15 Best Places for Family Playtime in NYC
Playing together with your kids is one of the best parts of being a parent. Not only does it get everyone off the couch and moving, but you're also creating memorable family experiences.
Most city families don't have a backyard to play catch in, but there are still plenty of ways to play in NYC that are as engaging for grown-ups as for children, from mini golf to hiking, bowling, billiards, and beyond. Read on for our favorite ways to disconnect from technology and enjoy a few hours of awesome family bonding time.
Editor's note: While we are trying to promote safer activities that occur outdoors or with social distancing guidelines in place, please keep your family and others safe by always wearing a mask and practicing social distancing. If you arrive at a venue that appears too crowded, try using the “nearby” search feature on our Event Calendar to find something else to do. Please plan your outings in advance, as many venues require timed-entry tickets or reservations to limit crowd size.
Family-Friendly Places to Play Indoors
Batting cages abound in NYC. In Manhattan, increase your batting average at Chelsea Piers or The Baseball Center. Queens has The Cage in Middle Village and Artistic Stitch Sports Complex in Glendale. If you're in The Bronx, check out the Grand Slam Batting Cages. There are also outdoor cages at Turtle Cove Golf Center on City Island and the Staten Island Fun Park.
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For less physically demanding play, hit a gaming haven. Brooklyn Strategist hosts kid and adult workshops in everything from chess to Dungeons & Dragons, as well as drop-in, open-play sessions for an hourly fee. The Uncommons in Greenwich Village lets you rent games from a huge on-site collection. In Queens, hit up Gamestoria to add to your collection. Uptown, swing by Hex & Co., which has two locations to enjoy playtime inside or out, educational programs for kids, and a solid espresso—or stronger drinks—for adults.
Hit up a bowling alley in one of the five boroughs. Photo by Pam Singh
3. Go Bowling
Bowling is one of my family's favorite ways to play together. There are many bowling alleys in NYC, both old-school and newfangled, including Frames Bowling Lounge, which features billiards, pingpong, and karaoke.
Cooking shouldn't just be a chore for mom and dad. A few creative culinary spots turn cooking classes into hands-on fun for kids and adults, in-person or virtually. Consider taking a parent-and-me workshop at Chelsea's Taste Buds Kitchen. Older kids will enjoy the professional-quality classes at the Institute of Culinary Education.
Nothing bonds families like the challenge of an escape room. Families can work together to solve puzzles and riddles to defuse a bomb or escape a haunted house. NYC has a variety of escape rooms of varying levels and for a wide range of ages. Most places also offer the option of booking a private game just for your family.
RELATED: Top Indoor Play Spaces Across NYC
Mini golf at Industry City is a great outdoor family activity for all skill levels. Photo courtesy of Industry City
This is an activity that can take place either indoors or outside. Pier 25 offers an 18-hole miniature golf course in Hudson River Park. The Flushing Meadows Golf Course has a mini-course for kids of all ages. In Brooklyn, Industry City offers a mini-golf course that's FREE for all visitors. A brand new mini-golf course, dubbed Putting GREEN, comes to the Brooklyn waterfront in Williamsburg this summer. While some mini-golf courses are only open seasonally, a few, such as the indoor courses at the Jewish Children's Museum and Shipwrecked Mini Golf, offer games year-round.
Maker spaces are the city's hot new hangout spot. We've rounded up some of our favorite destinations for creative drop-in maker fun, but there are even more options if you want to register for a long-term class. The Maker's Guild in Industry City offers a variety of experiences from master craftsmen and artisans. Along with retail spaces to peruse, the makers often offer classes (virtual and in-person) families can take together.
If you want to play for FREE, hit the tables in Bryant Park, but there are also plenty of indoor pingpong parlors that are kid-friendly or have family hours.
RELATED: Indoor Play Spaces and Kiddie Gyms
Test your rock-climbing skills under the bridge at Dumbo Boulders. Photo by Rose Gordon Sala.
Get your active kids out of the house and let them climb the walls—literally—at one of NYC's rock climbing gyms. There are indoor options all across town, including the brand new The Cliffs at Harlem. Though most are indoors, Dumbo Boulders by The Cliffs lets you climb alfresco in Brooklyn Bridge Park.
10. Shoot Pool
Some pool halls welcome minors during daytime hours as long as they are supervised. Ocean's 8 at Brownstone Billiards in Prospect Heights is particularly popular with families. In addition to 30 pool tables, the lounge also has pingpong, air hockey, mini-bowling, and various video games. The newly opened Sharks pool hall in Rockefeller Center offers guests a private pool room that can be booked by the hour.
Go for a spin on the thrilling rides at Coney Island's theme parks. Photo by Matthew Nighswander
Where to Play Outdoors With Your Family
Whether you’re seeking thrills or want to entertain your little one with tamer attractions, NYC has rides for all. Coney Island’s Luna Park has daring coasters along with a theme park that is perfect for the pint-sized set. Of course, there's Deno's Wonder Wheel Amusement Park with rides for all ages. Both Luna Park and Deno's have recently reopened for the season.
Biking with the family is a great way to enjoy the outdoors and also see the city. There are several great paths in NYC that are ideal for not only bikes but also scooters, skateboards, and roller skates. If you don't own a bike, Citi Bike offers a convenient bike-sharing program, though it's one-size-fits-most.
Find the perfect family-friendly hike in NYC or the Hudson Valley. Photo by Sara Marentette
Hiking also affords the chance to get exercise and bond with the family. Just outside the city, there are several short hikes perfect for toddlers. The Hudson Valley is home to many state parks where you can hike, swim, ride bikes, and enjoy spectacular views. Or you can stay local and hike the Empire State Trail, which starts in Battery Park. Choose how far you want to trek along the 750-mile trail.
Go ahead and get dirty in the local sandbox right alongside the kids. Photo by Sara M.
When all else fails, it's hard to beat NYC's spectacular playgrounds. When was the last time you climbed Umpire Rock at Heckscher Playground or zoomed down the slides on Governors Island or at the Billy Johnson Playground? We also love the playgrounds in Brooklyn's Prospect and Brooklyn Bridge parks. If you need more action, try Queens' Alley Pond Park, which even has a family-friendly ropes course to conquer together and an orienteering course that combines hiking with gaming skills. If you feel like you've conquered all the playgrounds NYC offers, check out these recently been renovated spots, like Betsy Head Park in Brooklyn.
No w that the snow has thawed, and the warmer temperatures are around the corner; roller skating has returned to the rinks. Get your groove on while trying to stay upright on wheels.
A version of this post was published in April 2017; it has been updated.