Timeout New York Kids

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New York's best things to do with the family 2012

We've chosen the best things to do with the family in the city—everything from a must-visit pizza spot in midtown to a toddler dance party in Park Slope.

  • Photograph: Caroline Voagen Nelson

    Best playground: Brooklyn Bridge Park Pier 6

  • Photograph: Julie Larsen Maher

    Best place to get up close and personal with animals: Tisch Children's Zoo

  • Photograph: Bart Barlow

    Best tourist spot for local families: Top of the Rock Observation Deck

  • Photograph: Scott McDermott

    Best place to feel like an Olympian: Chelsea Piers

  • Photograph: Maryanne Ventrice

    Best kids' concert venue: 92YTribeca

  • Photograph: Caroline Voagen Nelson

    Best place to learn about New York City history: DiMenna Children's History Museum

Photograph: Caroline Voagen Nelson

Best playground: Brooklyn Bridge Park Pier 6

New York's best things to do with the family 2012

Best playground: Brooklyn Bridge Park Pier 6

Taking its cue from Manhattan’s Hudson-fronting playgrounds (Piers 25, 51), Brooklyn’s Pier 6 Playground ups the ante with a cluster of separate, wonderfully landscaped play spaces, including the Water Lab, a stone-strewn area with water underfoot to splash in and a spinning water wheel, and Sand Village, a huge sandbox with a molecular-looking climbing structure flanked by two long metal slides. Add clean bathrooms, a food court where families can find the likes of hot dogs, fresh milk shakes and local beer, and even spots for fishing and beach volleyball and there’s not much room for improvement—especially when views of downtown Manhattan and New York Harbor are the backdrop. • brooklynbridgepark.org—Lee Magill

  1. Brooklyn Bridge Park, Atlantic Ave, (at Furman St)
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Best place to get up close and personal with animals: Tisch Children’s Zoo

  • Price band: 1/4
  • Critics choice

The Central Park Zoo itself is so kid-friendly it feels like a children’s zoo—think kid-level stoops in the penguin house, sea lion feedings and a tropical rain forest house. But secreted away just a short walk north is the separate Tisch Children’s Zoo, a hands-on oasis (free with CPZ admission) designed especially for up-close interactions with animals. Little ones will encounter a new cavy exhibit, including two baby cavies born in August, a lovely duck pond and an enormous aquarium filled with the likes of piranha. But what’s most exciting here is the barnyard-like space along Fifth Avenue, where fauna-loving kids of all ages can feed sweet llamas, sheep, goats, a black steer named Othello and even potbellied pigs handfuls of feed, which can be purchased for 50 cents apiece. • 212-439-6500, centralparkzoo.com.—Lee Magill

  1. Southeast corner of Central Park,, (enter at Fifth Ave at 64th St)
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Best tourist spot for local families: Top of the Rock Observation Deck

  • Price band: 2/4
  • Critics choice

The 86th floor observatory at the Empire State Building may be the city’s original place to go for an eagle’s-eye look at New York, but at 70 stories up, the observation deck at Rockefeller Center’s Top of the Rock affords a spectacular vista of Central Park without the crazy lines. After you’ve scoped out the unobstructed panaromic views, put a few quarters in the coin-operated binoculars and snapped some family photos, take the elevators back down to the building’s subterranean mall for a bite to eat. • 212-698-2000, topoftherocknyc.com.—Rory Halperin

  1. 30 Rockefeller Plaza, (between 49th and 50th Sts)
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Best place to feel like an Olympian: Chelsea Piers

  • Critics choice

If the Summer Games in London have left your little sports stars dreaming of a medal collection, then Chelsea Piers could help them on their way to the podium. The 28-acre physical activity mecca offers myriad classes, but Micro Sports sessions are a fine place to start: Little ones have fun finding their strengths with a sampling of soccer, basketball, athletics and more. Kids who have already found their calling hone mad skills in world-class facilities such as the glass-walled, double-rinked Sky Rink center for ice sports; the high-tech Golf Academy with computerized swing analysis, driving range and fairway overlooking the Hudson; and the humongous, 80,000-square-foot Field House, home to the gymnastic arena, batting cages, soccer fields and basketball courts. There is age-appropriate instruction for beginner through advanced levels, with private lessons and elite, invitation-only classes for talented youngsters who are truly going for gold. (Note: While Chelsea Piers was damaged during Hurricane Sandy, the space plans to reopen the weekend of December 1.) • 212-336-6666, chelseapiers.com.—Clare Lambe

  1. W 23rd St at the Hudson River
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Best kids’ concert venue: 92YTribeca

  • Critics choice

We’ve seen family shows in tons of venues around the city, but there’s no space we love more than the intimate stage at the downtown Y. Home to the Bring Your Own Kids (BYOK) concert series on Sunday mornings, the Crate & Barrel–esque room has a miniature-arena vibe, complete with a pristine dance floor for kids to bust a move on and plenty of seating for exhausted grown-ups. In recent years, everyone from touring kindie bands such as Recess Monkey and Lunch Money to New York’s best homegrown acts, like the Suzi Shelton Band and Astrograss, have performed. Add in tasty food and clean bathrooms, both within earshot of the music, and you’ll quickly realize why there’s no better place in the city to watch the next generation of music connoisseurs rock out. • 212-601-1000, 92ytribeca.org—Jeff Bogle

  1. 200 Hudson St, (at Canal St), 10013
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Best place to learn about New York City history: DiMenna Children’s History Museum

Opened for just about a year, the “museum within a museum,” occupying 4,000 square feet on the New York Historical Society’s lower level, offers kids the opportunity to learn about city history through the eyes of children. Young historical detectives visit seven pavilions centered around New Yorkers both famous (Alexander Hamilton) and anonymous (boys and girls who hawked newspapers). Touch screens are ubiquitous, but it is the decidedly low-tech activities (think practicing penmanship like Dr. McCune Smith or learning Van Varick’s cross-stitch technique) that truly inspire curiosity. Kids can also look for their exact street on the museum’s floor, which is covered with a map of the entire city; listen to music from different time periods at two audio stations; and take part in one of the many family workshops (scavenger hunts, book readings) offered each month. • 212-873-3400, nyhistory.org.—Stephanie Abrahams

  1. 170 Central Park West, (at Richard Gilder Way (77th Street))
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