The best indoor activities for NYC kids

Stay cool with fun indoor activities for kids. Museums, arcades and classes will keep lil' New Yorkers busy this summer!

Photograph: Denis Finnin
Advertising

 

When NYC summers get too hot, cool off with fun indoor activities. There's certainly no shortage of entertainment for lil' Gothamites—trust us! 

As much as we enjoy trips to water playgrounds for kids, we're definitely not opposed to ducking inside. Thanks to super-cheap screenings of our favorite family moviesnew and upcoming exhibits and kid-friendly arcades, there are plenty of ways to beat the heat. 

RECOMMENDED: Full guide to indoor activities for kids in NYC

We're not saying to ditch the SPF, but these indoor activities for kids certainly deserve a piece of real estate on your summer bucket list. After a pool or beach visit, the family is going to want to have other entertainment options. 

Be prepared for any weather this season and explore the 45 best indoor activities for kids! Good luck with the planning, Mom and Dad! 

Indoor activities for kids

Jane's Carousel
Photograph: Shutterstock
News, City Life

Time Out Market New York

Prepare your taste buds: DUMBO's new, out-of-this-world food hall with spectacular views has been created by Time Out Group! Time Out Market New York, located at 55 Water St (within Empire Stores), is now open! The space boasts 21,000 square feet across two floors and includes three bars plus a scenic fifth floor outdoor roof deck. Say hello to views of the East River, Brooklyn Bridge, Manhattan Bridge and Lower Manhattan skyline—and our favorite spot to grab a bite. Check out what's happening with our vendors, including Juliana's, Bessou, Clinton St. Baking Company & Restaurant, Miss Ada, Jacob's Pickles, FELICE, DŌ, Cookie Dough Confections, Avocaderia and more. 

Photograph: Courtesy Shutterstock
News, Movies

$1 summer movies

When the 90-degree weather becomes too overwhelming, duck into your local Regal Cinemas for the annual Summer Movie Express. Beginning July 2 in NYC, participating locations (Long Island City, Sheepshead Bay and Staten Island) will celebrate the season with a lovely offer: $1 kids' movies! Visitors will need to make their way to the theater on Tuesday and Wednesday mornings at 10am to participate in the cheap fun. (Films are either rated G or PG.) The 2019 lineup includes Despicable Me 3, Smallfoot, Secret Life of Pets, Trolls, Shrek 2 and plenty of other family movies.

Advertising
Photograph: Dan Hallman
News, City Life

New York Public Library's Summer Reading Challenge

Don your best astronaut outfit and launch your little readers into a universe of stories and adventure! Instead of the Milky way, let New York City’s libraries serve as a scene for exploration to avoid the dreaded “summer slide." New York Public Library’s annual Summer Reading Challenge, titled Blast Off! Discover a Universe of Stories, has officially taken off. Thanks to this seasonal program, youngsters can discover the best children's books on the Library’s lists. To prompt youngsters to awaken their inner literary passion, the Library has designed a fun and interactive guide that can be accessed online or at any of the kids' library branches. It features a “Read for the Stars” game board and a “Build Your Own Reading Rocket” for kids to assemble. There’s no doubt that readers’ curiosity of new books will transport them to new worlds, but if they need a little extra push, the Library will reward completed online activities with perks!

Photo Courtesy Cosmic Picture, Ltd.
Movies, Family and kids

'Superpower Dogs 3D'

icon-location-pin New York Hall of Science | Queens, NY, Queens
icon-calendar

The amazing life-saving dogs in this immersive 3D movie are like real-life PAW Patrol pups. Find out the remarkable stories of canines and their human companions who work hard everyday to rescue people in snowy avalanches and off the coasts of warm beaches. There's even a pair of Bloodhound brothers who are helping save endangered species in Africa. 45 minutes. All ages  

Advertising
Museums, Science and technology

American Museum of Natural History

icon-location-pin Upper West Side

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.

Photograph: Courtesy Gulliver's Gate
Attractions, Theme parks

Gulliver's Gate

icon-location-pin Midtown West

Explore a magical world of interactive miniatures at Times Square's lovable attraction, which contains almost 50,000 square feet of the world's most magnificent landmarks. Visitors can walk by the Eiffel Tower, the Empire State Building, Buckingham Palace—even the pyramids! Have tiny train, truck and car-lovers on your hands? Expect almost 1,000 trains, 12,000 wagons and a total of about 10,000 cars and trucks on display. The longest track is almost eight miles long! 

Advertising
Museums, Childhood

Children's Museum of Manhattan

icon-location-pin Upper West Side

This nearly 40,000-square-foot institution houses exhibits that make learning about culture, history and science a blast for kids ages 6 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.

Credit: Michael J. Palma
Museums, Childhood

Sugar Hill Children's Museum of Art and Storytelling

icon-location-pin Washington Heights

This children's museum celebrates imagination through art, storytelling and education. Kids can explore different exhibits like "The Pollen Catchers' Color Mixing Machine" a site-specific mural inspired by fables and folktales and "People, Places, and Things: Selections from The Studio Museum," a collection of art from the 1930s to 1980s that features portraits and landscapes from a group of artists who depicted everyday life in U.S. communities including Harlem. The museum hosts a variety of events for kids from story hours to art workshops.

Advertising
Museums, Childhood

Brooklyn Children’s Museum

icon-location-pin Crown Heights

When it was founded in 1899, the BCM was the country’s first museum specifically made for children. Today it’s one of the most comprehensive, with a permanent collection of 30,000 objects, including musical instruments, masks, dolls and fossils. Kids have fun while learning (sneaky!) at interactive exhibits like “World Brooklyn,” a pint-size cityscape lined by faux stores where young’uns can weigh ingredients and knead pretend dough at the Mexican Bakery, or shop for cans of Indian ghee and Turkish candy at the International Grocery.

Museums, Science and technology

Museum of Mathematics (MoMath)

icon-location-pin Flatiron

Rather than being a place to learn math, the museum is a place to realize all the remarkable things math can be used to create. Its 30-plus interactive exhibits include the Wall of Fire, a laser "wall" that shows visitors that cross-sections aren't always what you think they are; Math Square, a Jumbotron on the floor that connects each person standing on it by the shortest path possible, changing the moment anyone moves; a design studio where participants create a 3-D design on a screen, for a chance to have it "printed" into an actual sculpture via a 3-D printer; and Enigma Café, a place where families can sit down at tables to work on digital puzzles.

Advertising
Photograph: Courtesy Kenroy Lumsden
Museums, Special interest

Museum of Illusions

icon-location-pin West Village

As the saying goes, "You have to see it to believe it." The now-permanent Museum of Illusions offers 70+ exhibits in science, tech, mathematics and other fields that will have patrons doing a double take. This sensory-driven experience allows visitors to take a look at unusual works, try their hand at games and puzzles and get to the bottom of the opitical ollusions. All ages. 

Museums, Art and design

Whitney Museum of American Art

icon-location-pin Meatpacking District

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.

Advertising
Museums, Art and design

Museum of Modern Art (MoMA)

icon-location-pin Midtown West

NOTE: The MoMA will be closed from June 15–Oct 21, 2019 for renovations.

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.

Photograph: Courtesy Scott Frances for SPYSCAPE
Museums, Special interest

SPYSCAPE Spy School

icon-location-pin Spyscape, Midtown West
icon-calendar

Think your kid has what it takes to crack the code? Thanks to SPYSCAPE's newly opened Spy School, you'll have a budding FBI agent on your hands. Students in middle school through college are invited to the afternoon program that allows them to make and break WWII codes in themed Encryption mission, detect lies in Deception booths and much more. “We’re thrilled by the success of SPYSCAPE in New York City, and delighted to be able to offer this experience for free to students,” Ian Oldaker, COO of SPYSCAPE New York said in a statement. “We have had a lot of requests for this kind of program and we’re excited about creating new educational offerings as we continue to grow.” Spy School is free with a valid student ID, but attendees t must be accompanied by a paid ticket holder. We'll catch you there...or will we? Middle school–college.   

Advertising
Museums, History

The Jewish Museum

icon-location-pin Central Park

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.

Things to do, Exhibitions

Discovery Times Square

icon-location-pin Midtown West

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. In "Ocean Odyssey," you'll enjoy virtual interaction with sea lions, rays, dolphins and see virtual humpback whales, great white sharks and Humboldt squids. You'll experience photo-real animation, huge projection screens, immersive sound and an area where guests can engage with interactive technology (photo areas, touch screens, holograms and games involving ocean conservation and research).

Time Out says
Advertising
Photograph: Courtesy FXCollaborative
News, City Life

New Statue of Liberty Museum

You and your crew will want to hop on a ferry to pay Lady Liberty a visit—so start planning those day trips now. A new museum debuted on the landmark's grounds in May 2019, making one of the most iconic symbols of the American spirit better than ever. Due to security concerns, the accessibility currently limits 80 percent of visitors to enter the pedestal and check out the museum. The new Statue of Liberty Museum is looking to make changes so all patrons are treated to a welcoming, educational experience. And trust us, you'll need to put this on your list of new and upcoming exhibits to explore. There are three components to check out: an immersive theater that provides a glimpse into Lady Liberty's history and ideals; an engagement gallery where visitors can get a behind-the-scenes look of how Frédéric Auguste Bartholdi built the Statue and the inspirational gallery, arguably the most exciting facet of the grounds, as it allows you to get up close and personal with the original torch.

Attractions, Historic buildings and sites

Grand Central Terminal, Main Concourse

icon-location-pin Midtown East

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.)

Time Out says
Advertising
Things to do

New York Public Library, Grand Central Branch

icon-location-pin Midtown East

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.

Shopping, Bookstores

Greenlight Bookstore

icon-location-pin Fort Greene

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.

Time Out says

More fun for kids

Photograph: Courtesy Mini Galaxy Play Café
Sports and fitness, Gyms and fitness centers

The best indoor playgrounds for kids

Picture this: Your tot is ready for a day at the park when grey clouds roll in and lightening strikes. Fear not! The best indoor playgrounds for kids are here to save the day, and there are plenty within the five boroughs that deserve your attention.  A little rain won't ruin your kid's parade. These spaces are perfect for running, jumping, sliding and swinging, and options are endless—whether your child wants to play in ball pits or have fun in a music in dance class. Added bonus? Many cater to parents with designated café areas.  Which venue will you head to first?  RECOMMENDED: Full guide to indoor activities for kids in NYC We love NYC's best indoor playgrounds, but don't forget to pay a visit to these epic family attractions, delicious ice cream shops and underrated museums. 

Photograph: Courtesy RJ Lewis
Theater, Puppet shows

Best puppet theaters in NYC

The NYC theater scene is alive and well...but that doesn't necessarily mean everyone on stage has to be an actor. In fact, for the city's younger fan base, puppets are preferred, and thanks to these puppet theaters, we can't blame the kiddos. These NYC venues make perfect outings for families in search of a show with style. From classics to the avant garde, NYC puppet shows have a little bit of everything.  RECOMMENDED: Best indoor activities for kids Looking for more fun on stage? Check out these Broadway shows for kids, Off-Broadway shows for kids and finish up your show with a bite to eat at one of these fun restaurants. 

Advertising
Photograph: Courtesy FunFuzion
Attractions, Arcades and amusements

Indoor amusement parks and fun zones near NYC

Practice your Pac-Man, Donkey Kong and Street Fighter skills, try your hand at Skee-Ball or hop in some go-karts at these indoor amusement parks and fun zones near New York City. Some spots are specialized and focus on games while others offer a variety of fun attractions for all ages.  RECOMMENDED: Full guide to indoor activities for kids in NYC Want even more family fun? Check out our top spots for laser tag, escape rooms for kids and the best mini golf NYC has to offer.

Photograph: Courtesy Coco Key/ The Hotel ML
Things to do, Play spaces

Best indoor water parks New York families need to visit

Don't be intimidated by the foot of snow on the ground or the plummeting temperatures. When you visit indoor water parks New York families love, you'll enjoy a little taste of summer, even in December.  Take advantage of wild slides, have a ball on the water playgrounds or float away on the lazy rivers at these venues. Even those winter weekend getaways at our favorite family resorts will let you take advantage of the fun that comes along with warm weather. You'll get the best of both seasons.  RECOMMENDED: The best family vacations from NYC What are you waiting for? If you have kids who are part fish, book your trip ASAP. Don't forget to explore our favorite all-inclusive family resorts, too. Happy travels!

Advertising
Photograph: Courtesy Hudson's House of Play
Things to do

Best kids' play areas in NYC that families will love

Let your littles release that pent-up energy at NYC's best kids' play areas! They'll have a ball, quite literally, thanks to ball pits, swings and other epic jungle gym features. There's no telling what they'll choose first.  From City Treehouse to Playgarden, our favorite play spaces provide a welcoming atmosphere for young'uns to grow, learn and meet new friends. What could be better? RECOMMENDED: Full guide to indoor activities for kids in NYC Rain or shine, these spots are always a good go-to with the family. After you've explored the best kids' play areas the five boroughs have to offer, make sure you visit these fun family attractions—book your adventure here—museums for kids and family restaurants.

Photograph: Courtesy Escape the Room
Things to do

The best escape rooms for kids in NYC

These fantastic escape rooms for kids offer themed challenges that no kid—even your teens—can resist! New York's biggest new family entertainment trend lets you, your kids (and their friends, if you're brave enough to invite even more adventurers) strategize to escape from a thief's house, help a space ship make its way home and even basically pretend to be Indian Jones right here in the city. While some escape rooms are better suited for an older crowd, these picks are perfect for visitors of most ages. Read on for our recommendations! RECOMMENDED: Full guide to indoor activities for kids Looking for even more family fun? Check out these other local family attractions, children's museums and laser tag NYC arenas.

Advertising
funtopia.jpg
Photograph: Funtopia USA
Things to do

The best kid-friendly arcades in NYC

Looking for the best arcades in NYC? We've got you covered. These kid-friendly arcades are perfect for families with kids in tow! Many of the picks on our list also have accompanying activities, like spots to eat, bowl, play a game of laser tag and other cool stuff—the perfect place to visit when it's cold, rainy or you just don't feel like playing outside. RECOMMENDED: Full guide to indoor activities for kids in NYC For even more indoor fun with your kids, explore our favorite indoor playgrounds for kids, indoor amusement parks for kids and trampoline park spots too.  

Photograph: Courtesy Disney Enterprises Inc.
Things to do

The 50 best kids’ movies to watch as a family

Lil’ film buffs rejoice! Our epic list of the very best kids' movies will keep your whole movie-lovin' crew enchanted for as many hours as you have bags of popcorn. You'll find everything from classic animated flicks like Beauty and the Beast, The Lion King and The Little Mermaid as well as live-action kids' movies like The Wizard of Oz, Mary Poppins, The Goonies and Annie on our list. We understand that our guide to the best kids' movies of all time may have missed some of your favorites—how could we possibly list them all!?—but the competition was fierce, and each of the picks we've recommended are sure to please kids of all ages. You're welcome to weigh in below in the comments section to let us know what other films you think deserve a spot on our list (or give us a "Heck yeah!" if you've used and love it. For even more family movies to enjoy at home, explore our guides to the best family movies on Netflix, the best '90s movies for kids, our favorite Disney movies on Netflix and—of course—our guide to the best family comedy movies.

Advertising
Photograph: Courtesy Kevin Winzeler / Sky Zone
Things to do, Play spaces

Trampoline park spots where NYC kids will jump for joy

Playgrounds and splash parks are nice, but sometimes kiddies are in search of an extra dose of excitement. If your brood is looking to unleash some pent-up energy, these trampoline park spots around NYC definitely require a visit.  Not only will your youngsters be able to bounce until their hearts' content, but they can try their hand at indoor dodge ball, test their strength and balance on the climbing walls or cannon ball into large blocks of foam—clearly awesome ways to spend an afternoon.  Even better? If you have an impending celebration, these venues act as some of the best kids' birthday party places in town.  Don't forget to bring a pair of socks! RECOMMENDED: Full guide to indoor activities for kids in NYC If you're looking for more playdate ideas, visit these indoor playgrounds, stop by one of these exciting family attractions or peruse our list of 101 things to do with kids in NYC. 

Times Square
Photograph: Courtesy Shutterstock
Theater

Best plays for kids of all ages in NYC

Grab a Playbill, make yourself comfortable and enjoy the show! NYC's best plays for kids promise a fun night out for the whole family.  There's a lot to love about the Broadway scene right now—wizzards and muggles will do anything for a sneak peek at Harry Potter and the Cursed Child, and "grool" fans of Cadie and the Plastics will love Mean Girls more than Regina loves being Queen Bee.  Plus, there are fantastic Off-Broadway and puppet show selections if you're looking for something a bit different. Chances are, you're going to want to explore all the options possible (and we can't blame you)! After you've caught up on the best plays for kids in New York (and got your tickets here), make sure to grab a post-theater dinner at one of these fun restaurants, explore some of the best family attractions the city has to offer and finish your adventures by watching the best family movies on Netflix.  

Show more
Advertising