New York, the Big Apple – the city that never sleeps! Here is our list of free things to do in New York City with kids and most of these activities are not just for kids either! Even the seasoned New Yorker should be encouraged to give these attractions another quick look!
Having featured in so many great movies, New York is an instantly familiar city. Have fun getting to know it better with your kids!
Free Things To Do With Kids In New York City
Visiting New York is an amazing experience and showing your kids the sights is great fun but it can be an expensive business so here are some free things you can do during your time in the Big Apple.
#1. Staten Island Ferry
Take the kids on a 25-minute trip on the Staten Island Ferry across the water from Lower Manhattan to Staten Island. The Ferry runs 24 hours a day/ 7 days a week. On weekdays durinng rush hours 6am-9.30am and 3.30-8pm ferries are every 15 or 20 minutes, At weekends, service is provided every 30 minutes on Saturdays and Sundays.
See some of the best sites that New York has to offer such as the famous Statue of Liberty, the stunning views of New York Harbor and the majestic Manhattan skyline. All free of charge!
#2. Central Park
Of course all parks are free but Central Park has to be the most famous! A hive of activity all year round with playgrounds, wonderful buildings such as Bethesda Terrace & statues such as ‘Alice in Wonderland’ & ‘Strawberry Fields,’ for Beatle, John Lennon.
Enjoy free swimming at Lasker Pool in the summer months & storytelling at the ‘Hans Christian Anderson’ statue.
#3. NYC Toy Stores
Ok, obviously toys are not free but I have chosen these toy stores because they offer a whole experience & a lot more than a simple toy sale.
At the LEGO® Store Fifth Avenue you will find innovative displays, in-store family events, and play areas and of course plenty of LEGO. The Living Room is an interactive play area at the center of the store designed for hands-on, minds-on play.
Brooklyn Superhero Supply Store is worthy of a mention for its originality & good work! You can pick up x-ray goggles, capes & tins of immortality! Customers are asked to promise at the door to use purchases only for the forces of good & profits go to 826NYC which teaches writing to kids. Founded by author, Dave Eggers.
FAO Schwarz at the Rockefeller Center has to be one of the most iconinc toy shops but it also offers an interactive experience, with hands-on activities for kids, some of which are free, from magic tricks to science experiments.
Mary Arnold Toys on the Upper East Side has been operating since 1931, obviously selling many toys over the years but also offering a destination to gather for events and story times.
It’s not really a toy shop but kids of all ages love tricks and magic shops, so a visit to Tannen’s Magic Shop, the city’s oldest operating magic store in Midtown Manahattan is where you’ll find fun things like hats that produce rabbits, magic canes, invisible paint and more.
#4. Brooklyn Children’s Museum
Free every Thursday from 2 to 6pm, the Brooklyn Children’s Museum is full of fun, educational exhibits that teach kids about world cultures, history & science. There’s also a lovely area specially geared towards the under-fives. They have the most amazing website so even if you’re not in New York, you can take a look!
#5. Brooklyn Bridge
One of the most recognisable parts of the New York City skyline, it’s free to walk the elevated pedestrian walkway for a stunning experience of New York City. The Brooklyn Bridge has featured in so many movies & television shows making it a real part of New York City history.
#6. Children’s Center at The New York Public Library
Did you know you can see the real stuffed animals that inspired the beloved Winnie-the-Pooh stories in New York? Visit them at The Children’s Center at The New York Library at 42nd Street where you will also find computers, books, programming spaces, podcasting studios, reading nooks for kids and a cool book sorter that allows kids to return their books through a slot and watch as a conveyor belt sorts them to go back onto the shelves.
They also feature events for young people and their families including storytelling, musical and theatrical performances, spoken word performances, and guest appearances by authors and illustrators.
Travelling with young children (or partners…) can be a challenge – take a look at our sanity-saving family travel tips and get prepared for your next adventure!
#7. Columbia Astronomy Public Outreach
Curious older kids and teens can attend free public lectures at Columbia Astronomy Public Outreach, followed by a full 90 minutes of rooftop stargazing, hosted by Columbia University’s astronomy department.
Past Friday-night sessions have included “How Big Is the Solar System?”, “How Is a Hubble Image Made?” and “Where the Ocean Meets the Sky.”
#8. Flushing Meadows – Corona Park
The city’s second-biggest park, Flushing Meadows – Corona Park contains the amazing Unisphere, a mammoth steel globe created for the 1964 World’s Fair.
You can also explore one of the park’s six playgrounds, take a stroll along the Flushing Bay Promenade, or fly a kite or model airplane.
#9. The Seaport
The Seaport (or South Street Seaport) is an entertaining area with exciting, free seasonal events and plenty of entertainment for all ages. You can also inspect the historic ships docked at the pier.
The South Street Seaport Museum tells the story of the rise of New York as a port city and its critical role in the development of the United States, with interactive exhibits, education, and experiences. The free admission includes access to all the indoor galleries and tall ship Wavertree.
#10. Times Square
You can’t really visit New York without taking a photo in Times Square, the busy, bright hub of excitement!
Obviously famous for New Year’s Countdown, there are also other seasonal events that take place along with public art installations and plenty of fun stores to ogle at. Our favourite was visiting The M&M Store located just off Times Square.