New York

12 Activities Not to Miss in Manhattan

Last updated 16th May 2018

What are the must-not-miss things to do in Manhattan? Here are 12 of the best activities not to miss in New York.


1/12 Take a Tour

How do you see the most densely populated and one of the oldest cities in the US on your own without a little help? Hire a local guide to help you navigate the city for a day and learn some amazing facts and practical advice. You can find a tour guide on Tours by Locals or on Airbnb.

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2/12 Ride to the Top of the City

Empire State Building
This 102 story skyscraper has been a New York City landmark since it’s completion in 1931 when it became the world’s tallest building and remained so for 40 years. It’s well worth riding up to the top and taking in the view of the city. Be sure to check the website which will give you an estimate of how long the wait will be to go to the top.

One World Trade Center
Also known as Freedom Tower, this is the main building of the rebuilt World Trade Center that was destroyed during the 9/11 attacks. It is the tallest building in the western hemisphere and the sixth tallest building in the world. You can take a ride up to the 100th, 101st and 102nd floors of the tower to the One World Observatory for 360 views where you can spot all the major landmarks in the city. It’s a great way to get your bearings before exploring further.

Courtesy of Vanessa Hunt

3/12 Meander the Museums

  • The Met. The Metropolitan Museum of Art also fondly referred to as “the Met” is the largest art museum in the United states and well worth a visit. Even younger kids will find something interesting here. You can move from tombs of ancient Egypt to thought provoking modern art in a matter of minutes or days, depending on your pace.
  • Children’s Museum of Manhattan. The Children’s Museum of Manhattan or CMOM is a fantastic place for children, especially younger ones, to learn and play. A great option for a rainy day, the CMOM is open every day of the week at reasonable prices.
  • American Museum of Natural History. If you have a Night at the Museum fan in your family, you’ll want to make a stop at  the American Natural History Museum and say hello to the mummies, whales, butterflies, and of course, dinosaurs.
  • New York Transit Museum. Inside an old subway station, the New York Transit Museum tells the inspiring story of the New York Subway system from start to finish. Kids will love touring old subway cars!
  • Guggenheim. This iconic building, designed by Frank Lloyd Wright houses some of the most famous impressionist, post-impressionist and modern art in the world. Kids will love the spiral ramp that takes you from top to bottom.
  • National September 11 Memorial & Museum. While extremely heavy subject matter, the memorial and museum are a good history lesson for children and will help 9/11 seem more real. Keep in mind that this is a place of quiet and reflection and may be best for older kids and teens.
  • Lower East Side Tenement Museum. This museum requires a tour and is only for children 8 years and older, but is worth a visit for the history lesson in store. This five-story brick tenement building was home to an estimated 7,000 people from over 20 nations between 1863 and 1935 and is a testament to the fact that our nation and New York City in particular was built on immigration and the working class. Buy tickets online in advance for a timed tour. There are several tour types to choose from.

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4/12 Central Park

If you’re sick of museums and the bustle of the city, escape right into the middle of Manhattan. As the most visited urban park in the United States and at a size of over 800 acres, Central Park is a place worth spending some time in. You can visit the zoo, rent a boat, relax in Sheep Meadow, ice skate in the winter, climb to Belvedere Castle, ride a bike or take a carriage ride.

Courtesy of Vanessa Hunt

5/12 Fun Food

New York City is a melting pot not only of people, but also of food. There are approximately 200 languages spoken in New York and you can sample regional cuisine from around the world such as France, Italy, Cuba, Korea, Africa and India. There are also countless trendy restaurants and cafes on nearly every corner for you to explore. Here are some especially exciting options for kids:

  • Alice’s Teacup. A kid’s favorite, this Alice in Wonderland themed restaurant offers all day service of tea, breakfast, brunch, lunch and dinner. They also offer a surprisingly good burger! Kids will be sprinkled with fairy dust when they come in and treated to the tea party of their dreams
  • Brooklyn Farmacy and Soda Fountain. Kids can sit up at the counter and watch soda jerks whip up delicious old fashioned sodas.
  • Dylan’s Candy Bar. Inspired by Roald Dahl’s Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory, Dylan’s Candy Bar is the largest unique candy store in the world. Stocked with 7,000 candies from around the world, this is sure to be a crowd pleaser for kids.
  • Pizza. Pizza is a staple in New York City. There are too many disputes about who makes the best slice, so we’ll let you judge and decide for yourself.
  • Street Food. Don’t leave New York City without grabbing a hot dog or Falafel from a street cart.


Chris Tobin/Getty

6/12 Brooklyn Bridge

Connecting the boroughs of Manhattan and Brooklyn stands one of the oldest bridges in the United States, the Brooklyn Bridge, a New York City icon that has been designated a National Historic Landmark. You can safely walk across the bridge into Brooklyn on the pedestrian walkway and take in gorgeous views of the iconic New York skyline.


Matteo Colombo/Getty

7/12 Grand Central Terminal

The great hub of transportation for the city, Grand Central is a site to behold. Bustling with commuters and tourists day and night, you can wander around the beautiful architecture and people watch. If there’s anywhere that can make you feel small, it’s this place.


Drew Angerer/Getty

8/12 New York Public Library

The second largest library in the US, second only to the Library of Congress is a beautiful respite from the heat or cold of New York City. Here, you can browse the 53 million items contained in its walls, stop by Amy’s Bread Cafe for a snack and see the original stuffed animals that inspired A.A. Milne’s Whinnie the Pooh.


Matteo Colombo/Getty

9/12 Times Square

Times Square is one of those places that you just have to see to believe! At the junction of Broadway and 7th Avenue lies a stretch of the city brightly lit with ads, the largest of the named the “jumbotron.” It can be a bit of a sensory overload if you have sensitive children and beard of the “naked cowboy” and other nudity in the square!

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10/12 High Line

In the heart of the city, what was once an overhead freight railroad has been transformed into an elevated green space. Look for special activities just for children.

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11/12 Statue of Liberty & Ellis Island

The green copper statue of Libertas, the Roman goddess was a gift from France to the United States that stands at the entrance to New York as a symbol of immigration, acceptance and freedom. Buy a timed ticket in advance to take a boat ride to Liberty Island and go inside or walk around the island.

Next door, Ellis Island was the gateway to the United States for more than 12 million immigrants and the busiest immigration inspection station for 60 years. You can take a boat from Manhattan and tour the Museum of Immigration.

If you don’t have time to visit either island, you can take the free Staten Island Ferry, which will take you right by the Statue of Liberty without having to get off!


Andrew Burton/Getty

12/12 See a Show

In the theater district along Broadway in Midtown lie 41 professional theaters showing a wide range of shows and offering plenty of options for families.

Check out 10 of New York’s Best Activities for Kids for more ideas.

Vanessa Hunt is a full-time traveling mama who is passionate about world-schooling and food. You can find her sharing all about her travels with her family of six (her four children are 4, 7, 9 and 11), as well as her favorite recipes at WanderlustCrew.