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

Budget-Friendly Play Spaces for NYC Kids That Charge $13 or Less

New York City is packed with fun indoor play spaces to keep kids active all year. Unfortunately, the average price at these parental lifesavers keeps creeping up. Admission often runs $20 to $25 per child for a single visit. Pricey fees or membership commitments can quickly ruin your plans for a quick escape from the staying-in doldrums. Of course, we're here to help. We've rounded up 20 budget-friendly play spaces offering drop-in play—all for less than $13 a visit—and a few of these spots are significantly cheaper!

Read on for open-play sessions in Manhattan, Brooklyn, Queens, and Staten Island that won’t break the bank, and find more indoor fun spots in our local NYC guide, or explore at-home boredom buster games and crafts for those days when you really want to pinch a penny.

Budget-Friendly Play Spaces in Manhattan

ACT Indoor Playstation — Morningside Heights
Cathedral Church of St. John the Divine, 1047 Amsterdam Avenue at 111th Street
Open play: December-April: Monday-Thursday, 12:15pm-2:30pm
$8 per session; ages 6 months and under FREE
Ages 0-5
With a spacious gymnasium full of pint-sized slides and places to crawl and explore, plus 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.

RELATED: Manhattan's Best Indoor Play Spaces and Kids' Gyms

budget-friendly play space Chelsea Piers Toddler Gym
The toddler gym at Chelsea Piers keeps toddlers busy for hours! 

Chelsea Piers' Toddler Gym — Chelsea
Field House at Chelsea Piers, 23rd Street and the Hudson River
Open play: Schedule varies; call 212-336-6500, ext. 0 to confirm hours
$12 per session, discounts are available for multiple sessions
Ages 6 months-4 years
Chelsea Piers is a hot spot for all-ages recreational fun, and its Toddler Gym is no exception. Preschoolers love sliding and crawling through the prominent play structure and exploring the interactives on the walls. Soft playthings, a small rock-climbing wall, and ball pit round out the space.

Gotham Kids — Washington Heights
551 Fort Washington Avenue between 185th and 186th Streets
Open play: Tuesdays and Thursdays, 2-4pm
Ages 0-9
$9 per session
Housed in the social hall of the Hebrew Tabernacle, this new-to-the-scene play space brings a giant bounce house and plenty of other playthings to Upper Manhattan families. Opened by a local mom, Gotham Kids hopes to expand its hours according to community demand.

Budget-Friendly Play Spaces in Brooklyn

The Ability Center NYC — Marine Park
3514 Avenue S at 35th Street
Open play: Sunday–Friday; visit the website for current hours
Crawlers and older
$10 per one-hour 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.

Brooklyn Arts Exchange — Park Slope
421 Fifth Avenue between Seventh and Eighth Streets
Open play: Monday and Friday mornings through Friday, May 22, 2020; visit the website for current hours
$10 per family per session, discounts available for multi-session packs
Ages 1-4
The BAX Playspace is a favorite for local families. Tots can while away chilly mornings exploring tunnels and playing with colorful toys. Bring a nut-free snack, and you’ll be good until lunch—or nap time!

Kids can romp around while parents have a coffee at Good Day Play Cafe. Photo by Louise Trapasso

Good Day Play Cafe — South Slope
591 5th Avenue between 16th Street and Prospect Avenue
Open play: Daily; visit the website for current hours and weekend schedule changes
$12 per one-hour session; FREE for babies under 8 months
Ages 0-6
With Stumptown coffee, a sensory pit, and a clear view of the entire play area from the minimalist-chic cafe, this play cafe is a local favorite. There are plenty of activities for kids who like to get physical—including a ball pit, slide, and climbing structures—as well as options for those who prefer quieter games and imaginative play, from costumes to a pretend kitchen and grocery store.

Budget-friendly play space Giocare Play Spot
Giocare Play Spot has daily themes to keep activities engaging. Photo by Diana Kim

Giocare Play Spot — South Slope
655 Sixth Avenue at 18th Street
Open play: Monday-Friday from 9am-1pm; visit the website for schedule changes
$10 per family per session
Ages 0-5
Giocare offers free play with toys, blocks, and musical instruments. Daily themes are incorporated into play sessions and include storytimes, music, movement, art exploration, and more. Read our full review of this Giocare here.

Little Chubs Playground — Bensonhurst
7205 16th Avenue
Open play: Every day but Tuesdays
$12 for all-day play; discounts for siblings and infants
Ages 1-10
If you've got kids spanning multiple ages, this is a great spot. Little Chubs offers age-appropriate activities for kids ranging from 1-10. Jump in the ball pit, ride on a race car, or build with big, foam blocks. It offers affordable birthday party packages and has gorgeous party rooms.

RELATED: NYC Stores Where Kids Play for FREE

Sundays@Senesh offers a budget-friendly play space
Enjoy the open gym and arts and crafts on a Sunday morning. 

Sundays@Senesh — Carroll Gardens
342 Smith Street at Second Street
Open play: Sunday mornings November 3, 2019-March 22, 2020; visit the website for current schedule
$5 per person, including adults
Ages 0-5
Jewish day school Hannah Senesh offers open-play sessions every Sunday all winter long. Enjoy coffee and bagels while little ones run, play, and explore. There’s a dedicated space for babies and toddlers and guided movement, art sessions, and music to keep kids engaged.

Totally Tots at the Brooklyn Children's Museum — Crown Heights
145 Brooklyn Avenue between St. Marks Avenue and Prospect Place
Open play: Tuesday-Sunday; visit the website for current hours
$13 for ages 1 and older; Pay as you wish Thursdays from 2-6pm and Sundays from 4-7pm
Ages 0-6
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 and Sunday afternoons), Totally Tots is a bargain for winter fun.

Budget-Friendly Play Spaces in Queens

Funtopia USA — Ridgewood
66-26 Metropolitan Avenue near Rentar Plaza
Open play: Monday-Thursday, 10am-8pm; Friday-Saturday, 10am-10pm; Sunday, 10am-9pm
$10 for all-day access to the jungle gym and toddler area
All ages
A word of warning: There are plenty of attractions at this all-ages play space, which is more Chuck E. Cheese's than the other spots 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.

Bounce off the walls at Kids 'N Shape. 

Kids 'N Shape — Howard Beach
162-26 Cross Bay Boulevard between 162nd and 163rd Avenues
Open play: Daily; visit the website for current hours
$12 per two-hour session
Ages 1-12
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. Children are admitted on a first-come, first-served basis with a maximum of 50 kids per session. Kids ’N Shape also has a Staten Island location.

Let's Play Playhouse — Astoria
34-17 Steinway Street between 34th and 35th Avenues
Open play: Monday-Thursday, 12pm-6pm; Friday, 11am-6pm; please call to confirm availability, 718-806-1288.
$10 per two-hour session
Ages 0–5
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.

You just might meet Alice in Wonderland at Lidia's Play Cafe. 

Lidia's Play Cafe — Ridgewood
71-06 Fresh Pond Road between Myrtle and 71st Avenues
Open play: Monday-Wednesday, 9am-6pm; Thursday-Friday, 9am-7pm Weekend hours vary; visit the website for current hours
$5-$10 depending on age for one-hour of play
Ages 0-6
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.

Little Dreamers Kingdom — Little Neck
254-18 Northern Boulevard, Suite 5
Drop-in play: Tuesday-Friday, 10am-6pm; weekend hours vary, visit the website for current schedule
$10 per one-hour session
Ages 0-4
This cozy space is perfect for toddlers with plenty of toys and little-kid friendly installations. A twisty slide drops kids into a huge ball pit. There's also a trampoline, play kitchen, dance-on piano, and more.

Play Date Cafe — Bayside
208-03 35th Avenue
Open play: Daily; visit the website for current schedule
$10 per one-hour session Monday-Thursday; $11 per one-hour session Friday-Sunday; discounts for infants and siblings
Ages 8 months-6 years
This space is divided equally between a cafe and play space. The cafe offers free Wi-Fi, coffee, smoothies, and a full menu of tasty fare. The play space features a climbing area, ball pit, a Hinoki cypress wood cube pit, Lego table, kitchen set, and dress-up area—pretty much everything little ones could want.

Raising Astoria — Astoria
26-11 23rd Avenue between 26th and 27th Streets
Open play: Schedule varies; visit the website for schedule and to reserve
$10 per family, cash only
Ages 18 months-3 years
Raising Astoria offers a variety of drop-in options for babies and toddlers, providing unstructured, supervised fun with toys, blocks, music, and more, plus an occasional bounce house to liven things up. There’s even coffee available for parents. Open play is cash only. Follow Raising Astoria on Facebook for schedule updates.

Budget-Friendly Play Spaces in Staten Island

Boom Kidz — Richmond Valley
4878 Arthur Kill Road
Open play: Hours vary; visit the website for current schedule
$11 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.

Storytime is a hit at Kiddie Wonderland. 

Kiddie Wonderland — Dongan Hills
298 Naughton Avenue
Open play: Hours vary; visit the website for current schedule
$12 for all-day play; discounts for siblings
Ages 1-7
The custom climber at Kiddie Wonderland is genuinely magical, featuring an enchanted castle theme with a dragon's eye view of the space and a turret to climb. There are smaller, separate climbers for toddlers, plus a rock wall for bigger kids to test their skills. Discounts are offered for siblings. Parties and drop-in, bilingual classes are also part of this center's programming.

Kids 'N Shape — Tottenville
153 Main Street
Open play: Daily; visit the website for current schedule.
$12 per two-hour session
Ages 1-12
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. Children are admitted on a first-come, first-served basis with a maximum of 50 kids per session.

Unless noted, all photos courtesy of the venues.

A version of this post was published in 2017; it has been updated. Louise Finnell contributed additional reporting.

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