Things To Do

New York Family’s 2013 Attractions Guide

Coney Island

NYC families have the benefit of living in one of the most exciting metropolises in the world. Packed with kid-friendly places like zoos, parks, historic landmarks, and national treasures, New York is home to a multitude of attractions that families travel from across the world to come and see. Here are some of our suggestions for amazing sights and experiences that your kids shouldn’t miss!

Broadway/Times Square

Times Square and Broadway’s theater district may seem daunting to navigate with children, but Manhattan’s epicenter is home to the M&M store, Toys“R”Us, and Hard Rock Café. Plus, there’s the New Victory Theater, a full-time performing arts theater for kids. timessquarenyc.org

Brooklyn Botanic Garden

The Brooklyn Botanic Garden houses The Cranford Rose Garden, Shakespeare Garden, Discovery Garden, and Children’s Garden. Kids can grow their own crops and flowers, discover different habitats, and enjoy free family workshops. bbg.org

Bronx Zoo

The Bronx Zoo is a must for youngsters who are animal lovers. The zoo is home to thousands of creatures such as gorillas, polar bears, and lions. Be sure to check out the sea lion pool, the bug carousel, the exquisite butterfly garden, and the Children’s Zoo, where kids can climb up a spider web, hop like a wallaby, and feed a goat. bronxzoo.com

Brooklyn Bridge & Brooklyn Bridge Park

A walk across the Brooklyn Bridge provides breathtaking views of the East River. At the end of the overpass lies Brooklyn Bridge Park, where families can enjoy fishing, boating, biking, and even free outdoor movie screenings. brooklynbridgepark.org

Carousels

Carousels are a familiar feature in parks throughout NYC. Take a spin on Jane’s Carousel in Brooklyn Bridge Park, Le Carrousel in Bryant Park, the Bug Carousel at the Bronx Zoo, the Forest Park and Flushing Meadows Carousels in Queens, and, of course, the beloved Central Park Carousel. nycgovparks.org

Central Park

Central Park features 21 playgrounds, a boathouse with rowboat rentals, a children’s glade where kids can participate in crafts, theater programs, and more. The Central Park Zoo will delight with its small-scale, yet thoroughly enjoyable, menagerie of wild animals. Plus, Victorian Gardens hosts amusement rides and a bevy of entertainers during the warm months. centralparknyc.org; centralparkzoo.com

Chinatown

Chinatown

Manhattan boasts one of the largest Chinatown districts in the nation. Stop by Pearl River Mart for traditional Chinese lanterns and toys, then head to the Chinatown Ice Cream Factory for samples of unique flavors. explorechinatown.com 

City Island

Located off of the Long Island Sound, City Island is the perfect day trip destination for families. Accessible via subway and bus, the island hosts the educational City Island Nautical Museum. cityisland.com

The Cloisters

Within Fort Tryon Park is the Cloisters, a branch of the Metropolitan Museum of Art dedicated to the art and architecture of medieval Europe. The museum and gardens offer tours and family programs throughout the year as well as free family story times and painting classes. metmuseum.org

Coney Island

Coney Island was hit hard last fall by Superstorm Sandy. Though many businesses are still rebuilding, the iconic boardwalk plus new attractions, like the Scream Zone 2, the Boardwalk Flyer, and a go-cart track are open for family fun. coneyislandfunguide.com

Dave & Buster’s

Dave & Buster’s is a great option for families who are looking for indoor fun. With locations throughout the tri-state area, this restaurant/indoor arcade offers up a sports bar menu (think nachos and wings) and hours of play with favorites like Dance Dance Revolution and billiards. daveandbusters.com 

Dylan’s Candy Bar

Dylan Lauren, daughter of iconic designer Ralph Lauren, opened her Willy Wonka-esque candy emporium in 2001. Since then, it has become the world’s largest candy store, carrying more than 5,000 kinds of sweets. dylanscandybar.com

The Empire State Building

Tourists and locals alike should visit this National Historic Landmark at least once. There is nothing quite like viewing the city from the 102nd floor observatory, a mere 1,250 feet above ground! esbnyc.com

Field Station: Dinosaurs

More than 30 life-sized dinosaurs—including a 90-foot Argentinosaurus—come to life at this park just a short trip outside of New York. Explore the park with a flashlight after the sun goes down at Dinosaurs After Dark. fieldstationdinosaurs.com

Flushing Meadows Corona Park

Kayak, fish, play in the spray showers, or hit some balls on the tennis court in this Queens park, home to the Queens Zoo and the World’s Fair Marina. nycgovparks.org/parks/fmcp

Governors Island

Open every weekend during the summer season, Governors Island has become the go-to destination for locals looking for art exhibitions, concerts, and fairs. Families can tour the national monument on foot or see the island by bike. govisland.com

Grand Central Terminal

With the terminal celebrating its 100th birthday this year, there’s never been a better time to visit the legendary station. Check out the station’s fine dining restaurants, designer clothing stores, and its very own market. Visit their website to learn about special centennial activities through November 2013. grandcentralterminal.com

Greenmarkets

Located in all five boroughs, these farmers’ markets are a perfect way to introduce kids to locally grown produce, baked goods, and specialty food items. Start at the Union Square Greenmarket for a taste of what our local growers have to offer. grownyc.org

Hersheypark

Hershey offers a fun-filled family getaway with more than 65 rides and attractions at Hersheypark. Stay over at The Hotel Hershey, Hershey Lodge, or Hershey Highmeadow Campground and enjoy chocolate-themed fun from morning until night! hersheypa.com

Historic Richmond Town

Historic Richmond Town on Staten Island is NYC’s living history village and museum. Visitors can take a walking tour of the grounds, view more than 30 original historic homes, and watch reenactments. historicrichmondtown.org

Hudson River Park

Another great day trip option the Hudson River Park has been brought back to life in the last few months after damage from Superstorm Sandy. The park offers a variety of outdoor activities, including mini golf, sailing, tennis, skateboarding, and acting classes. Plus, kids can play on the park’s beloved Pier 25 playground. hudsonriverpark.org; hudsonriver.com 

Ice Skating Rinks

Winter wouldn’t be complete without skating in the city. Bring your own blades or rent a pair from the rink at Rockefeller Center, and then glide across the ice while admiring the center’s Christmas tree. Central Park’s Trump Rink opens every winter to the delight of city children, offering lessons for skaters of all abilities at its Skating School. therinkatrockcenter.com; wollmanskatingrink.com

Imagination Playground Flagship

This innovative playground park in the South Street Seaport lets kids use foam blocks, fabric, and mats to create their own play place. They’ll exercise their bodies and minds while they build. imaginationplayground.com

Jamaica Bay

This Queens hotspot is teeming with fantastic places for kids. The Jamaica Bay Wildlife Refuge is filled with more than 330 bird species and offers hikes and sunset tours. Alley Pond Park’s Adventure Course will also please outdoor enthusiasts. nyharborparks.org

Legoland Discovery Center Westchester

Travel outside of the city and take your creative kids to a budding builder’s paradise. Learn how the plastic pieces are made in a guided Lego Factory tour, create your own Lego cars at Racers: Build & Test, and watch Lego characters come to life in the 4D cinema. legolanddiscoverycenter.com

Madame Tussauds

The infamous wax museum adds new figures frequently, making this house of wax a great place to revisit (or visit for the first time). Starting July 19, the One Direction Wax World Tour will be stopping in NYC, so don’t miss the chance to meet Louis, Liam, Harry, Zayn, and Niall—or at least their wax replicas. madametussauds.com

New York Aquarium

Newly reopened after severe damage from Superstorm Sandy, Brooklyn’s New York Aquarium makes learning about the sea and its creatures fascinating with its Sea Cliffs, where otters, seals, and penguins play. nyaquarium.com

New York Botanical Garden

Alongside the wondrous plants and flowers of its numerous ongoing exhibitions is the Everett Children’s Adventure Garden, where kids can explore mazes and learn the secrets of plant growth. At its new exhibit, Healing Plants Around the World, kids can enjoy Renaissance music, dance performances, and hands-on science adventures while learning how people in different cultures use plants. nybg.org

The New York Public Library

The NYPL has a multitude of branches across the city; however, the Stephen A. Schwarzman building at 42nd Street houses the Children’s Center. The center’s circulating children’s books collection makes for hours of reading delight. nypl.org

Nintendo World Store

At Nintendo World, families can enjoy two floors of interactive gaming. In addition to trying out the newest systems, kids can meet characters like Mario or Luigi and also take the fun home by shopping for souvenirs and special game guides. nintendoworldstore.com

Pelham Bay Park/Orchard Beach

The largest of New York City’s public parks, the Bronx’s Pelham Bay Park has miles of hiking trails, baseball fields, and basketball courts for athletic youngsters. Beach bums will love Orchard Beach, a sandy paradise located within the park. nycgovparks.org

Piper Theater Productions

Piper Theater Productions will be performing outdoor shows at the Old Stone House and Washington Park in Brooklyn throughout the summer. This season’s shows include “You’re a Good Man Charlie Brown” and “Xanadu.” pipertheatre.org

Prospect Park

Aside from playgrounds, Brooklyn’s Prospect Park includes a zoo, horse stables, nature trails, and tennis courts. Scavenger hunts for kids 8 and up turn exploring the park into an adventure. prospectpark.org

Radio City Music Hall

The largest indoor theater in the world, Radio City Music Hall hosts concerts and shows all year round for your family to enjoy. The hall also offers daily backstage tours. radiocity.com

Ripley’s Believe It Or Not!

The Times Square Odditorium is known for its collection of all things strange and surprising, but only insiders—and now you—know about Ripley’s Impossible LaseRace, where participants must dodge lasers as they navigate a twisty maze. ripleysnewyork.com

Sports Stadiums

Formerly New Meadowlands Stadium, the newly crowned MetLife Stadium has become the joint home of the NFL’s Giants and Jets. During baseball season, catch a game at Yankee Stadium or Citi Field. Madison Square Garden is the place to be for Knicks and Rangers games, while tennis devotees can watch matches at the Billie Jean King National Tenni sCenter in Queens. metlifestadium.comnewyork.yankees.mlb.comnewyork.mets.mlb.comthegarden.comusta.com

Greenmarkets

Snug Harbor

Staten Island’s Snug Harbor Cultural Centerand Botanical Garden is a regional arts center where theater, music, dance, architecture, and more thrive. Be sure a trip to the Harbor includes the Staten Island Children’s Museum. snug-harbor.org

Sony Wonder Technology Lab

Every exhibit at this free entertainment and tech museum is a completely immersive and hands-on experience. Kids will enjoy programming their own robots in the Robot Zone and learning how to make an animated film or video game in the Animation Ramp. sonywondertechlab.com

The South Street Seaport

The eclectic shops, restaurants, and outdoor food market at the new Pier 17 at The South Street Seaport have helped revitalize this historic area that was badly damaged by Superstorm Sandy. Though many of the Seaport’s stores remain closed, Seaport North and the Historic Front Streetshops are open for business. southstreetseaport.com

Staten Island Ferry

Traveling to and from Staten Island can be an adventure in itself when you take the Staten Island Ferry. The free 25-minute ride takes the stress out of the schlep and mesmerizes little ones with views of New York Harbor. siferry.com

The Statue of Liberty

Recently reopened on America’s birthday, the Statue of Liberty offers National Park Rangers-guided tours of this national icon. Those not afraid of a few stairs (154 of them, to be exact) can visit Lady Liberty’s crown to see the original torch display, the Liberty Island Museum, and gorgeous views of the city. nps.gov

Top Of The Rock

The Top of the Rock Observation Deck at Rockefeller Center provides truly breathtaking views of Central Park and the Hudson River. Don’t forget to bring quarters for the coin-operated binoculars and a camera to capture it all. topoftherocknyc.com

The United Nations

Although guided tours of the UN are not permitted for children under the age of 5, kids of all ages will get a kick out of creating stamps from photos of themselves in the Personalized Stamp Shop. visit.un.org

Wave Hill

This picturesque 28-acre public park and cultural center in the Bronx hosts family art projects every Saturday and Sunday morning alongside family yoga classes on Fridays. wavehill.org

To read our piece on NYC attraction apps, click here.

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