15 Exciting Things to Do in NYC with Kids (or without)

Planning a trip to NYC with kids? I’m here to help.

Deciding what to do can be overwhelming at first. There’s so many things to do in NYC with kids, yet it feels like there’s never enough time.

We spent two weeks visiting NYC in December with our kids, taking in the sights, the sounds, the food and the most popular New York attractions.

But it still feels like we only scratched the surface.

Things to do in NYC with kids - take a horse and carriage ride in Central Park

Whilst two weeks might seem like a long time, to be honest, I could spend a month in NY and not get bored, and I’m sure that goes for our daughters too!

So if you only have a short period of time, down below I’ve listed our top suggestions for kid friendly things to do in NYC.

And if you decide to leave the kids at home, or have older teens you are comfortable allowing to explore themselves, all these activities in NYC can be done as a couple.

Things to do in NYC with kids
1. Explore Central Park

Explore Central Park - one of the best things to do in NYC with kids

Central Park is an incredible oasis in the middle of a concrete jungle. New Yorkers (and tourists) flock here to escape the crazy traffic and high paced life that is NYC.

Stretching three avenues wide from 59th Street all the way up to 110th Street, it’s 840 acres of landscaped and recreational areas and 6% of the entire island of Manhattan.

We explored Central Park in three different ways. On foot, by bicycle, and by horse & carriage ride.

It’s the place to go to let your kids have space to run around in nature.

Cycling in Central Park

Exploring Central Park by Bike - one of the best things to do in NYC with kids

We love riding bikes. Besides walking it’s our favorite way to explore a destination.

It took us about an hour to do a full loop of the 6 mile path and that’s including a few stops along the way to take in the scenery and shoot some photos and video.

The bike path is mostly flat and our kids did awesome, except for a hilly section at the northern end of Central Park. And it’s very safe, with a designated cycling path.

There are cars but the speed limit is slow, and you just have to watch out for the horse and carriage rides.

We had a tag-a-long bike for Savannah (6 years old) which attached to the back of my bike. So if you’re looking for fun things to do in NYC with kids, do this!

Unlimited Biking have bikes for rent in various locations around NYC.

Costs: Adults – starting at $15 | Children – starting at $12

Horse and Carriage Ride

Horse and Carriage Ride in Central Park - one of the best things to do in NYC with kids

I don’t think there is a more relaxing way to explore Central Park than on a horse and carriage ride.

We have always wanted to do this after seeing it in so many movies and TV shows – Central Park is one of the most filmed locations in the world.

This is not just for couples, our kids loved it and we were all kept warm under a blanket. And the fall colors were an added bonus during our ride.

We rode with Central Park Sightseeing who offer 20 minute rides ($54 per carriage) or 45 minute rides ($118 per carriage).

Walk Around

Walking in Central Park - one of the best things to do in NYC with kids

Of course you can explore Central Park for free on foot. It’s one of the best free things to do in NYC with kids.

Grab a cheap map and just wonder.

Points of interest you can visit include:

  • Belvedere Castle
  • Gapstow Bridge
  • Bethesda Fountain
  • Alice in Wonderland sculpture
  • Walk down the Mall – lined with American elms and leads to the beautiful Bethesda Terrace.
  • Pay your tribute to John Lennon at Strawberry Fields
  • Loeb Boathouse
  • Have a picnic in Sheep Meadow
  • The Great Lawn
  • and for the super energetic there are 58 miles of hiking trails throughout the park.

There are playgrounds for the kids to enjoy and of course there’s the Zoo.

If you want to do a walking tour of Central Park, Viator which is a Trip Advsior company offers a 2 hour walking tour and a sunset tour.

2. American Girl Doll Store

American Girl Doll Store - one of the best things to do in NYC with kids

This store is incredible. It’s every American Girl Doll owners dream.

Our girls absolutely LOVE their American Girl dolls and if there’s one place we had been hearing about for months leading up to  our trip to NYC, it was taking them to the American Girl Place Store in New York.

We took them, and their dolls Coral and Lilliana to get their hair styled (there’s a salon) and to have lunch with their dolls in the cafe – we decided against this and that $20 kids meals were a bit much!

But they thoroughly enjoyed walking around the store checking out ALL the dolls and ALL the accessories.

American Girl Doll Store - one of the best things to do in NYC with kids

And thanks to Nanny and Poppy back in Australia, they each got to choose a new doll as an early Christmas present.

Kalyra chose Gabriela (doll of the year for 2017) and Savannah chose Julie. They now have two dolls each so we have four daughters now lol.

American Girl Doll Store - one of the best things to do in NYC with kids

3. Empire State Building

Empire State Building - one of the best things to do in NYC with kids

It was so cool to stand at the top of the Empire State Building with our kids, an icon of New York City and one of the most famous buildings in the world.

Many movie and TV scenes have been shot from up here, and the 360 degree views over Manhattan from the 86th floor are incredible.

For different experiences, you can go up during the day, at sunset or in the evening.

But like many attractions in NYC, the Empire State Building is very popular and requires some planning to avoid long wait times with kids, especially if you are on a tight schedule!

Empire State Building - things to do in NYC with kids

To skip the ticket line and avoid queuing for hours, consider buying your tickets online. 

And for an extra special experience, consider the Express Pass with a 3-course dinner at STATE Grill and Bar (ranked 4.5 stars by TripAdvisor users), located on the Empire State Building’s first floor.

4. Go Ice Skating

Go ice skating - one of the best things to do in NYC with kids

One of the most fun things to do in NYC with kids. And unique for us as Australians – we couldn’t get our kids off the ice.

Caroline and I first went ice skating in NYC back in 2004 on Christmas Day in Central Park, which was magical, and we were excited for our kids to experience it too.

There are three options for ice skating; Bryant Park, the Wollman Rink in Central Park, and of course Rockefeller Plaza.

Bryant Park

Ic eskating at Bryant Park - one of the best things to do in NYC with kids

We got our skates on twice at Bryant Park and loved the whole Christmas in New York experience there.

Bryant Park was recommended to us by many people within our online community, thanks guys, and is now one of our favorite places in NYC

It was the first time ever ice skating for Savannah and at first she wouldn’t let go of the side barrier, but eventually she got up the nerve to go around holding Caz’s hand and then by herself.

Kalyra was a bit of a natural and picked it up almost instantly. All up the girls went around for at least 2 hours.

Ice skating in Bryant Park - one of the best things to do in NYC with kids

Hot Tip:

Get there before 6pm as in the evening it gets extremely busy when all the office workers finish work for the day!

We also loved walking around the Christmas markets at Bryant Park. They call it “Winter Village at Bryant Park” which includes the skating rink, the pop-up shops, the Christmas tree and other festive attractions.

It’s basically a winter wonderland in mid-town Manhattan. They do great hot cider here!

Oh, and close by is our fave Aussie coffee shop in NYC, Bluestone Lane, and our other fave coffee spot Culture Espresso. 

Related Post – 16 best coffee shops in NYC

AND across the street from Bryant Park is Whole Foods Market where we grabbed lunch and dinner a few times and sat looking out the window over the park!

Details: 

Open – October 28, 2017 – March 4, 2018

Hours – Daily, 8am-10pm. Rink hours are weather permitting.

Cost – $20 to rent skates. Admission free.

Website – BryantPark.org

Wollman Rink, Central Park

Ice skating in Central Park - one of the best things to do in NYC with kids

No doubt about it, the Wollman Rink in Central Park has the picture postcard background of the Manhattan skyline.

This location is a special place that has featured in movies and TV, and if you visit NYC during winter why not incorporate skating here into your whole Central Park experience

On the day we skated here it wasn’t as crowded as Bryant Park, but remember to bring cash as they don’t take credit card – although  there is an ATM on site.

Go ice skating in Bryant Park - one of the best things to do in NYC with kids

Details: 

Cost – (Mon – Thur) Adults: $12.00 Youth: $6.00  Seniors: $5.00 (Friday – Sunday and Holidays) Adults: $19.00 Youth: $6.00 Seniors: $9.00 Skate Rentals: $9.00

Website –  WollmanSkatingRink.com

Rockefeller Plaza

And of course Rockefeller Plaza is a famous and very popular place to go ice skating in NYC in the heart of midtown.

We didn’t skate here. The rink is much smaller than the other two and I believe there was a wait time for general admission skating and you can also make a reservation. 

For us, our kids loved ice skating at Bryant Park and the Wollman Rink and they got better and better with each skate getting better and better at skating.

We did prefer the overall experience at Bryant Park. The food and drinking options were better and the staff seemed friendlier and more professional.

Want tips on things to do in NYC at Christmas? Read More – 13 magical things to do in NY at Christmas

5. Walk the Brooklyn Bridge

Walk the Brooklyn Bridge - one of the best things to do in NYC with kids

A stroll across the iconic Brooklyn Bridge is another one of the free things to do in NYC with kids.

It’s one of New York’s most recognizable structures and connects the boroughs of Manhattan and Brooklyn, spanning the East River.

There’s a designated pedestrian walking path, and cycling path, in the center of the bridge above the automobile lanes and more than 4,000 pedestrians and 3,100 cyclists cross the bridge each day.

Access to the Brooklyn Bridge is 24 hours per day, with sunset being particularly nice and popular in the summer months.

But anytime of the day is impressive with incredible views of Manhattan, Brooklyn, and the Manhattan Bridge.

Walking across the Brooklyn Bridge - one of the best things to do in NYC with kids

It can get chilly up there as you are more exposed to the elements so dress appropriately for the season you are in.

The Brooklyn Bridge is 1.3 miles (2.09 km) long so if you are walking at a casual pace with kids, and stopping to take photos, give yourself  about 40 minutes.

Brooklyn Bridge Walk - one of the best things to do in NYC with kids

Hot Tips:

When you walk from Manhattan to Brooklyn you’ll end up in the DUMBO (Down Under the Manhattan Bridge Overpass) neighborhood.

Here you can:

  • Wander through Brooklyn Bridge Park promenade
  • the kids can ride Jane’s Carousel
  • Eat a pizza at famous Juliana’s or Grimaldi’s 
  • Grab an ice cream at Brooklyn Ice Cream Factory
  • And get the iconic shot of Manhattan Bridge from the cobblestone intersection on Water Street.

Views from DUMBO, Brooklyn - one of the best things to do in NYC with kids

If you want to get a great photo of the Brooklyn Bridge, walk back to Manhattan over the Manhattan Bridge.

But if your kids are tired of walking, jump on the subway at the High Street station.

6. See a Broadway Show

See The Lion King on Broadway in NYC

Looking for things to do with kids in NYC that involve a mummy and daughter date night?

It doesn’t get much better than a date night out at the theater, on Broadway, to see the Lion King.

The Lion King had been on our bucket list forever and it did not disappoint.

Caz and the girls loved the show and loved getting dressed up for it. A must do in NYC!

Hot Tip:

Always best to book ahead for popular shows, but if you want the opportunity to get up to 50% off same day tickets, check out the TKTS booth in Times Square, Seaport or Brooklyn.

7. Eat Cupcakes

Molly's Cupcakes - one of the best things to do in NYC with kids

We never knew cupcakes were such a big thing in NYC.

Turns out they take their cupcakes very seriously in NY, and many of the well known stores, like Magnolia’s, have lines out onto the sidewalk.

We didn’t fancy waiting outside in the cold, maybe next time when we revisit in warmer months, and only tried one cup cake store so the kids could get their fix.

We popped into Molly’s Cupcakes in Greenwich Village which was cute with a nice selection (my photo above is called cookie monster) and they have a cool counter with swings you can sit at.

Molly's Cupcakes - one of the best things to do in NYC with kids

And their story is sweet (pardon the pun). Molly was the founders third-grade teacher, and whenever one of them had a birthday, she would bake cupcakes.

So in honor of Molly and as a way to help the children, a portion of their profits is donated directly to schools in their community. Nice touch!

Molly's Cupcakes in NYC - one of the best things to do in NYC with kids

Put this on your fun activities in NYC list, well, for your kids tummies!

8. Walk The High Line

The Highline - one of the best things to do in NYC with kids

One of the most popular free things to do in NYC with kids is to walk The High Line in Chelsea.

What a great concept this is.

They turned an old elevated train line into a pedestrian walkway spanning 20 blocks – it’s a nice way to escape the busy traffic on the streets below, and there’s some cool architecture and street views along the way.

When we did this walk in December it wasn’t as colorful as it would be in the spring, and a word of warning if you do it on a weekend like us, it can get crazy busy – consider doing it on a weekday!

There’s plenty of seating along The Highline and apparently during summer there’s weekly free drop-in workshops for kids.

Walking the Highline in NYC - There's plenty of seating along The Highline and apparently during summer there’s weekly free drop-in workshops for kids.

For a bite to eat along the way check out the popular Artichoke Pizza for one of the best slices in NYC (be prepared to wait) or the Chelsea Markets (very busy on weekends also).

But we enjoyed the cool and cozy atmosphere for lunch at the nearby Grey Dog on W 16th Street.

Our kids are generally good walkers and love to burn off their energy, and this walk is a must do in NYC. It can take 30 minutes, or an hour or more.

9. Christmas Lights at Saks 5th Ave

Christmas lights at Saks 5th Ave

If you visit NYC during Christmas time, one of the festive things to do is see the Christmas Lights on the exterior of Saks 5th Ave.

Just don’t do what we did and attempt to see this on a Saturday night – the crowd was insane – so avoid the weekends if you can.

The light display is on every 10 minutes and runs for about 4-5 minutes and gets you in the Christmas spirit. Great for the kids to..

Source: FS – y Travel blog
15 Exciting Things to Do in NYC with Kids (or without)