1. Central park
A year-round must
You’d be hard pushed to go to New York and not see Central Park. Life in Manhattan revolves around the city’s green hub and there’s a whole host of activities for children. The most quintessential would be a horse-drawn carriage ride around its winding trails, taking in the sights at the same time. One carriage holds up to two adults and three children under 12. There’s also a zoo and over 20 playgrounds – including Billy Johnson Playground on Fifth Avenue (five minutes from the zoo), which boasts a 45ft long granite slide – while in the winter, it becomes a wonderland with an ice-skating rink.
2. Staten Island
Get the ferry to a green haven
Float past the Statue of Liberty and New York Harbour on the free ferry to Staten Island, before stepping off into the city’s greenest borough. The island is made up of 12,300 acres of protected parkland making it an idyllic place to while away a day. Go horse riding at Clay Pit Ponds State Park and discover the waterways from a kayak – Kayak Staten Island offers free trips with volunteers. From South Beach, hire a bicycle or play a round of golf. Life on the island is about the great outdoors, but there are also museums, forts and historic houses to explore.
3. Empire State Building
NYC’s iconic art deco building offers the city’s best views from its 86th-floor viewing platform. Whizzing up in the high-speed lift is fun in itself, but time your visit carefully as the queues are long. If you don’t fancy waiting, walk up the stairs to the second floor for the New York Skyride, an interactive virtual tour of New York. Alternatively, book your tickets online to skip the ticket queue and buy an Express Pass to miss the queues for the lift and security. Be warned that buggies are not allowed.
Museum of modern art
The world’s most exciting collection of modern art lines the walls of MOMA. Take your time as you pass colourful Lichtenstein’s, surreal Picassos and abstract Pollocks, or head straight to pieces that your kids will recognize such as Monet’s vast Water Lilies and Van Gogh’s The Starry Night. If the art doesn’t grab their attention, there are workshops to get crafty in, while for teens there are films, talks and classes. Two cafes offer all-day informal dining – Café 2 has a children’s menu and highchairs.
5. Sony Wonder Technology Lab
Exciting interactive exhibits
This museum of gadgetry showcases fascinating technology in a creative environment and best of all it’s free. Feel what it’s like to perform virtual heart surgery, interact with robots, delve inside the inner workings of video games or create a cartoon character in the Animation Studio. Alongside the gizmos are film screenings of the likes of Dora the Explorer, as well as workshop programs for families, particularly in the school holidays.
Althoughentrance is free, it is advised to book your tickets online.
6. Hester Street Fair
Food, crafts and jewellery
Artisanal food carts, vintage clothing and jewellery stalls line the leafy road that Hester Street Fairoccupies. Conceived in 2009 by a group of locals, the fair runs from April to October and is held every Saturday (from 10am–6pm) in what was New York’s largest street cart market during the 19th century.
Now it pays homage to its roots with a collection of the city’s top market stall vendors. Graze on snacks from cuisines around the world, buy souvenirs or have a family yoga lesson for only one dollar.
7. Rocket Park
New York hall of science
Wannabe Buzz Aldrins/Lightyears will love getting to grips with NASA rockets responsible for missions to outer space and putting man on the moon at the New York Hall of Science’s Rocket Park, in Queen’s. Along with the space shuttles, the 60,000ft playground includes seesaws, slides and a water play area, as well as a nine-hole crazy golf course. Opening times vary throughout the year so check the website before you go.
Price: Entry to Rocket Park is an extra $4 on top of the general admission price, which is $6 for adults and $5 for children.
8. Chelsea Piers
Sports & entertainment
Inplace of four formerly neglected piers next to the Hudson River are the new Chelsea Piers, a 28-acre playground for children and adults. From gymnastics and rock-climbing to ice-skating and swimming, or an all-American baseball experience in one of the batting cages, there’s something for all ages.
Once you’ve worked up an appetite, head to one of the relaxed restaurants, such as Famous Famiglia, which serves up family-friendly Italian food. Located on Manhattan’s West Side, it’s easily accessible by the Subway, but there is a bit of a walk from the station to the piers.
9. Activities in Brooklyn
Rollercoasters and baseball
Take a water taxi from Manhattan to Pier 1 for a slice of Brooklyn life. There’s the zoo, Brooklyn Children’s Museum and the Botanic Garden for starters. Then sample some of the local flavours at the Ice Cream Factory, Jacques Torres’ Chocolate Factory or one of the many pizza parlors. Next up, hit Coney Island for some minor league baseball, riding the rollarcoaster and building sandcastles on the beach. Walk back to Manhattan over Brooklyn Bridge’s promenade, which is shared by cyclists, roller-bladers and skate boards. It’s best early in the morning or during sunset.
10. Broadway shows
The Lion King, Wicked, Annie: there are plenty of child-friendly shows on Broadway, as well as some great options off-Broadway. Alternatively book a baby-sitter and slope off for some adult entertainment at Avenue Q or The Book of Mormon. There’s an excellent range of eating options on and around Broadway, most of which offer pre- and post-theatre menus. If you can stomach it,Ellen’s Stardust Diner, a cheesy fifties-style diner with singing waiting staff will be sure to get you in the mood for some show tunes.