New York City can be a pretty overwhelming family vacation. There is so much to see and do that family vacationer can never hope to see it all. The trick to an enjoyable New York City family vacation is to make an itinerary for each day and to plan to return again. There are simply are too many family-friendly activities to do in New York City. But there are several activities that every family vacation to New York City should include, whether it is your first visit to New York City or your tenth.
Because of the size and breadth of New York City, family vacationers find the city constantly evolving and constantly changing. Kids love New York City because they never know what is going to be on the next street corner. Choose New York City for your family vacation because even though its reputation shows it to be a hotspot for nightlife and adult fun, there is a never-ending buffet of fun activities that kids and parents will enjoy.
Tour of New York
There is plenty to be gleaned from a New York City family vacation simply by walking the busy streets of New York City. While you and your family are out exploring New York City, there are several sites that you should aim for—well-trafficked with tourists or not, these sights are essential on a New York City family vacation.
The first is Times Square, whose lights and colors will be impressive to even the smallest members of the family. Teenagers on the New York City family vacation will like seeing the MTV studios, which is located right in the middle of Times Square.
From Times Square, a family walk down Broadway is another fun experience of a New York City family vacation. Broadway shows can be expensive, but day-of tickets are often cheaper and every member of the family will enjoy themselves in one of the historic Broadway theaters.
Close to Broadway is Rockefeller Center, a 5th Avenue landmark that brings in throngs of New York City family vacationers. In the winter, Rockefeller Center becomes an ice skating rink that has been featured in countless movies: in the summer, outdoor cafes take over space and offer a peaceful, fun spot for a respite from a busy New York City vacation day.
Children will especially love the FAO Schwarz, which fronts Rockefeller Center and is truly a store kid can get lost in! Another must-see sight on a New York City family vacation is the Empire State Building and its observation deck on the 86th floor. There is no greater way to see New York City on a family vacation.
Chinatown is another great walk on a New York City family vacation: this busy, vibrant section of New York City is awash with street vendors, unique shops, throngs of people on the street and lots of restaurants. Chinatown bumps up against Little Italy, which has tons of little cafes wherein to stop and share a sweet cannelloni or gelato.
Grand Central Terminal
A little bit across town is the Grand Central Terminal, and families will enjoy visiting this famous spot on their New York City family vacations. The clock and staircase are reminiscent of the romantic days of travel and might make even the most harried of family vacationers pause for a second to reflect on the grand tradition of family vacations.
New York City Museums
As one of the premier family vacation destinations in the world, family vacationers should plan on spending a lot of time discovering the New York City museums, which are among some of the best in the world. Popular museums like the Met and Guggenheim are certainly worth a visit, but kids might find themselves restless in the quiet corridors.
Children’s Museum of the Arts
There are several museums that specifically cater to children in New York City: the first is the Children’s Museum of the Arts, which provides a hands-on art experience for children.
Children’s Museum of Manhattan
The Children’s Museum of Manhattan is another popular spot for family vacationers: this museum promotes diversity and understanding of an ever-changing global sphere. For the New York City family vacationers who have little dinosaur lovers in their pack, then the American Museum of Natural History is guaranteed to be a big hit. Parents on a New York City family vacation will love this museum as well, as it is one of the most preeminent science and research museums in the world.
New York Hall of Science
In a similar vein, the New York Hall of Science is another little known museum gem: this science museum offers many hands-on learning opportunities for kids. From puppet shows to a live science theater show, the kids on a New York City family vacation will feel that the NYHS is all about them!
9/11 Memorial Museum
Many families on a New York family vacation like to take their kids to tour Ground Zero: as construction goes on, a better way to truly understand the events of 9/11 on a New York City family vacation is to visit the New York City Fire Museum, which has a special exhibit devoted to the events of that horrific day.
Intrepid Sea-Air-Space Museum
Among many others, a final museum that family vacationers will enjoy in New York City is not a building, but a ship. The Intrepid Sea-Air-Space Museum is on a 900-foot long aircraft carrier and can boast of having the fastest aircraft in the world in its rich collection.
Downtown New York City
Downtown is a great place to visit on a New York City family vacation: one of the most interesting sites on Wall Street is the Federal Reserve Bank. Kids and adults alike will love a tour of the Gold Vault which is five stories below ground. Another downtown site to check out on a New York City family vacation is Trinity Church, which is the burial site of many famous New Yorkers and was once one of the grandest churches in the nation.
Downtown is also the home to the New York Stock Exchange, which no longer provides tours but whose beautiful, palatial building is worth visiting for family vacationers. Downtown New York City is also just a skip away from Battery Park, where the ferries to the Statue and Liberty and Ellis Island take off from. If time permits, family vacationers will want to take a combination tour of these two places: both are equally interesting and exciting. The crown on the Statue of Liberty has recently been reopened to visitors, which guarantees family vacationers’ stunning views of the New York City harbor and skyline.
On Ellis Island, family vacationers will enjoy looking through records books for their last name, touring the museum, and learning the rich history of the place. Downtown New York City is also close to the South Street Seaport, which family vacationers are visiting in droves. Considered a New York City tourist center, South Street Seaport is full of cafes, shops, and restaurants and has beautiful views of the Brooklyn Bridge and is the home of the famous Fulton Fish Market. Families who head to the South Street Seaport on their New York City family vacation will also love touring the Peking, which is the second-largest sailing ship in existence.
Central Park could be a New York City family vacation in and of itself: this 843-acre green space is a haven away from the busy city for family vacationers. Parents should take their kids right away to charming Belvedere Castle, a perfect miniature castle that will have kids’ imaginations running. Inside Belvedere Castle is the Henry Luce Nature Observatory, with an impressive collection of natural history artifacts.
While in Central Park on a New York City family vacation, families should also visit the children’s zoo, which offers a hands-on learning experience about the natural world. A much larger attraction is the Central Park Zoo, which is one of the premier zoos in the world and includes special programs for children aged 2-12.
If your family vacation falls during the warm New York City summer months, then children will love storytime at the Hans Christian Andersen Statue, which is a popular landmark for children. For a schedule of storytelling events and other Central Park activities, then family vacationers should visit The Dairy, a Victorian Gothic building that houses the Central Park Visitor Center.
If your New York City family vacation falls during the winter, then there are plenty of Central Park activities as well: a highlight will be a trip around the Wollman Rink, which allows family vacationers to enjoy fun and exercise while surrounded by the beauty of nature.