You can’t beat NYC for an adventurous city trip! This massive list of fun things to do in NYC with kids will make sure that your trip is absolutely epic.
I lived in Manhattan for six years, but I confess — none of those years was as a parent. In fact, I would look at the moms hauling their strollers up subway steps and think how challenging life looked to be a parent, especially of little ones, in the city.
At this point I no longer live in NYC but can definitely confirm that I still have my New Yorker chops whenever my feet it the pavement there.
And after a few family trips to the city, some with our kids at the toddler/baby stage and now at school age, I definitely have some ideas about how to make traveling to NYC with kids not just good but absolutely great.
Psst — before you dive in, be sure to sign up below for my VIP list, where I’ll send more of my very best travel and family ideas straight to ya!
Our Best City Guides for Families
Maybe NYC isn’t your vibe. Lucky you, we’ve got family-friendly city guides all over the world! Bookmark or pin these for later:
- Carmel with Kids
- Rome with Kids
- Maui with Kids
- Kauai with Kids
- Albuquerque with Kids
- Florence with Kids
- Cabo with Kids
- Palm Springs with Kids
- Puerto Vallarta with Kids
Why Travel to NYC with Kids?
There’s literally not enough time in the day for me to tell you all of my reasons why New York City is an incredible place to take a family. Yes, I’m biased as a former New Yorker, but I stand behind my opinion that it’s one of the best cities in the world.
For kids who have grown up in a more suburban or rural area, experiencing the sights and sounds of NYC is like opening a whole new world.
The colors, the people, the noises, the buildings — it all feels like it can’t possibly be real, but it is. And they’re suddenly a part of it.
The easy access to culture of all kinds is what makes the city stand out to me. Obviously my school and career paths were in musical theatre, and Broadway is the epicenter of that world.
The best of the best are onstage 8 days a week in NYC, and exposing children to musical theatre at this caliber can not only inspire, open minds to new ideas, and educate, but perhaps even demonstrate a whole world of career possibilities (Acting! Lighting design! Orchestra musicians! Costume designer! Stage manager!).
Aside from my great passion, the museums and art galleries in NYC are absolutely world-class. The parks and shared green spaces are always activated with something interesting and exciting.
The food scene is incredible, from street carts to high end dining and everything in between. The public transit (although often annoying as a resident) is easy to access and navigate. The shopping is beyond.
And while New Yorkers themselves sometimes get a reputation for being brusque, are more often helpful than not.
Where To Stay in NYC With Kids
While it’s not everybody’s cup of tea, if you’re staying in the city with kids usually recommend staying in or near Midtown.
It can be busy, but it’s centrally located to the things that you’ll most likely want to do as a family.
You’re right in the theatre district to catch a Broadway show, and walkable to Rockefeller Center and 5th Avenue, Central Park, and lots more. Midtown also has easy and plentiful access to various Subway lines which can take you quickly all over Manhattan or out to other boroughs.
On this trip we stayed in the Belvedere Hotel and I’d highly recommend it.
What to Pack for NYC with Kids
Because we’re past the baby stage, I’ll mostly be focusing on what to bring for school-age kids.
But we’ve done the baby trip before as well, and in that case we packed a travel crib and a small umbrella stroller with a rain cover, along with a baby wearing pack. Most of NYC is very stroller friendly, but Midtown streets get crowded so I preferred to wear my kids there.
For school-aged kids our packing lists consisted of:
- Their own backpack, containing:
- Tablet and headphones (mainly for the plane)
- Small easily travelable toys
- Their own carry-on suitcase with clothing and toiletries for every day
- One or two nicer outfits to dress up for shows or a nice dinner
- Close toed shoes that are super comfy for walking
- An umbrella (one per kid)
- Noise cancelling headphones or earplugs for Mags, who has sensory considerations
I also bring when we travel with the kids:
- One or two small new interesting toys (like a Shashibo, Aaron’s Thinking Putty, etc.) for the plane and throughout the trip
- Small coloring books and mini pens in a small bag for restaurants while we’re waiting for food
- Snacks and snacks and more snacks in a bag like this, always with us
- A pouch with Bandaids, Neosporin, pain meds, Dramamine, and a Tide Pen
- Hand sanitizer and antibacterial wipes
What do To in NYC With Kids
There are a few categories of activities that I always recommend when people ask what they should do in the city! Here are the ones that I think work best with kids.
Live Performing Arts and Broadway Shows
My passion is musical theatre and Broadway shows are the very best, so we do a lot of that when we’re in NYC. But don’t forget to look for off-Broadway options, which often have interesting things for kids. Off-broadway just means that the theatre is fewer than 500 seats.
Many Broadway shows have day-of rush tickets that you can secure via the Today Tix app, at a majorly reduced rate.
Another way to get reduced cost tickets is to wait in the TKTS line in Times Square. They have most Broadway and off-Broadway shows available at anywhere from 20-70% off. This site explains how to navigate TKTS!
Both of these options mean that you will have to wait until the day-of to plan your theatre experience. But it’s a way to make theatre more financially accessible; taking a family of four to a Broadway show at full price can cost many hundreds of dollars.
Beyond theatre, be sure to also look into concerts and concert halls! In the same week you could see a world class ballet and a pop concert and a symphony. There is so much to see and do.
We gave our kiddos the choice between the Museum of Natural History or an art museum like the Met or MoMA, and they chose history. But there are even more to choose from, both big and small.
Do a bit of talking with your kiddos before you go about what time of exhibits they’re interested in or what type of art they’d like to see. There are even smaller museums about spies, color, Broadway, and more – something for everybody.
The public spaces in NYC are absolutely gems of the city. Central Park, the High Line, the Brooklyn Bridge, Bryant Park, and so on — each of them has its own feel and special features.
When asked, I always recommend walking the High Line (a park built on an abandoned elevated train track), and spending about half a day in Central Park.
In Central Park, I recommend Heckscher Playground, the Carousel, Sheep’s Meadow, Strawberry Fields, the Boat Pond, the Mall and Literary Walk, and Bethesda Fountain. These have fun and interesting things for kids to see and do, and they’ll probably recognize some parts of these from movies or TV shows.
When you visit, be sure to check ahead at any of the NYC parks to find out if they happen to have live entertainment, which they often do.
You’ve gotta shop! For kiddos, NYC is full of flagship stores from their favorite brands. If you’re hitting these stores I recommend going right when they open, as it can get chaotic and become less fun later in the day.
Some of the particularly cool flagship stores are LEGO, American Girl, Nintendo, FAO Schwartz, and M&Ms. They’re definitely touristy but a cool experience nonetheless.
I’m particularly fascinated by the doll salon in the American Girl store, where your doll can get a whole new hairdo.
For shopping that’s a little less kid-focused, I like to head downtown to SoHo around Spring, Broome, and Prince streets and wander the boutiques. There’s also great high end shopping on 5th avenue between 48 and 60th Streets.
And on the Upper West Side, try Columbus or Amsterdam Avenues in the 70’s and 80’s for some shops you won’t find anywhere else.
Henry had two goals this trip: to go to the top of the Empire State Building, and to get an NY Public Library card.
We usually try to steer clear of the touristy sights but I definitely understand the draw! So we did the Empire State and it was fantastic. I recommend getting the first reservation of the day (9am) and only going to the 86th floor. The 102nd is almost twice as expensive for a view that’s just as good.k
If it’s your fist visit and you want to see some of those more traditional sights, I’d recommend the ferry to the Statue of LIberty, and One World Trade. You can also to Top of the Rock, but I wouldn’t combine that with the Empire State Building, as the experiences are quite similar.
I hope these few tips help you have an absolutely incredible time in the city! I love my NYC home and wish that everyone could experience this magical city at least once.
Now go get a bite out of that big apple! Xoxo
This post contains affiliate links for your convenience. This means that I receive a small commission should you make a purchase via one of these links, at no additional cost to you. Thank you as always for your support!