One reason we live in New York City (and pay crazy rents, take packed subways, and research early education options as if we're going for a Ph.D.) is to take advantage of all the cultural experiences it offers year-round. If one of your New Year's resolutions is to do more fun things with your kids, why not kick off 2019 by taking advantage of all the great places open on New Year's Day in the Big Apple?
We came up with seven resolutions for families and then found activities to fulfill each one—all at places open on January 1, 2019, in NYC. You can find more seasonal fun, including little kid and big kid ways to celebrate New Year's Eve, in our Holiday Guide, or in our 25 Free Things to Do in NYC with Kids on Winter Break.
All of us at Mommy Poppins wish you and your families a happy, healthy, and prosperous new year.
Enjoy the eye-catching and interactive exhibits at the Cooper Hewitt Museum.
Resolution: Visit a museum you've never been to before
The Museum of the Moving Image offers plenty of entertainment for movie buffs and an onsite theater where A Muppet Family Christmas plays on January 1, complimented by the spectacular Jim Henson Exhibition. More options: Stroll along The High Line and then wander through The Whitney Museum of American Art, which offers free daily tours on New Year's Day. The Cooper Hewitt is always a good if offbeat bet for hands-on art with the kids, including its Immersion Room and Process Lab. MoMath and the always-free National Museum of the American Indian are open today, too.
Resolution: Find more ways to play together as a family
You're never too old to fill your day with play. Weather permitting, check out one of the city's best parks. If it's too cold, take your play indoors. Staten Island's Fly High offers all ages trampoline fun. Kids might appreciate an afternoon of video games at Dave & Buster's or bowling—and more—at Chelsea Piers' Bowlmor Lanes, which also houses a laser tag arena. Brooklyn Bowl is also hosting a FREE family-friendly day at the lanes. Of course, you don't need to leave home to play as a family. For inspiration, check out our posts on snow day (or any cold day) boredom busters, fun exercise games, and easy science experiments, to try with kids.
Resolution: Explore more cool kid-friendly exhibits
New Year's Day is also a great time to get to know your hometown. The New-York Historical Society is open today for its regular and special exhibitions (including Harry Potter: A History of Magic), plus wand-making and other Hogwarts crafts in a special family event at its DiMenna Children's History Museum. Or visit any one of the many train displays around the city (check hours for each before going). The butterflies will be flitting about at the American Museum of Natural History (AMNH), where there's loads going on for New Year's Day: see the stunning origami tree, take in the Our Senses: An Immersive Experience exhibition or the AMNH's new-in-2018 Unseen Oceans exhibit, or catch the Our Senses exhibit before it closes January 1, 2019.
Join or just watch the Polar Bears take to the frigid Atlantic waters. Photo by Tom McGann/courtesy of event organizers
Resolution: Enjoy quirky, only-in-NYC fun
We rave about offbeat NYC experiences, and one of our favorites is the annual Polar Bear Club New Year's Day Swim in Coney Island. The members of this organization are a bit, well, enthusiastic, but they're not naked, and since the swim is open to the public, you're welcome to join them in the ocean. On the Lower East Side, see a collection of historic menorahs or an installation celebrating that time-honored NYC institution, the bodega. In the Flatiron, revel in the sunshine that is the public art installation Happy. In Long Island City, the collective works of over a dozen artists remain on view at the always-FREE Socrates Sculpture Park.
Resolution: Actually visit those tourists spots you've never been to
When is the last time you enjoyed the view at the top of the Empire State Building or went to the Top of the Rock, or One World Observatory? How about the Statue of Liberty or Ellis Island, where you can sneak some education into the new year and help your kids earn Junior Ranger badges. Check out all of these iconic New York City attractions on New Year's Day, along with Times Square tourist spots Madame Tussauds—where you can play Ghostbusters—and Ripley’s Believe It or Not! Better yet, check out the new National Geographic Encounter: Ocean Odyssey or Gulliver's Gate, both in the Times Square area, and both open for New Year's Day.
Resolution: See more kid-friendly shows
Many Broadway shows have performances today; at press time, tickets remained for family favorites Wicked and The School of Rock. The Big Apple Circus performs on New Year's Day. There's a also a showcase of three of the city's best magicians at the Magic at Coney New Year's Day Matinee: Plunge into 2019!.
Resolution: Spend more time outside
While the rest of the city sleeps it off, take a quiet stroll through one of NYC's lovely green spaces. They're all open on New Year's Day, including Central Park, Prospect Park, Brooklyn Bridge Park, Flushing Meadows Corona Park, Van Cortlandt Park, and the High Line. Prospect Park also hosts a full afternoon of FREE family programming, from crafts to animal encounters.
Stroll down Fifth Avenue to see the stunning department store holiday windows before they're gone, as well as the Rockefeller Tree. The Prospect Park Zoo, Queens Zoo, Central Park Zoo, and the New York Aquarium are all open on January 1 (the Bronx and Staten Island Zoos are closed for the holiday). The Holiday Train Show continues at the New York Botanical Garden. You can also go ice skating—most outdoor rinks are open on the holiday (weather permitting), including those in Bryant Park, Central Park, Riverbank State Park, Brookfield Place, and Prospect Park. If you don't mind spending as much time waiting as skating, the Rink at Rockefeller Center is also open.
A version of this article was published in 2018; it is updated annually.