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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.

We asked and you answered! Now that you’ve read about Time Out New York Kids' critics’ best of 2013 picks, find out which things to do and places to go reigned supreme in our online readers' choice poll. More than 7,000 votes were cast in order to pick the top family attraction, birthday party spot, indie bookstore and more. Read on for more about all of our winners—and congratulations!

  • Photograph: Virginia Rollison

    Best of 2013: Readers' choice awards

    Best play space: Frolic

  • Photograph: Jonathan Aprea

    Best of 2013: Readers' choice awards

    Best birthday party spot: Intrepid Sea, Air and Space Museum

  • Photograph: Madison Square Park Conservancy

    Best of 2013: Readers' choice awards

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

  • Photograph: Caroline Voagen Nelson

    Best of 2013: Readers' choice awards

    Best annual fest: Arthur Ashe Kids' Day

  • Photograph: Berman Fenelus

    Best of 2013: Readers' choice awards

    Best children's museum: Brooklyn Children's Museum

  • Photograph: Denis Finnin

    Best of 2013: Readers' choice awards

    Best general museum for kids: American Museum of Natural History

  • Best of 2013: Readers' choice awards

    Best family attraction: Bronx Zoo

  • Photograph: Caroline Voagen Nelson

    Best of 2013: Readers' choice awards

    Best craft spot: Make Meaning

  • Photograph: Caroline Voagen Nelson

    Best of 2013: Readers' choice awards

    Best indie bookstore: Books of Wonder

  • Photograph: Virginia Rollison

    Best of 2013: Readers' choice awards

    Best city park: Central Park

Photograph: Virginia Rollison

Best of 2013: Readers' choice awards

Best play space: Frolic

Best of 2013: Readers' choice

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). 718-388-3100, frolicplayspace.com.—Rory Halperin

Runners-up: •apple seeds •Citibabes •Kidville •Twinkle

  1. 34 North 6th St, (between Kent Ave and the East River)
More info

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. 646-381-5010, intrepidmuseum.org.—Rory Halperin

Runners-up: •Alice’s Tea Cup •American Girl Place •Chelsea Piers • The JCC in Manhattan

  1. Pier 86, Twelfth Ave, (at 46th St)
More info

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. madisonsquarepark.org.—Rory Halperin

Runners-up: •Carnegie Kids •Hip Tot Music Fest •Jewish Museum •Just Kidding at Symphony Space

  1. 23rd St to 26th St, (between Fifth and Madison Aves), 10010
More info

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 $10, 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. Late August. 718-760-6200, arthurashekidsday.com.—Rebecca Jennings

Runners-up: •Dumbo Arts Festival •Figment •Museum Mile •Tribeca Family Festival Street Fair

  1. USTA Billie Jean King National Tennis Center, Flushing Meadows–Corona Park

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. 718-735-4400, brooklynkids.org.—Lee Magill

Runners-up: •Children’s Museum of the Arts •Children’s Museum of Manhattan •DiMenna Children’s History Museum •Jewish Children’s Museum

  1. 145 Brooklyn Ave, (at St. Marks Ave)
More info

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. 212-769-5100, amnh.org.—Rory Halperin

Runners-up: •Metropolitan Museum of Art •Museum of Mathematics (MoMath) •Museum of Modern Art (MoMA) •Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum

  1. Central Park West, (at 79th St), 10024
More info

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. 718-220-5100, bronxzoo.org.—Lee Magill

Runners-up: •Brooklyn Botanic Garden •Luna Park •New York Aquarium •New York Botanical Garden

  1. 2300 Southern Blvd, (at Fordham Rd), 10460
More info

Best craft spot: Make Meaning

  • Critics choice

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).—Rebecca Jennings

Runners-up: •Craft Studio •Hiho Batik •Oliloli •Painted Pot

  1. Various locations in Manhattan
More info

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. 212-989-3270, booksofwonder.com.—Lee Magill

Runners-up: •Bank Street Bookstore •Greenlight Bookstore •McNally Jackson •powerHouse Arena/powerHouse on 8th

  1. 18 W 18th St, (between Fifth and Sixth Aves)
More info

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. centralparknyc.org.—Lee Magill

Runners-up: •Brooklyn Bridge Park •Flushing Meadows–Corona Park •Hudson River Park •Prospect Park

  1. Central Park South to 110th St, (between Fifth and Central Park West)
More info


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