If you’ve come this far, it’s because your journey is imminent and you’re looking for something to see and do in New York with children. It is not easy to prepare a list of plans to do in the Big Apple, but we will help you plan your trip with our advice based on the tastes of travelers as demanding as our children.
The list of visual references about this North American metropolis is so overwhelming that when you’re walking down its streets and avenues it’s impossible not to get a huge sense of déjà vu as if you’ve been touring this formidable city before. The little ones relive experiences from The Minions, Larva, Madagascar, Spiderman, Ghostbusters or Home Alone 2. Parents prefer Manhattan or Annie Hall by Woody Allen, Coppola’s Godfather, One of Us and Taxi Driver by Scorsese, Breakfast at Tiffany’s, Mad Men, The Sopranos or Sex in the City. They all fit into one city so we are going to help you prepare your family trip by recommending 15 must-see places to visit in New York with children.
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What to see in New York with children
New York is like an outdoor movie set. It’s like going through some places you’ve seen thousands of times on the big screen but are familiar with even though you haven’t set foot in Manhattan before. By travelling with the children for 5 days to New York we designed a simple itinerary, with no changes in accommodation and many activities designed for them. These are some of the plans that our children liked the most:
American Museum of Natural History
Marked in gold letters by anyone traveling to New York, with or without children. The American Museum of Natural History is a priceless treasure trove for children to bring out their curiosity or learn lots of new things by seeing some of the more than 30 million objects on display in its halls.
What most attracts children’s attention are the rooms dedicated to dinosaurs, especially the skeleton of Tyrannosaurus Rex which looks like it will come to life at any moment just like in the movie as in Ben Stiller’s film. It’s usually crowded on findes and rainy days so it’s best to go early because the queues are so bad. Without a doubt, one of New York’s must-see tourist spots for visiting with children.
Attend a musical on Broadway
Another recommendable experience to do in New York with children is, without a doubt, to attend a musical on Broadway. The billboard is always spectacular and combines shows that have been on for years with premieres that are put to the test in one of the most demanding cities in the world.
In our case, we chose The Lion King and its impressive staging at the Minskoff Theatre. Children and adults enjoyed the adventures on the boards of Simba, Nala, Mufasa and company. The two and a half hours of the show flew by, there were even moments when we discovered each other singing in English the hits we had heard so many times. If you want to enjoy this unforgettable experience, you can save time and queues by booking tickets for the Lion King musical directly here.
Stores that will drive kids crazy… and you too
You don’t have to have seen Sex and the City or be Carrie Bradshaw to know that New York is a shopping paradise. No matter who you are or where you come from, as long as you have a few dollars in your pocket to spend, the Big Apple will welcome you with open arms. On every corner there will be something that calls your attention to buy or consume… and we admit that sometimes it is impossible to resist temptation.
Of all the stores we went to, Teo and Oriol were especially impressed by three. The one we liked by far the most was the Nintendo NY located at number 10 Rockefeller Plaza, without a doubt a paradise for Japanese brand lovers. We’re crazy about color with Mario, Zelda and cia’s retros and video games. Other must-sees were the LEGO Store (we liked the one on Fifth Avenue by the Flatiron better than the one in Rockefeller Plaza) and the Disney Store in Times Square full of Star Wars toys and items. If you want to save some money you can take a shopping tour of the New York outlets.
New York’s best viewpoints for children
The name skyscraper city is not unimportant in the case of New York. The Big Apple has one of the most recognizable skylines on the planet, with extraordinary architectural gems. The Flatiron, the Empire State Building, the One World Trade Center, the Top of the Rock, the Chrysler Building… the list of icons is really seductive. Can you imagine seeing them in a helicopter from very, very high up?
Choosing one of New York’s viewpoints to see the city of skyscrapers from a bird’s eye view with children is complicated, but perhaps the one that offers the best views of Manhattan is the Top of the Rock. The reason? You have right in front of the Empire State Building and a height of 70 floors that will turn the little ones into real giants. We save the lines with the New York Explorer Pass. You simply have to go to the main entrance, exchange your voucher for the access ticket which will already have the time you go up to the viewing platform pre-set.
Top of the Rock tickets without queues
Walking in Central Park
We don’t discover the moon if we say that children love to walk and play in parks. If it were up to them, they’d go every day of the year. Central Park is probably the most famous park in the world and one of the must-see places to visit with children in New York. You could spend whole days there and always discover some new and interesting corner every day.
We traveled at Christmas time and the weather was not too bad, yet we spent a good time walking through its meadows, rocky areas, gardens, lakes or simply resting under one of its elm trees. Besides running around, enjoying an improvised street show or eating at one of their stalls, the kids played to find the famous statue of Alice in Wonderland or learned who John Lennon was in the corner dedicated to the former Beatle. If you want to go faster, you can rent a bike to ride around the park.
Chelsea Piers rockodrome
We parents have the silly habit of asking our children “What do you want to be when you grow up?” and many of us still don’t know. To that question, Teo always answers “climber”. With his ten years he is a very agile and athletic child. He’s never been into mainstream sports like soccer and prefers to jump around or test his skills in parks and open spaces so in New York we decided to let his hobby go.
Close to the Hudson River on Manhattan’s West Side are the Chelsea Piers, former docks that now house many leisure and sports facilities. In one of those gyms there is an incredible climbing wall where Teo showed that he has a lot of future in this climbing thing. For his first time, he blew our minds. The class costs $70 an hour, although a minimum of two people must sign up. There they lend you their cat feet and have harnesses and qualified staff to live a great experience.
Intrepid Museum of the Sea, Air and Space
War themes don’t really go with us, but we have to admit that the visit to the Intrepid is a lot of fun for the kids. This museum is located on an aircraft carrier that was operational during World War II and was able to resist the attacks of the Japanese kamikaze. The historical part may not be too interesting for the little ones, but it has a lot of very entertaining interactive activities.
In addition to boarding a ship of these dimensions, you can get inside a submarine, see a wide collection of planes (including a dismantled Concorde), helicopters and get a close look at the spectacular NASA Enterprise space shuttle.
Take a closer look at the Statue of Liberty
It’s hard to choose the icon of a city as famous as New York, but we’re going to give that honor to the Statue of Liberty. Miss Liberty is 93 meters tall and weighs 225 tons, yet when you see her it seems she’s not as big as you imagined. Now every time Teo and Oriol see it in a movie or cartoon series they know the story is set in the Big Apple.
Even though the entrance fee to the Statue of Liberty and Ellis Island cruise is included in the New York Explorer Pass we had one of the longest lines on our trip waiting to get on the boat, so you better get there early. If you want to get inside the statue you will have to buy the ticket many months in advance. The boat is taken from Battery Park.
Statue of Liberty and Ellis Island Tour
Just after returning from the Statue of Liberty Island tour in the same Battery Park we find this peculiar SeaGlass Carousel. It is a merry-go-round where the prams are a kind of goldfish that go up and down like in any other carousel.
Children naturally love this kind of experience and attraction, although we adults felt it was a somewhat decaffeinated activity. The entrance fee is $5 per person and what was most peculiar to us was that all four of us were charged admission, regardless of whether we went upstairs or stood aside taking pictures.
Roosevelt Island Cable Car
The small island of Roosevelt is located between Manhattan and Queens and has only 10,000 inhabitants. However, it has the peculiarity that to access it you must take a cable car with which you can contemplate some New York avenues or the Queensboro Bridge from the heights while crossing the East River.
The best thing is that access is very cheap, as you can get on with a single ticket or with a New York City MTA subway card. The cable car ride is usually very popular with children and you can spend some fun time running through a nearby park on Roosevelt Island or exploring one of the quieter areas of Manhattan.
Walking across the Brooklyn Bridge
You can’t leave New York without walking across the Brooklyn Bridge, that much. It’s just a walk, but it’s one of the most incredible ones you can do in the Big Apple. The views it gives you of Manhattan are breathtaking and the constant hustle and bustle of people coming and going adds many nuances to the experience.
After the massive New Year’s Eve in Times Square, we spent the morning of January 1st on this neo-Gothic masterpiece… and it was like a breath of fresh air. The tour with the children and pulling the cart lasted about 40 minutes, but we made many stops to enjoy the views that inspired Frank Sinatra, Jack Kerouac or some of the most mythical scenes of Spiderman. We don’t know if the New Yorkers were hung over, but first thing in the morning there were almost no people.
DUMBO and Brooklyn Bridge Park
Perhaps it was because we were euphoric after crossing the Brooklyn Bridge or because the sun was shining after a few days of rain, but the day we spent in this borough was one of the best of our trip to New York with children. The walk through the DUMBO area, Brooklyn Heights and especially Brooklyn Bridge Park was like a traveler’s morale boost that you remember for a long time.
And if you really think about it, we didn’t do anything wrong, we just spent a Sunday like any neighbor in the area who had a family. Teo and Oriol rode the horses at Jane’s Carousel, played with other children in the local parks and gardens, had the first ice cream of the year at the Brooklyn Ice Cream Factory, enjoyed the view of the River Cafe and ate at a local restaurant. A simple day in a city as chaotic as New York is also possible.
Manhattan Children’s Museum
It is always interesting to have plans for the children during rainy days and in that sense New York is a real joy. The weather wasn’t very kind to us in the Big Apple so we had to pull out all the stops and take out some of the sights like the Children’s Museum of Manhattan on the Upper West Side. More than a museum, we would consider it a kind of huge multi-storey playroom where children have a great time.
All exhibitions and workshops are interactive and play-based so that children learn while having fun. The one we liked best was the one on the first floor dedicated to the different Muslim cultures of the world, where children travelled around a large number of countries discovering some of their most typical characteristics. A kind of walk through bazaars, ceramics and really exotic games.
Enjoying art at MoMA
We honestly don’t know who hallucinated more, the MoMA visitors or us when we saw how our children recognized the works of Vasily Kandinski and Jackson Pollock. Much has been changed by the film in children’s education so that 7 and 3 year olds can identify the paintings of some of the great geniuses of contemporary painting.
MoMA’s collection of contemporary art masterpieces is unparalleled. In addition, if you visit him with the children you can participate in some of the workshops they organize in their Art Lab. We thought the little ones would be bored to death in this museum, but nothing could be further from the truth. If you travel to New York with children, it’s a very worthwhile visit.
Buy your tickets to see the MoMA
Watch an NBA game at Madison Square Garden
We will not be able to know for some years if that phrase “like father like son” is true. Teo is far from being an NBA fan like his father, but he pulled the Knicks’ baskets as much or more than Pau, even though in the end the New York team won as usual.
The game is a spectacle from start to finish. Madison Square Garden’s full bleachers impress almost as much as the NBA players’ one-on-one, three-point kicks. Every break in the game is a show and the opening anthem makes your hair stand on end. Between quarter to quarter, a thousand and one performances that surprise newcomers and also regulars in the stands like the Hollywood stars who come to this temple of basketball every night.
Buy your Knicks tickets
We never travel without travel insurance
We never travel without travel insurance. When you leave home it is always convenient to be protected by what may happen and more so in a destination where medical care is as expensive as in the United States. We recommend that you travel to New York with a policy that covers you at your destination in case of accidents, hospitalization due to illness or setbacks that may represent an extra cost in your travel budget (keep in mind that hospitalization or private medical care in the United States is extremely expensive). We use the travel insurance of IATI Seguros because it has a coverage above average and always offer a personalized and fast. You can hire here the Travel Insurance of IATI Seguros and only for being a reader of the Pachinko apply directly a 5% discount.
What do you think of our 15 must-see places to visit in New York with children? Do you know another recommendation about what to see in New York as a family? Tell us about it in the comments. For more information you can visit the NYC & Camp; Company website, the official guide to New York City.