve grown to love it even more. I love hooking all of you up with the inside scoop, top attractions, events and everything in between. I'm your go-to person for the hidden gems, best restaurants and the absolute best things to do in the city that never sleeps.