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9 family-friendly ways to turn New York City into your playground
The urban jungle is limitless when it comes to great activities for all ages
The key to making the most of your family’s getaway in NYC is discovering kid-friendly destinations that simultaneously deliver a dose of delight to the adults. Turn the Big Apple into your playground with these kid-tested things to do in New York for travelers of all ages—from the young to the young at heart.
Things to do with 4–8-year-olds
Luna Park: With 30 classic theme park rides, the renovated Luna Park at Coney Island offers buckets of fun for the whole family. A range of rides—from the laid-back to the hair-raising—invite even the littlest of the littles to sample the goods, while half-day access ensures plenty of time to get the kids tuckered. Join the action and process through mystical tunnels on the Mermaid Parade, or mount a painted pony and ride the B&B Carousel.
Central Park Bike Rental: Soak up sights of New York’s paradisaical urban park with a bike rental from Central Park Sightseeing. A bevy of cycles beckon, from comfy cruisers to thick-treaded hybrids equipped with tandem trailers. Pump through the 843-acre (340-ha) green space, pausing at kid-friendly locales—like the Central Park Zoo, Heckscher Playground, and Belvedere Castle—along every bend in the road.
American Museum of Natural History: “Come for the dinosaurs, stay for the blue whale”—that’s how many a pint-sized New Yorker responds when queried about New York’s trove of natural treasures. With 45 exhibits and a world-class planetarium, the American Museum of Natural History is sure to astound your young scientist. On warm days, head to the rooftop and let the kids cool off in the sprinklers—a well-kept summertime secret.
Things to do with 8–12-year-olds
Ripley’s Believe It or Not! Times Square: Is your mini intrigued by the enigmatic, obscure, and just-plain-strange? Head to Ripley’s Believe It or Not! Times Square to satiate your kid’s most curious questioning. In addition to perusing eccentric art and soaking up trivia from the collection’s hands-on exhibits, meander through the Little Apple—a recreation of NYC, replete with the glitz and glam Gotham is celebrated for.
All-Day Hop-On Hop-Off Cruise: Leave the city sidewalks behind and hail a yellow cab—from the water! An adventure with New York Water Taxi makes getting around town a breeze. Sail to sites like the Intrepid Sea, Air, and Space Museum, the National September 11 Memorial, and Brooklyn Bridge Park, disembarking at the destinations that call to you. Little ones love scoping skyscrapers from the water, and you’ll delight in the chance to avoid Manhattan traffic for a day.
Blue Man Group: The driving drumbeats, brilliant lights, and signature paint splatters of Blue Man Group are calling your name. There’s a reason the masses keep returning to this crowd-pleasing show that got its start in the Lower East Side—it’s that good. Score poncho seating and watch a smile stretch across your youngster’s face while blue men dazzle the audience with music, technology, and a sprinkling of social commentary.
Things to do with kids 12 and older
Slice of Brooklyn Pizza: Of all the things to do in New York, grabbing a slice might be the most iconic. Head into hipster Brooklyn with A Slice of Brooklyn Bus Tours, and visit the borough’s beloved eateries. Bypass the line at Grimaldi’s and sink your teeth into the Neapolitan-style slice the region is known for. Then, travel deep into the heart of Brooklyn to sample a saucy, Sicilian pie before ending your day at effortlessly cool Coney Island.
Birthplace of Hip-Hop Tour: Discover why Jay-Z calls New York the “concrete jungle where dreams are made of,” during a sightseeing tour with Hush Hip Hop Tours that unlocks the rap history of Harlem and the Bronx. Aspiring music fans nod their heads “yes” to this outing that visits locations like the Wall of Fame, and reveals where artists like Big Pun, Funkmaster Flex, Mary J. Blige, and Puff Daddy got their start.
New York Ghosts Walking Tour: Tuck the little ones in for the evening and head to Washington Square Park with your teenage ghostbuster during a haunted tour of Downtown NYC with Innovation Works LLC. Tiptoe down dimly lit streets and peer inside abandoned buildings during a gripping adventure through the City that Never Sleeps. Full of New York City trivia, this memorable tour serves up cold-hard facts with a hearty side of suspense.
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