Family Friendly NYC Vacation Tips

The Best New York City Activities for Children Make for a Fun Trip

The best New York City family vacation involves plenty of child-friendly activities and entertainment: As parents have noted often, the mood of the kids pretty much determines the mood of the trip.

A child-friendly Broadway show can only last so long. MoMA and The Met are hugely popular tourist attractions, but children run out of steam quickly at these mature venues. A useful tip would be to intersperse visits to the best art museums with activities children like. This way, the overall family vacation experience will be better for everyone.

The best family-friendly NYC vacation activities and entertainment:

Dylan’s Candy Bar (1011 Third Ave.)

Sure, young children love this giant, two-story candy store, but even older kids and teenagers get caught up in the excitement of all the candy, clothing, and games. Dylan’s Candy Bar really has to be seen to be believed; old-timey candy interspersed with cute pajamas and other brightly colored paraphernalia prove irresistible. Even the stairs have gummy candy in them! Dylan’s Candy Bar makes for a fun reward for kids that were well behaved during less child-friendly tourist activities.

Chelsea Piers Sports & Entertainment Complex (23rd St. and the Hudson River)

Baseball, basketball, soccer, rock climbing, ice skating…nearly any sport that children like, is available at Chelsea Piers. Add in the Toddler Adventure Center for the under-3 set, and sailing for teenagers, and a family vacation in NYC is full of entertainment and activity for restless children. A tip: Chelsea Piers is hugely popular. Especially when school is out, the masses of NY city kids running around may be overwhelming to the uninitiated. The open activities schedule should be useful.

Central Park

New York City’s backyard is the best outdoor place to cool off during muggy NYC summers. It feels like a luxury to allow young children to run around on Sheep Meadow, after keeping them close by on the streets. Younger children especially like the Carousel, while older ones may appreciate the Shakespeare Garden (well, it is an open space in NYC, after all). The Central Park Zoo and Wildlife Center is a lot of fun for kids; the penguins are always popular, as are the polar bears. One tip would be to try to catch the sea lions’ feeding time. It’s always a fun show!

The American Museum of Natural History, 79th St. and Central Park West

It’s not as interactive as the Children’s Museum, but this is one world-class museum that kids love. What is it with children and dinosaurs? From running in circles under the giant blue whale to walking through the “rainforest” in Bio-Diversity Hall, this is the best museum for all members of a family to have a fun and educational experience. The famous Rose Center (Hayden Planetarium) is beautiful, and the shows serve as both entertainment and enlightenment. Parents might consider the children’s Discovery Room on the small side, and indeed it is. However, the hands-on interactive design of the room is still great for younger children.

The Bronx Zoo and New York Botanical Gardens

There are plenty of child-friendly family activities outside of Manhattan, of course, and most are accessible by subway. These two are both popular “educational entertainment” attractions. They are significantly bigger than the Central Park Zoo and Shakespeare Garden in Central Park, but further away from midtown; a full day trip is recommended for these two attractions. The Yankee Stadium, or Shea for Mets fans, are also near subway stops outside of Manhattan.

    • To get to the Bronx Zoo by subway: Take the 2 train from Penn Station, or the 5 train uptown from Grand Central Station, to East 180th St. station Boston Road.
    • To get to the New York Botanical Gardens by subway: Take the 4 train uptown from Grand Central Station to Jerome Ave. Cross Jerome Ave and walk southeast on Bedford Park Blvd, which terminates at the Botanical Garden (over a half mile walk).
    • To get to Shea Stadium by subway: Take the 7 train from Times Square or Grand Central Station to the Willets Point/Shea Stadium station.
  • To get to Yankee Stadium by subway: Take the 4 train from the East Side or the D train from the West Side of Manhattan. Disembark at the 161st St/Yankee Stadium station.
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