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Best of 2013: Best places and things to do in NYC for families

Our best of 2013 list for NYC families, including new playgrounds and reopened attractions, is here! Plus: We crown the winners in our readers' choice poll.


From the city's best new sports hub for little athletes to a beer-garden in Brooklyn that's extremely kid-friendly, our best of 2013 list has something for every New York City family. Read on to see which attractions, birthday party entertainers, restaurants and other things to do in New York City our editors named the best of 2013. Plus, find out who took top honors in our best of 2013 readers' choice poll!

The full list

Scroll through the slide show below to see our full list of the best things to do in New York City with kids in 2013.

  • Photograph: Whitney Lawson

    Best of 2013: Time Out New York Kids critics' picks

    Best new outdoor track: Slope Park

    Yes, this newly renovated South Slope playground (it reopened in June 2013) has a giant spinning dish to ride on, sprinklers to splash in and enough swings for everyone, but it’s the little-kids play area that gets high fives from the under-fives. A miniature asphalt roadway–complete with realistic road markings–surrounds the central tot lot. Little scooter and balance-bike riders feel super grown-up as they zoom around gentle hills and curves, playing toddler traffic cop and beep-beeping as they negotiate roadblocks caused when, say, someone drops a toy or stops to watch the squirrels. Parents, meanwhile, love that they can watch tiny  gymnasts on the baby jungle gym while overseeing their whiz kids on wheels. Sixth Ave between 18th and 19th Sts, Park Slope, Brooklyn (nycgovparks.org)

  • Photograph: Luciana Golcman

    Best of 2013: Time Out New York Kids critics' picks

    Best restored carousel: B&B Carousell

    Coney Island is definitely a strong contender for comeback of the year after facing significant damage from Hurricane Sandy. In addition to rebuilding many of its star attractions last spring, the beachside community welcomed back the B&B Carousell over Memorial Day weekend. The historic merry-go-round, built in the early 20th-century, was restored to its original glory, complete with 50 hand-carved horses, two chariots and the Gebrüder Bruder band organ—and it’s housed in a David Rockwell–designed pavilion. When the ride’s over, doors open right onto the boardwalk so you can easily move on to your next adventure. Boardwalk at Kensington Walk, Coney Island, Brooklyn (718-373-5862, lunaparknyc.com)

  • Photograph: Marielle Solan

    Best of 2013: Time Out New York Kids critics' picks

    Best all-ages beer garden: Greenwood Park

    Picture this: It’s a warm summer day and you’ve been to that shadeless playground near your apartment (you know the one) more times than you can count. Or how about when it’s too cold to go outside in the winter, even though cabin fever has reached epic proportions? This sprawling auto body shop–turned–beer garden has 13,000 square feet of indoor and outdoor space, plenty of seating and a three-lane bocce ball court. Don’t let the 60 tap lines serving 24 craft beers fool you. Kids really are welcome (daily before 7pm)—we promise! Over the past year, Greenwood Park has successfully built a stroller-friendly rep for kid-tailored holiday events and concerts, and a daily comfort food option for the whole family. 555 Seventh Ave between 19th and 20th Sts, Park Slope, Brooklyn (718-499-7999, greenwoodparkbk.com)

  • Photographer: Luciana Golcman

    Best of 2013: Time Out New York Kids critics' picks

    Best family tour: Preservation Detectives

    The Museum at Eldridge Street, the historic 1887 synagogue on the Lower East Side that took on a second identity as a museum in 2007 after a 20-year renovation, offers some of the most engaging history lessons for young families in the city, and it’s no wonder: In its heyday the socially conscious congregation welcomed new immigrants with open arms, helping out with food, apartment hunting and even loans. Its popular Preservation Detectives series uses guide-led scavenger hunts, hands-on workshops (think holiday-themed challah and chocolate making) and family walking tours to illuminate aspects of American Jewish history and the fascinating evolution of the neighborhood (second Sunday of the month at 11am; $15 per family). On tap this fall: a Thanksgivukuh Celebration (see “30 things to do during the holidays,”), which fetes this year’s overlap of Thanksgiving and Hanukkah. 12 Eldridge St between Canal and Division Sts (212-219-0888, eldridgestreet.org)

  • Photograph: Marielle Solan

    Best of 2013: Time Out New York Kids critics' picks

    Best new family programming: BAM

    BAMkids’ annual Film Festival has long been the hot ticket for Brooklyn’s littlest movie buffs, but in 2013 the multiarts cultural hub launched a blockbuster lineup for all ages and interests. Théâtre Tout à Trac’s adaptation of Alice in Wonderland used mind-bending sets, masks and puppetry to usher in the new year, while the Pilobolus for Kids workshop saw tweens choreograph and perform their own athletic-dance works. The popular music festival KindieFest also came to BAM for the first time. This fall, families can look forward to the Saturday movie matinee series, which launched in September, and the WeBop Family Jazz Party. Next year promises to be world-class, too, with the Swedish Pantomimteatern company presenting Charlie’s Kid, their take on Chaplin’s classic The Kid, and marionettes performing Sleeping Beauty Dreams—in Spanish. Looks like it’s time for a family meeting to sync calendars. Multiple locations in Fort Greene, Brooklyn (718-636-4100, bam.org)

  • Photograph: Constance Faulk

    Best of 2013: Time Out New York Kids critics' picks

    Best spot to get a peek at the future: MakerBot

    An irresistible hybrid of high-tech gallery and nifty gift shop, the Makerbot 3D-printer store in NoHo is a must-see for kids who love computers, art or just awesomely cool gadgets. While it would take a lot of tooth-fairy money to actually buy one of the printers (they start at $2,199), kids can watch as the Replicator 2 spins micro-thin strands of plastic filament into solid 3-D items such as flowers, robots and bracelets. Step into the photo booth to create a 3-D self-portrait, buy a colorful computer-generated helicopter or car, or sign up for a Saturday-morning kids’ workshop (just $10). And don’t miss the world’s coolest gumball machines—for $5, slip a token in the slot and get your very own computer-generated toy. It’s the closest we’ve come yet to those Star Trek replicators. 298 Mulberry St between Bleecker and Houston Sts (347-457-5758, makerbot.com)

  • Photograph: Luciana Golcman

    Best of 2013: Time Out New York Kids critics' picks

    Best summer attraction we wish was open year-round: Governors Island

    We’ve always been fans of Governors Island—which we named “Best Free Getaway” on last year’s New York’s best list—but the 2013 season gave us more reasons than ever to love this quirky summer destination. Annual events like the Jazz Age Lawn Party returned to the island, as did Figment, which brought us unique attractions like an interactive sculpture garden, an artist-designed minigolf course and the Head in the Clouds pavilion, a work made entirely of recycled water bottle. A new addition this year was Fete Paradiso, a weekly festival of vintage French carnival rides and games, and next year promises even more fun for families, as an additional 30 acres of park land are currently in the works. If this summer’s public previews of the construction site are any indication, the new space will be pretty spectacular. The downside? The island won’t reopen to the public until May 2014. We’re counting the days. Open weekends from May to September (govisland.com)

  • Photograph: Virginia Rollison

    Best of 2013: Time Out New York Kids critics' picks

    Best ice cream mash-up: OddFellows Ice Cream

    The fact that inspiration for this shop came from its then pregnant co-owner’s midnight food cravings explains a lot: Here, your family will find kooky combos like chorizo caramel swirl and a spicy lime-tarragon sorbet made the old-fashioned way. Milk, which is locally sourced and pasteurized in-house, is infused with flavor even before the freezing process begins—just the way pastry chef Sam Mason (formerly of wd~50) likes it. Steer kids to the maple bacon pecan or aromatic strawberry lavender sorbet, or splurge for the to-die-for cornbread sundae, topped with blueberry compote, maple syrup and bacon-scented whipped cream. 175 Kent Ave between North 3rd and 4th Sts, Williamsburg, Brooklyn (347-599-0556, oddfellowsnyc.com)

  • Photograph: Noffar Gat

    Best of 2013: Time Out New York Kids critics' picks

    Best party entertainer: Brooklyn Balloon Company

    As any city parent knows, there’s no shortage of local children’s party entertainers happy to delight your birthday kid and her pals. One that stands out from the pack, though, is Robert Moy of Brooklyn Balloon Company. The Williamsburg dad (son Ochan, 6, is Moy’s trusted advisor) uses his background in fashion, graphics, illustration and jewelry design to make one-of-a-kind creations—everything from wearable butterfly wings to Incredible Hulk fists—right in front of young partygoers’ eyes. (He’s even been known to construct balloon piñatas.) Moy recently expanded his company’s services to include face painting; we’re loving the cool designs—including hipster glasses. brooklynballooncompany.com

  • Photograph: Alvina Lai

    Best of 2013: Time Out New York Kids critics' picks

    Best way to relive post-college weekends: Brunch Baby, Brunch

    Brunch at Union Square’s Brother Jimmy’s may conjure up images of twentysomethings devouring omelettes and drinking Bloody Marys after a night out on the town, but this year brought a new set of younger patrons to the BBQ restaurant. Founded by husband-and-wife team Christopher and Victoria Anderson, the Brunch Baby, Brunch series offers a casual environment on select weekend afternoons for families to unwind and enjoy tasty eats, prizes and even a live DJ spinning kid tunes (there’s also a padded dance floor for little movers and shakers). Even better, children under 12 eat free. Various weekends at Brother Jimmy’s, 116 E 16th St between Park Ave and Irving Pl (facebook.com/brunchbabybrunch)

  • Photograph: Luciana Golcman

    Best of 2013: Time Out New York Kids critics' picks

    Best place to watch a book come to life: Making Books Sing

    Kids can see stories realized onstage at this theater, which transforms children’s books into theatrical productions. This season’s lineup included a dramatization of Eileen Spinelli’s Wanda’s Monster (with music by kiddie star Laurie Berkner) and a cost-free touring production of the eco-themed puppet show My City Park. Next up this fall: Ballerina Swan, based on the picture book by former prima ballerina Allegra Kent. The nonprofit’s goal is to promote literacy through the arts, motivating even the most reluctant readers to get their hands on the book they’ve just seen magically come to life. 212-573-8791, makingbookssing.org

  • Photograph: Jessica Lin

    Best of 2013: Time Out New York Kids critics' picks

    Best chill hot spot: Dominique Ansel Bakery

    We know you’ve heard all about the cronut, the hybrid croissant-donut that took NYC by storm over the summer and continues to cause a line to form each morning along Spring Street. What you may not know is that the baker himself, Dominique Ansel, has created a charming spot for breakfast that alone is worth the trip to Soho—even if the cronuts have sold out for the day. You and your kids can watch the staff at work; enjoy Parisian-inspired creations; take a seat at a table outside, in the patio, or indoors; and count your lucky stars you found this place without being led on by fads. 212-219-2773, dominiqueansel.com

  • Best of 2013: Time Out New York Kids critics' picks

    Best place to go rock climbing: Brooklyn Boulders

    This adventure center may just be the Coney Island, Six Flags and Disneyland of rock climbing, all rolled into one massive gym. In addition to the standard  walls, there are areas for bouldering and lead climbing. But it’s during weekend family hours that this place really rocks. On Saturdays and Sundays from 8 to 11am, kids and parents can take part in sessions together (id="mce_marker"08 per pair). Sure, it may be a bit pricey, but an instructor will show you the ropes—literally—so you can come back and go at it on your own. The configuration of the walls is rotated often, so it’s unlikely to get boring, even to the most ardent wall rat. 575 DeGraw St at Third Ave, Gowanus, Brooklyn (347-834-9066, brooklynboulders.com)

  • Photograph: Liz Clayman

    Best of 2013: Time Out New York Kids critics' picks

    Best restaurant for playing with your food: Goodfella's

    It’s not every day that kids are encouraged (yes, encouraged) to play with their food in public, but waiters at the three city locations of Goodfella’s do just that. At the pizza parlors, little ones who order a personal-sized pizza off the children’s menu ($5 plus $.75 for toppings) get to create their own mini pie at their table. They’re given homemade semolina dough (there’s a gluten-free dough option for kids with allergies), mozzarella cheese, tomato sauce and toppings—choose from standards like mushrooms, onions and broccoli, as well as specialty items like artichoke hearts, meatballs and grilled chicken. Pizzaiolos-in-training roll the dough, place it in a tinfoil dish and get creative with the toppings. Their masterpieces are then baked in one of Goodfella’s brick ovens. Parents can enjoy appetizers (think eggplant rollatini, fried calamari and stuffed mushrooms) while their kids are hard at work. 144 Orchard St at Rivington St (212-432-3200, goodfellasusa.com); 391 Second Ave between 22nd and 23rd Sts (212-545-8500); 1817 Victory Blvd at Raymond Ave, Staten Island (718-815-8500)

  • Photograph: Agaton Strom

    Best of 2013: Time Out New York Kids critics' picks

    Best new Meatpacking District eatery: Bubby's

    We just found another reason to visit the High Line—not that we actually needed one. The popular comfort food restaurant Bubby’s recently opened a second city location (their Dumbo restaurant closed last fall, though their Tribeca spot lives on)  near the entrance to the elevated train tracks and the future Whitney Museum. Open 22 hours a day (perfect for parents whose little ones are still learning to sleep through the night), the eatery offers its signature eats, plus some exclusives. Kids can enjoy homemade egg creams and malteds from the old-fashioned soda fountain, while families can also use the restaurant’s takeout window to pick up treats pre–High Line walk or picnic. 73 Gansevoort St at Washington St (212-206-6200, bubbys.com)

  • Best of 2013: Time Out New York Kids critics' picks

    Best family dance party: Fuzipop

    Here’s a truly only-in–New York City experience: Founded by four parents with a background in music, event planning, nightclub promotion and marketing, Fuzipop dance parties give kids (ages 6 to 12) and their moms and dads the chance to boogie the day away at some of the city’s most popular nightclubs, including downtown hot spot Pink Elephant. While mini clubgoers are treated to juice rather than wine, everyone receives glow sticks, watches performances by professional dancers and has the chance to win amazing prizes. Adding to the revelry, all tunes are spun by the up-and-coming, nine-year-old DJ Kai Song—the Manhattan-based musician’s picks range from Icona Pop to Rihanna and Nicki Minaj. Various weekends. fuzipop.com

  • Photograph: Jennifer Arnow

    Best of 2013: Time Out New York Kids critics' picks

    Best business to come out of a bake sale: Treat House

    The homemade slabs of marshmallow-laced crispy rice treats two young brothers hawked at a charity bake sale elicited such nostalgia-inducing raves, it led their entrepreneurial parents to spawn a dessert den devoted entirely to the gooey snack. Jennifer and Chris Russell, former owners of the now-shuttered Moomba and TanDa restaurants, partnered with their erstwhile pastry chef, Wendy Israel, to open Treat House on the Upper West Side. Here, tykes and adults alike are enchanted by the urban tree-house setting, perching on tree stump stools to bite into the sweet, toothsome squares ($2.25 each) swirled with gourmet flavors like cool chocolate-mint, S’mores and sea salt–flecked caramel. Early risers can settle in for a less-indulgent breakfast of Stumptown coffee and brown rice bars studded with oats and flax. 452 Amsterdam Ave between 81st and 82nd Sts (212-799-7779, treathouse.com)

  • Photograph: Luciana Golcman

    Best of 2013: Time Out New York Kids critics' picks

    Best innovative class for little ones: Baby DJ School

    We thought we had seen it all when it came to original programs for the city’s youngest kids (yoga, sign language), but this year brought us one of the most unique classes to date: Baby DJ School. DJ, composer and performing artist Natalie Weiss’s eight-week program ($200) introduces kids ages three months to three years to the ins and outs of playing old-school records, mixing beats and creating cool sounds using real DJ equipment—the babies sometimes sport headphones during class. If you’re thinking, “How on earth can a one-year-old spin tunes?,” think again: The knobs and buttons on the DJ equipment aren’t actually that different from the hands-on gizmos and gadgets found on some children’s toys. In addition to working on their hand-eye coordination, babies are also exposed to a wide range of musical genres, including electro, hip-hop and house. Even better, the classes take place at Cool Pony, a hip vintage clothing store and performance space in Crown Heights, Brooklyn. natalieelizabethweiss.com

  • Photograph: Tessa Hartley

    Best of 2013: Time Out New York Kids critics' picks

    Best newly kid-friendly exhibition venue: Discovery Times Square

    Yes, we loved the “King Tut” and “Terra-Cotta Warriors” shows at Discovery Times Square, the large-scale exhibition hall that set up shop in the former home of the New York Times in 2009. But this year especially, the midtown spot has turned its eye to the youngest museumgoers, offering a reprisal of its Harry Potter show as well as new exhibitions like “The Art of the Brick,” a show of Lego works by artist Nathan Sawaya, and “Shipwreck! Pirates and Treasure,” spotlighting artifacts from actual shipwrecks (both are up through Jan 5). Not all of its current shows are kid-oriented (“Body Worlds: Pulse” is an iteration of the South Street Seaport’s “Bodies”: most definitely not for young ones), but enough are that we can’t wait to see what’s coming in 2014. 226 W 44th St between Seventh and Eighth Aves (866-987-9692, discoverytsx.com)

  • Best of 2013: Time Out New York Kids critics' picks

    Best way to teach kids a little patriotism: Statue of Liberty

    Nothing symbolizes New York, or the country’s immigration history, quite like the Statue of Liberty, and even kids seem to intuitively understand its importance. Hop on the Staten Island Ferry and explain what Lady Liberty meant to the immigrants who’d just endured a difficult passage across the choppy Atlantic. Better yet, reserve tickets to view the statue’s crown, which you must climb up to access, and pedestal, which acts as the island’s museum. The monument reopened on July 4 after being closed for nearly two years due to a much-needed renovation, then damage from Hurricane Sandy, whose imminent arrival dashed the sight’s grand unveiling last October. Tours depart from Battery Park in Manhattan and Liberty State Park in Jersey City, NJ (877-523-9849, statuecruises.com). Crown access $20, children ages 4–12 $12 (advance registration required); monument access only $17, children ages 4–12 $9

  • Photograph: Whitney Lawson

    Best of 2013: Time Out New York Kids critics' picks

    Best new reason to shop in Williamsburg: Cute Attack

    Owner and East Williamsburg resident Liza Dare quit her job as a commercial casting director to open Cute Attack, her first children’s store, after seeing the influx of families moving into the Brooklyn nabe over the past five years. Her cozy shop hawks unique threads (for kids ages zero to five) and toys from local and independent brands such as Kate Quinn Organics and the House of Brooklyn Rascals. Parents (and those looking for cool baby gift ideas) will ooh and ahh over Prefresh "Totally Local"–emblazoned tees ($42), Zuzii hats with faux-fur pompoms ($30), Lululuvs circle scarves ($40) and Le Top faux-leather jackets ($59). There are also a plethora of creative gifts, including Estella NYC MetroCard-shaped rattles (id="mce_marker"6) and Tattly temporary tattoos made of vegetable-based ink ($5), to choose from. Keep an eye on Dare’s website, as upcoming music and story hours for local kids are in the works. 770 Metropolitan Ave between Graham Ave and Humboldt St, Williamsburg, Brooklyn (347-889-6555, cuteattackkids.com)

  • Photograph: Caroline Voagen Nelson

    Best of 2013: Time Out New York Kids critics' picks

    Best craft spot with a view: Wave Hill

    This 19th-century mansion on the grounds of the picturesque Bronx park was once home to notables like Mark Twain. Nowadays, the house, which reopened in July after a two-year renovation, serves as a cultural center and plays host to Wave Hill’s popular Family Art Projects. Seasonal events, like Honey Weekend, hold court at the historic house as well. After all, there’s nothing like a beautiful building and an amazing view to inspire the creativity of young artists-in-training. W 249th at Independence Ave, Bronx (718-549-3200, wavehill.org)

  • Photograph: Melissa Sinclair

    Best of 2013: Time Out New York Kids critics' picks

    Best museum makeover: Queens Museum

    Let’s face it—museum expansions don’t exactly make for exciting headlines. But the transformation of the Queens Museum of Art into the new Queens Museum is, well, another story. Not only has the institution doubled its exhibition space to 100,000 square feet by moving into the area occupied for decades by an ice-skating rink, but it’s also changed its identity from a museum for art to a culturally minded center for all things Queens. Stop by with the kids to explore the work of puppet theater guru Peter Schumann, an exhibit devoted to the edifice’s World’s Fair history, a never-before-seen scale model of NYC’s watershed system (built by the WPA in the 1930s) and the beloved Panorama of the City of New York, which will continue to give kids and their parents an unparalleled sense of how mammoth, intricate and utterly unique their home city really is. New York City Building, Flushing Meadows–Corona Park, Queens (718-592-9700, queensmuseum.org)

  • Photograph: Vinnie Amessé

    Best of 2013: Time Out New York Kids critics' picks

    Best reptile exhibit: Staten Island Zoo

    This small zoo is best known for Staten Island Chuck, the groundhog who gets significant press every February, but aficionados know that the rattlesnake collection is among the largest in North America. Take time to ogle the reptiles, which include turtles and lizards in addition to the two-dozen residents of Rattlesnake Ridge. Enclosures are set up to mimic conditions and landforms of the reptiles’ native lands, so visitors see deserts and jungles as they peruse the exhibit. Families can also walk beneath a gigantic snake skeleton in the interactive Fear Zone, and watch snake feedings. Don’t worry about the seemingly fearless zookeepers; anti-venom supplies are always kept on hand. 614 Broadway between Clove Rd and Forest Ave, Staten Island (718-442-3101, statenislandzoo.org)

  • Best of 2013: Time Out New York Kids critics' picks

    Best new sports hub: Asphalt Green Battery Park City

    We still love the sports complex’s original UES location, but think of the new downtown spot as its younger, cooler sib. The only athletic center of its kind south of 14th Street, the spacious three-story venue features state-of-the-art, family-friendly facilities, including two pools (one with a movable floor that allows even the tiniest tots to get their feet wet), a wood-floor gymnasium and a theater with stadium seating. The Battery Park City space has all the top-notch programs we’ve come to expect from Asphalt Green—swimming, martial arts, soccer, basketball—plus a whole set of offerings for kids in the culinary and performing arts that you won’t find at the center’s uptown locale. 212 North End Ave between Murray and Warren Sts (212-298-2900, asphaltgreenbpc.org)

  • Photograph: Caroline Voagen Nelson

    Best of 2013: Readers' choice awards

    Best craft spot: Make Meaning

    Projects at this (now nationwide) mini-chain on the Upper West and Upper East Sides really run the gamut—visiting kids can dapple in everything from ceramics and candle making to cake decorating and soap making. The all-ages DIY studio’s diverse—and creative—offerings no doubt helped it capture 28.1% of the vote in our poll. Three years after UES dad Daniel Nissanoff founded the space, Make Meaning now has outposts in four states. They also recently introduced an all-inclusive pricing system, meaning young crafters can use as much material as they desire for a specific project without racking up a bill—a plus for kids and parents alike. 1501 Third Ave between 84th and 85th Sts (212-744-0011, makemeaning.com); 329 Columbus Ave between 75th and 76th Sts (212-362-0350)

  • Photograph: Madison Square Park Conservancy

    Best of 2013: Readers' choice awards

    Best place to see a family concert: Mad. Sq. Kids summer concert series

    Since the launch of their free—yes, free!—outdoor summer concert series in 2003, Madison Square Park, which received 28% of the vote, has hosted shows by some of the biggest names in the children’s music industry. This past summer was no exception: Families converged on the Flatiron green space on Tuesday and Thursday mornings between June and August for performances by musicians like the Deedle Deedle Dees, Recess Monkey, and Shine and the Moonbeams. City families also enjoyed the park’s summer art installation, Red, Yellow and Blue—the Orly Genger sculpture made entirely of hand-knitted nautical rope. Madison Square Park, 23rd St to 26th St between Fifth Ave and Broadway (madisonsquarepark.org)

  • Photograph: Berman Fenelus

    Best of 2013: Readers' choice awards

    Best children's museum: Brooklyn Children’s Museum

    Not every town has a children’s museum, so the fact that NYC has five is itself pretty impressive. Manhattan is home to three, and they’re spread out enough to attract a loyal local following. Yet in Brooklyn, the centrally situated Brooklyn Children’s Museum is the only kids’ institution with a general focus (unlike its dynamic but niche neighbor, the Jewish Children’s Museum), which likely contributed to its win (40.8% of the vote). That’s not the whole story, however. It also won because of its rich history (founded in 1899, it’s the world’s oldest children’s museum) and deep ties to the communities it serves, Crown Heights, Prospect Heights and Park Slope among them. History-minded events, neighborhood outreach and a recent $80 million renovation have earned it the kind of devotion our readers love to reward. 145 Brooklyn Ave at St. Marks Ave, Crown Heights, Brooklyn (718-735-4400, brooklynkids.org)

  • Photograph: Julie Larsen Maher/WCS

    Best of 2013: Readers' choice awards

    Best family attraction: Bronx Zoo

    Every one of the contenders in this category is a favorite of ours for one reason or another: Who doesn’t love being surrounded by the green bounty of botanical gardens, giddily swirling on an amusement-park ride or observing the beauty of the animals we share the planet with? Only the winner offers all of these experiences and more, and that’s the Bronx Zoo, which won with more than half of the vote (51.8%). A whopping 265 acres of parkland and habitats provide the nature immersion; its Wild Asia Monorail gives passengers a unique aerial view of Asian elephants and Bengali tigers; and nearly 650 species of animals make the zoo a spot that city families never grow tired of exploring. 2300 Southern Blvd at Fordham Rd, Bronx (718-220-5100, bronxzoo.org)

  • Photograph: Caroline Voagen Nelson

    Best of 2013: Readers' choice awards

    Best indie bookstore: Books of Wonder

    Chelsea’s Books of Wonder (37.6% of the vote), founded in 1980, is the only bookstore in the city devoted exclusively to children’s books. Its expertly curated inventory, weekly storytimes, constant stream of noteworthy authors and illustrators stopping by for signings and readings (recent guests have included artist-author William Wegman and actor-author John Lithgow), and themed parties gathering together like-minded kid-lit creators are just a few of the reasons why this is one bookstore in the city that’s here to stay. 18 W 18th St between Fifth and Sixth Aves (212-989-3270, booksofwonder.com)

  • Photograph: Jonathan Aprea

    Best of 2013: Readers' choice awards

    Best birthday spot: Intrepid Sea, Air & Space Museum

    A number of our favorite city institutions double as party venues, but few offer as truly memorable an experience as the Intrepid (the space received 26.4% of the vote). A few steps away from the West Side Highway, lucky little partygoers explore restored aircraft on the flight deck, climb into the cockpit of a helicopter, learn about the ship’s history during a scavenger hunt, buckle up for a 4-D space-themed ride and, of course, celebrate the festive occasion with lunch and cake. We’re also pretty sure that accompanying adults are just as blown away by the vessel’s bashes as the birthday kid himself. Twelfth Ave at 46th St (646-381-5010, intrepidmuseum.org)

  • Photograph: Virginia Rollison

    Best of 2013: Readers' choice awards

    Best city park: Central Park

    As every New Yorker knows, green spaces are every bit as vital to the city as the iconic architecture they’re surrounded by. Still, we’re pretty sure Olmsted and Vaux would be shocked to realize that their park in the middle of Manhattan is today the city’s biggest and most beloved attraction, period. Choice playgrounds (Heckscher, Billy Johnson, Ancient Playground), historic attractions like the zoo, and Olmsted and Vaux masterpieces like Belvedere Castle make it the ne plus ultra of family-friendly city parks, to be sure. But it won this category (48.6% of the vote) most of all because it still achieves its creators’ vision as a lush oasis in a crowded city that belongs to everyone. Central Park South to 110th St between Fifth Ave and Central Park West (centralparknyc.org)

  • Photograph: Virginia Rollison

    Best of 2013: Readers' choice awards

    Best play space: Frolic

    Families flocked to Williamsburg more than ever this year—a fact that helped this hot spot for the under-six crowd win 47.1% of the vote. (Billyburg neighbor and newcomer Twinkle came in second place!) Run by two area moms who used to work in the fashion industry, the rock & roll–themed play space’s indoor playground sports a replica of a 1970s VW bus and a Rolling Stones–inspired tongue slide. Adding to Frolic’s buzz factor are their cool music classes and camp programs (think Woodstock Week, Jetsetter World Tour and Beatlemania). 34 North 6th between Kent Ave and the East River, Williamsburg, Brooklyn (718-388-3100, frolicplayspace.com)

  • Photograph: Denis Finnin

    Best of 2013: Readers' choice awards

    Best general museum for kids: American Museum of Natural History

    There’s a reason why nearly every city family (and celebrity parent!) we talk to cites the AMNH as their all-time favorite city museum—at what other NYC spot can kids get up close and personal with dinosaur bones, stand under a 94-foot-long blue whale model and stare in amazement at a planetarium show. Walking away with a whopping 59.5% of the vote, the museum also hosted a slew of special and recurring exhibits in 2013—young visitors crawled through a life-size replica of a blue whale heart at “Whales: Giants of the Deep” and shared quarters with 500 live tropical butterflies at the Butterfly Conservatory. While tourists may place the iconic spot at the top of their must-see list (and rightfully so!), the Upper West Side institution truly belongs to the kids of New York City. Central Park West at 79th St (212-769-5100, amnh.org)

  • Photograph: Caroline Voagen Nelson

    Best of 2013: Readers' choice awards

    Best annual fest: Arthur Ashe Kids' Day

    Sunny weather, tons of free outdoor activities and some serious star power are just a few of the reasons why city families love (pun intended!) the US Open’s annual kid-friendly kickoff dedicated to the late tennis legend—the fest received 38.2% of the vote. After testing their skills on the court and watching the pros practice, those lucky enough to nab tickets to the special stadium show (prices start at id="mce_marker"0, but they sell out quickly!) head inside for a performance that always boasts major up-and-comers: This year, fans were treated to Ariana Grande, Austin Mahone and even a speech by First Lady Michelle Obama. USTA Billie Jean King National Tennis Center, Flushing Meadows–Corona Park, Queens (718-760-6200, arthurashekidsday.com)

Photograph: Whitney Lawson

Best of 2013: Time Out New York Kids critics' picks

Best new outdoor track: Slope Park

Yes, this newly renovated South Slope playground (it reopened in June 2013) has a giant spinning dish to ride on, sprinklers to splash in and enough swings for everyone, but it’s the little-kids play area that gets high fives from the under-fives. A miniature asphalt roadway–complete with realistic road markings–surrounds the central tot lot. Little scooter and balance-bike riders feel super grown-up as they zoom around gentle hills and curves, playing toddler traffic cop and beep-beeping as they negotiate roadblocks caused when, say, someone drops a toy or stops to watch the squirrels. Parents, meanwhile, love that they can watch tiny  gymnasts on the baby jungle gym while overseeing their whiz kids on wheels. Sixth Ave between 18th and 19th Sts, Park Slope, Brooklyn (nycgovparks.org)



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