Some of the Great Things to do in New York City by Age 15

Written by New York Family on . Posted in News Our Town, News West Side Spirit, Our Town, West Side Spirit.


's Wonder Wheel. Photo Courtesy of Wikicommons.

Plus, some really good alternatives!
By Eric Messinger

I guess you could think of this as a list of greatest hits—the New York City places, institutions and experiences that offer children the biggest wows, the most fun and some truly impactful and inspiring learning moments. Of course, our children are so lucky to have all these things within a commute’s reach. Hopefully, they’ll get to check off many of them over the course of their childhood.


With the carousel, the zoo, picnicking, row boats, statue climbing, playgrounds galore, ice skating and simply walking around and enjoying the grand parade of humanity at its leisure, Central Park is our great green oasis of recreation and calm—and our best retort to questions about living in a city without a backyard. centralparknyc.org

Under-the-Radar Alternative:

If you live in New York City with kids, you’ve probably been to a City Parks Foundation event. This organization is everywhere, hosting free events like sports clinics, concerts, puppet shows and educational programs for kids and adults to enjoy in the great outdoors. cityparksfoundation.org

The Bronx Zoo
The great animal exhibits and attractions vary in geography and species, but all are full of jaw-dropping wonder—whether it’s the Congo Gorilla Forest, Himalayan Highlands or the Butterfly Gardens. On weekends, the zoo usually features special programming for kids that marries education and fun. bronxzoo.com

Under-the-Radar Alternative:
The Staten Island Zoo
The zoo is a good reason to hop on the ferry and spend more time on Staten Island. It’s small, perfect for little kids who like to wander around its pretty environs. It has a petting zoo, pony rides and lots of fun animal facts posted all around the property. statenislandzoo.org


From the stars above us to the beginning of man, the Museum of Natural History takes kids on amazing journeys to the heart of our natural world, while bringing to life (so to speak) such incredible figures from our past and present as tyrannosaurus rex and the big blue whale. The museum also does a great job of planting the seeds of wonder and care for the environment in children. amnh.com

Under-the-Radar Alternative:

Speaking of the natural world, Jamaica Bay is the only wildlife refuge in the National Park Service. It is the place to observe migrating birds; its unique landscape contains rare native habitats like salt marshes, woods, several fresh- and brackish water ponds and an open expanse of bay. There are a variety of ranger- and partner-led programs, including presentations on seasonal wildlife, sunset tours, hikes, boat trips and family programs. nps.gov (search for “Jamaica Bay”)


The Met’s collections are so vast and diverse that one of the best approaches is to let children roam around with you. The museum offers a bunch of free drop-in programs for families and, for many children, the most fun spot to drop in on is the museum shop. But at least you know that by the time you get there, they’ve gotten a world-class dose of art and culture! metmuseum.org

Under-the-Radar Alternatives:

Almost all museums have some kind of programming for kids and families these days. Both the Rubin Museum of Art, which focuses on the Himalayas, and MAD, the Museum of Arts and Design, have become especially popular among families because of their commitment to kid-minded programming. rmanyc.org; madmuseum.org

Coney Island
It may not look or feel like Disney World, but Disney doesn’t have a genuine ocean, beach or a historic boardwalk at its front door. With the aquarium, new rides and amusements, classic oldies like the Cyclone and the Wonder Wheel, Nathan’s, the Brooklyn Cyclones and the holy troika of beach-boardwalk-ocean, a day in Coney is the best. coneyislandfunguide.com; wonderwheel.com

Under-the-Radar Alternative: Carousels
There’s been an influx of new carousels around the city, including Jane’s Carousel in DUMBO and Flushing Meadows Park and Forest Park in Queens. Add to those the old regulars in Central Park, Prospect Park and Coney Island, and round and round we go! janescarousel.com; nycgovparks.org

FAO Schwarz/Toys “R” Us/
American Girl Place
Being enveloped by larger-than-life stuffed animals at FAO Schwarz! Going for the Ferris wheel ride at Toys “R” Us! Having a mommy and me lunch date at American Girl Place! For a child, every day is a holiday day at our grandest mega-toy stores. fao.com; toysrus.com; americangirl.com

Under-the-Radar Alternative:

There’s something about seeing how stuff is made that can captivate a child. During a visit to Madame Alexander, you’ll see a gallery of dolls and storyboards that span almost 100 years, and then comes the real fun: a behind-the-scenes tour that takes you through the design and production lines as well as the doll “hospital.” madamealexander.com

Big Apple Circus
The circus that bears our name and is our fun ambassador to kids all around the world makes it all—the clowns, acrobats, jugglers, contortionists and absurdly well-trained animals—happen in just one ring, under one tent, where every seat in the house is a good one. There’s something so small-town about the experience; we just love it! bigapplecircus.org

Under-the-Radar Alternative:
The Bindlestiff Family Cirkus
Another New York City-born spectacle, the Bindlestiff Family Cirkus offers a truly unique hybrid of circus arts-vaudeville-Wild West-burlesque that they fine-tune in age-appropriate ways for the audience. bindlestiff.org

New York Botanical Garden/Brooklyn Botanic Garden
Who says urbanites can’t get in touch with nature? Our two magnificent floral oases, the New York Botanical Garden in the Bronx and Brooklyn Botanic Garden are not only pleasant to look at, they offer all sorts of kids’ classes in gardening and science and family-minded special events. Mini green thumbs will love losing themselves amongst lush mazes, gargantuan flowers and other green curiosities. nybg.org; bbg.org

Under-the-Radar Alternatives:
Flower District and The High Line
Blink and you might miss the leafy greens, bright blooms and creative containers in Chelsea’s Flower District on 28th Street between Sixth and Seventh avenues. But the true urban hideaway is 25 feet above ground, along the train track-turned-park High Line. Over 200 species of plants thrive in the first section alone; see if you can guess which 161 are native to New York. thehighline.org

New York Hall of Science/Liberty
Science Center/ Intrepid Museum
Young Einsteins have a lot of local inspiration. Both the 450-exhibit New York Hall of Science and the 300,000-square-foot Liberty Science Center hold a lifetime’s worth of sensory adventures and interactive programs. For astronaut hopefuls, the Intrepid Sea, Air & Space Museum just became the new home for the Enterprise space shuttle. nysci.org; lsc.org; intrepidmuseum.org

Under-the-Radar Alternatives:
Sony Wonder Technology Lab and Museum of the Moving Image
The whole family can channel their inner geeks—for free—at midtown’s Sony Wonder Technology Lab, where cutting-edge software lets you make your own computer game and project dance moves into cool animation. In celebrating the history of movies, the Museum of the Moving Image has a lot of engaging exhibits about the technology that produces light and sound. sonywondertechlab.org; movingimage.us

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