Traveling with small kids in tow? With little ones come giant imaginations, and New York City is guaranteed to make a lifelong impression. Here are some safe, manageable and totally unforgettable ways to experience all corners of New York City with young children.
1. Wave to the Statue of Liberty
Getting to the top of the statue’s crown, or even to its pedestal, is an amazing experience. If you can’t make it to Liberty Island, you can see the world-famous icon on a number of different New York Harbor ferry rides (the Staten Island Ferry, Governors Island ferries), as well as from Valentino Pier in Red Hook—a low-key Brooklyn neighborhood where a fun wooden barge museum is docked.
2. Take a spin by the waterfront on Jane’s Carousel
Housed in a jewel box down in Brooklyn Bridge Park, this vintage merry-go-round looks out toward the Lower Manhattan skyline—though the colorful and ornately carved horses should draw plenty of attention from the little ones. And the rest of the park is no slouch: playgrounds, a pop-up pool, a roller-skating area and lots of grassy spots for picnics.
3. Check out the world’s largest dinosaur skeleton
You could spend days exploring the diorama- and taxidermy-filled halls of the American Museum of Natural History, but we’d bet most kids will be plenty thrilled with just seeing the bones of a Titanosaurus—so big it sticks out of the gallery that is meant to contain it.
4. Tackle a maze at New York Botanical Garden
The City’s largest concentration of plants can be found up at the Bronx’s New York Botanical Garden; a special kids-oriented garden provides a good place for little ones to get messy, climb rocks and enjoy diversions like Beth’s Maze.
5. Slide your way down Governors Island
The Hills have the City’s longest slide, at 57 feet; take a ferry over, rent a surrey or some bikes and make sure you let the kids take a few turns down the mountainside at this seasonal island playground.
6. Head to an old cottage for a puppet show
Central Park provides the setting for the Swedish Cottage Marionette Theater, a 140-year-old log-cabin-like structure where family-oriented entertainment takes place most days of the week.
7. Choose from 60 flavors at the Lemon Ice King of Corona
Here’s a lovely end to a day in nearby Flushing Meadows Corona Park: a stop at a decades-old Italian ice vendor, where if you can’t find a flavor that every person in your family likes, such a flavor must not exist in nature.
8. Ride a square-wheeled tricycle at the Museum of Mathematics
Over in the Flatiron District, MoMath has a two floors of hands-on displays that will have youngsters puzzling and peddling—and perhaps grasping a math concept or two along the way.
9. Explore a natural playground in Prospect Park
Some trees felled by Superstorm Sandy created the Zucker Natural Exploration Area; clambering around the space gives ample room for imaginative play. And don’t forget rest of the park, which includes a zoo, skating rink, historic house and, on summer Sundays, the food-filled Smorgasburg.
10. Feed domesticated animals at a working farm
It’s worth the extra effort to reach the Queens County Farm Museum: this is one of the few working farms in NYC and it dates back more than 300 years. You can take a hayride, buy vegetables at the farmstand and, of course, come face to face with goats, sheep and other livestock at the petting zoo.
Bonus idea: Train your attention on trains
It’s pretty much a scientific fact: little kids love trains. So head to Brooklyn’s Transit Museum, located in an old station and filled with vintage subway cars. Buy some toy models at the Grand Central Terminal museum store. Hope that your trip coincides with a nostalgia ride. Or one of the holiday train shows. Hop on the monorail at the Bronx Zoo. And make sure you take trips on public transit where the train rises up from underground, to get a fresh perspective on the City.