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17 Family Things to Do in New York City

New York City is one of the most exciting cities in the world. It offers so many attractions that it can get a bit overwhelming to pick the ones you want. Even after growing up in NYC, when the time came to plan a trip back with my family, I had trouble deciding what we would visit. In the end, we all had a great time! So keep reading to find 11 suggestions on family things to do in NYC.

What Can You Do in New York With Your Family?

If there are one-word people most commonly used to describe the city of New York, it is energy. This city literally pulses with it. There is so much to do and discover in NYC. Let’s take a look at a few of the activities to do in New York with your family!

Art

From spray-painted graffiti to the wide plethora of art available, New York is an art lover’s paradise. We’ll start with the classics – the Museum of Modern Art. MoMA is not just about art. It’s also about the building that houses that art. Eight floors of jaw-dropping art are packed into the Whitney Museum of American Art.

Do more here than just immerse yourself in art- walk through the sheer acreage that is the outdoor space (13,000 feet) and gaze on at the Hudson and Downtown. Among the newbies, we are most excited about the avant-garde P.S.1. Contemporary Art Center. Not just art, but architecture changes here. The parties are the talk of the town and the installations are stimulating and thoughtful.

Food

New York loves its pizzas and some of its pizza places are iconic, where lines stretch around the block. Walk-in and out of Grimaldi’s, Lombardi’s, Roberta’s, Di Fara’s, and John’s, and then argue about what pizza or what pie is better. It’s sacrilege to compare, we might add, so why don’t you just enjoy yourself and not quibble about ranking?

Get yourself down to the popular Saraghina Restaurant and enjoy everything-appetizers, wine, and pizza. For burgers, head down to Five Leaves NY, an Australia brunch space. If you’re thinking of deli food, you need to get down to perhaps the most famous deli in the world- Katz’s. This delicatessen is over a century old, and you feel the sense of history when you step in through the doors. Sandwiches, pastrami, hot dogs-every single item on the menu is worth a try. If you’re in the mood for something fancier, tuck into a plate of oysters at Maison Premiere. Other places of note include Chavela’s, Dough (for some killer donuts), and Fette Sau, among many, many others.

Shopping

New York is about shopping and a lot of it. Barneys will always call New York home, but it’s Bergdorf’s you need to go to and spend some serious money. Or not. Feel free to browse to your heart’s content, and take in some of that lovely air. For shopping of a different kind, you must go to Chelsea Market. This indoor market is as well known for its food scene as it is for its space. There are so many malls in New York too for some hours of sightseeing. Or make your way to SoHo and look at all the art coursing through the roads.

If you’re looking for some serious shopping, head down to the NYC Diamond District, a small niche in Midtown. Almost all the diamonds in the country come into the USA this way, so you know you’ve come to a great place, right away. We are talking of a whopping 4,000 jewelers in one single space.

Talk about being spoiled for choice. Do your homework before you walk onto 47th Street. Get your information straight on the 4 Cs and watch out for tricksters. You will not even know that you have been tricked, so make sure your purchase is certified and graded. Even if you’re not buying, being in the middle of all that dazzling beauty can be heady indeed. This is an experience like not much else.

Architecture

New York is famous for its architecture. In fact, the skyline has its own cult following among people. From the pulsating lights and displays at Times Square to the timelessness of the Grand Central Terminal, Brooklyn Bridge and the Statue of Liberty, there’s so much to see and experience here.

Don’t miss the Art Deco marvel that is the Rockefeller Center. Spread over 22 acres, 19 high-rise buildings will tell you why this is one of the main attractions of the city. Do stroll past the Flatiron Building, one of the most well-known thanks to its unique shape. Other walking tours surely include the Meatpacking District, Wall St., and West Village.

Memorials

The National 9/11 Memorial and Museum is a poignant space. 30-foot waterfalls fall into pools an acre in size, at the site where the Twin Towers used to stand. All along the pools are bronze plaques with the names of the close to 3000 people who were killed in the attacks on the USA. This is not an easy place to visit, by any means, but it is an important one- to educate and be educated about what human resilience is and how it overcomes terrible adversity.

Nature

New York is also home to the most gorgeous green spaces, some of them right in the middle of the city. Rightly called ‘its lungs,’ Central Park is 843 acres of nature just waiting to be explored. It can get crowded for sure, but get on a bicycle and wind your way through it. You may also want to go to East State River Park, Prospect Park and the Brooklyn Botanic Garden. If time permits- or even if it does not, do experience the Staten Island Ferry, The High Line, Washington Square Park and a trip to Coney Island.

Family-Friendly Things to Do in New York City:

Museums 

There are tons of museums in New York City, some so big that you can literally get lost in them for hours. A couple of the most popular ones are: The American Museum of Natural History and the Metropolitan Museum of Art. It takes just a tiny bit of research to find the different museums.

Related Read: Family Friendly Museums

The Met

Statue of Liberty

This can easily be the first thing that people think about when NYC comes out in a conversation. It is one of those places that you have to go to whenever you are in the city. It is an important landmark as well as a fun option for an adventure.

Statue of liberty

Bike Tours

When I lived in the city, biking through the streets sounded like a bad joke, it was really dangerous. That’s why, when I went back earlier this year, I was glad to see that there were bike paths and places where you can rent them scattered around the city. The biking tour along New York was one of my favorite activities.

bike path on a bridge in new york

Central Park

Another must-visit when traveling to New York is Central Park. But it is one big place and exploring it on foot will get you really tired. So, during our recent visit, I took my family on a pedicab tour in Central Park. Our driver was also a tour guide that explained everything to us and knew a lot of fun and historic facts.

Related Read: Things to do in Central Park New York

pedicab tour in central park nyc

Ellis Island

It might look like just a small piece of land off of Manhattan, but it used to be one of the busiest ports of the country. A place where thousands of immigrants entered the country. It is now a national park and an important touristic destination.

Ellis Island, NYC

Circle Line

It is a tour that has been offered in New York for a long time. A tour on the Circle Line consists of a ride onboard a boat around the island, from where you get magnificent views of the city. There are 5 different routes that allow you to see many different things.

Circle Line New York City

Central Park Zoo

While you are exploring Central Park, be sure to take some time to check out Central Park Zoo. It isn’t a very big zoo, but it is large enough to hold comfortably animals of around 150 species.

Empire State Building 

The Empire State Building was the tallest building of the world for over 40 years. It is also known as one of the 7 wonders of the modern world. If you wish, you can also go up to the 86th floor to get a skyline view of the city. Do I need to say anything else? Traveling from the DC area? Tripper Bus will take you from Bethesda, MD, or Arlington, VA, and drop you off just a few blocks away for an easy walk to the famous skyscraper.

Empire State Building's Observation Deck

Art Galleries

You can also find a lot of art galleries in NYC. They are spread all over the place. What is it that you want to see, Asian art? Or maybe African? From the 19th century, maybe? Don’t worry. New York’s got your back.

Shopping

New York is one of the fashion capitals of the world. You can pretty much find any of the major brands here. But it’s not all about clothing. There are tons of stores all over the city where you can find pretty much anything you might want to buy.

Grand Central Terminal

Grand Central Station is the largest train station in the world, also, you can find many museums near grand central. It is a building that still holds the chaos of thousands of people going through it every day, even after 100 years of being built.

Grand Central Station, NYC

I know that this article doesn’t cover half of the things that are available for travelers in New York. There are tons of  free things to do in NYC. But this list only includes a few of the highlights that can guarantee an amazing time in the city. Feel free to leave your recommendations in the comments.


Things to do in New York City – 11 Attractions

7 thoughts on “17 Family Things to Do in New York City

  1. What a nice list for anyone who’s coming to NYC the first time! As a – family friendly! – alternative to the Circle Line, I’d recommend the East River Ferry from Wall Street Pier all the way up to either the last stop (34th Street) or Long Island City (1 stop from Grand Central Station). You get a great view of Manhattan’s skyline – and a peak at Brooklyn and Queens.

  2. Oh, New York! My favorite destination. I’ve been traveling to this place before and I just love how New York offered me everything from amazing food to cool destinations and of course, the different elegant restaurants and bars too. But that was when I was single and had all the time to party all night in NYC. Right now, I’ve got a family to bring in this concrete jungle and I can’t wait to visit the places you listed here in your post for my family and kids to explore and have a good time. Thanks for sharing!

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