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: Filip Wolak

    Best free getaway: Governors Island

  • Photograph: Etienne Frossard

    Most kid-friendly newbie bookstore: Greenlight Bookstore

  • Photograph: Virginia Rollison

    Best local theme park: Field Station: Dinosaurs

  • Photograph: Marielle Solan

    Best excuse to visit an already exceptional museum: World Maker Faire

  • Photograph: Kent Miller

    Best New York City holiday tradition: Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade balloon inflation

  • Photograph: Caroline Voagen Nelson

    Best place to rock out while eating dinner: City Stomp Live at Dizzy's on 5th

Photograph: Filip Wolak

Best free getaway: Governors Island

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

Best free getaway: Governors Island

  • Critics choice
  • Free

The magic starts as soon as you board the ferry—is that dude riding a unicycle? Why are all those people dressed like extras from The Great Gatsby? Do I smell barbeque? In the eight minutes it takes to journey (for free!) from Battery Park or Brooklyn to Governors Island, families are transported to a world a million metaphorical miles away from the bustling city, where lush green lawns are dotted with quaint Victorian homes, giant outdoor sculptures beg to be climbed on, car alarms are replaced by jangling bicycles, and there’s always a quirky festival going on (hence the unicycles and costumes). With a full roster of free kids’ activities, including arts and crafts and mini golf, you can save your cash for the gourmet food trucks and ice-cream stands. And while the island is currently closed for the season, an ongoing $250 million renovation means that 64 more acres will open next summer, including new ball fields, hammocks and gardens. We’ll be first on line for that ferry. • Open weekends from May through September; govisland.com.—Marisa Cohen

  1. Governors Island
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Most kid-friendly newbie bookstore: Greenlight Bookstore

  • Rated as: 4/5
  • Price band: 1/4
  • Critics choice

An airy, white-walled interior fitted with neat bookshelves and an inviting blond-wood floor is the aesthetic part of indie bookshop Greenlight’s appeal, but what makes the three-year-old shop most praiseworthy is its true community spirit—it launched in 2009 thanks to the support of Brooklyn politicians, neighbors and friends—and the helpfulness of its staff and owners. Local authors, children’s book writers and illustrators included, get special treatment, and they return the favor with frequent readings and book signings (David Ezra Stein, Selina Alko and Lucy Cousins have all dropped by this fall). Free storytimes,  frequent book-launch parties and a tween book club mean Fort Greene’s next generation will know what an indie bookstore is. • 718-246-0200, greenlightbookstore.com.—Lee Magill

  1. 686 Fulton St, (at South Portland Ave)
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Best local theme park: Field Station: Dinosaurs

  • Price band: 2/4

Kids can pretend to be prehistoric explorers at this outdoor expedition, where they tramp through the verdant New Jersey Meadowlands alongside animatronic dinosaurs including Stegosaurus and Triceratops. The new-this-year theme park, a quick train trip away from Penn Station, features 31 life-sized dinosaurs built with sensors and facial-recognition technology that make them move as visitors draw near. Daring kids will get a thrill from hearing a 15-foot-tall T.rex roar in response to their excited shouts, but there are also activities geared toward the younger set; little ones can pet and hold dinosaur babies at the Dinosaur Meet & Greet, or play Raptor Feud, a dino-centric version of the popular game show that quizzes families on archaeology. Families can also experience the nitty-gritty of a dig site and learn about a paleontologist’s tools as they unearth a dinosaur skeleton together at the Mesozoic Concentration. • 855-999-9010, fieldstationdinosaurs.com.—Emma Fiske-Dobell

  1. Laurel Hill Park, One Dinosaur Way, 07094
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Best excuse to visit an already exceptional museum: World Maker Faire

  • Price band: 1/4

The trek out to Flushing Meadows–Corona Park may be on the long side, but once you arrive at the New York Hall of Science you inevitably wonder why you don’t come more often. Excellent permanent exhibits like “Hidden Kingdoms: The World of Microbes” and “Seeing the Light,” which explores the sense of sight, engage kids for hours, and if you’re lucky enough to be there in the warmer months, the ultra-interactive Science Playground is not to be missed. If you need one more reason to visit, though, the World Maker Faire, held for the past three years in September, ought to do the trick. The hands-on celebration of innovation, with booths of inventors from far and wide sharing the fruits of their their labor and inviting the public to check them out, is wild, wacky and—for kids most of all—just plain inspirational. • 718-699-0005, nysci.org.—Lee Magill

  1. 47-01 111th St, (at 47th Ave)
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Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade

Best New York City holiday tradition: Macy’s Thanskgiving Day Parade balloon inflation

Starting the afternoon before Thanksgiving, New Yorkers big and small gather between 77th and 81st Streets from Central Park West to Columbus Avenue for an amazing, up-close experience you can’t catch on TV. This is where Spider-Man, Kermit and friends get pumped up every Thanksgiving Eve (this year’s blow-up takes place Nov 21 from 3 to 10pm). Kids will gaze in amazement as they watch their favorite balloons come to life; they’ll also hear behind-the-scenes facts about the prep work that goes into the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade. • macys.com/parade.—Marisa Cohen

  1. 77th St to 81st St between Central Park West and Columbus Ave

Best place to rock out while eating dinner: City Stomp Live at Dizzy’s on 5th

  • Price band: 1/4

The triple-parked strollers outside Dizzy’s on 5th in Park Slope will tell you when a City Stomp gig is happening. Inside, giddy kids—toddlers to grade-schoolers—scarf down high-end mac and cheese and sliders, fidgeting as they wait for the music to start. The group is Kevin MacCallum, lead vocals and acoustic guitar; Ethan Meyer, backup vocals and doumbek, an Egyptian drum; and Adam Strum, backup vocals and banjo, and their NYC-centric City Stomp program explores Caribbean, African, Latin American, Irish and Jewish music in classes and live performances around the Park Slope area. MacCallum is a local star: Many little ones know him from their preschool music classes, and they hug him or grab at his legs; the moment he picks up his guitar, kids start rocking out all over the snazzy retro diner. By song two, the grown-ups are grooving too. • 718-230-5551, citystompmusic.com. Two Wednesday nights per month. Free with dinner; reservations required.—Clare Lambe

  1. 230 Fifth Ave, (at President St)
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