City Guide: 25 Places in Manhattan Kids Will Love

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We are fortunate to live an hour outside of Manhattan and we take advantage of our close proximity as much as possible. There are so many family friendly places in the 22 square miles of the island of Manhattan that our list could potentially go into the hundreds! For this week, however, we’ll stick with 25 places we have explored over the past decade, including a few spots that spill over into the Bronx. 

We’ll acknowledge some gaps in this list- the Metropolitan Museum of Art and American Museum of Natural History are missing from this list- but we have not been to some very popular spots in over a decade (all the more reason to rerun ASAP!) For organizational purposes, we’ve listed sites by location, starting with the Financial District and working on our way up island through the Upper East and West Sides all the way to the Bronx (we had to include a couple of our favorite spots, which happen to in the Bronx- see #23-25)

We’ve shared some of these spots before in a couple of popular, themed spots: 10 Things to do on a Rainy Day and 10 Holiday Events in NYC for Kids, both of which we plan to update later this year. If you’re looking for places to dine with kids throughout Manhattan, check out this recent post with 10 spots we love. 

Manhattan Skyline

25 Kid Friendly Places in Manhattan:

  1. The Statue of Liberty was a gift of friendship from France in 1886 and, since the 1930s, has been part of the National Park Service’s National Parks of New York Harbor, which has 12 sites surrounding the port of New York. Liberty Island is home to the Statue of Liberty, which welcomes an average of 12,000 visitors each day and is open 364 days a year, with seasonal hours (check here). The island includes the statue, museums, gift shops, plenty of dining options, and plenty of outdoor spaces to walk, picnic, and take in the beautiful views of Manhattan.
    Kids will especially love the ferry ride, walking inside the pedestal, exploring the museum, and earning a Junior Ranger badge.
    Plan on 3-4 hours to explore the island, climb to the pedestal, and a ferry ride to and from Liberty Island. Expect larger crowds, and longer waits, during peak summer months.
    Read our full blog post here.
  1. Ellis Island welcomed over 12 million people between 1892 and 1954, when the immigrant office was closed. The complex sat in disrepair until the National Park Service took over in 1965 and reopened it as an immigration museum. Now, over two million visit the complex each year to explore the exhibits and research their own family’s history.
    Kids will especially love the Journey and Treasures from Home exhibits, and earning a Junior Ranger badge.
    Plan on 3-4 hours to fully explore the exhibits and ride the ferry to and from the island.
    Read our full blog post here.
  1. National Museum of the American Indian is housed in the Alexander Hamilton U.S. Custom House and chronicles the history of indigenous peoples throughout the Western Hemisphere. The museum is free to visit 364 days a year (closed on Christmas) and has five distinct exhibit halls, lecture halls, and presentation spaces. It’s one of two Smithsonian museums in New York and has a sister museum in Washington, D.C.
    Kids will especially love imagiNATIONS Activity Center, with more than a dozen interactive exhibits like building an igloo and balancing in a canoe.
    Plan on 2 hours to fully explore the exhibits, with more time in the imagiNATIONS Activity Center.
    Read our full blog post here.
  1. Fraunces Tavern Museum is most famously recognized as the spot where George Washington said goodbye to his Continental Army officers on December 4, 1783. The tavern is also the spot where the first Sons of the Revolution in the State of New York (who own and oversee the museum) formed and the first offices of the Departments of Foreign Affairs, War, and Treasury. Today, the second and third floors (above the restaurant) are devoted to a rotating collection of some of the 8500 artifacts in the collection.
    Kids will especially love seeing a lock of George Washington’s hair (and his teeth!), tea from 1774, and the Hall of Flags.
    Plan on 90 minutes to explore the museum, more time for a meal in the tavern restaurant.
    Read our full blog post here.
  1. Federal Hall is most well known as the site of George Washington’s inauguration on April 30, 1789. The building, erected in 1703, was the home of the British royal governor’s council and the assembly of New York. The building was later used as a City Hall, a place to protest “taxation without representation”, and as America’s first capital. The current building was built in 1842 and served as a U.S. Custom House until 1862 when Abraham Lincoln converted the building to a branch of the United States Independent Treasury system. It also served as a public gathering during trials and turmoil like the 1929 Stock Market Crash. The Hall is part of the National Parks of New York Harbor, which includes 9 other locations (see #1 and #2 on this list!). Today, the Hall is open weekdays and is free to visit.
    Kids will especially love the This Place Matters  self guide book, the brief video about the New York Harbor Park, and earning a Junior Ranger badge.
    Plan on 90 minutes to explore the exhibit and earn a Junior Ranger badge.
    Read our full blog post here.
  1. The Tenement Museum showcases the tenement building of 92 Orchard Street, a five story building with 22 units and over 7,000 residents between 1863 and 1935. There are over a dozen tours that include exploring the apartments and the neighborhood. The museum can only be seen by guided tour, but the large gift and book shop and introductory video is open to the public without a tour reservation.
    Kids will especially love taking the Meet Victoria Confino tour and interacting with the interpreter of the teenager who lived at 92 Orchard Street in the 1910s with her large family in a small apartment.   Adults will love the apartment tours and walking neighborhood tours that explore the architecture of the Lower East Side of Manhattan.
    Plan on two hours for a full tour and brief introductory video.
  1. Little Island is a man made island located off Pier 55 in the Hudson River which opened to the public in May 2021. Pier 55 has been an important part of the landscape of Manhattan for a long time- read about the evolution of the area here. The 2.5 acre park is accessible via two pedestrian bridges and includes a 680 seat amphitheater, walking trails, and a courtyard with concessions. The Hudson River Park Esplanade includes plenty of space for walkers and bikers and the two entrances to the island. 
    Kids will especially love the space to run and the fun interactive art installations.
    Plan on one hour to explore.
    Read our full blog post here.
  1. The Museum of Illusions is a popular spot to test your eyesight, with over 40 exhibits of illusions, utilizing holograms, kaleidoscopes, prisms, and more. Guests are welcome to explore at their own pace and there are guided tours available by reservation. Bring a camera or smartphone and take tons of interactive photos to further enhance many of the illusions. Each exhibit has explanations for “what to do” and “what’s going on”, sharing the logic and mathematics behind each illusion.
    Kids will especially love The Color Room, the Reverse Room, the Infinity Room, and the Clone Table.
    Plan on  90 minutes to explore all exhibits.
    Read our full blog post here.
  1. The National Museum of Mathematics is the place to celebrate math, filled with dozens of hands-on, interactive puzzles, challenges, and activities that celebrate all facets of mathematics. Located across the street from Madison Square Park, the National Museum of Mathematics opened in 2012 and welcomes visitors of all ages through daily family friendly activities, field trips, after school programs, enrichment workshops for teachers and students, and a museum that is open all year.
    Kids will especially love the Hyper Hyperboloid, Coaster Rollers, Motionscape, and Hoop Curves exhibits.
    Plan on 90 minutes to explore the museum.
    Read our full blog post here.
  1. The United Nations, located on the banks of the East River in Manhattan, welcomes over one million visitors each year. The charter for the United Nations, a name proposed by President Roosevelt in 1942, was signed in 1945 with 51 countries as founding members. Today, there are 193 member states, and countries must apply for admission. New York became the permanent home of the United Nations in 1949 and construction on the complex was finished two years later. The United Nations is a meeting place for all members to “settle disputes, prevent future conflicts, find solutions to global issues, and protect all humanity”.  Public tours include opportunities to visit three or four of the six main organs of the UN, as well as many displays and art installations.
    Kids will especially love getting to sit inside the Economic and Social Council Room, the Security Council Room, and the General Assembly Room, and the outdoor sculptures. 
    Plan on 90 minutes for a tour.
    Read our full blog post here.
  1. Bryant Park is one of the oldest preserved spaces in Manhattan. There are literally dozens of things to do in the nine acre park, located between 5th and 6th Avenues and 42 and 44th Streets in Midtown Manhattan, based on the season, and even several dining options, both indoors and outdoors.
    Kids will especially love the carousel, winter ice skating, and picnicking in the summer.
    Plan on 20 minutes to walk through, more time if you’re staying for a concert, activity of festival.
    Read our full blog post here, but take note that this was our second post, waaay back in 2017. We’ll be doing a refresher soon!
  1. The New York Public Library system includes the Stephen A. Schwarzman Building which opened in 1911 and is probably the most well known of the 92 properties in the library system. It’s one of four research centers, in addition to the 88 circulation branches located throughout Manhattan, the Bronx, and Staten Island. Some areas of the library are open to the general public and some are reserved for credentialed people who visit to complete research. The library offers free, guided tours twice a day, as well as an audio tour for a nominal fee.
    Kids will especially love the Children’s Center, located on the ground floor (you can enter on 42nd street). Make sure to check out the display of the original stuffed animals that inspired the Winnie-the-Pooh characters. There’s almost daily programming for children of varying ages and, of course, thousands of children’s books.
    Plan on one hour for a tour, countless time for cozy reading.
    Read our full blog post here.
  1. The Museum of Broadway is designed to take guests through a chronological history of “the Great White Way” (the nickname for Broadway because of the bright lights of the theater marques), with three major segments: The Map Room, The Timeline, and The Making of a Broadway Show. All three parts include original costumes, scripts, daily itineraries, mock ups of sets, film footage of interviews with casts and crews, awards, and highlights of popular shows from each era. There’s trivia on opening dates, the number of Tony Awards each show received, and short bios on the cast. There are several interactive components to each era, but real Broadway aficionados will surely want to read the caption of every photo and the details of every timeline. 
    Kids will especially love the interactive exhibits and plenty of Insta-worthy photo spots.
    Plan on 90-120 minutes to tour the exhibits.
    Read our full blog post here.
  1. Intrepid Sea, Air, and Space Museum is home to the aircraft carrier Intrepid, as well as a submarine, a space shuttle, and 20 aircraft vehicles. The Intrepid  was operational between 1943-1974, served in World War II, the Cold War, Vietnam War, and as a NSAS recovery vessel in the 1960s before being decommissioned and opening as a museum in 1982.  Today, the Intrepid displays their collection of vehicles and has indoor and outdoor museum exhibits, and offers the chance to tour the lower levels of the ship.
    Kids will especially love exploring the ship and Exploreum, an interactive hall has lots of hands-on experiments to give kids a feel for what it was like to live aboard the Intrepid.
    Plan on 2-3 hours to tour the museum.
    Read our full blog post here.
  1. Spyscape opened in 2018 and includes seven immersive exhibits that test spy skills, with challenges created by a former Head of Training at MI6. The museum also showcase the history of international spying and espionage, with artifacts and tools used in infamous cases of spying, including spy plane cameras, robots, and bugging devices. Guests set up their personal spy profile before beginning their missions.
    Kids will especially love the Questions Stations, the Lie Detector test, and the Special Ops Gallery.
    Plan on two hours to complete all the missions.
    Read our full blog post here.
  1. Carnegie Hall is considered the finest acoustics concert hall in the world and is home to over 250 seasonal concerts and an additional 500+ independently produced events every year. It’s not considered an opera hall (no operas are performed) nor is it a performance center but Carnegie Hall does offer world class concerts featuring every genre of music and spoken word.  During the late nineteenth century Concert Halls were quite popular, as places to listen to a concert, as opposed to theaters, which were places to watch a performance. Today, Carnegie Hall offers daily tours of the complex. 
    Kids will especially love playing our version of I Spy while on the tour.
    Plan on 75 minutes for a guided tour, a little more time in the (small) museum exhibit.
    Read our full blog post here.
  1. Radio City Music Hall Backstage Tour offers the chance to tour Radio City Music Hall, the largest theater in the world at the time it opened in December of 1932. With a seating capacity of 5,931 guests (over 6,000 when they used the orchestra area for additional seating) and a stage that spans 130 feet across, it’s one of the largest, and most recognizable, entertainment venues in the world. Radio City Music Hall hosts hundreds of events each year and is home to the famous Rockettes (who were actually founded in St Louis Missouri in 1925, when Radio City Music Hall founder Roxy Rothafel brought them to New York City).  Today, guests can see performances in music, theater, comedy, and sports 365 days a year, with over two million annual visitors. The Hall also offers daily Backstage tours with a behind the scenes look at how it all comes together.
    Kids will especially love the Grand Lounge, costume shop, screening room, and the chance to meet a Rockette!
    Plan on 75 minutes for a tour, more time for the gift shop .
    Read our full blog post here.
  1. Rockefeller Center Tour and Top of the Rock include stunning views and rich history of New York City.  Funded by namesake John D. Rockefeller Jr., son of the founder of Standard Oil and the world’s first billionaire, Rockefeller Center is comprised of 19 different buildings built during the 1930s during the height of the Great Depression. It’s known as a “City within a City” because of its size and encompassing buildings and businesses. The most well known and most recognizable building, 30 Rock, now known as the Comcast Building, was built in 1930 and became a National Historic Landmark in 1987. Seventy stories tall, NBC owns 27 floors and has programming including all four hours of the Today Show, Late Night with Jimmy Fallon, Saturday Night Live and several other popular NBC shows housed in the building. Guests can take tours of the complex and also explore the three highest floors of the complex (called Top of the Rock). A trip to the Top of the Rock includes a four minute introductory video (narrated by NBC news anchor Lester Holt) and a 43 second elevator ride (make sure to look up as the elevator rises!) to the 67th floor. Guests may explore the 67th floor, which has both indoor and outdoor pathways and indoor bench seating to enjoy the view. Take an escalator to the 69th floor and explore the outdoor terraces that include a special “Love” photo opt and then walk a short flight of stairs to an unobstructed view.
    Kids will especially love peeking into the Today Show set and the views from the top (and the elevator ride!)
    Plan on two hours for the tour and time to explore Top of the Rock.
    Read our full blog post here.
  1. NBC Studios Tour is hosted by the famous NBC Pages, includes the chance to see the Production Gallery, multiple studios (we saw Jimmy Fallon and Saturday Night Live studios on our tour), and the historic halls of the building. Tours include a narrated history of the building and a timeline of the television production process
    Kids will especially love getting behind the scenes and making their own video (which you can download and take home!)
    Plan on 90 minutes for the tour and time in the gift shop. **Note: this tour has been paused temporarily during the pandemic, but we’re leaving it on our list as we hope it will return and kids really would love it.
  1. The Paley Center for Media first opened in 1976 as the Museum of  Broadcasting, the Museum of Television and Radio changed names and moved to the heart of Midtown Manhattan in 1991, followed by another renaming and reopening as the Paley Center for Media in 2007 to honor William S. Paley. The owner of several prominent radio stations in the 1920s, William S. Paley created a larger network that became the CBS Network in the mid 20th century. The Paley Center’s collection includes 160,000 television and radio programs and advertisements from over 70 countries- the largest collection of television and audio media in the world. The curated collection includes news, sports, performing arts, children’s shows, documentaries, comedy shows, and even commercials dating back to the 1940s, all of which have been chosen for their “artistic achievement, social impact, or historic significance” according to the Center’s website.
    Kids will especially love the GX Gaming Studio and watching old tv shows.
    Plan on  90 minutes to explore the exhibits, watch shows, and play games in the Gaming Studio.
    Read our full blog post here.
  1. The Central Park Zoo is part of the Wildlife Conservation Society, which was founded in 1895 and includes the Bronx Zoo, Central Park Zoo, Queens Zoo, Prospect Park Zoo, and New York Aquarium. The Central Park Zoo opened in 1861 and its seven acres are home to 23 species of waterfowl, 74 penguins, grizzly bears, snow leopards, snow monkeys, red pandas, and more! There are three biomes to see the animals: The Tropic Zone, Temperate Territory, and the Polar Circle. There’s also the Tisch Children’s Zoo for the preschool crowd. 
    Kids will especially love seeing all the animals, and watching the sea lions and penguins being fed each day.
    Plan on 60-90 minutes to walk through the entire museum.
  1. The Guggenheim Museum was designed by famed architect Frank Lloyd Wright and opened in 1959. The spiral shaped main hall showcases a rotating exhibit from the permanent collection as well as traveling exhibits. The main exhibit changes about every six months. There are also two galleries showcasing artwork from the permanent collection. The Guggenheim has a wide variety of family friendly programs and special events, including productions in the 270 seat Lewis Theater.
    Kids will especially love completing the scavenger hunt and the wide variety of family programs, from weekly “Little Guggs” art classes for toddlers to monthly “Stroller Tours” for the infant crowd to whole family tours and studio workshops.
    Plan on  two hours to fully explore the exhibits and participate in a family program.
    Read our full blog post here.
  1. The MET Cloisters, an extension of the Metropolitan Museum of Art, are located in Fort Tryon Park in the Washington Heights section and refer to an open courtyard, usually found in the center of a religious monastery or convent, that showcases European medieval art and architecture. There are a dozen distinct areas that include 20 galleries and gardens spread throughout the four acre space. The museum was built by architect Charles Collens and opened in 1938. Many of the artifacts and structures, which date back to the 12th through 15th centuries, were saved from various churches, monasteries, and abbeys throughout Europe and recreated throughout the museum complex.  The four cloisters were originally created in France, bought by art dealer and sculpture George Barnard in the early 1900s, and later bought by John D. Rockefeller and donated to the museum. 
    Kids will especially love the gardens in the spring and summer, 8th century chess pieces, and the unicorn tapestries.
    Plan on  90 minutes to explore the Cloisters.
    Read our full blog post here
  1. The New York Botanical Garden is part of a 250 acre campus created in 1891 that includes over one million planets, 30,000 trees, and over four million specimens on site. They have dozens of classes, workshops, field trips, family events, summer camps, and even college programs. The Garden also offers popular seasonal activities like the holiday Train Show and Orchid Show in the spring. We were members for years and loved going each season to watch the transformation of nature.
    Kids will especially love the tram ride around the garden, the Children’s Adventure Garden, and the indoor Haupt Conservatory.
    Plan on 90 minutes to explore some of the gardens and ride the tram.
    Read our full blog post here.
  2. The Bronx Zoo, also part of the Wildlife Conservation Society (see #21), is home to over 10,000 animals (over 700 species!) spread out across the 265 acres. Opened in 1899, it is one of the largest conservation parks in the world.  The zoo has almost two dozen exhibits showcasing everything from Birds of Prey to a Giraffe Building to a Gorilla Forest to Africa Plains and offers daily animal feedings, encounters, and special events and programs (we were members for years and loved the Boo at the Zoo!
    Kids will especially love the bug carousel, nature trek, and the Wild Asia Monorail
    Plan on 3-4 hours to explore several exhibits and an animal feeding

For more of our City Guides, check out the index here. And follow along on our adventures on Instagram, Pinterest, Facebook, and Twitter.

Top of the Rock in New York City

Disclosure: We were given media passes to many of these locations (as indicated on individual posts). All opinions expressed are my own.

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  1. So many reasons to say” I love New York” Despite all the many wonderful places you have seen around the city in recent years there’s still so much to appreciate and enjoy. Thanks for sharing and I have so many more reasons to go back to my home.❤️❤️

  2. What a great list! I visited NYC as a teenager and still remember loving the Guggenheim, the Top of the Rock, and the Met. Next time I visit I’d like to go to Ellis Island- missed it on the last trip nearly 10 years ago.

  3. These are all great suggestions, even for adults! One of my favorite things to do on a rainy day in New York wander through a museum. There are so many quality museums to choose from, but I am partial to the MOMA.

  4. I always think of NYC from an adult perspective. But it is clear there is a lot of things to see and do for families. And kids of all ages. Your post reminded me that it has been far too long since our last visit to New York City. You have given me some ideas for our next visit.

  5. First off, your kids are so cute! I love reading your posts because their smiles always brighten my day 🙂 Second, this is such a great guide. It seems like there are so many amazing things to do in Manhattan for kids, and so many great educational spots for them to learn too! I don’t have kids yet, but when I do, I can’t wait to take them to Manhattan and visit several spots on this guide. Thanks for sharing!

  6. This a great list of tips and places worth visiting for families traveling to NYC with kids. Thanks to your suggestions, there is no place in Manhattan for kiddos’ boredom. A wide range of attractions you recommend will fill every kid’s interest. It’s great that you also tell how much time is worth booking for a given attraction with kids, and suggest what will intrigue and interest them the most in a given place. This makes it much easier to plan your day.

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