Off the beaten track with kids in New York

During my student days, I spent lots of time in the city that never sleeps. But that was many years ago. Oddly, I’ve never visited New York with my children. Not exactly sure why I haven’t. About time, perhaps…

Today’s guest post comes from freelance writer Anna Dewinter. I’ve asked Anna to find some fun and unusual things to do with kids in New York, both Upstate and in New York City. She has certainly given me some ideas. Enjoy!


Visiting ‘The Big Apple’ is always a treat. From the natural wilderness areas Upstate to the hustle and bustle of the City, there’s something for everyone in the Empire State. However, traveling with kids will always present special challenges wherever you go in the world. Keeping them occupied and interested can be difficult. Luckily, New York has some wild and wooly attractions that are perfect for the whole family.

With kids in Watkins Glen

With kids in New York

Watkins Glen, located near Elmira, NY is a hidden wonderland for family travelers. Within the Glen is Watkins Glen State Park, one of the few places where visitors can enter the world of waterfalls and get a stunning up-close view of the gorge. A mile and a half long trail winds through areas with enchanting names such as Jacob’s Ladder and Rainbow Falls. Stone stairways cut into the edge of the gorge provide wide, safe walkways through the breathtaking scenery.

For younger hikers or families who prefer an easier stroll, there is the option of riding a shuttle bus up to the top of the gorge and walking back down to the parking area. Be sure not to miss a sweet treat from the nearby Great Escape Ice-cream Parlor after the hike.

Adults will appreciate the proximity to New York’s famous Wine Trail and NASCAR racing is a popular local attraction. Nearby Elmira has several luxurious family-friendly hotels to retire to at the end of the day. This all makes Watkins Glen a perfect family-friendly New York destination.

With kids in Niagara

Butterfly Conservatory, Niagara Falls

While the Falls may be one of the biggest attractions in the state, families with children may find that one day is enough to exhaust the traditional activities of riding the Maid of the Mist boat into the spray of the mighty cataract.

Visiting the Butterfly Preserve on the Canadian side is also a great day out.

Martin’s Fantasy Island is an amusement park on Grand Island, just outside of Niagara, NY. Martin’s water park and amusement rides offer a welcome distraction that will also keep the kids entertained for an entire day. Admission charge to the park is reasonable, and covers as many rides as you wish to enjoy.

With kids in New York City

Visitors to New York City will quickly discover a cultural extravaganza. There’s more to do with kids in the City than you could accomplish in a lifetime. A highlight is the Toys R Us Times Square store, a veritable wonderland that includes a ride on an indoor Ferris wheel.

Harlem Meer fishermen

Catch-and-release fishing is permitted in Central Park’s Harlem Meer. Poles can be borrowed from the Charles. E. Dana Center, located on the North Shore. Bait is also provided. Visitors over sixteen will need to purchase a fishing license, but kids under 16 may fish without one.

Families shouldn’t miss a chance to see the Blue Man Group on Broadway, touted as one of the most family-friendly shows. The audience interaction and sensory aspects of the show make it an excellent choice for families traveling with children.

No matter where you travel in New York, there are attractions that are sure to please the entire family.

Photo credits: Watkins Glen Falls by Mandana (on and off), Butterfly Conservatory – Niagara Falls by St Jenna, Harlem Meer fishermen by 1hr photo.

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33 Responses to “Off the beaten track with kids in New York”

  1. ItalianNotes 11 April 2012 1157 #

    Nice guide – though my children have always been content with staying and walking around in any big city.

    • Anne-Sophie Redisch 11 April 2012 2054 #

      Us Norwegians, you know – have to get out in nature…

  2. Robert 11 April 2012 1431 #

    Never thought much about New York outside the city. Some very interesting tips here.

    • Anne-Sophie Redisch 11 April 2012 2056 #

      I’ve seen a bit of it: Niagara Falls, the Adirondacks, and the like. Felt like New York City and Upstate were a world apart.

  3. Laurel 11 April 2012 1442 #

    I’ve never heard of Watkins Glen and it’s definitely not what I picture when I think of NY, but it looks amazing. Sadly, I’ve never been to Niagra Falls, even though I’m Canadian, one of these days!

    • Anne-Sophie Redisch 11 April 2012 2058 #

      Canada is such a huge country, that’s quite understandable. Lots of lovely spots on the Canadian side, I especially liked Niagara-on-the-Lake.

  4. Zelle Roberts 11 April 2012 1905 #

    I couldn’t believe the natural wonder above is located in the busy city of New York. How long does it take you to travel there from the city center? Nice pic by the way.


    • Anne-Sophie Redisch 11 April 2012 2059 #

      New York is quite a big state. It’s about 4 – 5 hours from New York City to Watkins Glen.

  5. Leigh 11 April 2012 1957 #

    When we lived in Niagara-on-the-Lake, our family went to Watkins Glen and thoroughly enjoyed ourselves. A trip to the original Chautauqua is also a worthwhile weekend trip with kids.

    • Anne-Sophie Redisch 11 April 2012 2104 #

      Oh, you’ve lived there, such a lovely town!

      You mention Chautauqua; I once lived on Chautauqua street (in Norman, OK). Never thought much about that word, just thinking it was an Indian name (Oklahoma overflows with those), but when I looked it up now, I see chautauqua is an entire movement. Very interesting! I’d like to visit the original town.

  6. Unnie 12 April 2012 0339 #

    Whenever I think about New York, I always picture the giant buildings and different high end stores. I never thought that there’s this waterfall paradise hidden in the middle of the city. Fantastic guide. Thanks!

    • Anne-Sophie Redisch 12 April 2012 1149 #

      The waterfall is Upstate. But the fishing is in Central Park, right in the middle of the city 🙂

  7. Annie - FootTracker 12 April 2012 0457 #

    The first photo is stunning! I honestly was not expecting New York to have that side o_O (too much Sex and the City? XDD )Thanks for the info!

    • Anne-Sophie Redisch 12 April 2012 1151 #

      I was a bit surprised myself. Nicely so.

  8. InsideJourneys 12 April 2012 0636 #

    Great NY spots here, Sophie! Something for everyone.

    • Anne-Sophie Redisch 12 April 2012 1151 #

      Nature AND culture and whatever else New York is 🙂

  9. TravelWorldOnline 12 April 2012 1103 #

    Having no kids myself, I’ve never thought of New York City as a city where you go with kids. But there are some really good tips in your post. I especially love the Toys R Us store and fishing in Central Park – I would never have come up with this idea. Kids might also love the dinosaurs in the Museum of Natural History, I guess.

    • Anne-Sophie Redisch 12 April 2012 1152 #

      Thanks for adding that tip 🙂

  10. Laura 12 April 2012 1647 #

    Oh, I really like the “catch-and-release” fishing idea! 🙂 Sounds like a good idea for my kids who are just very much into “fishing” (mostly with sticks, ’cause mommy doesn’t want them to hurt the fish) LOL.

    • Anne-Sophie Redisch 15 April 2012 1728 #

      I’m just like that, too. ‘Let’s just look at the fish, kids, not kill the poor things…’

  11. Leanne 12 April 2012 2211 #

    New York is truly perfect place for the whole family, this is my wishing well vacation place to find the sincerity of happiness, especially to my little princess…

    • Anne-Sophie Redisch 15 April 2012 1728 #

      I think New York is a fun place for little princesses 🙂

  12. tinafreysd 13 April 2012 0923 #

    Many residents and tourists firmly believe that New York is best seen on foot. Walking also allows you to avoid the inevitable traffic jams that occur at all times of day.

    • Anne-Sophie Redisch 15 April 2012 1729 #

      That’s how I remember it; walking is really the only way to see New York City.

  13. Scot207 13 April 2012 1144 #

    last month we been to New York as a whole family, we spent our vacation in that beautiful place and right now, we able to cherish our unforgettable memories in that lovely place…

    • Anne-Sophie Redisch 15 April 2012 1730 #

      That must have been a fun vacation, Scot 🙂

  14. Ayngelina 13 April 2012 1212 #

    Interesting to see so many nature-focused places, I never think of that when I think of New York.

    • Anne-Sophie Redisch 15 April 2012 1731 #

      I didn’t either. Anna really found the off-beat parts of New York.

  15. Emme Rogers @ Roamancing 13 April 2012 1836 #

    You take some absolutely beautiful pictures Sophie!

  16. Anne-Sophie Redisch 15 April 2012 1733 #

    They are beautiful, aren’t they…

    Sadly, I can’t claim them as mine (see credits at the end of the post).

  17. Stealing Mummys Mascara 3 May 2012 1144 #

    Some brilliant tips! And That butterfly picture is gorgeous! xx

  18. NYC Events 12 February 2013 1212 #

    Watkins Glen was an amazing suggestion it is so naturally beautiful the children had a lovely time while we lazed in the greenery.

  19. April 7 May 2014 2247 #

    Right! I agree with you that visiting “The Big Apple’ is always a treat especially going to different fancy restaurants, Exmpire State and many more luxurious places but with kids? We have to make an exemption on places to bring them. I’m glad I read this post because now I know I can take my whole family especially my kids here in Watkins Glen. From the picture you shown here, wow! This place is awesome. I bet my kids will enjoy here and learn a lot of things especially on the beauty of nature. Thanks for sharing!

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