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40 things to do with kids in New York City

If you did not know yet, I tell you now: New York City is a great place to live, and to visit!

In 2012 NYC broke a record with the amount of visitors & tourists they welcomed: 52 million! And it has been going up ever since. Mayor Bloomberg, who resigned at the end of 2013, has spent a lot of his 12 year term as a Mayor, making New York City great for citizens, and even more attractive to tourists. NYC is not only a city for grown-ups. It is a very safe and fun place, and there are a lot of things for kids to do in New York City!

Pictures by Dirk Verest.

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Let me share with you some of my favorite activities for kids in this wonderful City. Whether you live in New York City, or are just visiting for a short amount of time, there is so much to do. And some things will cost you, and some are free… but all are really fun!

Of course you can go play with your kids at one of the many playgrounds around the City, go shopping with your kids, and eat food at one of the 25000 restaurants & deli’s New York City has. There are many FREE outdoor swimming pools available to all young kids in NYC in the Summer (with parental guide, there are pretty strict rules so read them first) and there are also many indoor pools. I recommend just walking around different neighborhoods in Manhattan. When you walk, I guarantee you will find a hidden toy shop, or a cupcake bakery. New York City is the place of discoveries! We always play this game with kids:

When the light turns white,

you follow your way.

But you turn left or right,

When the red light means Stay.

This will result in you walking through different streets than you would normally do, so you see new things!

A list of not-to-miss famous attractions for kids and their parents in New York City:

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1. Central Park. Central park is so big and has so many attractions itself. It is the big heart of NYC and the tranquil quiet place amidst the buzz of the busy city. The lawns are beautiful and the meadows are so large you and your family can run free and play fun games like ball games.

2. You can rent a bike with your family and ride around Central Park.

3. Ride the merry-go-around, the Carousel, in the middle of the park.

4. Walk around the preserved nature of a few hidden areas of the park. Go find them! I love the Rambles, with its idyllic bridge, waterfalls and views. But you shouldn’t miss Strawberry Fields, a tribute to John Lennon with his “Imagine” mozaic. And the Alice in Wonderland bronze sculpture.

5. In the Winter you must go iceskating at Wollman Rink. (For years owned and developed by mr. Donald J. Trump)

6. You can also visit the Central Park Zoo (or the Brooklyn Zoo or Brooklyn Aquarium.) This Zoo was used as inspiration for the animated movie “Madagascar”.

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Side note: I personally wouldn’t take a carriage ride in Central Park. These horses are working long hours, and are stabled in small stables in NYC. They never have a day off. Mayor Bill DeBlasio promised before election that he would change a lot for the horses in NYC. I was wrong about Mayor DeBlasio, he is not keeping his promises. But he did open the way up for new animal shelters, as NYC has many homeless cats and dogs. So that’s good.Check my article on the NYC carriage horses and a great alternative.

7. You can buy food at Whole Foods in Columbus Circle, take the food with you and walk to Central park, and have a pic nic at Sheep Meadow enjoying the clouds passing by.

8. You can also rent a boat and go boating on The Lake, Central park’s second largest water body, or rent a model boat and navigate it in the beautiful pond on the East Side of the park.

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Basically all of Central Park is worth to explore with kids. Central park has manicured areas, lots of history, and even wilderness with real waterfalls!

9. Observatory at the Empire State Building, or Freedom Tower One World Observatory. While the wait can be long sometime, the view of the city is amazing for every age. (this is also the area where the 911 Memorial Museum is located. This is an impressive, but very quiet museum)

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10. City tours. There is enough to see on a city tour, and kids can sit and watch the whole city pass by. Kids especially love all the lights, so doing a walk or a tour at night is worth it too.

11. Statue of Liberty. Take a Water taxi all the way downtown and go to the Statue of Liberty.

12. Times Square. It is just fun to see all the lights. It’s so bright and there is a lot to see!

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Now my “underground” favorite things to do with kids:

13. Hudson River Park I love this park the most and go running/walking or picnicking there. This park is along the Hudson river on the Westside of New York City. It stretches from the Financial District to all the way uptown. The park has many activities for kids, like mini golf and (water) play areas. There are in fact many free playgrounds for kids to play all over town.  But I especially love the ones at the Pier 25 in Hudson River Park. When the weather is warm, there are many water -based games to be played. And the park along the Hudson River, is great to walk.

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14. The Highline. This park used to be a train track bringing in live animals that would get butchered in the Meat Packing District. Now it is a beautiful park along 12th street all the way up north. It is a nice long walk, with many nice plants trees, design elements, amazing views. At the end there is a little kids playground!

15. You can also take a helicopter ride above the city. The helicopter pads are on the West of Midtown at Hudson River, or at the Lower East Side Piers on the East River. You be surprised what the price is. It is not cheap but not so expensive either. Check it out!

16. Go to the American Museum of Natural History on the Upper West Side. It is huge and you see many dinosaurs  & mammoth skeletons. kids love it!(And watch the movie A Night at the Museum, as it is filmed in this museum.)

17. Go to the Chelsea Piers, and go hit some balls at the Golf plaza, play bowling or play Basketball with a nice view of the City or the Hudson River. On their website you can see what is possible! At Chelsea Piers there is  also the Trapeze School of New York City. You can learn to fly and hang upside down in the air. Really fun especially for the older kids amongst us.

18. Take the NY watertaxi boat tour around the island and see everything. It has a few stops on the riversides of Manhattan.

19. See a Broadway musical or play. There are new shows coming every month, but The Lion King is still there. Even if you don’t like musicals: there is nothing like seeing a show on Broadway.

20. Go to Washington Square Park, my favorite park with the famous Arch, and see all the diverse people hanging out, performing, or playing chess, and the dogs in the dog parks. This place is definitely for culture, but you also have a great view of the Empire State Building, and the Freedom Tower on the other side.

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21. Rent a bike with Citibike and ride all around Manhattan via the Hudson River Park south to the Financial District, and back up along the East River (for older kids).

22. The Entrepid Museum. This used to be a warship, and when it was taken out of service, it became a museum. You can find the Concorde here, and other interesting (war) airplanes. (NY Fleetweek May 25-30!) Currently showing a “Star Trek  Academy Experience”.

23. See where there is a street fair going on in the City, and enjoy the locals and their food and merchandise!

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24. In the Summer you can swim at one of the many outdoor swimming pools from NYC Parks.  You can find current opening hourse HERE> Last Summer when my young nephews were in town, they went almost every day!

Day Trips:

25. You want a day at the beach? Take a ferry to the beach! Yes, Seastreak offers multiple daily trips to the New Jersey Shore. Take the stop Sandy Hook and enjoy a day at the beach.  I have done it! It is a nice short trip over the East River. Leaves from East River at Wall street, or East 35th street.

26. Go to Six Flags Great Adventure in New Jersey in Spring and Summer. It’s about an hour and 15 min drive, and you can either rent a car, or go by NJ Transit.

27. Go to any of the indoor water parks that you find around New York City. Some are a day trip, and some include stay at a hotel. The website Mommy Poppins.com has pointed out  7 great indoor waterparks in the neighborhood.

28. Take the train along the Hudson River upstate! Also a nice day trip, to enjoy the beautiful nature of Upstate New York. Go to Central Station (which is already beautiful to see) And buy a ticket at Metro North Train (MTA) Take the Hudson line up. Nice villages to go to are Peekskill, Hudson (where there is lots of art) but my favorite is Cold Spring as you get a beautiful view of the Hudson River, and it has an idyllic street with many little shops. Go to dinner at Hudson House Inn, as this historic inn at the riverfront has a nice view and food is great, as well as the people. Here is a nice page for more tips on visiting the Hudson Valley by Rail.

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CLICK HERE FOR SPECIAL THINGS TO DO IN THE WINTER/CHRISTMAS TIME WITH KIDS

Food:

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29. Try any of the organic Bare Burger restaurants in NYC (see my article in the link). There are all over the City and serve delicious organic burgers and salads and it is the perfect place to experience an American Burger the healthy way, your kids will love it.

30. Norma’s: the best breakfast in the City ( my favorite!) This is a restaurant only open until 3pm every day, located in the Parker Meridien hotel. Sometimes there is a wait if you don’t make a reservation. The restaurant looks clean, but the food… they make the best pancakes and waffles with fruit (I always order the Wazza waffle) and other breakfast food. Kids love it.

31. Around the corner, and close to Central Park, is the Wayfarer restaurant. This restaurant has booths, so it is easy to sit with kids. Another great place for Brunch in the Weekend.

32. If you want a more laid back atmosphere and a different neighborhood, Bubby’s downtown in Tribeca is a great option too (the restaurant is owned by Robert DeNiro), they serve great scones and all American Breakfast.

33. Underneath the Highline is the Standard Grill. When it is nice out, you can sit outside in the cute Meatpacking District area.

34. Juices: Whether it is on of the locations of the Juice Press, or another brand a fresh healthy juice is a great start of the day, or a nice refresher. Some of these are also organic. You want to give your kids the right nutrients right?

35. Cupcakes, Bagels & Donuts : Of course you have to make a stop at Georgetown Cupcake, famous from their TLC show, and they even have gluten free and vegan options. They are located on Mercer street in Soho. Black Seed Bagels make their own bagels on the premises. My favorite Bakery is Le Pain Quotidien, and Maison Kayser with their organic breads. You find them throughout the City, and are great to go with kids to have lunch. And if you suffer from allergies, you HAVE to stop at my favorite vegan and glutenfree bakery Jennifer’s Way Bakery in the East Village. Owned by actress Jennifer Esposito you can get bread and pastries like you have never had before. New York is a great place for those suffering from food allergies anyway.

36. PIZZA! Even though Rubirosa is my favorite pizza place, with kids it is better to go to Lombardi’s, or Arturo’s pizza. You can also take out pizza and take it to a nearby park and eat it.

Shopping:

37. Build a custom made teddybear at Build-a-Bear on 5th Avenue. You can choose the color of the bear, and what he or she will wear.

38. You can shop for kids clothes everywhere, but around Soho there are many small boutique cute clothing stores for kids. If you need warm clothes I like the Patagonia Store on Greene street. Patagonia tries to do good for the environment, their clothes are not expensive and really nice and warm. If you want something really nice & fashionable, Trico Field on West Broadway, and Bit’z Kids on Houston street are places where you find very special items for your young kids.

39. The Evolution Store on Broadway. Kids love these dead animals and skeletons. You have objects from 1 dollar to thousands of dollars!

40. Children’s museum for the Arts on Charlton Street: Let your kids find their art, this is a nice activity for around 2.5 hours.

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Stay:

NYC is expensive, and most Air BNB is not allowed by law. (for instance only Air BNB when the owner is home and you rent a room in the home is allowed)  So this is an area where you usually have to accept that you won’t have too much space in your hotel room. But hey, you are going to be outside all the time anyway! I would suggest to stay away from very busy areas like hotels around Times Square, or hotels in 20-50s streets. Uptown close to Central Park is the best bet, as well as hotels downtown. Here is a link  with some more information and another one with tips. The Soho Grand is a nice hotel in Soho, and I used to stay at the luxury Le Parker Meridien hotel close to Central Park with my family years ago: they even have a swimming pool on the roof and restaurant Norma’s is in the hotel! (as well as a great burger restaurant called Burger Joint) When you are on a budget, try Holiday inn, Courtyard and Four Points by Sheraton in Soho, Financial District and Tribeca. You have to do some research, but remember with kids: the area and safety of the hotel is more important than size of your room.

Getting Around:

You can walk to the curb, raise your hand and get a “Yellow Cab”. When the number is on, it is available. When all lights are on (on left and right of thenumber) the taxi is off-duty. When the light is off, the Taxi is taken. They usually take 4 people at once. If your family is bigger, you can order a Lyft, Uber, Via, Gett or Juno by downloading their apps and ordering a car in the right size. There are other good Limousine services like Carmel and Dial7. Taking your kids in the subway is also a very easy and convenient way to get around. And of course, you should walk as much as possible, it is my favorite thing to do in NYC!

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And finally: Take a lot of pictures. Make lasting memories with your kids. New York City is definitely something they will never forget in their lifetime!.

I hope these suggestions help you when visiting New York City, because there are many things to do for Kids in the Best City in the World! :)

For more current kids activities and more inspiration please go to: Time Out NYC KIDS

Love, Lonneke

Thanks to Navy, Milo & Lux Lamey (my nephews and niece) who came to visit us in NYC  <3

 

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One Response to 40 things to do with kids in New York City

  1. christophe December 26, 2013 at 11:01 am #

    Hello and thank you for your article Lonneke, I hope you had a merry Christmas.
    I don’t have kids, but I will go for my next summer vacation visit NYC and your article will be a great help to me, I just print it. (“you don’t have kids Christophe, but this article is perfect for you because you are a kid in your head, then read this article carefully !! ….. No ……. really !!!!?”).
    I’ll probably set up a program for my stay but I also want to leave room for the unexpected, I hope my stay will be unforgettable.
    Really thank you for your article Lonneke, have a great end of year.

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