According to NYC Go, at least 52.7 million visitors passed through to see the curious sights and sounds of the Big Apple in 2012. New York City’s sweeping views and unceasing bustle are enough to make any of us feel like a child, but the raw sense of wonder this destination conveys is perhaps most powerful to its young visitors.
It’s hard to know where to begin touring with children in a city of this scale, but it’s possible to pack a lot of unforgettable, family friendly experiences into even the briefest of visits. Here are 7 suggestions for where to take the family — kids and all — on your next trip to NYC.
1. Visit the Central Park Zoo
Central Park in its entirety is a lively, beautiful park for the family to see during a visit, but the Central Park Zoo – located at Fifth Avenue and West 64th Street — is geared especially toward children. After visiting the penguins and polar bears, check out the Tisch Children’s Zoo, a walkthrough wildlife experience where kids and adults alike can feed African pygmy goats and watch Vietnamese potbellied pigs. While you’re inside the park, be sure to grab a hot dog or an ice cream cone, too!
2. Take in a show at the Swedish Cottage Marionette Theatre
Give your kids the opportunity to indulge in some good old-fashioned fun at the Swedish Cottage, located at the West Side on 79th Street. The Cottage’s Marionette Theatre brings enjoyment to audiences with contemporary, innovative marionette stagings of vintage children’s tales. Reservations are required, and shows and scheduling vary by season. Visit the Swedish Cottage website for additional information.
3. Splurge on snacks at Dylan’s Candy Bar
The family’s on vacation, so let the kinds live a little! NYC Go recommends a trip to Dylan’s Candy Bar, located in Midtown (across from Bloomingdale’s, on Third Avenue). At this one-stop-shop confectionery, kids can get their fill of every candy imaginable: M&M’s of all colors, decadent chocolates, and gummies in every shape and size line the shelves. Dig in!
4. See the Statue of Liberty
You and the kids can work off a few of those candy calories on a walk up the Statue of Liberty, which stands at 305 feet tall, according to the National Park Service. New York Magazine recommends families climb up to the 10th-floor observatory for a sweeping view of lower Manhattan. The Liberty Island Museum, located in the statue’s pedestal, is a great way to learn the historical and political significance of this national icon.
5. Stroll through the American Museum of Natural History
The American Museum of Natural History, located at Central Park West and 79th Street, is an indoor educational playground for all ages. It’s hard to see it all, but be sure to take your children to the richly visual dioramas and exhibits featuring taxidermied African and Asian mammals — some of which were captured by Theodore Roosevelt, according to CBS New York – plus the reptiles and amphibians of the world, as well as a glowing spectacular of jellyfish in the Hall of Biodiversity. On top of all this, the museum has every child’s favorite: Dinosaurs upon dinosaurs!
The Milstein Hall of Ocean Life is another jaw dropper, with its 94-foot suspended replica of a blue whale, surrounded by pictures and dioramas depicting other scenes from aquatic life, per Gothamist.
6. Enjoy some family friendly restaurant eats
New York Magazine recommends grabbing a family meal at Ellen’s Stardust Diner, a ’50s-themed eatery in Times Square. This diner is home to a Broadway-belting waitstaff and a circling model train that will keep kids occupied as you revitalize your collective energy stores for a continued vacation in the city that never sleeps.
Alice’s Tea Cup, situated at 73rd Street and Columbus Avenue, also comes highly recommended for families, particularly for a morning meal. This tearoom specializes in scones, sandwiches, cakes, and teas, with bountiful kid- and adult-friendly menu options to be explored.
7. Visit Toys”R”Us and FAO Schwarz
Kids and toys go together like peanut butter and jelly. New York’s many toy stores are a marvel, and FAO Schwarz is the best among them: It is the oldest toy retailer in the United States, with the flagship store located at West 59th Street and Fifth Avenue. Although FAO Schwarz is now owned by the Toys”R”Us corporation, it maintains its unique character to this day. Even more importantly, it maintains its incomparable selection of toys: life-sized stuffed animals, tons of trinkets, and the renowned foot piano from the movie Big.
Toys”R”Us has its own remarkable store blocks away, in Times Square. This one’s worth checking out, too, if just for the colossal, working ferris wheel located inside the building. Take the kids for a ride to get a view of the shop’s animatronic dinosaurs, costumed characters, and life-sized Barbie dollhouse.