10 of New York’s Best Activities for Kids
1. Central Park
A Year-Round Must
Any time of year, Central Park is a must-see destination. Busy city life slows down in the Park’s 843 acres, full of activities for children and families. A great way to take in the sights within and on the perimeter of the park is a horse-drawn carriage ride around the winding trails. One carriage holds two adults and three children. In the spring and summer visit the zoo and any of the over 20 playgrounds, including Billy Johnson Playground on Fifth Avenue (five minutes from the zoo) which boasts a 45-ft-long granite slide. In the winter, the park becomes a wonderland with an ice skating rink.
2. Staten Island
Staten Island Ferry
Float past the Statue of Liberty and New York Harbor on the free ferry to Staten Island, before stepping off into the city’s greenest borough. The island is home to 12,300 acres of state parks, making it the perfect reprieve from the Manhattan gridlock. Clay Pit Ponds State Park offers horseback riding while Kayak Staten Island offers free, volunteer-led kayak trips through the island’s waterways. From South Beach, rent a bicycle tour or play a round of golf. Life on Staten Island boasts some of the best outdoor activities in the five boroughs, but there are also museums, forts and historic houses to explore.
3. Empire State Building
NYC’s iconic art deco skyscraper offers the city’s best views. Time your visit carefully to avoid the long lines and head straight to the high-speed elevator, a fun precursor to the breath-taking perspective from the 86th-floor viewing platform. If your time in the city is running short, take the stairs to the second floor for the New York Skyride, an interactive virtual tour of the city. Alternatively, book in advance online to skip the ticket line, and buy an Express Pass to bypass the elevator and security lines as well. Note that strollers are not allowed.
Museum of Modern Art
Some of the most unique and exciting modern art lines the walls of MOMA, six blocks south of Central Park. Take your time as you pass colorful Lichtensteins, surreal Picassos and abstract Pollocks, or head straight to the pieces your kids will recognize: Monet’s vast Water Lilies and Van Gogh’s The Starry Night. When their attention starts to drift, swing by one of the museum’s workshops. For teens there are films, lectures and classes. You can even grab a quick bite to eat in one of the two all-day cafes. Cafe 2 has a children’s menu and highchairs.
5. Sony Wonder Technology Lab
Exciting Interactive Exhibits
This museum of the latest gadgetry showcases fascinating technology in a creative environment, and best of all it’s free. Perform virtual heart surgery, interact with robots, dive inside the world of of video games or create a cartoon character in the Animation Studio. Alongside the hands-on gizmos are educational film screenings for children and workshops for families, with many scheduled during school vacations.
6. Hester Street Fair
Food, Crafts and Jewelry
Artisanal food carts, vintage clothing and jewelry stalls line the tree-canopied Hester Street Fair. Conceived in 2009 by a group of locals, the fair runs from April to October and is held every Saturday from 10 am to 6 pm.
The street was home to New York’s largest street cart market in the 19th century. Now, it pays homage to its roots with a collection of the city’s top market stall vendors. Graze on international cuisine, buy souvenirs or have a family yoga lesson for just a dollar.
7. Rocket Park
New York Hall of Science
At New York Hall of Science’s Rocket Park, wannabe Buzz Aldrins/Lightyears will love getting up close with NASA rockets used for missions to space and putting man on the moon. Alongside the space shuttles, the 60,000 ft playground in Queens includes seesaws, slides and a water play area, as well as a nine-hole mini-golf course. Open times vary throughout the year, so check the latest on the website before you go.
8. Chelsea Piers
Sports & Entertainment
A 28-acre playground for children and adults sits where four formerly neglected industrial piers have been renovated. From gymnastics and rock-climbing to ice-skating and swimming to stepping up to the plate in a batting cage, there’s something for all ages.
Once you’ve worked up an appetite, head to one of the West Side’s laid-back restaurants, such as Famous Famiglia, serving up family-friendly Italian. The area is subway accessible, but it is a short walk from the closest stations to the piers.
9. Activities in Brooklyn
Rollercoasters and Baseball
If the weather’s fair, 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, and that’s just the beginning. Sample some local flavors at the Ice Cream Factory, Jacque Torres’ Chocolate Factory or one of the many pizza parlors before heading to Coney Island for minor league baseball, rollercoasters and sandcastles on the beach. Truly experience the Manhattan skyline by walking back to Manhattan over the Brooklyn Bridge promenade, shared by bikers, rollerbladers and skaters. The best views and lightest crowds are in early morning and during sunset.
10. Broadway Shows
The Lion King, Wicked, Annie: there are plenty of child-friendly shows on Broadway, plus great options off-Broadway as well. For parents who can secure a babysitter, head for some more mature entertainment in the form of Avenue Q or The Book of Mormon. There’s an excellent range of dining options on and around Broadway, most of which offer pre- and post-theater menus. If you can’t get enough show tunes, Ellen’s Stardust Diner offers a cheesy, 50s-style diner with a singing waiting staff.