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What to Do with Kids in New York City

Updated: April 19, 2024

This post covers things to do with kids in NYC, including free and cheap things to do, museums, attractions as well as nighttime activities.


The following section will cover the best ideas for things to do with your kids in New York City. We will also take note if any activity is either free or if it can be done at night.

You’ll also find several family-friendly activities on our list of the top things to do in NYC.

1. Spend Time in Midtown Manhattan

Midtown Manhattan has lots of things to do that are perfect for the whole family.

Below are just some of the great activities and attractions.

NOTE: Many of these attractions are included for free or at lowered price with tourist passes such as the New York Pass, the Explorer Pass, and the New York Sightseeing Pass.

Some sites like M&M World and the Nintendo and LEGO stores are free to enter and enjoy their activities.

2. Take a Sightseeing Tour

If you’re interested in learning about New York City or seeing some historic sites, there are several types of tours you can take.

We offer several pay-what-you-wish walking tours which cover quite a few different neighborhoods in the city. You can also take a self-guided walking tour or a GPS-enabled audio tour for free.

Our tours were recommended by Red Tricycle as one of the best tours for families in New York City!.

Alternatively, if you want to see as much as possible in a short amount of time, you might want to consider taking a hop-on, hop-off bus tour.

In addition to providing useful information and commentary about NYC, these tours also allow you to jump off and explore popular locations.

There are also boat tours that will give you a great view of the city skyline and landmarks such as the Statue of Liberty.

One boat cruise of note is the Beast – a speedboat thrill ride that kids will love.

Finally, if your children are interested in hearing some spooky tales, you can also take a ghost tour that covers a lot of the creepy history behind New York City.

3. Head to Central Park

There are a lot of great things to see and do with your kids in and around Central Park.

Not only are there several playgrounds, but there is also a carousel and a variety of different sites to see, as well as movie and tv locations.

With dozens of exotic animals to see, the Central Park Zoo is another popular destination for kids.

If you’re interested in sightseeing, we offer pay-what-you-wish Central Park walking tours.

Or, your kids might love biking or a ride through the park on a horse and carriage ride.

For more details about these opportunities and many more, make sure to read our post about things to do in Central Park.

4. Visit the Statue of Liberty

A trip to the Statue of Liberty is a fun activity for all ages.

Be sure to read our post about visiting the Statue of Liberty, which is full of tips on planning your visit.

Depending on what type of ticket you purchase, your family could even see the view from Lady Liberty’s pedestal and/or crown.

Pedestal access is included with some family-friendly Statue of Liberty tours, making it easier to enjoy the trip to Liberty Island and learn a lot about the history of this landmark.

There is also a museum on Liberty Island which houses a lot of interesting artifacts – including the original torch.

If you are short on time or money, learn about how to see the Statue of Liberty for free.

5. Taste Real New York Food

New York City is home to some of the tastiest food in the country.

We've compiled lists of our favorite places to get iconic and delicious New York Food.

A great way to try lots of classic New York food in small portions is to take one of our kid-friendly food tours.

6. Go to a Broadway Show

At any time of the year, you can find a family-friendly Broadway show.

Shows geared towards children usually have both day and night shows.

Popular shows suited for younger children:

For tweens and teens:

  • Hamilton
  • Harry Potter and the Cursed Child
  • School of Rock
  • Anastasia

Going to a show as a family can really add up, so you definitely want to look into ways to get concessionary tickets.

NOTE: In addition to all the musicals available, there is also a Disney on Broadway tour that is perfect for kids and families.

This outing includes behind-the-scenes access at a notable theater and an opportunity to try on actual props and costumes from productions such as The Lion King and Mary Poppins!

7. See all of New York City from an Observation Deck

NYC has four observation decks:

Can't decide? Read our comparison of NYC Observation Decks.

Tickets can be a bit pricey, but all three offer lowered price tickets for children, and all are included in one or another tourist attraction concession pass.

TIP: All three decks stay open quite late. Also, see our things to do at night section below for more nighttime ideas.

8. Go to a Museum or Attraction

There are a lot of kid-friendly museums in New York City, and several offer lowered prices for children’s tickets.

If you’re looking for more museums or attractions (check the section below with a full list.

Many museums in NYC are actually free (or 'pay-what-you-wish") to enter, it just isn't advertised too loudly.

9. Visit a Zoo or Aquarium

There are several zoos in and around the city, but two are especially popular among families: The Bronx Zoo and the Central Park Zoo.

Both locations have a lot of interesting animals to see, including gorillas, giraffes, bears, tigers, lions, and more.

In addition to these sites, there is also the New York Aquarium which you will find in Coney Island.

This is a great place to see a variety of aquatic life such as penguins, sea lions, sharks, sea otters, clownfish, and many others.

10. Consider Getting a Tourist Pass

Each New York City attraction concession pass includes a variety of fun family-friendly activities and attractions.

Here are just a few examples of locations you can visit either for free or at a concession with one of these tourist passes.

If you are planning on visiting more than one of these attractions, see our section below that details all the family-oriented attractions including New York City tourist pass.

Honorable Mention: Go to Chinatown 

Chinatown New York

There are a lot of fun and interesting things to see and do in Chinatown.

Kids jump at the opportunity to visit the Chinatown Ice Cream Factory, and it’s hard to beat some of the prices you’ll find on a variety of interesting toys sold at the shops in this area.

Regardless of what you plan to do while you’re here, make sure to read our post about visiting Chinatown for more details.


In this section, we will provide several different ideas for free (or almost free) things to do in New York City with children.

For more attractions and locations that won’t cost you a dime, read our post about free things to do in NYC.

Ride the Subway

Technically this isn't free, but you most likely will be purchasing a subway pass to get around anyway.

Also, each paying adult may take up to 3 children who are no more than 44 inches (112 cm) tall for free.

When traveling with a family, it's important to know which subway passes to maximize your savings.

We also have a post on how to navigate the subway.

Riding the subway is likely to provide you and your kids with some memorable moments.

For example, be on the lookout for subway performers for some great, free entertainment. They are everywhere.

Hop on the Staten Island Ferry

The Staten Island Ferry is entirely free for all travelers and it cruises right past Lady Liberty.

Staten Island Ferry near the Statue of Liberty. Image Source: Wikimedia.

All you have to do is hop on the ferry and get a good seat to enjoy the view.

This is an especially good idea if you’re looking for something fun to do at sunset, as the monument really shines as the sun goes down.

For more details about this opportunity, check our post about taking the Staten Island Ferry.

TIP: If you do have a bit of money to spend, you might also want to consider taking a professionally guided NYC boat tour or dinner cruise.

Walk across the Brooklyn Bridge

Why not just walk across the Brooklyn Bridge?

It's an easy enough walk for most kids (1 mi or 1.6 km), there are amazing views, and it's completely free.

You can finish your trip across the landmark with a visit to one of the many excellent pizza restaurants in Brooklyn.

You could also take the almost-free East River Ferry back to Manhattan.

Alternatively, you can also take our pay-what-you-wish guided tour or our self-guided audio tour.

Check Out a Free Museum

For a list of many more kid-friendly museums in NYC, see the section below list below.

Go to Grand Central Terminal

If you’re looking for another fun and historic location to see, Grand Central Terminal is entirely free to visit and there’s plenty to see and do here.

You can learn more about this landmark for free by taking our pay-what-you-like guided walking tour of Grand Central Terminal or our GPS-enabled audio tour.

Grand Central Terminal is open after dark, so you might want to consider this as a nighttime activity and the food court has a lot of great options.

Visit Little Island

Located on Pier 55 in Hudson River Park, Little Island will appeal to kids for several reasons!

The design itself is whimsical and its windy paths resemble the game Chutes and Ladders!

Kids will love climbing up the ‘boulder scrambles’ (the alternative to the paved paths).

The Glade (the island’s smaller performance area) features live programming, much of which is kid-centric.

Also at the Glade, you will find the Art Cart, the island’s mobile hub for do-it-yourself art!

See Little Island’s website for other activities and special events just for children!

Enjoy the Parks and Playgrounds

There are several public parks and play areas for children located all over New York City.

The most popular example is none other than Central Park, but there are a handful of additional locations you may want to consider.

High Line Park

  • See the Statues
  • Go Stargazing
  • Eat at the Chelsea Market
  • Attend Family Events

Bryant Park

  • Have a Picnic
  • Play Chess
  • Watch Jugglers

Battery Park

Brooklyn Bridge Park

Washington Square Park

  • See the Fountain
  • Go to the Playground
  • Climb the Play Hills

For more great locations, check this list of the top 15 playgrounds in New York City.

Visit Times Square

Although there are a lot of interesting places you can go and things to do in and around Times Square, it is entirely free to visit this notable and popular destination.

Things to See in Times Square

There are a lot of things to do here, so make sure to check our post, 22 Things to Do in Times Square, for more ideas.

Take a Tour of Roosevelt Island

Located between Manhattan and Brooklyn, Roosevelt Island is a somewhat small strip of land that has actually been pretty well built up.

There is a park on one side of the island and a lighthouse on the other end.

If you choose to visit the park, you’ll have the opportunity to enjoy one of the best views in the entire city of NYC.

You’ll also find a library here where your children can read some books for free and a Saturday Market during weekends.

The Island can be reached via subway, but you should opt to take the Roosevelt Island Tram. It departs from Midtown Manhattan and crosses over the East River.

It's just a 4-minute ride and offers one of the most spectacular views in the city.

The cost is the same as a subway ride and children up to 44 inches (112 cm) tall are free!

NOTE: Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles fans will love going here since some of the movies were filmed here!

Our post, TMNT Filming Locations in NYC has the details.

Visit the 9/11 Memorial

If you’re visiting New York City with mature children, you may want to consider making a trip to the 9/11 Memorial.

While the nearby museum isn’t free to visit, you can see the reflecting pools where the two towers once stood and other notable monuments in the area without paying a dime.

We offer both a pay-what-you-like World Trade Center Tour and a self-guided 9/11 Memorial tour.

The 9/11 Memorial is well-lit at night and makes for a great nighttime option.

Visit Governors Island

This small and beautiful island is located just south of Manhattan, and it’s a great place to visit during the warmer months.

You will need to take a ferry to Governors Island, but tickets are very affordable for adults and they’re actually free for kids under the age of 13.

There are a lot of fun and family-friendly things to do here such as bike riding, kayaking, taking a look at the manmade hills, and visiting the playgrounds. Many of these activities are free to enjoy.

For additional information about this activity, read our post about visiting Governors Island.


In addition to the attractions and museums mentioned previously, here are the best family-friendly museums in NYC, with a special section on museums for younger children.

Some charge full admission, and others have a pay-what-you-wish or by-donation policy on certain days and hours. See our post on Free Museums in NYC.

Many attractions and museums are included for free in tourist passes.

Find out which attractions and museums are included in tourist passes.


The Metropolitan Museum of Art

  • Includes entrance to The Cloisters in Ft. Tryon Park
  • Free admission with some tourist passes (see below)

Museum of Modern Art

  • Select Free Fridays
  • Admission to MoMA PS1 is included with each ticket

American Museum of Natural History

  • Pay-what-you-wish all the time
  • Free admission with some tourist passes (see below)

Lower East Side Tenement Museum

  • A great educational place for children 10 and older

New York Transit Museum

New York Public Library

  • Free all the time for everyone
  • Several rotating exhibits offered
  • Free tours of exhibits included
  • Frequent events and film screenings

9/11 Museum

  • Free for children under 6
  • Concessionary tickets for kids (7-17)
  • Free on Tuesdays from 5 pm - 8 pm

New York Hall of Science

  • Free admission on Fridays from 2 pm - 5 pm
  • Free admission on Sundays from 10 am - 11 am

Museum of Moving Image

  • Free every Friday from 4 pm - 8 pm
  • Concessionary tickets for youth (3-17)

Museum of Food and Drink

  • Free for children under 5
  • Concessionary tickets for youth (6-17)
  • Tickets include a complimentary tasting

Museum of Ice Cream

  • Jump in the giant Sprinkle Pool & eat unlimited ice cream
  • Interactive exhibits about the history of ice cream

New-York Historical Society

Museum of the City of New York

  • Pay-what-you-wish every day

National Museum of Mathematics

  • Interactive exhibits for kids
  • Several hands-on learning opportunities

New York City Fire Museum

  • Concessionary tickets for children

Cooper Hewitt

  • Admission is free for everyone 18 and under

New Museum

  • Children under 18 are always free
  • Pay-what-you-wish for everyone Thursdays from 7-9 pm
  • First Saturday of every month, 10 am-noon, free admission for up to three adults per family

Museums for Young Children

Brooklyn Children's Museum

  • Pay-what-you-wish on Thursdays from 2 pm - 6 pm and on Sundays from 4 pm - 7 pm

Children's Museum of Manhattan

  • Exhibits aimed at children up to 10 years of age

Children's Museum of the Arts

  • Pay-what-you-wish Thursdays from 4 pm - 6 pm

Staten Island Children's Museum

Queens County Farm Museum

  • Admission is always free

TIP: To find out what other museums have free admission all of the time or some of the time, see our post, Free Museums in New York City


Below are the top attractions for families. Some have free admission on certain days and hours. Others always charge admission.

We've noted which attractions are included in tourist passes.

Madame Tussauds

  • World-famous wax museum
  • Special exhibits include Ghostbusters and Marvel Heroes
  • Included for free with some tourist passes (see below)

Intrepid Sea, Air and Space Museum

  • located on an aircraft carrier, see the first space shuttle and more
  • Included for free with some tourist passes (see below)

South Street Seaport

Children’s Adventure Garden

  • Located at New York Botanical Garden
  • Part of Nature Exploration Programs

Brooklyn Botanic Garden

  • Always free admission for children under 12
  • Free admission for everyone on Saturdays from 10 am - 12 pm
  • Free admission for everyone on winter weekdays (Dec - Feb)

New York Botanical Garden

  • Free grounds admission all day on Wednesdays and on Saturdays from 9 am - 10 am

Yankee Stadium

  • Take a tour of the stadium.
  • Go to a game (April - Sept)
  • The tour included some tourist passes (see below)

Chelsea Piers

  • Great place to play and watch dozens of sports.
  • Drop-in activities like bowling, rock climbing, and more
  • Field House w/ ball pit, gymnasium, and more

National Geographic Ocean Odyssey

  • Experience a digital aquarium.
  • Included with some tourist passes (see below)

Staten Island Zoo

Tisch Children's Zoo

  • Petting zoo for young children (feed dispensers - 50¢ per handful)
  • Right across the street from Central Park Zoo
  • Admission included with tickets for Central Park Zoo

LeFrak Center at Lakeside Prospect Park Brooklyn

  • Ice Skating Rink in winter/Roller skating in summer
  • Boating, biking, and other activities

New York Aquarium

Coney Island


There are a lot of fun things for you and your family to do during the day in New York City, but what about interesting activities after dark?

This section will discuss a few of the more popular things to do at night in NYC.

Check our post about things to do at night for additional ideas and our top 10 nighttime activities video below.

Don’t forget that the Staten Island Ferry is accessible 24 hours a day, which means you can enjoy a free boat ride after the sun goes down in New York City and see both the skyline and the Statue of Liberty lit up from afar.

Also mentioned above, a visit to Grand Central Terminal and the 9/11 Memorial is also great nighttime activity.

See a Broadway Show

There are a lot of great family-friendly shows to see on Broadway.

Many Broadway shows start in the evening at around 7 pm or later, so this is an excellent option for families who want something to do at night.

Popular shows suited for younger children:

For tweens and teens:

  • Hamilton
  • Harry Potter and the Cursed Child
  • School of Rock
  • Anastasia

You can also check our post about how to get cheap Broadway tickets for additional money-saving opportunities.

See a Show at New Victory Theater

This is a performing arts theater that provides a variety of shows aimed at children.

You can expect classic plays such as Beauty and the Beast alongside puppet shows and other family fun.

Their evening performances begin at 7 pm, making this an excellent activity after dark.

Tickets are pretty affordable, starting at $17 per person.

Go to an Escape Room

Get everybody involved in solving the puzzle at The Escape Game. Each room is full of clues you must use to escape in under one hour to win the game. 

You can choose from multiple adventures with varying levels of difficulty. Depending on availability, you could start your game in the early afternoon or even as late as 11:50 pm! 

Go to the Brooklyn Academy of Music

Much like the Victory Theater, this venue also provides several different shows for younger audiences.

Whether your kids are into plays, dance, musical performances, or movies, chances are you’ll find something that they want to see at the Brooklyn Academy of Music.

Tickets start at $15 for movies, $25 for dance/music, and $35 for the theater.

NOTE: If you’re planning to visit Brooklyn, do read our post on things to do in Brooklyn, which includes family-friendly activities.

Attend a Sporting Event

No matter when you come to New York City, chances are you’ll have the opportunity to see one of their excellent teams play a game. The following clubs play in or around NYC.


  • Brooklyn Nets
  • New York Knicks
  • St. Johns Red Storm

American Football

  • Jets
  • Giants

Ice Hockey

  • New York Rangers
  • New Jersey Devils
  • New York Islanders


  • New York Yankees
  • New York Mets

Go Bowling

There’s a reason that this is one of the most popular American pastimes for families, so it shouldn’t surprise you that this is one of our recommendations.

There are a few notable locations where you will find bowling alleys in New York City:

  • Times Square
  • Central Park
  • Coney Island
  • Chelsea Piers

Each of these sites is close to a lot of other family-friendly attractions. If you plan on being in the area, why not close off the day with a game of bowling?

Go See a Movie

New York City is one of the two locations in the United States where films will often make their premiere.

As a result, you can expect a lot of notable movies to open up a week or more before they release around the country.

There are a lot of fantastic movie theaters in New York City, and they aren’t difficult to locate, there are more than 30 theaters in Manhattan alone!

You can expect to pay a lot more for tickets in NYC than you would elsewhere.

That said, the premium price may be worth it for the ability to see movies early and enjoy some films that might not even make it to any other market.

Check Out Nintendo World

This might not be the first place on everyone’s itinerary, but there’s an argument to be made that it should be.

If you have any Nintendo fans in the family, they will love the opportunity to pick up some gear that is usually either hard to find or exclusive to the Nintendo Store.

Monday- Thursday 9am - 8pm; Friday + Saturday 9am-9pm; Sunday 11am - 6pm

Even if you don’t want to spend any money, there are a lot of great things to see and do here.

They have an exhibition featuring historic or notable artifacts from throughout the history of the company.

One interesting example is an original Gameboy that somehow survived a bombing during the Gulf War and still works to this very day!

NOTE: The Nintendo Store is located right next to Rockefeller Center.

Go to Madame Tussauds

This is one of the most popular attractions in New York City. The famous House of Wax includes a lot of celebrity figures and even notable characters such as Marvel’s Avengers.

Madame Tussauds is open late every day of the week, until 10 pm on weekdays, and hours are extended to 12 am on weekends.

NOTE: All of the major New York tourist passes include admission to Madame Tussauds.

Spend a Night at the Museum

Did you know that you and your kids can actually spend the night in an NYC Museum?

There are at least a few locations that have some version of this activity available for families.

Here are some of the more popular opportunities:

Each of these museums has something fun and interesting for kids to see and experience.

We can’t promise that anything will come to life during your outing, but we’re willing to bet that this will be fun for the whole family.

NOTE: Admission to all three of these museums is included for free with at least one of the tourist attraction concession passes.

Family-Friendly Restaurants

This list includes some of the best restaurants for kids and their families in New York City.

If you’re looking for locations where your children can enjoy free or lowered price meals, check out this article about NYC Restaurants where kids eat free.

  • Planet Hollywood
  • Hard Rock Cafe
  • Max Brenner Chocolate Bar
  • Nathan’s Famous Hot Dogs
  • Ellen’s Stardust Diner
  • Brooklyn Farmacy & Soda Fountain
  • Alice’s Tea Cup
  • Dinosaur BBQ
  • Burger & Barrel
  • Bubba Gump Shrimp Co.
  • Action Burger
  • Good Day Play Cafe
  • Shake Shack


This section will provide details about a variety of sightseeing tours you can take with your family in New York City.

Walking Tours

We offer several different pay-what-you-like walking tours in New York City which are family-friendly.

These outings are perfect for visitors both young and old.

We offer dozens of tours, but here are some kid-friendly ones.

If you’re interested in learning about the haunted history of New York City, we also have a few different ghost tours that you can take.

Food Tours

Each of these food tours is pay-what-you-wish, which means that you can save a bit of money while enjoying some of the best food in New York.

For more details and tour opportunities, make sure to read our post about New York food tours.

Bus Tours

Bus tours are great when traveling with kids because the little ones will have a chance to rest up a bit during a day of sightseeing.

Since hop-on-hop-off bus tours generally stop at the most popular attractions, you can use the bus to move from one destination to the next with ease.

Our post, The Best Hop-On-Hop-Off NYC Bus Tours, can help you decide which is best for you and your child.

Boat Tours

If you are traveling with kids, they will probably enjoy a ride on one of the three popular speedboats in NYC: The Shark, The Beast, and The Sea Wolf.

If you were planning on getting tourist passes for the family, the good news is that The Beast is included with the City Pass.

If you are concerned about the cost of tickets for an entire family, try the Staten Island Ferry.

This boat ride is free, it passes by the Statue of Liberty, and it runs 24 hours a day!

You can find other options by looking at Free New York Boat Tours.

To find out about additional family-friendly options, see our post Which New York Boat Tour or Cruise is Best?


Visitors who are looking for time-specific things to do with their families may want to take a look at the following monthly posts for additional ideas.


Each link below will take you to a post on things to do in that particular neighborhood, including things to do with kids.

Be sure to read our guide to NYC neighborhoods to understand which areas are near each other.


This section will provide a list of fun family activities that are included with various tourist passes.

If you purchase tickets individually, the cost of visiting each location really adds up.

Before we break down the differences between each service, it is important to note the similarities.

Each of the following attractions is included in all three of the major tourist passes in New York City.

  • Top of the Rock
  • Madame Tussauds
  • Hop-on-Hop-off Bus Tour
  • Brooklyn Botanic Garden
  • Radio City Music Hall Tour
  • Luna Park at Coney Island
  • New York Botanical Garden
  • Madison Square Garden Tour
  • Intrepid Sea, Air & Space Museum
  • American Museum of Natural History
  • Circle Line Landmarks Cruise

If any of these activities are of interest, you can feel safe choosing whichever pass you wish and save a lot of money.

With that said, let’s take a look at some of the family-friendly attractions that are only included on specific tourist passes.

New York Pass (100+ Attractions)

  • Rockefeller Center Tour
  • Empire State Building
  • Deno’s Wonder Wheel at Coney Island
  • Yankee Stadium Tour
  • Central Park TV & Movie Sites Tour
  • Staten Island Zoo
  • Staten Island Yankees Game
  • Staten Island Children’s Museum
  • Blazing Saddles Bike Tours

Our Suggestion

The New York Pass is a great choice for families who enjoy sports, as you can take both a Yankee Stadium tour and go to see a Staten Island Yankees game.

The addition of admission to the Staten Island Zoo and Children’s Museum also makes this a great choice for anyone planning a trip to the area.

New York Sightseeing Pass (110+ Attractions)

  • Bronx Zoo
  • Central Park Zoo
  • New York Aquarium
  • One World Observatory
  • Ripley’s Believe it or Not!
  • Food on Foot Sweet Tooth Tour
  • National Geographic Ocean Odyssey
  • RIB New York Speedboat Tour
  • Staten Island Children’s Museum
  • The Chocolate Museum

Our Suggestion

The New York Sightseeing Pass is perfect for anyone planning to see the biggest zoos in the city, as admission to both the Bronx and Central Park Zoo are included.

They also provide entrance to popular family sites like One World Observatory, the National Geographic Ocean Odyssey, and Ripley’s Believe it or Not!

Explorer Pass (80+ Attractions)

Our Suggestion

The Explorer Pass would be an excellent option for fans of theater, as both, an Inside Broadway and Hamilton Happy Hour tour, are included.

They also offer several popular family attractions like LEGOLAND and the Empire State Building.

For additional details about each of these services, make sure to read our post about New York tourist passes.

About The Author

Stephen Pickhardt

Stephen is the CEO of Free Tours by Foot and has overseen the transformation of a local walking tour company into a global tour community and traveler’s advice platform. He has personally led thousands of group tours in the US and Europe, and is an expert in trip planning and sightseeing, with a focus on budget travelers. Stephen has been published and featured in dozens of publications including The Wall Street Journal, BBC, Yahoo,, and more.
Updated: April 19th, 2024
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