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New York Transit Museum.
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The 29 best things to do in New York City with kids

The top spots for families in the Big Apple

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New York Transit Museum.
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Whether it’s because of honking taxis or the sheer size of the most populous city in the U.S., navigating New York City with kids can be a daunting task. But look beyond the hustle and bustle of the streets and you’ll find a laundry list of family-friendly activities.

Most people know that Central Park is packed with playgrounds and that kiddos love the (free!) Staten Island Ferry. Dive a little deeper and you’ll discover countless other children’s museums, a theater with performances just for kids, and recreational facilities that let children ice skate, climb, and swim.

We’ve scoured the city to find the best activities for families, whether you’re a local or a first-time visitor. Here are 30 different options in all five boroughs that will help your kids fall in love with the city in a New York minute.

Traveling to other cities with your kiddos? Don’t miss Curbed’s maps of the best family activities in Washington, D.C., Boston, Detroit, Atlanta, Chicago, Miami, Los Angeles, Seattle, San Francisco, New Orleans, Austin, and Philadelphia.

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Staten Island Ferry

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Sure, you’ll find the Staten Island Ferry on almost every New York City tourist guide, but there’s a reason. This free ferry provides great views of the Statue of Liberty and the New York Harbor, and the 25-minute, one-way trip is just long enough to hold your child’s attention. Once across, check out the St. George neighborhood or head back on another ferry for more great views.

A bright orange ferry boat is traveling in a body of water. Behind it are assorted skyscrapers and buildings.
The Staten Island Ferry set against a backdrop of Lower Manhattan skyscrapers.
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Statue of Liberty & Ellis Island

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It may seem cliche, but a visit to the Statue of Liberty and the Ellis Island Immigration Museum is something every child should do at least once. Ask for the children’s audio tour (created for ages six to ten) in the lobby of the Statue of Liberty’s pedestal, and then kids four feet or taller can climb to the top of the statue’s crown. Don’t miss the free Statue of Liberty Museum, which opened in 2019 and has interactive exhibits about Lady Liberty. In the Immigration Museum, head to Ellis Kid for an interactive exhibit that helps little ones imagine what it was like to immigrate to the U.S.

One World Observatory

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While the Empire State Building is always a good choice to check out the city view, we like the experience at One World Observatory. Kids get a kick out of riding some of the fastest elevators in the world and love knowing they are on top of the tallest building in the country. Don’t miss the 100th floor for HD videos of New York and the Sky Portal, where high-tech screens give you a bird’s eye view of the street 1,776 feet below.

South Street Seaport Museum

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Hurricane Sandy caused extensive damage to the South Street Seaport Museum, but the reopened venue is a good stop for kiddos interested in ships, boating, and maritime history. Highlights include exploring five historic ships, learning to use a letterpress, and sailing around the New York Harbor in an excursion vessel.

Children's Museum of the Arts

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The world is full of stunning art museums, but most aren’t designed for little ones. Check out the 10,000-square-foot Children’s Museum of the Arts for kid-centered activities, plenty of hands-on art workshops, and 2,000 brightly colored paintings and drawings, most of them created by kids.

New York City Fire Museum

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Set in a historic 1904 Beaux Arts firehouse in Soho, the New York City Fire Museum is a paradise for kids obsessed with firetrucks. You’ll see vintage fire equipment, art, and learn about fire safety and the history of firefighters in New York.

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Chelsea Piers Sports and Entertainment Complex

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This 28-acre sports complex on three Hudson River piers includes an 80,000-square-foot field house, a pool, a driving range, bowling alley, and an indoor ice-skating rink that’s available year round. And get ready for more: The company behind Chelsea Piers recently opened a 52,000-square-foot Brooklyn outpost.

National Museum of Mathematics

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Think math is boring? Let the National Museum of Mathematics change your mind. This under-the-radar museum features a ton of hands-on exhibits showing how science, technology, engineering, and math inform every element of our lives. Kids can ride square-wheeled tricycles (really!), paint on a digital canvas, and stump their parents with an array of puzzles and quizzes.

Children sit on the floor in front of a wall full of metallic silver elements that are moving.
The National Museum of Mathematics.
Courtesy of Blue Telescope

Empire State Building

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Take adventurous kiddos to the new 102nd-floor observatory at the Art Deco icon, which whisks visitors more than 1,200 feet above the city. The panoramic views are spectacular (and a great way to introduce little ones to the buildings of Manhattan), and after you’ve taken it all in, you can explore exhibits that detail the skyscraper’s history and place in pop culture.

New York Public Library

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Design-minded adults will love the New York Public Library’s gorgeous Rose Main Reading Room in its iconic Fifth Avenue building, but kids can also have a great time here. Say hello to the marble lions (named Patience and Fortitude) on the way in, and then head to the children’s center to check out the original Winnie the Pooh and plenty of books perfect for story time.

A post shared by William Mususu (@wmususu) on

Bryant Park

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Bryant Park comes alive in winter with the arrival of the ice skating rink, which is open every day from 8 a.m. to 10 p.m. To make the experience more fun for kids, reserve a spot to skate ahead of time, and use the time beforehand to grab a warming cup of cocoa.

The New Victory Theater

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As New York City’s premier nonprofit performing arts venue devoted to kids, the New Victory Theater aims to introduce theater, dance, circus, and music to audiences of all ages. The venue welcomes all patrons to performances, and it also hosts autism-friendly showings with warnings for loud noises and dimmed lights. Check out the calendar over here.

Intrepid Sea, Air & Space Museum

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Aviation fans, this one’s for you. Located in Hell’s Kitchen, the Intrepid Sea, Air & Space Museum documents the history of American aviation in an educational and interesting way. You’ll see giant fighter jets, submarines, a space shuttle, and the iconic aircraft carrier Intrepid. Ever-changing rotating exhibits also impress.

An aerial view of people walking next to airplanes that are on display outside. There is a city skyline in the distance. Shutterstock

SPYSCAPE

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Those with Spy Kids aspirations will love Spyscape, which opened in Midtown in 2018. The immersive experience lets kids test their mettle in a variety of espionage-themed activities, including solving puzzles and dodging through lasers, a la Mission Impossible. At the end, your child will find out what kind of spy they are—intelligence analyst, agent handler, and more.

Margaret Lin

Roosevelt Island and Tram

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Take the famed Roosevelt Island Tramway over the East River to the two-mile long Roosevelt Island. Stay for a while to explore Southpoint Park, the pleasant paths next to the river, or the late-1800s era North Point Lighthouse. Don’t miss the Louis Kahn-designed Franklin D. Roosevelt Four Freedoms Park, which has top-notch views of Manhattan.

A red tram is suspended over a body of water. The words Roosevelt Island are written on the side of the tram car. In the distance are large city buildings.
The tramway that connects Roosevelt Island with Manhattan.
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Central Park

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No child-friendly attraction list would be complete without the Frederick Law Olmsted-designed Central Park, the most-visited urban park in the United States. Head over here for a map of the park’s hidden gems, and make sure to see the historic carousel, which is close to the Dairy. It’s a hit with kids of all ages and a great photo opportunity. Belvedere Castle, which recently reopened after a big renovation, is another fun one for kids.

A historic merry-go-round that has red trim. Shutterstock

DiMenna Children’s History Museum

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Nestled within the New-York Historical Society is this smaller institution devoted to kiddos, with exhibits designed to help youngsters understand the history of NYC. They’ll learn about major historical figures (like Alexander Hamilton) and important points in the evolution of the city; they can also meet re-enactors who help bring those moments to life.

American Museum of Natural History

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Pick up the Kids Guide to the American Museum of Natural History and get ready for a museum-wide scavenger hunt through the world’s largest collection of dinosaurs, an impressive array of towering totem poles, and much more. Don’t miss the Discovery Room, where children ages five to 12 can get a behind-the-scenes look at artifacts, specimens, and scientific research; and the Hayden Planetarium, one of the best planetariums in the country.

A post shared by Manny Carabel (@mtcphotography) on

Children's Museum of Manhattan

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There’s lots to do at this children’s museum located near Central Park, so it’s a good bet if you need an indoor activity. Interactive exhibits like “Let’s Dance!” get kids moving and performing, and there’s also story time and more low-key options for the toddler crowd.

Sugar Hill Children's Museum of Art & Storytelling

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This 17,000-square-foot children’s museum in Harlem is located on the first two floors of an affordable housing project designed by British architect David Adjaye. With a focus on children ages three to eight, the museum offers year-round art exhibitions, storytelling series, art-making workshops, and an early childhood arts education curriculum.

New York Botanical Garden

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The New York Botanical Garden is an oasis in the city, known for its top-notch exhibitions. But it’s also a great place for children any time of the year. Check out the Everett Children’s Adventure Garden where kids can climb boulders, run through a maze, and examine lily pads. In the winter, the garden’s annual Holiday Train Show is a must-see attraction.

Museum of the Moving Image

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Not far from Kaufman Astoria Studios, the home of Sesame Street, sits the Museum of the Moving Image, a stopover for kids of any age. The main attraction is “Behind the Screen,” an exhibition that showcases 1,400 artifacts (like a real Chewbacca mask from Star Wars) and interactive exhibits that let kids make their own stop-motion animations, sound effects, and flipbooks. Another hit is the permanent Jim Henson exhibit that displays original puppets and behind the scenes footage from his pop-culture contributions.

Queens Museum

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Budding building nerds will get a kick of out The Panorama of the City of New York, a scale model of the five boroughs that was constructed for the 1964 World’s Fair and has been updated sporadically since then. The museum also hosts regular family-focused workshops that let kids channel their inner artist.

New York Hall Of Science

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Hands-on exhibits bring science, technology, engineering, and math to life at the New York Hall of Science, another holdover from the 1964 World’s Fair. Don’t miss the Science Playground, the preschool area for little ones, and the Sports Challenge exhibit that shows how physics and mathematics are involved in everyday sports like basketball. If it’s hot out, hit the outdoor playground that’s full of water features and science-oriented, wet fun. The New York Hall of Science also boasts one of the most beautiful interiors in the city: the Great Hall.

Brooklyn Bridge Park

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Traveling 1.3 miles along the East River, Brooklyn Bridge Park contains 85 acres of enjoyment for the whole family with a gorgeous view of the Manhattan skyline to boot. The park is broken down into sections and includes six refurbished piers full of different playgrounds and amenities. Must-dos include the Slide Mountain playground at Pier 6, the restored vintage carousel at Empire Fulton Ferry, and roller skating at Pier 2.

A carousel which has ornamental horses is next to a waterfront. In the distance is a bridge and a city skyline with buildings.
The historic Jane’s Carousel at the Brooklyn Bridge Park.
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New York Transit Museum

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Head to the New York Transit Museum in Brooklyn—there’s also a small satellite location in Grand Central Terminal—to explore a decommissioned subway station full of interactive exhibits. Kids can learn about the history of fare collection, see how subways are built, and even get up close and personal with vintage subway cars and buses.

LeFrak Center at Lakeside Prospect Park Brooklyn

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This 75,000-square-foot, year-round recreational facility includes winter ice skating, summer roller skating, and a warm-weather splash pad with 41 different sprinklers. Kids and adults can bring their own skates or rent them on site. It’s one of many things to do in Prospect Park, which has plenty of playgrounds, a zoo, and an under-the-radar carousel.

Brooklyn Children's Museum

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As the first museum created expressly for children when it was founded in 1899, the award-winning Brooklyn Children’s Museum offers plenty of hands-on fun for toddlers to middle schoolers. Check out World Brooklyn, where pint-sized shops let kids take on the roles of shopkeepers and builders, or head to the Neighborhood Nature exhibit to examine diorama habitats and a greenhouse.

New York Aquarium

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The New York Aquarium is a year-round destination in Coney Island that helps kids learn about all of the creatures that live in (and under) the sea. Last year, its major new exhibit, “Ocean Wonder: Sharks!,” debuted in a swanky 57,500-square-foot pavilion situated right on the boardwalk. It houses marine animals, including some of the exhibit’s titular saw-toothed predators.

Julie Larsen Maher © WCS

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Staten Island Ferry

A bright orange ferry boat is traveling in a body of water. Behind it are assorted skyscrapers and buildings.
The Staten Island Ferry set against a backdrop of Lower Manhattan skyscrapers.
Shutterstock

Sure, you’ll find the Staten Island Ferry on almost every New York City tourist guide, but there’s a reason. This free ferry provides great views of the Statue of Liberty and the New York Harbor, and the 25-minute, one-way trip is just long enough to hold your child’s attention. Once across, check out the St. George neighborhood or head back on another ferry for more great views.

A bright orange ferry boat is traveling in a body of water. Behind it are assorted skyscrapers and buildings.
The Staten Island Ferry set against a backdrop of Lower Manhattan skyscrapers.
Shutterstock

Statue of Liberty & Ellis Island

It may seem cliche, but a visit to the Statue of Liberty and the Ellis Island Immigration Museum is something every child should do at least once. Ask for the children’s audio tour (created for ages six to ten) in the lobby of the Statue of Liberty’s pedestal, and then kids four feet or taller can climb to the top of the statue’s crown. Don’t miss the free Statue of Liberty Museum, which opened in 2019 and has interactive exhibits about Lady Liberty. In the Immigration Museum, head to Ellis Kid for an interactive exhibit that helps little ones imagine what it was like to immigrate to the U.S.

One World Observatory

While the Empire State Building is always a good choice to check out the city view, we like the experience at One World Observatory. Kids get a kick out of riding some of the fastest elevators in the world and love knowing they are on top of the tallest building in the country. Don’t miss the 100th floor for HD videos of New York and the Sky Portal, where high-tech screens give you a bird’s eye view of the street 1,776 feet below.

South Street Seaport Museum

Hurricane Sandy caused extensive damage to the South Street Seaport Museum, but the reopened venue is a good stop for kiddos interested in ships, boating, and maritime history. Highlights include exploring five historic ships, learning to use a letterpress, and sailing around the New York Harbor in an excursion vessel.

Children's Museum of the Arts

The world is full of stunning art museums, but most aren’t designed for little ones. Check out the 10,000-square-foot Children’s Museum of the Arts for kid-centered activities, plenty of hands-on art workshops, and 2,000 brightly colored paintings and drawings, most of them created by kids.

New York City Fire Museum

Set in a historic 1904 Beaux Arts firehouse in Soho, the New York City Fire Museum is a paradise for kids obsessed with firetrucks. You’ll see vintage fire equipment, art, and learn about fire safety and the history of firefighters in New York.

A post shared by @ha1iah on

Chelsea Piers Sports and Entertainment Complex

This 28-acre sports complex on three Hudson River piers includes an 80,000-square-foot field house, a pool, a driving range, bowling alley, and an indoor ice-skating rink that’s available year round. And get ready for more: The company behind Chelsea Piers recently opened a 52,000-square-foot Brooklyn outpost.

National Museum of Mathematics

Children sit on the floor in front of a wall full of metallic silver elements that are moving.
The National Museum of Mathematics.
Courtesy of Blue Telescope

Think math is boring? Let the National Museum of Mathematics change your mind. This under-the-radar museum features a ton of hands-on exhibits showing how science, technology, engineering, and math inform every element of our lives. Kids can ride square-wheeled tricycles (really!), paint on a digital canvas, and stump their parents with an array of puzzles and quizzes.

Children sit on the floor in front of a wall full of metallic silver elements that are moving.
The National Museum of Mathematics.
Courtesy of Blue Telescope

Empire State Building

Take adventurous kiddos to the new 102nd-floor observatory at the Art Deco icon, which whisks visitors more than 1,200 feet above the city. The panoramic views are spectacular (and a great way to introduce little ones to the buildings of Manhattan), and after you’ve taken it all in, you can explore exhibits that detail the skyscraper’s history and place in pop culture.

New York Public Library

Design-minded adults will love the New York Public Library’s gorgeous Rose Main Reading Room in its iconic Fifth Avenue building, but kids can also have a great time here. Say hello to the marble lions (named Patience and Fortitude) on the way in, and then head to the children’s center to check out the original Winnie the Pooh and plenty of books perfect for story time.

A post shared by William Mususu (@wmususu) on

Bryant Park

Bryant Park comes alive in winter with the arrival of the ice skating rink, which is open every day from 8 a.m. to 10 p.m. To make the experience more fun for kids, reserve a spot to skate ahead of time, and use the time beforehand to grab a warming cup of cocoa.

The New Victory Theater

As New York City’s premier nonprofit performing arts venue devoted to kids, the New Victory Theater aims to introduce theater, dance, circus, and music to audiences of all ages. The venue welcomes all patrons to performances, and it also hosts autism-friendly showings with warnings for loud noises and dimmed lights. Check out the calendar over here.

Intrepid Sea, Air & Space Museum

An aerial view of people walking next to airplanes that are on display outside. There is a city skyline in the distance. Shutterstock

Aviation fans, this one’s for you. Located in Hell’s Kitchen, the Intrepid Sea, Air & Space Museum documents the history of American aviation in an educational and interesting way. You’ll see giant fighter jets, submarines, a space shuttle, and the iconic aircraft carrier Intrepid. Ever-changing rotating exhibits also impress.

An aerial view of people walking next to airplanes that are on display outside. There is a city skyline in the distance. Shutterstock

SPYSCAPE

Margaret Lin

Those with Spy Kids aspirations will love Spyscape, which opened in Midtown in 2018. The immersive experience lets kids test their mettle in a variety of espionage-themed activities, including solving puzzles and dodging through lasers, a la Mission Impossible. At the end, your child will find out what kind of spy they are—intelligence analyst, agent handler, and more.

Margaret Lin

Roosevelt Island and Tram

A red tram is suspended over a body of water. The words Roosevelt Island are written on the side of the tram car. In the distance are large city buildings.
The tramway that connects Roosevelt Island with Manhattan.
Shutterstock

Take the famed Roosevelt Island Tramway over the East River to the two-mile long Roosevelt Island. Stay for a while to explore Southpoint Park, the pleasant paths next to the river, or the late-1800s era North Point Lighthouse. Don’t miss the Louis Kahn-designed Franklin D. Roosevelt Four Freedoms Park, which has top-notch views of Manhattan.

A red tram is suspended over a body of water. The words Roosevelt Island are written on the side of the tram car. In the distance are large city buildings.
The tramway that connects Roosevelt Island with Manhattan.
Shutterstock

Central Park

A historic merry-go-round that has red trim. Shutterstock

No child-friendly attraction list would be complete without the Frederick Law Olmsted-designed Central Park, the most-visited urban park in the United States. Head over here for a map of the park’s hidden gems, and make sure to see the historic carousel, which is close to the Dairy. It’s a hit with kids of all ages and a great photo opportunity. Belvedere Castle, which recently reopened after a big renovation, is another fun one for kids.

A historic merry-go-round that has red trim. Shutterstock

DiMenna Children’s History Museum

Nestled within the New-York Historical Society is this smaller institution devoted to kiddos, with exhibits designed to help youngsters understand the history of NYC. They’ll learn about major historical figures (like Alexander Hamilton) and important points in the evolution of the city; they can also meet re-enactors who help bring those moments to life.

American Museum of Natural History

Pick up the Kids Guide to the American Museum of Natural History and get ready for a museum-wide scavenger hunt through the world’s largest collection of dinosaurs, an impressive array of towering totem poles, and much more. Don’t miss the Discovery Room, where children ages five to 12 can get a behind-the-scenes look at artifacts, specimens, and scientific research; and the Hayden Planetarium, one of the best planetariums in the country.

A post shared by Manny Carabel (@mtcphotography) on

Children's Museum of Manhattan

There’s lots to do at this children’s museum located near Central Park, so it’s a good bet if you need an indoor activity. Interactive exhibits like “Let’s Dance!” get kids moving and performing, and there’s also story time and more low-key options for the toddler crowd.

Sugar Hill Children's Museum of Art & Storytelling

This 17,000-square-foot children’s museum in Harlem is located on the first two floors of an affordable housing project designed by British architect David Adjaye. With a focus on children ages three to eight, the museum offers year-round art exhibitions, storytelling series, art-making workshops, and an early childhood arts education curriculum.

New York Botanical Garden

The New York Botanical Garden is an oasis in the city, known for its top-notch exhibitions. But it’s also a great place for children any time of the year. Check out the Everett Children’s Adventure Garden where kids can climb boulders, run through a maze, and examine lily pads. In the winter, the garden’s annual Holiday Train Show is a must-see attraction.

Museum of the Moving Image

Not far from Kaufman Astoria Studios, the home of Sesame Street, sits the Museum of the Moving Image, a stopover for kids of any age. The main attraction is “Behind the Screen,” an exhibition that showcases 1,400 artifacts (like a real Chewbacca mask from Star Wars) and interactive exhibits that let kids make their own stop-motion animations, sound effects, and flipbooks. Another hit is the permanent Jim Henson exhibit that displays original puppets and behind the scenes footage from his pop-culture contributions.

Queens Museum

Budding building nerds will get a kick of out The Panorama of the City of New York, a scale model of the five boroughs that was constructed for the 1964 World’s Fair and has been updated sporadically since then. The museum also hosts regular family-focused workshops that let kids channel their inner artist.

New York Hall Of Science

Hands-on exhibits bring science, technology, engineering, and math to life at the New York Hall of Science, another holdover from the 1964 World’s Fair. Don’t miss the Science Playground, the preschool area for little ones, and the Sports Challenge exhibit that shows how physics and mathematics are involved in everyday sports like basketball. If it’s hot out, hit the outdoor playground that’s full of water features and science-oriented, wet fun. The New York Hall of Science also boasts one of the most beautiful interiors in the city: the Great Hall.

Brooklyn Bridge Park