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(This arti­cle may or may not con­tain affil­i­ate links. What does that mean?)

There were few places on Earth my par­ents loved to vis­it, with their kids, more than New York City.  From a young age, my sib­lings and I became well-acquaint­ed with the vibrant city, and for me, it formed a life­long love with the Big Apple. 

In the ear­ly years of our rela­tion­ship, my hus­band and I had a year­ly tra­di­tion of going to New York in ear­ly Decem­ber to expe­ri­ence the city dur­ing the hol­i­days.  In fact, we got engaged in Wash­ing­ton Square Park in the mid­dle of a snow­storm.  One day, when I share that sto­ry with my kids, I’m sure it will elic­it many an eye roll and snorts of dis­gust at the thought of their par­ents ever being crazy-in-love twenty-somethings.

But, New York in all its crazi­ness and insan­i­ty is one of those tru­ly mag­i­cal cities that total­ly ensnares you the moment you get there and con­tin­ues to live with you long after you leave.  It’s hard to nar­row down all it has to offer but if you only have a few days, don’t miss these fun activ­i­ties to do with your kids in New York City, the city that nev­er sleeps. And bonus! Once you’re done, they’ll be sure to!

 

 

 

 

Walk The Highline

 

the highline new york city: Best Things to Do With Kids in NYC

New York’s High­line is def­i­nite­ly not to be missed! Pho­to cour­tesy of NPR.

 

 

Once an ele­vat­ed freight rail line that oper­at­ed above the streets of the city’s West Side, the High­line is now a unique ele­vat­ed pub­lic park and walk­ing trail that runs from Gan­sevoort and Wash­ing­ton to 30th and 12th, or from the West Vil­lage, through Chelsea, and up to Hud­son Yards.  With beau­ti­ful gar­dens full of dis­tinc­tive plants bor­der­ing the trail and street art dec­o­rat­ing the build­ings that bor­der it on each side, the park is real­ly a com­bo hik­ing trail and art exhib­it.  It offers stun­ning views of the city, and takes you right past two oth­er stops on our list — the Chelsea Mar­ket and the World Trade Cen­ter Memorial. 

It’s a mem­o­rable way to expe­ri­ence the West Side, keep their lit­tle bod­ies mov­ing, and some­thing both par­ents and kids can enjoy. 

 

 

Play in Central Park

 

central park: Best Things to Do With Kids in NYC

Even in the snow, Cen­tral Park is beau­ti­ful. Pho­to cour­tesy of Cen­tral Park Conservancy.

 

 

Quite pos­si­bly one of the most famous parks in the world, Cen­tral Park is a giant 843-acre park smack dab in the mid­dle of the city.  Span­ning more than 2 miles (or 50 city blocks) and a half-mile wide, the park is a focal point in New York.  It has 8 lakes and ponds, 21 play­grounds, 1 zoo, and more than 6 miles of road­ways.  How many oth­er urban parks do you know that offer all that?

Some might dis­miss it as just a park.  But to me, it’s the quin­tes­sen­tial New York expe­ri­ence and one your kids will absolute­ly love.  At the Kerbs Boathouse, you can rent a boat (actu­al boat or mini remote-con­trolled boat) and take it for a spin on the lake.  Swing by Sheeps Mead­ow with a pic­nic lunch or a fris­bee.  Go on a hunt for famous stat­ues, includ­ing Moth­er Goose, Bal­to, and Alice in Won­der­land.  Or grab some ice cream cones from a side­walk ven­dor and spend an after­noon get­ting lost on the trails. 

Oth­er fun activ­i­ties at the park include fish­ing, bas­ket­ball, base­ball, ten­nis, and kite-fly­ing.  Dur­ing the win­ter, you can try your hand at ice skat­ing or go sled­ding on one of the many hills.  There’s also a restored and oper­at­ing carousel and the Cen­tral Park Zoo, where you can see tons of cute and exot­ic ani­mals that call Man­hat­tan home. 

 

Don’t Miss Walk­ing the Streets of New York City

 

 

Catch A Broadway Show

 

My par­ents were the­ater buffs, so our trips to New York City always includ­ed a Broad­way show of some kind.  As kids, we were undoubt­ed­ly not as appre­cia­tive as we should’ve been of the cul­tur­al edu­ca­tion we were receiv­ing and my kids have con­tin­ued that tra­di­tion. How­ev­er, as an adult, I can now appre­ci­ate my mem­o­ries of Les Mis­er­ables, Phan­tom of the Opera, South Pacif­ic, West Side Sto­ry and Wicked.  Plays that we would­n’t real­ize until much lat­er are world-renowned pro­duc­tions.  But,it did instill in us, from a young age, an appre­ci­a­tion for the arts and a love for the­ater that we would car­ry with us into adult­hood (at least for me and my sis­ter — my broth­ers maybe not so much). So, now, we look at the show tick­ets as a future invest­ment, like those piano lessons dur­ing which our kids some­times groan.

These days there are a ton more fam­i­ly-friend­ly options on Broad­way. Not every kid is thrilled about a four-hour long pro­duc­tion about a repen­tant thief dur­ing the French Rev­o­lu­tion, so they can instead watch The Lion King.  The music in the pro­duc­tion of The Lion King is incred­i­ble and the cos­tumes are col­or­ful and fun, per­fect for enter­tain­ing even the youngest the­ater goers.  Beau­ty and the Beast is anoth­er fun one, as is Seussi­cal the Musi­cal and even Wicked, which is my per­son­al favorite. 

 

 

Shop at Chelsea Market

 

chelsea market: Best Things to Do With Kids in NYC

One of the best shop­ping expe­ri­ences in NYC! Pho­to cour­tesy of Chelsea Market.

 

 

Giv­en the choice between shop­ping the world-famous brands on Fifth Avenue or the small arti­san shops in Chelsea Mar­ket, I’d take Chelsea Mar­ket any day.  Billing itself as a “neigh­bor­hood mar­ket with a glob­al per­spec­tive,” the mar­ket is almost like an indoor bazaar that hous­es every­thing from butch­ers and fish­mon­gers to arti­sanal cheeses, import­ed Euro­pean dry goods, and hand­made art, fash­ion, and home goods.  It was at one time the home of the Nation­al Bis­cuit Com­pa­ny (you might know it as Nabis­co) and is now one of the more unique and pop­u­lar spots in the city. 

You owe it to your­self to take an after­noon with your fam­i­ly, grab some lunch at one of the cafes in the mar­ket, and just wan­der around.  With shops ped­dling arti­sanal hot sauces, hand­made orna­ments, and even vin­tage post­cards, it’s a per­fect place to find sou­venirs or gifts for loved ones back home.

   

 

Visit The Statue of Liberty and Ellis Island

 

statue of liberty: Best Things to Do With Kids in NYC

Can you think of a more Amer­i­can view? Pho­to cour­tesy of StatueofLiberty.org.

 

 

Ellis Island and Lib­er­ty Island, home to the Stat­ue of Lib­er­ty, are rel­a­tive­ly close to each oth­er and acces­si­ble via the same fer­ry, you can eas­i­ly check them both off your list in a sin­gle afternoon. 

Both Ellis and Lib­er­ty Islands have high­ly pop­u­lar muse­ums, with the Stat­ue of Lib­er­ty Muse­um only just com­plet­ed in 2019. Learn the sto­ry behind the famous gift, how it was con­struct­ed, and even explore the inte­ri­or of the stat­ue in a vir­tu­al real­i­ty expe­ri­ence.  You can also climb to the top of Lady Lib­er­ty’s crown, if you’re feel­ing adven­tur­ous. Or you need to wear out your kids.

On Ellis Island, you can vis­it the Fam­i­ly His­to­ry Cen­ter to see if you can trace your ances­tors to one of the 12 mil­lion peo­ple who immi­grat­ed through Ellis Island over the years.  Or vis­it the Nation­al Immi­gra­tion Muse­um to expe­ri­ence first hand what it was like to immi­grate to Amer­i­ca in the late 1800s and ear­ly 1900s.  The views of the city from Ellis Island are also espe­cial­ly beau­ti­ful and poignant.

 

Don’t miss Seek­ing Bal­ance in New York City

    

 

See The National September 11 Memorial & Museum

 

september 11th museum: Best Things to Do With Kids in NYC

Words can’t express how beau­ti­ful the memo­r­i­al is. Pho­to cour­tesy of 9/11 Memo­r­i­al & Museum.

 

 

I believe the Nation­al Sep­tem­ber 11 Memo­r­i­al & Muse­um is one of the most impor­tant and life-chang­ing things to see in New York City, not just for adults, but for kids as well.

The memo­r­i­al itself is breath­tak­ing and well done.  Two square gran­ite basins sink sev­er­al sto­ries into the ground and out­line where the tow­ers once stood, tran­quil foun­tains at their core. Around the frame of each basin are etched the names of the 2,977 peo­ple who lost their lives dur­ing the attack.  Apart from being beau­ti­ful, it’s enough to make your heart stop when you take in the mag­ni­tude of the site and how many names are includ­ed in the granite.

The muse­um taste­ful­ly com­mem­o­rates and tells the sto­ry of one of the most piv­otal and dev­as­tat­ing days in Unit­ed States recent his­to­ry.  It’s a great oppor­tu­ni­ty for old­er kids espe­cial­ly to learn about the events of Sep­tem­ber 11 and the sig­nif­i­cance they hold for the world today. 

 

 

Skip Through Times Square

 

Best Things to Do With Kids in NYC

Nev­er a Dull Moment © Chris Baralis

 

 

There is nowhere on earth like Times Square.  Let’s be hon­est, have you even been to New York if you haven’t made your way to Times Square?  Right in the heart of the Broad­way The­ater Dis­trict, Times Square aver­ages between 300,000 and 400,000 vis­i­tors a day and is the sec­ond most vis­it­ed tourist attrac­tion in the world, just behind the Las Vegas Strip.  It’s known for its gar­ish dis­play of flash­ing signs, neon lights and video screens sev­er­al sto­ries tall that are sus­pend­ed above the streets.  Clas­sic Amer­i­can sta­ples have tak­en up res­i­dence in Times Square, includ­ing McDon­ald’s, TGI Fri­days, M&M World, and the famous Coca Cola sign.

Even if you tend to shy away from tourist attrac­tions, Time Square is worth a stop just for the expe­ri­ence and the peo­ple watching. 

 

 

 

 

Play at FAO Schwarz

 

As a kid, I remem­ber my par­ents tak­ing us to FAO Schwarz in New York City and think­ing it was the most mag­i­cal place in the whole world.  Clear­ly, this was before I was intro­duced to Hog­warts.  But, it was the biggest toy store I’d ever been in, with floor upon floor of stuffed ani­mals, LEGO sets, board games, and Bar­bi­es. There were giant can­dy dis­plays that reached all the way to the ceil­ing and a whole sec­tion of the store was ded­i­cat­ed to mag­ic sets.  It looked like what I’d imag­ined San­ta’s work­shop to look like.  My sib­lings and I were in heaven.

Nowa­days, I can appre­ci­ate how stress­ful it must’ve been for my par­ents try­ing to wran­gle four kids, under the age of ten, in a mas­sive toy store teem­ing with peo­ple.  But, I ful­ly believe the expe­ri­ence is worth the momen­tary chaos.  If you’re con­cerned about crowds, I rec­om­mend going in the morn­ing before the stores get too busy. 

 

PRO TIP: Set a bud­get and size lim­it for your kids before you go so they know in advance what sou­venirs they’re allowed to get. Oth­er­wise, they’ll keep ask­ing for every­thing.  And that six-foot plush giraffe won’t fit into an over­head bin.

 

 

When You Go

 

 

As the pri­ma­ry hubs on both the west coast and the east coast, it’s very easy to get from L.A. to New York City and there are tons of direct flights through every major air­line.  The only hard part is the length of the flight, which is typ­i­cal­ly about five hours.

 

 

Where To Stay

 

For places to stay, you can’t get more New York than the Plaza Hotel.  Locat­ed in the heart of Man­hat­tan at the south­east cor­ner of Cen­tral Park, the Plaza is often fea­tured in movies and TV shows that are filmed in NYC because of how icon­ic it is.  The Renais­sance Times Square is smack in the mid­dle of — you guessed it — Times Square, and is per­fect for fam­i­lies who love to be in the mid­dle of the hus­tle and bus­tle.  But for fam­i­lies with old­er kids, or cou­ples who are maybe look­ing for a more lowkey expe­ri­ence, we high­ly rec­om­mend the Library Hotel in Midtown. 

We love to use Tri­pAd­vi­sor when book­ing our stays. Tri­pAd­vi­sor will search for the best deal from all the online book­ing sites and you can read about the ameni­ties each hotel offers plus feed­back from pre­vi­ous fam­i­ly’s stays.

 

 

Mor­gan is a brand design­er and writer who splits her time between man­ag­ing her cre­ative stu­dio, Atlas + Anchor, and writ­ing about her life­long love affair with trav­el. A wan­der­lus­ter at heart, she’s a big pro­po­nent of explor­ing the roads less trav­eled because they often lead to amaz­ing views, mem­o­rable sto­ries, and the most unas­sum­ing but life-chang­ing restau­rants. Orig­i­nal­ly from Ohio, Mor­gan now lives in the heart of Chica­go with her fam­i­ly and is quite pos­si­bly the only per­son with­in city lim­its who hates deep dish pizza. 

 

 

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A visit to New York City with Kids isn't complete unless you make time for these 8 activities. Read our complete guide of things you can't miss traveling with kids to New York City.

 

A visit to New York City with Kids isn't complete unless you make time for these 8 activities. Read our complete guide of things you can't miss traveling with kids to New York City.