what the hell do I do with a four year old in NYC?

straight up advice

Since you’re so great at planning days out in NYC, what do you recommend for a day out in NYC with a 4 year old?


Puppies ARE cuter than any baby in the world.
Face it, all babies look the same. They come in a few colors, range modestly in size, and the only clear distinction is how their handlers dress them. Now that that’s settled, it should be obvious: kids are like dogs.

You bring pups to a dog run to socialize, sure, but mostly you just want to wear them down. So, to answer your question: what do I recommend for a day out in NYC with a four-year-old? I recommend wearing them down, not you. Or at the very least for you to have some fun, too.

Now then, does this four year old have a V or a P? Because if I go on and on about high tea at The Plaza and an afternoon spent at American Girl getting manicures that’ll kinda make me the prick. Being the mama to one of each, I opt for more universal fun. I’ll start with the cliche setup: Broadway matinee, carriage ride through Central Park, romping through FAO Schwartz, Serendipity III for Frozen Hot Chocolate.  It might be cliche, but it’s memorable… though perhaps not for a four-year-old.

Instead, you might try the New York Hall of Science. I used to go here a lot growing up. Yes, it’s in Queens, but it’s awesome. I remember it being designed for all different ages. Pendulums, huge bubble makers, water play, and once when I was there they were dissecting a cow eyeball. Taking them to that will make you the coolest person ever.

It depends what day of the week, but Alice’s Tea Cup (and Chapter II) is always fun because there is a "wee tea" or a "small tea" where kids get a scone with raspberry jam and lemon clotted cream, a sandwich of their choice… yes, even grilled cheese if need be, a small pot of tea (which they can even do iced), and a small chocolate mousse with whipped cream and sprinkles. Plus fairy wings at the door, etc. Or there’s an afternoon tea at The Plaza, on Sundays I believe (I think it’s $35, but I could be wrong, and I believe it might be closed right now, so call before you go). The fun of Serendipity III is another option.

There’s the Central Park Zoo, in particular the sea lion feedings (check zoo schedule for times). It’s a real zoo with penguins, polar bears, etc., not just a petting zoo. You can shell out the bucks for a carriage ride through Central Park, or do a matinee musical. But that depends on the attention span of the child.

If it’s summer, here’s another suggestion: head all the way down to the Brooklyn Bridge exit on the subway, in Tribeca. There is a terrific outdoor playground with water features, sandboxes, and even a water slide that looks like a tobogganing shoot… look up Teardrop Park.
"The park is overseen by the Battery City Parks Conservancy, and it features prominent rock outcroppings, a magnificent bluestone "ice wall," a great slide, sandboxes, waterplay, a reading area with rock seats, and places to rock hop. Best of all, it’s not easy to find, so it’s a real "insiders" secret."Go City Kids

Alternatively, take their favorite New York movie or book and create your own tour.



  1. I LIVED at the Natural History Museum (Upper West Side) as a child, and I think it’s good for boys or girls…
    For one thing, dinosaurs. Big massive fossil skeletons.
    For another, they have this big, dimly lit geology room all padded in carpet where parents basically let the kids run wild, looking at sparkly things.
    For another, animal dioramas. Which seems kind of old-school, but is actually pretty exciting when you’re a kid looking up at a buffalo or something.

  2. smelly and her neighbors will be supes angry with you…publicizing their practically private oasis of a park. ;)

  3. Oh gosh, I used to go to the New York Hall of Science at least once a year. Likewise for the New York Aquarium in Coney Island. As a little kid, I LOVED the aquarium – now, when visiting my grandparents in Brooklyn, I’ll try to see if I can encourage them to dip into the aquarium when we walk on the boardwalk. Also, the boardwalk is a lot of fun to walk, because of the actual design – they’re all diagonal boards, and it’s fun to see where they end up.

    The Brooklyn Botanical Gardens are gorgeous. (Can you tell I grew up in Brooklyn?)

  4. Hooray! I came back to check if there was a reply to my post yesterday; never guessed my question would result in this tremendous reply. Thanks so much, Stephanie. Sweet.

  5. We live in the suburbs, so my kids think it’s the greatest when I whip out my Metro Card and we zip around the city on the subway and/or bus. One of our favorite things to do — perfect for little ones, visitors to NYC and pretty much anybody on a hot day — is to get on the (free) Staten Island Ferry for the ride across the harbor and back. You pass the Statue of Liberty and get an amazing view of southern Manhattan. We usually head to Chinatown after that to eat soup dumplings at Joe’s Shanghai, browse the child-friendly souvenir stands (i.e. cheap crap) and explore the exotic offerings in the Chinese markets. Before calling it a day, we cross into Little Italy for cannoli or gelato. A great afternoon for everyone and the kids conk out on the way home!

  6. Take the train to the ferry. Take the ferry to Staten Island. Take the bus to the Staten Island Zoo. Three different forms of public transportation, plus cute furry animals.

  7. I saw this blog and I just wanted to add some information about a MetroCard Deal at a host of locations in Queens, including the NY Hall of Science. I work for MTA New York City Transit and we partnered with the Queens Development Corporation to offer discounts on merchandise and admission at a diverse number of venues from Long Island City to Flushing. The NY Hall of Science is offering free child admission with one paying adult, when you use your MetroCard. Visit http://www.HotSummer.DiscoverQueens.info for a full list of all the venues and what MetroCard Deal they’re offering. A little way to save some money during these financial times.

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