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New York City is expecting more than 61 million tourists to visit in 2023. Should your family be among them? We certainly think so! Sure, we're a little biased (our offices are here!), but who better to give you the inside scoop than some locals? We tapped the expertise of our editors and staff members — especially those who have kids and teens — plus Beth Beckman, Manhattan-based author of Little Kid, Big City! New York, to bring you a list of 15 must-sees on your New York City visit.
The one tip that nearly everyone on our team mentioned: Don't just hang out in Times Square. "It's calmer, cleaner and so much fun in other parts of Manhattan and other boroughs like Brooklyn and Queens," said one editor. After you see a Broadway show or two, head uptown or downtown to explore under-the-radar gems and popular tourist stops that are legit awesome. (Did you know there's a waterfall in NYC?)
The subway is the most cost-effective way to get around — and city kids often take it by themselves by the time they're in middle school. Buy each family member a $29 New York Metro Card that's good for unlimited rides for a week. Use Google Maps to help you navigate stops and stations; it's often pretty accurate about train times too. We hope to see you in NYC real soon!
You could visit Central Park every day on your NYC vacay, and still not see it all. The 843-acre oasis spans over 50 blocks. It's surrounded by skyscrapers and boasts 21 playgrounds, a zoo and a Swedish Cottage with Marionette shows. Wollman Rink is typically the go-to for ice skating, but for the summer, it has been transformed into a giant pickleball installation with 14 courts. Since it's easier to come and go to the park as you please if you stay in a nearby hotel, put The Quin, a Hilton Club and Thompson Central Park New York on your radar when you're booking your trip.
Museum of the Moving Image
Location: Astoria, Queens
Another staff favorite, the Jim Henson exhibit at the Museum of the Moving Image appeals to kids of all ages. "Younger kids can decorate a Muppet body with eyes and hair," says a Good Housekeeping editor. Meanwhile, older kids will enjoy the interactive stations where they can try their hand at ADR, foley effects, music cues or stop-motion animation. You might even luck out and go on a day when there's a kid-friendly screening.
American Girl Place
Location: Midtown Manhattan
Kids will love taking their dolls out to dinner at American Girl Place New York, which provides doll-size booster seats that attach to the table and a mini place setting so your child's doll can eat with the family. Dolls dine for free while a fun four-course menu is $27 per person — downright inexpensive by NYC standards. The experience is best for kids ages 3-12.
Location: Times Square
Broadway shows live up to the hype, so add one (or more!) to your list of must-dos if you have kids in elementary school or older. (While younger kids can attend, they may not be able to sit still for two-plus hours.) Wicked and Hamilton are wonderful all-around picks that please multiple generations. For something more edgy with teens and college-age kids, a Good Housekeeping team member highly recommends Sweeney Todd. "Bring your Playbill to the stage door after most Broadway shows and some of the cast will autograph it," she suggests.
Museum of Broadway
Location: Times Square
Book tickets to this fun, new attraction for before or after your Broadway performance. The Museum of Broadway is packed with famous costumes, props and other memorabilia from shows, including a retrospective of Broadway's longest-running show, Chicago. If you want to continue with the Broadway theme, have lunch or dinner at Gayle's Broadway Rose. The wait staff sings show tunes and the food is pretty good too!
Location: Midtown Manhattan
Bryant Park sits right outside the main branch of the New York Public Library, and its famous carousel only costs $4 to ride while the one in Central Park will set you back $10, noted one Good Housekeeping staff member. Depending on when you visit, you might run into jugglers or other entertainers in the park. From October to December, Bryant Park hosts a holiday market packed with fun food and handmade gifts for everyone on your list. And don't forget to pop into the library to see its amazing architecture. Tours are free, but space is limited, so be sure to register online.
Location: A five-minute ferry ride away from the bottom of Manhattan
"Governors Island is the best picnic spot ever!" raved a Good Housekeeping staffer who has a 7-year-old. You can also rent bikes, climb a huge man-made hill, swing in a hammock grove or play on gigantic slides. In the winter, Governors Island also offers ice skating.
Statue of Liberty
Location: Liberty Island
You have a handful of options for seeing Lady Liberty on your trip. If you're in lower Manhattan, hop on the free 24-hour Staten Island Ferry (you don't even need a ticket) and on the way to Staten Island, you'll pass right by the statue. You can turn right around and come back if you want — expect the total trip to be 60 to 90 minutes. Or you could combine a boat ride to see the statue with dinner and book a memorable trip with City Experiences. "It's really magical at sunset," said one of our testers. If you want to climb up the Statue, take a ferry from Battery Park in Lower Manhattan to Liberty Island. While you don't need an advance ticket to go inside the statue, you will need one to access the crown. Keep in mind that kids need to be at least 42 inches tall to visit the crown.
Location: Midtown Manhatten
A 25-foot waterfall in the middle of NYC? No way! Yes, it's real! "Almost always shady and cool, the park's cafe is a perfect place to grab a bite with the kids," says Beckman. You'll find this hidden gem at 51st Street between 2nd and 3rd Avenues.
Harry Potter New York
Location: Flatiron District
Get a taste of the Wizarding World right in NYC! The Harry Potter store sells butterbeer, themed treats (chocolate frogs, here you come!) and tons of magical merch in a new-ish store near Madison Square Park. "We got our butter beer to go and drank it in the park," says an editor.
Major League Baseball Game
Location: The Bronx (Yankees) or Queens (Mets)
Take the kids out to the ballgame. At Citi Field, home of the New York Mets, kids can practice taking a swing at a mini baseball diamond behind the scoreboard in center field. Yankee Stadium also offers a play area for mini fans. Its Kids Clubhouse — filled with baseball-themed climbing structures — is located on the 300 level in centerfield. At both ballparks, you'll find some incredible food offerings like towering Grand Slam milkshakes at Yankee Stadium and fried chicken sandwiches that use glazed donuts as the bun at Citi Field.
The Elevated Acre
Location: Lower Manhattan
If you're walking around the Wall Street area with the kids (perhaps to see the 9/11 Memorial Museum) and need to find a quiet spot, head over to the Elevated Acre on 55 Water Street. Nestled on the terrace of a giant office building, it features a large lawn, amphitheater seating, a few winding tree-lined paths and spectacular views of the East River, Brooklyn and the Brooklyn Bridge. "You can easily miss it," warns Beckman. "There is a small sign but it’s quite inconspicuous, and the escalators don’t look like they are for public usage. Look for the outdoor escalators set back from the sidewalk."
American Museum of Natural History
Location: Upper West Side of Manhattan
Dinosaur fans may never want to leave this incredible museum, which recently won a 2023 Good Housekeeping Family Travel Award. The dino exhibit, which takes up an entire hall on the fourth floor, features 100 specimens and is mesmerizing. The American Museum of Natural History still requires timed-entry reservations to visit; book the earliest slot for the best chance at seeing the dinos without a lot of crowds.
Todd Otterness Silver Towers Playground
Location: Hell's Kitchen neighborhood of Manhattan
A sculpture actually doubles as a jungle gym at Todd Otterness Silver Towers Playground. Shaped like a seated human, it has slides for legs, seats for hands and arms that extend as climbing apparatuses. "It's a huge hit with kids as well as their art-loving parents," says Beckman. You'll find it on 41st Street between 11th and 12th Avenues; it's a great place to stop if you're walking back from the Intrepid Sea, Air and Space Museum to Times Square.
Location: West Village
The Swifties in your family will want to walk by 23 Cornelia Street, a townhouse where the pop superstar lived in 2016, three years before releasing the song "Cornelia Street." Show your teen you're in the know by also suggesting you see Taylor Swift: Storyteller, an exhibit at the Museum of Arts and Design, running through September 4. Just hop on the 1 train from Christopher Street Station and you'll be there in about 15 minutes.
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