Things to do in NYC with kids?

Next month, our company has a conference in NY. My MIL (the boss) thought it would be a great opportunity to take a little trip with the whole fam damily, since we’ll be on the east coast already. My vote was not counted apparently, but never mind.

So, we will be spending a few days at a hotel kind of upstate, which looks very nice but I don’t know how kid-friendly it is. But they have pony rides and a lake, so we should be ok.

My main concern is the next few days, which will be in NYC, specifically mid-town Manhattan, close to the park. We will be travelling with a 3 year old and a 1 year old. Argh. This is the last thing I wanted to do with them, but whatever.

Here is what I know so far-

  1. The zoo. It’s small but ok for an hour or two.

  2. The natural history museum. My oldest loves whales and dinosaurs, so we should be able to burn up at least 3 hours.

  3. The boat pond and carousel.

  4. As a last resort, the giant toy store near Times Square- it’s got a ferris wheel and a bunch of other stuff. Not my first choice.
    As you can see, almost all of my ideas are in the park.

Now what?!? I personally feel that NYC is not kid-friendly, but maybe that’s just because I’ve never gone there with kids. My trips usually involve breakfast in the Village, shopping in Chinatown, maybe seeing a show, none of which will be happening this time.

Does anyone have any ideas about what we can do?

You already hit upon my two failsafe kid things – Central Park, with the zoo, carousel, puppet theater etc, and the dinosaurs at the Natural History Museum.

Some other suggestions:

The Children’s Museum which is fairly close to Central Park. Whenever I have been there, they have had different things going on to appeal to children of various ages.

Ellen’s Stardust Diner is a theme-type restaurant, with basic diner style food and singing waitresses. It sounds really cheesy, but I always have a good time there when I take visitors from out-of-town. Unlike some of the other theme restaurants, I think it’s good for very young children because nothing “scary” or unexpected happens.

The branch of the NY Public Library dedicated to children is the Donnell Library Center. They have a lot of programs for children, you might want to call just before your trip to see what’s on their schedule for the days you will be in town. It’s also where the real Winnie-the-Pooh lives.

Thanks, I hadn’t thought of the Children’s Museum. Ellen’s sounds like fun too!

And Winnie the Pooh lives at the library?!? How cool!


Anybody else? I could sure use the help!

Right next door to the AMNH is the Hayden Planeterium.

Also, a trip to FAO Schwartz would be fun for the kids.

Zev Steinhardt

Thanks Zev. It’s a tricky time, since it’s the week of the 4th of July.

Speaking of which, are there any under-5 friendly events for the glorious 4th? Like fireworks, etc?

There are usually 4July fireworks over the East River at nightfall.

Zev Steinhardt

How geeky are your kids? Personally, I’m a big fan of the immigraiton museum on Elis Island. I don’t know whether the Statue of Liberty has reopened to visitors, but you used to be able to see both on one ferry ticket.

The island is open to visitors, but not the statue itself.

If the kids are geeky and you have access to a car, then I’d recommend the Liberty Science Center, right across the Holland Tunnel.

Zev Steinhardt

They are too young to be geeky yet, although the 3 year old is a whiz on my computer.

We may take the ferry though, he is nuts for boat rides.

We just returned from the NYC area (Weehawken) and were faced with this same dilemma (and same ages of the kids)

Our solution: boat tour around Manhattan. 90 min boat tour

We did the 2 hour, which circumnavigates the whole island, and found that it was about 30 minutes too long. And the northern part of the island is not too exciting for the kids. But the shorter tour covers the best stuff. Advantages of the boat is that if (in our case) one of the kids falls asleep (or wants to nurse), you’re not stuck in one room of a museum with an impatient 5 year old.

Also, the boat tour will get you a complementary bus tour ticket. The longer bus tours propably won’t be appropriate for the younger kids, but you might want to look into that too.

Well not being a parent, yet, I have no idea how 3 and 1 year olds are entertained. That being said, there is also the Hall of Science in Flushing Meadow Park. Just a 7 train and walk through the park away or a short (toll free for now) car ride. They have some old space rockets outside and

There is also a really small zoo and carosel in the park as well. However, Bloomberg might close the zoos soon.

Of course, if you want to spend the whole day in one place, you could always go to the Bronx Zoo. My kids love the place. We keep going and going…

Zev Steinhardt

As I was saying…

from what I have heard some neat things for kids inside (not sure what age group though).

Your 3 y.o. might like the Intrepid Air and Space Museum as well (west side highway at about 34th street?).

Zev is right, you can’t go wrong with the Bronx Zoo.

Can I ask this without offending any New Yorkers? How would we safely get to the Bronx Zoo?


No offense. Take the Subway, it’s safe. Or if you have a car, you can drive.

Zev Steinhardt

Seriously Zev, the words “take the subway to the Bronx” just made my husband squirm like someone had threatened his private parts.

Have things changed since he lived in NY in the mid-to-late 1980’s? He remembers things as being a little scary.

Not for adults, mind you, but for kids.

Yes, things have changed quite a bit since the '80s. I take my kids on the subways when driving is not an option.

Zev Steinhardt

Yeah, even in 1986 when I started at NYU, I don’t remember the subway ride to the Bronx being particularly scary. The people shooting up heroin on the front stoop on the Lower East Side were another story.

A few ideas:

  • there are playgrounds throughout Central Park that are fun and loaded with kids

  • There are indoor play spaces throughout the city (you should be able to find them in the phone book or even online, I suppose). I remember taking my kids to one called PlaySpace on the Upper West Side on Broadway.

  • That Children’s Museum - I think it is on 81st or 83rd between Central Park West and Amsterdam is good for an hour or two

  • My 3 year old loved the Metropolitan Museum of Art - we went straight to the Egyptian mummies and the Knights in Shining Armor and he had a field day. I had read books to him about those topics beforehand - I think it was the Magic Treehouse series and a couple of kids nonfiction books on those topics.

  • There are those “pick a clay statue, paint it and then take it home” types of places throughout the city, too - I took my son to one on the upper East Side, but can’t remember the name of it.

That’s all for now - I will add more if more ideas come to mind…