12 Family Things To Do In New York City

12 Family Things To Do In New York City

As one of the largest and most active cities in the United States, New York City is the hub of many business and entertainment industries and hosts the infamous Wall Street district. The city’s history and natural beauty also draw millions of tourists every year, though, and almost everyone comes with friends or family.

Fun things to do in New York City as a family

New York City is famous for its famous landmarks like Times Square, the Empire State Building, Statue of Liberty but also for its cuisine and maybe a Broadway show. The city also offers plenty of active, family-oriented activities, and fun things to do for young children and even for those who prefer to spend their time outdoors. So here are some of the best things to do in New York City – a great place for the whole family.

Though not particularly known for its weather, New York summers do tend to get considerably muggy. Fortunately, however, New York City is surrounded by several free beaches, including Coney Island, Brighton Beach, and Rockaway.

Trip map courtesy of Wanderlog, a trip planner app on iOS and Android

A Day in the Park

Perhaps the most obvious free destination lies in the middle of the island of Manhattan. Central Park, by far New York City’s largest park, is one of New York’s most pleasant landscapes, complete with its own trees, flowers, ponds, and wildlife. Central Park houses an oasis for various species of migrating birds between seasons. During the winter, Central Park has two ice skating rinks that are seen as a must-go for most New Yorkers, as it is one of the only places where they can enjoy such a gracious activity free of charge.

With its numerous playgrounds, jogging paths, and rock climbing opportunities, Central Park is an ideal attraction for people of all ages.

Central Park is undoubtedly one of the most famous sites in New York City and provides a bright green spot in the middle of the city. Walk the meandering pathways through 250 acres of lawn, woods, and lakes, or rent bikes to cycle the boulevards and roads that run through the park.

Also in Central Park is The Delacourt Theatre. This is an outdoor theatre in which The Public Theatre (a very notable off-Broadway theatre company) puts up two shows a year. This series is called Shakespeare in the Park. Usually, it is one Shakespeare and one modern play or musical.

Make sure to wear comfortable shoes and bring a sweatshirt or umbrella, though, as New York City is prone to sudden downpours, and the park is devoid of any sheltering roofs.

Visit the Central Park Zoo

While you’re in Central Park, walk to the edge that runs along 5th Avenue and visit the world-famous New York Zoo to take in some of the exotic wildlife. The zoo houses large jungle and grassland animals, as well as sea life and an in-house aquarium.

Join one of the educational tours to enhance your understanding of the animals you’re looking at, then stop by the sea lion exhibit to feed some sea lions.

A Little Culture

The Met, or Metropolitan Museum of Art, is one of New York City’s largest museums and is located at the corner of Central Park in lower Manhattan. The standing collection includes wings dedicated to medieval artwork, African exhibits, Egyptian history, impressionism, and Native American heritage.

Schedule at least two days to walk the three floors of the Met and grab a map beforehand to decide on what you want to see before you start.

Fun things to do in New York City as a family - central park new york

Main Concourse of Grand Central Station

While you’re in town wandering the city streets, stop by the Main Concourse of Grand Central Station for a great time. It was featured in the second X-men movie for those of you that may be unfamiliar. It is a historic landmark in New York City and the ceiling has a beautiful painting of all the constellations and signs of the zodiac.

Also, a good idea is to take the time to stroll around Times Square and Greenwich Village. While they are certainly two very different atmospheres, they are both more than worth the energy. You can stop in by Mott Street to go to an arcade. Or you can explore canal street with its stores and restaurants. A stroll down Broadway will yield all the lights, magic, and big city that we all think of when we think of New York.

30 Rock

Take the family to the Top of the Rock, penthouse levels of Rockefeller plaza, the perfect place for bracing breezes and a stunning 360-degree of the best view of the city. The Rockefeller Center houses the NBC Studios and offers walking tours of some of the network’s famous shows, as well as cafes, restaurants, shops, and photo opportunities.

5th avenue

For those who prefer window shopping to nature and greenery, 5th Avenue offers a miles-long avenue packed with shops, restaurants, and historical sites. Wear your walking shoes to experience this shopping district, though, and keep a firm hold on your bags; 5th Avenue is one of the main thoroughfares of the city and often holds wall-to-wall pedestrians.

Fun things to do in New York City as a family - a part of the interior of metropolitan museum

Union Square Farmer’s Market

A fabulous, open-air market at the historic Union Square, open from 8 am to 6 pm every Monday, Wednesday, Friday, and Saturday year-round. The market specializes in organic foods driven by local growers, and traditional homemade foods such as cheese, cider, wine, maple candies, and more. The area is vibrant with local artists, selling photographs, paintings, silk screen shirts, buttons, baskets, and so much more. In the summer, the market is especially overtaken by florists. Besides the market itself, Union Square is known to have musicians and dancers about, putting on crowd-pleasing spectacles.

New York Public Library

An absolutely beautiful building, some say even a national historic landmark, is lovely to walk through and explore. The range of titles and sheer mass of their collection is breathtaking and worth stopping to check out. The great thing is that it holds special exhibits and has a great gift shop as well.

FAO Schwarz

FAO Schwarz on Fifth Avenue is definitely a wonderland of toys. Here you will find toys, dolls, and games not found in most toy stores. In order to get the most out of your visit and see where everything is located, visit Spanky, the Gund Where Bear who will direct you around the store. Get a glimpse of the life-sized stuffed replicas of endangered animals or try your hand at being a puppeteer in Puppet Park. When you want to marvel at all the toys on the second floor, visit the Robot/Elevator aptly named GO-2-FLOOR-2. Make sure you visit the board game, Barbie, doll, and book sections before you leave!

Fun things to do in New York City as a family - glass building during daytime

Natural History Museum

Over 125 years old and New York’s American Museum of Natural History is still one of the most-visited tourist attractions in the city. Upon viewing the museum you will notice its varied architecture, from the medieval castle feel of the towers to the contemporary glass structure of the Rose Center. Make sure that the entire family is wearing their walking shoes because the museum spans several blocks and is four stories high. It boasts a collection from every science discipline from astronomy and ecology to biology and anthropology.

Children’s Museum of Manhattan

What better place to take the kids than the Children’s Museum of Manhattan? This museum was founded in 1973 and is geared toward teaching children about the cultural diversity of the world through science, art, media, and interactive exhibits. If you have newborns or toddlers visit the WordPlay exhibit which will teach adults how children’s speech and language development. If you have older children, take them to the Art Inside Out which features interactive games on the computer and digital photography.

New York Hall of Science

If you want the best way to learn and have a hands-on experience with science and technology, take the family to the New York Hall of Science which boasts over 200 interactive and fun activities and exhibits that will teach the older kids about physics, chemistry, and biology. Visit the Biochemistry Discovery Lab and try your hand at learning the chemistry of different things. You can also learn about molecules and atoms or even learn all about AIDS, from what it is and how it is affecting our world today.

Fun things to do in New York City as a family - woman in blue denim jacket standing on top of building

Final Thoughts

A family trip to New York City is always an exciting and unique experience, but the Big Apple is known to cost a pretty penny, which is not always good news to those hoping to take in the sights on a tight budget and enjoy the free things. Luckily, there are tons of fantastic and special events, sites, kid-friendly activities and museums that all offer free or donation days, so be sure to plan your stay in the city to take in all these local attractions and save your money for a rainy day.

Despite its reputation as a city with one of the highest costs of living in the world, New York City has the best places to visit. For anyone with a keen eye for adventure, a little bit of an open mind, and a desire to have a good time, everything they seek is right there for the taking. From Lady Liberty to Manhattan’s beloved Central Park to Brooklyn’s historic Coney Island, people of all shapes, sizes, and economic classes can enjoy what the greatest city in the world has to offer.

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