We know you’ve been to most of these places, but have you been to their best nooks and crannies? One of the joys of NYC is that there’s always something new to discover, so for each of these hotspots, we’ve highlighted some of the attractions and exhibits that are lesser known but equally loved. Here’s to finding something to tickle your family’s fancy!
AmericanMuseum of Natural History In a place where kids are dying to get their hands on all of the dinosaur displays, the Discovery Room is the perfect part of the museum to satisfy their cravings. The room offers families, particularly their younger members ages 5-12, an interactive gateway that’s hands-on and behind-the-scenes. Kids can explore artifacts, specimens, puzzles, and challenges.
Big Apple Circus
For visually impaired youngsters, the circus’ special Circus of the Sensesperformance provides a unique opportunity for them and their parents to go into the ring after the show to meet artists and feel a clown’s nose, a juggler’s clubs, or the silky coat of one of the furrier performers. A pre-approved form must be filled out to experience this opportunity.
For those who’ve grown tired of the Rockefeller Center rink or the Empire State Building’s red and green lights around the holidays, venture up to the Bronx Zoo for its Holiday Lights Festival exhibit. Be dazzled by the more than 140 lighted animal sculptures—many of which are animated—as well as special nighttime sea lion feedings, camels, and, of course, reindeer. (What would the holiday season be without them?)
BrooklynBridge After walking across the bridge from Manhattan on a breezy summer day, everyone deserves a sweet reward. Dewey’s Candy on Front Street is the perfect family destination; it has all of the candy you grew up with as a kid (don’t say we didn’t warn you about getting nostalgic), and current favorites like gummy candy, sour candy, chocolate, and international treats.
We promise we’re not making this up; there’s actually a place within the noisy city that offers families a retreat of nature—North Woods, one of the most secluded parts of Central Park. Gone are the sirens, the honking, and the buildings. The only noises you’ll hear are those of your family and perhaps the calming sounds of the nearby stream. This quiet corner is home to lots of wildlife, so it’s a great area for spotting critters and birds.
Children’s Museum of Manhattan What’s a better summer activity than cooling off, playing, and learning at the same time? All three are applicable to City Splash in the Sussman Environmental Center, an outdoor attraction at the museum from April through October. CMOM educators run programs that explore the power of water to change ecosystems and landscapes, and your child can learn about the wonders of evaporation through painting with water on a slate. There’s guaranteed fun for all ages!
Totonno’s pizzeria has been on Coney Island since 1924, and if its historical charm isn’t enough, the old-fashioned crust, the fresh cheese, and the splash of sauce may lure you onto the line, which usually is out the door on Neptune Avenue.
EmpireStateBuilding Every Thursday, Friday, and Saturday night on the 86th Floor Observatory (weather permitting, of course), the Empire State Building has a live jazz saxophonist, strolling the deck for added ambiance above the magnificent 360-degree views. This is your shot to instill some classic jazz into your child’s life, all the while enjoying it yourself.
Take a break from dancing on the BIG piano and go upstairs to the Barefoot Books nook to browse through books, CDs, puppets, and puzzles, all of which make children and adults alike happy campers. Hop onto the storyteller’s throne for a royal reading experience.
Grand Central Located on the dining concourse near the Oyster Bar & Restaurant, the acoustics of the Whispering Gallery’s low ceramic arches provide minutes, maybe hours, of fun conversation your family can exchange. Stand at opposite corners of the archway and whisper something to your kids—it’ll sound like you’re standing right next to them!
The MetropolitanMuseum of Art
For all the wanderlustful families in the city, the Met’s Art Trek program is screaming your name. Children ages 5-12 and their parents can take a voyage around the globe within the museum’s walls. On your journey, expect nothing short of a special performance and other fun surprises.
The Museum of Modern Art
It’s time to stop talking about art and start making it! Art Labs, MoMA’s interactive studios, allow kids and their parents to experiment and create as they make connections between their own explorations and the ideas and tools used in the work they just explored throughout the museum. Previous workshop themes include line, shape, and color labs.
New York Historical Society At the Games We Playedexhibit, find pastimeslike Game of Snap and Game of the District Messenger Boy, which entertained families from the 1840s to the 1920s. This is a perfect way for your family to compare what was considered fun then and now. Maybe the kids can ask their grandparents if they remember any of these games from when they were younger!
The summer always welcomes the city’s oldest pow wow, the Annual Thunderbird American Indian Pow Wow, featuring three days of Native American dance competitions, arts, crafts, jewelry, and food—all in a representation of more than 40 nations. The event is held in the farm’s apple orchard.
RockefellerCenter Kids will get heated about all of the fire safety tips they’ll learn at the ongoing FDNY Fire Zone exhibit. Plus, they’ll have the chance to climb on a real fire truck, try on bunker gear, meet a firefighter, feel a “hot” door, and learn to crawl through a smoke-filled hallway.
Located just slightly south of the heart of Times Square, the original Midtown Comics store is lined with comics and decorated with displays of everyone’s favorites, including The Hulk and Spiderman. With the comeback of superheroes in pop culture (Iron Man 3, The Avengers), why not introduce your kids to how it all began?
TransitMuseum It’s never too early to start teaching your kids the rules of the open road, or at least the city blocks of Manhattan. At the museum, kids get the chance to climb into the driver’s seat, pretend to be a city bus driver, and see what it’s like to be in control.
New YorkBotanical Garden
TheThain Family Forest is another opportunity to escape the pavement and walk through 50 acres of native forest—the largest amount anywhere in the city. The walkways aren’t paved, but there are paths on which your children can run aimlessly. If there were ever a place for a controlled hike, this would be it.
RadioCityMusic Hall Take a Stage Door Tour and explore the iconic theater, lounges, and corridors at one of the most famous entertainment venues in the world. Plus, little dancers can have a chance to meet a real Radio City Rockette!
Inside the New York Yankees Museum is the iconic insider gem known as the Ball Wall, featuring baseballs signed by some of the franchise’s most iconic legends. There’s even a computer to look up exactly where on the wall your favorite Bronx Bomber has written his John Hancock.