• Jude-Anne Phillip

Best children’s attractions in New York City

Updated: Jun 10, 2019

My family and I just returned from an amazing 10-day vacation to New York. NYC isn’t exactly new territory for us since my husband is from there and my first son was born there, but it was the first time that my 5-year-old had been back since his birth. In addition, this was the first time that all four of us, including my 10-month-old, had taken a real deal vacation (more on that experience in another post).

Needless to say my husband and I wanted to make it special, particularly for our first son who is at an age where he is more cognizant of these experiences.

NYC is one of those places that you either love or hate. The crowds, the buildings, the subway system, it isn’t for everybody. However, one thing is for certain there is certainly a lot to do and see in the Big Apple, particularly if you are travelling with children.

Here are some of my top picks for the best children’s attractions in NYC from our vacation.

Prospect Park Zoo

Located in Brooklyn, within Prospect Park, the Prospect Park Zoo provides excitement from the moment you enter. From the free roaming peacocks that surprise you at every corner, to feeding the animals in the barn and witnessing the sea lion training sessions, your children will be engaged and amazed during the entire visit.

The zoo also offers various activities and events throughout the year so be sure to check out the Prospect Park Zoo website to see what’s on during your visit.

Prospect Park

After your visit to the zoo, if you aren’t too tired, be sure to explore the surrounding Prospect Park. If you are into nature, this is definitely the place to be. The park is made up of 585 acres of scenic trails, streams, meadows and waterways, inclusive of 250 acres of woodlands which are the largest tract of forest remaining in Brooklyn (Alliance Backgrounder). From bird watching, fishing, nature programs and the scenic lakeside project you will certainly get lost in your environment.

Throughout the year various programs, activities and events are also organised by the Prospect Park Alliance with one of the more popular ones being Smorgasburg Prospect Park. Smorgasburg (@smorgasburg) is an outdoor food market with approximately 100 vendors offering a variety of cuisines. The festival takes place at Prospect Park every Sunday from 11am to 6pm from April to October.

To find out more about this event and other events and activities at the park check out the Prospect Park Alliance website.

When you are ready to tire your kids out so that you could get a good night’s rest, visit the carousel, the children’s corner or one of the eight playgrounds that are scattered throughout the park.

American Museum of Natural History

If you have children who wish dinosaurs still roamed the earth like my son, or who are just fascinated by the history of the world, the American Museum of Natural History (AMNH) will definitely leave them with their jaws hanging open.

The AMNH is one of the world’s most renowned scientific and cultural institutions and the exhibits will provide children and adults alike with a renewed sense of wonder.

The museum is home to four floors of exhibits that showcase the mysterious and amazing people, cultures, animals and other beings that make up the story of the world.

Visit the AMNH website to see what exhibits and programs are on during your trip.

Central Park/NYC Parks

After your visit to the museum, some outdoor time may be in order. Conveniently Central Park is right across the street from the AMNH.

Comprising 750 acres of land with 21 playgrounds and a variety of activities, your kids will have more than enough space to release all of that pent up energy. Be sure to pack swimwear or a change of clothes because during the summer most of the playgrounds incorporate some sort of water feature for the kids to cool off.

In general, there are over 1700 parks, playgrounds, and recreation facilities that fall under the jurisdiction of the New York City Department of Parks and Recreation so no matter where you are in the city your kids can go nuts.

As a bonus for parents, most of the NYC Parks offer free WIFI so that you can be entertained, while keeping an eye on your little ones.

Find out more from the Central Park Conservancy and the NYC Parks websites.

Luna Park/Coney Island

I don’t think Coney Island really needs much of an explanation as to why it made my list. The beach and board walk, food, roller coasters, go-karts, water rides and lots and lots of games and events all make for a perfect family day out.

Luna Park also now offers Ride All Day Wristbands with no time limit and for one great price, making it easier and more affordable to have fun.

Visit the Luna Park website to learn more.

New York Aquarium

Before you start your day at Luna Park, be sure to visit the New York Aquarium which is literally right next door.

Currently, some parts of the aquarium are closed due to renovations, but the exhibits that are open still allow for a fun and educational visit.

While there you can get up close and personal with otters, penguins, manta rays and sharks and your kids would even be able to find Nemo and Dory.

There are several activities during the day including penguin and sea otter feedings and an extremely entertaining Sea Lion Show.

Visit the New York Aquarium website for more information.

M&M Store

Three floors of candy and M&M products, a two-story color wall packed with M&M’s and M&M’s with customized messages.

Need I say more.

Click here for opening hours and directions.

Lego Store

Awaken your child’s creative side with a visit to the Lego Store. There are two locations in the city, one at Rockefeller Center and one in the Flatiron District, and yes we did go to both.

Apart from the wide selection of Lego sets that are available for purchase, the stores are very interactive and allow kids, and adults, to sit and create.

The Lego displays created by Master Builders are also quite amazing to see and make for some awesome pictures.

This list is by no means exhaustive as NYC has so many activities, events and attractions and would require multiple visits to still not see everything. Let me know if you agree with my selections and share some of your favorite child-friendly attractions in the Big Apple that I may have missed.

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