20 Things To Do in NYC with Babies Before they Turn 1

Take your city baby to Rockaway Beach. All you need is a MetroCard and a sense of adventure.
Take your city baby to Rockaway Beach. All you need is a MetroCard and a sense of adventure.
8/1/23 - By Jody Mercier

Looking for the best things to do in NYC with babies? You've come to the right place. We've got parent-tested picks for family fun from birth to big kids.

The whole "New York City is a terrible place to raise babies" debate never seems to die, but as a mom of three NYC babies, I disagree. Yes, it can be a nuisance to find subway stations with working elevators and contend with tiny spaces and noisy neighbors. Still, there are so many enriching first-time experiences to share with your city baby that it's worth muddling through the inconveniences.

So stock your diaper bag, strap your infant into a stroller or carrier, and try these 20 things to do in NYC with babies before age 1. Be sure to bookmark our NYC Baby Guide for all our top tips and picks for making the most of NYC with a little one in tow.


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Best Things To Do in NYC with Babies

1. First Storytime

Head to one of our favorite independent bookstores with sizable children's book collections to pick up Big Apple-set picture books such as This is New York, Knuffle Bunny, and Good Night New York City. Storytimes abound in our calendar, too.

2. First Library Visit

Once you've attended enough storytimes to find some favorite characters, why not head to your nearest library to encourage those early-reading habits? Dumbo's Adams Street Library and the beloved 42nd Street branch are always worth a visit. Other favorite spots include the Stavros Niarchos Foundation branch in Midtown and the brand-new Brower Park Library nestled in the tot-friendly Brooklyn Children's Museum.

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Best things to do in NYC with babies: Brooklyn Children's Museum
The Brooklyn Children's Museum has plenty of fun, sensory-filled experiences for the youngest museum-goers to explore. Photo courtesy of the museum

3. First Museum

There is no need to wait until your child can walk or talk to introduce them to NYC's world-class museums. Many of our favorite children's museums have interactive areas for tots, such as the Brooklyn Children's Museum's Totally Tots, a safe, padded area to practice motor skills, and the Children's Museum of Manhattan's PlayWorks and Superpowered Metropolis, and The Nest at the newly opened Bronx Children's Museum. Bonus: All of these museums are FREE for babies, though grown-ups have to pay.

4. First Movie

Head to an NYC movie theater offering special screenings for babies, where the sound is turned down, house lights are left on low, and no one cares if your baby needs to fuss for a few minutes or you need to stop to rustle about to change a diaper. Options around town we're crushing on include Nighthawk's Adults with Infant series and Alamo for All.

5. First Theater Show

Head to an outdoor performance at Lincoln Center or Bryant Park during the summer months. The rest of the year, there are tons of theater options geared toward kids in the city, so keep an eye on our Event Calendar for interactive performances you can book straight from our site, plus more picks ranging from storybook-inspired puppet shows to productions at the New Victory. They're all geared toward little audience members so plan to step out for some culture to build baby's love of the arts and prep them for a life-long love affair with Broadway.

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Things to do in NYC with babies: Bronx Zoo
A visit to the Bronx Zoo is fun in any season, and there are always some fun animal encounters to enjoy. Photo courtesy of the WCS

6. First Animal Encounter

One of my best annual family purchases is our Wildlife Conservation Society membership, which grants admission to the Central Park, Prospect Park, Queens, and Bronx Zoos, plus the New York Aquarium. While the Bronx Zoo is a lot to handle with a little one, the Central Park, Prospect Park, and Queens Zoos are small enough to let a new walker wander a bit. They offer interactive animal experiences in the Tisch Children's Zoo and the Queens Zoo's Farm. If you visit the Bronx Zoo, the gorilla exhibit includes a theater with a short documentary on conservation efforts and makes an excellent, quiet place to breastfeed.

7. First Exercise Class

Why not include baby in your workout? Relax with some mommy and me yoga, or check out these postnatal exercise classes for new moms, all of which allow you to bring your infant in a stroller or to the mat.

8. First Haircut

When that adorable baby fuzz finally needs some professional styling, try hitting a children's hair salon in Manhattan, Brooklyn, or Queens. Unlike your local barber, these spots cater to families. They often have TVs, books, and other things to keep kids amused and even offer first-haircut packages with certificates and a commemorative lock of baby hair.

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Things to do in NYC with babies: Brooklyn Bridge Park
Brooklyn Bridge Park is a great hangout! Cool off in the bamboo at Pier 6 when your little ones need a break. Photo by Matt Nighswander

9. First Local Haunt

You may have lived in your East Village walk-up or Harlem brownstone for a decade before Junior came into the world, but now that you've got a kid of your own, it's time to reacquaint yourself with the neighborhood through the eyes of a parent. We've got Neighborhood Guides profiling local kid-friendly haunts throughout the five boroughs, so put the baby in a stroller and check out our top family-friendly picks, then move on to exploring other hangouts citywide. Before you know it, you'll be back here looking for advice on preschool admissions.

10. First Photo Session

Now that you've got a baby in tow, it's time to stage a family photo shoot. Which of these only-in-NYC backdrops will you pick for that milestone moment?

11. First Class

Baby-and-me classes are a great way to break up the monotony of the day. We've got a roundup of the best baby-and-me music classes, plus an entire directory dedicated to classes and drop-in fun for everyone from babies and toddlers to tweens, teens, and beyond.

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Best things to do in NYC with babies: Baby under weeping cherry trees at the New York Botanical Garden
See the gorgeous cherry blossoms at New York Botanical Garden.

12. First Spring Outing

Baby's first year is full of plenty of eye-opening moments, so don't forget to stop and smell the roses. New York City is surrounded by lovely, curated gardens perfect for an early-spring stroll and plenty of pretty photo-ops. The Brooklyn Botanic Garden offers a kid-sized Discovery Garden to toddle about, while the New York Botanical Garden blooms with family-friendly programming every season. Nearby Wave Hill is an underrated gem, and the Queens Botanical Garden is known for its spectacular festivals and reasonable admission.

13. First Friends

Now that you've got a playground to hang out in, why not round up some pint-sized playmates? New parents must band together and empathize over sleepless nights and transitions from bottle or breast to sippy cups. Where will you (and your kid) find these first friends? Try a new parents group or a parent-and-me class.

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Best things to do in NYC with babies: Visit an NYC playground
Head through a tunnel at your local park. Photo by Sara Marentette

14. First Playground

Once your baby passes the crawling stage, consider venturing to a destination playground. We've profiled many, but my mom-tested recommendations include Riverside Park's Hippo Playground, the Imagination Playground at South Street Seaport, Central Park's Tarr-Coyne Tots Playground, Brooklyn Bridge Park's mega sandbox and tot lot, and the Vanderbilt Street Playground in Prospect Park.

15. First Dip

Speaking of wet-and-wild fun, a splash in a local pool is a big first for baby. NYC has tons of FREE outdoor pools during the summer, though a word to the wise: There are lots of rules, and most pools aren't heated. Really want to make a splash? Visit our post on parent-and-me swim lessons citywide. If you need sand and sun along with your splash, consider a trip to one of these nearby beaches, all accessible with a swipe of a MetroCard.

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Best things to do in NYC with babies: Visit a play space
Padded play spaces offer safe, creative outlets for newly mobile toddlers. Photo by Sara Marentette

16. First Play Space

Play spaces are big business in this city and with good reason. Small apartments and soggy, snowy, or cold weather mean sometimes you need a spot to escape and let the kids run free. We've got roundups of the biggest and best play spaces citywide, as well as those catering to the youngest clientele and those with indoor water tables.

17. First Foodie Experience

Your babe will go from suckling milk to slurping solids in the blink of a sleep-deprived eye. New York City is home to plenty of family-friendly restaurants where you can start to prime that tiny palate for NYC's impressive foodie scene. Brunch will always be a hit, but why not try some international eats? Restaurants with backyards are a big hit now. Bad weather day? Try a play cafe where you can enjoy a nosh while the little ones romp.

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Best things to do in NYC with babies: Baby poses in front of Rockefeller Center Christmass Tree
A visit to the Rockefeller Center Christmas tree might fail to impress your wee one, but you'll love the keepsake down the line.

18. First Tradition

The holiday season in NYC is second to none. There's a reason movies are set here, books are written about it, and dazzling annual stage shows sell out night after night. When that special first holiday season rolls around, be sure to establish a tradition all your own. For us, it's the yearly trek to Macy's Santaland. Yes, even my 17 year old sits on Santa's lap because he knows mommy needs a photo! So, whether it's checking out the store windows, catching a family-friendly production of the Nutcracker, gazing at the Dyker Lights, or something else, start a new tradition with baby in tow, and you'll look forward to repeating it year after year.

19. First Cab Ride

Face it: You're raising a city kid. They're going to have to learn how to hail a cab sooner or later. All three of mine came home from the hospital in a yellow cab (including one during a transit strike!). Though car-seat laws are more lax when it comes to shared-ride vehicles, consider using one of these car services with car seats when you need to get around town but don't want to schlep your own.

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Best things to do in NYC with babies: First birthday party baby with messy, cake-covered face
There are no cake-smash crumbs to clean up if you party at your local playground!

20. First Birthday Party!

Yay, you've made it through that crazy but amazing first year. Celebrate with a first birthday party you'll both appreciate. We have endless ideas in our NYC Party Guide, from party rooms perfect for a first fete to bakeries that can whip up a stunning, photo-worthy cake to fun DIY options you can bake at home, plus 30+ FREE ways to celebrate, the best first birthday gifts, and NYC parks that make for a great party backdrop.

Now that you've cleaned up the confetti and snapped those Insta-worthy cake-smash photos take heart in knowing you've entered a whole new world: toddlerhood, NYC style.

This article, first published in February 2015, has since been updated.

Unless noted, photos by the author

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