New York Things to Do

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Things to Do as a Family

New York City is full of activities and interesting places. It offers something for everyone, from shows to festivals and exhibits. We have scoured through the endless list of things to do in New York as a family to come up with the most exciting options.

Big Bus Hop-On Hop-Off Tours

One of the best things to do in New York with the family is explore it through hop-on, hop-off tours. The city is a whirlwind of constant activity, and it can be challenging to navigate for first-timers. Visit all the iconic landmarks with a bus tour. Skip the stress of consulting your maps, finding your way through crowded subways and walking the streets on your own. These bus tours are a great way to discover the city, enjoy panoramic views, and save hours of your time.

There is a wide variety of bus tours to choose from. Pick one that ticks off all your boxes and goes to all the places you find most interesting.

Visit Governors Island

To experience New York like no other, a trip to Governors Island is a must. The former military base is only 800 yards away from Manhattan, is easily reachable by ferry, and offers family fun! Aside from the endless number of play zones and play structures ripe for exploration, hammocks are available for those who would like to kick back and relax.

Adults, as well as kids, can enjoy 5 miles of bike lanes. All the running around, playing, and walking can quickly leave you hungry but don’t worry; numerous food trucks offer a variety of delicious food. Or you can do what some locals do and bring a picnic.

Take the Staten Island Ferry

Yes, the Staten Island Ferry is present in every guidebook and listicle about the Big Apple, but there’s a reason that its spot is well-deserved. Offering unrivalled views of the city’s famed harbour and the iconic Statue of Liberty, the one-way trip that lasts under 30 minutes is short enough to hold your little one’s rapt attention but long enough to admire the beautiful vistas.

Aside from the sights, another reason that makes the Staten Island Ferry a must is that you pay absolutely nothing for the ride. Yup, it’s FREE! Position yourself on the left side of the ship to get excellent views of both the Statue of Liberty and Ellis Island.

Enjoy the rides at Luna Park

This amusement park by the beach welcomes thousands, especially during summer. Take the family here for the time of their lives. The plethora of rides will give everyone endless thrills. While younger kids might want to concentrate on the swings and the carousel, older children and adults can make a beeline for the Cyclone, the wooden rollercoaster that’s been making everyone scream and shout with fear and excitement for more than 90 years.

Don’t forget to try the fried clams on the boardwalk and Nathan’s hotdog on Surf Avenue. You won’t regret it!

Browse through an endless array of toys at FAO Schwartz

If there’s one thing that kids love and can’t live without, it’s toys! Make their dreams come true by bringing them to this iconic toy store. It may be a children’s store, but we’re confident even adults can let out the child in them at FAO Schwartz. It’s the perfect side trip when you go to the Central Park Zoo.

The store has just recently been brought back to life after closing in 2015. One of its most memorable pieces is the giant piano which has been featured in the movie Big.

Delight booklovers at the New York Public Library

One of the city’s most beloved landmarks, the New York Public Library’s main branch is renowned for Patience and Fortitude, the two marble lions that stand guard at the entrance of the building. Perfect for families who love reading, you can let your inner geek run free as you spend countless hours browsing through shelves of books. Architecture lovers will find the magnificent ceilings more than admirable.

There’s a myriad of things to do in the surrounding area, as it’s packed with bakeries, boutiques, and quirky shops.

Discover the magic of moviemaking at the Museum of the Moving Image

Take the whole family to this museum devoted to all things about the development of moving pictures, and together marvel at how moviemaking has come a long way, from its humble beginnings to the fantastic and realistic effects of today. Parents will be just as intrigued as their kids when they see the various exhibits that include projectors, cameras, video games, sound recording equipment, and old-fashioned telly sets.

Visitors get the chance to show off their skills at vintage console and arcade games, dub their voice-over dialogue from a film, and try being puppeteer.

Drop by Brooklyn Bridge

Brooklyn Bridge is a must whenever in the Big Apple. Get ready to snap hundreds of photos on this walkway perched high above the East River, which boasts stunning vistas of Wall Street’s skyscrapers. Start on the Brooklyn side to get the best views, and remember to stay left so you can get excellent souvenir photos of the entire family with the famous skyline as a background.

If going during summer, remember to bring along a bottle of water and ensure your phone and cameras have enough batteries for the endless picture-taking.

Take chocoholics to the Max Brenner Chocolate Bar and Restaurant

Be ready to give in to an array of gooey and flavourful chocolate temptations when you step into Max Brenner. Throw caution to the wind and order as much as you like. It’s the perfect reward for well-behaved toddlers. They have an exhaustive menu of hot chocolates, and the mac ‘n cheese always gets a thumbs-up from the kids.

Don’t forget to try the O.M.G. Chocolate Chunk Cookie topped with whipped cream, melted chocolate, and berries, one of their bestsellers.

Catch a Disney musical production at the New Amsterdam Theatre

The theatre has been operating since 1903, making it one of the oldest on Broadway. Frozen, Aladdin, Mary Poppins, and The Lion King are only a few of the theatre productions. Enter its hallowed halls and see a wide array of marble sculptures that feature scenes from varying Shakespearean plays, characters from Hans Christian Andersen and Aesop’s Fables, and Wagner’s Operas.

Don’t worry if you can’t catch any show. They have group tours that cost only a few dollars headed by experienced guides who’ll tell you interesting facts, and perhaps hear a spooky ghost story or two.

See a Broadway show

Check which kid-friendly Broadway plays or musicals are available during your visit and see one. It’s an experience unlike any other, and it’s going to be particularly special for a child who loves such shows and musicals. Be aware though that theatres have a minimum age for attendance and the majority of shows, that age is six.

Nevertheless, you should check show and theatre specifics before purchasing tickets to avoid disappointment. Remember to buy early as tickets usually sell out far in advance.

Go ice skating at Rockefeller Center

Don’t worry if you can’t go ice skating in Bryant Park during winter because if you’re visiting in the cooler months from October until April, you can ice skate at Rockefeller Center. It’s best to arrive early as skating is on a first-come-first-served basis and the queue can get quite long, more so during the winter holidays.

Make a reservation through the VIP igloo to skip the lines and save time. Aside from ice skating, they also have other dining packages on offer.

Try the famous bagels

Have you ever been to New York if you have never tried the bagels? Don’t worry if one of the family members is gluten intolerant because they have a gluten-free version too. The perfect breakfast in New York, it’s traditional to have your bagel with smear and/or lox. Get it with coffee and you’re on your way to becoming a real New Yorker.

Top 15 Places to Visit in New York

As one of the most exciting cities in the United States and the world, New York has a plethora of family fun to offer. You’ll need an abundance of time if you want to do it all, so we have narrowed down the list to the top 10 places to visit in New York for families.

Children’s Museum of the Arts

New York is a city of museums, but this museum is unlike the rest as it’s for children. Aside from the thousands of brightly-coloured drawings and paintings made by kids, the 10,000 feet area is full of endless hands-on workshops and kid-centric activities, more than enough for your children to let their curiosity and creativity run wild.

Drop by during summer and let the little ones join a few of the numerous programs that provide them with an avenue to express their creative and artistic selves.

One World Observatory

It was a close contest between the Empire State Building and One World Observatory, but in the end, we went with the latter. Take adventurous kiddos high up to get a glimpse of New York from a different perspective. They will love being on one of the fastest elevators and also in one of the world’s tallest buildings.

One World Observatory not only offers visitors a unique viewing experience, but it’s also an excellent place for families to spend countless hours interacting with the city. On the way to the 102nd floor is a variety of educational and interactive activities that focus on technology and visual arts.

Central Park

Any visit to New York is incomplete without dropping by Central Park, the country’s first public park. The park is massive, and in it, you will find a boathouse, a zoo, a conservatory garden, and an endless number of playgrounds for children to explore. They might get a scrape or two but will have memories to last a lifetime.

Various activities in Central Park were created with children in mind. Depending on the season, a few notable ones worth the time are Tisch Children’s Zoo, Belvedere Castle’s Henry Luce Nature Observatory, Central Park Carousel, and ice skating.

American Museum of Natural History

Home to the most extensive collection of dinosaurs, you could easily spend a whole day at the American Museum of Natural History as little ones get lost in exploration. One of the museum’s highlights is the Discovery Room, where children aged between 5 and 12 can get a closer look and have a hands-on experience with specimens and artefacts. They can create their very own collection of minerals or hunt for animals in a replica of the African baobab tree.

Another interesting feature is the Hayden Planetarium. Also considered one of the best planetariums in the country, the planetarium has two observatories that take guests on spectacular virtual journeys. You get plus points if your children are big fans of Night at the Museum.

New York Botanical Garden

Famed for its superb exhibitions, the New York Botanical Garden is an excellent place for children, regardless of the season. The Everett Children’s Adventure Garden is a must-see as it offers more than just greens and flowers. Tiny tots can run through a maze, climb copious amounts of boulders, and take a closer look at plant life at the Pond Pavilion. In addition to a pond, the 12-acre landscape has a meadow and woodland.

Several exploration programs for kids are available all year round. Don’t miss the Holiday Train Show if you visit in the winter.

Brooklyn Bridge Park

Located along the East River, the world-class waterfront park has plenty of fun for the whole family, scattered throughout the different sections that contain six refurbished piers, all brimming with playgrounds. Don’t miss the iconic carousel at Empire Fulton Ferry, the slide Mountain Playground at Pier 6, and roller-skating with the kids at Pier 2.

Don’t forget to take time to admire the gorgeous views of the Manhattan skyline after enjoying all the activities and filling your stomach with delicious food.

Statue of Liberty and Ellis Island

As cliché as it may sound, you’ve never been to New York if you haven’t seen Lady Liberty up close. Plus, the Ellis Island Immigration Museum is a must. Remember to head to Ellis Kid to see the interactive exhibit so that the kids can imagine what it was like to immigrate to the United States.

There is an audio tour created especially for children aged 6 to 10 that takes place on the pedestal of Lady Liberty while children at least 4 feet can climb to the top of Lady Liberty’s crown.

Intrepid Sea, Air, and Space Museum

Another famous New York City attraction, the Intrepid Sea, Air, and Space Museum is where you can let the children’s imagination take flight as they learn the history of American travel.

Aside from the different aircraft that have a special place in history, the museum offers a variety of programs and activities, as well as indoor and outdoor exhibits, throughout the year that aims to educate, entertain, and engage children. With so many things to see, you should spend at least half a day in the museum.

Bryant Park

One of the best places in New York to visit during winter, Bryant Park has an ice skating rink that opens as early as 8 in the morning until as late as 10 in the evening. Block a spot for the kids so they can skate ahead of time and enjoy a cup of hot cocoa.

Kids Week takes place annually and is full of fun, kid-friendly outdoor activities primarily designed for children ages 4 to 6. However, everyone is welcome, even adults! The whole family can enjoy afternoons with a slew of activities, including puppet shows, science projects, magic and music.

Madison Square Garden

Synonymous with the city of New York, Madison Square Garden is a treat for sports and music fans. The city’s oldest active sporting facility also happens to be one of the busiest music venues in the world and hosts hundreds of events annually. If you’re in luck, you might just be able to watch a concert or see the New York Rangers play.

You can glimpse the Garden with a 60-minute guided tour that will take you to the luxury suites, backstage areas, and the iconic concave ceiling.

Radio City Music Hall

The largest theatre in the world at the time of its opening in December 1932, Radio City Music Hall has a seating capacity of almost 6,000 and is one of the most recognizable entertainment sites in the world. It hosts hundreds of events and receives more than 2 million visitors annually. The Hall offers daily Backstage tours that give people a closer look at the venue.

Explore the beauty and the history of Radio City Music Hall in the 60-minute guided tour. You’ll visit The Roxy Suite, also known as the secret apartment, see the art deco masterpieces, and see exclusive views of the auditorium, all while listening to the colourful history of the Hall, as told by the knowledgeable host.

Times Square

Some people may tell you to avoid Times Square but it’s undeniable that it is part and parcel of New York. Yes, it’s filled with overpriced items, huge crowds, and chain restaurants, but there’s it’s also one of the most visited spots in New York, and it’s a must for tourists.

However, you might want to avoid going there during rush hour or the day. Times Square at night is like daylight and you’ll be surprised that your photos will come out better. At nighttime, Times Square is lit up like Christmas and it’s a sight to see!

9/11 Memorial and Museum

A monument to human courage, dignity, and sacrifice, the 9/11 Memorial honours the people who perished during the attack that happened on September 11, 2001, and February 26, 1993. The memorial is free to the public and is open seven days a week. The museum, however, is only open five days a week and has an admission fee.

Tickets must be purchased in advance for timed visits. Various tours can be purchased up to 6 months in advance. Children under the age of 7 get free admission, however, a ticket is still required for entry to monitor the capacity.

Grand Central Terminal

More popularly known as Grand Central Station, this Beaux-Arts building is a famous landmark and has been featured in various movies and TV shows such as Just My Luck, The Bone Collector, and Carlito’s Way. First opened in 1913, it is a terminal for both the train and subway stations. One of its most beautiful features is the Grand Staircase where you can stop and look out over the concourse.

The spectacular ceiling has been restored and showcases an etherial scene. Inside the terminal are a variety of restaurants and retail shops.

Fifth Avenue

More geared toward the adults in the family, Fifth Avenue is one of the most popular shopping streets in the US where you will find flagship stores such as Tiffany, Cartier, Bergdorf-Goodman, and Saks Fifth Avenue. However, even non-shoppers will still enjoy a walk along the avenue.

Top 10 Places to Eat Out in New York

We’re pretty confident that your stomachs will be rumbling after visiting all of the must-see places in New York. Next on the agenda is glorious food, so we have compiled a list of the best places to dine in when in the city that never sleeps.

Junior’s Restaurant

A diner with a twist and a few locations in New York, nothing beats eating at its landmark location on Cheesecake Corner. Once you step through the doors, you’ll see memorabilia and a full-service bar. Customers will be delighted with their expansive menu for breakfast, lunch, and dinner. The bakery is still operating and serves unforgettable Danish and freshly baked rolls throughout the day.

Some of the most popular items on the menu that you need to try are cheesecake, deli sandwiches, steakburgers, chicken, ribs, and fish. They have an under-12 Junior menu featuring food that kids will especially love, such as grilled cheese and chicken fingers.

Harlem Shake

Be transported back in time in this 50’s diner, complete with twirling stools and chrome. If you’re feeling adventurous and want to make the experience as authentic as possible, you can come decked in 50’s retro attire too. Fill your stomachs with dressed chips, hot dogs, sandwiches, root beer floats, soft-serve ice cream, heavily seared smash burgers, and whipped-cream topped shakes.

You’ve never been to Harlem Shake unless you’ve tried their signature shakes. Don’t worry. They thought of the parents too so beers and mimosas are available.

Bubby’s

Home to some of the city’s best pancakes, Bubby’s has offerings that will delight adults, kids, and the kids in all of us. With an endless list of kid-friendly dishes such as bacon mac ‘n cheese, burgers, and crispy chicken biscuits, it’s easy to see why many families go to Bubby’s to satisfy their hunger. No one does it better than Bubby’s in classic American cooking. 

An insider tip for families travelling to New York, no meal is complete in Bubby’s without tasting their famous pies. After all, the eatery started as a pie company in 1990. There’s a lot to choose from, but a few crowd favourites are Peanut Butter Chocolate, Local Apple, Key Lime, and Michigan Sour Cherry.

Brooklyn Farmacy & Soda Fountain

There’s plenty to keep kids interested when visiting Brooklyn Farmacy & Soda Fountain. A longtime New York staple, it’s housed in a former apothecary store that dates a few centuries back. It opened its doors to customers in 2010 and has since become a prominent feature of the Big Apple, loved by locals and tourists alike.

With an extensive food offering, you can never go wrong when dining there with the family.  A few things to look forward to are homemade sodas, pastries, sandwiches, and of course, milkshakes,

Roberta’s

Famous for their imaginative take on the classic pizza, Roberta’s is where you go if you want to try something new and unconventional. Excite your taste buds with unique pizza flavours with funny names such as Cheesus Christ, Bee Sting and Li’l Stinker. They also have salads, burgers, ribs, sandwiches, and desserts.

Share a classic pizza with the family, or better yet, be adventurous with your selection. Don’t even worry if your child is a picky eater because kids can create their pizza with over 20 toppings.

Eddie’s Sweet Shop

The oldest ice cream parlour in the city where time stands still, Eddie’s Sweet Shop was opened in 1909 on a busy corner of Metropolitan Avenue. This anachronistic diner has soda pulls, twirling stools, and red leatherette upholstery. Adults and children love the interiors. The variety of ice cream flavours served with generous amounts of toppings and syrups is something that nobody can ever complain about.

A must-try is the gigantic classic sundae with homemade whipped cream, hot fudge, and a cherry. Order the white chocolate classic sundae and thank us later.

Alice’s Tea Cup

An excellent option for families with little girls, going to Alice’s Tea Cup is like being given the once-in-a-lifetime chance to join the Hatter’s Tea Party. The whimsical teahouse is just a short walk away from Central Park Zoo, the perfect place for a meal after exploring the park! The restaurant offers breakfast, brunch, lunch, and dinner. In addition, they have afternoon tea, as well as a menu for kids.

Remember to make a reservation if you’re visiting during busy times or if you want to be seated immediately.

Carmine’s Italian Restaurant

Widely considered the best Italian restaurant in all of New York that offers exceptional value for money, Carmine’s is famous for its enormous portions and flavourful food. There are two restaurants in New York, one located on the Upper West Side and another in Times Square. The latter is the busier of the two and there is always a wait regardless of the time of year, so make reservations to walk right in.

Their Kids Menu is perfect for children aged eight and younger. Aside from the traditional pasta dishes, they have various flavours for more adventurous palates.

Ellen’s Stardust Diner

Just right outside Times Square on Broadway, Ellen’s Stardust Diner boasts immensely talented servers who serenade diners with a variety of Broadway tunes. Admittedly, the food isn’t as spectacular as the other places on this list but the entertainment alone gives families enough reasons to come back again and again. Don’t worry about seating as the performers walk around the restaurant as they sing.

Consider visiting during breakfast hours when it’s not as crowded. Keep in mind that they don’t accept reservations. Avoid going on Sundays, Saturdays, and Wednesdays, as it usually gets quite busy during lunch hours.

Katz’s Delicatessen

This 130-year-old Jewish deli serves non-Kosher food and is the home of arguably one of the best hotdogs in town. The selection of sliced meats, which includes tongue, turkey, corned beef, and pastrami, to name a few, will make your mouth water and are both equally delicious whether in hand-carved heaps or on a sandwich. Pick from a range of sodas to compliment your sandwich, and oh, did we mention that pickles are free?

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