Family-Friendly NYC Outings Inspired by Storybooks

Play out your Eloise fantasies at The Plaza Hotel, where you can stay in a suite inspired by the precocious storybook character. Photo courtesy of The Plaza/a Fairmount Managed Hotel
Play out your Eloise fantasies at The Plaza Hotel, where you can stay in a suite inspired by the precocious storybook character. Photo courtesy of The Plaza/a Fairmount Managed Hotel

There are countless books that use NYC as their setting—and with good reason. It’s a marvelous, one-of-a-kind city. So, we’ve put together some outings inspired by six of our favorite kid-lit characters and storylines. From picture books to chapter books, we’ve rounded up fun-filled destinations for all ages.

Find more storybook inspiration on our list of 100 kids' books every child should read before they grow up and find more outing inspiration in our Family Activity Calendar.

Subscribe to our newsletters to get stories like this delivered directly to your inbox.

The Little Red Lighthouse and the Great Gray Bridge is a NYC storybook
The Little Red Lighthouse has plenty of personality as illustrated by the Hildegarde H. Swift book written about the landmark. Photo by Jody Mercier

The Little Red Lighthouse and the Great Gray Bridge by Hildegarde H. Swift, illustrated by Lynd Ward

This charming tale, first published in 1942, is a reminder that size does not determine worth. Thanks in part to Swift’s whimsical story, the real-life lighthouse was saved from demolition and is now protected by the National Register of Historic Places. Families can enjoy the story in the presence of its hero, right in Fort Washington Park overlooking the Hudson River beneath the “great gray bridge” commonly known as the GWB. There's plenty to explore in the park nearby, including the destination-worthy Nature Discovery Playground and a section of the Empire State Trail. If you’re feeling ambitious, you can enjoy the 45-minute walk or 20-minute bike ride to The Cloisters, a stunning extension of The Met nestled in Fort Tryon Park that showcases medieval art (no judgment if you opt for a 5-minute cab ride instead).

Knuffle Bunny Too: A Case of Mistaken Identity by Mo Willems

The world was introduced to Trixie before she could speak, on a memorable trip to the laundromat with her father in their Brooklyn neighborhood. Fast forward a few years and Trixie is headed to school for the first time with her Knuffle Bunny in hand. This is where she meets Sonja, who has a nearly identical bunny of her own. Chaos ensues, in classic Willems fashion, and the girls and their fathers find themselves in a midnight rendezvous at Grand Army Plaza (formerly known as Prospect Park Plaza). If you’d like to head out on a Knuffle Bunny-inspired outing of your own, this is a great place to start as this public plaza is the main entrance to Prospect Park in Brooklyn. This beautiful park is perfect for walking, strolling, scooting, and playing, but it also features the Prospect Park ZooBrooklyn Botanic Gardena seasonal ice or roller skating rink, and more.

Eloise: A Book for Precocious Grown Ups by Kay Thompson, illustrated by Hilary Knight

Fans of Eloise, arguably The Plaza Hotel’s most famous guest, will delight in a day (or night!) living like the young protagonist. Enjoy a special Afternoon Tea in The Palm Court and peruse the shop for Eloise-themed outfits, books, and more. Superfans can even book a stay in Eloise’s “pink, pink, pink room.” When your little one has had their fill of all things Eloise, Central Park is just across the street, with Wollman Rink and the Central Park Zoo just minutes from The Plaza's doors.

RELATED: 20+ Ruth Bader Ginsburg Children's Books (+ More Women Leaders)

From the Mixed-Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler is a storybook about NYC
You might not want your kids to move into The Met, but this book will surely inspire an adventurous outing to the famed museum.  

From the Mixed-Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler by E. L. Konigsburg

In this 1969 classic, 12-year-old Claudia and her younger brother Jamie run away to the Metropolitan Museum of Art, fulfilling the daydreams of kids (and their parents!) the world over. While you may not be able to condone the running away part of the story, you can explore the world-famous Met with your kids. The museum’s extraordinary collection and events are always worth the trip, and the interactive #metkids guides on the museum’s website help make it even more accessible. And don’t forget, the Ancient Playground in Central Park is steps away and perfect for a post-museum romp.

The Night Library by David Zeltser, illustrated by Raul Colon

This moving story follows a young boy on a magical nighttime outing with the help of Patience and Fortitude—the New York Public Library’s famous stone lions—from his Bronx home to the main branch of the NYPL, passing through Woodlawn Cemetery and Yankee Stadium on the way. While a cemetery may not seem like an upbeat, kid-friendly outing, older kids, history buffs, and nature enthusiasts might enjoy guided tours and other events or the cemetery’s arboretum. Among the notable interred are Duke Ellington, Miles Davis, Celia Cruz, Madame C.J. Walker, Robert Moses, and others. Yankee Stadium offers tours, events, and more, in addition to legendary baseball games, of course! If you plan on enjoying this story at the library’s main branch, take in the beautiful architecture and ongoing events and exhibits. Beyond the library, Bryant Park offers year-round fun including alfresco dining and green space in warmer months and its Winter Village, which features ice skating, shopping, food vendors, and more, in colder months.

RELATED: Top Attractions in NYC: Best Things To See and Do With Kids


You might not be able to go to the 600th floor of the Empire State Building, but the view from 102 is stunning—as are the nightly light shows. Photo by Evan Joseph​/courtesy of the Empire State Building

Percy Jackson and the Olympians: The Lightning Thief by Rick Riordan

This action-packed fantasy novel steeped in Greek mythology follows 12-year-old demigod Percy Jackson as he travels the country, fighting demons, monsters, and other mythical creatures on a quest to recover Zeus’ lightning bolt. This tale is the first in a five-part series and opens at the fountain in front of The Met, which now brilliantly offers a Percy Jackson-themed museum guide. The Empire State Building also features prominently in the series and while, sadly, there is no access to the 600th floor (aka Mount Olympus), there is plenty of awe-inspiring fun for families.

This article contains some affiliate links, which means we might earn a small commission if you make a purchase. There is no extra cost to the reader. We only recommend products and services that we have personally used or have thoroughly researched.

Fort Hamilton Independence Day Fireworks
US Army Fort Hamilton - SGT. Deon L. Taylor Field - 4:00 PM Pick
Picnic Performances in Bryant Park
Bryant Park - 7:00 PM Pick
Movie Nights at the Garden: Men in Black (PG-13)
Queens Botanical Garden - 7:30 PM Pick
Cymbeline
Carl Schurz Park Cherry Grove - 7:00 PM Pick
Movies Under the Stars: Respect (PG-13)
Abraham Lincoln Playground - 8:30 PM Pick
Neighborhood Guides
Activity Guides