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Indoor spaces at Central Park and Prospect Park

Don't wait for spring: Make friends with the parks' cozy locales.

Central Park's Belvedere Castle
 (Photograph: Central Park Conservancy)
Photograph: Central Park ConservancyCentral Park's Dana Discovery Center
Central Park's Swedish Cottage Marionette Theater
Central Park's Swedish Cottage Marionette Theater
Prospect Park Lefferts House
Prospect Park Audubon Center
Rotunda interior of the Animal Lifestyle Building, Prospect Park Zoo

Central Park

FREE Arsenal Gallery
Among Central Park's unheralded treasures, this space features a rotating series of art shows. From December 14 to January 12, "Wreath Interpretations,"  a multifaceted display of door hangings that features 33 unconventional wreaths—the creations of fine artists, metal workers, horticulturalists, designers and more—takes up residence in the gallery. Mon--Fri 9am--5pm. Enter at Fifth Ave and 64th St, nycgovparks.org.

FREE Belvedere Castle
The turret of this Norman Gothic--style landmark houses a weather station that records the city's temperature. Inside, children can peek at a display that describes how the measurements are taken. Wed--Sun 10am--5pm. Midpark, enter at Fifth Ave and 79th St, centralparknyc.org.

Central Park Zoo
Say hi to the polar bears, then step inside the zoo's 80-degree Tropic Zone. There children can gawk at a golden weaver, a Malayan mouse deer and more, and learn about other rain forest animals. Daily 10am--4:30pm. Enter at Fifth Ave and 64th St, centralparkzoo.com. $12, children 3--12 $7, children under 3 free.

FREE Chess and Checkers House
Built in 1952, the small visitors center stockpiles dominos, backgammon and, yes, chess and checkers sets—all available for borrowing. Pull up a chair and challenge your child to a game. Wed--Sun 10am--5pm. Midpark, enter at Fifth Ave and 64th St, centralparknyc.org.

Swedish Cottage Marionette Theatre
Check out the space's newest show, Little Miss Muffet's Monster Sitting Service. Opening January 17, the spectacle follows the great, great, great, great granddaughter of the first Little Miss Muffet as she and her baby sitter team up to start a child-watching business of their own. Tue--Thu 10:30am, noon; Sat, Sun 1pm. Midpark, enter at Fifth Ave and 79th St, cityparksfoundation.org. $8, children under 13 $5.

Prospect Park

FREE Lefferts Historic House
Glimpse 19th-century NYC at this preserved Dutch farmhouse. Children can learn about flax, play games and work on craft activities in an old-school landscape. On 30-minute "second floor tours", visitors scope out a period bedroom and examine household artifacts. Closed in January; reopens Feb 4. Sat, Sun noon--4pm. Enter park at Flatbush Ave and Empire Blvd, prospectpark.org.

FREE Prospect Park Audubon Center
Throughout the year, the nature haven mounts a slew of kids' programs. Don't miss weekly craft activities and nature play at the Boathouse (Sat, Sun 1--3pm). From February 20 to 24 (during public school vacation), the center will screen episodes of the Discovery Channel's documentary series Life (noon--3:30pm). Closed in January; reopens Feb 4. Sat, Sun noon--4pm. Prospect Park Boathouse, enter at Lincoln Rd and Ocean Ave, prospectpark.org

Prospect Park Zoo
From inside the Animal Lifestyles building, kids can view the hamadryas baboons' habitat. In the Animals in Our Lives building, kids can settle into the theatres for an up-close look at alpacas, owls, iguanas and porcupines. There's also a small section devoted to nocturnal creatures. Daily 10am--4:30pm. 450 Flatbush Ave at Empire Blvd, prospectparkzoo.com. $8, children 3--12 $5, children under 3 free.