Thanks for visiting Free Tours by Foot New York!
This post covers things to do with kids in NYC, including free and cheap things to do, museums, attractions as well as nighttime activities, updated for 2020.
The following section will cover the best ideas for things to do with your kids in New York City. We will also make 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.
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.
Some sites like M&Ms World and the Nintendo and LEGO stores are free to enter and enjoy their activities.
If you’re interested in learning about New York City or seeing some historic sites, there are several types of tours you can take.
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 which covers a lot of the creepy history behind New York City.
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.
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.
For more details about these opportunities and many more, make sure to read our post about things to do in Central Park.
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.
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.
New York City is home to some of 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.
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.
See a full list of shows here.
Popular shows suited for younger children:
For tweens and teens:
Going to a show as a family can really add up, so you definitely want to look into ways to get discounted 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!
NYC has 3 observation decks:
Can’t decide? Read our comparison of NYC Observation Decks.
Tickets can be a bit pricey, but all three offer discounted tickets for children and all are included in one or another tourist attraction discount pass.
TIP: All three decks stay open quite late. Also, see our things to do at night section below for more nighttime ideas.
There are a lot of kid-friendly museums in New York City, and several offer discount prices for children’s tickets.
If you’re looking for more museums or attraction(s, 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.
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, clown fish, and many others.
Each New York City attraction discount 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 discount 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 included New York City tourist pass.
Honorable Mention: Go to Chinatown
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.
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 pass 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.
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.
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.
For a list of many more kid-friendly museums in NYC, see the section below list below.
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.
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.
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.
For more great locations, check this list of the top 15 playgrounds in New York City.
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.
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 was 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.
The 9/11 Memorial is well lit at night and makes for a great nighttime option.
Check out the free Houdini Museum
This lesser-known small museum is located in the Fantasma Magic Store in Midtown Manhattan and admission is free.
You can see different artifacts and historic objects on display, and they even have an animatronic example of a classic Houdini escape.
From time to time, famous magicians and demonstrators will visit the store and provide an example of their talents. Fantasma Magic also plays host to several lectures, magic shows, and even a summer camp.
See their website for Houdini Museum.
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, others have 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.
Museums for Young Children
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.
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.
There are a lot of great family-friendly shows to see on Broadway. See a full list of shows here.
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:
You can also check our post about how to get cheap Broadway tickets for additional money saving opportunities.
This is a performing arts theater which 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.
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.
Depending on availability, you could start your game in the early afternoon or even as late as 11:50 pm!
Much like the Victory Theater, this venue also provides several different shows for younger audiences.
Whether your kids are into plays, dance, and 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.
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.
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:
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?
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.
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, hours are extended to 12 am on weekends.
See the National Geographic Ocean Odyssey
A digital aquarium located in the middle of Times Square!
Using high-quality monitors, the National Geographic Ocean Odyssey makes you feel like there is only a panel of glass between you and some of the most beautiful aquatic life in the world.
Much like Madame Tussauds, this attraction is also open late throughout the week. Visitors are welcome until 10:30 pm from Sunday – Thursday and 12 am on Friday & Saturday.
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 discount passes.
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 discounted meals, check this article about NYC Restaurants where kids eat free.
This section will provide details about a variety of sightseeing tours you can take with your family in New York City.
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.
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 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.
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 family 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 which 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 on all three of the major tourist passes in New York City.
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)
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)
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)
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, Gulliver’s Gate, and the Empire State Building.
For additional details about each of these services, make sure to read our post about New York tourist passes.