15 Things to do in NYC with toddlers

Toddler activities NYC

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Things to do in NYC with toddlers

New York City is full of toddler-friendly activities! It’s also relatively easy to get around on public transport with a stroller. Here are 15 NYC toddler activities for you to explore!

 

1. Stop to smell the roses at New York Botanical Garden

I’m big on botanical gardens, large or small I love them all …. and so do my toddlers! This one just happens to be very big and FREE for grounds the only admission! Although you will probably want to pay to access the Children’s Adventure Garden and tram tour! 

Butterfly lands on flower in botanical garden.
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2. Relax in Washington Square Park

A great place to relax with your kids. You might even find some nice live music to enjoy. For a quick snack, find the famed dosa man! For picky toddlers, ask for a plain one without any filling.

3. Visit the American Museum of Natural history

Visiting this massive, kid-friendly, world-class museum is a great way to spend your time in NYC with a toddler. Toddlers will love the Discovery Room located on the 1st floor. My two-year-olds did NOT want to leave.

Toddler smushes her face to see a dinosaure skeleton at the American History Museum

Tips:

  • Visit on a school day. We visited on a weekday but all the kids were off for winter toddler using a microscope in the american museum of natural history break. It was CROWDED – We are talking worse than Disney World during Christmas. I’m not exaggerating there wasn’t even room to move about in the most popular exhibits. At first, I thought it might just be how it always was but the Discovery room staff said it’s not crowded at all during school days. Since the special exhibits restrict the number of visitors at one time, those areas were still enjoyable. Earlier in the day was also less crowded. 
  • Check the age suitability on special exhibits before booking hour time slots. Some are geared solely for older kids and adults to ruling those out will allow you to spend more time on other activities. Popular exhibitions can book out fast so schedule them 1st thing. 
  • Skip the main entrance. Look for a ramp going down to the lower entrance which is always less crowded (according to the hot dog stand vendor who directed us there).
  • Buy your tickets online to get a faster entry.

4. Enjoy the view at the top of the rock

If the line isn’t too long (long lines + toddlers = chaos), stop at the top of the rock to look through the viewfinders.

5. Take a stroll around Times Square

Times Square is fun for all ages. So much to look at and so many delicious things to eat!

Keep your walk short or duck into a restaurant for some downtime to keep your toddler from becoming over stimulated. We made the mistake of entering the M&M store. It was 2 days before New Year’s Eve and so was ridiculously crowded. If we didn’t have a stroller it would have been fine but we needed extra room to roam about and the wait for the (tiny) elevator was long. On a normal day though go right in! Lots of fun things for toddlers to look at!

buildings light up times square at night.

6. Visit The Museum of Modern Art

The Museum of Modern Art is great for kids because of its hands-on activities and the interactive art lab! Whenever I take my toddlers to a non-kid centric museum I always walk around the exhibits that would appeal to my kids first. For us, right now, this is anything with cars, horses, boats, dinosaurs or flowers. Then I move on to the hands-on exhibits (most large museums have at least one nowadays) to work off some energy. Afterward, I give both my toddlers their Kids Kindle Fire, set them up with painting, puzzles, read-along narrated storybooks, or one of their favorite preschool learning apps (I bring kids headphones) and enjoy an hour walking around the museum in complete silence.

7. Ride a ferry boat to the Statue of Liberty

Toddlers love boat rides! To keep things simple, you domino even need to get off of the boat to tour the statue. The ferry turns right back around, making it a shorter and simple way to experience the statue of liberty up close with toddlers. I also recommend walking around Battery Park which has lots of green spaces to run around and views of the statue of liberty as well.

streetlights are on in Battery Park just after sunset.
Battery Park just after sunset

8. Visit the transit museum

What kid doesn’t love trains? Check out the museum’s bus collection as well. Bring extras snacks because unlike most museums, this one doesn’t have a cafeteria.

10. Get messy at the Children’s Museum of the Arts

Designed to introduce young minds to the wonderful world of art, this hands-on museum is a bit hit for kids of all ages! They even have drop-off programs for kids aged 3-5 so you can enjoy some independent time while they create their masterpieces!

kids tee shirts with travel catch phrases on them
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11. Head over to Brooklyn Bridge Park

This waterfront park has views for you and plenty of play areas for your toddler!

12. 911 Memorial Grounds

This was on our NYC itinerary because I wanted to go, it was for me. Here’s the thing, my kids loved it. Of course, at two years of age, they had no idea of the significance but they really enjoyed the surroundings. We all stared quietly (well they were quiet enough with a large waterfall in the background) as the water cascaded over the memorial sides. As fellow nature nerds, my toddlers walked circles around the survivor tree while I read the story on the plaque in front. The key is to keep the visit short, just like your toddler’s attention span. (Why we chose to only walk the grounds, not enter the museum.) This is obviously not the place for rambunctious behavior although if it does occur suddenly (because let’s face it, toddlers are unpredictable) you can be somewhere else entirely in half a block. It’s a beautiful site that most toddlers will enjoy being in. I think everyone should visit.

water feature at 911 Memorial grounds with high rise building in background.

13. Burn off some energy at pier 25 playground

Here you will find 25,000 square feet of gated play space! The perfect stop before a long flight out. On warms days, bring a change of clothes in case your toddler wants to enjoy one of the smash pads.

14. See the Gazillion Bubble show

Fact: All kids love bubbles and the gazillion bubble show has the biggest and the best.

Best for older toddlers but you can purchase lap tickets for kids 2 and under. Try to get a seat in the front row so that your toddler is able to reach and pop some of the bubbles.

15. Spend a day in Central Park

There is SO much to do in Central Park. It is absolutely one of the best things to do with toddlers in New York City! Most tourists barely scratch the surface, some even skip it altogether. Central Park is a can’t miss ESPECIALLY when you have kids in tow!!

Two toddlers play in central park.

Tips: Visit Central Park early in your trip so you can befriend a local mum and get all the insiders tips to NYC. That’s what I did! They might know of local kid-friendly events going on during your visit as well.

12. Engage in toddler-specific learning at the Children’s Museum of Manhattan

This 5 story museum is dedicated to little learners. A great place for your little one to work off their endless supply of energy.

Bonus! Your visit benefits the Museum’s outreach at schools, hospitals, libraries and homeless shelters!

What are your favorite NYC toddler activities?

So there you have it, 15 awesome things to do in NYC with toddlers! This list is nowhere near exhaustive. The fact is there are SO many amazing toddler activities in NYC. What was the best thing you did in New York City with a toddler?

PS: If you missed it, check out the video at the top of this post of our trip!

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