Cold weather does not have to bring about cabin fever; especially when you have a handy list of fun activities and places to go when the temperatures drop. I titled this post "36 ways to stay entertained with your kids", rather than 36 ways to entertain your kids because these venues are fun for the whole family. Before we begin, you can also learn about our summer indoor adventures at MoMath, Brooklyn Children’s Museum, Children's Museum of the Arts, as well 14 other museums we love. You may also be wondering what age group this list is for. G started going to some of these spots when she was a baby, and she would still have fun at them as an almost-five year-old. We have also visited many of these venues with older friends up to age ten. This list also spans across different New York City neighborhoods and boroughs.
1. Central Rock Gym, 21 West End Avenue, Midtown West
Rock climbing is an excellent outlet for kids to build up their confidence, increase strength, and have a blast. Central Rock Gym offers kids climbing hours, when kids can climb the 40 foot wall with a staff member on hand to belay while parents climb alongside them. Recreational climbing teams and climbing camps are also available for kids. We have heard great things about Brooklyn Boulders, but their minimum age requirement is 5, so we will have to wait another year and a half before going there. Chelsea Piers also has climbing facilities; as well as a preschool gym, and a wide spectrum of indoor sports facilities. If we lived closer, we would probably be there everyday.
2. NY Hall of Science, 47-01 111th Street, Corona, Queens
This museum houses more than 450 interactive exhibits. You can make a bot and more in the Design Lab, command a flock of birds with the flick of your wrist in the Connected Worlds Exhibit; and there’s even Preschool Place, where toddlers can spend a full day learning through play. The entire museum would take more than a few days to cover, and you can learn about the different properties of physics, chemistry, or biology each day through daily demonstrations. General admission is $16 for adults and $13 for kids; it's also free on Sundays from 10am-11am and Friday from 2pm-5pm! We went after school one afternoon and spent about three hours playing in a few different areas of the museum, yet we feel like we barely scratched the surface.
3. Scandinavia House, 58 Park Avenue, Murray Hill, Manhattan
We have had a few play dates here on snowy Saturdays, when open play hours in the Heimbold Center Family Children's Playing and Learning Center in the Scandinavia House are from noon to 5pm for $15 per child. Members have access to the playroom Tuesday-Saturday. The last time we went, we started with brunch at The Smith on Broadway and 27th Street, then made the snowy trek over to Park Avenue and 37th Street where Curious G and her friend played pretend in the giant mushroom fort, created structures on the Lego table, read some books, dressed up, and more. There are also workshops available on certain weekends, and its in-house restaurant Smorgas Chef is open to the public as well.
4. Recreation Center 54, 348 East 54th Street, Midtown East
Before Curious G started preschool, the NYC Parks-run 54th Street Rec Center was heaven sent. We would go twice a week in the wintertime, for a couple of hours, where she had the chance to run around, participate in a brief circle time, play with friends and ride tricycles in the large gymnasium. Check out the NYC Parks rec centers in your neighborhood, as well as your local YMCAs, because most have fun family programs at very low cost. My annual membership was only $150 for the 54th Street Rec Center and the playtime was included with the membership! In addition to family programming, there are also exercise facilities, enrichment classes, and indoor swimming.
5. New York Public Library, thoughout NYC
We included the New York Public Library system in our summer hit list as well because libraries are the city’s gift that keeps on giving. Most libraries include children’s areas that offer story and play times, as well as mini concerts and movie nights. Check here for scheduled events. We especially love the 53rd Street branch because the children’s room is massive and full of fun stations for play (puppet show anyone?). We come here often to hide out from extreme weather; both hot and cold, to color, work on puzzles, play on the computers (Free ABC Mouse!), build on the Lego table, and of course read books. The bleacher seating on the second floor, where they play movies sometimes, is a fun spot to have lunch. The children's librarians are friendly and helpful as a bonus! Please note that we love many other branches in addition to 53rd Street. Feel free to email me, DM, or comment below if you would like to know more.
6. MoMA Art Lab, 11 West 53rd Street, Midtown Manhattan
After visiting the 53rd Street Library, you can cross the street and enter one of the world’s best modern art museums. Curious G and I enjoy browsing the exhibits (the museum offers family guides and activities for the kids; and we can’t wait to see the end results of the lobby renovation this winter), but we could always spend a full day in the Art Lab. We have been coming here since C.G. was 2, and she discovers something new each time. The Lab is free with admission, and kids can create multi media art projects, play with art inspired toys, and explore the many ways that art and nature combine to create masterpieces. MoMA was included in our summer museum round up, and you can read about it here. My favorite part of the Lab is the inspiring selection of coffee table books. Art Lab admission is free with museum admission ($25 for adults, free for kids under 16).
*I got a free annual membership with my IDNYC.
7. Tea Parlors, throughout NYC
We have had afternoon tea at Palm Court, which is pricey so save it for a special occassion. We also love Lady Mendl’s and Alice's Tea Cup, and find that a lunch time play date combined with a tea party makes for an excellent afternoon indoors. FYI, we have also thrown together impromptu tea parlor set ups at home for in house tea party experiences, which is another quick and easy idea for indoor fun. Throw in some costumes for added entertainment.
8. The Craft Studio, 1657 Third Avenue, UES and 174 Duane Street, Tribeca
Last winter, Curious G had fun painting a ceramic cupcake, which now sits proudly upon our bookshelf, at her friend’s birthday party. However, I plan to take her back for some more creative play when the winter chill really sets in. There are many craft studios throughout the city. Some of them include Little Shop of Crafts on the Upper West Side, The Painted Pot in Park Slope, Oliloli in Forest Hills, and Color me Mine in Chinatown (even though the website says Tribeca).
9. Brookfield Place, 230 Vesey Street, Battery Park City
On Saturdays in the fall and winter time Brookfield Place hosts FREE amazing puppet shows and magic shows in the Hudson Eats food court. Check the events schedule for upcoming shows. Canstruction was a pretty cool art installation that we saw last year, and it takes place the first weekend of November. The food court is full of delicious options. We love the fried chicken at Fuku, the burgers (and fried chicken sandwich) at Umame Burger; and when we want healthier options, we grab something from Dig Inn or Chop’t. There’s so much more in terms of dining at Brookfield Place, but we also adore the ice skating rink and the Luminaries light installations every winter. We even caught a free one hour performance of the Nutcracker in the Atrium two years ago, which is coming up again at the end of this month. While you’re there you can also get some serious shopping done. When Curious G was a baby, we stocked up on hip little accessories and toys at Babesta! Click here for more photos and descriptions of Brookfield Place, as well as Battery Park City.
10. The Oculus (a.k.a. Westfield World Trade Center), 185 Greenwich Street, FiDi
You don’t even have to brave the cold to make it over to the Oculus from Brookfield Place. There is an underground pedestrian tunnel that connects the two buildings! And we cannot overlook the bevy of subway lines with entrances into Oculus (the elevator system gets a little confusing, so pay attention to where you are headed). Now there are always cute and fun events and pop-ups going on at the Oculus to occupy your little ones, but there is also a fleet of mall staples where you can get some solid shopping done as well. The architecture and dazzling space are enough to warrant a visit, and your kids can roam around freely (under your watchful eyes, of course). Again, there is no shortage of food options here, and you can spend an hour or so alone just walking around and eating your way through Eataly.
11. Moosiki Kids, throughout the Upper East side
Curious G’s first baby class ever was with Moosiki Kids, and we continued to go until C.G. was about 2. Ms. Laura is a super engaging teacher, and when my parents accompanied us to a class, my mother even remarked that Ms. Laura deserves her own show on TV. While we always registered for full semesters, Moosiki does offer drop in classes, and can sometimes be found on Kidpass. And while we are on the subject of music classes, I must also give a shout out to Music For Aardvarks. Curious G actually took two consecutive music classes from ages 9 months to 2 because she also loved both Moosiki Kids as well as the music from Music for Aardvarks (we still listen to the CD in the car here and there). Teacher Ryan of Music for Aardvarks is another Pied Piper, like Ms. Laura, and keeps the kids focused throughout the class.
12. A La Mode Shoppe, 360 East 55th Street, Midtown East,
Ok, so ice cream doesn’t scream winter, but who wouldn’t want to enjoy delicious small-batch homemade ice cream while watching the kids play with the adorable little ice cream cart and peruse the unique kids' toys and apparel. Classes are also available and fun events like magic show and movie nights are also held every month!
13. The Shops at Columbus Circle, Time Warner Center, 10 Columbus Circle, Columbus Circle
And here we go with another mall! I grew up in New Jersey so mall culture is in my veins. However, Time Warner Center is another space where kids have room to roam and seasonal events are often hosted here. I also find myself getting bargains at H&M for Curious G while we are there. But the main focus for us, is often brunch at Bouchon Bakery and Cafe or Landmarc, two kid-friendly venues, which made their way to our Yum and Yummer list. The Turnstyle Underground Market is also a novelty to check out. We like to beeline to Chick-N-Cone for a quick and tasty lunch there. And, last but not least, the Museum of Art and Design is right across the street, where family friendly weekend events are often held.
14. Barnes and Noble, 150 E. 86th Street & 33 E. 17th Street, Upper East side and Union Sq.
Barnes and Noble on 86th Street, probably has the largest kids’ section in the city and we have spent a lot of time there before or after going to Central Park or the Met or Cooper Hewitt. In addition to children’s books, a great selection of toys are available; and we love to grab a cookie and sit in the café while we're there. The Barnes and Noble in Union Square is another place where we have attended story times, played on the train table, and walked around each floor just browsing. Honorable mentions go to Strand and Books of Wonder, for their dynamic story times. Pete the Cat acted out by a well-known theater group? Strand has it. Author readings? Find them at Books of Wonder.
15. Cooper Hewitt, 2 East 91st Street, Upper East side
This museum got its own post back in the summer for the amazing Design Beyond Vision exhibit. It offers some fun hands-on exhibits which are kid friendly, and also hosts events for families and kids on a regular basis. Check the schedule here. Adult admission is $18 at the door and $16 online. Kids under 18 are free.
16. Start with Art, The Met Fifth Avenue, 1000 Fifth Avenue, Upper East side
The Met’s Start with Art made its way onto our summer hit list as well because it’s such an enriching experience for kids to get a guided mini tour while creating their own works of art based on the inspiring pieces that they learn about. Check the schedule here, but it usually takes place on Thursday afternoons, as well as Saturday mornings and afternoons. We also love the Nolen library, which is next to the hall where the Start with Art program meets. Both the library and Start with Art are free with admission (which is a suggested donation for NYC residents).
17. Discovery Room and Butterfly Conservatory at American Museum of Natural History,
Central Park West between 79th and 81st Streets
The Discovery Room is a regular go-to for Curious G because it offers endless ways to discover new things while learning about science and nature. We recently spent an afternoon at the American Museum of Natural History walking through the Hall of Biodiversity, then playing in the Discovery Room; and ended the day in the Butterfly Conservatory. We plan to check out the Backyard Wilderness 3-D movie, and have yet to visit the Planetarium! Admission to the museum is pay-as-you-wish at the ticket counters and $23 online for adults, and $13 for children under 13. The Discovery Room is complimentary and the Butterfly Conservatory requires a timed entry ticket. Please check the website for more information on the Conservatory, as well as the Discovery Room hours.
*Free annual memberships are available via IDNYC.
18. Chinatown Learning Center and Collections Hub, 215 Centre Street, Chinatown
This is another museum that was featured in our summer museum roundup because the playroom downstairs is fun! Their story times take place on Thursday afternoons and and they also host MOCAcreate workshops on Saturdays. The museum, itself, is a very interesting place to explore first hand accounts of the Asian American experience. Playtime in the the Chinatown Learning Center and Collections Hub is included with admission ($10 for adults and $7 for kids). Check the website for the special program admission fees. *This was another museum where I got a free annual membership via IDNYC.
19. Children's Museum of Manhattan, 212 West 83rd St, Upper West Side
Many of you may have already been here a few times. I know we have. Every floor of this five level museum is fun, and great for early walkers to 8 year olds from our experience. If you have not been here yet and can get to the Upper West Side relatively easily, there is no time like the present to check this place out! Every floor is hands-on, educational, and active.
20. Open Studio at Whitney Museum of American Art, 99 Gansevoort St, Meatpacking District
The Whitney open studio is great for budding young artists with their artist-led projects that are inspired by dynamic art pieces currently on view in the museum. It's free with adult admission, which is $25 per adult. A visit to the Whitney can also be paired with a stroll through Chelsea Market.
21. Jewish Museum, 1109 5th Avenue Upper East side
We attended a kids’ concert here on a Sunday afternoon last fall. Check the website for the lineup, but we saw the Funky Monkeys, who gave a great interactive performance and really had the crowd dancing and singing along. After the concert we grabbed lunch at the in-house Russ and Daughters, checked out the exhibits and stopped into the art workshop where Curious G made a crown. The Archaeological Dig room allows children to discover and interact with artifacts and ancient settings. Curious G enjoyed the dress up basket immensely. Adult admission to the museum is $18 and children under 18 are free. Ticket prices for concerts can be found here.
22. LEGOLAND Discovery Center at Ridge Hill, Yonkers, NY
This is a mini amusement park that can occupy your kids for a few hours. You can then head to I Fly or Rockin Jump if they still have energy to spare after climbing the Ninjago activity house, riding the Merlin’s Apprentice, and building til their hearts content at LEGOLAND Discovery Center. Ticketing information can be found here.
23. The LEGO Store, 200 5th Avenue, Flatiron District
Not only can kids marvel at the impressive LEGO creations throughout the store, but there is also a room in the back with a large LEGO table for kids to make their own LEGO masterpieces. We have stopped in here before and after trips to Eataly, which is next door. While you're in the neighborhood, you can also throw in a visit to Flying Tiger for inexpensive arts and crafts materials and toys, as well as a browsing trip to ABC Carpet and Home. There’s also Space Kiddets a few blocks away, where you can find some great kids clothing and accessories.
*There is also a Lego Store in Rockefeller Center with similar amenities, and its FREE to play in the LEGO stores.
24. Kelloggs Café, 31 East 17th St, Union Square
We met up with some friends here on a frigid day and the kids had so much fun running around and playing that they barely touched their sweet treats. While you can create your own bowls of sugar-laden cereal medleys here, Curious G opted for a doughnut shaped rice crispy treat complete with a sprinkle topping. The whimsical murals and cereal-themed furniture throughout the café were very attractive to the kids, but the swinging chairs set up in the front, which overlook Union Square, were the biggest hit. A close second and third were the La Croix vending machine; which invited Curious G and her buddy to push every glowing button, and the stools at the cereal counter that begged to be climbed.
25. Mini Land Play, 5-28 49th Avenue Long Island City, Queens
We made it to Mini Land Play after taking the 7 train from Grand Central with friends, missing our stop (it’s just one stop from Grand Central), and then walking about 10 blocks in a down pour. We did stop at Sweetleaf for some dry respite, but by the time we got to Mini Land Play the moms were all soaked. The kids, who stayed dry under their rain covers, proceeded to play with full-on enthusiasm for a little over two hours. The space is about the size of a small indoor kids gym, but the play equipment somewhat mimics an amusement park. We had to drag the kids out because they could have spent the whole day there; and on weekdays its only $12 for unlimited play so they may have just been trying to get the most bang for their bucks.
26. Family Bowl at Brooklyn Bowl, 61 Wythe Avenue, Williamsburg, Brooklyn
We recently went to Brooklyn Bowl with some friends on a Family Sunday and had a great time. It was Curious G’s first bowling experience and she did just fine with the ball guide (or whatever you call that contraption that looks like a bowling ball slide) and gutter guards. After we bowled, the parents grabbed some beers at the bar and we all hit the dance floor while the Bob Marley cover band played. Check out the schedule of performers here. If you're into fried chicken like we are, you can also indulge in Blue Ribbon while you're there. We happened to go the Brooklyn Bowl on the day of the final World Cup game, and had to wait a while for a lane. Therefore, we had the pleasure of grabbing lunch at Reynaud, which is right across the street, while we waited. After brunch, we went up to enjoy the views from the Wythe Hotel rooftop bar. Bowling is $25 per lane per half hour. Shoe rentals are $4.95 per pair. Check the website for specials.
27. NY Kids Club, throughout the city
When Curious G was 9 months old we enrolled her in a gym class at MyGym. The class was great for meeting other babies and their caregivers. But the best part for us was the open plays, which we went to almost every day. As C.G. got older she started taking classes at NY Kids Club and going to their open plays regularly. So far, her favorite class has been the STEM and Gymnastics combo class. She also loves the weekend PJ parties!
28. The Playroom NYC, 1439 First Avenue, Upper East side
Curious G has come here for Mandarin classes via KidPass, birthday parties, and playdates. When she was a baby, she loved exploring the baby room. Now, as a toddler, she has a blast climbing all over the slide and tunnel structure, playing dress up, pretending to run a store, and playing with the cars and trains. At $35 for two hours (if at capacity, otherwise you are allowed to stay until closing), it's more than I’d like to pay but you can usually find drop-in hours available on Kidpass. Memberships are also available.
29. Art Farm in the City, 419 East 91st St, Upper East Side
Art Farm in the City is a combination of playroom, arts and crafts studio, and mini indoor petting zoo. Where else can you find that in NYC? The open play hours are Monday-Thursday, 12:30 pm-3:30 pm, and classes and other organized activities are also available. Admission for open play is $20.
30. Staten Island Children’s Museum, 1000 Richmond Terrace, Staten Island, NY
We spent about three hours in the Staten Island Children’s Museum when we visited this summer. Curious G loved the giant games in the game hall and pretending to be on an expedition around the globe in the Great Explorations section. General Admission is $8 and admission is free on Wednesdays from 3pm-5pm.
31. The Giant Room, 550 West 28th Street , Chelsea
We recently dropped into the Open Studio at The Giant Room after school. Walking into the large gallery space, G was immediately taken by the feast for the eyes in front on her. With arts and crafts materials within arm's reach everywhere you turn, and an array of STEM projects created by kids lining the walls, it was immediately apparent that this space is where creativity and imagination is unleashed. During our visit, G created a puzzle by drawing with markers on a wooden board, which was then deposited into a laser cutter. After entering the number of puzzle pieces she desired into the computer and deciding on the shapes of the puzzle pieces, the wooden board was transformed into a 36-piece puzzle. Watching the laser slice into the board, creating delightful squiggles was hypnotic! G also played with some moon rovers, experimented with LEDs, and made mental notes on what she was going to try the next time she visits (making stickers with purple glitter on the sticker cutter was high on the list).
32. Rubin Museum of Art Family Sundays, 150 West 17th Street, Chelsea
We went to the Rubin Museum of Art the Sunday prior to the start of Diwali so we had the chance to participate in the free Diwali-themed art workshop. Curious G and her cousin artfully squirted and spread rice flour-based paint onto their canvases after getting a brief overview of Rangoli paintings and their role in Diwali celebrations. While we waited for their creations to be baked, we took the free guided family tour and learned about Asian deities and statues. Curious G also had the chance to play an Asian hand drum. After the tour, C. G. and her cousin "wrote" their hopes and dreams on a little piece of paper and added them the Monument for the Anxious and Hopeful. We returned to the art workshop to retrieve C.G.'s paintings and read some of the books from the little workshop library before setting off to our next destination.
33. Brooklyn Children's Museum, 145 Brooklyn Avenue, Crown Heights, Brooklyn
We love the Brooklyn Children's Museum and try to make use of our annual membership as often as possible. You can read about our favorite parts of the museum here. Museum admission is $11 per person, and truly buys you hours of fun.
34. National Geographic Encounter Ocean Odyssey. 226 West 44th Street, Times Square
Curious G and I ventured into Times Square on an unseasonably warm February day last year, to meet up with friends at the National Geographic Encounter Ocean Odyssey. All of the events leading up to the Nat Geo Encounter played out like a comedy of errors. This included the moment when I left our stroller on the sidewalk to chase down a bus that contained C.G's little Reebok that she had kicked off as we were exiting (while she dangled, sideways, from my arms) then missing out on another play date because C.G was then half shoeless. However, after exploring the Ocean Odyssey all of the prior mishaps of the day were long gone and forgotten because we had such a lovely time throughout the whole experience. The entire tour takes about hour and takes you on a journey throughout different regions of the world. The 3-D images that move and surround you feel fully immersive, and there are a few other interactive portions of the tour including a kelp maze. Ticketing information can be found here, but you can also check Groupon for discounts.
35. FAO Schwarz, 30 Rockefeller Plaza, Midtown
The largest toy store in NYC recently reopened right next to the famous Christmas tree in Rockefeller Center, and is a top holiday bucket list destination. It is number 7 on our 15 Fun and Festive Things to Do All Over Town in NYC with Your Kids This Holiday Season list. Your kids may not want to leave, so set aside at least an hour to play!
36. Camp, 110 Fifth Avenue, Flatiron
Camp is an entire experience; from the moment you enter the "general store" in the front to the magical bookshelf that opens up into a pretty enchanting mini forest, to the abundance of toys and interactive displays that await after you exit the forest. You will probably audibly gasp, or at least exclaim, "OMG!" a few times along the way. I will probably wind up writing a separate post about Camp, but for now, just go and see it for yourself. We spent two hours there, making arts and crafts, building fake camp fires, sliding down a tube slide that starts in a bunk and ends up in a sequin lined disco room, played in an old station wagon, popped edible bubbles with our mouths (ok, only Curious G did that), browsed the very excellent selection of toys and clothes, and shared a CAMP S'mores ice cream sundae made by Milk Bar (which is in the general store)! There was definitely more that happened at Camp today. But isn't that enough to make you want to go? It's a fabulous toy store with interactive elements and the themes and partnerships will change every eight weeks! Currently, the partners that are featured in store are Rockets of Awesome, Primary, Story Pirates, Lick a Bubble, and Kid Made Modern. What a concept! Camp is now open in Hudson Yards and City Point!
37. Just Kidding Series at Symphony Space, 2537 Broadway, Upper West Side
We just saw I Spy Butterfly, which was a part of Symphony Space's Just Kidding series. Performances are every Saturday, and are perfect for young viewers. The running time for each performance is about an hour and the shows are interactive and musical. Curious G was laughing, singing along, and fully engaged throughout the entire show; and even got to meet the cast after! You can find a line up of upcoming performances here.
38. Kanga's Indoor Playcenter 32-15 37th Avenue, Long Island City, Queens
We went to Kanga's last year on a freezing cold day when Curious G was off from school. We went with her classmate and h her classmate's 18 month old brother. Everyone had a blast. The main climbing structure is vast and features many different slides and stations to stop and explore. The bouncy castle and teacups ride were both big hits for everyone. The toddler area was perfect for the younger sibling. While the climbing wall was closed when we were there, it was something we noted for next time. We stayed for lunch and feasted on the chicken nuggets and fries from the cafe. Entry for kids starts $11.99 (depending on whether it's a weekday or weekend), and allows kids to play all day. Adults entry is $5.
We also like a visit to Hudson Yards, the Swedish Marionette Theater, Showfields, and Sony Square. Scroll through our feed on Instagram and you will see more on these fun spots!
On our list to try:
ImagiNATIONS Activity Center at the National Museum of the American Indian
DiMenna Children's History Museum at New York Historical Society
Chinatown Fair Family Fun Center
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