Toddler Weekend in NYC: 10 Things to Do and See for (Almost) Free

Toddler Weekend in NYC

New York City is one of the most popular U.S. tourist destinations in the world. When you think of New York City, what comes to mind? Broadway musicals, iconic buildings, first class restaurants and high fashion stores. It is all of this, and more. But, is NYC toddler friendly?

It sure is! Yes, you heard correctly.

Believe it or not, New York City is a fun place for kids of all ages. On the other hand, taking a toddler to New York City for the weekend is both brave and bewildering (especially if your tot is going through their well-known development stage). Ours was so we made sure we had lots of time reserved for melt-downs.

Trust us when we say your family can experience some of the best of what New York City has to offer for practically free. From parks to museums, below is our top 10 things to do and see (in a weekend) with your toddler.

Toddler Weekend in NYC

Best Intimate NYC Parks Toddlers Love

Battery Park. 75 Battery Place. Lots of greenery and open space, families can enjoy taking a walk on the many pathways.  The sculptures and memorials are monumental.  In addition, Battery Park has many benches to sit and admire the panoramic views of the Statue of Liberty and Ellis Island.

Toddler Weekend in NYC

Bryant Park. Between 40th and 42nd Streets & Fifth and Sixth Ave. Skip the busy Central Park Carousel for an intimate merry-go-round at Bryant park for only $2 a ride. Behind the New York Public library, Bryant Park has several tables and chairs perfect for taking a break and people watching. A charming park of 9 acres, Bryant Park hosts many city events and is a great place to play board games with the kids.

The High Line. New York City. Situated close to the Chelsea market and the meat-packing district. The High Line is over 2 kilometres long, built over old train tracks the city turned into a Park. Filled with unique urban art and a green space, exploring is what kids often do here. Hands down, this is one of the best places to view the sunset over the Hudson River. There are large pathways for strollers and elevators located along the park.

Toddler Weekend in NYCToddler Weekend in NYC

Brooklyn Bridge. City Hall Park, Brooklyn. The Brooklyn Bridge is a famous icon. Boasting an amazing view you get to see for free. The pedestrian path can get crowded especially, if you go on a weekend. Alternatively, there are two lanes, one for pedestrians and the other for cyclists. Stay clear of bike lanes, especially when walking with young children. Don’t forget to wear comfy walking shoes as the entire route from start to finish is about 1.8 kilometres long. Open Thursdays to Sundays.

Toddler Weekend in NYCChinatown. Canal Street to Bayard Street.  Located close to Little Italy, Chinatown is  full of different languages, sights, sounds and tastes. We loved scouting the open air markets selling anything from souvenirs, fruits, veggies and unique knickknacks. Just remember to bargain down to at least 50% of the price and bring cash to make a deal.

Toddler weekend in NYC

Actually, Chinatown has lots of authentic Asian restaurants at reasonable prices. From dim sum to hand-pulled noodles, it’s a feast for the senses. All things considered, a trip to New York City is incomplete unless you dine in Chinatown.

Toddler Weekend in NYC

Flatiron Building. 175 5th Ave, At 23rd St.  An architectural stunner, there’s nothing like it. Presently, this narrow and triangular building is 22 stories high. Just hearing the history of this building is worth the trip.  Nevertheless, the best place to take photos of the Flatiron is across the street at Madison park.

Hungry? Eataly and the Shake Shack are just around the corner.  Now, there are two more reasons to visit the Flatiron district.

Toddler Weekend in NYC

Save on Attraction Admission: Know When to Go

American Museum of Natural Art History. 79th Street and Central Park West. Specifically the 4th Floor, Exhibit Hall: Hall of Saurischian Dinosaurs. This is home to the magnificent Tyrannosaurus Rex (our toddler’s favorite Dino). It’s easy to spend the entire day at this incredible museum. A great place for the family, especially on rainy days.  The AMNH accepts pay-what-you-wish donations.

Toddler weekend in NYC

The Museum of Modern Art (MoMA).11 West 53rd Street. Another family favourite for all things modern, contemporary and inspirational.  If you don’t mind the crowds, every Friday from 4:00-8:00 p.m., admission is free for all visitors.  Coat check is complimentary but be ready for long line ups. We attended with our umbrella stroller and we’re able to by-pass the line because we had our toddler with us.

Equally important, we enjoyed many masterpieces especially Vincent Van Gogh’s “Starry night” and a self-portrait by Frida Kahlo. Nonetheless, Bodhi enjoyed all the colourful paintings and hearing about the historical significance of the art.

Furthermore, most museums host free nights or pay-as-you-go depending on the day of the week. Timeout magazine lists the best free museum days in  New York City.

Toddler Weekend in NYC

Staten Island Ferry. 4 South Street. A free ferry ride where kids (and adults) may enjoy the change of pace while watching boats sail by. Get a glimpse of the Statue of Liberty, Ellis Island, and the Manhattan skyline in the horizon. Keep in mind, the ferry is usually packed with tourists, but don’t worry as ferries depart every 30 mins.

Toddler Weekend in NYC

New York Public Library. 476 5th Ave New York, NY. Free admission. This library is like no other. There is an incredible collection of masterpieces, art and architecture.   All you have to do is look up to see the fantastic paintings on the ceilings. Furthermore, you don’t have to look far for a good read as there are books for days! Above, is a photo of our favourite part of the library, The Rose Room.

In essence, New York city is known for being a pricey getaway. As a mother of a two-year old, I like to find fun things to do for the entire family.  And, I believe it is possible to find family oriented activities anywhere you go. Nevertheless, we mostly planned our itinerary around our son’s meals and nap times. For example, when it was nap time, we usually hit the museums. When it was meal time, we ate (and played) in the park.  Thinking creatively helped us plan around our son’s schedule. As well as travelling lightly as written in Infant Travel: When Your Baby is Your Backpack.

Enjoy our top list of things to do with a toddler without breaking the piggy bank. Evidently, there is so much more to explore in New York City. If you have lots of time, we recommend visiting New York’s five boroughs. Otherwise, if you only have a couple of New York minutes, there’s many reasons to come back!

Did we miss any of your toddler friendly favourites in New York City? If so, please share them in the comments section below.Toddler weekend in NYC

Author: Darlynne

Darlynne founded Live Love Backpack to inspire others to make a positive difference in the world through traveling, volunteering, and self-awareness. Darlynne has traveled to over 76 countries. Family adventures include backpacking off the beaten path, hiking in Ontario and creating happy memories.

17 Replies to “Toddler Weekend in NYC: 10 Things to Do and See for (Almost) Free”

  1. Brian Cohen says: Reply

    Hey Dar, looks like a great NYC trip! Makes me want to go there again myself:) Maybe bring the nephews.

    1. Thanks Bri! I’m sure the kidlets would love it!

  2. Dar I don’t know how you did NYC with a toddler! Amazing!

    1. Lots of snacks, naps, and jaunts at the playground helped. 🙂

      1. I bet. Thanks for the tips, gonna try this.

  3. Central Park is a hit with our tots!

    1. Our son enjoyed it too! Central Park is amazing! We just found it very busy and crowded when we visited. I think the best time to go with little ones is in the morning or early evening.

  4. The Museum of the Moving Image has a feature on Jim Henson’s puppets. Along with personal momentos, there are more than 40 puppets to view and interact with. Big bird, Mrs. Piggy and Oscar were my kids faves.

    Also, going on right now at the El Museo del Barrio and the Museum of the City of New York has block parties in the summer for kids. Lots of music, dancing, art to be made. And it’s free!

    1. Good to know! Our son would love these museums! Thanks Sophie!

  5. Travelling Yan says: Reply

    Kids love the Brooklyn Botanic Garden. We try to visit at least a couple of times a summer. MEGA space to run, explore and enjoy the flowers. BBG offers workshops on gardening and arts/crafts for the kids. Parents can find peace and solitude here which is always nice.

    1. Yan, the Brooklyn Botanic Garden was on our list. But time wasn’t in our favour so definitely next time!

  6. Children’s Museum of Manhattan! Not free (it’s around $14) but there is 5 floors of sensory activities. Then take them to Central Park before/after and make it a fun day in UWS.

    1. Hey Wendy,
      We heard of that museum but at the time, our son didn’t have much of an attention span. I think now he would be up for it! Five floors of stimulation would definitely get him excited and hopefully ready for a nap by the end of it. 🙂 We’ll give it a try whenever we’re back in the city. Thanks.

  7. I’ve been to NYC so many times I can’t believe I’ve never been to the High Line! Exploring the outdoors is my favourite thing to do on vacation with children. The High Line will be on my list for sure next time!

    1. Hi Amy, definitely got to take the girls there next time. It’s a really cool, urban park with amazing views!

  8. Hiya Dar! This sounds like a great list not only for toddlers but for adults as well! I will be checking some of these sites when I visit New York again, I miss that place!

    1. Definitely fun for everyone. Enjoy Jonsaba!

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