All Ages

What To Do Outside NYC With Kids

See recent posts by Traci L. Suppa

Sure, New York City is a boundless source of entertainment, but there are plenty of options outside the city limits where you can avoid high expenses and travel logistics, or simply explore another area of New York State with the kids. If you live in or are visiting New York City, these museums, amusement parks and zoos all merit a day of nearby exploration with the family. These things to do outside NYC are located north, east, and west of Manhattan and its boroughs — and all reachable in an hour or less.

Written by Traci L. Suppa


New Roc City - New Rochelle, New York

New Roc City, the largest indoor entertainment complex in the lower Hudson Valley, offers a year-round, weatherproof option for a day of fun outside of NYC. The things to do are separated into five zones, and a pre-paid card gives you access to all of them.

Kids gravitate to the Yucatan glow-in-the-dark, 18-hole mini golf course; the laser tag arena; bumper cars; and the Fun House arcade with more than 300 electronic games, including modern games like Dance Dance Revolution and classics like Pac Man. True thrill-seekers head up to the roof. The Space Shot ride, open on weekends, propels riders 185 feet into the air, offering views of the New York City skyline.

For a more relaxing experience, the Regal Cinema multiplex has 18 movie screens, plus the area"s only IMAX Theater, as well as theaters with new RPX technology that combines digital projection with uncompressed surround sound. For older kids and adults, the Roc N" Bowl bowling alley and the Rack and Cue billiards hall offer competitive fun late into the night. There are several restaurants onsite, as well as a hotel.

Nearby Hotel: Residence Inn New Rochelle

Playland - Rye, New York

At Playland, the first planned amusement park in America, there are 50 major and Kiddyland rides to choose from, as well as midway games, miniature golf, and boat rentals. Daily shows and entertainment are free, as are the Friday night fireworks shows during the summer.

With much of its 1928 Art Deco architecture still intact, this is a great place for classic amusement park enthusiasts who are seeking something to do outside of New York City. Playland still boasts seven original rides that pre-date 1930, including the Whip, the Derby Racer, and 66-horse Grand Carousel. Roller coaster fans love the classic wooden Dragon Coaster, and the newer Super Flight Coaster. Kiddyland is section of 20-plus rides designed for young children—like the Playland Express Train and the Mini Scrambler—with shorter height restrictions.

During the spring and summer, Playland opens its pool and beach on Long Island Sound to the public, and you can access these with or without visiting the amusement park. In the winter months when the outside attractions are closed, the indoor Playland Ice rink opens with daily public skating hours. You can stroll the quarter-mile Playland Boardwalk and pier year-round.

Nearby Hotel: The Ritz-Carlton, Westchester

Bear Mountain State Park - Bear Mountain, New York

Go to Bear Mountain State Park, on the western side of the Hudson River, any time of year when you're seeking things to do outside of NYC. In the summer, bring a picnic lunch, rent a boat, or swim in the pool. In the winter, ice skate on the outdoor rink, or go cross-country skiing. Drive up to Perkins Memorial Tower for spectacular views. There are plenty of hiking trail options, including a stretch of the Appalachian Trail.

There are also four small, manageable museums on park grounds: the Herpetology House, Nature Study Museum, Geology Museum, and History Museum. The Trailside Zoo houses mammals, birds, reptiles, amphibians, and fish native to New York State. A kid-friendly favorite is the covered Merry-Go-Round, which, instead of the usual horses, has 42 hand carved native animals, such as black bears, wild turkeys, deer, raccoons, swans, and bobcats.

You can enjoy a meal or even stay overnight in the recently renovated 1915 Bear Mountain Inn and Overlook Lodge with 15 luxury guestrooms and mountain views.

Nearby Hotel: Bear Mountain Inn and Overlook Lodge

World of Wings - Teaneck, New Jersey

The World of Wings is a hybrid children"s museum, zoo, and play space, with a glass butterfly atrium taking center stage. The butterfly atrium, filled with tropical plants and waterfalls, is home to hundreds of butterflies from species all around the world. Time your walk through it during the daily butterfly release, when young butterflies are let go for their first flight.

The exhibit area features insects and reptiles, including frogs, lizards and other reptiles. There"s a butterfly receiving room, where you can take a closer look at baby butterflies. Separate spaces include a bubble room and illusion room. Also inside is a climbing wall and soft play area for little ones to let off steam. The Just Bounce! Inflatable playground is accessible for an additional fee. Outside, you can walk the trails. And children under 2 years old are always free!

Nearby Hotel: Teaneck Marriott at Glenpointe

Liberty Science Center, Jersey City

Within view of the Statue of Liberty, the Liberty Science Center is the largest interactive science center in the New York metropolitan area. Needless to say, you"ll need to earmark several hours to thoroughly explore its 300,000-square feet, which includes 12 museum exhibition halls, a live animal collection with 110 species, giant aquariums, and a 3D theater. One of the main attractions is the country's largest IMAX Dome Theater -- a 400-seat venue with an 88-foot wide screen.

Throughout the permanent exhibits, there are plenty of chances for kids to get in on the action. In the Communication exhibit, they can use digital “spray paint” to tag the 10-foot-long Graffiti Wall. In Energy Quest, they can use air tubes to make a set of wind turbines. They can crawl through giant plastic “blood vessels” in the Infection Connection, or though the 80-foot, pitch-black Touch Tunnel.

No two visits at this fun thing to do outside NYC will be the same, since there are continuous introductions of short-term traveling exhibitions. Daily live stage shows demonstrate lightning and chemical reactions. Look for the roaming staffers who set up Pocket Science stations with demonstrations of earth science, electricity and entomology.

Nearby Hotel: The Westin New Jersey, Newport

Turtle Back Zoo - West Orange, New Jersey

While the Turtle Back Zoo is a facility run by Essex County, it is an accredited zoo with an impressive collection of more than 100 different species of native and exotic animals from five continents. Early morning and late afternoon are the best times to see the animals in their various habitats, including Wolf Woods, Penguin Coast, the Great Plains, and the indoor Reptile Center. The Sea Lion Sound features sea lions and a sting ray touch tank. For a closer look at more docile creatures, visit the Essex Farm Petting Zoo.

Break up the day by enjoying some of the zoo"s other attractions, such the miniature train through South Mountain Reservation, the Endangered Species carousel, pony rides, and the Prehistoric Playground.

If you are looking for what to do outside of NYC, check the online event calendar for family fun nights and special walk-and-talk tours. Since it"s open year-round, the zoo holds seasonal events. A highlight is the holiday lights show in November and December. Next door, there"s a zip line and ropes adventure course.

Nearby Hotel: Wilshire Grand Hotel

Adventureland - Farmingdale, New York

The small, local amusement park is a dying breed, but Adventureland has been a favorite of Long Island's families since opening in 1962. With a neon-lit midway and classic rides like bumper cars, spinning tea cups, a Ferris wheel and two carousels, this 12-acre park in Nassau County is a fun throw-back to your youth and an ideal family-friendly thing to do outside of New York City.

Refreshingly, there is no admission fee to enter this park. You can pay for individual rides with tickets, pre-pay for a day-use bracelet, or purchase a season pass. As for rides, there are 30 that fit multiple categories, including thrill rides, kiddie rides and water rides. A few of the original rides, like the Little Dipper Coaster, are still in operation, but new rides have been consistently added over the past several years. These include Turbulence, added in 2015 -- it"s the first spinning roller coaster in the “Tri State” area.

In addition to the outdoor rides and games of chance, there is also an indoor arcade with electronic games, a restaurant and food court and gift shops. Live music and magic shows are performed on weekends.

Nearby Hotel: Hilton Long Island - Huntingdon

Long Island Children’s Museum - Garden City, New York

In the spacious two floors once used as an airplane hangar, the Long Island Children"s Museum sparks the curiosity of kids from 0-10 years old. There are a total of 14 themed galleries with plenty of hands-on interaction, including Bricks & Sticks, Communication Stations, Pattern Studio, and ToolBox. The Sandy Island and Bubbles stations offer highly tactile experiences. The KaleidoZone Gallery brings in rotating art exhibits and traveling exhibits enhance the museum"s permanent collections located outside of New York City.

ClimbIt@LICM is a two-story climbing structure and ramp built for kids at least 42-inces tall, while the TotSpot, created for toddlers, is an age-appropriate play space for young crawlers and climbers.

Check the museum"s event calendar online in advance to time your visit with a special performance or presentation, like the annual Bug Bonanza, or sensory-friendly theater performances on World Autism Day. Year-round, the 145-seat theater presents a range of kid-friendly plays, concerts and circus acts.

Nearby Hotel: Hyatt Place Garden City

Vanderbilt Museum, Mansion and Planetarium - Centerport, New York

For the tweens and teens who want something more than a children"s museum, the Vanderbilt Museum, Mansion and Planetarium can offer an afternoon of history and exploration, followed by an evening of science and discovery, outside the NYC area.

Built in the early 1900"s by William K. Vanderbilt, “Eagle"s Nest” is a Spanish-Revival style mansion on 43 acres, and is one of the few remaining Gold Coast mansions open to the public. Mansion tours are offered regularly and suggested for children ages 8 and older. A separate building houses the museum of thousands of specimens of marine, bird and insect life that Vanderbilt collected on his worldwide travels. Explore the grounds, and see if you can find the sunken rose garden overlooking Northport Bay and the Long Island Sound beyond it.

The 147-seat Charles and Helen Reichert Planetarium received a $4 million renovation in 2013, and now houses one of the world"s most advanced projectors. There is a rotating schedule of different evening shows; some are narrated by trained astronomy educators, and others are more musical entertainment. After the show, if the sky is clear, you can view the actual star-filled sky from the Observatory.

Nearby Hotel: Hampton Inn Long Island/Commack

LEGOLAND Discovery Center - Yonkers, New York

If your child is preoccupied with those colorful plastic bricks, LEGOLAND Discovery Center puts them in contact with more than two million of them under one roof. For the younger ones, opportunities to build include the DUPLO Village, LEGO Construction Site, and Fire Academy. Older kids get to create their own racing vehicle in the Racers: Build & Test workshop, and time their creation on a test track. At the Master Builder Academy, an instructor guides kids through basic building techniques.

There are also amusement park elements, like the Kingdom Quest Laser Ride and Merlin"s Apprentice Ride. Walk through the LEGO Factory Tour to see the production process, through mixing, painting and molding. In Miniland, the artistry of miniature versions of New York landmarks appeals to adults, as well as kids. Fans of the Friends collection can step inside Olivia"s house to play in her kitchen and sing karaoke. When it"s time to sit, the LEGO Studios 4D Cinema shows 3D movies with special effects like wind, artificial snow and water spray.

Nearby Hotel: Residence Inn Yonkers Westchester County

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