Explore New York City

Ask the Expert: 7 Top Family-Friendly Attractions in NYC

While popular attractions like Central Park, the Statue of Liberty and Ellis Island are not to be missed; Polina Roze, senior concierge at the New York Marriott Marquis, recommends her personal favorite family-friendly attractions.

“New York City is a popular vacation destination for families from all over the world,” Polina Roze, senior concierge at the New York Marriott Marquis (1535 Broadway, 212.398.1900) says. In her more than 20 years as an NYC concierge, Roze has helped plenty of guests plan the perfect Big Apple itinerary while traveling with the kids in tow. Although she admits popular attractions like Central Park, the Statue of Liberty and Ellis Island are not to be missed; here she recommends her personal favorites—which include jaunts to the Bronx and Brooklyn.

New York Marriott Marquis
Polina Roze, senior concierge at the New York Marriott Marquis (Courtesy New York Marriott Marquis)

“The American Museum of Natural History is first on my list,” Roze says. “Featured in the blockbuster movie Night at the Museum, this educational mega institution is famous worldwide and attracts 5,000,000 global guests of all ages per year.” Founded in 1869, the Upper West Side institution is home to exhibits of the natural and anthropological variety and also boasts a world-class planetarium—the Hayden Planetarium in the Rose Center for Earth and Space. Roze says one standout display is the gigantic whale in the Milstein Family Hall of Ocean Life. She also says this is the right place for any dinosaur fans, as the museum includes the largest dinosaur and vertebrate fossil collection in the world. “Visit the Discovery Room just for kids, where they can solve scientific puzzles and explore fun games,” Roze says. She advises museumgoers wear comfortable shoes while exploring the sprawling attraction.

The High Line (©David Berkowitz/Flickr, Creative Commons)
Enjoy the views of Manhattan from above on the High Line! (©David Berkowitz/Flickr, Creative Commons)

The High Line is a unique, landmarked public park, converted from a discontinued elevated track along the west side of Manhattan. One of the city's most scenic parks, the High Line has plenty of vegetation and walking paths stretching from the Meatpacking District northward toward Midtown. "Even though the secret is out, it's still a hidden gem for some visitors who are more familiar with the iconic Central Park," Roze says. "The High Line is one of the best free attractions to visit in the Big Apple. Walking along this one-of-a-kind parks will be a NYC highlight." 

Chelsea Market (©Sarah Dorio)
Find something sweet—or savory!—at Chelsea Market (©Sarah Dorio)

"Don't forget to stop by the Chelsea Market!" This bustling block-long dining and shopping area is conveniently located near the High Line. "You can pick up some international and local delicacies to prepare a memorable picnic lunch above ground," Roze says.

Patience the marble lion at the NYPL
Even with birds atop his head, Patience patiently guards the New York Public Library (©Ecodallaluna/Flickr, Creative Commons)

Another must-see NYC landmark is the Stephen A. Schwarzman Building on Fifth Avenue. They city's most famous branch of the New York Public Library, it is located right next to Bryant Park and houses research facilities, rotating exhibits, rare books, newspapers and artwork. "With a reading room the size of a football field, this library is not to be missed. It's an impressive building that welcomes educators, writers, journalists and visitors from across the globe," Roze says. Roze also calls this "one of the most beautiful and grandiose libraries in the country." Its exterior is just as fascinating as its interior, as the building is guarded by two huge marble lions, Patience and Fortitude. 


The Bronx Zoo
The Bronx Zoo (Julie Larsen Maher ©Wildlife Conservation Society)

Real animals are only nly a 30-minute subway ride from Manhattan. The Bronx Zoo is situated on 265 acres of parklands and is the world’s largest metropolitan zoo with more than 600 species. “Spend the day feeding sea lions and penguins; take a camel ride and explore exhibits, such as the Congo Gorilla Forest; ride and relax on the Wild Asia Monorail; see Tiger Mountain and penguins,” Roze suggests. The zoo is also home to childhood favorites including monkeys, zebras, elephants and lions, as well as a Bug Carousel and a 4-D Theater. “Don’t forget your cameras so you can capture those magical moments in nature,” she says.

Luna Park
Luna Park at Coney Island (Courtesy Luna Park NYC)

For those looking to leave the concrete jungle for a day at the beach during the warmer months, Roze recommends Luna Park in Coney Island, Brooklyn. The amusement park, which is about one hour away from Midtown Manhattan via subway, “will bring you back to the Golden Age of Coney Island,” Roze says. Luna Park features a number of rides for adrenaline junkies—ranging from “Extreme” to “Mild.” Those visiting Luna Park on a Friday night are even treated to a fireworks extravaganza, which blazes over the park throughout the summer season starting at 9:30 p.m. While exploring Coney Island, visitors can also enjoy the beach, boardwalk and take a ride on the historic wooden Cyclone rollercoaster, which dates back to 1927. On the food front, “you will not want to miss biting into an authentic classic hot dog from Nathan’s Famous Original,” Roze says. “This is the place where the Nathan’s Hot Dog eating contest takes place annually on July 4th.”

Gulliver's Gate Times Square (Courtesy Gulliver's Gate)
Times Square in Gulliver's Gate! Guests can't stand on the displays, but this shows you just how tiny the towns are. Even the Big Apple is miniaturized! (Courtesy Gulliver's Gate)

New to NYC in 2017 is Gulliver's Gate, located in the heart of Times Square. "This little, minute 'Big Wold' colorfully and creatively depicts more than 50 nations, showcasing their detailed landmarks, settings and famous events, all in a sprawling 49,000 square foot exhibit hall," Roze says. This land of miniatures features 1:87 scale models of countries from around the world—and you can be a part of it. "Yes, you can actually step inside a scanner to create a 3D model of yourself," Roze says. "After your miniature is created, it will be added to the display and you will become a 'model citizen!' How cool is that?" Very cool.