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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.

  • Photograph: Constance Faulk

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

    Best spot to get a peek at the future: MakerBot

  • Photograph: Luciana Golcman

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

    Best innovative class for little ones: Baby DJ School

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

    Best place to go rock climbing: Brooklyn Boulders

  • Asphalt Green

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

    Best new sports hub: Asphalt Green Battery Park City

  • Photograph: Whitney Lawson

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

    Best new outdoor track: Slope Park

  • Photograph: Luciana Golcman

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

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

  • Photograph: Caroline Voagen Nelson

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

    Best craft spot with a view: Wave Hill

  • Photograph: Vinnie Amessé

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

    Best reptile exhibit: Staten Island Zoo

  • Photograph: Luciana Golcman

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

    Best restored carousel: B&B Carousell

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

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

  • Photograph: Noffar Gat

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

    Best party entertainer: Brooklyn Balloon Company

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

    Best family dance party: Fuzipop

     

     

Photograph: Constance Faulk

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

Best spot to get a peek at the future: MakerBot

Best things to do for families this year

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. 347-457-5758, makerbot.com.—Marisa Cohen

  1. 298 Mulberry St, (between Bleeker and Houston Sts), 10012
More info
Baby DJ School

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.—RH

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 ($108 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. 347-834-9066, brooklynboulders.com.—Brian Braiker

  1. 575 DeGraw St, (at Third Ave)
More info

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. 212-298-2900, asphaltgreenbpc.org.—Lindsey Garland

  1. 212 North End Ave, (Between Murray and Warren Sts), 10282
More info
Outside inside track at Slope Park

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. nycgovparks.org.—Clare Lambe

  1. Sixth Ave between 18th and 19th Sts

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).—Lindsey Garland

  1. Governors Island
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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. 718-549-3200, wavehill.org.—Lindsey Garland

  1. W 249th St, (at Independence Ave), 10471
More info

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. 718-442-3101, statenislandzoo.org.—Michele Wallach

  1. 614 Broadway, (between Clove Rd and Forest Ave)
More info

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. 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.—Lee Magill

  1. Tours depart from Battery Park City and Liberty State Park
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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.—Rory Halperin

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.—Rory Halperin

  1. Various city venues 40 W 8th St, between MacDougal St and Sixth Ave, 10011
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