What to do with your kids in NYC
New York City has never run short on things to do – yet picking the right one for your kids might be a little trickier. While there might be a plethora of options, you need to take into account personalities, nap schedules, cost and how much they can handle when narrowing down. We only had three good days in NYC, and while we couldn’t do it all, I feel like we did a good mix of museums, outdoor spaces, tourist spots and just plain kid fun (you have to let me get their energy out!)!
Activities we did
- Madison Gardens
- Empire State Building
- Central Park
- Renting Sailboats
- Belvedere Castle
- Aladdin the Musical
- American Museum of Natural History
- Children’s Museum of Manhattan
- Walked the Brooklyn Bridge
- Jane’s Carousel
Madison Gardens is a lovely park that was just one block from our hotel, Hotel Giraffe. It has a fun playground for the kids, a Shake Shack for a good dinner option, and lots of tables and chairs to sit and relax in. It also has some small green space for running around in, or chasing the pigeons.
Empire State Building
We bought tickets for the 82nd Floor viewing deck for the Empire State Building. We went about 10am on a Saturday and only had to wait about 20 minutes to get to the top. It is touristy, so there are lots of people and lines, but the view from the top are worth it! I loved getting to show the kids how massive the city is and how tall the buildings are. Emmie loved looking through the view finder while Easton wanted to climb the wall (although he was not allowed). It is expensive in my opinion, but worth it to take in at least one vast view of the city!
Tip: Buy your tickets ahead of time online and you will save yourself from the ticket line.
Central Park is so large it is quite impossible to do it all, so we focused on an area that the kids would have the most fun in. We started at Conservatory Water, where the we rented sailboats for the kids to sail in the pond. It is $11 for 30 minutes, and absolutely worth it. This ended up being our highlight for the park. They are wind powered so they take a second to figure out, but once Emmie got the hang of it she did not want to stop. Pay attention to their hours. We went on a Saturday and they opened at 1pm. We got there at noon, and ate lunch at the cafe. It was a good thing we did because a line started to form around 12:4pm that we prompty got in.
After we finished sailing, we walked by the Alice in Wonderland statue (worth a look at) to the James Michael Levin Playground. This playground had a nice splash pad feature which came in handy on such a hot day. I should have brought a change of clothes as Easton got soaked, but he didn’t seem to mind. The park also has a sand pit and playground with monkey bars & slide. We let the kids get some energy out while we sat and baked in the sun 🙂
Once finished, we walked a good 20 minutes to Belvedere Castle. It was a far walk, but it was fun to people watch along the way. Belvedere Castle is a cute castle Emmie liked seeing, and it has a great view from the top, but I am not sure it was worth the 20 minute walk as the kids were starting to tire out.
While I would have liked to have visited the Central Park Zoo, we just didn’t have time for everything. While it was hot, we really enjoyed our relaxing afternoon in the park.
Aladdin the Musical
The highlight of the trip for me! I don’t know if it was the great dinner before, the one on one time with Emmie, getting dress up for a night out in NYC, the amazing costumes, the incredible set decorations or just being toddler free for the night – or a combination of it all – but it was so much fun!
I was debating between taking Emmie to see Lion King or Aladdin, as I had heard rave reviews on both – but I am so thankful we saw Aladdin! It was perfect. Great music, funny, enchanting, romantic, phenomenal costumes and set – they really put on an amazing show. Emmie was so excited and loved every minute of it. We opted for the 8pm, which was late, but she stuck in there like a trooper. She did fall asleep on our Lyft ride home, but she will tell you she didn’t (I promise, she did!)
American Museum of Natural History
This museum is HUGE. You need an entire day, or more, to see it all. We only had three hours, but we made the most of it and saw the exhibits that seemed to be the most kid-friendly:
- Dark Matter Movie
- We all loved it! While the content might be complex for young kids, the images are stunning.
- Dinosaurs Among Us
- The entire 4th floor
- It might get redundant for some kids looking at all of them, but at least visit one
- Bernard Family Hall of North American Mammals
- Good for all ages – fun to look at, quick
- Gottesman Hall of Planet Earth
- Very informative & intereting, ages 6 and above
- Milstein Family Hall of Ocean Life
- Loved seeing the huge whale
- Wallburg Hall of New York State Environment
- Has impressive Sequoia tree slice to see
My husband loved the space exhibits and could have stayed there for hours. Emmie was getting a kick out of it all, but Easton was harder to keep entertained. While he loved the Dinosaurs exhibit and Dark Matter movie, the rest were a little over his head. Also, once he found out he couldn’t touch anything, he wasn’t a fan. While a toddler can survive this museum, I would say it is best for ages 4 and older.
Children’s Museum of Manhattan
After a museum where they couldn’t touch anything, the Children’s Museum of Manhattan was the perfect reprieve! It has several different floors with lots of hands on activities to choose from. I loved the first floor exhibit and its cultural influence. This museum is geared for younger kids, with a focus on 6 years and younger. While Emmie still had fun, it was definitely more of a 2 year-4 year old scene. It is safe to say Easton was in his element.
We went on a Saturday so it was busy! Lots of kids, lots of noise, but mine loved it. We honestly needed a good kid focused hour or two for them to play and this was a great retreat from the heat!
Brooklyn Bridge & Jane’s Carousel
I think I was insane when I thought walking across the Brooklyn Bridge with two kids, no stroller and no husband to help was a good idea. When we got there, I thought I made a mistake. But once we started walking it, I fell in love with the views and forgot I was carrying a 30lb wiggle worm on my hip. To help with their energy level, I bought them a hot pretzel from a street vendor before we crossed from Manhattan to Brooklyn.
It took about 45 minutes to make it across. We didn’t stop much as I was carrying Easton, but maybe two or three times for some pictures and a quick run around. A stroller would have been clutch here 🙂 The kids liked seeing the cars fly by, the city behind us and the river below us. I am glad we did it for the experience, and I felt like wonder woman when we made it across! It was windy up there so my kids could have used a light jacket, but they had to make do.
Once we crossed into Brooklyn, we made our way to Jane’s Carousel in Dumbo. This section of Brooklyn is adorable, with cute shops, restaurants and cafes. We rode the carousel once and while the kids had a blast, I was taking in the insane views around me. After the carousel we got some hot chocolate from a cafe to warm up and waited for our personal chauffeur to arrive (aka daddy / husband). It was honestly a lovely morning!