New York is known for its tall buildings, cosmopolitan attitude, and plethora of entertainment options. Manhattan sits at the center of it all as the city’s most popular borough for tourists. With the subway and taxis located just seconds from the door of many Manhattan vacation rentals, it’s incredibly simple to travel around town to numerous attractions. Bordered by the Hudson River on one side and the East River on the other, this popular destination offers ample opportunities to explore, learn, and enjoy time with your family. With so many things to do, you can plan a trip to Manhattan any time of the year. Here are the top nine kid-friendly things to do in Manhattan.
1. Climb to the Top of the Empire State Building
Opened in 1931, the Empire State Building is one of the most recognizable skyscrapers in the world. The majestic building holds its own in the modern Manhattan skyline, and a visit to the top is a must-do treat for the entire family. Stroll through the Art Deco lobby before heading to the elevators on the second floor for your trip to the top. A stop at the 80th floor lets you examine the history of this New York landmark, and observation decks are located on the 84th and 102nd floors. The view is absolutely breathtaking from all sides, and the decks provide a perfect spot for memorable photos. Plan to arrive between 8 and 11 a.m. if you want to beat the crowds.
2. See Lady Liberty
Purchase your ferry tickets from Statue Cruises in Battery Park, and head out to Liberty Island for a close-up view of the Statue of Liberty. Welcoming millions of immigrants as they entered America in the early 20th century, this gift from France offers stunning views of the Manhattan Skyline from high above the ground. Tickets to visit the crown and pedestal should be reserved in advance, and be advised that climbing to the top is equal to scaling a 20-story building, so it may be too much for the little ones in your group. Your ferry ticket also includes access to Ellis Island and the Museum of Immigration. Step back in time, and learn about an immigrant’s first experience in a new land.
3. Relax and Play in Central Park
Comprising 843 acres of natural beauty and new experiences, Central Park is located in the heart of Manhattan and offers families a way to relax and get slightly away from the hectic pace of a New York city adventure. Rent bikes for your family, and peddle along 6-mile-long Park Drive. Take time to stop at Strawberry Fields, a tribute to the Beatles’ John Lennon, who made Manhattan his home. Then, head on over to the carousel and delight the little ones with a ride. Guided Discovery tours are available for families and cover a range of interesting topics, including the native fauna and conservancy. The park is free and open daily, making it easy to schedule some time to explore. Restrooms, concessions, and information booths are scattered throughout the landscape for your convenience.
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4. Meet the Animals at the Zoo
Take a walk on the wild side with a visit to the Central Park Zoo. Its location within the park makes it easy to fit into your day, and it’s easy-to-navigate pathways make it ideal for the whole family. Start out at the popular sea lion exhibit before heading back to view the royal haughtiness of a snow leopard or two. Take part in a penguin feeding, and then head over to feed your family at the zoo’s on-site restaurant, Dancing Crane Cafe. Admission includes access to the Tisch Children’s Zoo, a petting experience that is home to Manhattan’s only cow and a great time for toddlers and their families.
5. Enjoy the Bustle of Times Square
End a day spent exploring with a trip through Times Square, and bathe in the lights of ‘the City that Never Sleeps’ before heading back to your Manhattan vacation rental. This quintessential slice of the Big Apple features souvenir shops, candy stores, and restaurants that range from a blinged-out McDonald’s to more sedate table service options. If standard tourist fare is your flavor, head on over to Madame Tussaud’s and hang out for awhile with celebrities and politicians. Visit the Times Square Museum and Visitor Center to explore the history of this famed location, and then duck into Hershey’s Chocolate World for edible souvenirs.
6. See a Broadway Show
Just down from Times Square, Broadway beckons with more bright lights and really big shows. While some might think of a show as a grown-up evening event, matinees offer a way to introduce even elementary-school-aged children to the theater. A good many of the offerings are appropriate for children, and you can check online for current offerings on websites geared for families. Off-Broadway shows are another budget-friendly option, and some of these theaters are dedicated solely to entertaining kids.
7. Take Off for the Intrepid Sea, Air and Space Museum
Stand on the decks of World War II-era aircraft carrier, or see a space shuttle up close at the Intrepid Sea, Air and Space Museum. Appealing to the fly-boy or -girl in all of us, this exciting museum offers an impressive hands-on experience in the Exploreum Hall, where you can try your hand at steering a plane or hop aboard a Bell helicopter. A large collection of military planes span countries and wars, and visitors can view an actual retired British Airways Concorde, which is capable of reaching Mach 2 and was once considered the future of passenger service. Plan to spend a good deal of time at the museum, as the exhibits are fascinating and the collections extensive. Appealing to every generation in your family, the museum is a proud home to the Enterprise prototype space shuttle.
8. Explore the American Museum of Natural History
Come face-to-face with a 94-foot blue whale or follow the exciting life of President Teddy Roosevelt as you tour the halls of the American Museum of Natural History. Forever memorialized in the film ‘Night at the Museum,’ the building even offers a self-guided tour of the inspirations for several of the characters. Walk among the dinosaurs that used to roam America—including a full fossil replica of a T-Rex—and then learn about the cultures of ancient civilizations from around the world. With exhibits that range from the prehistoric to planetary exploration, this renowned museum pleases patrons of all ages.
9. Learn Through Play at the Children’s Museum
If you’re traveling with toddlers or younger kids, a trip to the Children’s Museum of Manhattan is certainly a must. Devoted to the idea that children learn best through play, this totally hands-on museum teaches through building, creating and pretend play. Your kids can drive a pretend firetruck or run a market. Ever-changing exhibits give your whole family a chance to learn about other cultures and communities. This five-story museum offers a wonderful bonding experience and a chance for your entire family to simply play.
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