New York City is a must-visit for families – regardless of the season. In the summer, you can enjoy some of the beautiful outdoor spaces, like Central Park, while in the Christmas season, you can explore outdoor markets and see the festive Rockefeller Center.
But what happens when it rains? It seems that the Northeast has gotten a lot of rain in the past few months. Luckily, the city that never sleeps offers world-class indoor activities – including amazing shows, recreational activities, and incredible museums.
Seeing a rainy day in your vacation schedule? Here are 31 of the best things to do on a rainy day in NYC. Did we miss your favorite? Leave us a comment.
Disclosure: This post contains affiliate links. A purchase/click through one of these links may result in a commission paid to us at no additional cost to you. All opinions are my own.
We’ve received complimentary admission to some of these things, and have paid our own way also.
Save Money on Some of These Things to Do on a Rainy Day in NYC (And Other NYC Attractions)
If you are planning a vacation to NYC, consider purchasing the NYC CityPASS. It offers admission to popular museums and attractions for one fee. It can definitely be worthwhile if you have most of these places on your list already.
It includes admission to the following:
Empire State Building
American Museum of Natural History
In addition, you get admission to three of the following attractions. You can choose these attractions later.
Top of the Rock Observation Deck
9/11 Memorial and Museum
Ferry Access to the Statue of Liberty and Ellis Island
Circle Line Sightseeing Cruises
Intrepid Sea, Air & Space Museum
Throw On a Poncho and Explore
Okay, so this isn’t exactly an indoor activity. But sometimes, you can just throw on a poncho or a raincoat and keep your outdoor plans.
I wouldn’t do this in heavy rain or thunderstorms. But if it’s a little rain, you may find fewer crowds at popular attractions during rainy days.
Be sure to pack raincoats and umbrellas in your suitcase, even if there isn’t rain in the forecast. You never know when things will change.
Watch a Broadway (or Off-Broadway Show)
I love musicals, and of course, NYC is the home of Broadway. Whether it’s going to rain or be the perfect sunny day, I think seeing a Broadway show is a NYC must-do.
Shows can definitely be expensive, and popular shows do sell out way in advance. So, if you’ve arrived in NYC without tickets, you’ll probably be looking for a way to get Broadway tickets for less.
You have a few options. Most shows do offer some sort of a lottery where you can get great seats at a low price. These, of course, aren’t guaranteed in any way.
Another option is to visit one of the TKTS booths. They are located in both Times Square and Lincoln Center. There’s also an app where you can see real-time availability.
At the TKTS booth, you can find same-time discount tickets as well as next-day tickets (for matinees). Since this is one of the more popular things to do on a rainy day in NYC, get to the booth early.
There are always great shows to see with kids on Broadway, including The Lion King and Disney’s Aladdin. We’ve had lots of luck at the TKTS booth in the past.
One World Observatory
If it’s a rainy day with decent visibility, you may want to visit the One World Observatory. From there, you’ll get a panoramic view of the Manhattan skyline from the highest point in NYC. If you do want to see the Manhattan skyline, however, make sure it isn’t foggy or raining too hard.
It offers a Sky Pod elevator, offering scenes of how NYC developed over the years. During our visit, my kids really loved this elevator ride.
There are multiple levels, and in addition to the views, you’ll find a gift shop and a restaurant. You’ll find a variety of tour options and tickets here.
Located on the waterfront in the Chelsea neighborhood of NYC, Chelsea Piers offers lots of activities that are great for families. This 28-acre village, originally a cruise terminal area, has ice skating rinks, bowling, a driving range, batting cages, and much more.
Love Italian food? Eataly in NYC is located right in the Flatiron District in Manhattan. It offers a variety of different restaurant venues, including sit-down restaurants and take-out counters. There are also places to sit to enjoy what you’ve purchased.
In addition, Eataly offers traditional Italian groceries, desserts, pasta, and more. It can get very busy and crowded, so arrive at an off-peak time or make a restaurant reservation. We’ve visited on a weekend and have found it to be very busy at lunchtime.
Museum of Mathematics
Located in the Flatiron neighborhood right near Eataly, the Museum of Mathematics (MoMath), is a hands-on museum that is great for kids.
When I visited with my kids, they were skeptical about the museum, afraid that it would be boring. But MoMath is most similar to a small children’s museum.
While everything has an educational component, the different exhibits are interactive and are so much fun. For instance, kids can ride a small tricycle with square wheels to see how shapes affect movement.
MoMath is open 364 days a year (closed on Thanksgiving), although once a month on Wednesday it closes early for special programming. Tickets can be purchased online in advance for a discount.
You can find more information about MoMath on their website.
American Museum of Natural History
The American Museum of Natural History is a world-class museum that is a great option for families. I recommend a visit here, regardless of the weather. But it is an excellent option for families visiting NYC on a rainy day.
The Natural History Museum offers a number of exhibits, including separate ticketed exhibits, like the butterfly vivarium. There is also a large-screen movie theater and the Hayden Planetarium. These are also additions that you would need to purchase with your tickets.
As part of the base admission ticket, you’ll be able to see the blue whale model, the T-Rex, the Insectarium, and the gem and mineral collection, among many other exhibits. I’ve visited several times and haven’t been able to get through the whole museum in one visit.
Timed tickets are now required, so it’s best to purchase your tickets as soon as you know when you want to visit. You can find tickets online here.
The Ride NYC
The Ride is not your traditional guided tour. Instead, it’s an entertainment experience aboard a custom-made bus. During your 4+ mile ride around some of the city landmarks in Midtown Manhattan, like Columbus Circle, Times Square, and Grand Central Terminal, you’ll be entertained by the pop-up entertainment outside the bus.
The Ride NYC bus is specially designed, with huge windows along one side. Guests sit sideways, and there’s no bad seat on the bus.
When you purchase your ticket, you’ll choose the date and time. There are a few upcharges – you can pay extra for a front-row seat, and can also purchase a “shout-out” for a special occasion.
While it is nice to sit in the front row, it’s definitely not a requirement. There are only a few rows in the bus. We’ve been on the Ride twice – once in the front row and once in the third row, and both experiences were excellent.
You can find tickets online here.
Several years ago, my kids and I headed to the Intrepid Sea, Air, and Space Museum after taking a Circle Line cruise. While I wouldn’t recommend the cruise in bad weather (although it was awesome in nice weather), the Intrepid can definitely be visited on a rainy day in NYC.
There are some outdoor areas of this museum, but there are also lots of indoor activities and areas. It includes a space shuttle pavilion (with a focus on the space shuttle Enterprise).
There are also simulators, aircraft exhibits, 3D movies, a submarine, and more. Kids really love this museum.
Dated tickets are available online. When you purchase, you’ll be able to add on the simulators, movies, VR, and guided tours. You can find tickets here.
Watch a Game at Madison Square Garden
Madison Square Garden, located right above Penn Station in Manhattan, is a huge venue offering sports, music, and other performances. It’s the home of the New York Rangers hockey team and the New York Knicks baseball team.
Depending on what you want to see, you’ll need to purchase tickets directly from Ticketmaster. You can use the MSG website to see the schedule of events and find links to purchase tickets.
Want to see the Brooklyn Nets? They play their home games at the Barclays Center in Brooklyn.
See Radio City Music Hall
Radio City Music Hall is an Art Deco theater known as the home of the world-famous Rockettes. The annual Radio City Christmas Spectacular, the popular Rockette’s show, typically runs each year from the beginning of November to the beginning of January.
If you aren’t visiting during the busy holiday season, you’ll still have a chance to explore Radio City Music Hall. Sixty-minute tours are offered seven days a week and include a peek at the Roxy Suite. It’s a great thing to do on a New York City rainy day.
Visit this website for more information and the link to purchase.
The Tenement Museum
I’ve heard fantastic things about the Tenement Museum in NYC, although I haven’t personally experienced it yet. At the museum, you’ll have the opportunity to tour two Tenement Museum houses (tenement apartments), as well as an optional neighborhood tour. As part of the experience, you’ll learn about immigrants and migrants from the 1860s through the 1980s, in the Lower East Side of Manhattan.
When you purchase your tickets, you’ll be able to choose from different apartment tours or neighborhood tours. On a rainy day, you may want to choose an apartment tour. You can find out more information on the Tenement Museum website.
The Whitney Museum of American Art
The Whitney Museum of American Art, offering 50,000 square feet of indoor exhibit space, is located in Manhattan’s Meatpacking District near the High Line. This is a newish building for the museum, which moved in 2015 to its current location.
It’s a beautiful museum, with more than you can possibly see in one visit. They do offer family programming, including open art studios and family tours. The schedule of these activities is shown on their website – most seem to be scheduled for Saturdays.
Tickets for the Whitney Museum can be purchased in advance on their website. You can also find tickets online here.
Is it a bit kitschy? Sure is! But Madame Tussauds Wax Museum is an iconic museum, located right in the Times Square area of NYC. It’s a great place to visit on a rainy day in New York City, however.
In addition to the standard wax museum, Madame Tussauds also offers a 4D movie and a 7D motion simulator. Combination tickets are available. It’s a good idea to purchase your timed tickets in advance to ensure entry at your preferred time.
You can find tickets online here.
See a Movie
Admittedly, there are a lot of better things to do on a rainy day in NYC than to see a movie at a local theater. But if you are traveling with kids who are tired and run down, this is always a great option.
As you’d expect, New York City is filled with a huge variety of movie theaters, from larger chain theaters to smaller arthouse theaters. Here’s a comprehensive list of the best movie theaters in New York City.
Another fantastic art museum in New York City is the Guggenheim Museum. It is located in a unique Frank Lloyd Wright-designed building and offers a collection of art from the Impressionist era through modern times.
Visiting with kids? The Guggenheim Museum offers a variety of different kids’ and teen programming.
The museum also has a museum shop and a cafe that you can enjoy during your visit. Timed tickets are currently required, so purchase your tickets in advance. You can find tickets online here.
Color Factory New York City
With additional locations in Chicago and Houston, Color Factor is an interactive museum offering 14 different immersive exhibits. If you are traveling with teens and tweens, this is a great place for them to get some Instagram pictures on a rainy day in New York City.
There are different ticket options available, including timed tickets and visit-anytime tickets. Prices vary based on date and time. Color Factor New York City is located in the SoHo neighborhood.
The Museum of Ice Cream New York City
Like the Color Factory, the Museum of Ice Cream offers immersive exhibits that are great for exploring and taking photos. There are four locations in addition to NYC – in Singapore, Austin, Chicago, and Miami (coming soon).
The highlights of this immersive attraction (in addition to some delicious ice cream) are the tallest indoor slide in New York City and the famous sprinkle pool. For families with tweens and teens, it’s definitely one of the best NYC rainy day activities.
Timed tickets are offered online and should be purchased in advance.
The Skyscraper Museum
Unlike most of the popular New York City attractions, the Skyscraper Museum actually offers free admission. Guests do, however, need to book a reservation in advance.
The Skyscraper Museum is best for those who are interested in architecture and the history of skyscrapers in New York City. It’s located in Battery Park City and is open Wednesday through Saturday.
9/11 Museum and Observatory
The 9/11 Museum and Observatory is located next to, but is not affiliated with, One World Observatory. It utilizes stories and artifacts to tell the story of what happened on 9/11 as well as in 1993.
It’s a deeply moving experience, and should definitely be visited by everyone who comes to NYC. There is a youth and families tour that offers a 45-minute guided tour appropriate for families.
The outdoor memorial is free to visit (audio and guided tours are extra), but you’ll need to purchase advance tickets for the museum. Combo tickets with a tour are also available. The standard tour is appropriate for adults and teens.
You can find tickets and tours here.
Museum of the City of New York
Want to learn about the history, cultural significance, and stories of New York City? The Museum of the City of New York offers permanent and temporary exhibits all about the Big Apple.
Tickets to the Museum of the City of New York can be purchased online. It’s open from Thursday to Sunday and is located in East Harlem.
Eat at Some Great New York City Restaurants
Of course, I think you should spend some time dining at some of New York City’s best family restaurants regardless of the weather. But on a rainy day, you may want to spend some extra time dining.
We have our favorite New York City family restaurants listed in this post. One of our favorites is Ellen’s Stardust Cafe, a Times Square restaurant where the servers are also fantastic Broadway performers.
New York Public Library
The Stephen A. Schwarzman Building is the iconic Fifth Avenue location of the New York Public Library system. In addition to doing traditional library research, you can also explore the library with a free audio tour or a guided tour.
Guided tours are complimentary, but they are very limited. Reservations are required. A 15-minute tour of the Rose Main Reading Room is also offered.
Grand Central Station Terminal and Grand Central Market
While Grand Central Station offers train service through Metro North and the Long Island Railroad, it’s also a beautiful building that is worth exploring if you have time on a rainy day. Official guided tours are offered if you are looking for more information. Whenever we’ve visited, however, we just popped in and walked around ourselves.
In addition to the terminal, there’s also Grand Central Market. Featuring about a dozen vendors in a food hall, this is a great option for picking up lunch or a snack.
Another great place to visit for a meal or a snack is Chelsea Market, which is located in the Chelsea/Meatpacking neighborhood of New York City. Chelsea Market is a food hall offering lots of different types of food, including tacos, noodles, bagels, donuts, and grilled cheese.
This is a great option if you are traveling with your family because everyone will be able to choose what they’d like to eat. With picky kids, it’s always great to have multiple options.
The Metropolitan Museum of Art
The popular Metropolitan Museum of Art is known not only for its extensive art collection but also for its iconic steps. If you ever watched the original Gossip Girl, you’ll know exactly what these steps look like. On a rainy day, the interior of the Met is a great place to visit.
Dated tickets are available online for both locations – the Met Fifth Avenue and the Met Cloisters. Tickets for guests under the age of 12 are complimentary.
Find tickets and tours here.
Museum of Modern Art
Prefer contemporary art? Visit the Museum of Modern Art (MoMA), located in Midtown Manhattan (with another location in Queens).
The MoMA offers complimentary admission for those aged 16 and under. Dated tickets are available online in advance and are highly recommended.
You can find tickets and tours here.
Lincoln Center For the Performing Arts
Lincoln Center is another premiere New York City venue, located on the Upper West Side of Manhattan. It’s the home of the New York City Ballet, the New York Philharmonic, the Metropolitan Opera, and more. There are several buildings in the complex, including the Metropolitan Opera House, David Geffen Hall, and Alice Tully Hall.
Many of these performances at Lincoln Center would have to be booked in advance. However, it’s always worth checking the schedule to see what performances are going on during your trip. Keep in mind that you may want to dress up for some of these events.
SUMMIT One Vanderbilt
SUMMIT One Vanderbilt is so much more than an observation tour. However, it does offer some great views. So like the other observation areas on this list, you may want to skip this on a rainy day if the visibility isn’t great.
SUMMIT One Vanderbilt is located adjacent to the Grand Center Terminal. It includes immersive space, and to get there, you can take the world’s largest external glass-bottomed elevator (extra fee and reservation required). There are three separate levels, including the Kenzo Digital art installations and the glass ledges.
Timed tickets can be purchased in advance online.
Fashion Factory Tour New York City
Do you have a budding fashion designer in your family? Consider taking a unique tour of a factory in New York’s Garment District. This tour is a great option and includes a guided tour and the opportunity to create your own souvenir (either a tote or a t-shirt).
You can book this tour here.
Pasta Making Class
Another fun rainy day activity is learning how to cook. This cooking class runs for two hours in the East Village. During this time, you’ll learn to make homemade pasta.
This is something that is best for adults or older kids. It’s not a kids’ cooking class. You can find more details and book here.
I didn’t include the NBC Studio Tour on this list, because it’s been closed. If/when it does reopen, I highly recommend it. During the tour, you’ll be guided by an NBC page through some backstage sets at NBC, including the Saturday Night Live set.
Where to Stay in NYC
There are so many options for where to stay in New York City. Some of this will depend on where you plan to spend much of your time, and how busy you want the area of your hotel to be. For instance, Times Square hotels are so convenient, but this is a very busy area of the city.
One of my favorite hotels for a family is the New York Hilton Midtown. It has decent-sized rooms and is in a nice location for exploring the city. You can book that hotel here.
You can also find hotels and other lodging options on the map below.
Frequently Asked Questions
In most cases, you’ll need to purchase dated/timed tickets in advance. It’s important that you check details in advance because things do sell out.
There are several options – walking, ride-sharing, cabs, and subways. If you are staying at a hotel, you can ask the concierge or doorman for the best options.
The two closest airports are John F. Kennedy Airport and LaGuardia Airport.