The Top 10 Things to do in New York City with Kids
The Author: Kate Brown, a freelance writer in Brooklyn, NY
New York City has an unbelievable number of exciting, enriching experiences for families and kids. Unfortunately, like many things in New York, the price can sometimes make it difficult for families to enjoy the wonders of the city. What kid wouldn’t love to see The Lion King on Broadway? But with tickets priced at over $200 each, it is out of the question for many families. With that in mind, here are the top ten things to do in New York City that won’t break the bank.
Central Park is one of New York’s iconic attractions and it’s extremely kid-friendly. The Central Park Zoo, though small, is home to a surprising number of animals, including penguins, reptiles and sea lions. The Tisch Children’s Zoo, included in admission, is geared toward younger kids and offers a petting zoo. Within Central Park, you’ll also find the famed Carousel; two children’s theaters; the Ancient Playground, modeled after the Egyptian Art exhibit at the Metropolitan Museum of Art; and Belvedere Castle, a miniature castle offering spectacular views of the park and a place for kids to climb, play and learn about wildlife. An entire afternoon – or day – could easily be spent in Central Park. Pack a picnic and plan your activities carefully ahead of time; the park is deceptively large and you may find yourselves doing more walking than intended.
Dylan’s Candy Bar
Just a few short blocks from Central Park on the Upper East Side is Dylan’s Candy Bar, a wonderland for youngsters and the world’s largest candy store. This shop has a Wonka-esque atmosphere, with over 5,000 candy varieties, mannequins dressed completely in candy, and glowing steps infused with brightly colored confections. Kids will love the fill-your-own-bag option, but beware! Some of the candy is on the pricey side. Grown-ups will enjoy discovering the candy of their youth; Big League Chew, Pop Rocks and candy cigarettes are just a few of the vintage delights that await an introduction to your kids. Dylan’s Candy Bar is located at 1011 Third Avenue at E 60th Street.
Staten Island Ferry
Seeing the Statue of Liberty is a must while in New York City. Unfortunately, the ferry to Liberty Island is now $13 per person and that doesn’t even get you inside the statue’s crown! A surprisingly kid-friendly alternative is to take a ride on the Staten Island Ferry, connecting Staten Island to lower Manhattan for commuters and tourists alike. Not only is the round-trip boat ride free, but it’s climate-controlled and has a snack shop on board, which makes it a great resting stop for you and the kids in an attraction-packed day. Be sure to get a seat on the outside railing (the right side leaving Manhattan and the left on the return trip) for nice views of Lady Liberty. The Staten Island Ferry departs from Battery Park in lower Manhattan every half hour (every hour on weekends) and the round-trip takes just under hour.
Coney Island has been a top tourist destination for over a century. In the summertime, the boardwalk is a perfect destination for kids: a beach, boardwalk and amusement park all in one. Buy them a hot dog at Nathan’s and let them ride the famed Cyclone, the oldest operating rollercoaster in the world. (It’s rickety, but fun!) Even in the off-season, there’s plenty to do. Nathan’s is open year-round, and kids can still enjoy the Coney Island Circus Sideshow, views of the famed coasters, and a stop at the New York Aquarium. Kids can hold starfish and sea urchins, watch the penguins and polar bears get fed, and check out the shark exhibit or sea lion show in the outdoor theater. The subway ride out to Coney Island is an easy one from Manhattan, but it’s long. Bring snacks and be ready to play I Spy to keep the kids entertained. General admission to the Aquarium is $14.95 for adult and $10.95 for kids, but Friday afternoon is by donation.
Brooklyn Children’s Museum
You can’t go wrong taking kids to this interactive, educational institution located in the heart of Brooklyn. Whether exploring the space exhibit designed in conjunction with NASA or checking out toys from around the world before design their own, kids of all ages will be delighted and entertained by the world’s first museum dedicated to children. Allow plenty of time for the hands-on exhibits, which allow kids to touch fossils, dinosaur footprints and cultural artifacts. A great place to eat in the area is Kingston Pizza. Only a few minutes’ walk from the museum, it will give you an authentic taste of Brooklyn’s famous pizza pies. The Brooklyn Children’s Museum is located at 145 Brooklyn Avenue near Grand Army Plaza and admission is $7.50.
The Jekyll & Hyde Club
The Jekyll & Hyde Club offers a unique dining experience that kids will love. Located right in midtown Manhattan, it boasts four stories that recreate a spooky haunted mansion. This interactive dining and entertainment experience is not cheap, but well worth the slightly overpriced pub food. Be sure to take the kids to the restroom while here – it’s located behind a hidden panel in a library hallway. This restaurant is within walking distance of many attractions so it makes a good lunch spot to rest and get spooked before continuing with your explorations. The Jekyll & Hyde Club is located at 1409 Avenue of the Americas.
While The Lion King on Broadway might be out of your price range, that’s no reason to leave Times Square off your to-do list! The lights, billboards and people watching are always a big hit with youngsters. Stop by the Hershey Store and The World of M&M for your daily chocolate fix and check out the Toys R Us, which has a full-scale Ferris wheel inside! The crush of people in Times Square can be a bit intimidating at times, but cars are no longer allowed in the Square. A stroller is hard to maneuver here; I highly recommend a baby carrier for this excursion. Times Square stretches from W 38th Street to W 50th Street between 7th Avenue and Broadway.
Ellen’s Stardust Diner
While you are in Times Square, take a short walk up Broadway to 51st Street, where you will find Ellen’s Stardust Diner. This retro 1950s-style diner has decent food and exceptional desserts. The real draw, though, is the wait staff. Dressed in classic poodle skirts and leather, they regularly jump onto the tabletops (sometimes yours!) and bust out a song. These would-be Broadway stars are very impressive and provide a fun night of entertainment for the family, without the price of a Broadway ticket. Ellen’s is located at 1650 Broadway at W 51st Street.
American Folk Art Museum
This small museum is an extremely kid-friendly alternative to some of the more cavernous and exhausting museums New York has to offer. With its focus on folk art, the exhibits range from traditional paintings to quilts, pottery and wacky furniture. Not only will the kids gain an appreciation of art that’s created outside the artistic academy, but the museum offers interactive family tours, free music on Wednesday and Friday and free art workshops on Thursday. Kids also have the opportunity to create their own art based upon objects in the museum after a tour. The museum is located on the Upper West Side at Columbus Avenue and W 66th Street and admission is FREE.
Sony Wonder Technology Lab
This hands-on technology and entertainment museum will transport you and your kids into the future, without costing you a penny. Kids will be impressed the Wonder Lab Log In – type your name and some information like your favorite music genre and color to have your experience personalized throughout the exhibits. Highlights include programming robots in the Robot Zone; the Dance Motion Capture, which captures your dance moves and imports them to a Sony character on-screen; and an entire exhibit devoted to video games. This museum should be at the top of your list when visiting New York with kids, especially those hard-to-impress teenagers. Make reservations ahead of time, up to three months in advance, because this is a very popular attraction. Sony Wonder Technology Lab is located at 550 Madison Avenue and admission is FREE.
About the author: Kate Brown is a freelance writer in Brooklyn, who loves exploring New York with her husband and young son. She runs kbwriting.com which provides online writing services including small business materials, resumes, and editing. She regularly posts tips about writing on her blog, Working Words.