100 Things To Do in NYC With Kids Before They Grow Up

See the skyline from a whole new vantage point on the Roosevelt Island Tram. Photo courtesy of NYCGo
See the skyline from a whole new vantage point on the Roosevelt Island Tram. Photo courtesy of NYCGo
7/25/21 - By Anna Fader

The number of family-friendly happenings in New York City on any given day is enough to overwhelm most parents. Our city plays host to top-notch museums and art, creative play spaces, amazing parks and playgrounds, and even amusement parks, all of which pump out fun children's programming year-round. Even NYC restaurants get into the game, hosting dedicated kid's play spaces, events, and cool DIY opportunities like ice cream and chocolate making.

Yet, every year, our kids grow up on us a little more. They age out of one activity after another, whether it's storytime at the library, the carousel, or just needing to hold our hand as they cross the street. That's why we're focused on finding ways to take advantage of all the amazing things to do in New York City with kids, creating meaningful memories as we go. I created this "life list" of all the things I want to experience with my kids before they grow up. It's not just the stuff that is fun to do, but also the stuff that I think will be important to do with them—things that will shape them and be formative in their experience as little New Yorkers. We're also big fans of FREE fun, so we included as much of that as possible!

So, enjoy this list of 100 things to do in NYC, whether you're a local or a visitor trying to experience the very best of our city. Now, off I go to wring every drop of goodness from the damp, dirty rag that is New York City.

Sign up for our FREE newsletters to get posts like this delivered to your inbox.

If you have plans to check off multiple things on this list, it might be worth considering a Go City Explorer Pass, which offers discounted admission to a variety of top attractions in NYC.


1. See the Dinos at AMNH

Peep the 122-foot-long titanosaur and many other prehistoric treasures at the American Museum of Natural History.

2. Kayak on the Hudson

Go kayaking on the Hudson, in the Harbor, on the East River, and more—most trips are FREE.

Little Island is an innovative green space with tons of FREE programming. Photo by Liz Ligon

3. Visit the Little Island

New York's floating park brings a small, action-packed footprint and plenty of entertainment.

4. Get Into Showbiz

Go on an audition just for the heck of it.

5. See Lady Liberty

Hop a ferry to explore the Statue of Liberty and the museum in her honor.

6. Visit the Little Red Lighthouse

NYC's lone lighthouse, the Little Red Lighthouse, is even the star of a children's book.

7. Dance on the Piano

The Giant Piano at FAO Schwarz has found a home in Rockefeller Center, where you can get a stunning view of the tree, too, if you time your visit right.

Slide Hill on Governors Island
Spend the day on Governors Island and visit Slide Hill. Photo courtesy of Governor's Island

8. Hit The Hills

Ride the longest slide in the city on Governors Island.

9. Go for a Spin

Climb on the enchanting Le Carrousel in Bryant Park.

10. Raise Your Pinkys

Indulge in a rawther fancy tea at the Plaza.

11. Set Sail

Ride the Staten Island Ferry for FREE.

12. Get Yourself on TV

Wave to the cameras on The Today Show.

With a trip on the NYC Ferry, the adventures are endless. Photo by Sara Marentette

13. Explore Another Ferry Landing

NYC's waterfront abounds with more kid-friendly ferry rides to beaches, playgrounds, and more.

14. Visit the Brooklyn's Children's Museum

Founded in 1899, the Brooklyn Children's Museum is the oldest children's museum in the U.S., but it constantly reinvents itself to entertain generations of NYC kids.

15. Be an Urban Farmer

Get a taste of country life at the Queens County Farm Museum.

16. Get Cultured

Do a kid-friendly art crawl in Queens.

17. Embrace Aviation History

See a WWll-era aircraft carrier, a NASA space shuttle, and more at Intrepid Sea, Air & Space Museum.

Mermaid Parade Marchers on Coney Island
The Mermaid Parade is an annual delight for all ages. Photo by Raven Snook

18. March in the Mermaid Parade

An annual rite of summer, it takes over Coney Island for a seafaring day of fun.

19. Learn at MoMath

Head to the Museum of Mathematics for a crazy ride on the square-wheeled tricycle and other mind-blowing, math-inspired fun.

20. Explore the Great White Way

We know Broadway's coming back with a vengeance, so book your tickets for its top shows soon.

21. Climb the Castle Steps

Central Park's Belvedere Castle is a worthy spot to explore in any season, though we love visiting the nearby Turtle Pond in warm weather.

Connected Worlds at NYSCI
Visit Connected Worlds at the New York Hall of Science. Photo courtesy of NYSCI

22. Get Educated at NYSCI

There's plenty of geeky fun to enjoy at the NY Hall of Science.

23. Listen to an Aria

Catch a FREE summer concert by the Metropolitan Opera in an NYC park.

24. Glide Through Central Park

Ride the rowboats in Central Park or let a gondolier row for you!

25. Sweet View, Sweet Treat

Bike across the Brooklyn Bridge and get ice cream at Ample Hills Creamery.

Queens' new splash pad is a must-visit.Photo by Jody Mercier

26. Frolic in the Fountain of the Fairs

This newly remodeled and reopened splash pad at the foot of The Unisphere is cooling on a hot summer day.

27. Hit the Sky-High Roosevelt Island Tram

A MetroCard swipe is all you need to board the Roosevelt Island Tram.

28. Scream on the Cyclone

Luna Park's Cyclone roller coaster is about as classic as an amusement park ride gets.

29. Take in the View

Visit the top of the Empire State Building.

30. Dress in Your Sunday Best

Show off your hat at the annual Midtown Manhattan Easter Parade.

Cliffs Dumbo Climbing Wall
Scale the 12-foot high climbing walls at The Cliffs Dumbo. Photo by Rose Gordon Sala

31. Climb the Walls

Scale the outdoor climbing wall in Brooklyn Bridge Park.

32. See the Living Nativity

Get up early to see the living nativity animals arrive for the Radio City Christmas Spectacular.

33. Go Crazy at CMOM

Play at the Children's Museum of Manhattan.

34. Visit All. The. Playgrounds.

We've visited enough to rank our favorites. Will your rankings match ours?

35. Step Into The Met

Spend a day exploring and sketching the treasures at the Metropolitan Museum of Art.

Hayden Planetarium at AMNH
See the night sky at the Hayden Planetarium at the Rose Center for Earth and Space. Photo courtesy of AMNH

36. Go Stargazing at the Hayden Planetarium

Peep the planetarium shows at the Rose Center for Earth and Space.

37. Explore Brooklyn Bridge Park

This action-packed waterfront park is ripe for exploring from end to end.

38. Step Into the Clouds

Marvel at the breathtaking view from One World Observatory.

39. Explore the Modern Masters

There's plenty to explore beyond the galleries at MoMA.

40. See Snug Harbor

A cultural gem in Staten Island, a visit to the Chinese Scholar's Garden in Snug Harbor is well worth your time.

Brooklyn Botanic Garden Cheerry Blossoms
Stroll through the grass and see the beautiful cherry blossoms at the Brooklyn Botanic Gardens. Photo courtesy of BBG

41. Peep the Cherry Blossoms at BBG

An annual rite of spring, the Cherry Blossom Festival at the Brooklyn Botanic Garden is a must-visit.

42. Visit the Prospect Park Zoo

Home to the ice age-looking Pallas' Cat, playful baboons, and much more, the Prospect Park Zoo is little-kid friendly.

43. Strap on Some Ice Skates

If you're there in the winter, go ice skating in Prospect Park.

44. Indulge in a Scoop

Try all the flavors at the Chinatown Ice Cream Factory.

45. See a Movie Under the Stars

A new summertime tradition, tons of flicks are streamed in city parks.

The Holiday Train Show at the New York Botanic Garden is a must in NYC! Photo courtesy for NYBG

46. See a Miniature NYC at the NYBG Train Show

An annual holiday tradition, the Holiday Train Show at the New York Botanical Garden is worth visiting again and again.

47. Be Awed by the Dyker Lights

Walk through the eye-popping holiday lights in Dyker Heights.

48. See the Nutcracker

Whether you opt for the classic at Lincoln Center or a smaller production, the ballet abounds during the holiday season.

49. Watch the Macy's Balloons Take Shape

Sure, you can see the parade, but real New Yorkers know the fun starts hours earlier on the side streets.

50. See Kid Art IRL

Marvel at the kid-designed carousel in Riverbank State Park.

51. Go on a Culinary Tour at the Queens Night Market

This food fest lets you feast your way around the world, noshing on bites from more than 100 vendors each week during its summer and fall run.

52. Explore Battery Park City

This family-friendly enclave is packed with parks from the South Cove to Penny Park.

Take a dip in the floating pool in the Bronx. Photo courtesy of NYC Parks

53. Dive in for a Dip

Swim in the floating barge pool.

54. Wander Through the Queens Zoo

The Andean bears are always a playful distraction at this gem of a zoo.

55. Hike The High Line

Take selfies with the tourists while walking the length of the High Line, NYC's elevated greenway.

56. Indulge a Sweet Tooth

Pick up old-time treats at the historic Economy Candy.

57. Train for the Circus

Take a trapeze lesson.

58. Hit the Beach

Ride the ferry to Sandy Hook beach or Rockaway beach.

59. See Free Shakespeare

Enter the lottery, wait in line, or do whatever you can to nab a coveted ticket to Shakespeare in the Park.

60. Search for a Secret Playground

Locating the hole-in-the-wall Downing Street Playground is half the fun.

Gaze at a unicorn at the Cloisters. Photo by Debra via Flickr

61. Find the Unicorns at the Cloisters

These majestic creatures find their home in the enchanting museum surrounded by a beautiful park.

62. Fulfill a Need for Speed

Get soaked during a speedboat ride on The Beast.

63. Drop a Line

Did you know you can go fishing in the East River?

64. Play in the (Summer) Streets

August brings the annual car-free celebration extending down Manhattan's east side from Central Park to the Brooklyn Bridge, with plenty of room to roam, ride, walk, scoot, and play.

65. Head Out to The Old Ballgame

Root for the home team at a Brooklyn Cyclones game or catch big league action in the Bronx or Queens.

Billy Johnson Playground
Hit up Billy Johnson Playground in Central Park. Photo courtesy of NYC Parks

66. Speed Down the Slides at Billy Johnson

This playground's iconic granite slide is so popular that a recent renovation added a tot-sized one.

67. See Masterpieces in Miniature

The kid-friendly Museum of the City of New York is home to the Stettheimer Doll House with its intricately styled decor and replicas of art by Marcel Duchamp and others.

68. Celebrate Lunar New Year

Whether you mark the occasion with firecrackers, lion dancing, or one of several parades, there's plenty of ways to celebrate.

69. Strap on Some Roller Skates

From Prospect Park to Central Park and all the way north to Harlem, there are plenty of outdoor roller rinks to explore.

70. Play in the Spray

Get soaked in the Washington Square Park fountain.

71. Indulge in Seaside Charm

The Bronx's City Island is a little slice of New England in city limits.

72. See at Ticker Tape Parade

Everyone loves a parade, and they're even better if they come with a shower of confetti in the Canyon of Heroes.

Flowers in the flower district
Buy some blooms in the Flower District. Photo by Alex Lopez for NYCGo

73. Buy a Bouquet

Pick up buds in the Flower District.

74. See the Sharks

You never know what lurks off the shores of Coney Island, but you can get a clear view of the sharks at the nearby New York Aquarium.

75. Hit the Sledding Hills

Nothing beats a snowy day in Central Park.

76. Go Horseback Riding

Saddle up and learn to ride at a variety of stables throughout the five boroughs.

77. Go Camping

Pitch a tent within NYC's limits at a local park or try glamping at Camp Rockaway or Governors Island.

78. Engage in Spy Games

Pretend you're 007 as you explore Spyscape, a museum dedicated to spying.

79. Take a Trip to the Tenements

Dive into city history at the Lower East Side Tenement Museum.

80. See a Rolling Show

Watch the Dance Skaters perform in Central Park.

Take in the views at Gantry Park in Long Island City. Photo by Will Steacy for NYCGo

81. Explore the LIC Waterfront

Walk the this neighborhood's length, hitting playgrounds along the way.

82. Go Skiing

Cross-country ski down a city street or at one of these more traditional venues.

83. Snap a Celebrity Selfie

Pose with a wax celebrity at Madame Tussauds.

84. Research Your Family Tree

Look up relatives on a visit to Ellis Island.

85. See the Rainbow Pipefish

This colorful Hudson River character makes its home at the recently remodeled Chelsea Waterside Playground.

86. Test Your Sense of Adventure

Dare to soar side-by-side above the Bronx River on the zip line at the Treetop Adventure Park in the Bronx Zoo.

Watch the beautiful model boats set sail. Photo courtesy of Central Park Conservatory.

87. Earn Your Captain's License

Sail model boats on the Conservatory Water in Central Park.

88. Fly a Kite

Central Park's Sheep Meadow is a perfect breezy backdrop.

89. Find Your Home on the Panorama

This famed attraction is the centerpiece of the Queens Museum.

90. Hit the Trails

Go hiking in the Staten Island Greenbelt.

91. Climb the Vessel

The centerpiece to Hudson Yards, this honeycomb-shaped piece of public art introduces you to stunning new vantage points and photo ops.

92. Go Under-the-Sea

Ride a fish at the stunning, sea-themed SeaGlass Carousel.

93. See Santa

No matter what you celebrate, a trip to the iconic Macy's Santaland is a holiday treat.

Dig into dim sum at Pacificana in Brooklyn's Chinatown. Photo by Kate Glicksberg for NYCGo

94. Sample Dim Sum

Brooklyn's Chinatown, aka Sunset Park, offers some tasty options.

95. Explore Jewish Specialties

Have knishes and egg creams at Yonah Schimmel's.

96. See the Giant Buddha

You'll find it at the Mahayana Temple.

97. Visit the Skyscraper Museum

Here, you'll learn about the city's towering architectural feats.

98. Meet the Muppets

The Museum of the Moving Image is home to Jim Henson's furry friends and more hands-on, kid-friendly, pop-culture-inspired fun.

99. Share a Secret at the Whispering Wall

Grand Central Terminal's architecture allows you to share secrets and scientific knowledge at this spot.

100. Go for a Bike Ride

Bike the Hudson River Greenway on Manhattan's west side all the way to the George Washington Bridge, now part of the Empire Trail.

This article, first published in January 2008, is regularly updated to reflect the changing landscape of NYC.

​​Top image: Riding the SeaGlass Carousel in downtown Manhattan. Photo by Anna Afanaseva via Flickr.