8 Fun Things To Do In New York With Kids

Discover the magic of New York City with your little ones through enchanting musicals, captivating neighbourhood tours, and delightful picnics amidst the city's vibrant parks
Explore the city of dreams with your child
Explore the city of dreams with your childUnsplash

When travelling with kids, one always wants to get the most out of the experience and yet find that balance to ensure it's equally enjoyable for the accompanying adults. Sometimes that can be challenging, but there's no dearth of things to do for kids and adults alike when it comes to New York. And the best part is that it doesn't always have to involve expensive entry tickets.

The Staten Island Ferry 

Firstly, it's free! And it is a more child-friendly way to see the Statue of Liberty from the water before your child is old enough to go to the statue itself at Ellis Island. The Staten Island Ferry, as the name suggests, is the commuter boat between Manhattan and Staten Island, and happens to be free for everyone. The boats depart regularly throughout the day, taking about 25 minutes each way. The website has a schedule that helpfully highlights the rush-hour boats to avoid. Once you return to Manhattan, walk around the beautiful Battery Park.

Private Guided Walks 

When you can bring a neighbourhood to life for a child, their entire experience of staying there can change. Since we were staying in Downtown Manhattan, in the heart of the Financial District, we booked a private Lower Manhattan Walking Tour covering Wall Street to the 9/11 Memorial with a company called Experience First. It brought the history of the city alive for us and was at a pace that was tailored to our family. Did you know that New York was the original capital of the United States, where George Washington took his Presidential oath, and that it was previously called New Amsterdam since the Dutch discovered it ?

The Summit One Vanderbilt

A newer introduction to the city's skyline, Midtown Manhattan's tallest skyscraper gives "observation deck" an entirely new meaning. A space that gives you access to multiple floors, each with a different theme involving art, technology, architecture, and, most importantly, a lot of fun. Needless to say, the 360-degree views of the city provide plenty of Instagram moments.

Pro tip: Check what time sunset is and book your time slot a little earlier to watch the city lights come to life. Tickets must be booked for a specific time slot and can be purchased on the same day or in advance through their website. 

Hit the Broadway for a musical
Hit the Broadway for a musical


You can't go to New York and not go to the theatre. It's one of the few cities in the world with the best stage performances with sets, costumes, and music that will leave all ages awestruck. We caught two wonderful shows - Wicked and MJ The Musical. 

Pro tip: If you're flexible about which show you want to watch, get discounted tickets at the TKTS booth at Times Square on the day of the show, though be warned, there's no guarantee the show you want to watch will have seats available. 

Up Close With Harry Potter 

If your child is a Harry Potter fan, this one is not to be missed. An interactive experience, this exhibition brings to life the world of wizardry like never before. Making kids choose their favourite avatar and pick a House, for which they score points throughout, is a clever way to keep them engaged. It's a great experience for adult fans, too, seeing the original props and costumes from the films and getting the chance to sit in The Cupboard under the Stairs, which was Harry Potter's bedroom at #4 Privet Drive. For true fans, there's also the Harry Potter New York official flagship store and the award-winning Broadway rendition of Harry Potter and the Cursed Child. 

A Class in the Apple Store

Let's just face it, there's something yummy about the Apple Store. They not only make you want to shop but there's so much to learn. So while dad was busy getting all his gadgets sorted at the genius bar, instead of sitting around whiling away time on a device, my (increasingly tech-savvy) daughter and I did a free session on Getting Started with an app called Procreate - a cool way to learn something new. They even give you an iPad and pencil to use during the session, so all you have to do is show up. 

Enjoy the leisurely cafes
Enjoy the leisurely cafes

Picnics in the Park 

You won't be the only one to have this idea if it's a sunny weekend in New York. But there's room for everyone, whether it's in the city's most significant green space at Central Park, watching a movie screening in the park on Tuesday evenings at Bryant Park, or playing on swings with a river view to die for at Marsha Johnson Park in Williamsburg, Brooklyn - and it doesn't cost a penny to enjoy. Carry a picnic mat, a frisbee, playing cards, a book, and your picnic goodies, and you're all set.  

A New York City Pass 

Hit the major NYC attractions and save a small fortune with this pass. It's easy to get sightseeing fatigue with all that New York has to offer, but this pass shortlists the top 12 attractions and gives you 9 days to visit 5 or 6 of them, depending on which pass you buy. It even throws in a free visit to the Empire State Building and American Natural History Museum, regardless of which pass you choose. Other attractions include The MET, Top of the Rock, the 9/11 Museum, Circle Line Sightseeing Cruises, and more. You can save between 25 and 40% of what you usually spend on entrance tickets, so this one is a no-brainer if you're in the city for a few days.

New York goes well beyond Manhattan, so if you're up for it, the Bronx Zoo or the New York Hall of Science in Queens are options too. But while the city has so many great attractions and adventure activities to offer kids, for me, the most valuable lesson my daughter learned being there, especially during Pride month, was that anything goes. If there's ever a city that's judgement-free and lets you be you, it's New York. 

(Gauri Devidayal is a Mumbai-based restaurateur whose brands include The Table and Mag St Cafe. She is the podcast host of This Round Is On Me and Women On Top in India and co-author of the book, Diamonds for Breakfast)

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