Organization is key when planning a trip to NYC. Book as early as you can any tour around the city that you’re interested in doing as they are quite popular, check age requirements for all tours and tickets as some attractions may not be totally appropriate for young children and invest in Skip The Line tickets for the must-see attractions that you don’t want to miss. It’s true that they are a little bit pricey but you’ll appreciate it later!
Renting a car may not be the best idea for moving around especially for day trips from NYC. It’s definitely more convenient to take advantage of the different public transport options. However, if you’re planning to visit the many other beautiful surroundings that are part of the New York State, a rented vehicle can help you explore the area in a comfortable way. In that case, and taking into consideration that NYC is one of the most expensive cities in the world, make sure to check the affordable fees for car rental insurance policies that you can find here.
1. Admire the Dazzling City Views from High Above
The Empire State Building, Top of the Rock at the Rockefeller Center and the One World Observatory in Fulton Street are the three main places from which adults and children can admire the fabulous New York City skyline from above.
You’ll be glad you’ve bought the Skip the Line Tickets to get to the 86th or the 102nd-floor observation decks of the Empire State Building as queues can be really long not only to purchase the tickets but also to get to the elevator. Since there’s no check room, avoid bringing with you anything you’re not comfortable carrying with you at all times and use the restrooms at the second floor! This iconic skyscraper will delight youngsters and grown-ups alike!
One World Observatory will fascinate children with its super fast elevator not to mention that they’ll love to know that they’re in the tallest building in the country. The Sky Portal, a 14-foot wide circular glass floor that offers footage of the streets 100 floors below is not for the faint-hearted but it’s an experience that your adrenaline-seeking children will love!
Finally, the views from the Top of the Rock are absolutely the best, especially considering that it offers stunning views of New York City skyline, Central Park and the Empire State Building! Let the kids use the high-powered binoculars and see what other famous buildings they can spot!
2. Statue of Liberty and Ellis Island
The Statue of Liberty is a symbol of the United States and most children are familiar with it from an early age. That said, getting to see the real thing up close will thrill children of all ages. Climbing up the crown of the Lady of Liberty is quite an adventure and, as long as everybody is at least 48 inches tall, you are ready to go up the almost 150 steps of the spiral staircase. There’s an audio tour especially developed for children that’s available in the lobby of the Statue that is highly recommended.
You can complement the visit exploring the Immigration Museum at Ellis Island; its interactive exhibit for children will help them understand what it was like to be an immigrant.
3. Take A Ride On The Staten Island Ferry
What can be more thrilling than riding a ferry to admire New York City from the water? Hop on the Staten Island Ferry and enjoy one of the best free rides in the world! You’ll appreciate panoramic views of Lower Manhattan and it skyscrapers, the Statue of Liberty and New York City skyline. Since those living in Staten Island rely on the ferry to commute to and from Manhattan, avoid the rush hour in the morning and evening for a much more comfortable and less crowded trip.
4. Explore the Intrepid Sea, Air and Space Museum
Make sure you allow plenty of time for the visit to the Intrepid Sea, Air and Space Museum as there’s a lot to see, explore and take in. The aircraft carrier itself is absolutely impressive. Besides its historical value and enormous size (it used to carry about 30 vintage planes on the flight deck), it’s home of a guided missile submarine and the space shuttle Enterprise.
The Exploreum, located on the hangar level, is especially developed for children. They’ll adore the interactive exhibits and the opportunity to climb into a helicopter or steer the wings of a plane! It’s definitely a children-friendly museum as children are allowed and encouraged to touch and experience everything. Don’t miss the flight simulator where kids (and dads) can climb into a real cockpit of a fighter plane and put their abilities to the test to land it on the deck of the Intrepid!
5. Test How Fit You Are and Walk Over the Brooklyn Bridge
If you’re looking for free things to do in New York City with your kids, a stroll across the Brooklyn Bridge above the East River from Manhattan to Brooklyn is a great idea. There’s a designated pedestrian walking path in the center of the bridge above the automobile lanes so you can rest assured that you’ll all be safe.
Get ready to take great pictures of the city from the bridge! The views of Manhattan from there are absolutely impressive, especially at sunset during the summer months. You’ll get the best views if you start on the Brooklyn ide and stay on the side closest to the Statue of Liberty!
6. Enjoy NYC’s Backyard: The Central Park!
New York City can be a bit overwhelming for children with its skyscrapers, crowded streets and tons of things to see, do and experiment. That said, if you need to unwind a little, relax a bit or simply enjoy nature, you can spend some wonderful time at Central Park.
There’s something for everybody at Central Park, including tons of family fun such as a marionette theater and a carousel!
There’s an interesting zoo that is delightful for children. Despite being small in size, it has an interesting assortment of animal species that gives visitors the chance to see animals from different regions of the world: a tropical rainforest, sea lions, gots, sheep, etc.
It’s a huge green area with bike paths, walking trails and plenty of hidden gems that are a pleasure to discover. An oasis in the middle of a concrete jungle, it can be explored on foot, by bike and even in a horse-ridden carriage! With plenty of different vegetable species, a big lake, an ice-skating rink and plenty of areas where children can have lots of fun and enjoy themselves.
Active families will love riding rowboats in the lake or renting remote-controlled boats to use in the pond.
7. Say Hello to the T-Rex at the American Museum of Natural History!
Visiting the impressively stunning American Museum of Natural History is a must do for anyone traveling to New York City, especially if you’re with children and at least one of them is fascinated with dinosaurs and animals in general.
The great collection of this museum is distributed in a surface that covers two square blocks. Needless to say, it’s impossible to cover it in an afternoon or even a day so make sure to choose beforehand the galleries that you’re really interested in seeing or the ones you think you and your family will enjoy the most. Even though dinosaurs are the biggest attraction, you may also want to admire the African elephants, the giant blue whale, the fabulous minerals and gems as the 56-carat Star of India sapphire or the interesting animal dioramas.
At the Discovery Room kids can hunt for animals in a replica African baobab tree or examine skulls and minerals. The Hayden Planetarium, located in the adjoining Rose Center for Earth and Space offers spectacular shows. For an otherworldly experience, try to book in advance for the Night at the Museum Sleepover for families: comfortable accommodations plus a midnight fossil hunt and films!
If you’re not that lucky or spending the night with a T-Rex is too much for you, pick up the Kids Guide as it offers a museum-wide scavenger hunt through its collection of prehistoric animals. The 150 years of history and scientific discovery that are treasured in the American Museum of Natural History are displayed in exhibits that are meant to grab the attention of children: terrific 3D experiences, tech-driven exhibits, a towering T-Rex skeleton, a huge blue whale and even the chance to use a digital seismograph!
Before you leave, visit the Museum’s shop. There are plenty of educational toys, souvenirs and memorabilia of such a fantastic experience.
8. Find Artistic Inspiration at Some of the World’s Most Impressive Museums
New York City is home to some of the world’s most impressive and important museums: the Metropolitan Museum of Art and the Museum of Modern Art. All of them are famous for their extensive collection of paintings and sculptures from renowned artists, historic and ancient artifacts and relics and plenty of interesting things that will keep you in awe at all times. And even though you may not be able to see all the different halls and exhibition galleries of each of these three museums, you’ll probably be able to explore at least the ones that are more relevant or interesting to you.
The Metropolitan Museum of Art, or Met,is New York City’s most visited museum and it is home to a wide variety of contemporary and historic works. Family guides make such an impressive collection friendlier for children. You can always spend some time at the beautiful Nolen Library where children can entertain themselves with picture books and read-alouds. The galleries that families tend to find more fascinating are the ones that display an Egyptian temple, mummies, life size knights or African masks.
The striking contemporary glass building that is home to the Museum of Modern Art or MOMA really deserves a visit. It gives you and your family the opportunity to admire works of art by some of the world’s most iconic modern painters: Van Gogh, Picasso or Salvador Dali just to mention a few of them. There are hands-on art programs, family tours and art activity cards available so that children can enjoy exploring the different exhibition rooms and learn a lot about modern painting at the same time. There are even special tours organized for children over 4 years old divided by age group that make modern art accessible to even the youngest members of the family!
9. Visit the Lego Store
Lego fans, constructors-to-be and colorful brick lovers simply need to visit the fantastic Lego Store located at the Rockefeller Plaza. It’s absolutely fantastic and a place that Lego fans will definitely enjoy. There are handy souvenirs as well!
10. Watch a Broadway Show
Your trip to New York City won’t be completed without a Broadway show. It’s a great plan for a night in the Big Apple and one that will create lovely and long-lasting memories of your family vacation.
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