New York family day trip: Things to do in NYC with kids

Read our guide to New York’s top family-friendly shows, events, and experiences, and learn planning tips to ensure your whole family has the best experience.

Gillian Russo
Gillian Russo

New York City has something for everyone to see and do, and we mean everyone — including the littlest visitors. Activities abound for everyone to enjoy, no matter what neighborhood you’re in, how old your kids are, or how much you want to do. Luckily, if you’re looking to plan a day in the city with your family, you’ve come to the right place.

We couldn’t begin to name all the family-friendly activities on offer throughout the city, but this guide is a start. Discover the unmissable experiences for kids and families happening right now, and learn more about the best Broadway shows to see with kids, too — Broadway is one of the city’s most famous attractions, after all.

Here are our recommendations for how to spend a New York day trip with the family, including experiences to check out and practical tips to help you plan your day.

Best things to do in New York with kids

New York City is full of landmarks, experiences, events, and attractions the whole family will love. Take the kids to an interactive museum, or enjoy a family movie under the stars. Below, discover a sampling of the best things to do in New York with kids right now, and discover our full roster of New York City experiences for families and kids.

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Museum of Broadway

Take a walk through nearly 100 years of showbiz history. The Museum of Broadway, located in the heart of Times Square, is full of memorabilia from classic, game-changing shows and modern phenomena, and there are plenty of fun photo ops to delight the family. Kids will particularly enjoy some of the interactive elements, such as a giant word puzzle and memorabilia from beloved Disney shows like The Lion King.

Museum of Broadway age recommendation: All ages and free for children under 4

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Intrepid Sea, Air & Space Museum

Have a kid who loves history? Take them to the Intrepid Sea, Air & Space Museum, docked right along the pier on the Hudson River. Kids can learn about military and maritime history and explore actual historic ships and even a space shuttle. There are always plenty of interactive kids’ activities, including flight simulators and even overnight stays. Plus, admission is free on the last Friday of every month during the summer.

Intrepid Sea, Air & Space Museum age recommendation: All ages and free for children under 5

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Rooftop Movies

See a movie under the stars! Grab the family, pack some popcorn, and go to Rooftop Movies, a series of outdoor movie screenings in Midtown. There are dozens of movies throughout the summer, and past family-friendly movies have included titles like Encanto, Shrek, The Parent Trap, and Mamma Mia!

Rooftop Movies age recommendation: Varies by movie

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NYC Parks

NYC’s parks are famous for a reason. If the weather’s nice, you can enjoy the outdoors at a park in any neighborhood. Central Park has plenty of playgrounds for the children to run around, or you can take them to see the animals at the Central Park Zoo. Bryant Park offers a rotating lineup of children’s activities, including crafts, board games, and storytimes.

You can also walk along Riverside Park and the boardwalk to its south for gorgeous views of the Hudson River, with eateries, other parks like Little Island, and even mini golf along the way.

The city's parks are free to visit, but some offer paid activities, like the Secret Places of Central Park walking tour, if you want to learn more about famous sites within them.

NYC Parks age recommendation: All ages and free for all; walking tours suitable for all ages

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Theatre shows to see with kids

Introduce your kids to the joy of live theatre on Broadway and beyond. There are plenty of Broadway shows for kids that adults will enjoy, too, like beloved Disney musicals and hilarious comedy plays. Get tickets to some of the best family-friendly shows in NYC below. For even more options, browse our full guide to family-friendly theatre in New York to see now.

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Your wish for a great family musical has been granted! Aladdin on Broadway offers all the energy, spectacle, and fun of the 1992 Disney movie that kids love. See how Aladdin goes from being a street urchin to a prince, with the help of a magical Genie, in the hopes of winning Princess Jasmine’s love. But can he stop the evil Jafar from taking the throne? The musical features the movie’s fan-favorite songs like “Friend Like Me,” plus a flying magic carpet you have to see to believe.

Aladdin age recommendation: Children 6 and older; children younger than 4 not permitted

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The Lion King

The Lion King

Be prepared for a great time for the whole family at The Lion King. Based on the classic Disney movie, the musical follows the lion cub Simba as he grows to take his rightful place as king of the Pride Lands. Kids will love the familiar story and songs, like “The Circle of Life” and “Hakuna Matata,” and audiences of all ages will be amazed by the intricate, award-winning puppetry that brings the African savanna to life.

The Lion King age recommendation: Children 6 and older; children younger than 4 not permitted

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Harry Potter and the Cursed Child

Get ready to be spellbound at Harry Potter and the Cursed Child, a continuation of the books and films loved by wannabe wizards of all ages. Harry, Ron, and Hermione join the next generation of wizards — their children — on a time-traveling quest to save the Wizarding World once more. Lots of fan-favorite characters appear throughout, and the unbelievable magic effects will amaze the adults just as much as the kids.

Harry Potter and the Cursed Child age recommendation: Children 8 and older; children younger than 4 not permitted

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See why this musical is so popular with audiences of all ages. Wicked is a prequel to the classic children’s story The Wizard of Oz, following the friendship between Glinda the Good Witch and Elphaba before she became the Wicked Witch of the West. Wicked has turned many kids into theatre fans for good, in large part because of its catchy, thrilling songs like “Defying Gravity.”

Get Wicked tickets now.

Wicked age recommendation: Children 8 and older; children younger than 4 not permitted

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The Play That Goes Wrong

A show going wrong never seemed so right! The Play That Goes Wrong is a hit comedy show in NYC since 2017, following an amateur theatre troupe’s attempt to put on a (non-violent) murder mystery play. Hilarity ensues as the sets break down, actors argue on stage, and props go missing. Kids will laugh nonstop at all the over-the-top physical comedy.

The Play That Goes Wrong age recommendation: Children 8 and older

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How to plan a family day out in New York

New York is a big and busy city, but with a little planning, it doesn’t have to be overwhelming. We’ve got some practical tips for how to best plan for a day in NYC with the kids.

Check events’ age recommendations.

Not all family-friendly experiences are created equal. Some attractions are truly for all ages, but some may be geared toward very young children, while others may only be suitable for older children. Be sure to check New York Theatre Guide or your desired event’s website before buying tickets.

Dress the kids comfortably to walk around New York.

Yes, the subway, bus, and taxi are options for getting from one place to another, but if you’re sticking mostly around the same neighborhood or two, walking is the best way to get around. Be sure you and the kids all wear comfortable shoes, and check the weather to be sure you don’t dress too hot or cold. (Especially in the fall and spring, the city can be cold in the morning and warm by midday, so wear or bring a sweater or jacket just in case.)

Depending on what event you’re going to, though, your kid might want to dress to theme, and that’s often encouraged! A Disney musical, for example, is the perfect place for your child to wear a princess dress, as long as it doesn’t have noisy or light-up accessories that may distract others.

Pack light, but prepare well.

You’re not going to want to lug bulky bags around the city — especially if the kids end up wanting souvenirs that you’ll have to take along, too. That’s especially true if you’re doing any kind of walking tour or seeing a show, as theatres don’t have much storage space. Be sure you have the essentials — sunscreen, money, water, and perhaps snacks — but only the essentials.

Build in time between family activities.

There’s so much happening in NYC all the time that it’s easy to fill your family day trip with multiple events. But be sure not to overbook yourself! Allow ample time between activities if your kids get tired, want a snack, need the bathroom, or spot a toy store along the way. Building in wiggle room lets you and your family actually enjoy the city while you’re there, rather than being stressed or rushed.

Check out family-friendly restaurants in New York.

There are plenty of family-friendly restaurants with food options that kids and adults will enjoy. In Midtown, places like Junior’s and Ellen’s Stardust Diner offer classic, universally pleasing diner fare, and the latter features singing servers that will delight the kids.

Kids will have a similarly entertaining experience at a restaurant like Benihana, a hibachi restaurant that turns cooking into dinner theatre as the chefs prepare food — with plenty of flair — right in front of you. Serendipity 3 is another family favorite, featuring whimsical food and dessert options, including its famous frozen hot chocolate.

For even more great restaurant options in Midtown, check out our NYC restaurant guide.

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