Whether a visitor, commuter, or even a local, it's hard to avoid passing through NYC's Midtown Manhattan. Bordered by 59th Street on the northern end and 34th Street to the south, and extending from river-to-river, the neighborhood has a personality that matches its large size, encompassing Times Square, Rockefeller Center, and beyond.
Between the towering office buildings and the tourist traps on seemingly every street corner, it might seem hard to uncover the worthwhile family spots, but actually Midtown is loaded with quality entertainment. We've done the legwork and rounded up 50 fun picks for enjoying this 'hood with kids in tow.
Read on for these top spots and activities and be sure to explore some of the other new-to-you neighborhoods we've profiled, from the Upper East Side to Chinatown and the outer boroughs. If you're here on vacation, check out our Visitors' Guide for all the best citywide sights for families.
There's something for everyone at City Kitchen's gourmet food hall. Photo courtesy of City Kitchen.
1. Get in on the food hall trend with a visit to Urban Space Vanderbilt, City Kitchen, or Gotham Market.
2. Tour the world in 90 minutes at Times Square's newest attraction, Gulliver's Gate, which presents miniature vignettes of the world for guests to gawk at.
3. Enjoy storytime or live children's performances, and meet the original Winnie the Pooh at the main branch of the New York Public Library's Children's Center at 42nd Street.
4. On your way out, pose for a picture with Patience and Fortitude, the branch's famous marble lions who have been guarding the stairs since opening day in 1911.
5. Older kids will appreciate the newly-opened 53rd Street Library.
6. See a puppet, circus, movement, or other offbeat family show at the New Victory Theater.
7. Or catch a kid-friendly Broadway production at a discount by hitting the Times Square TKTS Discount Booth.
8. Explore all that Bryant Park has to offer, including the year-round Le Carrousel, the free summer film series, the seasonal, FREE ice-skating rink, and no-cost kids' events.
9. Slide down a giant leg on the whimsical Tom Otterness play structure at Silver Towers Playground.
Explore the recently opened section of the High Line near the rail yards. Photo by Ian Baan/courtesy of Friends of the High Line.
10. Meet the High Line at its lowest point, the 34th Street entrance.
11. Engage in some retail therapy at the Times Square superstore locations of the Disney Store, M&M's World, and Hershey's Chocolate World (which will debut a new, more interactive chocolate experience in late 2017!).
12. Visiting over the holidays? Take a twirl on the Rockefeller Center's famous ice rink for optimum views of the Christmas tree.
13. But don't forget about the incredible Fifth Avenue department store holiday windows.
14. Head to Macy's for its annual spring Flower Show, amazing holiday windows, and Kris Kringle's home away from home, Santaland.
15. For more holiday fun, gawk at the mini-train display mounted by the New York Transit Museum's Gallery Annex at Grand Central Terminal.
16. While you're there, enjoy a lesson in wacky acoustics at the Whispering Gallery.
17. Hop on the East River Ferry at the pier at East 34th Street and journey to the waterfront neighborhoods of Brooklyn and Queens. Come summer 2017, the citywide ferry service makes this option available for the cost of a MetroCard swipe.
18. Get a new perspective on NYC by heading to the Top of the Rock or the observation deck of the Empire State Building.
19. Try the latest Nintendo and Wii video games at the recently revamped Nintendo NYC in Rockefeller Center; don't forget to check the calendar for special in-store events.
Hit the Hudson Yards playground. Photo by Jody Mercier.
20. Watch the buildings rising from the ground up at the Hudson Yards development and romp in the new playground.
21. Take a tour of the United Nations, or visit the lower concourse to mail something from the post office to get your item postmarked in international territory.
22. Peek inside St. Patrick's Cathedral, which dates back to 1879.
23. Who needs an agent to get on TV? Just stand outside the Today Show in Rockefeller Center; if you go in summer, you can even catch FREE concerts by big name artists—assuming you're cool with crowds.
24. Put on your most outrageous headgear for NYC's annual Easter Bonnet Parade on Fifth Avenue.
25. Enjoy storytelling and other children's programs at Scandinavia House, then romp in the Heimbold Family Children’s Playing and Learning Center, which is only open to the public on Saturday afternoons.
26. Shop for graphic novels, action figures, and other pop-culture items at Midtown Comics.
27. Speaking of comics, dress up in your best superhero costumes for Kids' Day at the annual New York Comic Con at the Jacob Javits Center.
28. See what else is going on at the Javits for families, like the annual New York International Auto Show.
29. Or go bowling with the family at three neighborhood alleys: Frames, Lucky Strike, or Bowlmor Times Square which has swanky themed rooms and a great finger food menu.
30. Enjoy an overnight fit for a princess at the Lotte New York Palace, which rolls out the royal treatment for its smallest guests.
Get a hands-on history lesson at the Intrepid Sea, Air & Space Museum. Photo by Clemens v. Vogelsang via Flickr.
31. Explore a real aircraft carrier and the space shuttle at the Intrepid Sea, Air & Space Museum.
32. Ride the great glass elevators up to the eighth-floor lobby in the New York Marriott Marquis, where you'll find a space-age revolving lounge with a view and no-cost restrooms.
33. Bring a picnic to the underused DeWitt Clinton Park, which features a playground, ball courts, and a bathroom that's open year-round. Or take your pick of another Midtown playground like the recently revamped Ramone Aponte Playground on 47th Street between Eighth and Ninth Avenues.
34. You don't need to wait until the Ninth Avenue International Food Festival to sample all of the diverse cuisines you'll find on the street.
35. See underground art in the Times Square subway station, including a colorful Roy Lichtenstein Pop Art mural.
36. Try one of the many family programs at the Museum of Modern Art, including FREE kids' movies on select Saturdays.
37. Wander the Garment District to pick up fabric, trimming, buttons, and beads for your next big craft project.
38. Go behind the scenes at one of NYC's greatest architectural gems on the Radio City Music Hall Stage Door Tour.
39. Learn about fire safety and New York's Bravest at the FDNY Fire Zone.
40. Catch a big-name children's show (Paw Patrol and Sesame Street recently played here), including holiday theater at the Theater at Madison Square Garden, which is technically just a block south of our Midtown borders.
Get a taste of NYC from hot dog stands to landmarks at the Lego Store. Photo by Shinya Suzuki via Flickr.
41. Stock up on plastic bricks at the Lego Store in Rockefeller Center and take in detailed recreations of NYC landmarks.
42. Enjoy a spot of tea at a trio of Midtown spots, each with their own vibe to fit any mood (and budget!): The Plaza Hotel's Palm Court, American Girl Cafe, and The Russian Tea Room.
43. If cold beverages are more your thing, consider a trip to the city's only ice bar, which welcomes kids during the daytime and even hosts family-friendly events like photos with Santa and frozen Easter egg hunts.
44. Tame your sweet tooth by tasting the donuts at Underwest Donuts. Its original location is housed in a car wash across the West Side Highway from the Intrepid. A recently-opened kiosk in front of Madison Square Garden offers a more central sugar fix.
45. Cruise down Park Avenue during August Saturdays when the Department of Transportation closes the avenue to traffic and allows pedestrians, cyclists, and skaters miles of car-free fun.
46. Plan ahead and book your Thanksgiving hotel early to snag a room with a view of the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade as it marches down Sixth Avenue.
47. Head to the Drama Book Shop on Saturdays at noon to catch a performance by the Story Pirates, a group of energetic comedians who transform children's stories into mini-musicals.
48. Explore the urban jungle's hidden gems: Duck inside some of Midtown's biggest buildings to enjoy their FREE public spaces.
49. Grab a meal at Ellen's Stardust Diner, where waitstaff clambers onto tabletops to break out into spontaneous '50s tunes.
50. Or eat out at one of these other family-friendly restaurants near Times Square, Rockefeller Center, and peppered throughout the neighborhood's east and west sides.
Top photo: It's hard to miss (and resist) the M&M's World store. Photo courtesy of the store.