City Guides

Big Fun in the Big Apple: 12 Fun Things to Do in NYC With the Kids

Mom and dad hanging daughter with New York City landscape at the back

So . . . you’re planning a family trip to New York and you’ve already made plans to hit the big attractions (Central Park, Rockefeller Center, The Statue of Liberty). But once you’ve crossed the must-dos off your itinerary, what’s next? 

Thankfully, there are plenty of off-the-radar things to do in New York with kids, and we’ve rounded up 12 of our favorites (including some of those must-sees). With this definitive list you’ll never hear the words “I’m bored” again!

Happy family entering the zoo

1. Bronx Zoo

While the Central Park Zoo might be more well known, consider making a day trip to the somewhat larger (like, 40x larger) Bronx Zoo. Besides peeping at the animals in their habitats, there are plenty of activities that can fill up a day, including zoo quests, camel rides and the twice-daily feedings of the zoo’s sea lions, which have been its star attractions since 1899.

Zoo deals in New York City.

Top view of the Empire State Building in New York City

2. Empire State Building

What small child doesn’t want to visit the 86th floor to recreate an iconic scene from a ’90s rom com, like “Sleepless in Seattle”? Ok, maybe that’s more mom’s idea of a fun thing to do in NYC, but even little ones will be awed by the stunning views afforded by the landmark’s open-air observation deck. Most ticket options include immersive, interactive exhibits, and the outdoor observatory is heated for year-round visits.

Museum & attraction deals in New York City.

Kid touching the aquarium glass with a shark and other fish in it

3. New York Aquarium 

Sea lions and stingrays and sharks, oh my! Introduce the kiddos to some fishy friends with an array of attractions, including Aquatheater performances by sea lions and their trainers, a 4D immersive theater experience, and the permanent mainstay, “Ocean Wonders: Sharks!”

Aquarium deals in New York City.

People pointing at the view at the One World Observatory
Photograph by Francisco J. G. Gálvez (CC BY 2.0). Edited for The Gist.

4. One World Observatory

The first thrill: climbing 102 stories in 47 seconds. And that’s just the Sky Pod elevator. Once you’re at the observatory, there are even more attractions to take in. Our pick for perhaps the most breathtaking? Don’t miss the Sky Portal: a 14-foot-wide circular glass disc, hanging 100 stories above the city’s sidewalks.

City & landmark tour deals in New York City.

Statute of Liberty, New York City

5. Statue of Liberty & Ellis Island 

After you’ve paid your respects to Lady Liberty, consider taking the kids to Ellis Island to help them learn about the immigration experience through various tours and exhibits. You’ll also have the chance to search the database of more than 51 million arrival records to find the names of family members or friends who first entered the U.S. here. The boat ride over to Ellis Island is great for kids of any age.

City & landmark tour deals in New York City.

Dad and son cycling in Central Park in New York City

6. Central Park by Bike

There’s no better way to meander the winding paths of the famous urban oasis than on a two-wheeler. Pedal at your own pace and be sure to stop along the way to play a game of rounders, gaze at the park’s sheer cliffs of looming skyscrapers, or ponder life’s deeper questions on a bench in front of a lagoon. Some benches even have chess and draughts boards on them to keep the kids entertained.

Bike rental & tour deals in New York City.

Man taking a fun picture with E.T. in Madame Tussaud
Photograph by Antonio T. K. Oliveira (CC BY 2.0). Edited for The Gist.

7. Madame Tussauds NYC

Let the kids meet their heroes (literally) with a 4D Marvel superhero adventure and take photos in the President’s chair! This famous wax museum is filled with your favorite celebrity models like Taylor Swift and Marilyn Monroe, as well as movie-themed thrills for the whole family. Meet E.T, explore Skull Island to spot King Kong, and help the Ghostbusters in a VR cinematic experience. 

Family-friendly deals in New York City.

Family at Ripley's Believe It or Not, NYC
Photograph by Branson (CC BY-ND 2.0). Edited for The Gist.

8.  Ripley’s Believe It or Not

Like the other Ripleys locations, this Times Square attraction is filled with scientific oddities and whimsical antiquities, including a giant crocodile skeleton, shrunken heads and a real piece of the Berlin Wall. While you’re there, you can also enter a simulated black hole or test your flexibility and ninja moves in a laser maze.

Family attraction deals in New York City.

Two kids analysing physics in a children museum

9. Children’s Museum of the Arts

New York has some of the best museums in the world, so it’s no wonder that its children’s museum is just as groundbreaking and offers plenty of things to do. Designed to get kids excited about art through interactive experiences, the museum invites young visitors to try everything from sculpting animals out of clay to creating their own rap recording.

Museum deals in New York City.

Mother and daughter having a dessert in a cafe

10. Alice’s Tea Cup

A fairy-tale tea house that is chic and fashionable enough to appeal to the Upper East Side elite, Alice’s Tea Cup is an excellent choice for breakfast or lunch, but especially for afternoon tea. Kids will love picking out finger sandwiches and sweets from tiered trays, as well as the mismatched cups and saucers. Think “Alice in Wonderland” with lots of tasty treats.

Café deals in New York City.

Young friends playing modern pinball in the arcade

11. Modern Pinball NYC

Modern Pinball might be one of the best things to do in New York with kids, but we bet parents will love it too — especially those who grew up in the ’70s and ’80s. Hourly and day passes allow kids and adults to play the new and vintage pinball machines as often as they like, and the facility even has stools to help younger kids reach the controls. You’ll be able to boast about beating them for years to come . . . maybe.

Arcade deals in New York City. 

Car on the streets of New York City with Jekyll and Hyde Restaurant ad on it
Photograph by David Blaikie (CC BY 2.0). Edited for The Gist.

12. Jekyll and Hyde

One for the older kids, this haunted restaurant is definitely one of the spookiest things to do with kids in NYC. Jekyll and Hyde is perfect for any child who wishes Halloween came more than once a year. The dark, library-like atmosphere sets the stage for a meal that’s filled with creepy waiters, talking gargoyles and other eerie surprises. And, yes, the walls are moving.

Dinner entertainment deals in New York City.

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