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42 Things to Do with Kids in New York City

Updated: 05/04/12

New York is virtually stuffed with fun activities that can keep you and your kids busy day and night. Here we’ve tried to cherry-pick ones by neighborhood that make this place a wonderland for the young.

Top Central Park Experiences with Kids


1. Hop on a horse at the park’s carousel.

2. Visit the playful polar bears Ida and Gus at the Central Park Zoo before you grab a spot to watch the sea lion feeding.

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3. Go fishing at Harlem Meer, then snap a picture with your kid’s catch of the day before tossing it back in the water.

4. Rent a model sailboat at Conservatory Water; afterward check in with Alice, of Wonderland fame, at the pool’s northern end.

5. Catch the marionette show at the Swedish Cottage for old-fashioned entertainment pre-YouTube style.

Top Upper East Side Experiences with Kids

1. Stop to watch canines of all sizes at the Carl Schurz Park dog runs as your family strolls along the beautiful riverside.

2. Let the kids swirl down the spiral ramp at the Guggenheim.

3. Indulge your sweet tooth with a frozen hot chocolate at Serendipity, or bags of goodies from Dylan’s Candy Bar.

4. Find the precious kids’ clothes you won’t find elsewhere. Most shops are along Madison Avenue from the 80s to the 90s.

Top Upper West Side Experiences with Kids

1. Play in one of the animal-themed playgrounds of Riverside Park, a place that seems to stretch for miles and miles, or climb in the Safari Playground or Wild West Playground near Central Park West.

2. Treat the young ladies in your family to a special afternoon tea at Alice’s Tea Cup, then buy them a pair of butterfly wings for dress-up when they get home. Let your kids join you on a treasure hunt at the Sunday flea market on Columbus Avenue between 76th and 77th streets, where they can find cool jewelry, posters, and other goodies.

3. Stare down Tyrannosaurus Rex and the rest of the dinosaurs in the amazing Fossil Hall at the American Museum of Natural History. Can you find the mummified dinosaur eggs?

4. Explore five floors of interactive exhibits at the Children’s Museum of Manhattan.

Top Lower Manhattan Experiences with Kids


1. Honor our history by visiting the World Trade Center site and the 9/11 Memorial, then take the ferry out to the Statue of Liberty and Ellis Island.

2. Enjoy the crazy street life, jump on a boat, and catch a glimpse of old New York at the South Street Seaport.

3. Visit Chinatown to sample dim sum, soup dumplings, and tapioca pearls in a bubble tea.

4. Take a gloriously free ride across New York Harbor on the Staten Island Ferry after spending some time among the street performers and street vendors at Bowling Green.

5. Look back at one of the greatest views of Manhattan by walking to the center of the the Brooklyn Bridge over the East River.

6. Sample the unusual ice cream flavors available at Chinatown Ice Cream Factory.

Top East Village and Lower East Side Experiences with Kids

1. Experience New York’s Jewish heritage with a visit to the extraordinary Eldridge Synagogue.

2. Trek among the hipsters, punk rockers, and tattooed and pierced people along St. Mark’s Place.

3. Savor a taste of old NYC with a visit to Bamn! Automat at 37 St. Marks Place and 2nd Avenue, where you can select your corn dog or slider from inside a glass window. Wash it down with an egg cream at Gem Spa across the street.

4. Watch all dogs go to heaven at the dog runs at Tompkins Square Park. Have you ever seen a park with doggie swimming pools and drinking fountains?

5. Walk back into NYC’s immigrant past at the Lower East Side Tenement Museum.

Top Village/Chelsea Experiences with Kids

1. Take in the many street musician performers or grab a game of chess in Washington Square Park.

2. Watch bread being made at Amy’s in Chelsea Market, then grab some snacks after meandering through the historic building.

3. Join the queue at Sex and the City fave Magnolia Bakery for one of their pastel-frosted cupcakes.

4. Climb the 30-foot rock wall, skate, bowl, or hit some golf balls at the gigantic Chelsea Piers sports complex.

Top Midtown Experiences with Kids

1. Sing along with your waitress at Ellen’s Stardust Diner, a 50’s style diner with trains and singing waitstaff.

2. Whisper to a friend in the mind-boggling Whispering Gallery at Grand Central Terminal near the entrance of the Oyster Bar.

3. See one of Broadway’s many kid-friendly shows. Our members recommend Billy Elliott, Lion King, Mary Poppins, and In the Heights.

4.Visit the newly restored Plaza Hotel, the stomping grounds of the legendary Eloise. It will also be familiar to viewers of the move Home Alone 2.

5. Shop, shop, shop. The NBA Store, American Girl Place, H&M, Abercombie & Fitch… all your tweens’ and teens’ favorites are here.

Top SoHo/Little Italy Experiences with Kids

1. Treat your tots to Italian sweets, from pignoli cookies and creamy cannolis to marzipan-coated cassatas.

2. Indulge your tween’s Gossip Girl fantasy and take her around the cool clothing boutiques in SoHo and NoLita.

3. Shop until your kids drop at the Scholastic Store, home of all things Clifford, Captain Underpants, and Harry Potter

4. Take a whirl around Little Italy during the 11-day Feast of San Gennaro Festival in September, one of the city’s liveliest outdoor street fairs.

Top Brooklyn Experiences with Kids


1. Take the subway all the way to Coney Island, where you can catch some minor league baseball, build sandcastles on the beach, test your fearlessness on the famous Cyclone roller coaster, and eat the hot dogs that made Nathan’s a New York legend.

2. Enjoy a lazy day at Prospect Park pedal boating or birdwatching, or simply kicking back and playing catch on the gorgeous grounds.

3. Board the New York Water Taxi from Manhattan to DUMBO‘s Fulton Ferry Landing for a taste of everything Brooklyn: ice cream at the Brooklyn Ice Cream Factory, fabulous pizza at Grimaldi’s, and chocolate from Jacques Torres. Work off those calories playing in the wonderful new waterfront parks.

4. Walk across the Brooklyn Bridge from Brooklyn to get an entirely different perspective of the experience of the NYC skyline rising up to greet you.

5. Crawl around in the Discovery Garden at the Brooklyn Botanic Garden and cool off by the “dancing” fountain at the nearby Brooklyn Museum.

–Meryl Pearlstein

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Photo credits: (1) Photo by flickr member kindergentler2001; (2) Photo by flickr member victoriapeckham; 3) Photo by flickr member edenpictures.

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