Can a big city, full of skyscrapers, neon lights, hurrying people, and speeding cabs be a good destination for families with children? Discover our suggestions for attractions for kids in New York!
How about looking at New York in a different way? Is a big city full of viewpoints, large parks, many playgrounds, museums with attractions for children, a city where you can both take a boat ride, a cable car ride and a helicopter flight a good destination for children? Sound interesting? Well, let’s see what there is to do in New York with kids, preferably the whole family!
We spent a whole week in New York and were left with a big dissatisfaction. Each day we spent the whole day discovering new places. At first we got up with the sunrise and got to know the city waking up, and with each passing day we got back to the hotel later and later, and many times we also got to know New York in the evening. Some places absorbed us, and during the walks we repeatedly changed plans so that on the one hand we managed to see more, and on the other we ran out of time for the planned activities.
>> We also recommend you our practical post about New York:
New York practically – what you need to know before you travel: visas, hotels, tickets….
We won’t say that we got to know New York well. On the contrary, with each new corner we met, we were eager for more. During this trip we focused mainly on Manhattan and we didn’t manage to see the whole island either. It should also be added that New York can get tired. Certainly a big influence here is the intensity of our plans, but this is a city in motion, rushing, crowded, at times overwhelmed by the amount of sensations. So it’s good to dose it all up….
How do you find yourself with children in all this?
We will not say that it is a good city for young children. At times it was difficult and cramped with the stroller, and the subway exits were usually adjusted, so more than once we had to carry the stroller. In restaurants, feeding chairs are not standard, and you won’t always see changing tables either – of course, they are in many places, but you can’t count on them being standard ;)
And while we take such a stroller-bound toddler more as a companion for the trip and not as a traveler who will soak up the city, the slightly older ones will expect more interesting attractions ;) So here’s a list of attractions we’ve visited that both we and our children think will be suitable for little travelers.
Table of contents
What to see with children in New York?
In the following post we will briefly describe some interesting places to include in your plan to visit New York. This is a rather abbreviated information, and there will be a separate entry about each of these places, because it is worth writing more about them (we will successively add links).
We have included a map with all these points at the bottom of the post.
Definitely the first thing that comes to mind is Central Park! And no wonder, this green oasis in Manhattan is the perfect place for families with children, and we especially recommend it for decluttering if you’re suffering from jet lag :)
Instead of throwing yourself into the whirlwind of the rushing city, it’s a good idea on your first day to go to a park full of trees (there are more than 26,000 of them here!) and playgrounds (and there are as many as 21 of them! Yes, yes, TWENTY ONE!! :-)), almost 4 kilometers long and less than a kilometer wide – as you can see: there is somewhere to walk.
But of course, it’s not just about walking and strolling here. New Yorkers spend their leisure time here, including active ones: joggers, cyclists, rollerbladers – you will meet them here at any time of the day. In many places, under the trees, people are relaxing on blankets, playing with their children or holding family picnics. Every once in a while, we’ll also come across some sort of organized class or training: from classes for babies, to training for youngsters and meetings for seniors.
What to see in Central Park? Probably children will immediately associate this place with the famous cartoon titled: Penguins of Madagascar, but the zoo here may disappoint (especially if you have seen many other zoos). For that, a walk in the park is also an opportunity to see animals! You will see many squirrels here, and we also saw mice, but Central Park is also home to many other birds (e.g. hawks, titmice, woodpeckers, owls, ducks), plus horse-drawn carriages pass through the park streets every now and then.
Wherever you go, you will hit some kind of playground :) Some bigger, some smaller, more and less shaded. For a walk, you can go to one of the bodies of water – we were more in the southern part at The Lake where there is a picturesque bridge, people take boats, and we especially recommend going to the terrace, arcade and Bethesda fountain.
Walking towards 5th Avenue, it is worth coming to the Conservatory Water pond , but not for the water itself but for the monuments: Christian Andersen and Alice in Wonderland.
And if every Christmas you watch Kevin alone in New York with your family, you will surely look for places just from this film ;)
Central Park is a public park and accessible for free.
Manhattan overwhelms with large buildings. For the first few days, our heads were almost constantly pointed upwards! It took some time before we got used to the tall skyscrapers that surrounded us on all sides.
However, it is definitely worthwhile to look at Manhattan from above, and there are really many opportunities to do so! This ranges from such well-known structures as the Empire State Building to the newest ones like the Edge and SUMMIT One Vanderbilt. We have our favorite when it comes to the best vantage point for families with children, but in fact, everyone can like something different. Below are some of the sites.
SUMMIT One Vanderbilt
When it comes to viewpoints that will appeal to children, in our opinion, this is No. 1. SUMMIT One Vanderbilt is a relatively new attraction, opening in 2020, which is very much gaining in popularity.
We have to point out right away that it will not appeal to everyone, because at times here it can turn a lot of heads! Why? Well, at one point we enter a glass and mirrored space, forming a large so-called Infinity room. We observed many adults who were simply afraid to enter here, but the kids generally entered without any problems.
Walking on the mirrored floor, seeing New York City through walls made entirely of glass, the sun reflecting off the interior walls – it was all incredibly impressive.
In addition, there is a room filled with inflatable silver balls – a heavily Instagrammed place, but it was just great fun for the kids, and you can stand on a protruding glass platform here, and even go even higher in the open elevators.
How much does it cost to enter SUMMIT One Vanderbilt? A regular ticket costs $35, and a discounted ticket costs $33. Children under the age of 5 get in for free.
Empire State Building
It is definitely one of the most recognizable symbols of New York City (probably right after the Statue of Liberty), and at the same time, of course, it is also very popular with visitors, which means no less than that you will probably run into a lot of tourists here (especially if you want, like us, to go here for the sunset).
However, before ascending to the upper floors of the Empire State Building to gaze at Manhattan, visitors are taken through rooms showing how the building was built, introducing them to its history and major events. After passing through, visitors enter an elevator that takes them to the 86th floor of the building (it is also possible to purchase a higher package with access to the 102nd floor).
Once we reach the top, an amazing view of Manhattan, the bay, the Statue of Liberty can be seen from here as well.
How much does it cost to get into the Empire State Building? Tickets for an adult cost from $44, and for children 6 and under cost from $38 (children under 6 get in for free).
Top of the Rock at Rockefeller Center
In our opinion, it is Top of the Rock that has the best view of all of Manhattan: on one side you can see the Empire State Building, with the glass skyscrapers of 1 World Trade Center in the background, and on the other you can see Central Park. Being at the very top, you can turn to see almost all of Manhattan and, importantly, without glazing and bars, which is not possible at other points (after all, we are at the very top of the building!).
There are two viewing terraces here – one is lower, with high glazing, and the other is higher with ordinary railings. These two, open ones are the most impressive, but Manhattan can also be observed from the floors below, through regular windows.
How much does it cost to enter Top of the Rock? A ticket for an adult costs $40, and for a child aged 6-12: $34 (children under 6 get in for free).
The Edge is a place that provides an amazing experience and definitely stands out from other viewpoints. There is an observation platform suspended at 355 meters and it is the highest open observation deck in the western hemisphere! The altitude does its job, and as soon as you get to the platform you have to hold on tight to your hats and caps, because it really blows hard at the top.
Manhattan can be viewed from here through high windows that are slightly slanted outward, which even allows you to look out over the streets below. There is even a glass floor on part of the platform, but in our opinion the effect is not electrifying.
As with the other buildings, on the way up we also have the opportunity to learn something about the history and construction, in this case the Hudson Yards.
How much does it cost to enter The Edge? A ticket in the basic package for an adult costs $38, and for a child aged 6-12: $33 (younger children get in for free).
Helicopter flight over New York City
One of the most amazing adventures we had in New York was a helicopter flight over Manhattan. Admittedly, this is not a typical attraction for toddlers, but children can fly too. There are two types of helicopters to choose from: a traditional one with a door, and a so-called “helicopter”. door off, or without a door.
In the former, you can fly with children ostensibly without age restrictions, which means no less than that even an infant can board, while a helicopter flight without doors is possible for children 12 years and older.
It is quite an expensive attraction, and in our opinion, if you go to it with children, let it be rather older children who will remember as much as possible from the experience.
Prices for the shortest helicopter flight without doors start at $146.
American Museum of Natural History
If you want to see some museum in New York City with your children, the Museum of Natural History may be the best choice for you. It is a place where you can spend a whole day going through the various exhibitions and learning about the surrounding nature and different cultures.
The largest section is devoted to animals, including those that are now extinct, with a special emphasis on dinosaurs. Here we can see what their skeletons looked like, there are educational boards and graphics, and the most impressive is a cast of one of the titanosaurs that is over 37 meters long – its scientific name, Patagotitan mayorum, was only announced in August 2017.
As for other exhibits, however, they show different animal clusters in terms of their region of occurrence. On 4 floors of the American Museum of Natural History there are halls with marine animals, birds, reptiles, amphibians, mammals of North America, Africa, Asia, there are also additional halls dedicated to peoples and cultures from Africa, Mexico, South America, Asia, Indians.
Many of these rooms present specific scenes – the natural habitat of various animals is shown behind glass, hunting is shown, and people representing various tribes and cultures are also depicted.
The museum also has a room with gems and minerals, mateorites and a modern space about the universe.
How much does it cost to enter the American Museum of Natural History in New York? The price for a basic ticket for an adult is $23, and for a child aged 3-12: $13 (children under 3 get in for free)
We completely ran out of time for Brooklyn, we spent only one day here and we think it is definitely not enough.
If you also have only one day to spare, you can use it to walk across the Brooklyn Bridge, go to Dumbo to see the best view of the Manhattan Bridge, try what is said to be some of the best ice cream in New York(Brooklyn Ice Cream Factory), walk along the waterfront and look at Manhattan and the Statue of Liberty.
We highly recommend Brooklyn Bridge Park, where life seems to flow more slowly and quietly than in nearby Manhattan. Here you can sit back, relax, enjoy the views of the Financial District, and the kids can go wild in the playground.
Crossing the Brooklyn Bridge is free of charge.
Other points in New York
These are not the only places we saw in New York, however, we believe that not everything is suitable for children either. We were incredibly moved by The National September 11 Memorial & Museum but the subject matter is quite difficult so we recommend for older children. Many people may like Times Square, but for us it is just a popular, crowded place, not necessarily for children.
Here’s a short list of additional places worth considering when planning a trip with a child:
- Liberty Island cruise and the Statue of Liberty
- Ellis Island and the Museum of Immigration
- Roosevelt Island cable car
- Museum of Modern Art (MoMA)
Map with attractions for children in New York City
Below you will find our map with all the points posted above (including these additional places):
The best souvenir of a trip to New York? LEGO set!
Maybe not necessarily from New York, but when we are planning or recalling our trip to New York and in addition we are fans of LEGO we recommend to you
LEGO Architecture 21028 New York set
, which you can also purchase in our store in the section
LEGO travel sets
Our opinion: is it worth going to New York with a child?
We knew that New York would absorb us, but we weren’t sure how the children would fit in. It turns out that they found each other perfectly and still remember this trip. Seeing pictures of skyscrapers somewhere in movies, on posters, in newspapers, they immediately recognize the city and start recalling what they saw.
We walked a lot and did several kilometers each day. It was tiring at times, especially since we were in August, so it was very hot, but the views and memories that will stay with us made up for it all.