100 Things to Do in New York State with Kids Before They Grow Up

We might be biased, but we think New York state has it all for families. From the gorgeous Hamptons beaches to the rugged state forests, serene lake regions, and deafening Niagara Falls to the culture and arts found in New York City on up through the Hudson Valley river towns and beyond—we feel pretty lucky.

As a state, we’re pretty good at making delicious food items, from ramen burgers and bagels to ice cream, and even wine at family-friendly vineyards on Long Island and through the Finger Lakes. There are children’s museums galore. Kids have no shortage of water and theme parks, cool playgrounds, zoos, parks, and nature, of course.

And yet, the thing about childhood is that it’s finite. The kids grow up, maybe move away. Sniff, sniff. We want to soak up every moment. So we put together this list of 100 of our favorite things to do around New York, from upstate and the Adirondacks to East End of Long Island. We collected suggestions from Mommy Poppins contributors, past and former, to fuse it all together just for you (OK, for us, too). Whether you're planning a long weekend getaway or a family day trip, you're sure to find some ideas here. Enjoy!

1. Traverse the Walkway Over the Hudson in Poughkeepsie. Don’t look down if you have issues with heights!

2. See the Rockettes in action at Radio City Music Hall.

3. Ride the ferry to Governors Island; enjoy new water sprinklers, Slide Hill and a one-of-a-kind DIY adventure playground, plus nonstop free summer festivals and art projects.

4. Camp under the stars at one of New York’s many campgrounds.

5. Marvel at the waterfalls and Grand Canyon-like gorge in Letchworth State Park.

6. Hike or float through the jaw-dropping natural beauty that is the Ausable Chasm—possibly our favorite spot in all of NY.

7. Introduce the kids to the Bard with the Hudson Valley Shakespeare Festival, which always includes a family-friendly show.

8. Walk the length of NYC's High Line, watching the city traffic below and mingling with modern art and flora.

9. Take in a family-friendly Broadway show.

10. Go sledding together in Central Park.

11. Watch the cherry blossoms bloom around the serene Japanese Pond & Garden in Brooklyn Botanical Gardens.

12. Ride the ferry to Shelter Island where you can enjoy the beach, paddling, or the wildlife of the Mashomack Preserve.

RELATED: Visitors Guide to New York City: What to See with Kids

Fire Island is more than beaches. Follow the wooden walkways through the Sunken Forest. Photo by Joe Marcone via Flickr.

13. Tour Fire Island and its Sunken Forest.

14. Climb the steps of a local lighthouse. Long Island has more than 20 lighthouses. Four of them are open to the public, including Fire Island Light, the tallest in the region. Or visit NYC's own famed (but non-working) Little Red Lighthouse beneath the George Washington Bridge on select tour days.

15. Look up relatives on Ellis Island.

16. See the dinosaurs, prehistoric mammals, and planetarium at the American Museum of Natural History.

17. Go kayaking on the Hudson in NYC or try canoeing the river a bit further north.

18. Experience farm life at Stone Barns Center with a tour of the ground where kids can see animals and enjoy family programming.

Get your STEM on at NYSCI with exhibitions like this one: Bionic Me, which explores medical and industrial breakthroughs. Photo by Andrew Kelly for the New York Hall of Science

19. Geek out at the New York Hall of Science, an all-ages STEM-fueled children's museum and play space.

20. Have a fancy tea date in the city. May we suggest the Plaza, Alice’s Tea Cup, or, for the little ones: American Girl. 

21. Ride the Polar Express through pretty Saratoga Springs with Santa, or try one of these other holiday trains.

22. Be awed by the planes at the Cradle of Aviation Museum on Long Island, or watch the planes that date back as far as World War I fly at the Rhinebeck Aerodrome.

23. Visit the rest of Long Island’s Museum Row in Garden City, including the Firefighters Museum. By the way, the state has several fire museums!

24. Afterward, take a spin on the famed Nunley’s Carousel.

25.  Visit the birthplace of famed 19th century American poet, Walt Whitman.

26. Learn to ski on NY’s gentle slopes like Mount Peter, Hunter, Windham, Thunder Ridge, and Belleayre.

27. Tour Long Island’s family-friendly vineyards or ample breweries. Kids can play in the lush landscape while you sip and sample.

Storm King might just be the perfect museum for kids. Photo by Melodie Mesiano via Flickr.

28. Walk among the outdoor modern art at Storm King without fear of knocking anything over.

29. Zip line in the Catskills at Hunter Mountain.

30. Visit one of the state’s living history museums where kids can get a taste of hard work in the form of butter churning and more.

31. When they’re tall enough, climb the Statue of Liberty to peek out the crown at the NY Harbor.

32. Camp, hike, cross-country ski, or swim at Fahnestock State Park in Putnam Valley. This one has it all.

33. Explore Rockefeller State Park Preserve's many easy wooded hiking paths, including the loop around Swan Lake. 

34. Go retro with a family movie night at the drive-in. There are several around New York, including the Warwick Drive-In Theater, the Glen Falls Drive-In, and Mountain Mist Custard in Saranac Lake.

RELATED: 30 Things to Do in Hudson Valley with Kids

Check out the iconic Macy's balloons as they're inflated the night before the big Thanksgiving parade. Photo by kowarski via Flickr.

35. Watch the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade balloons get inflated.

36. Get dressed up to go see the Nutcracker at Lincoln Center.

37. See the baseball greats at Cooperstown.

38. Watch knights joust, ride a camel, and interact with amusing "Elizabethans" at the annual NY Renaissance Faire, held in Sterling Forest near the state border with New Jersey.

39. Listen to and see how the North Family, one of the country's largest Shaker communities, lived with a tour at the Shaker Museum in New Lebanon, just south of Albany. (Self-guided tours of the grounds are free year-round.)

40. Enjoy rides, carnival fare, livestock, and more at the Dutchess County Fair. Make it a weekend by staying the night in the quaint, Hudson Valley city of Rhinebeck.

41. Bike, walk, or snow-shoe your way along the NY Rail Trail, connecting Westchester with upstate.

42. Take the perfect selfie in the perfumed, purple lavender fields on Long Island's East End.

43. Hike to Bash Bish Falls in Taconic State Park on the state border with Massachusetts.

RELATED: Adirondacks, Catskills, and Hudson Valley Travel Guide for Families

Take the "Wild Walk" in the Adirondacks.

44. Walk amongst the trees, bounce in a spider web, and gawk at awe-inspiring nature at the Wild Center.

45. Pick local apples on Long Island, Westchester and Hudson Valley farms, or elsewhere in NY.

46. Horseback ride at Deep Hollow Ranch in Montauk—known as "the oldest working ranch in the US."

47. Marvel at the miniature choo-choos at the annual holiday train show at the New York Botanical Garden.

An inter-tribal powwow takes place each summer in Queens.  Photo courtesy of the Thunderbirds

48. Dance at a Native American powwow to celebrate the region's local tribes. The Shinnecock celebrate on Long Island annually, while an inter-tribal powwow takes place each summer in Queens.

49. Kick off Halloween with the epic Great Jack O'Latern Blaze at Van Cortlandt Manor.

50. Even preschoolers can create cool glass projects and gawk at the delicate and whimsical creations at the Corning Museum of Glass in the Finger Lakes region.

51. Marvel at modern art at Dia:Beacon, a gorgeous former printing plant turned museum overlooking the Hudson. Spend the day exploring the rest of the charming Hudson Valley town of Beacon.

52. Gawk at the colorful canopies or hitch a ride at the Hudson Valley balloon festival.

53. At The Strong: National Museum of Play in Rochester, which lays claim to the world's largest collection of toys, kids can really be themselves—and just play.

54. See a real-life castle at the Sands Point Preserve on Long Island where kids might also enjoy the dinosaur walking trail. Explore the rest of Port Washington, a pretty seaside town.

55. Visit Santa at his true home: Macy’s NYC.

56. Tap a native tree during winter maple sugaring fun. Kids will learn how sap becomes syrup.

57. Roam the stunning halls and grounds of Kykuit, Glenview, and other historic mansions throughout Westchester.

58. Row a rowboat in Central Park.

59. Bike through Brooklyn Bridge Park from Brooklyn Heights to Dumbo, stopping at all the kid-centric attractions, including epic playgrounds, roller rink, a climbing wall, green spaces, carousel, and almost more ice cream stands than even a kid can handle. 

60. Stroll the boardwalk, wiggle your feet in the sand, and hit the rides and carnival-style eats at Brooklyn's Coney Island.

It's hard to beat the classic summertime rides at Rye Playland.

61. Or stroll the boardwalk and enjoy kiddie and thrill rides alike at the Playland amusement park in Rye.

62. Cool off at a local water park, including the family-friendly SplashDown Beach.

63. Visit the top of the Empire State Building.

64. Hike the AT in New York. Ninety miles of the iconic Appalachian Trail run through the state.

65. Celebrate more than just the local apples at the annual Warwick Applefest—a full-scale carnival in the Hudson Valley.

66. We’re not going to start any fights, but get to either a Mets or a Yankees game, glove in hand.

67. Chase away the winter blues with a weekend away at Rocking Horse Ranch and its indoor water park, or the brand-new resort opening nearby in the Catskills, The Kartrite Resort and Indoor Waterpark.

68. Dance to a free outdoor concert at the Prospect Park Bandshell in Brooklyn.

69. Take an easy stroll along an elevated walkway to see the Adirondacks' High Falls Gorge for a spectacular waterfall view.

70. See the birthplace, homes, and library of FDR and make a day of it in Hyde Park in Dutchess County.

71. Visit the Long Island Aquarium to learn about some of the state's native (and non-native) sea creatures, or try the underwater encounter with its sharks, in its protective cage—of course.

RELATED: Hamptons & North Fork Travel Guide for Families

Swim or hike around Lake Minnewaska. Photo by iris vis Flickr.

72. Swim in one of two lakes in Minnewaska State Park after a hike through this Catskills gem where you can see Awosting Falls and more.

74. Feed baby animals at Benner's Farm in Suffolk County or another area petting zoo or kid-friendly farm. 

75. Glamp in the Finger Lakes with Firelight Camps where you're treated to king-size beds.

76. Build a bonfire, roast smores and watch the sun go down on the pretty beaches of Montauk. (Note: Bonfires must be built in metal container per new local regulations.)

77. Meet native wolves at the Wolf Conservation Center in Westchester's South Salem. 

78. Savor the brief strawberry season with a visit to a local pick-your-own farm, including in Hudson Valley or Long Island.

79.  Swing from the trees (sort of) at Catamount Aerial Adventure Park.

80. Lake Placid or Lake George? You can't go wrong with a visit to either of these Adirondack lakeside regions.

81. Harvest your own Christmas tree straight from a local New York farm.

Although it's not a children's museum per se, the Whitney hosts a number of family tours and activities. Photo by Filip Wolak/courtesy the museum.

82. Take a family art class at the Whitney Museum of American Art in NYC's Meatpacking District.

83. Stand in the shadow of a towering polar bear at the upstate Buffalo Museum of Science and gaze into the skies from the roof deck of its Kellogg Observatory.

84. Ride the SeaGlass Carousel in downtown Manhattan. It's a work of art.

85. Grab an inner tube for a lazy adventure through one of the state's waterways. Both Kittatinny Canoes and Lander's River Trips operate rafting, tubing, and more water tours along the Delaware River from Sullivan County in the Catskills.

86. Ride Amtrak to Niagara Falls to take in some of the state’s most legendary scenery.

87. Build the afternoon away at the Legoland Discovery Center in Yonkers.  

88. Enjoy the stunning fall foliage and mountain views while ice skating, enjoying the zoo, or riding the carousel at Bear Mountain, the perfect day trip for those in NYC.

Taughannock Falls is worth the trek.  Shelby L. Bell via Flickr

89. Chase down the many waterfalls of the Finger Lakes region, including a hike to Taughannock Falls, which is actually taller than Niagara! Cool off with a swim in the lake afterward.

90. Get a day pass to hike the epic labyrinth trail near the Mohonk Mountain House, or splurge on a family overnight getaway at this scrumptious Hudson Valley resort.

91. Join a boat cruise to watch for whales, seals, and other marine life off New York's coast.

92. Play explorer with the natural caves at Howe Caverns or Stone Bridges and Caves.

93. Groove together at a music or art fest at the famed Bethel Woods Center for the Arts in Woodstock.

Eat and shop your way through NYC's colorful Chinatown.

94. Grab dim sum, banh mi, or more delicious eats in NYC’s Chinatown.

95. See the Rockefeller tree lighting or “world’s largest menorah lighting” in Midtown Manhattan and Brooklyn.

96. Smell the beautiful blooms at one of the state's botanical gardens.

97. Peer into the twin 9/11 reflecting pools at the NYC memorial in downtown.

98. Puzzle your way out of a corn maze this fall.

99. Hit the beach for a day of sand castle building, wave jumping, and ice cream eating. Choose from urban NYC beaches to Long Island's many, many sandy shores, including the Hamptons.

100. Watch the Fourth of July fireworks in NYC.

This article first published in 2016.
All photos by Mommy Poppins except where noted.
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