Timeout New York Kids

Make the most of your city

Cheap and easy playdates for kids in NYC

Your child's next playdate is booked. Now it's time to plan the afternoon. We have tons of inexpensive ideas that will get you and your charges out and about.

  • Bryant Park

  • Bryant Park Carosel

  • Photograph: Jeffrey Gurwin

    Grand Central Terminal

  • Photograph: Krista Schlueter

    Village Chess Shop

  • Photograph: Krista Schlueter

    Village Chess Shop

  • Washington Square Park

  • Photograph: Caroline Voagen Nelson

    Jamaica Bay Wildlife Refuge

  • Photograph: Caroline Voagen Nelson

    Jamaica Bay Wildlife Refuge

  • Photograph: Don Riepe/American Littoral Society

    Jamaica Bay Wildlife Refuge

  • Photograph: Dominick Pollari

    New Park Pizza

  • Photograph: Dominick Pollari

    New Park Pizza

Bryant Park

All excursions are for one parent and two kids.

1 Grand Central Terminal and Le Caroussel at Bryant Park


Instead of just passing through Grand Central, make it a destination: Its star-studded ceiling, massive MetroNorth timetable and tracks loaded with trains are fun and free, as are its hidden ramps (perfect for running down at breakneck pace). Stop at Financier Patisserie (located in the 42nd St Passage; 212-973-1010, financierpastries.com) for croissants ($2 each) and a strong caf for Mama ($1.25).

Then head to Bryant Park (Sixth Ave between 40th and 42nd Sts). Kids can ride the diminutive French carousel ($2 per ride), throw pennies in the fountain and read books from the outdoor library's well-stocked carts.—Nicole Caccavo Kear

The breakdown
Entertainment $4
Food $7.25
Total $11.25

2 Chess and falafel in the Village


Kids can battle wits with a game at the Village Chess Shop (230 Thompson St between Bleecker and W 3rd Sts; 212-475-9580, chess-shop.com). The atmospheric store houses tables—both inside and out—where little ones can play ($3 per person per hour) chess or backgammon. They can also have a peek at the large collection of unusual-looking boards for purchase.

Afterward, take your young chess masters to Mamoun's (119 MacDougal St between Minetta Ln and W 3rd St; 212-674-8685, mamouns.com), a Village staple that dishes up some of the best—and most economical—Mediterranean grub in town. Order falafel sandwiches ($2.50 each) to go, and enjoy the treats in Washington Square Park. Plop down near the chess tables and watch the experts play.—Alison Lowenstein

The breakdown
Entertainment $6
Food $7.50
Total $13.50

3 Hiking at the Jamaica Bay Wildlife Refuge


Enter the reserve (Cross Bay Blvd near Broad Channel, Queens; 718-318-4340, nps.gov/gate) through the visitors' center; point out the small exhibit on nature. Then it's time to head outdoors: Pick up a map and lead the kids to the trails. The area is great for bird watching, so bring binoculars.

When tummies start to rumble, drive—or hop on the Q53 bus—to New Park Pizza (156-71 Cross Bay Blvd between 156th and 157th Aves, Howard Beach, Queens; 718-641-3082, newparkpizza.com). The local fave has some of the best brick-oven slices around ($2.50 each).—AL

The breakdown
Entertainment $0
Food $7.50
Total $7.50

See more cheap & easy playdates >>

  1. 1
  2. 2
  3. 3
  4. 4
  5. 5
  6. 6
Share your thoughts
  1. * mandatory fields