Best Things to Do with Kids in New York

10 Top-Flight Sights for Kids and Families in NYC

New York is a city for movers, shakers and kids. And who moves and shakes as much as children? Kids have the energy to keep up with the frenetic pace of New York, even if the same level of activity can bring an adult to their knees.

Twp of the best places to take your kids are the majestic and incomparable Bronx Zoo the American Museum of Natural History. Watch them gasp at the sheer size of the gigantic 122-foot Titanosaur that recently moved in and brontosaurus skeleton, in the world's largest dinosaur collection. They can even join a sleepover complete with fossil finding by flashlight and cots for the kids who want to live out the movie Night at the Museum. 

It is also a must for every family to take a stroll through Central Park and hop a ferry to Staten Island. Grab a hot dog from one of the many vendors, find a grassy patch and enjoy the oasis. Let your kids run free, go to the zoo or fly a kite. Central Park is huge so make sure to enter near the attractions that are on your family's must-see list.

Carousels bookend the city at Battery Park, the Brooklyn Bridge and Central Park. 

Below we have created something of an itinerary linking one neighboring institution with another such as the New-York Historical Society and the American Museum of Natural History, located at the same subway stop overlooking Central Park. 

One word of advice: anchor sightseeing with a lunch stop ... kids are much more likely to step inside a museum and be receptive to an educational experience if they know rewards and respites are ahead.


Opened seven days a week, the two-floor official museum of the FDNY occupies a renovated 1904 Beaux-Arts firehouse at 278 Spring Street in Hudson Square, west of SoHo. The museum is home to a renowned collection of fire-related art and artifacts from the 18th century to the present; including hand-pumped fire engines, horse-drawn vehicles, early motorized apparatus and firefighting tools and equipment. Additionally, it houses a permanent FDNY September 11th Memorial, which features artifacts from the WTC recovery site. Once a year, in the best tradition of the FDNY a ladder truck rescues Santa from his perilous perch on top of the Museum. Once safely inside, Santa takes gift requests and poses for photos. Hot dogs, hot chocolate and Christmas carols round out the event. It is recommended to book tickets early for this event.

Recommended for Things to Do with Kids because: The official museum of the FDNY welcomes all ages to view antique and one-of-a-kind fire trucks and exhibits

Maria's expert tip: Well-suited for older kids more than younger as there is no climbing aboard the antique trucks. For a modern history, lesson, combine with a 20-minute walk to the 9/11 Memorial at the World Trade Center site.

Read more about New York City Fire Museum →

Mo math, mo problems. Literally. We are sure that when you mention the idea of going to a math museum with your kids, they aren't going to be super excited. That will quickly change once they spend an afternoon at the Museum of Math. This is not an extension of their classes, but rather an opportunity to explore the patterns and structures all around them. If your kids fail to be convinced, we have one word for them: robots. They also have the chance to try to ride a square wheeled tricycle, shoot laser beams and design 3D images.

Recommended for Things to Do with Kids because: Two floor museum with 30 interactive experiences. As long as you don't mention the word "math," your kids will love it.

Courtney's expert tip: There is no room for strollers nor are there diaper changing stations in the bathrooms. This is likely for the best, as the kids that will get the most out of this experience are over 6 years old.

Read more about National Museum of Mathematics →

Overlooking the western rim of Central Park, this neoclassical structure guards some of the oldest artifacts associated with the city of New York. It was founded in 1804 as New York's first museum and has been at its present location since 1908. The Henry Luce III Center for the Study of American Culture on the fourth floor is being redesigned to showcase its preeminent collection of Tiffany lamps, displayed in a sparkling glass gallery. The new Center for the Study of Women's History will be a permanent space devoted to women's history exhibitions and scholarship--the first of its kind in a U.S. museum. During winter holiday season, N-YHS transforms into a magical wonderland with "Holiday Express," a dynamic installation from its renowned Jerni Collection of model trains, scenic elements, and toys from a bygone era. 170 Central Park West & 77th St., 212-873-3400; TRAINS C, B/Central Park West

Recommended for Things to Do with Kids because: The DiMenna Children's History Museum at the N-YHS is a museum-within-a-museum with interactive displays and a Sunday Story Hour.

Maria's expert tip: New-York Historical Society offers free daily tours of the Museum's collections at 2 PM and 3:30 PM; its Caffe Storico is a good spot to catch your breath.

Read more about New-York Historical Society →


"Touch everything" at the New York Hall of Science located inside NYSCI's original exhibition gallery, constructed for the 1964-65 World's Fair. Bordering Flushing Meadow Park, the NYSCI is located in Corona,Queens the same neighborhood as the Louis Armstrong Museum. The iconic Great Hall's latest feature is "Connected Worlds" that uses gesture-based technology to project images onto seven massive screens, six of which are more than 14 feet tall, and one screen shows a 38-foot digital waterfall. Visitors use simple gestures to affect the various environments and collaborate with others to find a balance. The NYSCI is an energetic experience for kids of all ages and includes some 450 exhibits, demonstrations and hands-on activities. Leave time to explore the World's Fair grounds and stand under the Unisphere, or visit the Queens Zoo right next door.

Recommended for Things to Do with Kids because: The NYSCI's exhibits range from the sandbox to Gingerbread Lane during the holidays, to workshops, to little makers of big things.

Courtney's expert tip: Admission is free on Sundays 10-11 AM; and Fridays, 2-5 PM. Parking costs an additional $10, so consider taking the subway. Bring lunch although there is a small cafe.

Read more about New York Hall of Science →

Subways have been through a grand evolution and in some older stations, there were even electric chandeliers (as in Moscow now). Located in downtown Brooklyn, the museum is an homage to the Iron horse or the NYC subway system and the people who built it. Situated in a historic subway station since 1936, a visit to the Transit Museum is literally an immersion experience. The well-marked exhibitions take visitors on a continual descent into the station, and include historical documents, such as news reports and controversy surrounding the original construction of the subway, as well as interactive exhibitions and film screenings chronicling New York City's world-renowned public transportation system. The Transit Museum also has a collection of antique train cars that show the evolution of the equipment and on board experience.

Recommended for Things to Do with Kids because: Visit the Transit Museum, and you'll never ride the subway in quite the same way again. The tour guides are fascinating tellers of tales.

Maria's expert tip: Come with lunch bag in hand and dine down under for the real deal of life underground. Wednesdays are free.

Read more about New York Transit Museum →

Upper East Side

Grab a book or a hot dog and head into this oasis within a busy city. Walk, take a pedicab, rent a bike or even ride in a horse-drawn carriage through Central Park's 843 acres. Attractions such as the Central Park Zoo, carousel, various statues, 21 playgrounds, 2 ice skating rinks and other sporting facilities make this a draw for tourists and residents alike. Take the kids to the Central Park Zoo, the Conservatory Garden or the Friedsam Memorial Carousel, which features 57 almost life-size steeds. There is usually a long line, but there are also hot dog and ice cream vendors to keep your little ones busy. Download the Central Park App for easier navigation around the park.

Recommended for Things to Do with Kids because: Lush greenery is a bit hard to come by in New York City, so families relish the opportunity to blow off steam in Central Park.

Courtney's expert tip: If you have kids who love to climb, consider taking them to Heckscher Playground, with a climbing net, bridges and even an actual cliff. Pack a picnic to enjoy at the top.

Read more about Central Park →

"I'm bored," said no kid ever at the Children's Museum of the Arts. This nonprofit brings hands-on art programming to young artists from 10 months to 15 years. Kids can get their hands dirty with a variety of mediums, including a clay bar, collage station and paint table. If this was not enough excitement, they can also blow off additional steam in the ball pit. Drop-in story-time has included such famous readers as Neil Patrick Harris. The gallery is small, so if possible, make time for an organized workshop, such as a board game design afternoon or a still-life class with a focus on the young artists' favorite foods.

Recommended for Things to Do with Kids because: Hands-on art activities for the whole family at with an affordable price tag.

Maria's expert tip: Top off the creativity with lunch at Joe's Shanghai or 456 Shanghai Cuisine or dim sum JingFong in nearby Chinatown and pick up a few bargains along the way. Stroller parking is available for the youngest of artists.

Read more about Children's Museum of the Arts →

One of the first public aquariums in the United States, the New York Aquarium has heard the "oohs" and "aahs" of kids and adults for more than 100 years. In the 1950s, the aquarium moved permanently to Coney Island and now spans over 14 acres of seaside property. More than 350 species of marine life, ranging from dolphins, sea turtles and cuttlefish to lobsters, crabs and jellyfish, call the aquarium home. Whales are a favorite as is the Aquatheater production with sea lions who like to splash the audience. Watch the penguins enjoy their lunches, braying loudly at each other to strengthen their friendships. It is the ultimate lesson in sharing.

Recommended for Things to Do with Kids because: Open 365 days a year, a visit to the Aquarium is a way for your kid to live out their Finding Nemo fantasies.

Courtney's expert tip: Since you'll be on the boardwalk of Coney Island, plan to spend a little extra time here. It's touristy, but kids will love the seaside entertainment area of bumper cars, dining, go-carts and more.

Read more about New York Aquarium →

American Museum of Natural History
Photo courtesy of R. Mickens

One of the world's largest natural history museums with more than 33 million specimens and exhibits, the AMNH educates and entertains visitors, keeping them busy for quite some time. It would seem impossible to top the already-existing exhibits at the American Museum of Natural History (AMNH) but last year one more must-see colossal cast of a 122-foot-long dinosaur moved in to its home on the fourth floor. Forty-five permanent exhibit halls including the Rose Center for Earth and Space, the Hayden Planetarium, as well as galleries for temporary exhibitions, one of the most fascinating, "Mummies" will be on display through mid-January, 2018. The Dark Universe Show narrated by Neil deGrasse Tyson is a must! The museum offers self-guided tours, even one featuring exhibits from the movie, Night at the Museum. There are a handful of places to eat inside should the kids get hungry. The museum is open daily except for Thanksgiving and Christmas.

Recommended for Things to Do with Kids because: The kids who have known how to use IPads since birth have the opportunity to be humbled by the wonder of technology.

Maria's expert tip: The sleepovers at the American Museum of Natural History (AMNH) are epic. From 3D movies to sleeping beside a 94-foot blue whale, your 6 to 13-year-olds will have the time of their lives. Space is limited and dates sell out quickly.

Read more about American Museum of Natural History →

Themed exhibits include Wild Asia with free-roaming tigers; Jungle World, an indoor Asian tropical rainforest; The World of Darkness, a look into the nightlife of nocturnal creatures; Himalayan Highlands with endangered snow leopards and red pandas; Butterfly Zone, especially active in summer months; and the Congo Gorilla Forest, a 6.5-acre recreation of an African rain forest. The Children's Zoo offers a hands-on learning and petting zoo. It's easy to get around the park by shuttle bus, monorail or aerial tram. New arrivals include baby gorillas born in 2014 and 2015, and a new American porcupine is featured at the newly remodeled Children's Zoo.

Recommended for Things to Do with Kids because: Wild animals from four different continents and four oceans are certain to inspire awe and wonder.

Maria's expert tip: Check the schedule for animal feedings to enhance your visit. It's easier to get around the park by shuttle bus, monorail or aerial tram.

Read more about Bronx Zoo →


Meet Maria Lisella

No matter how many countries Maria Lisella has visited (62), this native New Yorker finds the world at her doorstep in amazing Queens where its residents speak 138 languages.

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