Roam around Central Park, an enormous, much-loved green space in the heart of Manhattan, beautifully landscaped in the 19th century and a wonderful place to people-watch, learn to Rollerblade, bounce around in a playground or just run around shouting and leaping off rocks. It's pretty safe, and most of the best museums in Manhattan are grouped around its edges. The south side is probably the place to visit first, to ride on the famous old carousel, row on the boating lake or take a horse-drawn carriage ride. There's also a zoo, and in winter you can ice-skate in Central Park.
Take a harbour ferry to Ellis Island, on the way admiring the Statue of Liberty, which, donated in the 19th century by the French, offered the first glimpse of the New World for the millions of immigrants who were accepted or turned away in Ellis Island. Get a glimpse of this history at the Museum of Immigration.
Ascend the Empire State Building, built in just 410 days in the depths of the Depression. At night its top 30 floors are floodlit in seasonal and holiday colours. The views from the observatory on the 102nd floor are breathtaking, but be prepared for queues.
Head for the American Museum of Natural History, combining interactive child-oriented exhibitions with 19th-century galleries full of stuffed creatures and beasties. There's lots of amazing dinosaur stuff, a fascinating biodiversity exhibition, and high-tech Earth and Space galleries.
Make for the Intrepid Sea, Air and Space Museum to inspect the decks of the historic aircraft carrier, tour a submarine and a destroyer, experience an F-18 mission and show your kids Concorde.
Get creative at the Museum of Modern Art, which brings its exhibitions alive for kids through family gallery talks, workshops and family-friendly films, designed for ages 4–14. The Frank Lloyd Wright designed Guggenheim, also devoted to modern (Impressionist–contemporary) works, is best visited for one of its Sunday-afternoon drop-in creative sessions (ages 3–10), monthly family tours for ages 5–10, occasional family combined tours and workshops, or annual Family Day, but activity packs and guides and Guggenheim sketchbooks are always available.
Learn how to make a movie or animate a cartoon at the American Museum of the Moving Image, where interactive exhibits mingle with special effects props.
Discover the Children's Museum of Manhattan, where hands-on play teaches unsuspecting kids about science, maths, engineering and more, guided by familiar characters including Dora and Diego.
Explore Soho – South of Houston (pronounced ‘howston') Street – which into a tiny area packs an estimated 250 art galleries, 4 museums, nearly 200 restaurants, and 100 shops. The street scenes, buskers and performance artists bring it to life for little ones. The vibrant little ethnic enclaves of Chinatown and Little Italy are also worth a stroll – and a foodie stop-off.
Walk across Brooklyn Bridge, day or night, for spectacular views of Manhattan and to visit the cafés in Brooklyn Heights, and perhaps the Brooklyn Museum, another art behemoth.
Take a Circle Line Cruise (half-way round is more than adequate) for great views and commentary on New York buildings and history. A Big Onion Walking Tour can be fascinating with older kids who don't mind pounding the pavements, while award-winning Context Travel runs bespoke family and general tours of aspects of New York.
Hop aboard a free ferry to Governors Island, named for its use in British colonial times by New York's royal governors. Its historic fortifications are open to the public for in summer and early autumn and there are free National Park Service walking tours, bike loan, art installations, concerts, festivals and fairs.
Visit the parks on the West and East sides: Riverside and Carl Shultz Park offer good playgrounds, people-watching and river views. Don't miss the goings-on in the dog exercise areas!
Catch a show on Broadway; long-running favourites include The Lion King and Mary Poppins. With older kids, try a night at the Apollo Theatre in Harlem – Wednesday night is amateur night, where stars are born, with wild but fun crowds.
Watch the Yankees play baseball at Yankee Stadium – a quintessential NYC spectacle.
Go off-the-beaten track: visit Grand Central Station for its ceilings and atmosphere; The Cloisters in the northernmost end of Manhattan – a lovely museum of medieval art, with a great café and parkland; and St John the Divine in the Columbia University area, just off Central Park – a massive Episcopal cathedral unfinished after a century of building but full of surprises and surrounded by delicious eateries courtesy of the wealthy Columbia students.
Shop. New York has fabulous gadget shops (most notably the Apple Shop in Times Square) and some of the best toy-shops in the world, including FAO Schwarz and Toys R Us in Times Square.
Head for the beaches of Long Island. The celeb-and-wealth magnet Hamptons at the far-eastern end of the Long Island, in Suffolk County, won't be to everyone's taste, but Coney Island, the USA's biggest largest amusement area from 1880 to World War II, is a must. Despite a period of neglect and a still-uncertain future, it's got plenty of old-time, tacky charm in the form of rollercoasters, haunted houses and other funrides and an aquarium.
Keep up to date with events, attractions and exhibition in New York with the city's icon, Curious George.