From its rich beauty and culture steeped in history and tradition to the modern energy of one of the world’s most influential metropolises, New York State is sure to delight every member of your family. There is so much to see and do that it easily fits the bill for a perfect vacation destination with kids.
1. Visit the Statue of Liberty and Ellis Island
No trip to New York City is complete without a visit to Liberty Island, home to the beacon of hope for millions around the world, the Statue of Liberty, and Ellis Island, where millions of immigrants made their first stop on their way to making the United States of America their home. One of the top New York attractions for families with kids, this destination is the perfect way to share with your children the history of the “Nation of Immigrants,” as well as your own family’s ancestry.
2. The Metropolitan Museum of Art is an absolute must
Manhattan has many amazing museums, but The Metropolitan Museum of Art is a must-see, fascinating sojourn through time and space. Both educational and fun, families can spend the day journeying from Ancient Egypt all the way around the globe and through to modern and contemporary art in the mediums of paintings, clothing, sculptures, and masks, including works from some of the world’s great masters, from Rembrandt to Warhol.
3. The Guggenheim Museum is a delight for the senses
Another family NYC favorite is The Guggenheim Museum with its whimsical architecture designed by the legendary Frank Lloyd Wright and extensive collection of modern and contemporary art. The museum strives to make the outing enjoyable and family-friendly for all, so be sure you stop by the Family Activity Kiosk to collect a Family Activity Pack that will give your kids plenty to occupy them with games, art questions, art books, and sketch pads as you all meander through the exhibits
4. Let your kids experience Old New York
The Tenement Museum is a great way to expand upon an outing to Liberty and Ellis islands. Known for telling the story of America, this museum will educate your children through tours and actor portrayals that demonstrate what life was like for millions of people who came to New York City in search of better opportunities, including the tough conditions in which many of them lived.
5. Visit the museum featured in the Night at the Museum movie
The American Museum of Natural History, of "Night at the Museum" movie fame, is always a favorite New York City attraction for kids. From the 122-foot-long reconstructed giant dinosaur fossil Titanosaur, discovered in the Patagonia region of Argentina, to the Willamette Meteorite and even a planetarium, there is something to awe and amaze everyone in the family.
6. Hit the boardwalk
Located in the New York City borough of Brooklyn, Coney Island is a great place for your family to learn more about New York City history and culture while having loads of fun. A New York City staple since the mid-1800s, Coney Island has a myriad of amusement parks, food, shops, games, and even the Mermaid Parade, all of which is sure to delight.
7. Spend a day at the beach
Long Island is known for several things, including the glamorously elite Hamptons, but you don’t need to be wealthy to enjoy the splendors of warm sand and inviting waters. Less than 20 miles from Manhattan, Jones Beach State Park is an inviting escape from the frenzy of the city.
8. Relax in the Hamptons
Another favorite Long Island haven is Cooper’s Beach. It was named the third-most-popular oceanfront park in America in 2020 by Dr. Beach’s annual rating. It's touted as having the best public beach access in the Hamptons, and a day in the sun and surf here will surely charm the kids and adults alike.
9. Lake George has something for everyone
For all the thrills and excitement of the New York City area, there is so much more to explore in New York State, and Lake George is a top contender. Known as “The Queen of American Lakes” and boasting 109 miles of shoreline and over 300 islands, Lake George in the Adirondack State Park has long been a destination for a plethora of outdoor recreational activities, from fishing, boating, and on-the-lake dinner cruises to shopping, mini-golf, and the Lake George. With so much to see and do, this destination that's also known as “The Gateway to the Southern Adirondacks" should have something for everyone.
10. Hit it out of the park at the National Baseball Hall Of Fame
Cooperstown, New York is home to the National Baseball Hall of Fame, and a visit here is guaranteed to be a home run for all of your family’s baseball enthusiasts. There is no better place to learn about the history of baseball and how America’s favorite pastime has grown and changed right alongside the United States. With the displays of historic uniforms and exhibits honoring the contributions of African American and women players, not to mention all of the greatest “Boys of Summer,” you definitely won’t strike out at this all-American destination. Make sure to check out Abner Doubleday Field, said to be the birthplace of baseball, as well.
11. Life needs fun, as well as games
The area around Cooperstown isn’t all about baseball. The region boasts other attractions as well. Otsego Lake offers plenty of options for outdoor activities, such as swimming at Glimmerglass State Park and fishing. The fun doesn’t have to stop in the winter, either, with opportunities for snowshoeing, tubing, ice fishing, or cross-country skiing.
12. There’s more to see in Upstate New York, starting with Niagara Falls
Niagara Falls is truly one of Mother Nature’s masterpieces, and it is guaranteed to leave your entire family in awe. The beauty of the area is enhanced by the Niagara Falls State Park, designed by Fredrick Law Olmsted, the mastermind behind Manhattan’s Central Park. While the park was established in 1885, the birth of the falls goes back over 12,000 years to the end of the last glacial period. At peak flow in the summertime, a whopping 700,000 gallons of water flow every second over the Horseshoe, American, and Bridal Veil Falls that constitutes what some call the 8th Wonder of the World.
13. Get a little misty
There are many different ways to enjoy the falls, including Maid of the Mist boat tours, observation towers, elevators to the back of the falls, and even by helicopter. Be sure to plan for getting wet if you take a Maid of the Mist tour or stop at some of the observation towers.
14. Sneak in a little American history
The region around Niagara Falls offers many other kid-friendly attractions, as well. Old Fort Niagara is steeped in early American history and has a permanent display of one of the oldest surviving American flags. The fort, established by the French in 1679, changed ownership several times before being captured by the British in the War of 1812 and then permanently returned to the United States in 1815.
15. The little village that is jam-packed with history
The historical hamlet of Lewiston is known for being the location of both the first major battle of the War of 1812 and the final US stop on the Underground Railroad for slaves escaping to Canada. Many of the buildings in town have stood since the 1800s, and the University of Niagara is also located there.
16. Niagara Falls does so much more than just look pretty
The Niagara Power Vista Visitors Center has tours that educate people on hydroelectric power. Families can witness firsthand how Niagra Falls is not only breathtakingly beautiful but also how its immense power generates electricity for the surrounding area.
17. Kids of all ages will love the Strong Museum of Play
Experts have long touted play as an integral part of child development, and The Strong Museum of Play, located in Rochester, New York, is an interactive museum that is dedicated to the history and study of playing. It's not only one of the largest history museums in the United States, but it is one of the most hands-on and family-friendly, as well. The museum is also home to the National Toy Hall of Fame, the World Video Game Hall of Fame, and the International Center for the History of Electronic Games, so this interactive wonderland will undoubtedly be the highlight of any kid’s trip to New York State.
18. Enjoy a part of New York State from underground
Howe Caverns, located in Central New York State, is one of the state’s most popular year-round natural attractions. The caverns, thought to date back approximately 6 million years, offer tours that begin with a 156-foot descent below the surface. From there, families can choose between several options, including the traditional 90-minute tour with a boat ride to the ever-popular Family Flashlight Tour on Saturday nights. On this tour, families get to explore the cavern with only flashlights to light their way, closely replicating how the caverns looked when discovered by Lester Howe with only his lantern in 1842.
19. Get a little wild in the Bronx
The Bronx Zoo, the third-oldest zoo in America and one of the largest metropolitan zoos by area in the United States, offers 256 acres filled with exhibits of majestic animals, from the Congo Gorilla Forest to the Butterfly Garden. With 6,000 animals, your kids will love the opportunity to experience some of the most exotic and rare species on the planet.
20. Buffalo has a zoo, too
The Buffalo Zoo is a great option for those who are vacationing in the Niagara Falls region of New York State. Just 25 miles away from Niagara Falls, this quick day trip may just be the attraction your kids need to complete their perfect vacation. Founded in 1875, the zoo is the seventh-oldest in the United States and houses 1,200 animals and 320 different plant species.
21. Make family memories around the campfire
The incredible natural beauty of New York State makes it an amazing place to sleep out under the stars after spending the evening with your family around a blazing campfire. The Department of Environmental Conservation website will allow you to book a variety of camping experiences all over New York State, from tent camping to renting a cabin. For those who would rather not rough it, there are glamping options that will allow you to enjoy the great outdoors in the lap of luxury. From the GatherWild Ranch in the Hudson Valley to Collective Retreats on Governors Island in the New York City metro area, New York state offers a plethora of ways to make camping memories to last a lifetime.