Best New York neighborhoods for families
Perhaps the neighborhood most affected by the L Train turmoil has been Williamsburg. But now that the transportation debacle has settled, don’t hesitate to make your way into the hip Brooklyn nabe—a great place for families, not just trendy New Yorkers. McCarren Park is a green oasis that residents can use year-round thanks to the large pool and ice skating rink. When your brood finishes exploring fun outdoor activities, kids will want to make a beeline to super-cool play spaces like Twinkle Playspace, which features a cool locale for littles to jump, slide and run with their friends. Don’t let the “21+” rule of Brooklyn Bowl deter you: The old-school bowling alley and performance venue hosts family-friendly hours where everyone can enjoy some friendly competition as they try to get strikes. Refuel at Sweet Chick—masters of comfort food—when bellies start to rumble.
Carroll Gardens’ quaint charm boasts historic brownstones, lush greenery and a plethora of eateries that'll make it difficult to surrender and say “Uncle!” Kids will be particularly attracted to the board game hotspot, Brooklyn Strategist, where they can enjoy drop-in fun with friends or sign up for classes and camp offerings. The old-school Brooklyn Farmacy & Soda Fountain is known for its egg creams, but the youngsters in your clan are going to be attracted to the sweet-filled sundaes that offer generous helpings of their favorite flavor (don’t worry, half sizes are available, too). New mommies and daddies will love perusing Sprout’s adorable collection of baby clothes, toys and gear—leaving empty-handed is truly a feat!
The quaint and lovable Park Slope nabe has long been a popular destination for families in NYC. From a strong school system to mom-and-pop-lined streets, the Brooklyn destination has garnered an impressive reputation. It’s the perfect spot where little ones can discover their interests, thanks to spots like Taro’s Origami Studio, PuppetWorks and the always-entertaining Superhero Supply Company. Although there are plenty of kid-approved activities, moms and dads can get in on the entertainment thanks to the newly opened Good Day Play Café, which offers a seating area and menu when parents are on duty but still need a little downtime. There’s no shortage of places to eat, but kids will most likely opt for Dizzy’s every chance they get.
When you uncover great things to do in Harlem, you’ll be glad you ventured uptown. Not only are you within striking distance of gorgeous NYC attractions like the Cloisters and outdoor fun at Marcus Garvey Park, but it’s certainly a great place to find good eats: Kids won’t be able to pass up a dish at Dinosaur Bar-B-Que or a burger at Harlem Shake. Let them wander through the galleries at the Sugar Hill Children’s Museum of Art and Storytelling or find a fun literary activity at the volunteer-run Word Up Bookstore.
You’ll find that there’s plenty to do when you reach the end of the line. Hop off the 1 train at 242nd Street and you’ll be stationed across the street from the third-largest park in NYC, Van Cortlandt Park, which is home to seasonal activities, a museum and nature-based programs. Botanists and environmentalists will find a lot to love about the gorgeous grounds of Wave Hill, a community garden that hosts walking tours, performances, kid-friendly workshops and so much more. Little tummies will want to chow down at the Riverdale Ave hotspots Yo-Burger and Salvatore's of Soho. It’s hard to believe you’re still in NYC when you venture to Wave Hill, or much of Riverdale for that matter. The gorgeous historic homes and winding roads will make it seem as though you’ve left the city long ago...even if you’re 45 minutes from midtown.
Take the R train to the end of the line and you’ll find yourself in lively Bay Ridge—a history-rich neighborhood crucial to Brooklyn’s identity. Third- and fourth-generation families have stayed put for many reasons, and newcomers are finding their way to the area for its ability to make people from all cultures and walks of life feel welcome. Residents get prime view of the Verrazano-Narrows Bridge connecting Brooklyn to Staten Island, and green spaces along the waterfront are plentiful. Youngsters can romp around in Owl’s Head Park, play Little League on Fort Hamilton Athletic Field or bike along a spacious, 4.5-mile stretch of the Shore Parkway. Local and express trains provide easy access to Manhattan, but families love having this vibrant spot waiting when they head home.
Local families have spoken—Queens is a wonderful place to raise kids! Neighborhoods like Astoriamay not have the skyscrapers of Manhattan or the hipster vibes of Brooklyn, but that’s just why the parents here like it. Without trying too hard to be kid-centric in all aspects, Queens boasts affordability, progressive schools and a plethora of public parks and playgrounds, making it a welcoming spot for youngsters. Astoria highlights include scenic Astoria Park with its massive public pool, the Museum of the Moving Image and family-friendly watering hole, Bohemian Hall and Beer Garden. Visit nearby Jackson Heights, which is noted for Travers Park and international eateries serving various cuisines such as Indian, Mexican, Colombian and beyond. Don’t forget to check out the numerous branches of the Queens Library and let little ones run free in parks like Sunnyside Gardens and Hunters Points Park South in LIC—fresh air isn't in short supply in this borough.
Close to the hustle and bustle (but far enough away to really enjoy the waterfront), Battery Park City is loved for many reasons—there’s top notch PS:IS 276 to rave about, a ton of beautiful green parks (Battery Park, West Thames Park, Robert F Wagner Jr. Park, many of which are dog friendly) and an amazing running esplanade for busy moms and dads. There, kids can learn to ride their bikes free of any dangerous intersections. Local families also rave about the Museum of Jewish Heritage, The Battery Urban Farm and Brookfield Place. As a final perk, Battery Park offers amazing views of Lady Liberty and the Hudson, and local baseball fields boast stunning views of One World Trade.
Strollers rule the sidewalks in this family-filled corridor running from 59th to 110th Streets between Central Park and Riverside Park. Elegant pre war buildings dot the quiet, tree-lined streets, and with so many iconic institutions within walking distance—the American Museum of Natural History, the New-York Historical Society, Symphony Space and Lincoln Center, to name a few—it’s no surprise the Upper West Side is a family-favorite nabe. Area schools are excellent, subways are accessible and almost every block has something to keep little ones entertained, including libraries, theaters, restaurants and shops. Be sure to take a walk through the new uptown location of Books of Wonder, a store dedicated entirely to kids’ books. No family outing would be complete with stellar playgrounds at your disposal—Safari, Tar Family and Rudin Family Playgrounds in Central Park and Elephant and Hippo Playgrounds on Riverside Drive are among the go-tos for the location. Plus, the kid-centric Children’s Museum of Manhattan always serves up something delightful if you need a break from the dinos at AMNH.