Budget-Friendly Play Spaces for NYC Kids That Charge $20 or Less

Sand, water, and more sensory fun await at Totally Tots at the Brooklyn Children's Museum. Photo courtesy of the museum
Sand, water, and more sensory fun await at Totally Tots at the Brooklyn Children's Museum. Photo courtesy of the museum

New York City is packed with fun indoor play spaces to keep kids active all year. From indoor playscapes 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 a dozen affordable play spaces offering drop-in play—for less than $20 a visit—and a few of these spots are significantly cheaper!

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

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Budget-Friendly Play Spaces in Manhattan

ACT Indoor Playstation – Morningside Heights

December-April; Mondays through Thursdays, 12:15pm-2:30pm
$8 per session; ages 6 months and under FREE
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.

The Children's Museum of Manhattan – Upper West Side

Wednesdays through Sundays, 10am-5pm
$15 two-hour session; purchase timed-entry tickets in advance
Explore the museum's exhibits at your own pace during a two-hour play session. Visitors are encouraged to purchase a timed-entry ticket in advance, as space is limited. Each ticket includes all of the exhibits—from classics like PlayWorks to special exhibits, like Superpowerd Metropolis—as well as special events, including story time, dance time, scavenger hunts, and art projects. All visitors 12 and older must be vaccinated and unlike many of the dedicated play spaces on this list, parents pay an admission fee, too.

Budget-Friendly Play Spaces in Brooklyn

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 and their clients. You'll find a clean, well-maintained play area with plenty of fun, sensory-friendly ways to play. Be prepared to get your temperature taken upon arrival. Socks are required and visitors ages 2+ must wear masks.

Brooklyn Children's Museum – Crown Heights

Thursday afternoons, all day Saturday and Sunday; visit the website for current hours
$13 for ages 1 and older per 3-hour session
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 pay-as-you-wish on Thursday afternoons), Totally Tots is a bargain—though again, parents pay too. The brand new A-MAZE-D lets kids get lost in a cardboard maze and is thrilling for all ages. All guests 12 or older must show proof of vaccination upon arrival. To ensure the space remains as safe as possible during COVID, the Museum has added new hand-sanitizing stations, upgraded air filters to MERV 14, and is using UV wands to clean between play sessions. Book your session in advance to avoid being turned away.

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Kids 'N Shape offers an affordable indoor play spce in Howard Beach
Kids can bounce off the walls—safely!—at Kids 'N Shape.

Budget-Friendly Play Spaces in Queens

Kids 'N Shape – Howard Beach

Open play daily; visit the website for current hours
$15 per two-hour session; reservation required
With ball and foam pits, a bounce house, an obstacle course, and even a zip line, kids will 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 (see below). Be aware that proof of vaccination is required for all guests 12 or older.

Funtopia USA – Ridgewood

Open play daily; Monday-Thursday, 10am-8pm; Friday-Saturday, 10am-10pm; Sunday, 10am-9pm
$10 for 45-minute session in the jungle gym and toddler area
A word of warning: There are plenty of 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 $10 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. Be aware that socks are required for all guests and no outside food or drink is permitted.

Let's Play Playhouse – Astoria

Open play: Monday-Thursday, 12pm-6pm; Friday, 11am-6pm; please call to confirm availability, 718-806-1288.
$20 per two-hour session; Children 6 months and younger FREE
This spot, formerly known as Kid's Playhouse, offers a two-tiered jungle gym, mini bounce house, and a pair of slides. There's also a padded play area for crawlers and toddlers. Be aware that socks are required for all guests.

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Mini Land Play is a bright, colorful, affordable Queens play space
Swing from colorful ball swing at Mini Land Play. Photo by Janet Bloom

Mini Land Play – Long Island City

Open play: Monday-Thursday, 12pm-6pm; Friday, 11am-6pm; please call to confirm hours, 718-806-1288.
$15 unlimited play (weekdays); $20 two-hour session (weekends)
Two words: Unlimited play! This 3,000-square-foot play space is a kid's dream! No appointment is needed for open play, just bring your little ones to enjoy the huge indoor playground and more than 20 playsets. Every area is sanitized and cleaned daily. Everyone is asked to sanitize their hands before coming in and all children and adults must wear socks.

Bounce and Play – Astoria

Open play schedule varies, visit the calendar to book.
$20 unlimited play
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.

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Enjoy the Montessori-inspired play space at Lidia's Play Cafe
Lidia's Play Cafe offers a Montessori-inspired play space for kids.

Lidia's Play Cafe – Ridgewood

Open play is available on Tuesdays, Wednesdays, and Fridays; book online in advance.
$20 for 90-minute session
At this play cafe, parents can kick back and enjoy a cup of joe while their kids explore the Montessori-inspired play area. It's stocked with natural wooden toys and small climbers and has a calming, relaxed vibe that encourages open, imaginative play. Local parents opened the shop named after their daughter. Masks are required for all guests over the age of 2. Temperatures are taken upon arrival, and you must wash or sanitize your hands before play.

Budget-Friendly Play Spaces in Staten Island

BoomKidz – Richmond Valley

4878 Arthur Kill Road
Open play schedule varies; visit the website for the current schedule
$20 per two-hour session
All-ages
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 waiver and health form—available on the website—before play.

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. Be aware that proof of vaccination is required for all guests 12 or older.

Unless noted, all photos courtesy of the venues.

Originally published in 2017.

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