Family Vacation in New York: What to See and Do with Children in NYC, United States
Where to take kids on a visit to New York City? Well, maybe spend the night in a museum with dinosaurs and take a ride on a bicycle with square wheels, visit a closed subway station and mount a bridge of the Intrepid aircraft carrier, synchronize a movie and climb the crown on the Statue of Liberty, track down a farm among the high-rises and compare a zoo from the Madagascar cartoon with the real one, taste candy and join a parade – the best ideas of how to spend holidays with kids in New York in our review below.
Interactive, Scientific and Technical Museums for Kids in New York
Skeletons of dinosaurs, stuffed animals and animation dioramas of peoples from North and South Americas are presented in the American Museum of Natural History. For children 5-12 years old, it is worth dropping in the Discovery Room, where it is possible to climb a copy of a baobab and go on an African safari, put together a collection of minerals and sculls, find a nest of a dinosaur on the site of an archeological dig, examine and touch household items of tribes from all over the world. Hayden’s Planetarium is open in the same building. The planetarium has a spherical cinema hall, where films on constellations, planets and space are played. Kids from 6 to 13 years of age are offered to stay in the cinema halls until the morning, and feel like the characters of the Night at the Museum movie (by the way, this family comedy was filmed at this very museum).
More than 50 expositions can be attended in the New York Hall of Science. In the Great Hall, visitors can find themselves in the Connected Worlds virtual ecosystem, and influence its development: plant seeds, direct water from a waterfall on the interactive floor, play with inhabitants of the jungle, desert and submarine world. Small children aged up to 6 years old, are welcome to spend time in the Preschool Place sensor game zone. From March through November the children's Science Playground is open, it offers slides, swings, sandboxes, fog generators, giant lever and Archimedean screw, water play zone and metal drums. Besides, pajama parties and scientific “nights at the museum” are held here as well.
In the Museum of Mathematics (MoMath) visitors ride bicycles with square wheels, transform geometrical figures into volumetric sculptures, play with light and robots, assemble puzzles and study arithmetics, algebra and geometry with the help of various interactive exhibits. In the Enigma Cafe numeric and geometric brainteasers are served instead of food. Besides, here one can see how music is connected with mathematics, get into a Hyper Hyperboloid and solve cryptic messages using a machine from the time of World War II.
Aircraft carrier USS Intrepid, diesel submarine USS Growler, helicopter Iroquois, shuttle Enterprise and other historical military equipment are displayed in the Intrepid Sea, Air & Space Museum, located on a bank of the Hudson River. Visitors can examine decks, cookroom, cabins and command bridge of the aircraft carrier USS Intrepid, walk through the compartments of the submarine USS Growler and get into the cabin of the supersonic passenger jetliner Concorde (kids younger than 6 years old may not take a tour of Concorde). On the main deck there is an exhibition of helicopters, fighter jets and intelligence aircrafts from the USA and other countries, and in the hangar – an interactive exposition The Exploreum, where it is possible to sit in helicopter cabins, figure out the design of a submarine, fly jets and military aircraft on virtual simulators.
The New York Transit Museum is located at Court Street, a closed NYC subways station. Trains with cars from different times are parked on the underground tracks trains are parked here. The trains are used for city subway tours and have the interiors, schematic maps of lines and even advertising posters from a corresponding age. There are other old exhibits on the platforms, for instance, benches and pay-gates. The museum tells about the construction and history of the subway, about city bus lines, railway tracks, bridges and tunnels. Kids are welcome to sit behind the wheel of retro buses and in subway train cars, peep into an operating control room, connect power grid elements and start an engine.
In the Museum of the Moving Image kids can learn about the creation of TV shows and motion pictures. Visitors can see a collection of old cameras, projectors, TV sets and other equipment, as well as costumes, make-up and placards. Besides, guests of this museum can play video games, shoot a cartoon in the slow motion technique, make a clipbook of own photographs with animated images, synchronize fragments of well-known movies with their own voice, music and special effects.
Amazing exhibits from all over the world are displayed at the Ripley’s Believe It or Not Museum. Here visitors can see amazing objects from from the Ripley’s Collection, including brand new galleries and interactive exhibits like the “Little Apple” room, newly added Marilyn Monroe memorabilia, and Manhattan’s only LaseRace™. At the neighboring Madame Tussauds New York it is possible to take red carpet pictures with Hollywood stars, the Iron Man and Hulk, also with Barack Obama, the Pope, and other famous people.
With a small child or toddler it is worth visiting at least one of the interactive museums of New York, where there are cognitive outdoor expositions and playgrounds. In the Children’s Museum of Manhattan (CMoM) kids may find themselves in a jungle or in a cave together with Dora the Explorer, build a hut for a spectacled bear and feed a giant dragon with letters. In the Staten Island Children’s Museum kids can play giant chess, dominos and bowling, crawl through the passes in a giant ant-heap, slide along a pole in a fire fighter’s uniform, operate real tools on a construction site. And in the Brooklyn Children’s Museum visitors are welcome to pet sea stars and sea urchins in the “touch them” aquarium, play in stores located in a copy of a real Brooklyn street, build toy-houses using cardboard and other materials in an outdoors playground.
Visiting Art and Historical Museums of New York City with Children
Collections of paintings and other objects of art from all over the world are displayed at The Metropolitan Museum of Art. Here visitors can see the works of impressionists, mummies from Ancient Egypt, armor of knights and samurai, ancient statuettes of pagan deities, and a copy of a Chinese yard of the Ming dynasty. In the Nolen Library fairy tales are read and songs are sung to small kids aged from 1.5 to 6 years old. The children from 7 to 11 years of age are offered to go on the Art Trek time travel trip. Families with kids aged from 5 to 17 can go on themed excursions and join creative workshops.
The Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum is the best place to become acquainted with modern art. In this museum there is a gallery shaped as a twisted spiral. Kids older than 5 years of age are welcome to join interactive excursions and workshops. On weekends, children from 4 to 10 years old may use the Activity Pack kits to arrange independent play-tours of the museum.
Game programs for kids older than 4 years are offered in the Museum of Modern Art (MoMA). During lectures on the topic of art, kids are allowed to draw and play, and in the art-studio, creative workshops for the whole family are arranged. At the entrance, each child can pick up a guide certificate with assignments or a sketchbook for own drawings.
In the Brooklyn Museum, there is an enormous collection of Ancient East, Africa and America, and creative workshops and game-tours for kids of 2 year of age and older are arranged. In the Queens Museum, visitors can see buildings on a large panoramic model of New York in great detail.
Artists from 10 months to 15 years old are welcomed at the Children’s Museum of the Arts. Explore the gallery displaying work by established and emerging contemporary artists and pieces from the museum's permanent collection of children's artwork dating back to the 1930s. Hands-on, art-making workshops are held throughout the museum: songs are recorded, animated films are shot, sculptural and clay figurines are created, and more.
In the DiMenna Children’s History Museum, visitors can learn about New York and America of various times. In one of the halls, history is presented as a crime story, in which kids become detectives; in another room one can compare how the city street blocks looked in the past and how they look now. In the Cast Your Vote hall visitors can drop their bulletins in an old voting booth and find out who did not have the right to vote in the past. There is also the American Dreamers hall, where kids are offered to take a picture in a photo booth and sign it, stating who they want to become when they grow up.
In the Lower East Side Tenement Museum visitors will learn how immigrants of Italian, Irish and Jewish decent used to live in New York. Interactive tours of apartments and nearest street blocks are offered by guides dressed in styled costumes; they talk about the families which used to live in the house from 1869 through 1935. For families with children aged over 5, it is possible to go back to 1916 and visit a 14 years old girl named Victoria Confino; with schoolchildren aged over 8 – to get acquainted with a man who owned the house back in 1906, learn how residents lived through the Panic of 1878 and the Great Depression, try the meals cooked according to the recipes brought to America from various countries.
A homestead of the 17th century with a cattle yard and an orchard is open for visitors in the Queens County Farm Museum. Here it is possible to see a movie and feed domestic animals. Besides, here they have a Barnyard Egg Hunt, a spring sheepshearing, a children’s carnival with a Luna Park, a summer Indian festival paua-vaua with a dancing contest of Native Americans, a retro bike show, some farmers’ fairs and other annual festivities with activities for the whole family.
At the Waterfront Museum located in the Red Hook area, visitors can find themselves in the environment of the beginning of the 20th century. The museum offers excursions devoted to the stories of docks, barges, and tow-boats of New York, describing how dockers worked in the port 100 years ago. In the summer - river tours along the river are provided, and for kids pirate and circus shows, game programs with dancing, “river songs” and theatric performances are arranged.
At the Smithsonian’s National Museum of the American Indian, George Gustav Heye Center, one can become acquainted with the cultures of Native peoples of the Western Hemisphere. The objects in their collection represent exquisite examples of regalia, household items, arms and dwellings. The museum also boasts a sizeable contemporary Native art collection. They also offer themed events and cultural presentations with traditional dances and music. In spring, the annual Children’s Festival with games, songs and a central focus of a specific geographic Native region is held here. Entrance to the museum is free.
For teenagers interested in economy, it is worth visiting the Museum of American Finance on Wall Street in the former building of the Bank of New York. The history of the U.S. currency is visually demonstrated by 250 banknotes and coins from the colonial age to our time. Besides, hear they explain how the banking system and financial markets operate. The permanent exposition displays gold bars, securities signed by Isaac Newton, Henry Ford and Walt Disney. At the temporary exhibitions visitors can see unusual objects, for instance, the Monopoly board game, made of gold with gemstones.
Family events take place at the Cathedral Church of Saint John the Divine, which is the largest Anglican church in the world. Twice a month, creative workshops are offered here to visitors with kids over 4 years of age, where it is possible to learn about the building architecture and try some medieval trades.
Recreation and Entertainment for Families with Kids in New York City
It is possible to see all the main places of interest in New York City on a one-day observation tour. For instance, on City Sightseeing or Big Bus Hop-on Hoр-off double-deckers. They are equipped with audio guides in a number of languages, and riders can hop off and hop on at any stop. The Roosevelt Island Tramway is good for those who whish to take a ride in a cable car above the East River from Manhattan to Roosevelt Island. The Staten Island Ferries run between Manhattan and Staten Island, not to mention that the Statue of Liberty and high-rises of New Your can be very well viewed on a water tour, for instance, on a ferry, or speedboats Shark and Beast, or onboard a sailing-ship or a yacht. Hudson tours are even offered on kayaks and paddle boards (persons under the age of 18 must be accompanied by adults).
There are several zoological gardens in New York. In real life, the Central Park Zoo is much smaller than it is shown in the Madagascar cartoon, but monkeys and red pandas, grizzly and a snow leopard do live here. Besides, a tropical pavilion is open here, and there are pools with penguins and sea lions and a contact area with rabbits, sheep, piggies and goatlings. Lions, giraffes, gorillas, buffalos and other large animal reside in the largest city zoo in the USA – the Bronx Zoo. Here one can take a ride on a giant mantis at the Bug Carousel, ask a keeper questions during a demonstrational feeding and set a camp near sea lions under the Family Overnight Safari program. In Brooklyn, there is a rather small Prospect Park Zoo. It is a place where baboons, suricates, hedgehogs, manul cats, tufted deer and Californian sea lions reside, and at its farm, children are allowed to pet alpacas and dwarf horses, and try to milk a cow.
The New York Aquarium is still under remodeling (in 2016), but it is open for visitors all-year-around. In the pavilions one can see sharks, penguins, sea-cows and inhabitants of the coral reefs. On the arena of Aquatheater there are shows with the participation of sea lions, and during at feeding times, visitors may ask keepers questions about their fosterlings.
In the Coney Island Luna Park visitors are offered to see old and modern attractions and take rides on them. A ride on the American rollercoaster Cyclone with wooden cabins or on the observation Wonder Wheel – a symbol of Coney Island – will help plunging in the atmosphere of the 1920s. Extreme attractions are located in the Scream Zone. Also, when the weather is pleasant, it is nice to take a walk along the promenade, sunbathe on the beach and swim. And from October through March, the Abe Stark Skating Arena is open not far from the promenade.
Among hundreds of Broadway Musicals it is possible to choose one which will be interesting for both the kids and the parents. For instance the Disney Lion King is offered in the Minskoff Theatre, and Aladdin – in the New Amsterdam Theatre. The story of the witch Glinda from the the Wizard of Oz under the name Wicked is offered on stage by the Gershwin Theatre, a musical fairy tale Matilda based on the book of Roald Dahl is shown in the Shubert Theatre. With older kids, it might be a good idea to see the School of Rock play at the Winter Garden Theatre or Fiddler on the Roof at the Broadway Theater.
Classic plays are put on stage in the Lincoln Center. One can listen to famous singers in the Metropolitan Opera, and the troupe of the New York City Ballet performs in the David H. Koch Theater. In the cultural center, they show movies, plays, offer classic music and jazz concerts. In the summer, performances take place in the outdoor amphitheater.
Families with children might want to visit some sports events or international sports contests. Home arenas of the basketball team New York Knicks and the ice hockey team New York Rangers are located in the Madison Square Garden. Baseball games with the participation of New York Yankees take place at the Yankee Stadium. For those who wish to see how the New York Red Bulls play American football, it is worth to visit the Red Bull Arena, which is located in the suburbs.
Most kids will enjoy choosing toys in memory of the Big Apple at one of the children’s stores of New York. For instance, in Toy’s R Us or Disney Store. In the Build-a-Bear Workshop store kids are offered to make a teddy bear with their own hands, and at the American Girl Place store, each girl can find a doll which looks like herself. For sweets, it is worth visiting the M&M’s World or the Dylan’s Candy Bar. At Serendipity 3 frozen hot chocolate is offered, and at “ice cream factories” like the Brooklyn Ice Cream Factory (located in the building of a former fire brigade) or the Chinatown Ice Cream Factory - ice delicacies are produced with traditional and uncommon flavors.
On holidays, such as Christmas, Thanksgiving, 4th of July, Easter and Halloween - NYC offers parades. There are also several annual festivals: in May - the Mermaids’ Parade takes place on Coney Island, on the 1st of September - there is the Caribbean Carnival in Brooklyn, at the end of the year - the Holiday Train Show (with a huge model of a railway) is held at the New York Botanical Garden.
Where to Go for a Walk with Kids in NYC? Parks and Observation Decks in New York City
For the first-time walk around New York City, it is worth to go to Manhattan, where there are Times Square, Broadway (the longest street in the city with the world-famous Theater District), the 5th Avenue with the Museum Mile. Everywhere signboards and store windows are lit, street artists offer tourists to take a picture for good memories. On December 31st, the famous Ball Drop happens at Times Square, to celebrate the coming of New Year.
Playgrounds for children are in the Central Park; in the summer, it is possible to go for a boat or bicycle ride here, and in winter - skate on the Wollman Rink. During the cold season in NYC, skating on open ice rinks also happens at the Rockefeller Center and at Bryant Park.
There is a playground for small kids in the Brooklyn Bridge Park, where it is also possible to take a ride on the old carrousel and have a picnic with a view on the Brooklyn and Manhattan Bridges. In the TriBeCa area on the Pier 25, there are several rest areas with fountains, a mini-golf court, and children’s playgrounds with a rock climbing site. All-year-round a roofed Sky Rink is open, where there are mass skating sessions and ice hockey and figure skating practices. Other roofed skating rinks in New York City include, for instance, the ice rink on the roof of the City Ice Pavillion in Long Island City, the rebuilt Lakeside Ice Rink in the Prospect Park, or the skating rink in the Riverbank State Park, where there is also roller-blading in the summer.
Plants from all over the world are displayed in the collections of the New York Botanical Garden in Bronx. There are a rosary, a garden in the form of a compass, a greenhouse with palms, cacti, orchids and tropical plants, a pond with lily pads and lotuses here. And in the Brooklyn Botanical Garden one can walk in a cherry orchard, Japanese garden with a pond and a rock-garden.
In Manhattan, at the elevation of 10 meters obove sea level, the park named the High Line is laid out, where it is possible to walk along a closed railway, among birches and magnolias, see some temporary exhibitions, and enjoy ice-cream in a café.
To have a bird’s eye view of the high-rises of New York City - there are a number of observation sites. To reach the observation deck on the Crown of the Statue of Liberty one has to climb 377 steps by foot; there is a view of the harbor and Manhattan from 25 windows. Two observation decks are open at the Empire State Building – on the 86th and the 102nd floors. The Top of the Rock observation site with glazed and open terraces is open at the highest sky skyscraper of the Rockefeller Center.
Festivals, exhibitions, and other events for the whole family are presented on our What’s On? section.
Photos: facebook.com/naturalhistory/, facebook.com/MoMath1/, facebook.com/MTA-New-York-City-Transit-232635164606/, facebook.com/Staten-Island-Childrens-Museum-53747115046/, facebook.com/guggenheimmuseum, facebook.com/childrensmuseumofthearts, facebook.com/The-Queens-County-Farm-Museum-118389648400, facebook.com/FinanceMuseum, facebook.com/thewaterfrontmuseum, facebook.com/bronxzoo, facebook.com/LunaParkNYC, newyorkredbulls.com, facebook.com/NYBotanicalGarden, facebook.com/skyrinkatchelseapiers, facebook.com/RIOCNY, wikipedia.org, familywithkids.com.