Family Vacations to New York City, New York

Central Park, New York City
Central Park (Corbis)

New York City Highlights

  • See a Broadway show.
  • Ponder the universe at the American Museum of Natural History's Rose Center of Earth and Science.
  • Stroll Central Park and visit the Tisch Children's Zoo.
  • Browse world-famous art at the Met, MoMA, and Guggenheim.
  • Take in sweeping city views from the Empire State Building and Top of the Rock.

If your family wants the energy and excitement of a big-city vacation, New York can't be beat. Along with browsing some of the world's best museums, you can attend a Broadway show, inline skate in Central Park, see the Statue of Liberty up close, as well as catch a Yankee game at the "House that Ruth Built" (Yankee Stadium) or watch the Mets play at Shea Stadium.

The American Museum of Natural History has reinvented itself with state-of-the-art exhibits: the gem of the Rose Center for Earth and Space is a cutting-edge planetarium; the Hall of Ocean Life features high-tech video screens displaying kelp forests and coral reefs; and the Hall of Meteorites' biggest specimen weighs 34 tons. "Lizards and Snakes: Alive!" runs July 2006 to January 2007, and includes over 60 live snakes from all over the world.

Gradeschoolers enjoy roaming the Intrepid Sea-Air-Space Museum, a 900-foot, WWII-era aircraft carrier complete with 30 historic aircraft. Infants to eight-year-olds explore at the Children's Museum of Manhattan, which fosters creative play through interactive exhibits featuring best-loved characters including Dora the Explorer.

Especially if you're descended from immigrants who came to America through Ellis Island, and even if you're not, find out what it was like to arrive in a new land with little more than a suitcase and dreams at the Ellis Island Immigration Museum. Stay for the new living history show, Embracing Freedom, that dramatizes the experiences of immigrants past and present. The show runs until November 5, 2006. The head over to the Statue of Liberty to take in that American icon up close.

For the quintessential viw of the Big Apple, head to the 86th-floor observatory of the Empire State Building or Top of the Rock, the 70th-floor observation deck of GE's Rockefeller Plaza building.

Be sure to spend some time in Central Park, a green oasis in the heart of upper Manhattan. Stroll the tree-shaded paths, ride the carousel, watch the experts break dance, and inline skate the snaking trails (which can get crowded, so beware!). The Central Park Wildlife Center has monkeys and sea lions, while kids can pet goats, sheep, and a pot-bellied pig at the Tisch Children's Zoo. Check the schedule for summer concerts on the Great Lawn and for the puppet shows at the Swedish Cottage Marionette Theater.

Taking a child to a Broadway matinee is almost a New York rite of passage. The songs, costumes, and sheer showmanship of the musicals will have you and your kids humming when you leave the theater.

Inspiring awe in a different way are the city's great art museums, including the Metropolitan Museum of Art, the Guggenheim Museum, and the Museum of Modern Art. The National Sports Museum, located in lower Manhattan, is slated to open in 2006.

Shopping is another Manhattan staple. Along with department stores and boutiques, the city has many kid-pleasing stores. Browse FAO Schwartz for toys, make your own stuffed critter at the Build-A-Bear-Workshop, and buy your favorite characters at the World of Disney. At American Girl Place, explore the "lives" of the 18-inch, historic-era dolls with a show. You can also have tea (or lunch or dinner) with your doll as well as buy an outfit to match hers.

Tip: A CityPass ( saves you money on admission to six attractions and gets you to the front of the line at some.

Recommended Side Trips: Philadelphia and New York State's Catskill and Shawangunk mountains's resident family expert Candyce Stapen has written the book on family travel, having authored some 1,400 travel articles and 27 books, 26 of them on family travel. She is the winner of the 2004 "Caribbean Travel Writer of the Year for North America" award and a three-time winner of the Society of American Travel Writers' Lowell Thomas Travel Journalism award. Her articles have appeared in publications including Nick Jr , FamilyFun , Parents , Better Homes & Gardens , Conde Nast Traveler , National Geographic Traveler , and the Family Travel Network , among others. Her book, the National Geographic Guide to Caribbean Family Vacations is available from

Published: 3 Oct 2007 | Last Updated: 17 Aug 2012
Details mentioned in this article were accurate at the time of publication


Sign up to Away's Travel Insider

Preview newsletter »