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In November last year, I was preparing to travel to New York with my 3-year old son, so I did a lot of research to see what people can do in New York with kids. I found a lot of articles, but most of the ideas were more suitable for older kids, so we needed to select only a part of them and to adjust them to what a young child can do. This is why I decided to gather here some nice ideas of things to do with young kids in New York because I am sure that there are many other parents who can use some inspiration.
7 nice places to visit in New York with kids
I traveled alone with Bogdan, so I really needed to create a schedule that was good for him and to include on it only places which I knew he would enjoy. If I had to pick 5 places we enjoyed the most, this would be our top:
1. Children’s Museum of Manhattan
Bogdan really enjoyed this museum, so I recommend you visit it if you have kids under six. The place has several floors with different themes, so the little ones don’t get bored there. The only disadvantage of the place is that they don’t have a restaurant or snack shop there, so if your kids get hungry you need to find a restaurant close to the museum. The good part is that the entrance ticket is valid all day, so you can go outside for lunch and return later. You can find more details on the CMOM official site.
2. New York Transit Museum
If your kids are fans of subway cars and buses (like mine is), they will certainly like this museum! Visitors can walk through actual vintage subway cars in a decommissioned subway station and kids can board a bus and a trolley. We spend half a day there although it’s not a very big museum because it is really engaging, especially for boys. 🙂 In weekends there are programs planned for kids and you can attend them for free, but the place is also much busier at the end of the week, so we preferred to visit it on a weekday. You can find more details on the NY Transit Museum site.
3. Central Park and Central Park Zoo
Central Park is a landmark for New York and if you are traveling with kids it’s certainly worth a visit. Besides the walk through the park, we enjoyed the visit at the Zoo. First we planned to visit the Bronx Zoo, which is the biggest zoo in America, but we discovered this small zoo and we decided to change our plan. Although the zoo is small, I think it is great for younger kids. Bogdan especially liked the Kids Zoo, a part where kids could feed some domestic animals and get close to them. You can find more details about the zoo on the Central Park site.
4. American Museum of Natural History
This is a huge museum and probably is more suitable for older kids, but we also had a very nice time there. Because the museum is so big you need to choose what you really want to see and to skip the other parts. Bogdan enjoyed the time spent in the Discovery Room, a place where little children can play and learn about a lot of the things that are included in the museum. You can find details for planning your visit on their site.
5. The Empire State Building
The building is a great experience to have in New York and the views from the 86th floor are really amazing. Kids will certainly enjoy the “ride” with the elevator and the views from above! The building is open daily from 8 am to 2 am, so you can visit it at night if you want to enjoy the city lights. For more details, you can visit the Empire State Building site.
6. Top of the Rock Observation Desk
This experience is similar with the one from the Empire State Building, but we enjoyed it as much. The Observation Desk is located in the Rockefeller Center and it offers wonderful views of the city. We visited Empire State Building at night, so I decided to go to Top of the Rock Observation Desk during the day so that we could admire the city in plain daylight. The experience was amazing and it was fun for Bogdan too, so I totally recommend it. More details about this attraction can be found on the Rockefeller Center site.
7. Walks in the center of the city
This is not really a place to visit but more a recommendation. Usually, as tourists, we want to see as many attractions as we can and we sometimes forget to simply enjoy the city we visit. Children are great at reminding us to slow the pace and enjoy the atmosphere, so I did this in New York and I loved it! Every evening we went for a walk in the center of the city and admired the high buildings, the nice stores, and even the crowded places. The atmosphere in New York is really special and you can have a wonderful experience by just walking on the big boulevards. Times Square and Broadway are perfect destinations for the walks.
Other nice places
In New York, there are a lot of other museums dedicated to children, like Brooklyn Children’s Museum, Children’s Museum of the Arts, and DiMenna Children’s Museum at the New York Historical Society) but I only focused on the ones that are appropriate for small kids.
Besides the attraction on the above list, we had also other places on our list that we haven’t got the time to visit. I add them here because I heard they are great for kids too:
Intrepid Sea, Air, and Space Museum (for kids who like planes and ships)
The Highline Park and Walking Path (for walking and admiring the city at the same time)
The Bronx Zoo (the biggest zoo in America; it was on our list but we ended up visiting the Central Park Zoo instead)
The Staten Islad Ferry (if your kids would enjoy a cruise and seeing the Statue of Liberty)
The New York Botanical Garten (I heard that this place is wonderful, but we haven’t got the time to visit it).
A small guide for parents
Visiting New York with kids can be overwhelming! New York is a huge city with a lot of places to visit and it can hard to be able to stick to a schedule when you have kids around.
Here are some useful tips that I think could help you plan your trip better and enjoy more the time spent in New York.
1. Museum tickets can be expensive if you plan to visit a lot of places, so it is more convenient to buy a city pass that includes more attractions at a better price. There are several options to choose from, we had the New York city pass and it was very good for us.
2. New York is a very popular tourist destinations, so famous museums have big lines at pick hours. It is better to go to a museum early in the morning when they open because this way you can buy tickets faster and enjoy at least an hour of quiet time in the museum before it gets busy. Children museums are particularly crowded on weekends, so it is better to plan your visit during the week. Another good way to skip the lines is to buy the tickets online; you can also get some discounts this way.
3. If you are from Europe (like we are), you could find it difficult to choose a restaurant that it’s suitable for your kids. If your children are no used to eat burgers and other fast food products (or if you just want to choose healthier meals), finding a good restaurant can be challenging. We ate at some Italian restaurants where food was more similar to what we were used to and we also ate at California Pizza Kitchen where we found tasty pizza and pasta.
4. If you have toddlers and even preschoolers it could be a good idea to bring a stroller with you. I haven’t brought a stroller for Bogdan (because we don’t use it at home), but I needed to rent one in New York because walking through the town was really tiring for him. To be able to keep the pace necessary for visiting all the attractions the stroller was the only option for us.
5. Waiting in lines would probably be part of every day you spend in New York, so it’s a good idea to bring some toys or activities to keep your child busy during the wait. I had some toy cars and some activity books for Bogdan and they were really useful!
6. For moving around in New York the cheapest option is the public transport, but for long distances using the bus or the subway can be really tiring for kids. Instead, we used Uber a lot and it was the best option for us. Normally the child must sit in a car seat during the ride, so it’s better to bring a booster for your kid.
7. A lot of museum offer free programs for kids, so it’s useful to check their websites and to see what your kids could do. Some museum has special rooms dedicated to children (like the Natural History Museum), other have free classes for kids on particular days (like the Transit Museum) and you can schedule your visit in order for your child to be able to attend them.