Best Inexpensive Drop-in Play Spaces in NYC for Kids

Hit the supermarket at the imaginative Twinkle play space in Williamsburg. Photo courtesy of the venue
Hit the supermarket at the imaginative Twinkle play space in Williamsburg. Photo courtesy of the venue
2/13/24 - By Sonia Gonzalez

New York City is packed with fun indoor play spaces to keep kids active all year. From indoor playgrounds to kid-centric museums, there is no shortage of fun activities perfect for bad-weather days or just because. But, keeping kids entertained can cost a pretty penny. So, we've rounded up 16 affordable indoor play spaces in NYC offering drop-in play for $20 or less a visit, and a few of these indoor playgrounds in NYC are significantly cheaper!

Read on for our picks for budget-friendly play spaces in Manhattan, Brooklyn, Queens, Staten Island, and the Bronx, and find more fun places to play in our NYC Kids' Guide to Indoor Activities.


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Inexpensive Indoor Play Spaces in Manhattan

1. ACT Indoor Playstation – Morningside Heights

December-April; weekdays only
$15 per child per session
This spacious gymnasium at the Cathedral of St. John the Divine is full of pint-sized slides and places to crawl and explore. With soft mats to ensure safety, this indoor play space is perfect for passing the chilly fall and winter months. The center closes during holidays and school breaks, so be sure to call ahead to confirm it's open before heading over. All guests must remove shoes in the play area, so be sure to bring socks. You're welcome to bring in your own food or drink to nosh on in the kitchen when you need a break.

2. Children's Museum of Manhattan – Upper West Side

Tuesdays through Sundays; reservations required
$16.75 per person; FREE for children under 1
Explore all of the museum's exhibits at your own pace. Each ticket includes all the exhibits—from classics like PlayWorks to the newer Superpowered Metropolis: Early Learning City—as well as special events, including story time, dance time, scavenger hunts, and art projects. Remember that unlike many of the dedicated play spaces on this list, parents pay an admission fee, too.

3. 81st Street Studio – Upper East Side

Daily except Wednesdays
The only thing better than a budget-friendly drop-in play space is a FREE drop-in play space, and that's exactly what you'll find at the 81st Street Studio, the brand-new art-and-play space housed on the ground level of the family-friendly Metropolitan Museum of Art. We were blown away by this spot, which caters to kids ages 3-11 with all kinds of creative play from art projects and music making, courtesy of a custom-designed instrument collection from Yamaha, to a block-building area, and plenty of books to read in a cozy corner. Visit as a jumping-off to your Met adventure, or grab a field guide to-go and hit up NYC's ultimate playground, Central Park—if the weather cooperates. If you choose to head up to the museum, take note: kids always enter The Met for FREE, and admission to the museum is pay-what-you-wish for tri-state area adults, too.

4. Chelsea Piers Toddler Gym – Chelsea

Visit the website for a complete schedule.
$20 per session
This awesome indoor playground at Chelsea Piers includes space for sliding, climbing, and crawling through a big play structure, plus the ultimate kid-pleaser: a ball pit. The center also has manipulatives on the wall, additional slides, soft playthings, and a tiny rock-climbing area.

Budget-Friendly Indoor Playgrounds in Brooklyn

5. The Ability Center NYC – Marine Park

Sundays through Fridays; schedule your play session in advance.
$15 per 90-minute session
An indoor therapy spot, the practice-and-play gym here doubles as a budget-friendly play space when it's not being used by physical, occupational, and speech therapists for their clients. You'll find a clean, well-maintained play area with plenty of fun, sensory-friendly ways to play. Socks are required.

6. Brooklyn Children's Museum – Crown Heights

Wednesday-Sunday, 10am-5pm
$15 per person
The Totally Tots exhibit at the Brooklyn Children's Museum is a treasure for babies and preschoolers with nine sensory play areas—enjoy water play, music, climbing structures, blocks, dress up, and more. Included with museum admission (which is FREE on Thursday afternoons), Totally Tots is a bargain—though again, parents pay, too. The newest exhibit, AirMaze, is a 20-foot-tall pressurized air system consisting of more than 250 feet of tubes, valves, and blowers. Kids are invited to insert various types of objects and navigate them through its clear pathways and watch as balls and scarves zip and twist their way through the maze.

7. Twinkle Playspace – Williamsburg

$20 for children, $15 for adults
Owned and operated by a longtime local family, this 4,500-square-foot indoor playground for tots features creative, custom-designed, hands-on activity stations, including a water table, firehouse, salon, general store, and a barnyard. It's a great option for preschoolers who love to pretend.

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Affordable indoor play spaces in NYC: Kids 'N Shape
Kids can bounce off the walls—safely!—at Kids 'N Shape.

Budget-Friendly Indoor Play Spaces in Queens

8. Kids 'N Shape – Howard Beach

Open play daily; visit the website for current hours
$15 per two-hour session; reservations required
With ball and foam pits, a bounce house, an obstacle course, and even a zip line, kids have a blast staying active and burning off energy. Book your play session online in advance. Kids 'N Shape also has a Staten Island location.

9. Sabrina's Play Studio – Sunnyside

Open play daily; check website for schedule
$16 per walking child for unlimited open play; $10.50 per crawling child
Opened by a local mom who ran a neighborhood daycare for more than 10 years, this play space is designed for kids ages 0-9. Features include a gated area for little ones, a two-level maze, a small bounce house, and a play area with a kitchen, toys, and dress-up clothes.

10. Funtopia USA – Ridgewood

Open play daily
$5 for admission for access to the indoor playgrounds
A word of warning: There are plenty of add-on attractions at this all-ages play space, which is more Chuck E. Cheese than the other picks on our list. But, if you've got kids of multiple ages, it's a solid option. The $5 admission grants access to the three-story indoor playground and toddler play area. If your kids want to stray from there, the prices can rise rapidly: The more activities you play, the more you'll pay. Beware that socks are required for all guests and no outside food or drink is permitted.

11. Bounce and Play – Astoria

Open play schedule varies, visit the calendar to book.
$17 per child on weekdays; $20 per child on holidays or weekends
Bounce 'n Play is guaranteed fun. Play in a giant bounce house, run around the big gym, play games at the arcade, or go to the toddler area for some special little-kid time. Reservations are required during busy times; call ahead to confirm whether you need to book in advance, 718-777-7529.

12. Kidz Fun Palace – Corona

Open daily.
$15 per child and one adult; each additional adult is $10
This large indoor play space keeps kids running around all day. The indoor playground features a massive ball pit, a merry-go-round and toddler section for little ones, an obstacle course, an enclosed trampoline, and an arcade with machines for the little ones as well as for the older kids.

13. Kids Fun House – Ridgewood

Visit its website for current hours.
$16 on weekdays; $20 on weekends; each additional adult is $10
Older kids can romp in the multi-level maze, swoosh down the triple slide, and even play a few arcade games. There's a separate socks-only toddler area for little ones ages 6 months to 4 years with a tree to climb through, a playhouse, and a small slide. Adults can grab a seat and a snack at the cafe.

Inexpensive Indoor Playgrounds in Staten Island

14. BoomKidz – Richmond Valley

Open play schedule varies; visit the website for the current schedule
$20 per two-hour session
This all-ages spot offers 3,000 square feet of play space, including a towering three-tiered indoor playground. Toddlers have run of the sensory-filled play area, while big kids can park themselves in front of a gaming console. There are Lego stations, a foam-ball shooter, and plenty of opportunities to climb, slide, and work some sillies out. Parents can appreciate that all these diverse play areas are within eyeshot of one another, making it an excellent place for a mixed-age crew. All guests must sign a liability waiver—available on the website—before playing.

15. Kids 'N Shape – Tottenville

Open play daily; visit the website for the current schedule.
$15 per two-hour session; reservation required
Like its sister location in Queens, Kids 'N Shape has plenty of space for active kids to go crazy. An inflatable obstacle course is a definite draw, as is the zip line. Kids go crazy for the ball and foam pits, too. Reservations are required and can be booked online in advance.

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Affordable indoor play spaces in NYC: Bronx Children's Museum
The Bronx Children's Museum offers a bright, beautiful play space for kids up to age 10. Photo by Jody Mercier

Budget-Friendly Indoor Play Spaces in the Bronx

16. Bronx Children's Museum – South Bronx

Tuesdays, Thursdays, and Saturdays
Tickets must be reserved online in advance for timed-entry sessions.
$8 per person for everyone over the age of 1.
This brand new space offers 13,000-plus-square-feet of educational play areas, including The Waterways exhibit with a sprawling water table that flows for 35 feet. There's also The Woods, where kids can meet live animal friends and interact with animal educators, and The Enchanted Garden, a sweet alcove with fun dress-up items plus comfy toadstools for kids and adults to sit back and take a break. The littlest visitors can enjoy The Nest, a comfy, safe, padded play area clear of big kids and fun to crawl and toddle about. 

Unless noted, photos courtesy of the venues

Originally published in 2017.

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