The Best Children’s Activities in New York City
The Classic: FAO Schwarz
Even the little ones can use retail therapy. The imminent closure of this New York institution has devastated the inner child in all of us. Bring your children to the over-the-top store for a swansong rendition of “Chopsticks,” a la Tom Hanks in the 1988 film Big. Rumor has it FAO Schwarz will open a Times Square location as early as Christmas 2016, but hurry and see this one while you still can.
Hiding in Plain Sight: Toys R Us Times Square
Yes, Times Square is a madhouse that we rarely recommend to anyone but the most determined sightseer, but the massive Toys R Us here is worth the hassle. The indoor ferris wheel, roaring tyrannosaurus and life-size doll-house will entertain your kids for hours.
The Classic: Broadway
Shows like Matilda, The Lion King, Aladdin and Wicked have turned the Great White Way into a party for the whole family. Matinees may be your best bet for younger children, although nothing beats the excitement of seeing a Broadway show in the evening.
Hiding in Plain Sight: New Victory Theater
Just steps from Times Square on 42nd Street, the New Victory Theater understands that children don’t need dumbed down, saccharine story lines. Since 1995, the Drama Desk Award-winning theater dedicated to children’s programming has put on thought-provoking and engaging productions such as Peter Pan, Romeo & Juliet and, this season, The Velveteen Rabbit, from internationally renowned acting companies.
The Classic: Staten Island Ferry
Children love epic modes of transportation. Board this ferry, which connects Lower Manhattan to Staten Island and takes passengers right past Ellis Island and the Statue of Liberty—for free. Kids can take in the activity of New York Harbor while enjoying sweeping views of the downtown skyline from one of the outdoor decks.
Hiding Plain Sight: Roosevelt Island Tramway
Even longtime New Yorkers get a thrill from riding this underappreciated aerial tram from Midtown to Roosevelt Island. For the price of a subway ride, you and your children can see a bird’s-eye view of the the city from 250 feet above the East River. Plus, it was in the climactic battle scene in the 2002 Spiderman.…What’s more epic than that?
The Classic: Central Park Zoo
No dream day would be complete without animals! AGAIN NOT SURE THIS IS A DREAM DAY ANYMORE?? The Central Park Zoo has more than 130 species on view, the most popular being the snow leopard and penguin enclosures.
Hiding in Plain Sight: Children’s Museum of Manhattan
This museum has been quietly entertaining and educating Manhattan’s children for four decades. Interactive exhibits on the human body and the city’s water system (as well as a partnership with Nickelodeon for a Dora the Explorer-themed wing, for example) make a trek to the Upper West Side worthwhile.
The Classic: Empire State Building
Your kids will love the views uptown and downtown—all the way to One World Trade, with its own observation deck—from the 86th and 102nd floor observatories as they point out other sites that they’ve seen so far on their visit. One drawback? The long wait—although a new audio-guide experience makes that infinitely more enjoyable than past years.
Hiding in Plain Sight: Top of the Rock
What’s better than the view of New York City from the Empire State Building? The view of New York City with the Empire State Building front and center. Your children will love seeing Central Park and ESB from the 70th floor observatory in Rockefeller Center, and the shorter lines can’t hurt either.
The Classic: Alice’s Tea Cup
This fairytale of a café is an enchanting place for children to dine on traditional English tea sandwiches and crumpets or a knockout brunch—whimsical wings included. There are three branches, but kids will love the original one on the Upper West Side, with its large store of fanciful collectibles.
Hiding in Plain Sight: Ninja
Have a ninja in your family? Take them to this Tribeca restaurant for a lantern-lit meal served by black-robed waiters joined by a skilled magician. The Japanese-inspired menu includes kid-friendly foods like chicken teriyaki and tempura, and the waitstaff stays in character throughout the meal (watch out for their swords), making for one of New York City’s most entertaining dining experiences. The food isn’t the most authentic sushi in town (ask our WestHouse concierges for that!) but your Little Residents will never forget the night.
After a long day of exploring the kids will be tired out. Luckily, with our Little Residents package, they can snuggle in a child robe with a WestHouse teddy bear while enjoying delicious milk and cookies in their room.