Things To Do With Kids in NYC

40 free things to see and do to keep the kids happy and entertained…

Photograph by Emanuele Bresciani

Whether you’re a resident of the Big Apple or just visiting for a few days, it can be tricky to wrap your head around the sheer volume of fun things for kids to do in NYC. We’ve made it easy: we’ve gathered and compiled an awesome and free list of things to do in New York City with kids.

From free museums, to outdoor activities that will exhaust their energy batteries, to eateries the whole family will love, here are 40 things to do with the kids in NYC. For the full list with 71 extra ideas visit our online magazine.

Free entertainment and sightseeing:

Photo by Anthony Quintano

There are tons of free and affordable events and programming happening across the city all year round and plenty of opportunities to get that Big Apple feel without spending any money.

Staten Island Ferry

The half hour journey from Lower Manhattan to Staten Island gives you incredible views of the New York skyline as well as the Brooklyn Bridge, the Statue of Liberty and Ellis Island, Governor’s Island as well as New Jersey and Staten Island. You basically get a harbor cruise for free!

  • OPEN: The Ferry ferry runs every day- every 15 minutes during rush hours, every 30 minutes the rest of the time.
  • ADMISSION PRICES: Free
  • ACCESSIBILITY: Fully wheelchair accessible

Coney Island Flicks on the Beach

Bringing a mix of classic and indie movies to an inflatable 40-foot screen on the beach, the Coney Island Flicks on the Beach is the perfect way to spend a Monday night. The schedule for 2016 season of this popular event should be posted soon.

  • OPEN: Mondays at 8:00 p.m. during July and August
  • ADMISSION PRICES: Free
  • ACCESSIBILITY: Fully wheelchair accessible

Summerstage Performing Arts Festival

You’ll be pleasantly surprised by the variety of entertainment presented at SummerStage. The diversity present, showcasing everything from Opera to Hip-Hop, circus and avant-garde, embraces the multicultural communities that call NYC their home. The festival is a perfect way to introduce the kids to a variety of performing art forms.

  • OPEN: Check here for programming information.
  • ADMISSION PRICES: Free
  • ACCESSIBILITY: Fully wheelchair accessible

HBO Bryant Park Summer Film Festival

What better draw to come out for an evening at Bryant Park than free popcorn, classic movies and costumes? Join HBO for their outdoor summer film festival, but be sure to arrive before the lawn opens for optimal seating. Bring drinks and snacks to last you well into the evening when the movie starts. Make sure to check out all the activities Bryant park offers that the whole family will enjoy. See their event calendar here.

  • OPEN: Lawn opens at 5:00 p.m. for blankets and picnics. Films begin at sunset, usually around 8:00 p.m. and 9:00 p.m.
  • ADMISSION PRICES: Free
  • ACCESSIBILITY: Fully wheelchair accessible

Free museums:

Brooklyn Children’s Museum (Photo by Rubenstein)

Many of NYC’s foremost cultural and artistic institutions offer free visits for kids, and oftentimes even adults. Some museums host sponsored nights that open its doors to the public for viewings. This is a great way to get the most out of the city on a budget.

El Museo

As the leading Latino cultural institution in NYC, El Museo features art and graphics, archaeological and historical objects from Puerto Rico, the Caribbean and Latin American cultures. Bring drawing materials and let the muse of Latino culture help your kids celebrate this unique artistic landscape of Pan-American history.

  • OPEN: Tuesday — Saturday 11:00 a.m. — 6:00 p.m.
  • ADMISSION PRICES: Children 12 and under Free, Adults $9
  • ACCESSIBILITY: Fully wheelchair accessible

Museum of Modern Art

The MOMA holds some of the finest collections of modern and contemporary art and a visit to the museum is a must for any NYC trip. Activity Cards, passports, sketchbooks and kid-friendly audio are available at the MOMA, helping parents make their family visit one that is interactive and inspiring. The museum inspires children to use their imagination, notice details and is helping educate new generations of art lovers.

  • OPEN: Sunday-Thursday 11:00 a.m. — 6:00 p.m., Friday 10:30 a.m.– 8:00 p.m., Saturday 11:00 a.m. — 6:00 p.m.
  • ADMISSION PRICES: Children 16 and under Free, Adults $25. Admission is free for all visitors during UNIQLO Free Friday Nights, every Friday evening from 4:00 to 8:00 p.m. but keep in mind it’s usually very busy during these hours- try to arrive after 6:00 p.m.
  • ACCESSIBILITY: Fully wheelchair accessible

American Folk Art Museum

Celebrating the creative expression of self-taught artists, a visit to the American Folk Art Museum shows kids how a little dose of creativity can go a long way. Grab a free guide from the welcome desk and some pencils and prepare questions to help your kids understand the scope of these paintings, drawings and textiles.

  • OPEN: Tuesday–Thursday: 11:30 a.m.–7:00 p.m., Friday: 12:00 p.m.–7:30 p.m., Saturday: 11:30 a.m.–7:00 p.m., Sunday: 12:00 p.m.–6:00 p.m., Closed Monday.
  • ADMISSION PRICES: Free
  • ACCESSIBILITY: Fully wheelchair accessible

Queens County Farm Museum

Forgo the hectic pace of NYC for the largest remaining tract of farmland in the city, complete with historic farm buildings, greenhouses, orchards and gardens as well as many heritage breeds of livestock animals including cows, pigs, goats, sheep and honeybees. Take a guided tour of the farmhouse buildings or jump on a hayride (April till October, weather permitting).

  • OPEN: Grounds open every day 10 a.m.–5:00 p.m.
  • ADMISSION PRICES: Free, except on special dates.
  • ACCESSIBILITY: Wheelchair accessible

The Bronx Trolley

Developed to help initiate artistic and business development as well as show off the Bronx to visitors, take a ride through the Bronx on a 20th century replica trolley car. The journey brings you to unique venues offering art exhibits, film screenings, and live theater, music and dance performances plus the freedom to hop on or off whenever something sparks your interest.

  • OPEN: Runs on the first Wednesday evening of every month, (except in January and September) at 5:00 p.m.
  • ADMISSION PRICES: Free
  • ACCESSIBILITY: Trolley vehicle and most venues are wheelchair accessible

The Bronx Museum Of Arts

The Bronx Museum of Arts has brought contemporary and 20th century works by American and international artist to both visitors and the local Bronx community with free admission encouraging people to come and enjoy this slice of culture from many under-rated and up and coming artists.

  • OPEN: Wednesday, Thursday, Saturday, Sunday 11:00 a.m.–6:00 pm., Friday 11:00 a.m.–8:00 p.m., Closed Monday and Tuesday.
  • ADMISSION PRICES: Free
  • ACCESSIBILITY: Fully wheelchair accessible

The Met The Metropolitan Museum of Art

boasts the title of being the largest museum in the USA. When visiting such an institution with over 2 million works, pick and choose which sections would best appeal to your kids- always a hit are the Egyptian galleries or choose one of the MET’s suggested itineraries to see the best highlights.

  • OPEN: Everyday 10:00 a.m.–5:30 p.m.
  • ADMISSION PRICES: Children 12 and under Free, Adults $25
  • ACCESSIBILITY: Fully wheelchair accessible

The Cloisters

A branch of the Met the Cloisters museum and gardens house a collection of medieval art and architecture from Europe. Located inside Fort Tyron Park, the grounds have an element of magic to them, akin to stepping into another world. A particular hit with the children are the Unicorn tapestries.

  • OPEN: Open 7 Days a Week, March–October: 10:00 a.m.-5:15 p.m., November–February: 10:00 a.m.-4:45 p.m
  • ADMISSION PRICES: Children 12 and under Free, Adults $25
  • ACCESSIBILITY: Limited accessibility

Brooklyn Children’s Museum

As one of the first museums to cater to the child’s mind, the Brooklyn Children’s Museum focuses on helping kids understand their surroundings with daily programming in addition to the exhibit spaces. The ground floor works as a fun space where kids can pretend to work at a bakery, pizzeria, travel agency or grocery store while the upstairs brings regular exhibits that incorporate learning into play time. Let them loose!

  • OPEN: Tuesday- Sunday 10:00 a.m.-5:00 p.m., Thursday 10:00 a.m.- 6:00 p.m.
  • ADMISSION PRICES: $11 per person, or Free on Thursdays from 2:00 p.m.- 6:00 p.m.
  • ACCESSIBILITY: Fully wheelchair accessible

National Museum of the American Indian

As part of the Smithsonian Institution, the National Museum of the American Indian helps preserve the languages, history, literature and arts of Native Americans from their earliest times to the present.

Photo by Mohamed
  • OPEN: 10:00 a.m.–5:00 p.m. daily, Thursdays till 8:00 p.m.
  • ADMISSION PRICES: Free
  • ACCESSIBILITY: Fully wheelchair accessible

Guggenheim

With its impressive Frank Lloyd Wright–designed building, this is the sort of one-of-a-kind architectural attraction even your kids will admire. It houses a rich collection of modern art. Sundays from 1–4 p.m., you can join a family guided tour geared towards children aged 3–10 where you’ll explore highlights of their collections through creative projects.

  • OPEN: Sunday-Wednesday, Friday 10:00 a.m.- 5:45 p.m., Closed Thursday, Saturday 10;00 a.m.-7:45 p.m.
  • ADMISSION PRICES: Children under 12 Free, Adults $25, pay what you wish Saturday 5:45 p.m.- 7:45 p.m.
  • ACCESSIBILITY: Fully wheelchair accessible

Queens Museum

The Queens Museum presents artistic works to its diverse local community. Kids will especially love the The Panorama, a perfect building-for-building model of New York City, giving them a Godzilla feeling over the Big Apple.

  • OPEN: Wednesday- Sunday 12:00 p.m.- 6:00 p.m.
  • ADMISSION PRICES: Children 18 and under Free, Adults $8 for adults
  • ACCESSIBILITY: Fully wheelchair accessible

The Whitney Museum

This fun and funky museum focuses on contemporary American artists. The Whitney Museum also hosts family-fun days, open studios and sketching sessions to get the little ones interested in art. Also available for children falling on the autism spectrum is a sensory-friendly tour of the gallery when it is closed to the rest of the public.

  • OPEN: Wednesday, Thursday, Sunday, Monday 10:30 a.m.- 6:00 p.m., Friday & Saturday 10:30 a.m.- 10:00 p.m.
  • ADMISSION PRICES: Children under 18 Free, Adults $22
  • ACCESSIBILITY: Fully wheelchair accessible

The Jewish Museum

With a wonderful collection of Jewish antiquities, art, ceremonial objects and more spanning over centuries, the Jewish Museum also boasts some wonderful programming aimed at families. Regular concerts, guided tours and art workshops are geared at bringing understanding and fun to this vast and important collection of Jewish culture.

  • OPEN: Saturday- Tuesday 11:00 a.m.- 5:00 p.m., Thursday 11:00 a.m.- 8:00 p.m., Friday 11:00 a.m.- 4:00 p.m.
  • ADMISSION PRICES: Children 18 and under Free, Adults $15
  • ACCESSIBILITY: Fully wheelchair accessible

Dyckman Farmhouse Museum

This little historic farmhouse, first built in Dutch Colonial style in 1784 offers kids a chance to explore the last farmhouse in Manhattan. Opened as a museum since 1915, the Dyckman Farmhouse is to curious little eyes, a glimpse into a Manhattan that wasn’t dominated by high-rise buildings.

  • OPEN: Thursday — Saturday 11:00 a.m.- 4:00 p.m., Sunday 11:00 a.m.- 3:00 p.m., Winter hours: Friday and Saturday 11:00 a.m.- 4:00 p.m.
  • ADMISSION PRICES: Admission to house donation based, gardens Free
  • ACCESSIBILITY: Not accessible

Morris Jumel Mansion

Take a trip back in time to Manhattan’s oldest house and the HQ of Washington during the American War of Independence. Decorated with period antiques, the house also regularly hosts exhibitions and has a large (by Manhattan standards!) garden.

  • OPEN: Closed Mondays, Tuesday-Friday 10:00 a.m.- 4:00 p.m., Saturday & Sunday 10:00 a.m.- 5:00 p.m.
  • ADMISSION PRICES: Children under 12 Free, Adults $10
  • ACCESSIBILITY: Not accessible

Free Science and Technology Activities:

Models on display at the Cooper Hewitt Smithsonian Design Museum. (Photo by D_M_D)

Introduce your kids to the wonders of science and technology through these incredible museums and exhibits. Many of the premier institutions offer up visits to budding scientists and engineers to their fascinating exhibits for free!

NY Hall of Science

Over 450 exhibits on science, technology, math and engineering are packed into the former 1964 World’s Fair pavilion in a completely hands-on environment. This is the place to bring your kid if you speak the word “Don’t Touch!” more often than not. Let them wander lost in curiosity among the optical illusions and radar guns which measure just how fast your little one can pitch a baseball.

  • OPEN: Monday — Friday 9:30 a.m. — 5:00 p.m., Saturday & Sunday 10:00 a.m. — 6:00 p.m.
  • ADMISSION PRICES: Children ages 2–17 $12, Adults $15, free admission on Fridays, 2:00 p.m. — 5:00 p.m. and Sundays, 10:00 a.m. — 11:00 a.m.
  • ACCESSIBILITY: Fully wheelchair accessible

Museum at Fashion Institute of Technology

For any budding fashion designers or anyone who loves to dress up dolls, the museum at FIT houses the largest collection in the world of costumes and apparel dating back to the 18th century.

  • OPEN: Tuesday — Friday 12:00 p.m- 8:00 p.m. , Saturday 10:00 a.m. — 5:00 p.m., Closed Sundays, Mondays
  • ADMISSION PRICES: Free
  • ACCESSIBILITY: Fully wheelchair accessible

The Evolution Store

Ranging from the exotic mounted and preserved specimens (like the rare Giant Blue Swallowtail Butterflies) to the slightly sinister animal skeletons, The Evolution Store is a destination for kids of all ages with a profound appreciation of science and natural history.

  • OPEN: Sunday — Saturday 11:00 am to 8:00 pm
  • ADMISSION PRICES: Free
  • ACCESSIBILITY: Fully wheelchair accessible

The Cooper Hewitt Smithsonian Design Museum

The fascinating permanent collection here features objects spanning over thirty centuries- books, sketches, snail shells and bits and bobs that have inspired ideas and design. A current exhibit on Pixar: The Design Of Story, examines the where and how the ideas behind Pixar Animations came from, and features artworks from beloved children’s movies movies like Toy Story, Wall-E and Cars.

  • OPEN: Weekdays and Sundays, 10:00 a.m.–6:00 p.m., Saturdays, 10:00 a.m.–9:00 p.m.
  • ADMISSION PRICES: Children 18 and under Free, Adults $16 (*online), $18 at the door
  • ACCESSIBILITY: Fully wheelchair accessible

Free outdoor activities:

Get outside in New York City. (Photo by Guian Bolisay)

With around 29,000 acres of parks, 500 miles of shoreline and an abundance of outdoor family friendly activities to get involved in, you will be hard pushed to find reasons not to get out and enjoy the sunshine.

Fish the Hudson River

While it may seem an unlikely opportunity in the city, the Fish the Hudson River program provides participants with the rods, reels, bait and instruction they need to make their big catch. While you may not be able eat what you catch (the program operate on catch and release rules), kids will get to learn first hand about river ecology and how pollution affects the environment, plus a momentous searing moment of pride when photographed with their catch!

  • OPEN: See here for times and locations.
  • ADMISSION PRICES: Free
  • ACCESSIBILITY: Wheelchair accessible

Citywide Park Festival

The Parks of New York organize several citywide festivals each season ranging from Street Games in the Spring in cooperation with the Walt Disney Company to the Medieval festival in the Fall in Fort Tryon Park.

  • OPEN: Check here for dates and locations
  • ADMISSION PRICES: Free
  • ACCESSIBILITY: Most are wheelchair accessible

Brooklyn Botanic Garden

The expansive estate runs over 52 acres, complete with a variety of different gardens. Kid favorites include the Japanese Gardens with Koi ponds and the exotic orchids and water plants in the Aquatic House. Bring a pair of binoculars to observe the ample birds who flock to the gardens. Make sure to check out the Discovery Garden, a newer addition which encourages kids to explore nature through hands-on experiences.

  • OPEN: Winter: Tuesday- Friday 8:00 a.m.-4:30 p.m., Saturday & Sunday 10:00 a.m.- 4:30 p.m. Closed Mondays. Summer: Tuesday- Friday 8:00 a.m.- 6:00 p.m., Saturday & Sunday 10:00 a.m.-6:00 p.m. Closed Mondays.
  • ADMISSION PRICES: Children under 12 Free, Adults $12
  • ACCESSIBILITY: Certain paths may be narrow or rough but grounds are mostly wheelchair accessible

Irish Hunger Memorial

Containing stones from each of Ireland’s 32 counties and vegetation native to Ireland, the Irish Hunger Memorial is both poignant and beautiful. Visitors are allowed to roam freely.

  • OPEN: May 1st till October 31st everyday from 8:00 a.m.- 9:00 p.m., November till April everyday from 8:00 a.m.- 6:45 p.m.
  • ADMISSION PRICES: Free
  • ACCESSIBILITY: Limited

Governors Island

What was originally a fortification during the Civil War is now one of New York City’s finest parks and remains accessible only by ferry. Be sure to pick up a junior ranger book in the bookstore or print one at home which will help the kids learn about the history and ecology of the park. Another highlight is stopping by Castle Williams for a free 30 minute tour.

  • OPEN: Open seasonally
  • ADMISSION PRICES: Free but access via ferry costs $2 round-trip for adults. Children 12 and under and bikes are free.
  • ACCESSIBILITY: Limited

Walk the Brooklyn Bridge

The Brooklyn Bridge is one of New York City’s greatest landmarks, separating Manhattan from Brooklyn. Skip across the pedestrian walkways and bring a camera to catch some beautiful shots of the city skyline.

  • OPEN: Always
  • ADMISSION PRICES: Free
  • ACCESSIBILITY: Wheelchair accessible

Playground for All Children

A veritable revolution in the playground sphere, the Playground For All Children was the first playground constructed in the US for both disabled and able-bodied children in New York’s Flushing Meadows Corona Park. It was designed to accommodate kids who use aids for walking or wheelchairs, and to help grow kids’ social, cognitive, sensory and motor activity. The playground has all the appeal of a regular one, but promotes acceptance and allows everyone a chance to have fun.

  • OPEN: Dawn till Dusk
  • ADMISSION PRICES: Free
  • ACCESSIBILITY: Fully wheelchair accessible

Ancient Playground Central Park

If your kids loved the Egyptian exhibit at the MET, they can’t miss the Ancient Playground in Central Park. Complete with climbing pyramids, obelisks and sundials inspired by the museum’s collection, this is the perfect place to climb, explore and cool off in the water features on a nice day. Families can also partake in Discovery Programs that will teach kids about important aspects like keeping the Park ‘green.’

  • OPEN: Dawn till Dusk
  • ADMISSION PRICES: Free
  • ACCESSIBILITY: Partially accessible

Central Park

No trip to NYC would be complete without a day spent in Central Park. Must do’s with the kids include a visit to Belvedere Castle, the Chess and Checkers house, sailing model boats at the Conservatory Water, skating at the Wollman Rink or even just lazing on the grass with a picnic. See a full list of family-friend activities for Central Park here.

  • OPEN: 6:00 a.m.- 1:00 a.m.
  • ADMISSION PRICES: Free
  • ACCESSIBILITY: Partially accessible

The High Line

Built on an elevated section of a disused New York railroad line, this 1.45 mile long High Line Park is beloved by locals and visitors alike. Kids can join programs about catching bugs or making art, or just wander around to see how something old in NYC was turned into something new.

  • OPEN: December 1 to March 31: 7:00 a.m — 7:00 p.m., April 1 to May 31: 7:00 a.m. — 10:00 p.m., June 1 to September 30: 7:00 a.m. — 11:00 p.m., October 1 to November 30: 7:00 a.m. — 10:00 p.m.
  • ADMISSION PRICES: Free
  • ACCESSIBILITY: Partially accessible

Fishing at the Harlem Meer

More fishing opportunities are available at the Harlem Meer in Central Park for kids under 16. Borrow fishing poles, grab some complimentary bait (the only kind allowed) at the Charles A. Dana Discovery Center and practice a gentle catch-and-release of fish like bass, sunfish, carp and pickerel.

  • OPEN: Mid-April to mid-October, Monday — Saturday, 10:00 a.m. — 4:00 p.m., Sunday, 10:00 am — 2:00 pm (poles available until 1:00 pm)
  • ADMISSION PRICES: Free
  • ACCESSIBILITY: Partially accessible

Brooklyn Flea

Kids will happily search for hours for trinkets and treasures among the beautifully curated selections of vintage, collectibles and antiques as well as a stellar selection of fresh food and locally made products.

  • OPEN: Saturday and Sunday 10:00 a.m.- 6:00 p.m.
  • ADMISSION PRICES: Free entrance
  • ACCESSIBILITY: Fully wheelchair accessible

Macy’s Thanksgiving Day parade

A tradition that started in 1924 and has become one of NYC’s most beloved events for children and adults alike–if you’re in town during Thanksgiving, don’t miss the parade! Dominated by its massive balloons, marching bands and sumptuous floats, the parade is a feast for the eyes and sure to delight. If you want to see the balloons being blown up, visit the corner of Columbus Avenue and 79th Street on Thanksgiving eve for a bit of a “behind-the-scenes” feeling.

  • OPEN: Thursday, November 24, 2016
  • ADMISSION PRICES: Free
  • ACCESSIBILITY: Partially accessible

(Free) Shopping Experiences

Okay… you may end up buying some goodies for your kids. But these stores are such amazing fun that the experience of being there might be enough… you never know.

Nintendo World - photo by Just Another Shot

Disney Store Times Square

For any avid Disney fans. the Disney Store in Times Square is a veritable mecca. Not only do they have a massive selection of Disney merchandise, they also host events in-store occasionally that really bring the world of Disney to life.

  • OPEN: Everyday 9:00 a.m.- 1:00 a.m.

LEGO Store Rockefeller Center

While your kids might not be interested in the other shops on the infamous Fifth Avenue, this one is sure to get their attention. The huge store not only sells the biggest selection of LEGO you could ever dream of, but there are also tons of impressive LEGO sculptures scattered throughout the store.

  • OPEN: Monday — Saturday: 10:00 a.m. — 8:00 p.m., Sunday: 10:00 a.m. — 6:00 p.m.

Nintendo World

The new design of the Nintendo World NYC store which opened to the public on February 19th, 2016 will see the addition of a 15-foot gaming screen in already 10,000 square feet of gaming paradise.

  • OPEN: Monday — Thursday 9:00 a.m.- 8:00 p.m., Friday — Saturday 9:00 a.m. — 9:00 p.m., Sunday 11:00 a.m. — 6:00 p.m.

For even more kid friendly activity ideas (including where to eat and family friendly accommodation in NYC) see the full article at Room5: 111 Things to Do With The Kids in NYC.