NYC Winter Fun List: 50 Things to Do Indoors with Kids

50 Awesome Winter Activities for New York City Kids | Brooklyn, Queens, Manhattan

Cooped up in a tiny apartment with your kids hanging off the furniture (and you) is no way to spend the winter. We know it can be hard to put on all that winter gear, head out into the cold, and hit up one of the million daily kid events happening in NYC, but we're here to help. 

To inspire you, we've compiled a list of 50 awesome drop-in spots in the five boroughs, where kids can run, jump, bounce, learn, create, and get cultured. Some are even FREE.

Still not willing to open that door? Try one of these indoor craft projects at home as a family to keep those little hands busy, or one of our 40 Indoor Snow Day Boredom Busters.

Of course, you can always find more winter fun ideas in our Indoor Family Fun Guide, or even sign up for a new class.

1. Head to Museum of the Moving Image in Queens for its collection of fascinating cinematic props, ever-changing movie screenings, and cool teen-only design labs.

2. Try for a strike at one of NYC's numerous bowling alleys.

Tag meets hide-and-seek in this high energy game. Photo courtesy of Bowlmor

3. Go beyond bowling at Bowlmor Chelsea Piers, which also has a laser tag arena.

4. Give rock climbing a try at one of the two Brooklyn Boulders locations within city limits (Brooklyn and Queens) or another indoor climbing spot.

5. Pay for a day pass to an indoor swimming pool.

6. Even if it's too cold to skate outside, you still can twirl around an indoor ice rink.

7. Settle in for no-cost storytimes at NYC's best indie bookstores. FREE

8. Rack 'em up for a game of billiards at a family-friendly pool hall.

9. Get creative at the Children's Museum of the Arts.

10. Let the kids get their crazies out at a local bounce house or ball pit.

Take a peek deep into the kelp forest to play with the sea lions. Photo by Sara Marentette-Nighswander

11. Immerse yourself in a virtual ocean at National Geographic's Ocean Odyssey.

12. Grab a cup of joe and let the kids run around at Good Day Play Cafe in Bayside, Queens, or one of these other play cafes.

13. Head to Times Square's mini world Gulliver's Gate to see a tiny version of NYC and other famous sites worldwide.

14. Play a family game of laser tag or paintball at Indoor Extreme Sports in Long Island City or on Staten Island, or another laser tag spot.

15. Pretend it's summer with a day trip to an indoor water park.

16. Sign up for a FREE class at one of these indoor stores or just play for FREE.

VRBar has a wide range of games, from painting to shooting. Photo by Anna Fader

17. Get your game on at a pair of new virtual reality spots that have debuted recently: VR World in Midtown Manhattan and VRBar in Dumbo.

18. Become a pinball wizard at the Modern Pinball arcade in Kips Bay, or try out retro video games at these arcades.

19. Run amok at a drop-in play space in Manhattan, Queens, or Brooklyn.

20. Don't forget the library! The Children's Center at 42nd Street, the central branch of the Brooklyn Public Library in Prospect Heights, and the Children’s Library Discovery Center in Jamaica, Queens, are all destinations that offer attractions beyond books. If you've been there and read that, consider a trip to the 53rd Street Library, which is ultra kid-friendly despite its Midtown location. Another fun option: Register in advance for Free Art Fridays at the Williamsburg Library.

21. Go underground to check out vintage trains and buses at the New York Transit Museum in Brooklyn Heights.

22. Expand your culinary horizons with a trip to one of NYC's best indoor food courts.

23. Bring your aspiring fireman to Rockefeller Center's FDNY Fire Zone to learn about New York's bravest. FREE

Drop in to Brooklyn Strategist for an open gaming session. Photo courtesy of Brooklyn Strategist

24. Drop into an open play session at board game mecca Brooklyn Strategist. If you're hungry for competition and a meal, try the new Morningside Heights spot Hex & Co. which serves kid-friendly eats and even adults-only drinks. Queens families might prefer board game haven, Geekery HQ in Astoria.

25. Head to Grand Central sometime when you're not dashing for a train and explore all the family-friendly fun within.

26. Dine out at one of these restaurants when kids eat for FREE.

27. Head to the Museum of the City of New York, which hosts tons of enriching family programs complete with snacks for the kids.

28. Go on a hot cocoa crawl at the top spots in Manhattan, Queens, and Brooklyn.

29. Get your groove on at CMOM at its Let's Dance exhibition.

30. Snuggle with kittens at one of the city's cat cafes, such as Meow Parlour and Brooklyn's Cat Cafe, or hang at one of these indoor animal havens.

Make a light saber at NYSCI. Photo courtesy of the museum

31. Get geeky at the New York Hall of Science, or try a little makers workshop in its Design Lab.

32. Show off your best BMX or skateboard moves at Staten Island's 5050 indoor skate park, or learn to skate from one of these NYC spots.

33. Try one of these inexpensive drop-in play spaces with your toddler or preschooler.

34. The Flatiron Lego Store is just a subway ride away and offers regularly scheduled building sessions. FREE...if you can convince your kids to leave empty-handed. 

35. Explore the new Tapescape exhibit at the Brooklyn Children's Museum.

36. Take advantage of FREE visiting hours at your favorite museum or a new-to-you culture spot. 

37. Put those new year diets on pause to indulge in an outrageous dessert at one of these NYC eateries.

RELATED: Winter Fun for Toddlers that Beats Another Trip to Barnes & Noble

38. Try out the chocolatey hazelnutty deliciousness on offer at the new Nutella Cafe.

39. Play tourist! Check out the incredible views from the Top of the Rock and the Empire State Building. You're only outside for a few minutes. For a completely climate-controlled view, visit One World Observatory.

40. Bask in the balmy temperatures at one of our favorite indoor public spaces. FREE

41. Get into shape for spring by honing your little slugger's swing at one of these nine batting cages.

42. Learn the art of paper folding at Taro's Origami Studio in Park Slope.

43. Enjoy an afternoon at Spark play space in Dumbo, an offshoot of the Brooklyn Children's Museum.

Your eyes will play tricks on you at the amazing Our Senses exhibit at The American Museum of Natural History. Photo courtesy of the museum

44. The Museum of Natural History never disappoints. Explore the amazing power of the human body with the newly opened Our Senses exhibit.

45. Visit the Museum of the City of New York for its newly opened ode to the loveable storybook character Corduroy.

46. Or go all-out foodie, as the kids indulge their senses at the Museum of Food and Drink in Williamsburg. 

47. Enjoy some drop-in maker fun at one of these NYC maker spaces.

48. Grab your wands and head to the Harry Potter: A History of Magic exhibit before it disapparates in the New Year.

49. Splurge on a mani at the Upper East Side's Milk & Cookies Spa, designed just for kids.

50. Hit the trampolines at Staten Island's Fly High indoor bounce haven. If you're driving, a new Sky Zone trampoline park, in New Rochelle, is about the same distance (40 minutes) if you're in Manhattan, or closer, if you're in the Bronx.

Top photo courtesy of Brooklyn Boulders

This post, originally published in January 2010, is updated annually.