When gloomy, rainy afternoons or Christmas blizzards (even burning hot summer days) keep you indoors, your little ones can start to get stir crazy.
RECOMMENDED: Full guide to indoor activities for kids in NYC
Indoor activities for kids
After nearly 50 years in its Marcel-Breur-designed building on Madison Avenue at 75th Street, the Whitney Museum decamped in 2015 to a brand new home in Lower Manhattan's Meatpacking District, conceived by international starchitect Renzo Piano. Planted at the foot of the Highline along Ganesvoort Street, the new Whitney building boasts some 63, 000 square feet of both indoor and outdoor exhibition space. Founded in 1931 by sculptor and art patron Gertrude Vanderbilt, the Whitney is dedicated to presenting the work of American artists. Its collection holds about 15,000 pieces by nearly 2,000 artists, including Alexander Calder, Willem de Kooning, Edward Hopper (the museum holds his entire estate), Jasper Johns, Louise Nevelson, Georgia O’Keeffe and Claes Oldenburg. Still, the museum’s reputation rests mainly on its temporary shows, particularly the exhibition everyone loves to hate, the Whitney Biennial. Held in even-numbered years, the Biennial remains the most prestigious (and controversial) assessment of contemporary art in America.
The 1913 Beaux Arts train station is the city’s most spectacular point of arrival. The station played an important role in the nation’s historic preservation movement, after a series of legal battles that culminated in the 1978 Supreme Court decision affirming NYC’s landmark laws. One notable oddity: the constellations on the Main Concourse ceiling are drawn in reverse, as if seen from heaven. (For more information on tours, call 212-697-1245.)
This Gowanus climbing gym is the largest in New York City, featuring more than 18,000 square feet of bouldering and climbing walls. Climbing classes for all skill levels, as well as yoga and pilates instruction, are also available. Learn the ropes through packages like BKB Adventures (9am–3:30pm), which includes five full-day sessons with unlimited climbing, outdoor recess and snacks ($539 per week). Bring the whole family to Weekend Family Hours (Sat, Sun 9–11am) to avoid peak-hour climbing traffic.
After a two-year redesign by Japanese architect Yoshio Taniguchi, MoMA reopened in 2004 with almost double the space to display some of the most impressive artworks from the 19th, 20th and 21st centuries. The Museum of Modern Art has a great deal of free family programming for all ages, so be sure to check out their monthly schedule.
This UES Studio teaches kids about meditation, focus and breathing techniques while moving through various yoga poses. At Siblings Yoga (ages 3–9), kids quit bickering and learn about cooperation and communication through asanas, games, song and even foot massage. You can also try Family Yoga class, in which parents can practice with their little ones. If your baby is battling teething and thinks sleep is for losers, then you could probably use some downard-dog time yourself; new moms can take a Bye-Bye Bump class ($45 for drop-ins), while babysitters mind the children nearby. Ages 6 weeks to 16 years.
It just so happens that New York's oldest operating theater is home to the city's most innovative and exciting new productions for children. Families eagerly await each season's offerings, which include everything from reworkings of classic plays to dance, performance art and even break-dancing BMX bandits. Expert-led workshops after select shows ($17) educate kids on fun topics like puppetry, juggling and songwriting in the intimate and beautifully restored space. The New Victory often collaborates with Autism Friendly Spaces on special adaptations of its shows for children with ASD and sensory issues, ensuring all kids can enjoy the experience of live theater. Become a member of the New Victory Theater for discounts on tickets and workshops.
With numerous NYC stores shutting their doors, we couldn't be more thrilled to see this little indie-store-that-could still going strong. The locally owned haven for lit lovers boasts 300 square feet of picture books, chapter books, and YA selections for children and tweens, as well as an assortment of educational games and toys. Catch Friday singalongs and storytime on Sunday mornings.
Home to the largest and arguably most fabulous collection of dinosaur fossils in the world, AMNH’s fourth-floor dino halls have been blowing kids' minds for decades. Roughly 80 percent of the bones on display were actually dug out of the ground; the rest are casts. The Hall of Human Origins boasts a fine display of your old cousins, the Neanderthals. The Hall of Biodiversity examines world ecosystems and environmental preservation, and a life-size, 100-foot-long model of a blue whale hangs from the ceiling of the Hall of Ocean Life.
Working in groups of ten, kids prepare foods like sweet potato fries, brownie bites, deep-dish pizza and gooey butter cookies. They'll also learn mixing and measuring techniques, kitchen etiquette and the proper way to use kitchen tools. A special session for children with autism is also offered (classes are limited to seven students and staff have been trained by Autism Friendly Spaces, LLC). Ages 2 and up.
The Discovery Channel is one of the sponsors of this large-scale exhibition center, which will offer limited-edition runs of exhibits from across the globe. The 60,000-square-foot space is housed in the former New York Times building, and includes a learning center, a space for special events and a café. Catch Marvel's AVENGERS S.T.A.T.I.O.N. through New Year's Day, 2015 ($27, $19.50 for children).
Opened in 2010, this NYC-themed bowling spot features seven funky lanes (only five are appropriate for kids, though). At the "Chinatown Lounge," young players can hit a giant gong when they bowl a spare or strike; there’s also a three-dimensional dragon that pops off the wall. The subway-styled room has cool graffiti art on the walls and seats that look like subway benches. Other kid-friendly lanes include Central Park, Art Deco and Pop New York. As with most bowling alleys, lightweight balls and bumpers are available for tykes. If you get hungry while bowling, order treats from chef David Burke’s menu (pigs in a blanket are a kid fave) and they’ll be delivered straight to your lane.
At this low-tech playhouse, kids will gladly cast phones and gadgets aside to see amazing handmade puppets in action. Founder Nicolas Coppola adapts classic tales for his marionettes to perform in the cozy theater (kids sit on rugs at the front, parents are on benches at the back). Families will be swept away by the artful scenery, lively music and intricate puppets as they take on a life of their own, moving across the stage as if by magic.
Though the city's made up of five boroughs, it has just three public library systems. The largest—the NYPL—runs all libraries in Manhattan, Staten Island and the Bronx. Hours at the branches vary wildly, but all have a dedicated section of children's books, and many a separate room for the use of kids up to fifth grade. Storytimes, craft and cultural projects, and poetry writing workshops are just some of the offerings on tap; check the website (nypl.org) for detailed information on each branch.
The Jewish Museum, housed in the 1908 Warburg Mansion, contains a fascinating collection of more than 28,000 works of art, artifacts and media installations. The two-floor permanent exhibition, “Culture and Continuity: The Jewish Journey,” examines how Judaism has survived and explores various Jewish identities throughout history. There is also a permanent exhibit specifically for children: The Café Weissman serves contemporary kosher fare.
This nearly 40,000-square-foot institution houses exhibits that make learning about culture, history and science a blast for kids ages six and under. Explore the benefits of good nutrition from "EatSleepPlay," a Dora the Explorer play area, and immersive exhibits that rotate in and out of the five-story space. CMOM also hosts classes and workshops—from Gross Biology for kids who love burps and germs, to the Music in Me!, a toddlers' program by Laurie Berkner—all designed with the latest child-development research in mind.