25 Best Non Touristy Things To Do In NYC With Kids

September 26, 2023

We love visiting New York City with kids, ever since our kids were small! The hustle of NYC excites the city gal in me. And while there are dozens of well-known things for families to do in New York City, our favorite way to enjoy the city is to seek out non touristy things to do in NYC.

In 2018, our oldest son moved to New York City. When we visit him, we usually spend a week to a month in the city, which gives us plenty of opportunities to experience NYC attractions, especially the off the beaten path things to do in NYC.

Relaxing at the Brooklyn Botanical Garden (September 2021)

New York can often be swarming with tourists, no matter what time of year. For our family, one thing we like to do is look for non touristy things to do in NYC. I have a feeling your family likes doing this too. 

That’s why I’ve compiled this post to help you and your family find enjoyable things to do in NYC that don’t require fighting the tourist crowds (I can’t guarantee that you won’t be fighting the local crowds, though!). These non touristy things to do in NYC will give you an opportunity to have a local experience, and enjoy your time in the city!

This post was originally published on November 6, 2018.

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Table of Contents

5 great experiences for non touristy things to do in NYC

Only have a short time in NYC? Check out these 5 unique activities to experience some fun non touristy things to do in NYC! They’re perfect for getting to know the city.

  1. Museum of the City
  2. The High Line Park walking tour
  3. The Escape Game
  4. Brooklyn Bridge walking tour
  5. Pride/LGBTQ history walking tour

Stay at this Manhattan hotel to be close to the action: Hilton Garden Inn NYC Financial Center

Tour recommendations for non touristy things to do in NYC

A great way to enjoy some non touristy things to do in NYC is to take a tour. The tours highlighted below showcase the city’s history and all the things that have influenced New York City. They’re a great supplement to worldschooling!

Enjoying our time in New York City (October 2018)

Check out these ideas for tours to book for your trip to New York City:

New York City Historic Walking Tour: learn about New York City’s revolutionary history with this tour from Revolutionary Tours NYC

Harlem Walking Tour: learn about the history of the Harlem neighborhood, its impact on hip hop culture, and view street art in this tour from Hush Tours

Manhattan Architecture Yacht Cruise: learn about New York City’s architectural history with this boat cruise led by Classic Harbor Line NYC

If you’re looking for a non touristy thing that’s more active, book this bike tour: Brooklyn Bridge Hudson River Trail Bike Tour

Learn how to incorporate learning into your travel experiences.

The top non touristy things to do in NYC

As we explore New York City, we keep finding so many quirky things to do in New York. After all, the city has 8 million people living in its five boroughs: Manhattan, the Bronx, Brooklyn, Queens, and Staten Island. And the largest borough, Brooklyn, has over 2.6 million people!

Checking out the Fearless Girl statue (October 2020)

With so many people living in New York City, you're sure to find some unique and off the beaten path things to do in NYC. We like using this guide to give us some ideas of where to go in the city: Not For Tourists Guide to New York City.

At the same time, we like getting recommendations from our friends too! As I was putting this post together, I thought it would be fun to ask other family travel bloggers to share their favorite non touristy things to do in NYC. They gladly shared with me their favorite things to do in New York with kids! And of course, I’ve also included my family’s favorite activities to do in NYC too.

For ease of reading, I’ve categorized the list into the following groups: museums, unique things to do, food-related things to do, and parks. I’ve also noted the borough where each attraction or activity is located. Feel free to scroll ahead to your favorite type of activity.

Off the beaten path New York City museums for kids

We’re all about visiting museums wherever we go. New York City is no exception. When it comes to things to do in New York with kids, you can have your pick of museums. From the American Museum of Natural History to the Museum of Modern Art, these museums draw hundreds of visitors each day.

Exhibit at the Tenement Museum (December 2022)

In addition to the popular museums, there is also a large selection of smaller museums to explore. We find these museums have fewer crowds, which makes it a much more relaxed experience. However, they’re just as interesting to visit as the popular ones, and a great choice for non touristy things to do in NYC.

1. New York Transit Museum (Brooklyn)

One of the non touristy things to do in NYC that we love is the New York Transit Museum in Brooklyn. Since almost everyone in New York City rides the subway, a visit to this museum is a must for families looking for things to do in New York with kids.

Subway car in one of the non touristy things to do in NYC, the New York Transit Museum
An old subway car at the New York Transit Museum (October 2018)

The New York Transit Museum covers all aspects of transit in New York City, from buses to subways. You can see interactive exhibits teaching kids about how transportation in New York City works. There are also exhibits about the role of New York City subways in the city’s pop culture. Our favorite part of the museum was going in the old subway cars. Many of them date back to the early 1900’s, and still have their original advertisements!

Located in Brooklyn, the New York Transit Museum is situated in between the Borough Hall and Hoyt-Shermerhorn metro stations. Admission $10 for adults and $5 for kids. It’s one of our favorite off the beaten path things to do in NYC!

2. The Tenement Museum (Manhattan)

Nancy from Map and Family

We loved the small group tours at the Tenement Museum in NYC's Lower East Side. Housed in two original tenement buildings, it consists of seven restored apartments and a beer saloon that were lived and worked in by immigrant families from the 1800s until post World War Two.

The Tenement Museum, photo credit Map and Family

The museum cleverly uses these spaces to reconstruct the lives of real families who came to America in the hope of building better futures. The apartments have been restored as authentically as possible - there's no air conditioning - and the guided tours vividly bring to life the cramped and often difficult daily existence of the families who lived there.

Visitors can choose which time period they'd like to visit and on some tours can actually meet the residents, played by costumed interpreters. The personal stories and harsh realities of life as an immigrant are moving and many insights are still relevant today too. The Tenement Museum is located at 103 Orchard Street and is a great choice for history buffs looking for non touristy things to do in NYC.

Ready for a change? Take the first step to living a life of full time travel.

3. Brooklyn Museum (Brooklyn)

The Brooklyn Museum is an art museum located in Brooklyn. It has an expansive collection of art from around the world, ranging from ancient Egyptian and Asian art to contemporary and indigenous art. I’d venture to say that in terms of art-related non touristy things to do in NYC, the Brooklyn Museum tops the list!

The Brooklyn Museum (August 2021)

Families with kids can check out their Hands-On Art program on the first Saturdays of each month, plus the weekly Sunday Art program. They can also delve into the diverse cultures, art movements, and historical contexts represented in the museum. We always love using museum visits as a key part of our worldschooling curriculum. 

The Brooklyn Museum is located near Prospect Park, right near the Eastern Parkway-Brooklyn Museum subway stop. The museum is open Wednesdays through Sundays from 11am to 6pm. On the first Saturday of each month, the museum stays open until 11pm and offers free admission from 5pm to closing. Otherwise, entry into the Brooklyn Museum is $16 for adults (kids are free). Certain exhibitions cost an additional fee.

4. Whitney Museum of American Art (Manhattan)

Another great art museum choice for non touristy things to do in NYC is the Whitney Museum of American Art. Located in Manhattan, this museum specializes in 20th-century and contemporary American art. 

Kitchen by Liza Lou at the Whitney Museum (September 2021)

The Whitney Museum of American Art showcases engaging exhibits that explore diverse facets of the American experience. Like the Brooklyn Museum, the Whitney Museum also has a family program: an open studio on Saturdays; special kid-focused family tours on certain Saturdays; and an activity guide kids can use to engage with the exhibits.

The museum is located in the vibrant and historic Meatpacking District, near Hudson River Park and several blocks away from Chelsea Market. The nearest subway stop is the 14th St/8th Ave station. 

The Whitney Museum of American Art is open Wednesdays through Mondays from 10:30am to 6pm (on Fridays they close at 10pm). Tickets are $30 for adults (kids 18 and under are free), but on Fridays from 7-10pm, you can pay what you wish.

5. American Folk Art Museum (Manhattan)

For artsy non touristy things to do in NYC that’s also free, head to The American Folk Art Museum. This small art museum in Manhattan celebrates the creativity and innovation of American folk artists. 

Admiring a quilt at the American Folk Art Museum (September 2023)

While the exhibits are limited - there are only a few rooms in the museum! - they showcase a diverse range of works, from traditional quilts to intricate carvings and outsider art. At the time of our visit, the American Folk Art Museum had an exhibit showcasing the role quilts in giving voice to communities that have historically been marginalized, particularly black women. It was a fascinating look at American cultural history through these authentic, often self-taught, artistic expressions. 

While the American Folk Art Museum doesn’t offer any special programs for families, admission to the museum is free (with an optional donation). This makes the museum a great spot for a quiet rest, or reflection time after a busy day of sightseeing. The American Folk Art Museum is located near Lincoln Center, close to the 66 St-Lincoln Center subway station.

6. Museum of the City of New York (Manhattan)

The Museum of the City of New York, located in Manhattan, offers a captivating look into the diverse and evolving narrative of New York City. We visited there in December 2022, and were surprised at how many unique and interactive exhibits there were at the museum. Our kids loved it! Our kids tried out old typewriters, phones, and machines that people in New York City used in the past.

Black Lives Matter exhibit at the Museum of the City of New York (December 2022)

Families visiting the Museum of the City of New York can journey through time, exploring exhibits showcasing the city’s past. Rich in photographs, interactive displays, and artifacts, the museum chronicles NYC's cultural, social, and political history, giving families a keen understanding of the intricate tapestry that is New York City.

The Museum of the City of New York is open on Thursdays from 10am to 9pm, and Fridays to Mondays from 10am to 5pm. Entry into the museum costs $20 for adults. Children under the age of 19 are free. In terms of non touristy things to do in NYC, it’s a great choice for giving families insight into New York’s urban past.

7. Brooklyn Children’s Museum (Brooklyn)

If you have young kids and you’re looking for non touristy things to do in NYC for them, then you’ll definitely want to head to the Brooklyn Children's Museum. Located in the borough of Brooklyn, this children’s museum is a wonderland for young explorers. We visited there in September 2021, and our kids loved it. The exhibits were so engaging for them, we basically stayed until it closed!

Playing at the Brooklyn Children's Museum (September 2021)

As the world's first children's museum, the Brooklyn Children’s Museum offers interactive exhibits that ignite curiosity in science, arts, and cultural education. From sensory play areas for toddlers to hands-on exhibits about global cultures, the museum nurtures a love for learning. Our kids especially loved the World Brooklyn exhibit, where they got to experience the different cultures that represent Brooklyn.

The Brooklyn Children’s Museum is open Wednesdays to Sundays from 10am to 5pm. Entry to the museum costs $15 per person, for children and adults.

8. Museum of the Moving Image (Queens)

A unique and interesting museum option for non touristy things in NYC is the Museum of the Moving Image in Queens. It delves into the art, history, and technology of film, television, and digital media. Perfect for movie buffs and budding film makers!

Checking out the Jim Henson exhibit at the Museum of the Moving Image (December 2022)

Families visiting will be enthralled by its interactive exhibits, from movie props to multimedia installations. When we visited, they had a huge Jim Henson exhibit with puppets from all his various films and shows. 

The museum offers various kid-friendly programs such as media and game labs on Saturdays and Sundays, Access mornings on the first Saturdays of each month for children on the autism spectrum, and family friendly movie showings.

The Museum of the Moving Image is open Thursdays from 2-6pm, Fridays from 2-8pm, and Saturdays to Sundays from 12-6pm. Admission is $20 for adults, and $10 for children aged 3-17.

Unique non touristy things to do in NYC with kids

We like looking for quirky things to do in New York with our children. It makes our trips to the city fun and interesting.

Our family playing The Depths game at The Escape Game (September 2023)

Sure, it’s nice to see the popular landmarks, like Times Square or the Empire State Building, but it’s also fun to find non touristy things to do in NYC that are different and off the beaten path. For example, we once walked through Greenwich Village just so we could take a picture of the apartment building exterior that was featured on the TV show, Friends!

You can find many off the beaten path things to do in NYC, even within the heart of the city. A lot of them can be found around midtown, Times Square, or near Central Park.

9. The Escape Game (Manhattan)

For an action-pack option for non touristy things to do in NYC, head to The Escape Game. Located in Manhattan, The Escape Game is an engaging escape room experience, challenging participants to solve puzzles and clues to "escape" within a set timeframe. 

Checking out The Heist game at The Escape Game (September 2023)

Escape games are live-action adventures promoting teamwork and problem-solving. For families, it's a chance to bond, collaborate, and test their wits in a fun, immersive setting. Our experience with The Escape Game was in September 2023* and we loved it! Our kids really enjoyed it - from our adult son to the younger ones. 

The Escape Game has locations in over 30 cities around the United States, and offers a diverse range of themed rooms, from uncovering art heists to underwater research missions (which is what we did). Each scenario is meticulously designed and has varying levels of difficulty.

Since the experience does require problem solving, communication, and critical thinking, I recommend this for families with kids ages 10 or older (The Escape Game recommends 13 years or older).

*Our experience with The Escape Game was complimentary.

10. National Museum of Mathematics (Manhattan)

We can be kind of geeky at times. Our favorite types of museums to visit with our kids are those that are centered around math and science. When I found out about the National Museum of Mathematics, also known as MoMath, I knew we had to take the kids there. It’s still one of our favorite quirky things to do in New York!

Children experiencing non touristy things to do in NYC at the National Museum of Mathematics
Having fun at MoMath (October 2018)

MoMath has two floors of interactive math-focused exhibits, for kids and adults. Our kids, had a lot of fun learning about geometric shapes, fractals, and multiplication. There is even an interactive floor that would light up in colored polygons depending on where you stepped. My daughter had fun sitting and spinning in a chair that was built like a top!

The National Museum of Mathematics is located across from Madison Square Park. Admission to the museum is $25 for adults and $20 for children. In terms of educational activities for kids, this is a great option for non touristy things to do in NYC.

11. Miniature World (Staten Island)

Melissa from Thrifty Family Travels

A unique upcoming NYC attraction for families is Miniature World. This little mini world is so cool, the whole family will just love it! And it's a cool choice for non touristy things to do in NYC with your kids.

Miniature World, formerly Gulliver's Gate, photo credit Thrifty Family Travels

This is the world’s most technologically advanced, interactive display of miniatures. Everything is tiny, but you will have big-time fun at this attraction. This modern and interactive museum with plenty to discover, offers miniature figures of world famous buildings, all over the world at one time. There’s miniature worlds from the USA, Europe, Asia and even a fully operational miniature airport!

Kids and adults alike will love discovering new little details in the various worlds and checking out cities that they have visited too. No doubt the little ones will particularly love the key they are given upon entry, which can be used to activate different parts of the miniature sets.

At this time, Miniature World is open to private tours by request. Check their website for information on how to request tours, and when the museum will be fully open to the public.

12. The Ride NYC

Jodi from Family Travel Magazine

If you are looking for completely unique and non touristy things to do in NYC, the Ride NYC* is the perfect option. It’s not exactly a tour - rather an “interactive entertainment experience”. During the 75-minute ride around part of NYC, you’ll see and hear about Times Square, Grand Central Terminal, Columbus Circle, the Chrysler Building, and Bryant Park.

The Ride NYC, photo credit Family Travel Magazine

As you board the Ride bus, your two entertaining hosts will greet you. Seating on the bus is stadium style – you’ll face the side. That side of the bus is all windows, as is the ceiling, which maximizes your view. You can choose to purchase guaranteed front row seats, but you don’t really need them.

In addition to the narration and entertainment from the hosts, you’ll also be treated to entertainment outside the bus. These actors/singers/dancers blend into the NYC landscape. It’s something you have to experience to fully appreciate. Tickets to the Ride are $79 per person.

* Jodi’s experience on the Ride NYC was complimentary

13. Coney Island (Brooklyn)

For some amusement park fun during your non touristy things to do in NYC, head to Coney Island, an iconic New York City beachfront that promises a day of fun for families. Families will enjoy visiting Luna Park, featuring classic amusement rides and the legendary Cyclone roller coaster. We visited Coney Island in 2014 and loved riding the carousel at Luna Park. 

Enjoying the carousel at Coney Island (July 2014)

Another popular amusement park in Coney Island is Deno’s Wonder Wheel. Families can also visit the Coney Island Aquarium, which offers marine education and interactive exhibits. Along the 2.7 mile boardwalk, families can indulge in traditional treats like Nathan's Famous hot dogs. Summertime brings beach fun and the renowned Mermaid Parade. 

Easily accessible by the D, F, N, and Q subway lines, Coney Island serves as a lively escape from Manhattan's bustle, combining beach relaxation with nostalgic entertainment, ensuring a memorable outing for children and adults alike.

Learn more about the amazing family travel resources we use for worldschooling!

passport, journal, and sunglasses

14. Staten Island Ferry (Manhattan/Staten Island)

One of the best tips for seeing the Statue of Liberty on a budget is to take the Staten Island Ferry. I learned this tip from a friend of mine who’s lived in New York City for many years. 

Tickets to actually visit the Statue of Liberty through Statue City Cruises start at around $24. However, families looking for non touristy things to do in NYC (but who still want to see the Statue of Liberty) can take the Staten Island Ferry, which is absolutely free! 

Visiting the Statue of Liberty (July 2014)

While the ferry won’t actually take you onto Liberty Island - the route travels through New York Harbor between Manhattan and Staten Island - you do get to catch a fairly close glimpse of Lady Liberty. And you’ll get a great view of the lower Manhattan skyline.

If you’re interested in learning more about the history of the Statue of Liberty, Liberty Island, and other iconic landmarks of the city, NYC Tours offers a great tour!

15. Harry Potter Store New York (Manhattan)

Those of you who follow this blog know that we are big Harry Potter fans. We love doing all things Harry Potter, whether it’s taking a Harry Potter tour during our Edinburgh itinerary, visiting the Harry Potter studios in London, or experiencing the Wizarding World during our Southern California road trip. So of course we had to visit Harry Potter New York!

Measuring up to Hagrid at the Harry Potter Store New York (December 2022)

Harry Potter New York is a fun option for non touristy things to do in NYC if your family is as Harry Potter-obsessed as we are. It’s a store that has all sorts of Harry Potter memorabilia for sale, plus a wand shop with an interactive wand table. But even if you don’t plan on buying anything, there are still some fun things to see at the store, such as replicas of the Ministry of Magic phone booth and the Griffin statue in front of Dumbledore’s office.

Every room in the store is meticulously decorated with magical decor. And there’s also a butterbeer bar if you’re feeling a bit parched. Harry Potter New York is located on 22nd, between 5th and Broadway. The closest subway station is the 23rd St station.

If you want to go all out on your Harry Potter New York experience, check out this butterbeer bundle, which includes $80 worth of sweets, your own wand, and butterbeer!

Food related non touristy things to do in NYC

We love to eat when we travel. Hands down, New York City has the largest selection of food options to choose from in the United States. But sometimes in travel, food can be an experience in itself, rather than just a form of nourishment.

Spices and olives at Essex Market (December 2022)

Some of the non touristy things to do in NYC that are perfect for families are those experiences that involve food. Particularly food of the sweet variety! Take a look at these fun food-related non touristy places in New York.

16. Dylan’s Candy Bar (Manhattan)

Keri from Little City Trips

Take your kids to Dylan’s Candy Bar when you are in New York and they will thank you forever! When someone made up the phrase “like a kid in a candy store”, they were surely thinking of Dylan’s Candy Bar. This place for non touristy things to do in NYC is a candy dream come true.

Dylan's Candy Bar, photo credit Little City Trips

There are over 7,000 different confections here, with the largest collection of candies and candy-related gifts in the world. From its rainbow colored pick n mix wall to the oversized lollipop tree and candy cane columns, this is a sugar high on steroids!

And it’s not just the candy store; head upstairs to the café to continue this sweetly delicious experience. Sit yourselves down in a giant cupcake booth and choose from a decadent selection of milkshakes, ice creams and desserts – including a 10-scoop sundae! (There are sandwiches, burgers and salads too, but who wants those?)

There’s also a fully stocked bar so moms and dads can knock down an alcohol-fueled chocolate martini – you’re going to need it to deal with all that sugar-fueled excitement!

17. Eloise High Tea at the Plaza (Manhattan)

Marianne from Mum on the Move

A fancy afternoon tea should be on every family’s bucket list for New York, especially if you're looking for non touristy things to do in NYC. For us, the ultimate place to enjoy this is at the Plaza Hotel. The Plaza Hotel has been a New York icon since it opened in 1907 and their high tea is served in the fabulous and elegant Palm Court restaurant.

Eloise High Tea at the Plaza, photo credit Mum on the Move

Everything about this tea, from the service to the scones, is top notch. Order yourself a glass of pink bubbles to wash it all down and luxuriate in the elegant atmosphere. But the real excitement here is for the kids – the pink and pretty Eloise High Tea!

Mischievous Eloise is the key protagonist in the book Eloise: A Book for Precocious Grown Ups and is a real favorite New York character. Her antics at the Plaza have kept kids entertained since the 1950s. The Eloise High Tea is super cute for kids and celebrates everything pink – including pink lemonade, cotton candy and cakes. My kids felt very grown up sitting in the Plaza and loved having their own special high tea!

18. Chelsea Market (Manhattan)

Chelsea Market is a perfect option for foodie families looking for non touristy things to do in NYC. Situated in Manhattan's Meatpacking District, Chelsea Market is a historic factory turned urban food hall and shopping arcade. 

Walking through Chelsea Market (July 2014)

Built in the 1890s as the site for the National Biscuit Company factory, and later redeveloped in the 1990’s as a multi-use retail/office space, it's a culinary and cultural hub. Families will love its diverse range of eateries, from gourmet foods to kid-friendly treats. Boutiques and artisanal vendors offer unique shopping experiences. 

The market's industrial-chic ambiance and frequent events make it a vibrant destination for families of all ages. Chelsea Market is accessible via the A, C, E, and L subway lines, making it an easy family stop in NYC.

If you really want the foodie Chelsea Market experience, this food tour is perfect. The tour also includes stops at The High Line and Hudson Yards.

Get a 7-day itinerary for New York City from our friends at Wanderlust Crew!

Non touristy things to do in NYC parks

New York City has so many fun parks for families to visit. Central Park is its most famous, covering 840 acres and receiving around 40 million visitors annually. But the borough of Manhattan, alone, has over 70 parks in its vicinity.

Relaxing at The High Line (October 2020)

We like experiencing off the beaten path things to do in NYC, and when it comes to parks, that means visiting some of the smaller city parks. Parks are great when you're traveling with young kids, because it gives them a chance to run around. And New York City's parks are all pretty well-kept and safe for kids to play.

19. Hamilton Grange at St. Nicholas Park (Manhattan)

In our family, we're big fans of the musical, Hamilton. Even though we haven't seen the stage production yet, we have the whole soundtrack memorized. Our recent visit to New York City was perfect for Hamilton fans like us, because we visited so many spots that played a prominent role in the musical.

Hamilton Grange at St. Nicholas Park (October 2018)

One of the non touristy things to do in NYC, if you're a Hamilton fan, is to visit Hamilton Grange, located in St. Nicholas Park. This was the home of Alexander Hamilton and his family, and the National Park Service has done its best to restore the home close to how it was at the time that Hamilton lived there.

You can take a guided tour of Hamilton Grange, led by a National Park Ranger, and walk through the rooms that Alexander Hamilton inhabited, including his study, his dining room, and parlor. The home, which is actually quite modest in size, still sits on the property that the Hamilton family once owned. However, the original location is further north from the location that the house now sits.

20. SeaGlass Carousel at Battery Park (Manhattan)

Erin from Bambini Travel

Located in Battery Park, the SeaGlass Carousel is one of the most unique things to do in NYC. Our twins love carousels so we have been on a ton of them, but this is a completely different experience. If you are in Lower Manhattan to see the One World Trade Center, take the Staten Island Ferry, or play at Rockefeller Playground, this is a quick detour and completely worth it.

SeaGlass Carousel, photo credit Bambini Travel

The SeaGlass Carousel was designed as an aquatic carousel experience to remember the original home of the New York Aquarium in Battery Park. You sit on an iridescent fish that rotates, changes colors and moves while you spin around the room to music. It is magical. Tickets for the SeaGlass Carousel is $5.

21. The High Line (Manhattan)

Ruth from Have Kiddos Will Travel

New York City’s High Line Park is this frugal mom’s favorite free attraction when exploring the big apple with our four children. It’s a one of a kind 1.45 miles long elevated park which once was a freight rail line and has been converted into a public park offering inspiring elevated views of the West Side of Manhattan.

The High Line, photo credit Have Kiddos Will Travel

A stroll along this unique park is must do when in NYC with active children. You can literally spend hours regardless of the season exploring. In addition, it offers gardens, wildflowers, outdoor art installations and some of the best views of the New York City skyline. You won’t want to miss this opportunity to slow down and enjoy some of the many sitting nooks and unique offerings while strolling along the narrow paths and gardens at the High Line with your kids.

The elevated park runs from Gansevoort Street in the Meatpacking District to the West 34th Street, between 10th and 12th Avenues which puts it in close proximity to many of Manhattan’s tourist destinations.

If you want to make the most of your High Line experience, this walking tour dives more into the history and stories of the nearby Meatpacking District.

22. Roosevelt Island (Manhattan)

Another quiet oasis from the city hustle, and an option for non touristy things to do in NYC is Roosevelt Island. Originally named Minnehanonck by the Lenape people, the island features open green spaces, ideal for picnics and outdoor play. 

Roosevelt Island Tram (September 2023)

Several parks on the island: Southpoint Park, Four Freedoms Park, and Lighthouse Park offer serene spots for relaxation and exploration. There’s a promenade that spans the perimeter of the island, for those who want to throw in a nice walk with city views. 

Getting to Roosevelt Island is convenient, with options including the F subway line or the NYC Ferry. You can also take the Roosevelt Island Tram, which is the same cost as a subway right.

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23. Hudson River Park (Manhattan)

For being a bustling metropolis, New York City has no shortage of green space. And that makes finding non touristy things to do in NYC super easy for families. Hudson River Park, stretching along Manhattan's west side, is a perfect riverside oasis for families looking for outdoors activities. 

Mini golf at Hudson River Park (September 2023)

Spanning from Battery Park to 59th Street, Hudson River Park offers numerous recreational facilities, including playgrounds, piers, and green spaces. Families can enjoy biking, kayaking, and even miniature golf. During our trip to New York City in 2023, we spent a fun evening doing miniature golf as a family at Hudson River Park.

Hudson River Park covers multiple piers along the Hudson River, from Pier 25 in Tribeca to Pier 97 in Hell’s Kitchen. Spend the whole day there and enjoy some travel fitness with your family! Accessible by multiple subway lines and buses, the park provides a serene escape within bustling NYC.

24. Prospect Park (Brooklyn)

Nestled in Brooklyn, Prospect Park offers plenty of fun non touristy things to do in NYC for families. The park was created in the 1860s and is a beautiful verdant sanctuary for Brooklyn families.

The lake at Prospect Park (August 2021)

Prospect Park boasts the scenic Prospect Park Lake, lush meadows, and winding trails. Families will also enjoy the Prospect Park Zoo, carousel, and LeFrak Center with seasonal ice-skating and roller-skating. Adventure playgrounds and picnicking areas further enhance its appeal. 

When we visited Prospect Park in 2021, we loved how it felt like a meeting place for so many families around the neighborhood! The park is conveniently accessible via multiple subway lines, including the B, Q, F, and 2/3.

25. Brooklyn Botanical Garden (Brooklyn)

Another great outdoors activity for non touristy things to do in NYC is the Brooklyn Botanic Garden. Established in 1910, Brooklyn Botanic Garden is a flourishing urban oasis in New York City. 

Walkway at Brooklyn Botanic Garden (September 2021)

The garden spreads out over 52 acres and showcases stunning plant collections, including the famed cherry blossom esplanade and Japanese Hill-and-Pond Garden. Our kids enjoyed the Discovery Garden when we visited Brooklyn Botanic Garden in 2021. It was great for learning about various plants and animals. 

Brooklyn Botanic Garden is located near Prospect Park in Brooklyn. The garden is open Tuesdays to Sundays, with varying hours, depending on the season. Admission is $18 for adults, $12 for students aged 12 and over (with ID), and free for children under 12. Brooklyn Botanic Garden is easily reachable by the 2, 3, 4, 5, B, and Q subway lines. 

Bonus: Brooklyn Bridge Park (Brooklyn)

While Battery Park in Manhattan has a cool carousel, there’s also a fun carousel in Brooklyn too - Jane’s Carousel at Brooklyn Bridge Park! While the carousel at Brooklyn Bridge Park is more like a traditional carousel (built in 1922), it’s not every day that you can get views of the New York City skyline while riding a carousel. 

Having fun at Jane's Carousel in Brooklyn (September 2021)

Jane’s Carousel at Brooklyn Bridge Park is enclosed in a glass pavilion, which lets you catch views of Brooklyn Bridge and Manhattan Bridge. Other fun things to do at Brooklyn Bridge Park include roller skating, kayaking, playground play, and an environmental education center. 

Read more posts on visiting New York with kids.

Other non-touristy things to do in NYC to consider

There are so many more non touristy things to do in NYC that families can experience on their trip. I’ve already listed 25 in this post, but there are plenty more things that our family hasn’t had a chance to experience yet. 

The Cloisters at Fort Tryon Park (October 2020)

Take a look at these other great ideas for non touristy things to do in NYC:

Family travel resources for a famiy

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Basic facts about New York City

Located in New York state in the eastern United States, New York City is one of the oldest cities in the country. It was originally home to the Lenape tribe. But they were eventually pushed out by Dutch colonists, who used the city as a trading post.

As a side note, if you're looking for a way to make an impact through your travels, consider giving a small donation to the Lenape Nation, who have now relocated to Pennsylvania.

During the years shortly following the American Revolution, it served as the capital city of the United States. And in the 19th and early 20th centuries, New York City was a major port of entry for immigrants coming to the United States.

Today, New York City is a hub for business and industry, as well as tourism. Air travel is big in New York City. The city has two major airports: JFK International Airport, which services domestic and international destinations, and LaGuardia, which services mainly domestic destinations. There is also Newark Airport in nearby New Jersey, which also services domestic destinations.

Where to stay in New York City

There are plenty of places to stay in New York City. But for families to be close to the non touristy things to do in NYC, I recommend finding places in Manhattan. In the past, we stayed at Airbnbs. But with the new limitations on New York City Airbnbs put in place in 2023, families will need to stay at hotels during their time in New York City. 

Below are two hotels that I’ve personally stayed at. They’re located in lower Manhattan, but are close to subway stations to take you to other parts of the city. 

Hilton Garden Inn Financial Center

The Hilton Garden Inn is located in downtown Manhattan, in the Financial District. Families will appreciate its convenient location to all the non touristy things to do in NYC, as there are 4 subway stations within walking distance from the hotel. The Battery Park is also a two blocks away. 

The Hilton Garden Inn has rooms that can accommodate families of up to 4 people. Rooms are equipped with a WiFi, TV, refrigerator, microwave air conditioning, and in-room safe. Connecting rooms are available upon request. 

Guests can enjoy a 24-hour gym. Breakfast is available for a fee. However, you’re likely better off grabbing a bite to eat outside of the hotel, as you whisk off to your many activities! I’ve stayed at this Hilton Garden Inn before, and really enjoyed the convenient location and comfortable rooms.

Hotel Indigo NYC Downtown

Another hotel conveniently located in the downtown area is the Hotel Indigo NYC Downtown. This hotel is located on Water Street, near to the Brooklyn Bridge. The nearest subway stations are the Broad St station and the Wall St station. However, Hotel Indigo is also quite close to the Seastreak Ferry terminal.

Despite the convenient location to many of the non touristy things to do in NYC, families staying at Hotel Indigo may find the space quite small. Although the rooms can accommodate families of up to 4 people, there’s not much space around the beds to move around the room. 

Rooms come with a mini-fridge, a TV, WiFi, and air conditioning. The rooms are also pet friendly. Hotel Indigo has a 24-hour gym which, during my stay, I definitely took advantage of. Breakfast is available for a fee.

Finding your own non touristy things to do in NYC

As travelers, we have the opportunity to explore and discover so many new-to-us things. And when it comes to visiting New York City, that means going beyond just visiting the typical NYC attractions. It means finding unique things to do in NYC!

New York City is filled with so many unique destinations and attractions. For families, finding off the beaten path things to do in NYC gives your kids a chance to really get to know the diversity and history that New York City has to offer.

Ready for your New York City adventure? Pick your favorite non touristy things to do in NYC and let’s go!

Planning to use New York City as a starting off point for a family gap year? Use my ebook, Hey Kids, Let's Go Travel! for family travel advice on planning and prepping for a family gap year.

Need help thinking through how to budget for a family trip? My Travel Budget Worksheet is just the tool you need! Click here to receive your free copy by signing up for my newsletter.

Want to connect with me on social media? Find me on Facebook, Instagram, Pinterest, and Twitter. And for those of you who are dedicated to traveling more responsibly, sustainably, and ethically, join over 200 like-minded families on my Facebook group, Responsible Family Travel.

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