You don’t come to the city that never sleeps to take your kids to Chuck E. Cheese. Here in New York, families demand food and entertainment that is as sophisticated as it is fun. As requested by our readers (along with their very cool kids), we have the best family activities in NYC made to fill a family day in the city.
By far the number-one requested show is—what else?—Lin-Manuel Miranda’s hip-hop history megahit Hamilton.
While you wouldn’t think children would be obsessed with a Pulitzer-winning epic about the first secretary of the treasury (especially with no cute animals or puppets in sight), the electrifying show has proven exceedingly popular with even the tiniest theatergoers.
There are plenty of other family-friendly shows in town if the premium-price tickets are too steep for your budget, such as SpongeBob SquarePants (with music by a who’s who of pop superstars including Cyndi Lauper, John Legend, They Might Be Giants, and Lady Antebellum); the upcoming Harry Potter and the Cursed Child (opening in March as a two-part epic); and the superfun “Stick It to the Man” musical School of Rock.
Interactive + Immersive Activities
If your children aren’t into sitting back and watching other people have all the fun onstage, there are plenty of amazing interactive experiences they can dive into. Tech-loving kids are all raving about VR World, where they can strap on virtual reality goggles and have a completely immersive video-gaming session.
At National Geographic Encounter: Ocean Odyssey, the magic of technology lets you go deep down into the Pacific Ocean, where you’re surrounded by all the beautiful and frightening creatures of the deep, without getting either wet or seasick.
For a more low-key, low-tech, and delightfully old-fashioned experience, toddlers and younger children can spend an afternoon at the Art Farm in the City, where they’ll cuddle with live bunnies, chinchillas, and turtles, as well as make some fun art projects to take home and hang on the fridge.
For a little more pampering, girls and boys (along with their parents) can get some delish manicures, pedicures, and facials at the Upper East Side’s Milk & Cookies Kids Spa and Salon, where the treatments come in “flavors” such as Lemon Drop, Vanilla Sprinkle, and Gummy Worm.
Don’t try to pull a rabbit out of a hat for New York families—they want to see illusionists who go beyond the typical kiddie fare with works of mind-blowing performance art. The most-requested show is Derek DelGaudio’s buzzy In & Of Itself at Union Square’s Daryl Roth Theater, which explores memory and identity (and is best for older teens; no one under 16 is admitted). For the younger crowd, there is Sam Eaton’s interactive The Quantum Eye, which holds the record as the longest-running one-man off-Broadway magic show in New York.
All of these adventures are going to leave your kids with a ravenous appetite…for delicious food. Our readers’ top pick for completely non-nutritious treats is the make-your-own ice cream shop Cool Mess, where little connoisseurs can create their own concoctions. If you’d rather fuel up before your adventures, check out the most decadent breakfast in all of New York, at Norma’s in Le Parker Meridien. Indulge in eye-popping dishes like chocolate hazelnut crepes, lobster omelets, and banana macadamia flapjacks, perhaps all in one sitting. For equally delicious pancakes in a more low-key setting, head downtown to Bubby’s (either in Tribeca or the Meatpacking District), where you can feast on breakfast or a comfort food–filled dinner, with some of the best mac and cheese and fried chicken in town.
Speaking of chicken, kids can choose from several weirdly appealing varieties, including salted caramel, General Tso’s, and parmigiana at Sweet Chick. Across town in the West Village, families love Raviolo, where all your favorite Italian dishes—from eggplant parmigiana to lasagna—have been reimagined as two-bite dumplings. And for a kid-pleasing meal in the middle of Times Square, skip the chains and enjoy the splendor of Bond 45. Order all-day breakfast, pizza, pasta, or burgers before pushing past those creepy costumed Elmos on your way to a show.
Rally the troops for the perfect family day out, courtesy of our experience advisers.