When you are visiting New York City with kids, these are some of our favorite things to see, eat, and do! There is something here for everyone in the Big Apple from tourist highlights for first-timers to fun and offbeat gems that are kid-friendly favorites.

A collage of images of a family in New York City spots with text overlay.


Timeless Classics

Visit the Statue of Liberty

Is there anything more iconic to New York City than the Statue of Liberty? Whether you decide to just sail past the Statue of Liberty Island on the free Staten Island ferry or actually land and explore the pedestal, crown, and museum, this is one landmark that you shouldn't miss.

An image of the Statue of Liberty on its pedastal.

If you want to be able to climb the stairs to the crown you need to make a reservation (and pay an extra fee) months in advance because the limited number of spots sell out quickly. I have personally never done it, but Paul has and his perspective is that while it is fun to say he did it, he doesn't think it's actually worth the hassle.

Instead, I recommend spending your time in the museum on the island which has so many interesting exhibits about the Statue of Liberty and its creation and history. There is an actual torch that used to be on the statue which was replaced decades ago, life-size replicas of various parts of the statue like a foot, ear, and face.

And our kids enjoyed getting their Junior Ranger badge as part of the National Parks' Jr. Ranger program. On a cold and blustery day like the day we visited, this is a great way to experience the island without being out in the cold quite as much.

There is also a gift shop and cafe on the island. However, if you plan to head over to Ellis Island after the Statue of Liberty, I recommend waiting to eat until you get there because the two cafe's serve the exact same menu and there are way fewer people on Ellis Island and much more seating in a more interesting and beautiful environment.

Kids looking out the window at the Statue of Liberty.

Bonus: Visit Ellis Island

If you already paid for the ferry to the Statue of Liberty, it includes at stop at Ellis Island without any extra cost. Hop off and explore this fascinating look into our country's history. Most Americans have at least one ancestor whose immigrant past can be traced through Ellis Island at some point.

A dad and two daughters on Ellis Island.

Walk Across the Brooklyn Bridge

I am always shocked when I talk to people who have been to New York multiple times (or even lived there!) and still haven't taken a stroll across the Brooklyn Bridge! It's honestly my favorite spot in all of New York.

The short, easy walk gives beautiful views of both Brooklyn and Manhattan and the architecture of the bridge is just stunning.

It gets crowded mid-day, especially on the weekends, so my favorite way to see this spot and truly enjoy it is to get up early and do it in the morning before the crowds arrive.

An image of the Brooklyn Bridge cables and tower.

Pro Tip: Stop by Grimaldi's in Brooklyn afterwards for some of the best New York Pizza you will find. There are also a couple of great ice cream places like Van Leeuwens and Brooklyn Ice Cream Factory if you just want to grab a scoop of ice cream before heading back over to Manhattan.

A family eating pizza at Grimaldi's in Brooklyn.

Take the Elevator up to the Top of the Empire State Building

A trip up to the top of the Empire State Building is a must for first-timers to the city, in my opinion. It's been featured in hundreds of movies. "Sleepless in Seattle" will forever be my personal favorite even though my family all think "Home Alone 2: Lost in New York" is the better feature.

Take in the panoramic views of this bustling metropolis from every direction and try to spot some of the most famous New York landmarks like the Chrysler building and the Statue of Liberty. You can also look across the Hudson River to see New Jersey on the other side.

A mom and her daughter in the Empire State Building.

Get Tickets to a Broadway Musical

We have been lucky to see a number of Broadway shows during our travels and they never disappoint. The performers are so incredibly talented and it's always hard to choose what to see! On our most recent trip we were able to see Six, Hamilton, and Wicked with our girls and they loved all three (although Six was the hands-down, undisputed favorite for all four of us).

Whether you only see one show or try to go to multiple shows like we did, this is a highlight that shouldn't be missed! You can buy your tickets in advance, or try to snag discount last minute tickets on the day of the performance.

Go for a Bike Ride in Central Park

The best way to really get a feel for Central Park is by bicycle. It covers so much area that simply going for a stroll will only allow you to see a tiny fraction of what the park has to offer. You can rent bikes and ride around the park on your own, or if it is your first time you might want to consider a guided bike tour of Central Park which will make sure you hit the highlights.

I love the area around Bethesda Fountain best. It's another iconic location from many movies and is often filled with musicians playing instruments. It is also right by the lake where you can watch people in rowboats (or rent one yourself!), so it's a great spot to sit and just enjoy people watching.

A man playing the accordion at Bethesda Fountain in Central Park.
A bridge near Bethesda Fountains in Central Park.

Some other Central Park highlights that you might want to add to your list are the Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis Reservoir and Strawberry Fields, which is an area of Central Park that was dedicated to John Lennon where you can always find musicians playing Beatles favorites in tribute to him.

There is also the Central Park Zoo, the Swedish Cottage Marionette Theatre for puppet shows, and Belvedere Castle to check out if you have more time in the park or are looking for something a little different.

BONUS: There is seemingly always something going on in Central Park, whether it is a summer concert, winter ice skating, a Shakespeare performance, or in our case, a solar eclipse! We didn't plan it this way but just happened to be in NYC during the 2024 solar eclipse that passed right over New York. NYC wasn't in the zone of totality but we still had about 95% totality and it was thrilling to be in Central Park with thousands of New Yorkers when it happened.

People wearing eclipse glasses watching the solar eclipse in New York Central Park in April 2024.

9/11 Memorial & Museum

Everyone remembers where they were when they heard about the attack on the Twin Towers on 9/11 in 2001. The memorial that has been created to remember and honor those who lost their lives on that terrible day is a beautiful and moving tribute that feels like an oasis of peace in the bustling city. The sound of the perpetually flowing water drowns out most of the other urban noises and is incredibly peaceful.

The museum itself is a somber reminder of the events of that day, with many touching tributes. Bring tissues. I had a knot in my throat the entire time, but it is well worth giving yourself plenty of time to not rush through the exhibits.

A dad and two daughters in the 9/11 memorial museum looking at an image of the New York City skyline on the morning of 9/11.

Times Square

I'm including this in my list because yes, of course it is an iconic spot in NYC, but can I admit that I don't love it here? It's too noisy and crazy with too many flashing lights and gross smells. Personally I try to avoid it except for when we have to walk through after seeing a show on Broadway.

Lots of people love the hustle and bustle though so it just might be your favorite spot to hang out and there certainly is plenty of people watching to be had here!

New York Public Library

This is one of the biggest libraries in the country and is a great place to explore if you are a book lover. There are also some incredible art exhibits and you can do an audio tour and visit the library gift shop for a souvenir. Don't forget to snap a pic with the famous New York City Library lions, Patience and Fortitude, out front.

Two girls in front of one of the New York City Public Library lion statutes.

What to Eat in NYC

Everybody has their favorite New York hotspots to grab a bite to eat. I already mentioned above that Grimaldi's is our favorite place for New York pizza but these are some of our other top picks and can't miss eats when you are visiting the city that never sleeps.

Bagels

There are plenty of bagel places to choose from and you will find some of the best bagels on earth in New York. Two of our top picks though are Ess-a-Bagel and Liberty Bagels. Liberty Bagels is famous for their rainbow bagels with birthday cake cream cheese, and it's worth the hype if you like funfetti flavors.

Katz's Delicatessen

This place is an institution and their pastrami on rye is absolutely phenomenal. Probably my favorite thing I ate during our most recent trip to NYC. You go to a carving station and the carver will slice off some pastrami for you to sample while he is making your sandwich. If you aren't feeling like pastrami, there are plenty of other excellent sandwich options to choose from as well. It's worth going out of your way to visit this spot.

A cutter slicing pastrami at Katz's Delicatessen.

Grab a Bite at the Stardust Diner

I'll admit we didn't go here for the food (which was just mediocre diner fare), but the talent of the singing servers who are constantly performing Broadway favorites is just unreal. We had an absolute blast listening to these talented Broadway hopefuls while enjoying club sandwiches, burgers, fries, and milkshakes. It's a must-try at least once, but be warned that the line to get a seat can get very long and wraps around the street on particularly busy days or times and they don't take reservations.

Eataly

This chain has locations in many major cities, but the one overlooking the 9/11 Memorial is a great spot to sit for a while and enjoy some of the best pasta of your life. Paul said this was his favorite spot we ate during our most recent trip.

There are so, so many places to add to your NYC food bucket list that I'm not going to list them all, but I have made copycat versions of many of my personal favorites so we can enjoy them any time we want back home. And honestly, the homemade versions are even better in many cases.

Kid-Friendly Favorites

While these might not be for everybody, our girls (ages 10 & 12) loved them.

Sloomoo Institute

This museum dedicated to slime was my girls' favorite and they would have spent hours here if I hadn't had other things planned for our day. There is plenty of sensory play where you can touch tubfuls of slime in different textures, consistencies, and made with different colors and scents.

You get to use a giant slime sling to launch slime balls, stick slime onto a giant slime wall, make your own slime to take home, and even get slimed yourself (they provide protective ponchos so you don't actually have to worry about getting soaked).

Three people getting slimed at the Sloomoo Institute.

Color Factory

This fun spot is super engaging for all of your senses and a fun place to explore and imagine. The girls loved the hall of scents where you could sniff fragrances associated with particular colors. There is a silent disco for anyone who wants to cut a rug, and the biggest ball pit we have ever seen where kids can play for as long as they want.

Another similar venue would be the Museum of Ice Cream. We only had time for a couple of these interactive museums and choose the Color Factory instead but I have heard great things about the Museum of Ice Cream as well.

Our kids always love carousels and this was one of the most unique ones we have ever seen. Its beautiful and each of the seats lights up in soothing pastel colors as they spin around to the sound of tinkling music. It feels like being in a jewelry box rather than a typical carousel. If you are already heading to Battery Park to ride the ferry to the Statue of Liberty, I highly recommend stopping here for a whirl.

A girl on the sea glass carousel at Battery Park.

Play on the Life-Size Piano at FAO Schwarz at Rockefeller Center

This iconic piano is played by stepping on it in your stocking feet. You might have to wait your turn, but it's fun for both kids and adults.

American Museum of Natural History

If your kids are fans of the movie "Night at the Museum", then this museum is probably a "must-see" on your NYC to-do list. Whether you are interested in animals or insects or dinosaurs, there is something here to grab your attention. For us, it was the gems & minerals section of the museum where my girls could have gazed for hours at the different sparkling crystals.

Two girls in front of a dinosaur skeleton in the Museum of Natural History in New York City.

Tea at the Plaza Hotel

This experience is definitely a pricey splurge that won't be for everybody, but I had an afternoon with just the girls while Paul was working and it was the perfect mommy-daughter date. The girls enjoyed the Eloise tea, which is inspired by the children's book series set in NYC about a wealthy little girl named Eloise who lives at the Plaza Hotel.

Would I do it again? Probably not. But the girls are still talking about how much fun it was and how much they enjoyed it. So I would say it was worth it if you have kids who want to feel fancy and grown up for an afternoon. Also, there are numerous other locations around NYC for high tea, if that's something you are into. I'm there for the scones and tea sandwiches but as for actual tea itself, I'll pass thank you very much.

More Places to Add to Your List

These are all spots we have visited before that are worth considering, even if they don't make our personal highlight section.

  • Grand Central Station
  • Top of the Rock
  • Washington Square Park
  • Metropolitan Museum of Art ("The Met")
  • Trinity Church
  • Walk the Highline & visit the Chelsea Market shops and "little island" (pictured below)
Two kids on the "little island" near the Highline in NYC.

Your turn! Do you have any other New York recommendations that I didn't include in my list? I would love to hear in the comments below to add to my itinerary for our next NYC trip!

Share This With the World

PinYummly

Related Recipes

About the author

Hi, I'm Amy

I enjoy exploring the world through food, culture, and travel and sharing the adventure with mostly from-scratch, family friendly recipes that I think of as modern comfort cooking.

Leave a comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

Reader questions and reviews

  1. Barbara says:

    I don't remember the Empire State Building featuring in 'While you were sleeping'. Did you mean 'Sleepless in Seattle'? 😊 (In any case: two of my favourite movies!)

    1. Amy says:

      Oh heavens, clearly I'm the one not getting enough sleep! Lol. Of course you are right! And yes, both are excellent movies!