Explore New York City Boroughs with Your Kids
We LOVE Philly, but we <3 New York, too! Discover Fun ways to spend a family weekend in the Big Apple.
Practically just around the corner and earning constant attention as America’s largest city, New York has something for everyone. Spring is a perfect time to plan a weekend-long family getaway to explore the city’s five boroughs (the Bronx, Staten Island, Manhattan, Brooklyn, and Queens), to see and do things you can’t anywhere else, and enjoy some quality family time.
Getting the troops to the Big Apple is easy too – especially if you take Amtrak from SEPTA’s Ardmore or Paoli stations to New York’s Penn Station. The kids will enjoy riding the train and you’ll love not worrying about tolls, traffic, parking (weekend parking is free), or finding a bathroom.
Central Park, the Statue of Liberty, Empire State Building – they are iconic NYC treasures, but there’s a good chance you’ve been there, done that. So here’s our borough-specific guide, highlighting some less tourist-crowded, more family-friendly places for a weekend visit.
Borough Choice #1: Staten Island
Staten Island Ferry
1 Bay Street, Staten Island, NY
Hop on the Staten Island Ferry for a five-mile, 25-minute free ferry ride from Manhattan to the St. George Ferry Terminal in Staten Island. During the ride, soak in the Manhattan skyline and the Statue of Liberty. The ferry runs about every 30 minutes on weekends.
Staten Island Greenbelt Conservatory
200 Nevada Avenue, Staten Island, NY
Even though you’re only 14 miles from the Empire State Building, you’ll feel like you’re in the Adirondacks, says Dorothy A. Reilly, director of public relations at the Staten Island Greenbelt Conservancy.
“If you have young kids, you’ll want to state at the carousel,” says Reilly of the park’s magical 20 year-old carousel featuring 51 hand-carved and painted animals. “It’s never one ride,” she says. “Parents become mesmerized and ignore their phones. It’s the greatest!”
Later, become acquainted with the almost 3,000 acres at the centrally-located Nature Center, which hosts exhibits, art workshops, hikes, performances, and more. High Rock Park, where British soldiers pitched tents in 1776, has five ponds, and Loosestrife Swamplands is great for exploring and hiking
Borough Choice #2: Queens
Gantry Plaza State Park
4-09 47th Road, Long Island City, NY
This 12-acre riverside state park has four distinct piers and offers unprecedented views of the Manhattan skyline, Statue of Liberty, and the United Nations building. Part of the Long Island City’s waterfront revitalization project, check out the restored Gantry cranes, formally used for loading and unloading barges. Instead of a selfie, ask someone to take a family picture by the historic Pepsi sign. Benches, lounge chairs, and hammocks are abundant and line the walking paths. For kids 12 and younger there’s a playground, and on Saturdays, you can fish, play chess, or visit a mobile library.
22-25 Jackson Avenue, Long Island City, NY
“The first part of our name stands for The Museum of Modern Art, which became a partner with us in early 2000,” says Allison Rodman, communications director of this special space in Queens. “The second part refers to the original function of the building in which the museum is housed – a public school. “Together, these facts make MoMA PS1 one of the largest, oldest and most innovative gallery spaces in the world for contemporary art and performance. It’s unique because it doesn’t have a permanent collection, “instead, we present a program of contemporary exhibitions,” says Rodman. It’s home to some hard-to-find works such as Pipolitti Rist’s Selbstlos im Lavabad (Selfless in a Bath of Lava); you can see it embedded in one of the floorboards of the museum.
MoMA PS1’s acclaimed VW Sunday Sessions performance series welcomes visitors to experience and participate in live art, including performances of moving images, dance, music, and discursive programs that “are sure to keep children interested and engaged.” Children 16 and younger are free.
Borough Choice #3: Manhattan
Intrepid Sea, Air, and Space Museum
Pier 86 W. 46th Street and 12th Ave., New York, NY
Bigger than big is the Intrepid Sea, Air, and Space Museum, docked right on the Hudson River at Pier 86.
For starters, the whole museum is on an aircraft carrier, the Intrepid, which was hit by a tornedo and survived five kamikaze attacks. There’s the Enterprize, the world’s first space shuttle that paved the way for America’s space shuttle program; the British Airways Concorde, the fastest commercial aircraft to cross the Atlantic Ocean in 2 hours, 52 minutes, and 59 seconds; the submarine Growler, the only diesel-powered strategic missile submarine the public is allowed to see; plus 27 authentically restored aircraft including the Lockheed A-12 Blackbird, the world’s fastest military jet and spy plane.
Borough Choice #4: Brooklyn
Brooklyn Bridge Park
334 Furman Street, Brooklyn, NY
On a bright spring weekend, views of Lower Manhattan, One World Trade Center, Statue of Liberty, and the New York Harbor will take your breath away at the 1.3-mile Brooklyn Bridge Park on the East River. Explore six continuous piers, playgrounds, basketball courts, and the Pier 2 Roller Rink, where you can skate free Sundays from 10 am to noon.
“Brooklyn Bridge Park is about bringing families together and providing engaging activities,” says Crystal Sperling, general manager of the park.
Borough Choice #5: The Bronx
The Bronx Zoo
2300 Southern Blvd., Bronx, NY
Opening in 1899 and covering more than 265 acres, the Wildlife Conservation Society’s The Bronx Zoo is the largest city zoo in America and is home to more than 6,000 animals.
Kids will love the Congo Gorilla Forest and Madagascar exhibits, or riding the 20-minute Wild Asia Monorail where guides point out wild animals like pandas and elephants. Be sure to meet the turkey named Barf for a good laugh – showing visitors his breakfast is his method of self-defense. Ask about family-friendly activities you can share at The Bronx Zoo Quests – three themed adventures (Flight!, Activity Trail, and Children’s Zoo) are each staff-guided and focused on a different theme.