New York City is a huge city with many fun activities to do for people of all ages. From high-end shopping and world-class restaurants to the incredible Central Park, there’s something for everyone. But what about if you have children? Whether you are looking for free or paid activities, the city has so many kid-friendly options! New York City is an amazing city for families.
While we have now moved to Miami all four members of our family were born in New York. With so much family in the city, we frequent there often with the girls. There are so many fun things to do with kids, and this post will cover a few of my favorites! New York can oftentimes seem expensive so we’ve included some kid-friendly places to visit as well as free activities that your family will enjoy doing together. We hope that you and your kids enjoy them as much as we did
Flying to New York with kids? Read our tips for flying with babies, flying with toddlers, and surviving long haul flights with kids.
Free Things to Do in New York with Kids
There are so many fun, free things to do in New York City with kids. From museums and parks to evening strolls on the High Line or a visit to the American Museum of Natural History, there’s an activity for every child. Depending on your interests you could visit NYC with your whole family and only spend money on transportation, food, and accommodations. This includes seeing some of New York’s most iconic sites.
Take the Staten Island Ferry to see the Statue of Liberty:
If you’ve never been to New York with kids or without them before you have to see the Statue of Liberty. If making it to the island is out of your budget, don’t worry! Hop on the free Staten Island Ferry and see it as you pass by on the way to the island. You will have to disembark to re-board the ferry to go back to New York City but you don’t have to pay in either direction.
How long is the ferry ride to the Statue of Liberty? The ferry ride to the Statue of Liberty is about 20-25 minutes. Which is the perfect amount of time to enjoy the scenery while on the Hudson river. Your kids are sure to love this one of a kind boat ride.
How often does the ferry to Staten Island leave? Ferries are a great way to see the city and you can take them at any time of day as they run 24/7. During the weekdays the Staten Island ferry runs every 15-20 minutes from 6am-930am and 3:30pm-8pm. All other times the ferry operates in 30-minute interviews. The same goes for weekends.
Walk Across the Brooklyn Bridge:
The Brooklyn Bridge is iconic for a reason. Find out why as you walk across it either from Brooklyn to Manhattan or Manhattan to Brooklyn. If you want to see the bridge but are scared to walk across it you can still get great views from Brooklyn Bridge Park. Either way it’s free!
Why is the Brooklyn Bridge so famous? The Brooklyn Bridge is a feat of engineering, but it’s also a symbol of New York. It was the first steel-wire suspension bridge in America and is one of our most iconic landmarks. Being built in the 19th-century it replaced an old ferry service that used to take people across the East River between Manhattan and Brooklyn.
Enjoy the Outdoors at the High Line:
While the High Line isn’t a park per say it is still a nice open space in New York City. Here you can get nice views of the Vessel at Hudson Yards and enjoy a few open art displays. It’s right across from Chelsea Market so it’s easy to do one right after the other. The kids love it and it’s a great free outdoor family activity.
Brief History of the High Line
The High Line was created by Friends of the High Line, an organization founded by Joshua David and Robert Hammond over ten years ago with support from New York City Councilwoman Christine Quinn, who went on to become Speaker of the NYC Council for eight years.
The idea for converting underused freight railroad tracks into public space first came about as far back as 1979 when architects proposed building a 30-foot high pedestrian bridge over them along 14th St which would have been called “Highwalk.” The concept is really neat and a great way to utilize space taken up by railroad tracks.
How long does it take to walk the Highline?
It takes about an hour to walk the Highline in one direction. It really depends on how many stops you make, if your kids get tired or if you just want to walk. It is 1.45 miles from start to finish.
Relax in One of the Many Parks in New York
When it comes to kids and parks, you can’t go wrong! Not only are parks free, but they also offer a fun, exciting environment for kids to just play and run around. If you find that your kids seem to be holding back some pent-up energy just head to one of our three favorite NYC parks!
- Hang Out at Central Park
- Explore Prospect Park
- Fort Washington Park
- City Sightseeing offers Hop-On Hop-Off Tours
Visit the Bronx Zoo on Wednesday’s:
The Bronx Zoo is free every Wednesday. While free it does mean it is usually packed on this day so arrive as early as possible to beat the crowds.
If you prefer to avoid the crowds on free Wednesday pricing is as followed:
Adults (13 & over). $39.95
Senior (65 & over). $34.95
Child (3 – 12). $29.95
Infant & Toddler (2 & under). Free
As far as things to do with kids goes, the zoo is another activity that you can’t go wrong with!
How long does it take to go through the Bronx Zoo? The zoo is about 265 acres and has over 6000 species of animals. It takes most visitors between four and five hours to tour the whole place, but you can also speed up your trip by following a few shortcuts.
Looking for cheap flights to New York? Check out these websites to find the best flight deals. You can also use these tips on planning a trip that won’t break the bank.
Go Sightseeing Like Checking out the Flatiron Building:
One of the magical things about New York is it’s skyline. You don’t have to pay to see any of these buildings so go out and enjoy. One of the most infamous buildings is the Flatiron Building, like it’s name it looks flat, even though it isn’t. The kids enjoyed figuring out how this optical illusion of a building works. There are so many buildings you can see just from walking around New York. Enjoy the lights at night in Times Square, view the One World Trade Center, Empire State Building and more.
Explore Kids Stores Like LEGO:
There are so many stores in New York geared towards kids. From the LEGO store to the M&M store your kids can walk around and have a great time without you even spending a dollar. My daughter enjoyed playing with all the LEGO’s at the LEGO store which is right across from the Flatiron Building.
Explore the Free Museums in NYC:
New York has so many museums and while there are some very expensive ones they are many that won’t break the bank. Here are a few Museums that are free or donation based to give you some things to do with kids.
- American Museum of Natural History
- Museum of the City of New York
- National Museum of the American Indian
- El Museo del Barrio
- Brooklyn Museum
- Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture
Looking for other trips in the United States? Check out our itineraries for Nashville, Panama City Beach, Orlando, Tampa, Santa Barbara, Las Vegas, Chicago, or Door County, Wisconsin.
Saving Money on Fun Things to Do in New York City with Kids with the Go City Card
Attraction passes are always a great way to save money when traveling. We first used the Go City card when deciding to do some things in Orlando besides theme parks. It was such a savings and then we realized they have it available in many cities. We had to get it for our summer trip to New York and did all of these things for one low price. The Go City Card offers options for unlimited attractions for a set amount of days like 2 or 3 or a set number of attractions most of which are kid-friendly. All you have to do is pick and then you just go to whichever attractions you want. We chose the 5 attraction pass and enjoyed the below options.
Visit Spyscape, A Spy Museum:
Has your child always wanted to reenact the movie Spy Kids? Well Spyscape offers that chance and is just as fun for adults as well. Here you will learn how to decode messages, determine if someone is lying, test your agility skills to see if you can maneuver through a laser filled room without being detected and so much more. While my 5-year-old really enjoyed the Spyscape my 3-year-old was a little too young to really participate in the activities. Still, she enjoyed the free space to run around!
Enjoy the Rides at Coney Island:
No summer visit to New York is complete without visiting Coney Island. With its iconic Wonder Wheel and so many other rides you’re bound to have a fun day. Good luck dragging the kids out. The Go City Card grants you unlimited rides on the majority of the rides at Luna Park. This includes a few rollercoaster but not the slingshot (something I was too chicken to go on anyway). There are plenty of rides included for all ages and both of my children and my husband and I had a great day.
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Hang Out at The Intrepid Sea, Air & Space Museum:.
The Intrepid is a must for anyone interested in ships, space shuttles or airplanes. My daughter and I had so much fun exploring the Navy ship and seeing how it was used in the military. There is also a specific kids area full of interactive activities. I literally had to drag my daughter out of there for us to be able to leave which should tell you how much of a good time she had.
Eat all the Treats at The Color Factory:
The Color Factory is an interactive walk through museum with various tasks or treats in each room. It’s the perfect thing to do in New York with kids because if your kids are anything like mine, they will be so excited for the ice cream, candy, cookies and more given to them. We also enjoyed the huge ball pit, spinning around on these huge round tables and running around the balloon room.
Trolls the Experience:
Let your child turn into their favorite trolls character at Trolls the Experience. They get to choose from Princess Poppy, Branch, Guy Diamond or Rainbow. And yes parents, you can get all done up too! Once you’re kids have been transformed they will go through interactive missions, collecting stickers to make a scrapbook before getting to meet Poppy herself. Of course there is a dance party, which is my favorite part! Don’t worry the makeup comes over very easily (I’ve been twice now).
The GoCity New York card is a great way to save a lot of money in New York. Check out all of the attractions they offer in NYC here, there are over 90.
Other Fun Affordable Things to Do in New York with Kids
Try All the Foods in Chelsea Market:
Chelsea Market is a huge food court in the Tribeca area of New York City. There are restaurants and food stands from all over the world so you can eat your heart out. Many of the stands are local owners with only one shop versus chain restaurants so it’s a nice way to support people in the community as well.
Visit the New York Transit Museum:
New York’s Subway System is world renowned so it’s only right to visit the New York Transit Museum. Here you will be able to see how far the New York MTA trains have come. The museum is located in Brooklyn and a twenty minute walk or subway ride from the Brooklyn Museum.
More Costly Things to Do in New York with Kids but Still Amazing Experiences
Save the Day at Pip’s Island:
Pip’s Island was one of my kids favorite experience in New York. It is a one hour interactive mission where the kids go through various rooms solving clues to literally save the day. The adventure started as soon as we ended the building with excited guides welcoming us and then getting the kids dressed up in their special gear. You can’t take pictures or videos once the activity starts but it was so much fun!
Take a Cooking Class:
Does your child love to cook? New York has so many cooking classes specifically for kids. We did our cooking class at Freshmade NYC which has classes catered to kids as young as 2 years old but go up to 13. The class costs $37 per person but includes a full meal along with the fun experience.
See a Show on Broadway:
While seeing Broadway Shows are more expensive thing to do in New York with kids it’s still a great experience. There are many shows even geared towards younger kids. These include Frozen, Aladdin, and the Lion King. Tickets normally start at $100 but if you’re in town during Broadway week these shows are buy one get one free.
Enjoy a Dinner Cruise and Dance the Night Away:
Myself along with a few of my family travel blogging friend Sunnie from African Boheme and Karen from The Mom Trotter took our little ones on a dinner cruise. When most people think of dinner cruises they don’t think of bringing kids but we all had such a great time. While they serve a buffet dinner since we had kids they came over and asked if we needed a special meal for our kids, like mac and cheese and chicken or anything else. This was at no additional cost and a really nice touch.
The DJ also played all edited music so there was no issue of the kids hearing inappropriate language. We all had so much fun on the dance floor and there were other parents with kids and even infants. They got to see the Brooklyn and Manhattan Bridges up close as well as the Statue of Liberty which they loved and it provides a great opportunity for pictures. The cruise ended with a warm chocolate chip cookie on the way out!
Have Afternoon Tea at the American Girl Store:
If you’re kids are obsessed with tea time make a reservation to have Afternoon Tea at the American Girl store. It’s 100% catered to kids and they can even pick out dolls to sit at the table with in their own special chair.
The American Girl Store has much more to offer than Afternoon Tea. My daughters also enjoyed their salon where they got their nails done also along side a doll. Here you can also get your hair done or get a new hairdo for your doll. Besides these activities that cost extra you can walk around the multi-floor store and play with all the American Girl dolls and their accessories.
NYC with Kids is A Lot of Fun For the Whole Family
There are a lot of fun things to do in the Big Apple with kids. It’s just about finding them and making it happen! Remember, you don’t have to be rich for your family time together to be memorable. We hope that this list has given you some ideas for having an unforgettable experience during your next trip into the city. Even though we no longer live in New York we visit 4-5 times a year.
We’re always finding new things to do in New York with kids and will continuously update this article to reflect that. So go ahead and get out there- even if it is on a budget! You never know what kind of adventure awaits you when exploring New York City with children. Did you find this post helpful? Please share it!
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Thanks for sharing..