Timeout New York Kids

Make the most of your city

Essential NYC for kids

50 things a kid's gotta do before he hits 5 feet


21. See a movie alfresco
What better surroundings for a great movie than the twinkling city itself? The crush of humanity that is Bryant Park's Summer Film Festival is no place to bring a child, but thankfully, there are now other outdoor venues for summertime celluloid throughout the five boroughs and even Hoboken. Part of the allure for the stroller set is the stay-up-late factor—most reels don't start running till after dark, so pack a picnic dinner, cinema snacks and a blanket. Just don't be surprised if your gung-ho kids can't stay awake till the end credits.

22. Poke around Chinatown
Exposure to different cultures is the norm in the five boroughs, but for total immersion in another world, take a train to Canal Street. On the crowded main drags, street vendors hawk bubble blasters and other plastic toys, while fishmongers and grocers display mountains of exotic ingredients. Make sure to stray down the less-beaten paths as well—along Catherine or Henry Streets—where tourists aren't as likely to ruin the effect. During the Lunar New Year, in midwinter, the area explodes in color and drama.

Photograph: Elizabeth H. Robinson

23. March in Brooklyn's Mermaid Parade
Launched in 1983 in remembrance of Coney Island's onetime Mardi Gras festivities, the late-June procession kicks off summer in sweaty DIY fashion. Sign up to march in your marine-themed finest, or just gawk at the giant lobsters, marooned sailors, bathing beauties and slinky selkies strutting their waterlogged stuff along Surf Avenue and the boardwalk. With nearly every corner of the city colonized by a Starbucks, Gap or chain fro-yo store—and the fate of Coney Island perpetually in flux—this cheerfully debauched, homegrown tradition is just about mandatory. It may be the only event in town where the phrases family-friendly and partial nudity commingle. Begins at W 21st St and Surf Ave, Coney Island, Brooklyn (coneyisland.com/mermaid.shtml)

Photograph: AMNH

24. Take a Journey to the Stars at the Hayden Planetarium
Buckle up for a virtual tour of outer space led by Oscar-winning actor Whoopi Goldberg. This immersive film whisks youngsters into the great beyond via images of star formations and simulations of celestial events. Tiny specks of light illuminate the screen with incredible colors, and the seats actually shake as supernovas explode, altering the universe forever. A trip to the sun's surface reveals solar winds that travel ominously toward Earth, creating auroras and other solar light displays at the North Pole. While older kids and adults might recognize astronomy lessons on their voyage, little ones will just be, well, star-struck. Screens every half hour: Mon, Tue, Thu, Fri 10:30am–4:30pm; Wed 11am–4pm; Sat, Sun 10:30am–5pm. Hayden Planetarium, the Rose Center for Earth and Space, American Museum of Natural History, Central Park West at 79th St (212-769-5100, amnh.org)

25. Strike a pose at Karma Kids Yoga
These days, children and yoga go together like peanut butter and jelly—we challenge you to find a city toddler who doesn't know the downward dog. One of the first yogis on the youth scene was Shari Vilchez-Blatt, founder of Karma Kids. Since 2002, the Manhattan mom has been leading classes that combine stories, games and music with classic poses and breathing exercises. In addition to getting a gentle workout, students absorb lessons in respect, body awareness, concentration and inner strength. Free classes are available. Various locations in Manhattan and Brooklyn. karmakidsyoga.com

26. Drop into the NYC Fire Museum
Even in this day and age, most kids want to be a fireman at some point. A trip to the Fire Museum will let 'em live the fantasy for an afternoon. The institution relates the storied history of firefighting in the Big Apple from the 1700s to 9/11 right up to the present day. Lots of old equipment is on display, like the gas-powered Van Blerck tractor from 1912, which is kinda cool even if blerck sounds like your babe burping up a smoothie. 278 Spring St between Varick and Hudson Sts (212-691-1303, nycfiremuseum.org)

27. Delve into small pleasures at M&J Trimming
When they tire of embroidery-floss friendship bracelets, young Gothamites in the know go to M&J. This is where they find sparkly sequin flowers by the yard (starting at $10 a yard) to jazz up their flip-flops, satiny jewel-tone rattail cord (starting ta $1 a yard) to string with chunky beads, and iron-on rhinestone appliqus ($3 to $40). The store stocks every conceivable ribbon: American-flag grosgrain (starting at $2 a yard) might be this month's topical hair accessory, and leopard print or black-and-yellow bumble-bee jacquard ($4 and $5 a yard, respectively) would make a fine guitar strap. M&J Trimming, 1008 Sixth Ave between 37th and 38th Sts (212-391-6200, mjtrim.com)

28. Tour Governors Island
After decades of mysterious isolation, the city's very own ghost town is now an easy (and free) escape off the southern tip of Manhattan. From the last weekend of May through mid-October, families can rent bikes or bring their own and ride around Governors Island guide, circulate through two 1812-era forts, then play a round of mini-golf. Most summer weekends offer something special: a concert under the stars, kayaking clinics or fishing demonstrations. (govisland.com)

29. Bike to the Little Red Lighthouse
The only official ships' beacon on the island of Manhattan was made famous by the classic children's book The Little Red Lighthouse and the Great Gray Bridge. Getting there from the Fairway in Harlem (2328 Twelfth Ave at 130th St) is a 25-minute bike ride along the Hudson River to 178th St and the Hudson River. The pathway hugs the banks, where weekend fishermen cast lines; other passing attractions include tennis courts, swings and pick-up basketball games. Best time to go: a Saturday when the New York City Urban Park Rangers are giving a free tour of the lighthouse, once or twice a month between April and October (212-304-2365, historichousetrust.org).

Photograph: Michelle Weberman

30. Bring Fluffy to the Blessing of the Animals at the Cathedral Church of St. John the Divine
Pets of all religious affiliations flock to Morningside Heights' Gothic cathedral the first Sunday each October for a benediction at the Feast of Saint Francis (their patron saint). Arrive early if you want to secure a spot from which to watch the indoor procession of puppies, monkeys, porcupines, camels and other beasts to the pulpit. Outside, the clergy bless an ark's worth of Gotham's domestic companions into the late afternoon. Cathedral of St. John the Divine, 1047 Amsterdam Ave at 112th St (212-316-7490, stjohndivine.org)


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