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18 free things to do in New York City with kids in winter 2014

Warm up to no-cost events around town, like open houses, new exhibitions, author readings and other free things to do in New York City this winter!

It’s cold out there, so we know your family will only brave the frigid temperatures for activities that are both super awesome and don’t cost ridiculous amounts of cash, which is why we’ve rounded up the best free things to do in New York City with kids in winter! From the city’s snowiest sledding hills to free admission days at local institutions and no-cost fests, here are the best free things to do in New York City with kids this winter that make leaving home (and the electric blanket) absolutely worth it.


RECOMMENDED: 50 things to do this winter


  • Courtesy BRIC

    1. Head to a house party at BRIC
    On Feb 8 (and then again in March and April!), families can get in on free workshops and other activities, courtesy of BRIC Arts Media on one special Saturday per month. The first event of the season lets kids play in front of a green screen, then they'll learn a few calypso and soul dance moves and create their own superhero storybook. The older crowd is invited to stay till 11pm for a dance party featuring CHERYL and Bushwig.

  • Photographer: Eric Harvey Brown

    2. Celebrate Lunar New Year
    Stake out a spot in Chinatown to watch the annual parade on February 2 (before the procession starts, get your fill of cultural performances and demonstrations at Sara Roosevelt Park!), and check out our roundup of all the other Lunar New Year celebrations in town, some of which are free!

  • Photograph: courtesy the National Film Archive

    Jindich Polák, Ikarie XB-1 [Voyage to the End of the Universe]

    3. Find out what space looks like
    The New Museum's February family day (Feb 1) invites participants to tour "Report on the Construction of a Spaceship Module," a show created by the Eastern European arts collective Tranzit that has transformed the entire fifth floor of the museum into a 1960s-era spaceship. Kids will ponder such questions as what life in outer space might be like and how people in the mid 20th century thought about outer space, then get to work expressing their own vision of outer space and future spaceships through art. Note that preregistration is not required; tickets are limited, and distributed on a first-come, first-served basis.

  • Photograph: Molly Rosner

    4. Honor Black History Month at the Brooklyn Museum
    The monthly museum party series celebrates Black History Month with music, dance performances and more. Hear chanteuse Honey Larochelle, Guadalupe-based hip-hopper Tysme and Brooklyn's own Chris Faust. Gallery talks, a movement workshop with the Hip-Hop Dance Conservatory, a screening of the 2012 documentary More Than A Month and a performance by Urban Dance Collective round out the night. Advance tickets are required for some events; be sure to check the website for the full schedule. 

  • Photograph: Shahar Azran

    5. Predict the weather for the next six weeks
    What will it be: more winter or an early spring? Your family can watch Staten Island's cutest weather predictor, Chuck, come out of his burrow and decide at a free Groundhog Day celebration. Tots can also take part in an interactive photo activity and get the chance to win tickets for a return visit to the zoo.
     

  • Photograph: Filip Wolak

    6. Stop by Super Bowl Boulevard
    On January 29, Broadway between 34th and 47th Sts transformed into Super Bowl Boulevard, where there’s autograph signings with NFL players, a tented Rush Zone for kids, a video projection in front of Macy’s, photo ops with the Vince Lombardi Trophy, and a massive, 60-foot toboggan run ($5, must be at least 36” tall) between 40th and 41st Streets. See the website for the full schedule of events. 

  • Photograph: Jessica Lin

    7. Enter #PEPCITY
    Pepsi sponsors this Bryant Park Winter Village pop-up, where fans can snack on free food and drinks alongside a smattering of art, music and theater presentations that are meant to evoke classic NYC experiences. For more details, check out our feature article, or check out all the Super Bowl–themed events happening around town. 

  • 8. Build snow sculptures in Brooklyn Bridge Park
    The waterfront park hosts a TBD snow sculpture contest, which is open to teams of up to four (and includes hot chocolate!). Follow Brooklyn Bridge Park on Twitter, where they'll announce the date—which is, of course, weather-dependent.

  • Rendering: Hernan Rivera and Ivan Navarro. Courtesy Paul Kasmin Gallery. 

    9. Scope out Madison Square Park's latest installation
    Chilean-born Iván Navarro's This Land Is Your Land is a series of three water towers set within the confines of the park. Each of them is lit up from within with neon signage that repeats infinitely thanks to a set of internal mirrors. Visitors can have a look inside by walking right under the 80-foot-tall towers, an experience that's bound to be as cool as it is spooky.

  • 10. Meet the Fonz
    On February 11, early readers—and fans of the Fonz—have the chance to meet Henry Winkler, author of the Hank Zipzer series, in person. He'll be appearing alongside Lin Oliver, his collaborating illustrator, to present the latest title in the series, called Here's Hank, about a boy who struggles with dyslexia. The books are made for readers with similar challenges, thanks to an easy-to-read font. Winkler and Oliver will read from their books, answer questions from the audience and sign copies of their works afterward.

  • 11. Duck into an indoor park space
    Just because the weather's cold doesn't mean you can't enjoy NYC's best parks. Whether it's stopping by at an art gallery or visiting a historic home, we've compiled the best reasons to get out of the house and into, well, a different house!

  • Photograph: Gary Blaine

    12. See an exhibition devoted to the Beatles
    On the 50th anniversary of the Fab Four arriving stateside, the Public Library for the Performing Arts and the Grammy Museum present memorabilia, recordings, videos and photos of the mop-topped musicians, and the Beatlemania that followed them in the exhibition "Ladies and Gentlemen...The Beatles!" It's the perfect way to introduce kids to everybody's favorite band.

  • Photograph: Caroline Voagen Nelson

    13. Meet local children's authors
    Head to Books of Wonder on February 8 for two hours of storytelling by children's book authors. Julia Donaldson (author of The Gruffalo and The Snail & the Whale) and her husband Malcolm will act out her new picture book, Superworm, using entertaining props. Keep an eye out for a costumed Gruffalo as well!

  • Photograph: Courtesy the Sony Wonder Technology Lab

    14. Catch screenings at Sony Wonder Technology Lab
    Upcoming features at the (totally free!) SWTL include The Backyardigans (Feb 15) and Sesame Street: C Is For Cooking (Feb 22), providing more winter break fun.

  • Photograph: Muriel Weinerman

    15. Get into a garden for free
    During winter, some botanical gardens offer free visit days, including the Queens Botanical Garden (free through Mar 31), where you can also catch the funny photo exhibition "Get the Picture?", on view 'til May. NYBG offers free admission all day on Wednesday (mark your calendar for over winter break!) and between 9am and 10am on Saturday mornings, while the BBG is free on weekdays through February and between 10am and noon on Saturdays.

  • Photograph: Marielle Solan

    16. Take to a snowy city hill
    Enjoy the snow before the city turns it into brown slush. We've rounded up the best sledding hills, borough by borough, to take advantage of winter's greatest (and cheapest!) gift.

  • Photograph: Beth Levendis

    17. Check out the Holiday Train Show before it closes
    The holidays may be over, but the New York Transit Museum's Grand Central show is still going. See the miniature trains before they're gone come February 23.

  • Photograph: Amy Beckerman

    18. Celebrate St. Patrick's Day
    Besides the 253-year-old parade up Fifth Avenue on March 17, attend the Irish Arts Center's St. Patrick's Open Day on March 9 and tip your hat to the Emerald Isle. 

Courtesy BRIC

1. Head to a house party at BRIC
On Feb 8 (and then again in March and April!), families can get in on free workshops and other activities, courtesy of BRIC Arts Media on one special Saturday per month. The first event of the season lets kids play in front of a green screen, then they'll learn a few calypso and soul dance moves and create their own superhero storybook. The older crowd is invited to stay till 11pm for a dance party featuring CHERYL and Bushwig.


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