By Alex Martin
While New York City is widely known as a great vacation spot, it is often overlooked as a good spot to take your whole family, especially if you have small children. Have you ever wondered what the local New Yorkers do with their children for fun?
With countless attractions and some of the most beautiful parks in the world all in one place, there’s a lot to see - but we’ve looked into finding the best kids’ activities in NYC before they grow up. While it’s wonderful to entertain the little ones, parents can feel even better knowing that there’s a learning experience as well at many of these New York attractions for kids.
1.) The American Museum of Natural History (AMNH) - This is one of the best places in NYC for kids to learn and have some fun at the same time. Kids can enjoy amazing attractions like the dinosaur exhibition on the 4th floor, the Rose Center for Earth and Space which has regular space shows in the Hayden Planetarium, and the IMAX theater. The museum also has more than 32 million specimens as well as huge anthropological collections from across the globe. The best kept secret? The Discovery Room, which is designed for children to experiment at becoming a scientist. And for the best burger in Manhattan there is always Shake Shack on Columbus Avenue and 79th Street – trust us, your kids will love it!
Address - Central Park West at 79th Street, New York, NY
Opening Hours - Monday - Sunday 10 a.m. - 5:45 p.m. year round except on Thanksgiving and Christmas.
2.) The Staten Island Ferry– Not a top secret, but the free 25-minute ride provides a breathtaking vista of New York Harbor and a perfect view of the Statue of Liberty, Governors Island, and the Brooklyn Bridge, as well as Ellis Island. It’s an amazing ride suited for young and old – and serves as both public transportation and a beloved attraction alike for New Yorkers and visitors. The Staten Island Ferry runs 24 hours a day throughout the week.
Address - 4 South Street, New York, NY
Schedule – Visit the official SI Ferry website for schedule
3.) Bronx Zoo - The Bronx Zoo is the largest and most famous zoo in NYC, and a great kid’s attraction, with more than 4,000 animals. The Bronx Zoo is has 265 acres of park area and natural habitats, overlooking the Bronx River. Attractions include the World of Birds, Jungle World, Wild Asia Monorail, Congo Gorilla Forest, Mouse House, Sea Lion Pool, and Children’s Zoo. The carousel and camel rides are a special favorite of young children. Wednesday is a suggested donation day, meaning you can pay the price you wish. Suggested donation is $16 for adults, $12 for children, and $14 for seniors. Every dollar you give supports our work in caring for animals at the Bronx Zoo and around the world.
Address - 2300 South Boulevard, Bronx, NY
Opening Hours – Monday - Friday 10 a.m. – 5 p.m.; Saturday - Sunday 10 a.m. – 5:30 p.m.
4.) The Queens Botanical Garden –If you want your kids to learn more about conservation, the Queens Botanical Garden is the ideal place. Spread across 40 acres of natural landscape, the garden has a large and varied collection of plants from across the globe. Some of the gorgeous attractions include a Fragrance Walk, the Bee Garden, and the herb and wedding gardens. It’s a great place for kids to enjoy and appreciate the beauty of nature. Off-season entry fee to the Queens Botanical Garden is free everyday from November to March. The HSBC Children’s Garden is a special hands-on program where kids can get up close and personal with plants, learn about nature, and see how the different seasons change the world we live in. There’s also a craft group and rotating art displays throughout the gardens.
Address - 43-50 Main Street, Queens, NY
Opening Hours - Tuesday through Sunday, 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. (closed Mondays
5.) New York Hall of Science – New York Hall of Science is a hands-on science and technology museum, and has served more than seven million people - including children - since 1986. Its mission is to provide the utility and understanding of science and technology to children, families, and teachers by igniting their thirst for knowledge and offering them innovative, creative ways to learn. It has more than 400 hands-on exhibits including the Science Playground, the new Rocket Park Mini Golf, the Preschool Place, and Charlie and Kiwi's Evolutionary Adventure. The museum is small enough not to be overwhelming and your kids will love the many experiments. When planning your trip, think of checking out the some of the Indian restaurants close by.
Address - 47-01 111th Street Queens, NY
Opening Hours – Hour vary according to season. See website for more details.
6.) Prospect Park – Prospect Park, in Brooklyn, offers over 500 acres of gardens and activities, in the heart of the city. With Brooklyn’s only forest, a zoo, a 60 acre lake and a yearly performing arts festival, there’s a lot to see. As for what to do – try boating, skating, playing baseball, even horseback riding. For kids, the 100 year old Prospect Park Carousel costs just $2 a ride, and has an impressive 53 fantastically carved horses, lions, deer, giraffe, and even two chariots pulled by dragons. It’s also wheelchair accessible. The Audubon Center has interactive and educational exhibits focused on plants and animals, and for slightly older kids, Lefferts Historic House brings traditional games, books, tools, and even farming methods to life. Fancy candle making? Sewing? Even butter churning? This is the place for you.
Address: 95 Prospect Park West, Brooklyn, NY
7.) Children’s Museum of the Arts – The Children’s Museum of the Arts gives kids a chance to get hands-on experience with art. They can explore the 2,000 square foot gallery to see the permanent collection, alongside whatever visiting artist is there at the time. There are regular workshops in the Media Lab and Sound Booth where kids can learn all about creating films, making voice-overs, and music and film appreciation. At the drop in Clay Bar kids get to use a whole range of art supplies to make their own creations. There’s even a ball pond to tire them out. For a keepsake, you can also head to the Fine Arts Studio where they can produce works of art to take home.
Address: 103 Charlton Street, New York, NY
Hours: Closed Tuesday; Monday and Wednesday 12 p.m. – 5 p.m; Thursday and Friday 12 p.m. – 6 p.m.; Saturday and Sunday 10 a.m. – 5 p.m.
8.) Governors Island - The 172-acre Governors Island is an amazing weekend destination for kids as well as for adults in New York. There are plenty of attractions for kids: free circus workshops at the Big Apple Circus, summer programs for kids, the Children’s Museum of the Arts Free Island Outpost Program, featuring painting and drawing, as well as all the National Park Service activities. This is a summer-only activity, as the Island closes for the autumn and winter season, but if get a chance to visit, it’s well worth the trip.
Address - 10 South Street #7, New York, NY
Schedule – Visit http://govisland.com/html/visit/directions.shtml
9.) Downtown Boathouse Kayaking Classes - If your kids enjoy water sports then head down town to learn basic kayaking skills on the Hudson River. They have changing rooms and a hose to rinse off, so all you need is a proper bathing suit. Downtown Boathouse provides the kayaks for free on a first come first serve basis and is open all summer. You can also see New York International's article about boating in New York for more info. Just keep in mind, this is a summer activity - New York gets cold in the winter, and you won’t want to be out on the water with kids!
Address – Pier 40 at the west end of Houston Street; Pier 96 in the Clinton Cove Park on the Westside Highway and 56th Street; 72nd Street floating dock about 200 yards south of the 79th Street Marina.
Schedule – Visit http://www.downtownboathouse.org/classes.html
10.) Sony Wonder Technology Lab – Sony Wonder Technology Lab offers free hands on exhibitions, teaching kids about the technology they love most. Here kids can play with robots, learn amazing camera skills, enjoy movie screenings, create 3-D animations, or even do a simulated open heart surgery using advanced technology. Monday through Friday you can see free children’s screenings in the 73-seat high definition theater. There’s a whole host of great showings which include kids’ characters such as Elmo, Angelina Ballerina, Thomas and Friends, and Dora the Explorer. Be sure to book about two weeks in advance to make sure you get the tickets you want! It’s also worth keeping your eyes out for their Family Workshops. The themes are always different – music, dreams, sounds, and light are some examples – and it’s a great way to get your kids imaginations fired up.
Address - 550 Madison Avenue, New York, NY
Opening Hours - Tuesday-Saturday: 9:30 a.m. - 5:30 p.m. Closed Sundays, Mondays and major holidays
11.) Rockefeller Center - Declared a National Historic Landmark in 1987, Rockefeller Center is made up of 19 commercial buildings spread across 22 acres located between 48th and 51st Street, and is one of the most visited attractions in NYC. It’s also home to the famous NBC Studios and Saturday Night Live. With its beautiful statues and spectacular art nouveau murals, Rockefeller Center is also very popular with art enthusiasts in NYC. During the holiday season the giant Rockefeller Christmas tree is not to be missed! If you are looking for a kid friendly restaurant near Rockefeller Center, make sure to check out Empanada Mama. Your kids are going to love this little place, which serves good food at a very reasonable price.
Address - 45 Rockefeller Plaza, New York, NY
12.) FAO Schwarz Toy Store - When it comes to New York toy stores, there’s one name that always stands out - FAO Schwarz. Located on Fifth Avenue, this 150-year-old toy store is a great kid-friendly attraction and home to one of the largest toy collections in NYC. There are also some pretty cool events put on, including NYC arts and crafts fairs, book signing and special exhibits. In addition, their huge collection of new and vintage games, books, and displays make this store one of the most popular kid attractions in NYC! Be sure to check out the famous FAO Schwarz “Giant Piano.”
Address - 767 5th Ave, Manhattan, NY
Opening Hours – Monday - Thursday 10 a.m. – 7 p.m.; Friday - Sunday 10 a.m. – 8 p.m.
13.) Intrepid Sea, Air and Space Museum – This is a museum like no other, focused around the aircraft carrier Intrepid, a ship with a unique place in U.S. naval history. One of the most decorated U.S. aircraft carriers, it now hosts a museum and education center. Located at Pier 86 in the Hudson River at 46th Street, this museum for kids also has a space shuttle exhibit, jet fighters, rescue helicopters, and hands-on flight simulators. You can actually stay overnight on board as part of “Operation Slumber,” for which gift certificates are available. And how about this – the Exploreum Hall offers 13,000 square feet of space designed specifically with kids in mind, divided into life at sea, water, air, and space zones.
Address - 700 West 46th Street New York, NY
Opening Hours – Monday - Friday 10 a.m. – 5 p.m.; Saturday - Sunday 10 a.m. – 6 p.m.
14.) Free Kids Tours in New York Art Museums – You might not have thought it, but art museums can be perfectly kid-friendly, and a great place to spend a few hours on a weekend. In fact, there are already special children’s tours organized to make everything easy for you. When you take the Museum of Modern Art’s special Saturday and Sunday Tours for Fours you get to explore contemporary art, and participate in movement, drawing and other gallery activities. It’s all free and no pre-registration is needed. They also have guides for 5 – 12 year olds, and before you go, you can get the kids involved by downloading special gallery guides – found here.
The Metropolitan Museum of Art also has a fantastic range of kids and family guides and their family programs for ages 18 months to 12 years includes free story times in the Nolan Library, a Sunday Studio for all ages where you can create your own art, and even special programs for blind or partially sighted children. The Met’s own guide to family programs has full details on these and a whole load more.
15.) Dylan's Candy Bar - If your kids have a sweet tooth this is the ideal place for them. Located on 60th Street and 3rd Avenue, Dylan’s Candy Bar is one of the world's largest candy stores with more than 5000 varieties of candy. Apart from candy, they also have yummy cupcakes, ice cream, pizza, and a lot more. You will also love the fact that they organize a variety of events for kids on every major holiday. They also have trendy candy-inspired apparel, jewelry and accessories.
Address - 1011 3rd Avenue, New York, NY
Opening Hours - Mon-Thu 10 a.m. - 9 p.m.; Friday - Saturday 10 a.m. - 10 p.m.; Sunday 11 a.m. – 9 p.m.
Article originally published : November 21, 2012
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