Best Free Activities in New York City for Kids

By Lance Wiedower,

New York City is a destination full of amazing food, an abundance of cultural experiences, memorable moments, beautiful architecture and so much more. But for families looking to travel to the Big Apple and not break the bank, well, it can be a challenge with the high cost of travel, expensive Broadway show tickets and restaurants that are more expensive than the typical night out at home. But while costs can be high in some areas, New York City also offers an abundance of affordable, Kid-friendly experiences, several of which are free.


#1. See the Statue of Liberty

Free activities for the kids in NYC

Float by the Statue of Liberty for free. Photo by BKL CCBY

No, visiting Lady Liberty herself isn’t free and there is an ever-increasing number of cruises and tours that all promise up-close access to this American icon. Since it’s so difficult to find tickets to visit the statue itself, why not save time and money by seeing the Statue of Liberty for free? The Staten Island Ferry departs from the tip of Manhattan for its 30-minute journey to Staten Island, passing right by the Statue of Liberty and very close to Ellis Island as well. Believe it or not this classic jaunt across the water is free; perfect for any visiting family.

#2. Walk the Brooklyn Bridge

Free kid-friendly NYC activities

Walk the Brooklyn Bridge. Photo by Thomas Hawk CCBY

For some of the best views of Lower Manhattan, take the beautiful walk across the Brooklyn Bridge from Brooklyn to Manhattan. Walking the historic bridge gives visitors the opportunity to enjoy views of Manhattan while experiencing a true New York City landmark. Getting to the bridge is easy; take the A or C train to the High Street stop and walk right up to the stairway onto the bridge. There are benches along the way, and vendors selling drinks and snacks as you leisurely stroll the bridge so don’t worry about this experience being too hard for kids.

#3. Play in Central Park

Kid-friendly activities in NYC

Let the kids offleash at Central Park. Photo by Dan Nguyen CC BY

It’s hard to visit New York and not stop by Central Park. America’s largest city park is a massive green space that sits between Midtown and Harlem and truly is the city’s best place to escape. Given its massive size though, you should have a plan of attack; especially important when visiting with kids. You will find plenty of playgrounds, lakes, and open spaces to let the kids run but be sure to bring drinks, snacks and anything else they may need throughout the day.

#4. Experience a Neighborhood Park

Washington Square park NYC

Plenty of green space to burn off energy. Photo by the author 

To really enjoy New York City you have experience its neighborhoods, most of which have truly excellent parks. Greenwich Village has Washington Square and the neighborhoods to the north have landmark parks such as Union Square, Gramercy Park, Bryant Park and Madison Square Park. Many have plenty of open green spaces perfect for romping kids, as well as free concerts and movies during the summer.

 

#5. Walk Times Square

Times Square with kids

NYC’s own theme park. Photo by Tom Roeleveld CCBY

 

There’s not a lot of high culture to be found in Times Square, but every first-time visitor to New York should take a walk through Times Square and take in its bright glory. Times Square once wasn’t very family friendly, but it couldn’t be more so today. New York’s theme park of sorts, Times Square has cartoon characters, super heroes, Sesame Street stars and so much more. Do take a stroll through the neighborhood and watch the kids be amazed at all the bright lights and sounds of the city.

#6. Walk the High Line

Walking the High Line NYC

Walking the High Line. Photo by Kevin CCBY


The High Line stretches from 30th Street south for 20 blocks along 10th Avenue in Chelsea. A former elevated rail line, it was converted to a beautiful green space and walking path a few years ago and today is one of the stars of the city. You can walk just a couple of blocks or the whole length, depending on the weather and your stamina. Part of the High Line runs through Chelsea’s famed art gallery district and there are restaurants and cafes sprinkled along the path, perfect for kids who sometimes have short attention spans and rumbling bellies.

#7. Visit an Art Museum

Visiting the MOMA NYC

Visiting the MOMA. Photo by Randy Connolly CCBY

 

Admission to the Metropolitan Museum of Art is “recommended,” meaning it’s not required and children 12 and younger are admitted for free. At the Museum of Modern Art kids 16 and younger can enter free of charge. So while parents might still need to pay admission – suggested or not – the kids will be allowed in for free. The Met is massive, but don’t think you have to see it all. Pick a few sections that might be of interest to the kids. The whacky modern art at MoMA is always fun and the best part is kids will gain a little more appreciation for art in the process.

What other New York City experiences do you think are great for kids?