Are you visiting NYC with toddlers? When we first started looking at going to New York with toddlers I was worried that there would be too busy and there wouldn’t be enough to do with them. But how wrong we were! In this guide we will tell you how to get around NYC with a toddler, where to stay and the best things to do in New York with toddlers.
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How to get around NYC with a toddler
When you are first looking at visiting NYC with a toddler, you need to think about the how to get around the city with a toddler.
Our favorite way to get around New York with a toddler is
NYC is a very walkable city and if you plan on using a stroller it is much easier to walk than worry about using a stroller on the subway or collapsing it in and out of Uber.
We found the city very stroller friendly and didn’t struggle on street level using our stroller at all.
New York Subway with Toddlers
The New York Subway has a bad reputation however it is a cheap and convenient way to get around the city. We used the subway a lot however there were some challenges.
Not all New York Subway stops are stroller accessible and we found ourselves getting our toddler in and out of the stroller and carrying it up and down the stairs, even at supposedly accessible stations.
Therefore if you plan on going on the subway with toddlers you may want to use a carrier instead of a stroller.
Many people we know who worry about using the Subway are worried about safety. Now there are some colorful characters on the NYC Subway but I didn’t feel unsafe on the Subway.
However I would say I wouldn’t use the Subway late in the evening with or without toddlers.
A top tip if you do plan on using the subway with toddlers is to try and stick to Express Trains as this will speed up your journey considerably.
Taking Ubers in New York with Toddlers
Ubers are readily available in New York and I prefer to take these over New York taxis with toddlers. The reason for this is that you can request car seats for Ubers which aren’t provided in taxis.
Also it is nice to be able to electronically hail a cab rather than standing on the curb with a toddler.
New York Taxis with Toddlers
Many people want to take a yellow cab when in New York however I prefer Ubers as you can hail on your phone and request a car seat.
Toddlers don’t have to use car seats in yellow cabs but I always have my little ones in car seats when traveling which is why I prefer Ubers.
Where to Stay in New York with toddlers
Depending on how long you have in New York and what things you want to do in NYC with your toddlers will depend on what is the best place to stay.
If you are short on time and want to stay somewhere central we always recommend staying in Midtown.
Many of the main Manhattan Attractions i.e. Bryant Park, Time Square and Empire State Park and are walkable from Midtown hotels.
Plus there are lots of shops and supermarkets where you can buy any toddler essentials.
However if you like to be away from the hustle and bustle then you really can’t beat the Upper East Side with it’s Central Park adjacent location.
However if you are on a budget and don’t mind using the Subway then Brooklyn can be a very good alternative.
Last time we visited New York we split our time between a Midtown and a Brooklyn hotel.
In Brooklyn we stayed at the Sheraton which has a pool, was close to several subway entrances and was conveniently located close to a number of large stores. You can check out prices for your dates of travel here.
And for more information on the best things to do in Brooklyn with kids check out this post.
Best Things to do in NYC with toddler in tow
I don’t know about your toddler but my toddler’s favorite thing is visiting parks. And New York city has one of the best parks in the world for toddlers.
Central park is the largest park in Manhattan and there are plenty of attractions for them within the park.
On our recent visit we enjoyed spending time in the playgrounds of Central park. Central Park has over 20 playgrounds within the park and many have slides, swings and sandpits which are aimed at the toddler audience.
Another favorite thing to do in Central park with toddlers is to head to the Loeb boathouse and renting a tow boat and heading out on to the Central Park lake.
Note: you will see there are a lot of horse drawn carriages in Central Park. However there is a lot of controversy over these as there has been concerns over animal welfare, which was reignited again in 2022 after a horse collapsed in the park.
For this reason we advise against taking a horse and carriage ride around the park.
There is also an amazing carousel within the grounds of Central Park which toddlers and kids of all ages will love taking a spin on.
Also one of our favorite places to head with toddlers in the park is the Alice in Wonderland Statue which is perfect for taking family photographs in the park.
And of course perhaps the biggest draw for toddlers heading to Central Park is
The Central Park Zoo
Central Park Zoo was top of my toddler’s to do list when we visited New York. The Central Park Zoo is quite a compact zoo but is perfect for toddlers.
Note: one of the reasons my toddler wanted to visit this zoo was because he had heard about it watching the Madagascar films and loving Alex the Lion and co. However it is worth noting that none of the animals that feature in the film, (lions, zebras, giraffes and monkeys), except for the penguin, are actually homed at the zoo.
Therefore if they are fans of the film it is worth managing these expectations before you arrive.
However even though these animals are not in the zoo there are plenty of other animals to see including:
- Grizzly bears
- Red pandas
- Sea Lions
- Penguins and
- Snow Leopards.
You can also get tickets to Central Park Zoo that admits you to the Tisch Children’s Zoo too. The Tisch Children’s Zoo is the hands on area of Central Park zoo that toddlers will absolutely adore.
In the Tisch Children’s Zoo you can pet sheep, goats, zebu and more as well as explore some hands on exhibits.
We recommend leaving 1.5 hours – 2 hours in your NYC toddler itinerary to get round the zoo.
If you want to visit Central Park Zoo with toddlers we recommend buying tickets in advance so you don’t have to queue at the door. For the best price admission tickets click here.
However if you have more time in your NYC itinerary with kids and want to visit a zoo with your toddler that has bigger animals and which you can spend more time in, we recommend heading to the Bronx Zoo instead of the Central Park Zoo.
The Bronx Zoo is much bigger than Central Park Zoo at 265 acres and has over 8,000 animals in it including those that your toddler will know from the film Madagascar.
Some of the bigger and more popular exhibits at the Bronx Zoo include:
- Tigers and
to name but a few.
And like the Central Park Zoo, the Bronx Zoo also has a children’s zoo where you can pet farmyard animals and get up close with monkeys, sloths and more.
There is also a carousel in this park for your little one to go for an additional fee.
However the only downside of this zoo is it is much further out of central New York and it will take you around an hour each way via public transport.
If you want to visit the Bronx Zoo with toddlers we recommend buying tickets in advance so you don’t have to queue at the door. For the best price admission tickets click here.
Best Playgrounds in NYC for Toddlers
Although a city, you will find that there are plenty of great playgrounds for toddlers in the city. In fact Central Park has 21 alone. Some of the best Central Park playgrounds are
- the Billy Johnson playground, which is conveniently located near the entrance to Central Park Zoo and has some amazing slides.
- Tarr-Coyne Tots Playground which is particular toddler friendly
- Heckscher Playground – which is the oldest playground in Central Park and has slides, climbing frames and water play as well as conveniently located restrooms.
- Diana Ross Playground – which is great to visit after you’ve been to the nearby American Natural History Museum.
to name just a few.
But on top of Central Park there is also The Imagination Playground which is good for those staying or visiting the Financial District and The Teardrop Park in Battery Park City is another great central playgrounds for toddlers.
Best Museums in NYC for Toddlers
NYC is a city that is renowned for its world class museums with the Met being one of the city’s most visited attractions. However this is not my top pick for those looking for a toddler friendly New York museum (unless there is a special event such as toddler story time going on).
Instead if you want to go to a New York museum with a toddler we recommend:
American Museum of Natural History
If you have a dinosaur mad toddler, like I do, then your little one will adore the American Museum of Natural History. This is one of the largest museums in the world, so I wouldn’t try and tackle the whole museum but pick the exhibit you are most interested in.
For my toddler that will always be the dinosaur section.
Older kids will also know this museum as it is the setting for the Night at the Museum film.
You definitely need to book your tickets in advance for this one as timed entry is required. To book your tickets for the American Museum of Natural History click here!
New York greater area has not one but 4 children’s museums – although there is only one in Manhattan.
Depending on where you are staying will depend on which children’s museum is closest and most accessible to you but they include:
- Children’s Museum of Manhattan
- Bronx Children’s Museum
- Brooklyn Children’s Museum
- Staten Island Children’s Museum and
- Sugar Hill Children’s Museum of Art and Story Telling.
eAch of these is a great pick for toddlers as they have interactive and hands on exhibits that toddlers will simply adore.
New York Transit Museum
If you have a train obsessed toddler like I do then the New York Transit Museum has to be on your itinerary.
Bonus: if your toddler also loves planes you should check out The Intrepid Sea, Air and Space Museum which has lots of planes on a naval aircraft carrier to explore.
Museum of Ice Cream
What toddler doesn’t love Ice Cream? This museum really isn’t a traditional museum but an in interactive ice cream themed exhibit space.
At this museum you can touch exhibit, take amazing selfies and even taste ice cream. And as this is located in Central New York it is easy to fit into your NYC family itinerary.
This museum is very popular so advance booking is absolutely essential.
Join a Stroller Friendly Tour
If you want to visit one of the more grown up museums – I’m looking at you Whitney and Guggenheim then you can still do this with toddlers.
Both of these museums offer an expert led stroller friendly your which is perfect to go on during a toddler nap time.
Best parks in New York for Toddlers
On top of Central Park, New York has lots of other amazing parks for toddlers. Some of our favorite other parks for toddlers include:
- Battery Park
- Bryant Park
- Brooklyn Bridge Park
Battery Park is best known for being the place you catch the ferry over to Ellis Island and the Statue of Liberty. However it is also a great place for toddlers. Especially for toddlers who love a carousel as Battery Park has one of the most unique Carousels in the City – the Seaglass Carousel – but more on that below.
It is also a park that has amazing views of the Statue of Liberty and across to Brooklyn.
Brooklyn Bridge Park
Brooklyn Bridge Park offers some of the best views of the Manhattan skyline and can be combined in your itinerary with walking across the Brooklyn Bridge.
This park is stroller friendly and has an amazing playground near Pier 1 and carousel that toddlers will love at the Brooklyn Bridge end.
Bryant Park is located in Midtown and is an easy park to visit if you are staying in this area. It’s a great park for burning off some energy and has its own carousel.
Ride a Carousel
Like Paris, New York is a city that is filled with amazing carousels. Some of our favorite carousels in the city include:
- the Seaglass carousel – perhaps the most unique carousel in the city which is located in Battery Park. Instead of horse you still on giant fish and the carousel is illuminated with neon lights.
- Jane’s Carousel – Jane’s Carousel is located in the Dumbo area of NYC . DUMBO Stands for Down Under the Manhattan Bridge Overpass. This Carousel has been completed restored and is indoors with breathtaking views of the Brooklyn Bridge
- Central Park – Central Park has one of the most popular carousels in the city.
- Bryant Park’s Le Carousel – this is one of the more central carousels in NYC to hop on with toddlers.
New York Botanical Garden
If your toddler likes to be outside then I recommend heading to the New York Botanical Garden. There are 50 separate gardens here but toddler’s will particularly love Everett Children’s Adventure Garden.
This has lots of toddler friendly equipment with places to climb, a maze and more.
Best Views of NYC with Toddlers
Seeing NYC high up is something that has to be done in NYC however it isn’t necessarily something for toddlers specifically. So which view is best to do with a toddler?
The main observation spots in NYC are:
- The Empire State Building
- The One World Observatory and
- Top of the Rock
In this section we will look at each of them individually so you know which one is right for your family.
Empire State Building
This might be the most famous viewing spot in New York. Although no longer the tallest building in the world, that honor now belongs to the Burj Khalifa in Dubai it still offers great views of the city from the 86th floor viewing platform.
Skip the line tickets are definitely required though whether you are visiting with or without a toddler.
One World Observatory
The one World Observatory is located on the 102nd floor of One World Trade Centre.
One of the reasons I like this viewing platform is because you can see both the Rockerfeller Center and the Empire State Buidling from this observation deck as well as being able to see all 5 boroughs of New York (Bronx, Queens, Manhattan, Brooklyn and Staten Island).
This one also has some interactive displays which may keep a toddlers attention.
To prevent queuing for this experience we recommend booking your tickets in advance.
Note: if you are traveling here with a toddler the good news is that admission is free however they still need a ticket.
Top of the Rock
The Top of the Rock experience is one of my favorite views in Manhattan. It is not as high as the others with the Observation Deck on the 67th Floor but offers great views of the Empire State Building as well as up through Manhattan to Central Park.
We recommend buying your tickets in advance to avoid the admission ticket queues on arrival.
Time Square is on many people’s bucket lists and it is a place that toddlers will love. My toddler was fascinated by all of the neon lights and billboards.
However if your toddler doesn’t like busy places then you should try and visit Time Square in the morning when it is less busy however the light sare definitely more impressive in the evening.
Statue of Liberty
There may be nothing specifically for toddlers at Statue of Liberty however it is something not to be missed in New York.
Ellis Island is also a fascinating place and was one of my favorites pre-kids however it is not the most toddler friendly attraction in New York.
Walk the Brooklyn Bridge
Walking Brooklyn Bridge is a must for any New York Bucket list and is a great place to get family photographs in New York.
The Suspension Bridge is one of the oldest and longest in the US and you can expect it to take around 30 minutes to walk across. However if you are letting your toddler walk across the bridge you can probably expect this to take around 45 minutes without photography stops. With stops for photos I would allow an hour to cross the bridge with toddlers.
This bridge links Manhattan to Brooklyn and both areas are worth exploring with toddlers.
Note: if you plan on using a stroller to get across the bridge you need to find a stroller friendly entrance. The entrance at Tillary Street and Adams Street in Brooklyn is the one we used.
My toddler loves amusement parks and theme parks therefore we knew that Coney Island had to be on our New York toddler itinerary.
Located in Brooklyn you can spend the whole day on Coney Island with toddlers due to all the toddler friendly attractions.
There of course is the amusement park rides that toddlers will enjoy. There are two main amusement parks on Coney Island – Dean’s and Luna.
At the Luna Park section you can buy a wristband for toddlers under 48 inches to ride as many rides as they like in a 4 hour period. A must ride has to the Wonder Wheel which is essentially a ferris wheel where you can choose to ride in a stationary or swinging gondola depending on how brave your little one is.
But there are things that even ride hating toddlers will love including visiting the amazing New York Aquarium or just playing on the beach.
And while you are here you have to grab lunch at Nathan’s Famous Hotdogs as the original location is here. Just be prepared to wait as the queues get long. My advice is to go a little before lunch to beat the crowds.
For a full guide on visiting Coney Island with kids check out this guide.
Watch a Yankees Game
We took our toddler to his first baseball game at Yankees stadium during out NYC trip. WE took the stroller with us and used the subway to get to the stadium and then checked it at stroller check at Guest Relations department near Gate 6 in the Great Hall and close to the Hard Rock Cafe in the Stadium.
While he didn’t get the baseball he loved the people and noises and watching the big screen and tucked into a hot dog.
We recommend getting seats in the shade as this will protect your little one from the sun in summer and the rain and wind in the colder months.
Roosevelt Island Aerial Tramway
My little ones love a gondola and I was surprised one day walking around the city when we stumbled on the Roosevelt Island Aerial Tramway.
It takes just under 5 minutes each way and departs from 59th and 2nd and takes you to Tramway Plaza on Roosevelt Island and the tram runs every 7 to 15 minutes.
It has some amazing views of the City and takes you over to Roosevelt Island which is itself worth visiting.
Roosevelt Island was once the site of prisons, poor houses, hospitals, and even an insane asylum but today is a great place to get away from the crowds.
This is also one of the cheapest things to do in Manhattan with a toddler as adult tickets cost less than 6USD for a round trip while toddlers under 44 inches can go free.
The Highline is a great place to to escape the crowds while in Manhattan. The Highline is 1.45-mile-long elevated linear park, greenway and rail trail created on a former New York Central Railroad spur.
Toddlers will love being able to run up and down it, enjoy the playgrounds while escaping the crowds below.
If you plan on walking the Highline with a stroller you will want to enter on Gansevoort Street, 14th Street, West 16th Street, 23rd Street or West 30th Street which have elevators and are stroller accessible.
Adults will also love the amazing views and being free it is a great thing to do for families on a budget in NYC.
Staten Island Ferry
Staten Island ferry is a great thing to do with toddlers as what toddler doesn’t enjoy a boat ride. Also on this circa 25 minute ride you take in some of the most famous New York landmarks including the Statue of Liberty!
If you want amazing views and family photographs in front of the Statue of Liberty be sure to stand on the right hand side as you leave Manhattan (left if departing from Staten Island) as this is the side the Statue is on.
If you can avoid rush hour this is best as toddlers will enjoy the experience more when the ferry isn’t crowded.
If you plan to head and spend some time on Staten Island we recommend the Staten Island Children’s Museum as one of more toddler friendly attractions on the Island.
Have you visited NYC with toddlers? What did you enjoy most?