While we live in (and near)—arguably—the greatest city in the world, there are many things we don’t experience with our kids, whether they seem too touristy or fall off the radar. So we compiled a list of the top 50 things in New York City every child should experience before they graduate from high school and move away for college. Consider this the ultimate bucket list for every New York metro area family. How many of these has your family done?
1. Visit the Statue of Liberty.
A classic for a reason—she’s surrounded by water and simply gorgeous in person. Her crown can now be visited by booking ahead online.
2. Go to the American Museum of Natural History.
Dinosaurs, gigantic crystals, a 94-foot-long blue whale, and more.
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3. Check out the view at Top of the Rock. 70 floors up, with a 360-degree view of the city.
4. See even more at the top of the Empire State Building. Classic art deco architecture meets views of up to 80 miles on a clear day.
5. Watch a show at Puppetworks Theater in Park Slope. A nonprofit puppet theater with handmade wood marionettes and deep Brooklyn roots.
6. Climb on Alice in Wonderland in Central Park. Clamber over and hide under bronze mushrooms at Alice’s feet.
7. Ride Jane’s Carousel in DUMBO. A perfectly restored carousel with stunning views of the East River.
8. Zip around on a New York Water Taxi tour.
Hop on a boat and see the views, hidden islands, and wildlife (really!) of New York Harbor.
9. Visit Roosevelt Island via tram. The novelty of a tram ride over the East River combines with the wonder of visiting a built-up island with space to roam.
10. Take in art at MoMA. Because everyone needs to see Monet’s “Water Lillies” in person—and there’s plenty of other colors, shapes, and awesomeness.
11. See more art at the Brooklyn Museum. No matter the exhibit, something is always bright and interesting here.
12. Get involved at the Brooklyn Children’s Museum in Crown Heights, Brooklyn. A big sensory area + cool collections + nature examined + a mini Brooklyn to “shop” = fun.
13. Drink a Frozen Hot Chocolate at Serendipity 3.
Feel fancy as you slurp a delicious, sweet, chocolate concoction near Bloomingdales.
14. Sugar up at Dylan’s Candy Bar. Tap your inner Willy Wonka at this retail testament to sugar, which now has two NYC locations: the Upper East Side and Union Square.
15. Pick your own apples, berries, or pumpkins. Every city adventure is enhanced by a city escape. Look into the best spots for pick-your-own whatever-is-in-season.
16. Explore the Queens County Farm Museum. At NYC’s longest-farmed spot, explore 47 acres of livestock, farm equipment, an orchard, and a garden.
17. Geek out at the New York Hall of Science in Corona, Queens. More than 450 permanent exhibits make math, science, and technology fun (think robots, rockets, and more).
18. Talk with the animals at the Bronx Zoo. Basically the coolest zoo ever, including tigers, lions, bats, elephants, and giraffes. And one awesome carousel.
19. Go to the Central Park Zoo.
A classic zoo experience in the middle of Manhattan. A smaller scale than its Bronx cousin, but it still includes polar bears, seals, and snakes. The children’s section has a petting zoo.
20. Forage with “Wildman” Steve Brill. Learn how to feast off the fruits of city parks on these tours.
21. Sail on the Hudson. Nothing like a day at sea—in New York Harbor. Stunning and peaceful, there are lots of choices, but when Hudson River Sloop Clearwater is in town it has special programs for kids.
22. Visit and revisit Coney Island.
Less sketchy, more fun and family-friendly than it used to be. Check out rides and games or just stroll on the boardwalk beside the ocean while eating Nathan’s fries.
23. Watch the Thanksgiving Day Parade balloons being inflated.
More fun than freezing in the parade itself is going on Thanksgiving eve to watch Macy’s staff make Garfield, Pokémon, and friends way bigger than life.
24. Travel back in time at the Cloisters. Lovely antique unicorn tapestries and plenty of green space in which to picnic and cavort.
25. Be in awe at the Rose Center for Earth and Space. Marvel at the wonders of the universe at the planetarium on the west side of Central Park.
26. Enjoy the Cherry Blossom Festival at Brooklyn Botanical Gardens.
Behold the pink, petal-y beauty of rows of cherry blossoms in full bloom.
27. Look up at The Skyscraper Museum. Check out maps, models, and photographs while exploring the structure and history of the world’s tallest buildings.
28. Bowl at Bowlmor Times Square (during the day).
Before it turns into a bar with balls every night, this is a loud, fancy-ish place to learn to bowl.
29. Climb aboard The Intrepid Sea, Air, and Space Museum.
Be amazed by the scale of an aircraft carrier, a submarine, a Concorde, and even a space shuttle.
30. See many creatures at The Blessing of the Animals. Each fall, every kind of pet comes out to get blessed at The Cathedral of Saint John the Divine. And tons of kids follow to watch the cuteness.
31. Talk quietly at the whispering gallery at Grand Central Terminal. You go to one corner and your kiddo goes to another—and you can hear each other whisper. It’s cool. Then you can stare at the zodiac ceiling.
32. Calculate a visit to MoMath (the Museum of Mathematics). Learn about geometry, physics, optical illusions, and more in many curiosity-stoking exhibits.
33. Ride the Staten Island Ferry.
Beautiful views of Lady Liberty, Ellis Island, and the Manhattan skyline, while taking a peaceful boat ride—all for free. New York’s best bargain!
34. Eat at Smorgasburg. Feast at this seasonal, outdoor, weekly food festival on artisanal, scrumptious eats.
35. Walk The High Line. Stroll on what used to be a train line and is now a lovely, well-architected park on the west side of Manhattan. Eat good things from mobile vendors along the way.
36. Wander around South Street Seaport.
Genuine cobblestone streets are a rare treat—and these lead to amazing views of the river.
37. Take a tour of Ellis Island. Dive into history and maybe even look for your ancestors’ names at this deeply emotional spot.
38. Walk the piers at Red Hook (and grab a lobster roll at Fairway and a brownie at Baked). Red Hook, Brooklyn, isn’t easy to get to (grab a cab or drive), but it’s worth it for cute shops, delicious food, and a great view of the Statue of Liberty.
39. Soak up Spa Castle in College Point, Queens. If your people like water, go soak and sauna with folks of all ages at this monument to stress relief.
RELATED: Get the best NYC kids' activities sent to your in-box.
40. Walk over the Brooklyn Bridge. On a clear day, take a stroll over the water on the historic suspension bridge.
41. Watch lots of TV at The Paley Center for Media (formerly the Museum of Television and Radio). This museum has more than 160,000 shows and advertisements, along with rotating exhibits.
42. Road trip to Storm King Art Center. Take a trip to New Windsor to spend a day frolicking among 100 outdoor sculptures scattered throughout a 500-acre property of open fields and rolling hills.
43. See a show at the Swedish Cottage Marionette Theater. This popular Central Park-based theater holds puppet shows based on children’s classics.
44. Visit a Lego Store. Check out gigantic Lego people at any of the area’s Lego stores, where you’ll also find pretty much every part or kit you can dream of. (Bonus! If you choose the Flatiron outpost in Manhattan, the wondrous Italian food court and market Eataly is next door.)
45. Read at the Children’s Center at the main New York Public Library branch on 42nd Street. With a vast collection and rotating exhibits and programs, this is a little book-lover’s dream.
46. Get cultured at the Metropolitan Museum of Art.
Priceless artifacts and works of art, mummies, and so much more make this a thrilling educational ride.
47. Watch the Blue Man Group.
David Hawe © BMP
Started in 1991 this comedy/technology/blow-your-mind show is still going strong for a reason (blueman.com).
48. Skate at Rockefeller Center. Sure, it’s crowded, but it’s skating at the Rock! (We won’t tell if you slip over to the slightly less populated Wollman Rink in Central Park.)
49. Go see a Yankees or Mets game.
Because it doesn’t get much more New York than that!
50. Listen to music at Carnegie Hall.
With a free kids’ series, the little ones can get to know the wonder that is Carnegie before they’re ready to sit through a full concert.
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