Bustling New York City, NY features activities and sites that are suitable for almost any type of visitor and the family traveler is no different. New York offers a diverse selection of activities to engage the minds and speak to the hearts of children. The selection of museums includes several world-class children’s museums, public parks, playgrounds, free attractions and unique tours. Visit Central Park Zoo, Grand Central Terminal, Coney Island, Empire State Building and other great NYC attractions.
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1. Brooklyn Children's Museum
© Brooklyn Children's Museum
The Brooklyn Children’s Museum is located in the Crown Heights neighborhood and was the first children’s museum in the United States.
This multi-level underground museum houses a plethora of interactive exhibits designed to both entertain and engage the minds of young children, ranging from a working greenhouse to World Brooklyn, which is a section of rooms portraying various cultures from New York City, such as an Italian pizzeria and a replica of an MTA bus. Totally Tots is an area dedicated to children under five that features daily art experiences. The museum is available to rent for birthday parties and other private events.
145 Brooklyn Avenue, Brooklyn, Phone: 718-735-4400
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2.One World Observatory
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The One World Observatory is an observation deck in Manhattan located on floors 100-102 of One World Trade Center, which is the tallest building in the western hemisphere and offers stunning views in every direction from the main observatory on the 100th floor.
Guests can take in views of Manhattan, Brooklyn, New Jersey, and the water. A glass disc in the floor also allows guests to look down onto the city streets 100 stories below. Floor 101 features three separate dining areas, ranging from a casual cafe to a fine dining restaurant. The observatory also includes a special events space and a theater.
285 Fulton Street, New York, NY 10006, Phone: 844-696-1776
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3.The Museum of Interesting Things: History of Invention
© The Museum of Interesting Things
The The Museum of Interesting Things is a traveling exhibit that presents artifacts and exhibits related to the history of invention. The exhibits and demonstrations feature many antiques and interesting items from the past. Items that can be included in the exhibition range from toys, cameras, and music devices to science and medical devices and nearly everything in between.
The traveling show is a self-proclaimed speakeasy and can be scheduled for private events and parties or can be found at 177 Prince Street once a month. The museum’s offices at 60 East 8th street can also be visited by appointment and here visitors can see special items that are not presented in the traveling show. Phone: 212-274-8757)
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4.New York Botanical Garden
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The New York Botanical Garden is a National Historic Landmark and botanical garden located in the Bronx. The park features 250 acres with over 1 million plants. The garden exists both as a recreational green space and as an educational and research facility. Each year many school children, families, and teachers visit to learn about plants, ecology, and healthy eating through the botanical garden’s programming.
The property features 50 distinct gardens and plantings, including a cascade waterfall, an old-growth New York forest, and wetlands. Other highlights include a vintage 1890s greenhouse, a Japanese rock garden, a library, and more. Additionally, the New York Botanical Garden hosts many seasonal and special events and activities.
2900 Southern Blvd, Bronx, NY 10458, Phone: 718-817-8700
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One of New York City’s most recognizable icons, Rockefeller Center is a huge complex in Downtown Manhattan that consists of 19 commercial buildings between 48th and 51st Streets and Fifth Avenue, covering 22 acres of prime real estate. The original 14 art deco buildings are located between Fifth and Sixth Avenues and are separated by a private street and a sunken square called Rockefeller Plaza, which is world-famous for its skating rink and a traditional Christmas tree. Construction, which began in 1931, was mostly completed by 1939. Recognized as one of the greatest building projects of the Great Depression era, in 1985 Rockefeller Center was declared a New York City landmark and in 1987 a National Historic Landmark. Next read: Ice Skating in NYC
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An adventure playground is a concept invented about sixty years ago by C. T. Sørenson, a civically-minded Danish landscape architect. He proposed the creation of “waste material playgrounds in suitable large areas where children would be able to play with old cars, boxes, and timber.” The concept was adopted by play:groundNYC, a non-profit organization that believes young people should have access to environments that encourage experimentation, risk taking, and freedom of self-directed play monitored and run by playworkers. To achieve that goal, they have created the Yard, a 50,000 square foot adventure playground on Governors Island. An adventure playground is a junkyard of sorts where young people decide how to build, alter, and enhance the space. They use waste materials brought from the dumps to build, destroy, change, and improve as they see fit. The playground is staffed by trained playworkers. The Yard is for kids six years old and older only. Parents are encouraged to relax in the nice shady grassy area nearby, or they can take a walk around Governor Island while their kids are having fun.
40 Barry Road, New York, New York, Phone: 347-422-6595
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7.The Lion King on Broadway
© The Lion King on Broadway
The Lion King on Broadway opened in 1997 and has become the most successful musical of all time. It currently has eight shows a week at New York’s Minskoff Theatre in Times Square. The award-winning show received six Tony Awards in 1998 as well as more than 70 other major arts awards, including a Grammy Award.
The 2.5-hour show is family friendly and the atmosphere is casual. There is no dress code. Following the performance, some of the performers may be available near the stage door for autograph signing and they may even pose for photos. The theatre offers show merchandise for purchase.
200 W 45th Street, New York, NY 10036, Phone: 866-870-2717
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© Daniel Ernst/stock.adobe.com
Make Music New York Inc. is the only New York City’s music festival for the people by the people. It is organized for the last 12 years by Make Music New York, a not-for-profit organization that has a mission to celebrate the musician in all of us, bring new artistic creations to the public, unite diverse New York communities, and energize the common spaces of New York. They produce two annual citywide celebrations. Their flagship festival, Make Music New York, is held each summer on June 21st, and Make Music Winter, a series of musical parades held each winter on December 21st. On these days, music makers of all ages, backgrounds, and abilities are encouraged to take to the stage and show off their skills and passions. Every year, there are more than 1,000 live concerts in public parks and plazas, on sidewalks, in front of shops, and in all five boroughs, from jazz to rock to hip hop to opera.
33 Flatbush Ave, Brooklyn, NY 11217, USA, Phone: 917-779-9709
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9.Manhattan Graffiti Lesson
© Manhattan Graffiti Lesson
Guests can participate in creating a collaborative graffiti art mural during a 2-hour graffiti lesson in Manhattan. Working artists guide the tours and trace the history of graffiti art from its beginning until current times.
The tour visits many of the best pieces of art in the city and includes a graffiti lesson where artists teach guests tips and techniques for painting with spray paint. Graff Tours offers some of the highest-rated graffiti tours in New York. The company offers tours both in downtown Manhattan and in Bushwick, Brooklyn. Additionally, they can provide special workshops, group tours, and customized events.
22-11 Greene Avenue, Flushing, NY 11385, Phone: 201-397-9138
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10. The Toy Museum
© The Toy Museum
The Toy Museum of New York is a theater and performance-based museum that houses a large collection of toys dating back to the 1880s. The museum is dedicated to the city’s history in toy manufacturing and showcases many varieties of classic toys, including rare dolls and teddy bears, model trains, the original Frisbee pie pan, and more.
Toys from the museum’s collection are used in theatrical performances and plays for kids that are educational and teach children many important social skills in a toy-filled, fun, and interactive environment. The theater’s plays for kids are designed for children from pre-K through 4th grade. Read more
Columbia Street, Brooklyn, NY 11231, Phone: 718-243-0820
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11. Museum of Modern Art
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The Museum of Modern Art is an art museum in Midtown Manhattan. The museum houses one of the world’s largest collections of modern art and is quite influential in the modernist art movement.
The collection includes architecture, design, drawing, photography, artist’s books, films, and more and many modern and contemporary artists have their art featured here. The museum houses a section called the Art Lab, which offers free family programs as well as an interactive space that is perfect for families. The Museum of Modern Art features several dining options, ranging from a Michelin-starred fine dining restaurant to casual cafes. Read more
11 W 53rd Street, New York, NY 10019, Phone: 212-708-9400
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12.The Battery Urban Farm
The Battery is a forested 25-acre park at the southern tip of Manhattan Island facing New York Harbor. In 2011, one corner of it was dedicated to growing food, flowers, and mostly edible plants. Called the Battery Urban Farm, this project of the Battery Conservancy has a goal to inspire and educate local people about growing and eating healthy food. Folks can come and get their hands dirty and learn about organic sustainable farming. Each educational visit lasts 60 minutes, and groups of up to 32 people are separated by age for hands-on lessons. There is also a tasting of what is growing if there is anything ripe at the time. The Battery Oval lawn is a perfect spot for a picnic lunch and there are hundreds of benches all over the park to sit, relax, and enjoy the products of your labor.
State Street and Battery Place, New York, NY 10004, Office 1 Whitehall Street, 17th Floor, New York, NY 10004, Phone: 212-344-3491
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13. American Museum of Natural History
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The American Museum of Natural History is one of the largest museums in the world. This mammoth property consists of 28 connected buildings containing 45 permanent exhibits. Additionally, the property houses a planetarium and a library. The museum exhibits are related to human culture, natural science, and the universe.
In addition to the permanent exhibits, the museum hosts traveling exhibits and special events from time to time. The Discovery Room is perfect for families and offers interactive exhibits from virtually every field of science, targeted at children aged 5 to 12. The museum often hosts kid-friendly camps and educational programs as well.
Central Park West at 79th Street, New York, NY 10024, Phone: 212-769-5100
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14.New York Hall of Science
© New York Hall of Science
The New York Hall of Science is a science museum in Queens. The building was part of the 1964 New York World’s Fair, for which the museum was originally created. Featuring more than 400 immersive hands-on science and technology exhibits focusing particularly on the disciplines of biology, chemistry, and physics, the museum is primarily geared towards children aged 1 to 17.
The large permanent collection includes exhibits such as Mathematica: A World of Numbers…and Beyond, Amateur Radio Station, The Search for Life Beyond the Earth, Hidden Kingdoms: The World of Microbes, and many more.
47-01 111th Street, Corona, NY 11368, Phone: 718-699-0005
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15.New York Hip-Hop Tour
© New York Hip-Hop Tour
Hush Tours provides unique musical and cultural tours of New York City focused on the hip-hop music scene. The tours give visitors an authentic experience of hip-hop culture and explore the history and birthplace of the music genre.
Tour guests will also have the opportunity to meet and greet several New York hip-hop legends and tours can include DJs, MCs, B-Boys and graffiti artists, providing visitors with a unique look at New York City. Hush Tours offers private, customizable tours for groups. The tours are family friendly and age-appropriate and are very popular with teenagers and young adults.
Church Street Station, New York, NY 10008, Phone: 212-714-3544
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16.Tennis Court 16 Remixed
Court 16 is the only New York City tennis club remixed for kids. A network of international tennis experts with an idea to create a club with a modern approach to teaching tennis developed the concept. The indoor tennis clubs in Long Island City and Brooklyn provide an inclusive high quality environment for tennis players of all ages, whether they are children taking their first steps on the tennis court or adults returning to the court after a years’ long break. Their flagship club is located in Gowanus, Brooklyn. The 15,000-square foot space is full of natural light and vivid colors to excite the imagination. The USTA-sanctioned courts are perfectly sized for developing technique, and the Premier Court surface provides more traction for the best performance. The impact-absorbing surface cushions growing joints.
1306 Queens Plaza South, Long Island City, Phone: 718-875-5550
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17.Children's Museum of Manhattan
© Children's Museum of Manhattan
The Children’s Museum of Manhattan features five stories of kid-friendly exhibits as well as daily programs and performances. The museum features something for kids of all ages with several permanent exhibits and an ever-changing temporary exhibit space. The museum features a special area called PlayWorks, which was specifically designed for children under four to learn and explore.
The exhibits emphasize hands-on learning, discovery, and growing. Daily admission to the museum includes access to all exhibits as well as admission to all programming, performances, and workshops. The museum hosts parent-child classes for children aged 6 months to 3 years as well as after-school classes for older children.
212 W 83rd Street, New York, NY 10024, Phone: 212-721-1223
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© Cafe Boulud
You will fall in love with Café Boulud even before you get inside. Crisp white tablecloths on sidewalk tables are framed by flower boxes bursting with greenery and lush blooms. Inside you will find an elegant spacious dining room with a long banquette along one wall, bright paintings, on the walls and gleaming woods. Next to it is the popular well stocked bar Pleiades. The Boulud is located on the ground floor of the Surrey Hotel on New York’s East Side and offers classic French cuisine as interpreted by renowned chef Daniel Boulud. The menu is divided into four distinct parts: La Tradition with classic French dishes such as foie gras terrine and chocolate souffle; La Saison, serving the freshest seasonal meats, seafood and produce; Le Potager, offering vegetarian delights; and Le Voyage, with dishes from around the world. There is also Boulud's L'Express menu if you are short on time.
20 E 76th St, New York, NY 10021, Phone: 212-772-2600
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19.Street Art Tour of Manhattan
© Street Art Tour of Manhattan
The Lower East Side of Manhattan is a popular space for street artists to work. The Manhattan Street Art Tour takes visitors through SoHo, NoHo, Nolita, and Little Italy to learn about the history of street art and visit examples of street artwork.
The streets in these neighborhoods have a particularly high concentration of street art as well as a rich history as a haven for artists. Some of the sights visited on the tour are Mulberry Street, Moma Design Store, the Germania Bank Building, and Lombardi’s Pizza, which was the first pizzeria in the United States. Some of the artists who may be featured on the tour are Shepard Fairey, Beau Stanton, Gum Shoe, and Team Supreme.
288 Seigel St, Brooklyn, NY 11206, Phone: 646-450-6831
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20.Superhero Walking Tour
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The city of New York has a wealth of super hero lore surrounding it and many super hero movies were shot in the city. Many Marvel comics are based in New York City, and although the DC comic franchise sets their comics in fictional cities, New York has often been used as the scenery in the movie versions.
The New York Super Hero Tour explores many of the movie sites and locations from the comic books and some of the locations included on the tour are the United Nations Secretariat Building, which has appeared in several Marvel comics, and the New York Daily News Building, which serves as the building of the Daily Planet newspaper in Superman.
32 East 32nd Street, New York, NY 10016, Phone: 844-245-8874
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Private Picassos is a unique art studio and provider of art lessons and activities that allow New York kids to get messy alone or with their parents, build a papier mache sculpture, make a stuffed animal, and have fun with paints. Their Brooklyn studio is a space where artists of all ages can drop in any day of the week. Private Picassos also works with a range of institutions around the city like schools and kindergartens, small businesses, clubs, and private homes. They will come to your birthday party, loaded with brushes, crayons, markers, chalk, and paints, and let the kids get creative, teaching them new art techniques, refining their fine motor skills, and improving their vocabularies. They also sell a great assortment of art supplies, art books, and other gifts.
237 5th Ave, Brooklyn, NY 11215, Phone: 718-215-0589
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Zachary “Schmackary” Schmahl is the original cookie monster. He loves cookies so much that he went all over the country trying all the best cookies and decided that there was something missing. Zachary was not satisfied with just chocolate chip cookies and the like. He realized that there were so many flavors missing so he decided to come to New York and make them himself. In 2011 he started selling his cookies online and a year later opened a shop in New Hell's Kitchen. Zachary now sells 45 types of cookies called "modern cookie classics" and "seasonal cookie sensations." The flavors rotate daily, but most of the time you can find his signature flavors such as Maple Bacon, Red Velvet, and Fluffler Nutter. He even meddled with the classic chocolate chip by adding a touch of sea salt. He also makes The Oatmeal Scotchie, an oatmeal, cinnamon, and vanilla cookie filled with crunchy butterscotch chips. The King of New York is a gluten-free dark chocolate cookie with salted pretzel pieces in its heart. There are also cookies with bacon, with cayenne pepper, and practically anything the cookie monster could think of.
362 West 45th Street, New York, New York 10036, Phone: 646-801-YUMM (9866)
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23.Schmitty The Weather Dog
© Schmitty The Weather Dog
Teaching science to kids is not easy, especially when it comes to subjects like weather. It’s no wonder that teachers need some help, and sometimes that help comes in the shape of a four-pound dog named Schmitty and his assistants NYC Meteorologist Ron Trotta and the children’s book author, Elly McGuire. Using literacy, music, and Schmitty’s undeniable charm, they go to local schools and inspire students to study STEM – science, technology, engineering, and math. They have visited more than 200 schools and theatres and starred on a number of TV shows, where little Yorkshire terrier Schmitty, the dog with a nose for weather, convinces everyone that science is fun. Phone: 917-855-6324
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24.Central Park Bike Tours
© Central Park Bike Tours
Central Park Bike Tours is a perfect way for families to enjoy the outdoors right in the middle of the city. The company offers 1 or 2-hour long bike tours privately or in a group. The tours travel throughout Central Park and visit many popular attractions.
Several of the attractions include Belvedere Castle, the Wollman Rink, the Conservatory Garden, the Loeb Boathouse, and much more.
Additionally, experienced guides share interesting historical facts and stories from the park and point out architectural features. The tours also point out spots where many famous television and movie scenes took place. Friends, Sex in the City, Saturday Night Live, Home Alone 2, Ghostbusters, Spiderman 3, and many other productions have used the park for shooting.
208 West 80th Street, New York, NY 10024, Phone: 917-993-3141
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25.Discovery Times Square
© Discovery Times Square
Discovery Times Square is a 60,000-square-foot exhibition space that specializes in traveling exhibits. It is one of three exhibitions in Times Square and is geared towards tourists. The museum space typically features large-scale, interactive, and immersive exhibits. Some of the exhibits that have been displayed at the space are Titanic: The Artifact Exhibition, Leonardo da Vinci’s Workshop, Star Wars and the Power of Costume, and Terracotta Warriors: Defenders of China’s First Emperor.
The museum hosts special events from time to time and the space is available for private bookings as well. Up-to-date information about current exhibits and special events can be found on the museum’s website.
226 West 44th Street, New York, NY 10036, Phone: 866-987-9692
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25 Best Things to Do in NYC with Kids
- Brooklyn Children's Museum, Photo: Brooklyn Children's Museum
- One World Observatory, Photo: Courtesy of adrian_ilie 825 - Fotolia.com
- The Museum of Interesting Things: History of Invention, Photo: The Museum of Interesting Things
- New York Botanical Garden, Photo: Courtesy of Bronx Photo g - Fotolia.com
- Rockefeller Center, Photo: Courtesy of Taiga - Fotolia.com
- Play:Ground, Photo: Play:Ground
- The Lion King on Broadway, Photo: The Lion King on Broadway
- Make Music, Photo: Daniel Ernst/stock.adobe.com
- Manhattan Graffiti Lesson, Photo: Manhattan Graffiti Lesson
- The Toy Museum, Photo: The Toy Museum
- Museum of Modern Art, Photo: Courtesy of Tomas - Fotolia.com
- The Battery Urban Farm, Photo: kmiragaya/stock.adobe.com
- American Museum of Natural History, Photo: Courtesy of Rafael Ben-Ari - Fotolia.com
- New York Hall of Science, Photo: New York Hall of Science
- New York Hip-Hop Tour, Photo: New York Hip-Hop Tour
- Tennis Court 16 Remixed, Photo: kireewongfoto/stock.adobe.com
- Children's Museum of Manhattan, Photo: Children's Museum of Manhattan
- Cafe Boulud, Photo: Cafe Boulud
- Street Art Tour of Manhattan, Photo: Street Art Tour of Manhattan
- Superhero Walking Tour, Photo: Courtesy of Daniele Salatin - Fotolia.com
- Private Picassos, Photo: redtbird02/stock.adobe.com
- Schmackary’s, Photo: Schmackary’s
- Schmitty The Weather Dog , Photo: Schmitty The Weather Dog
- Central Park Bike Tours, Photo: Central Park Bike Tours
- Discovery Times Square, Photo: Discovery Times Square
- Cover Photo: Courtesy of Ivan Franceschini - Fotolia.com
The High Line
The High Line is a public park in Manhattan. The 1.45-mile-long park resides on an elevated section of a disused freight rail line called the West Side Line, which runs from Gansevoort Street in the Meatpacking District to West 34th Street between 10th and 12th Avenues.
The park features many beautifully landscaped gardens and plantings with a variety of foliage as well as several art features. There are also benches for relaxing as well as an urban theater. The High Line frequently hosts family-friendly events, workshops, and educational opportunities. The park is wheelchair accessible and many of the access points have elevators.
New York City, NY 10011, Phone: 212-500-6035
Museum of Moving Image
The Museum of the Moving Image is a media museum sited in what was once the location of Kaufman Astoria Studios. The museum exhibits are designed to help visitors gain an understanding of the evolution and history of the film industry and the exhibits have many audio and visual components. Additionally, the museum holds one of the largest collections of video games and gaming hardware.
The museum also frequently hosts panel discussions about current films as well as film screenings. The museum’s interactive exhibits are family friendly and the museum offers special family tours and family-friendly films.
36-01 35th Avenue, Queens, NY 11106, Phone: 718-777-6800
Madame Tussauds New York is a wax museum located near Times Square featuring five stories of attraction space and more than 200 wax sculptures. The figures range from historical and royal figures to musicians and famous actors. Madame Tussauds New York is one of the busiest and largest locations of this chain of museums in the United States.
A new wax figure is released every few months. Some notable figures depicted in the museum are Jennifer Aniston, Taylor Swift, Muhammad Ali, President Barack Obama, Charlie Chaplin, Jimmy Fallon, and many more. In addition to the wax figures, Madame Tussauds also features a 4D film that is great for families.
234 W 42nd Street, New York, NY 10036, Phone: 866-841-3505
The Bronx Zoo is the largest zoo in the country and among the largest zoos worldwide. It comprises 265 acres of park lands and habitats and the Bronx River flows through the park and enhances the naturalistic environment of the zoo. Children of all ages are sure to enjoy the zoo’s many exhibits, which feature more than 4,000 animals from 650 species housed in beautiful natural habitats.
The zoo features several animal feeding sessions each day, including a sea lion and penguin feeding, as well as a 4D theater and carousel. The zoo offers a premium family membership that includes unlimited admission to four prominent New York City zoos as well as to the New York Aquarium.
2300 Southern Blvd., Bronx, NY 10460, Phone: 718-220-5100
Horse and Carriage Ride in Central Park
Horse-drawn carriages are a great way to experience Central Park. The carriages operate all year round and can be found along Central Park South between 5th and 6th avenues. The horse-drawn carriage rides take guests past many of the most popular attractions in the park. Although visitors are free to walk up and take a ride, there is no guarantee of carriage availability.
For a guaranteed ride, guests can arrange a ride in advance. The pre-arranged carriage rides include even more park sites and can be customized to fit guests’ personal wishes, including flowers and chocolates or special pick-up and drop-off locations.
56 W 56th Street, New York, NY 10019, Phone: 212-975-0785
The Statue of Liberty
The Statue of Liberty is one of the most iconic symbols of New York. The statue was a gift from the country of France and represents freedom and democracy to millions of people around the world. The statue is accessible via a short ferry ride from the mainland and visits include docent-guided tours or self-guided audio tours.
Tours educate visitors on the island’s history and New York Harbor as well as on the construction and restoration of the statue. Visits to the statue’s crown, pedestal, or the museum on Liberty Island require tickets and advanced reservations are highly encouraged. Several ticket options are available, depending on which parts of the statue and island guests wish to visit.
Liberty Island, New York, NY 10004, Phone: 212-363-3200
New York TV and Movie Site Tour
On Location Tours’ New York City TV and Movie Site Tour takes guests on a tour of New York City’s most famous filming locations. Riding in a guided sightseeing bus, visitors can see more than 40 locations that have been featured on television shows or movies.
Unforgettable tour highlights include visiting locations from the TV show Friends, such as their apartment building, and passing the hotels that appear on shows like Modern Family and American Hustle. While the tours showcase movie and TV locations, they pass through much of Manhattan, making it a perfect way for visitors to get an overview of many of the most popular destinations in the city.
555 8th Avenue #2003, New York, NY 10018, Phone: 212-683-2027
Pizza Tour of Manhattan
Scott’s Pizza Tours offers a variety of public tour options that stop at pizzerias throughout New York and explore the history of pizza in the city. Some tour options take place on the NYC Pizza Bus and visit an ever-changing list of stops rotating through Brooklyn, Queens, the Bronx, and Staten Island. These tours visit four pizzerias in 4.5 hours.
Additionally, Scott’s offers walking tours, including the Original Crosstown Pizza Walk, which explores New York pizza history in Little Italy and Greenwich village and visits three pizzerias in three hours. Several other pizza walks are also available, some of them only offered seasonally.
32 Spring Street, New York, NY 10012, Phone: 212-913-9903