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New York with Kids – 7 of the Best Things to Do

New York with Kids – 7 of the Best Things to Do

How to keep your children happy when you visit the Big Apple

New York City isn’t just a thrill for adult travellers – your kids will love it too. It’s a city with something for everyone, from massive skyscrapers and expansive parks to some of the most awe-inspiring tourist attractions you could ask for.

There are oodles of cheap (and free) events too, especially on weekends.

New York can serve up stifling hot days in summer and snowy blizzards in winter. But whether you’re enjoying a hot dog at a Yankee stadium baseball game or taking your kids ice skating in Central Park, they’re sure to have a blast.

Here are 7 of the coolest things you can do with your kids during a visit to New York:

American Museum of Natural History

This is one of the most famous museums on earth. It’s educational, fun and family-friendly, but so huge it will be hard to see it all in one day. If your kids have seen the movie ‘Night at the Museum’, this is where it was filmed.

There are 27 connected buildings with 45 exhibition halls featuring an array of interactive exhibits, gigantic dinosaur skeletons, fossils, rare stuffed animals, space-themed displays and much more.

Museums are not always high on a kid’s must-see list, but this one may change their opinion of museums forever. The Discovery Room offers an interactive look at the wonders of science and is a great hands-on experience, especially for children aged 5 to 12.

No matter what kind of creature your child is fascinated by, they’ll find it here: snakes, insects, African mammals and everything in between.

Museums are not always high on a kid’s must-see list, but this one may change their opinion of museums forever

There are extensive gem and mineral displays, the world famous Hayden Planetarium, the Family Hall of Ocean Life and several Cultural Halls that explore the origins of humanity.

With all that and more to get through, make sure you get to the museum early in the day so you can absorb as much as possible. This place should not be missed: it’s at Central Park West on 79th Street and is open every day of the year (except Thanksgiving and Christmas) from 10am to 5:45pm.[i]

Coney Island

Coney Island is made for fun. The amusement parks open in late March and the New York Aquarium is open year round. When the weather’s warm, you can take a dip in the ocean but for the young ones, Coney Island is all about the rides.

Start at Deno’s Wonder Wheel Amusement Park, which has 16 different carnival rides for youngsters (with no height requirements). Then there’s Luna Park and the Victoria Gardens, chock-full of family-friendly rides.

If your kids are ready for something less sedate, the Thunderbolt, Endeavour and Cyclone will crank their adrenaline into overdrive

Investigate the affordable Coney Island Circus Sideshow, where performers offer up magic acts, fire-eating, snake-charming and sword-swallowing. The nearby Coney Island Museum is also worth a visit.

Although the New York Aquarium is still recovering from the beating it took at the hands of Hurricane Sandy, you shouldn’t miss it.

Depending on the time of year, Coney Island also hosts free outdoor movie nights, minor league baseball games with the Brooklyn Cyclones and night-time fireworks displays.

It’s probably best to wait until after the rides before you and the kids tackle all those hot dogs, clams, marshmallows and other tasty treats that Coney Island is famous for.[ii]

Central Park

Central Park is a brilliant place to take your kids because there’s so much to do. In spring and summer, you can row boats on the lakes and share the water with ducks and swans.

The Central Park Carousel is a traditional attraction (complete with organ music) that’s open from April through September. On sweltering summer days, drag your hot-and-bothered offspring to Laker Pool for a refreshing swim.

At the Meer Discovery Center, kids can try their luck at catch-and-release fishing with rented bamboo poles for bluegills, catfish, grass carp, golden shiners and rock perch.

Central Park is a brilliant place to take your kids because there’s so much to do.

Take the youngsters to Belvedere Castle for a look at the Woods and Water Exhibit: it’ll introduce them to the flora and fauna of the park. There are amazing views from high up in the castle.

Other possibilities include model boat racing at the Conservatory Water pond or enjoying a classic tale (Jack and the Beanstalk, Cinderella, Sleeping Beauty, etc.) at the Marionette Theatre in the Swedish Cottage. And don’t forget to visit the Central Park Zoo![iii]

New York Hall of Science

This science museum and technology centre was built with curious kids in mind – it features lots of hands-on activities that teach children about the world of science while ensuring they have tons of fun in the process.

For little ones, there’s toddler-friendly Preschool Place. Outer-space enthusiasts will love Rocket Park. But two of the coolest activities are the chemistry demonstrations and taking a seat to watch the mesmerising cow eyeball dissection (no active participation required, thankfully)!

At warmer times of the year, the Mini-Golf Course and Science Playground are also open. The Hall of Science is close to a number of other popular New York City attractions including the Queens Museum, Flushing Meadows Carousel and Queens Zoo.

Don’t leave your visit until too late in the day, because on some weekdays the Hall closes at 2pm.[iv]

Ripley’s Believe it or Not, Times Square

If your children have always wanted to see the world’s largest collection of shrunken heads or love the idea of sticking their head inside a clear dome that’s covered in live cockroaches (don’t worry, the ‘roaches are segregated from your kids), this is the place for them.

This historical museum has been enthralling Times Square visitors since 1939 and is home to a wealth of rare artefacts and thrilling exhibits that let your youngsters join in the fun.

Move through the 20 themed galleries at your own pace as both you and your children learn more about the amazing world we live in. Some of the most popular of the 500 engaging exhibits include the Black Hole, Mindball and LazeRace.[v]

Chinatown

For children and adults alike, venturing through New York’s Chinatown is like visiting a whole new world. It’s vibrant, colourful and full of surprises.

If your kids need to expend some energy, take them to the Hester Street Playground in Sara D. Roosevelt Park, which is divided into separate areas for big and little kids.

To make sure you don’t get lost, go online and get a kid-friendly map from ExploreChinatown.com.

Visiting Chinatown is all about trying new food – and there are plenty of options to choose from. Traditional Chinese bakeries offer up steamed buns filled with egg custard or sweet roast pork.

The Nom Wah Tea Parlour on Doyers Street dates back to the 1920s and has been patronised by many celebrities including Tobey Maguire and Woody Allen.

Visiting Chinatown is all about trying new food – and there are plenty of options to choose from.

It’s a family-friendly retro establishment that serves excellent dim sum and other tasty goodies. If your kids have never tried eating with chopsticks, this is as good a place to learn as any.

Provided your family’s stomachs still have room, no visit to this part of New York is complete without a stop at the Chinatown Ice Cream Factory, where the flavours include everything from plain vanilla to green tea, lychee, black sesame and red bean.

Check out the nearby Mahayana Buddhist Temple overlooking the Manhattan Bridge.[vi]

Catch a kid-friendly Broadway show

While there are plenty of adult-oriented shows available both on and off Broadway, the younger crowd is well catered for too.

Spiderman, The Lion King, Aladdin, Annie, Cinderella, Wicked, Matilda and a host of other family-friendly productions come and go in New York City, so it’s a simple matter of checking schedules to see what’s playing when you visit.

As there are with movies, each Broadway show comes with a rating: G, PG, PG13, R, etc. so you know exactly what to expect when it comes to age-appropriate material for your kids. NYCtourist.com is a handy place to find out which Broadway shows are playing (including prices).

This site has a lot of other incredibly useful information about visiting New York City as well: restaurants, tours, nightlife, attractions, sporting events and transportation.[vii]

New York is a wonderful place to enjoy with your kids and the attractions above are only the tip of the iceberg.

New York is a wonderful place to enjoy with your kids and the attractions above are only the tip of the iceberg.

Kids will also love the Bronx Zoo, seeing the Statue of Liberty on a boat cruise or attending one of the many free events hosted by the City Parks Foundation: puppet shows, kid’s concerts, sports clinics and much more.

Many parts of the city are bicycle-friendly, so hiring bikes can be a great way to explore parks and waterfront areas with your family when the weather cooperates.

Getting around New York is easy – you can choose between walking, cycling, taxis, buses, subways and ferries. So grab the kids, hit the sights and do it your way!

[i] http://www.amnh.org/exhibitions/permanent-exhibitions

[ii] http://mommypoppins.com/kids/coney-island-with-kids-a-brand-new-roller-coaster-the-mermaid-parade-other-family-fun

[iii] http://kid101.com/10-things-to-do-in-central-park/

[iv] http://gonyc.about.com/od/sciencetechnology/p/New-York-Hall-Of-Science-Visitors-Guide.htm

[v] http://www.ripleysnewyork.com/

[vi] http://mommypoppins.com/content/chinatown-with-nyc-kids-a-fun-family-tour-of-this-bustling-downtown-neighborhood

[vii] http://www.nyctourist.com/broadway.asp

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