This post narrows down the big list of kid-friendly activities in NYC to include. Some of these are probably on your list, and with good reason. These museums and attractions are popular with the kids and grown-ups alike. Some of these attractions can take a bite out of your budget so we have included information on how to find deals and discounts on these attractions. If you are getting one of the tourist passes such as City Pass, New York Pass and Explorer Pass, keep in mind that some of these attractions are included. If you aren’t sure about getting a pass, see our post, Which New York City tourist pass is right for you.
New York City itself is a playground for kids and grown-ups. Most kids are delighted by the energy, scenery, and sounds of the city, so we encourage you to think of most activities as kid-friendly: boat rides, street festivals, historic sites, food tours and more. You can find information about these other activities by clicking on the appropriate links below.
There is a reason this museum shows up over and over and over again as THE top kid-friendly activity in New York City. It’s colorful, tactile, visually engaging and mind-stimulating. The AMNH is perhaps best known for its dinosaur collection, but there is so much more than just bones in this building with 45 exhibit halls. Among the favorites are the glistening Hall of Gems, the Hall of Human Origins and the Hall of Small Mammals, with dioramas of taxidermied animals so life-like you might keep your distance. Then there is also the Rose Center for Earth and Space that explores the 13-billion-year history of the universe, with exhibits that showcase the galaxies, stars, and planets. At the Hayden Planetarium, you can see 2D and 3D films on exciting subjects and a Space Show called Dark Universe.
Address Central Park West at 79th Street
Hours Open daily from 10 am-5:45 pm except on Thanksgiving and Christmas
Tickets and Admission policy
The AMNH has a pay-what-you-wish admission policy. This means that you can visit the museum for free if you choose to. However, the pay-what-you-wish option is available only at ticket counters. If you prefer to purchase tickets online, you are required to pay the full price.
2300 Southern Boulevard, Bronx.
This is the largest city zoo in America and home to some 4000 animals. Among many highlights are Tiger Mountain and the Congo Gorilla Forest where glass walls put you close-up to these captivating animals. The Madagascar exhibit with acrobatic lemurs must be seen. At the Children’s Zoo little ones can climb into a birds nest and feed tame animals. If you can’t devote a whole day to the zoo, you can save time by riding their tram or monorail. Special times to arrive are feeding times for lions at 11am and 3pm and for penguins at 3:30pm. A daily calendar lists other special events.
Hours: Seasonal: March 23 to November 3: Mon-Fri 10am-5pm. Weekends & Holidays 10am-5:30pm. November 4 to April 4: Daily 10am-4:30pm
Admission: General Admission (not including special exhibits): Adult $19.95; Child (3-12) $12.95; Senior (65+) $17.95; Children 2 years and under free. For information and prices on the “Total Experience Tickets” that gives you unlimited access to a host of premium exhibits and activities, look at our post on the prices and also ways you can save money when visiting the zoo.
TIP: Combine your day with a visit to Arthur Avenue, the ‘Little Italy’ of the Bronx, using our Arthur Avenue self-guided tour with recommendations of the best stores to get amazing Italian snacks
TIP: If the idea of traveling to the Bronx and visiting a massive zoo is a bit too much for your schedule, younger children will appreciate the considerably smaller but still colorful Central Park Zoo and its interactive Tisch Children’s Zoo where toddlers can interact with and learn about animals in a safe and fun environment. The cost is somewhat lower than the Bronx Zoo with tickets at Adults $12.00; Senior Citizens (65+) $9.00; Children 3-12 $7.00; Children under 3, Free.
Teens, who can be hard to please, usually love this museum. Why? Because they can take endless photos for their Facebook pages with the lifelike wax figures of everyone from Jimmy Fallon to Barack Obama. The themed sections feature super heroes like The Hulk and Spider Man, the Marvel Comics Super Heroes 4D film has awesome special effects, and adults will enjoy standing next to such notables as sports stars Derek Jeter, politicians from Abraham Lincoln to Bill Clinton, and celebrities like John Hamm, Marilyn Monroe and George Clooney. Your little ones will be thrilled to see Sponge Bob and E.T.
Hours: Open 365 days a year. Mon-Thurs; Sunday 10 am- 8pm; Friday and Saturday 10am – 10pm.
Admission: All Access Pass (includes the Attraction and the Marvel Super Heroes 4D Experience). Adult $37.00 ($29.70 if purchased online), Child (4-12) $30.00 ($24.00 if purchased online), child under 4 free.
TIP: As a group, visiting Madame Tussauds can cost a lot, so visit our deals and discounts post for money-saving ideas.
The New York Aquarium 602 Surf Avenue and West 8th Street near Coney Island.
With 266 species of water wildlife, the many exhibits include outdoor touch pools and sea lion entertainment shows. It’s relatively inexpensive to visit and it’s right on the boardwalk of Coney Island which offers more attractions for all day fun. See our post on things to do in Coney Island and the variety of amusement rides and places to eat.
Hours: Now until May 27, 2016 Daily 10:00am- 4:30pm. Check the Aquarium’s website for hours after May 27th.
Admission: All ages $11.95 ($10.75 when purchased online). Children 2 and under free.
Ripley’s Believe It Or Not! Times Square 234 West 42nd Street between 7th and 8th Avenue.
This attraction is a maze of 20 dim-lit rooms bursting with weird, wacky and unusual objects like the world’s largest collection of shrunken heads, a lock of Elvis’ hair, a section of the Berlin Wall and a two-headed calf, There is a room housing an authentic 16th-century ‘iron maiden’ torture device, a barnyard of two-headed taxidermy, the dizzying Black Hole and the challenging LaserRace – a maze of lasers you need to navigate without breaking a beam. There is something in here for everyone – though some younger children may find the iron-spiked torture devices or the Black Hole a little scary. But those features can easily be bypassed.
Hours: Every day of the year. Open 9am-1am (yes, something to do after midnight!). Except in Winter (January 3rd 2016 to March 16th 2016) when it closes at 11pm on Mon, Tues and Wed.
Admission: Adult $29.95 (plus tax), Child (4-12) $ 22.95 (plus tax)
TIP: Like other attractions for kids, Ripley’s is expensive but are included in many tourist passes and also you can find deals and discounts to save on the cost.
New York Transit Museum corner of Boerum Place and Schermerhorn Street in Brooklyn Heights.
This is the country’s largest museum devoted to urban transportation and like the subway itself, the museum is literally underground, so you enter it as if you were walking down into a subway station. The main attraction for visitors of all ages are the 19 restored subway cars that show the style and technology of subway cars as they progressed over the decades.
For example, the “City-Car” models that ran in the decade before World War II, have rattan seats, paddle fans, and incandescent light bulbs! For the grown-ups interested in old documents, the museum has historical photographs, period maps and old newspaper articles. And the kids will surely enjoy stepping into one of the old buses in the museum and take control in the driver’s seat. Luckily, the buses are non-functioning! On weekends, the museum regularly hosts kid-friendly events, which are free with admission.
Hours: Tues-Fri 10am-4pm, Sat and Sun 11am-5pm.
Admission: $7 adults, $5 for children ages 2-17, free for kids under 2.
TIP: Before or after your visit to the museum, join us on our Brooklyn Heights tour or use our self-guided tour map to stroll casually around the historic charming neighborhood.
New York Hall of Science 47-01 111th St, Queens.
This museum is located in Queens, but is well worth the visit. Their website has directions and it’s an easy ride on the 7 train which is itself a fun ride as it passes through many ethnic neighborhoods and the subway passengers are perhaps the most diverse than any other subway line. The Hall of Science has 450 permanent exhibits, most of which are interactive and hands-on. Science, space, sound, light, physics, astronomy, technology, and math are some of the topics the museum explores and also has films and workshops. The Hall of Science is a great place for your entire family to learn and play. Favorite exhibits are the “Build-It” hall downstairs and the Hall of Mirrors. There is also an outdoor Science Playground for the youngest visitors, and a miniature golf course.
Hours: April 1 to August 31: Mon-Fri 9:30am-5pm; Sat & Sun 10am-6pm. September 1 to March 31: Tues-Fri 9:30am-5pm. Sat & Sun 10am-6pm.
Admission: Senior Citizens (age 62 & older): $12. Admission is free on Fridays from 2 to 5pm and Suns from 10 to 11am.
FOR YOUNG CHILDREN
Brooklyn Children’s Museum 145 Brooklyn Avenue between St. Marks Avenue and Prospect Place, Brooklyn.
In 1899, this museum opened as the very first museum created expressly for children and serves even to this day as an innovator of children’s museums. One feature of this museum is how it exposes children to a diversity of cultures including many found in New York City. New World Brooklyn, a world of kid-sized shops, includes stores where can build a build a lantern for Chinese New Years, make pretend dough at a Mexican Bakery, and or do some drumming in a West African emporium. The collections range from an huge permanent collection of nearly 30,000 objects, from minerals and fossils to a complete skeleton of an Asian elephant to musical instruments, masks and dolls. In Neighborhood Nature kids can get a fish-eye view by crawling in a tunnel inside the pond aquarium, and dig, play and harvest pretend plants in the garden. The only drawback to visit this museum is the long subway ride and followed by a six block walk to get there. We This really is a worth the trek visit.
Hours: Tues to Sun 10am – 5pm, closed Mondays. Free hours on Thursdays 2pm to 6pm.
Admission: $11 per person. Infants under one year old are free.
Children’s Museum of Manhattan 212 West 83rd Street between Amsterdam Avenue and Broadway.
The Museum is geared toward toddlers with exhibits like Playworks for the youngest visitors and Adventures with Dora and Diego for ages 2 to 6. City Splash water play is a favorite in warm weather and offers the chance to sail a boat, paint with water, and play with sand. The museum provides waterproof smocks but you should probably bring a change of clothes. They also don’t sell food but you can exit and reenter the museum once you have purchased your admission.
Hours: Tues to Fri: 10am-5pm. Sat: 10am-7pm. Sun: 10am-5pm.
Admissions: Children and Adults $12, Children under 12 months Free, Seniors (65+) $8.
These are just a few of the many, many activities to do with your kids of all ages. Some other things to do:
And if these aren’t enough here’s a list of 100 free things to do in New York City with plenty of activities that kids will love and so will your budget.
Written by Courtney Shapiro