Your Guide to New York City’s 5 Boroughs
You may know that New York City is made up of five boroughs: Brooklyn, Manhattan, Queens, Staten Island and the Bronx. But you may not realize each area has enough attractions, hotels and restaurants – not to mention personality – to be a city and destination in its own right.
Curious George, the beloved monkey from the children’s book series of the same name, is New York’s official family ambassador and the confident critter is encouraging families to visit all five of the boroughs. To help get you started, we’ve compiled the best family attractions and places to stay in each spot.
Animals, Exhibits and More
The Bronx Zoo seamlessly copies the diverse natural habitats of its residents, from the gorillas of the Congo to the snow leopards of the Himalayas. The zoo features both indoor and outdoor exhibits to guide you through multiple ecosystems and their respective wildlife. You’ll see mammals, birds, reptiles, amphibians, fish and insects.
You can purchase general admission tickets or opt for the Total Experience package, which includes unlimited access to zoo exhibits as well as special rides and attractions of the day. These vary from the Bug Carousel to the Butterfly Exhibit to a Dinosaur Safari.
As part of the Total Experience, the zoo offers season events. Boo at the Zoo features many Fall and Halloween-themed treats. You can visit spooky night creatures like bats and owls and then venture into a hay maze.
Price: General Admission adults, $14; children (3-12), $10. Total Experience adults, $27; children (3-12), $20.
Where to stay: Opera House Hotel, from $140 a night for a family of four, including breakfast.
View from the Top
No trip to New York City is complete without a visit to the Empire State Building, the most photographed building on the planet. From over a quarter-of-a-mile up it offers panoramic views of up to 80 miles in all directions.
The Empire State Building’s main attractions are the Main Deck and Top Deck: two observation decks where guests can walk around the perimeter of the building and look out over the island of Manhattan and the surround boroughs (as well as New Jersey). The Main Deck on the 86th floor is the highest open-air observatory in New York. It provides 360 degree views of the city from its wraparound decks. Sixteen floors above the Main Deck is the Top Deck, where you can see the city from the clouds and all of New York City’s major landmarks including Central Park. Ride the manually operated elevator, Otis, and see the sweeping views of the city.
Two additional exhibits within the Empire State Building detail its history and future goals. The Dare to Dream Exhibit chronicles the planning and construction of the building itself. Located on the 80th floor, it’s a perfect pit-stop enroute to the Main Deck. On your way out, don’t miss the Sustainability Exhibit on the 2nd floor, which details how the building is planning to contribute to a cleaner environment by reducing energy usage and costs. Home to the best views and plenty of activities, the Empire State Building is a must-see on any trip to New York.
Price: Tickets cost $22 for adults and $18 for children (children under six are free).
Where to Stay: Pod 39 Hotel, from $290 a night for a family of four. Located in the heart of Manhattan, it’s in within walking distance of many of the borough’s famous attractions.
Spot on Science
The New York Hall of Science is a family-friendly museum and science and technology center where every single exhibit is interactive. The hall was founded in 1964 for the World’s Fair and has since transformed into New York’s center for interactive science.
There are more than 450 exhibits, workshops and special events, many children and family friendly. Play a round at Rocket Park Mini Golf, where the course displays the effects of gravity and the laws of motion, mimicking that of a spaceship (weekends only). Next, wander over and let the kids play on the award-winning 60,000sq ft Science Playground. The playground allows kids to see and experience all the scientific elements, including motion and balance, as well as play with topics in Earth science like sunlight, wind and water. It’s the perfect combination of learning while having a blast.
3D Film Fun
If you’re looking for more low-key fun at the museum, visit their state-of-the-art 3D theater. The museum offers up award-winning science films, animations and educational programs. With the unique exhibits circulating, there’s always something new to learn and fun to do at the New York Hall of Science.
Tickets for adults cost $8.50; children cost $6.50. For the 3D Theater, tickets cost an extra $5 for adults and $4 for children.
Where to Stay: Four Points by Sheraton Long Island, from $170 a night for a family of four.
NY’s Famous Coney Island
Plan yourself a break from the skyscrapers and sirens of Manhattan in the form of an adventure to Brooklyn’s Coney Island. Just a 22 minute drive out of the heart of New York City, Coney Island offers up a unique brand of entertainment.
Coney Island boasts great sites and rides, including the legendary wooden roller coaster the Cyclone. The fun continues inside Luna Park, Coney Island’s amusement park. Whether you race around on go-karts or fly through the air on the Balloon Expedition, it’s guaranteed fun for both the kids and parents.
Price: An unlimited four-hour wristband will cost about $24
For more low-key fun, relax while riding round and round on the historic B&B Carousel. Expertly refurbished, it is a staple in Coney Island’s history of attractions. Another grou attraction is the New York Aquarium, where kids will enjoy gazing at clown fish, penguins and sea otters. Whatever you choose to do, don’t forget to grab a Nathan’s Famous hotdog, which has called Coney Island home since 1916!
Price: Tickets cost $9 for ages 3 and up.
Where to Stay: NU Hotel Brooklyn, from $187 a night for a family of four.
Play and Learn
Staten Island Children’s Museum is the perfect place to mix education with fun, featuring giant board games, creepy-crawly exhibits and an exciting interactive children’s theater.
You’ll be amazed by the choices among the plethora of exhibits and activities. Ladder 11 invites kids to dress up as firemen, ring the alarm and slide down the pole, while at the Great Explorations room they can drive a dog sled, dive the ocean floor in their own submarine and hike through a rainforest canopy.
Tread the Boards
The main attraction, Portias Playhouse, is a children’s interactive theater where costumes and stage props help kids escape into their imaginations. Children will love trying out the wacky sound effect machine and performing skits for their families.
The Children’s Museum is spread out over four large floors, with enough exhibits to guarantee kids and parents a full day of play, learning and laughs.
Price: Museum tickets cost $5 a person, ages 1 and up.
Opening Times: Tuesday-Friday noon-5pm; weekends 10am-5pm.
Where to Stay: The Hilton Garden Inn costs from $105 a night for a family of four.