Indoor activities for kids
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.
Explore a magical world of interactive miniatures at Times Square's newest 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!
This nearly 40,000-square-foot institution houses exhibits that make learning about culture, history and science a blast for kids ages six 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.
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.
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.
Rather than being a place to learn math, the new 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. All ages.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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. Catch Marvel's AVENGERS S.T.A.T.I.O.N. through New Year's Day, 2015 ($27, $19.50 for children).
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.)
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.
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.
It just so happens that New York's oldest operating theater is home to the city's most innovative and exciting new productions for children. Families eagerly await each season's offerings, which include everything from reworkings of classic plays to dance, performance art and even break-dancing BMX bandits. Expert-led workshops after select shows educate kids on fun topics like puppetry, juggling and songwriting in the intimate and beautifully restored space. The New Victory often collaborates with Autism Friendly Spaces on special adaptations of its shows for children with ASD and sensory issues, ensuring all kids can enjoy the experience of live theater. Become a member of the New Victory Theater for discounts on tickets and workshops.
This newly-opened DUMBO space promises a healthy dose of compeition. Suit up for an adventure in a darkened, dual-level basement where you and friends can aim for one another and try to claim victory. Events and parties welcome! All ages are welcome, provided participants are able to handle the laser gun. All ages.
This UES Studio teaches kids about meditation, focus and breathing techniques while moving through various yoga poses. At Siblings Yoga (ages 3–9), kids quit bickering and learn about cooperation and communication through asanas, games, song and even foot massage. You can also try Family Yoga class, in which parents can practice with their little ones. If your baby is battling teething and thinks sleep is for losers, then you could probably use some downard-dog time yourself; new moms can take a Bye-Bye Bump class, while babysitters mind the children nearby. Ages 6 weeks to 16 years.
Check out the Field House at Chelsea Piers to burn off some energy! Drop-in activities include open basketball and soccer, batting cages, teen parkour, youth rock climbing and more. Click here to see pricing and hours.
This Gowanus climbing gym is the largest in New York City, featuring more than 18,000 square feet of bouldering and climbing walls. Climbing classes for all skill levels, as well as yoga and pilates instruction, are also available. Learn the ropes through packages like BKB Adventures, which includes five full-day sessons with unlimited climbing, outdoor recess and snacks. Bring the whole family to Weekend Family Hours (Sat, Sun 9–11am) to avoid peak-hour climbing traffic.
Opened in 2010, this NYC-themed bowling spot features seven funky lanes (only five are appropriate for kids, though). At the "Chinatown Lounge," young players can hit a giant gong when they bowl a spare or strike; there’s also a three-dimensional dragon that pops off the wall. The subway-styled room has cool graffiti art on the walls and seats that look like subway benches. Other kid-friendly lanes include Central Park, Art Deco and Pop New York. As with most bowling alleys, lightweight balls and bumpers are available for tykes. If you get hungry while bowling, order treats from chef David Burke’s menu (pigs in a blanket are a kid fave) and they’ll be delivered straight to your lane.
More fun 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.
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.
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.
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!
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.