Central Park

7 NYC Puppet Theaters Every Kid Should Experience at Least Once

Even if your kids can't sit still for more than five minutes, chances are they'll make it through a puppet show. It's the perfect first-time theater experience: The colorful characters are captivating, the stories are usually adaptations of familiar fairy tales, the tickets are cheap (or FREE), the shows are short, and if your kids make silly faces at the stage, the puppets won't get offended.

While the Swedish Cottage Marionette Theatre in Central Park is the best known children's puppet troupe in New York City, there are many other companies regularly mounting puppet shows for families. We've got the scoop on seven places where you can see puppets in action, including marionettes, shadow puppets, and hand puppets.

Many NYC children's theater venues, such as the New Victory Theater and Symphony Space, also offer puppet shows, so don't forget to check our Event Calendar for new shows, including the magical The Very Hungry Caterpillar Show.

20 Indoor Places Where NYC Kids Play for Free

We're staring down another long Northeast winter, and entertaining the kids during this long, chilly season isn't easy or cheap. Throw in a cramped New York City apartment and a shortage of vitamin D and of course, everyone is eyeing the exit. Luckily, in NYC some of the best things in life are FREE (really).

If your kids are bouncing off the walls and your wallet is screaming for a break after all the holidays, we've got you covered. Check out our list of 20 FREE indoor destinations in Manhattan, Brooklyn, Queens, the Bronx, and Staten Island for fun, games, or just a much-needed change of scenery.

For more great indoor places, check out our Indoor Family Fun Guide which is loaded with all-ages drop-in spots.

New Year's Eve Fireworks in NYC and More 2018 Family Celebrations

There are plenty of ways to ring in 2018 in New York City. We've rounded up the city's best family-friendly options from Brooklyn fireworks and FREE bike rides to swanky (and admittedly expensive) Times Square parties. 

However you welcome the New Year, we hope it's a blast. You can find even more seasonal fun in our Holiday Guide, and more fun activities to do on school break.

Best NYC Holiday Shows for Kids: Elf, Charlie Brown, and More

'Tis the season to get the gang all dressed up to see some holiday shows. While there are plenty of spectacles to splurge on like the Radio City Christmas Spectacular and all those Nutcrackers, if you've got young children you may not want to blow all of your bucks on theater tickets.

That's why our roundup includes a range of productions, from inexpensive, low-key offerings perfect for fidgety preschoolers, to extravaganzas that are worth the investment. Bonus: We've got the scoop on how to save money on a few of the higher-priced offerings.

From live stage adaptations of holiday classics such as A Charlie Brown Christmas, Tim Burton's The Nightmare Before Christmas, and the movie Elf, to tot-friendly fairy tales and Hanukkah tales, to amazing magic tricks, here are our top 14 holiday shows for NYC families.

Christmas Tree Lightings in New York City This Holiday Season

You don't have to brave the Rockefeller Center commotion to witness a fabulous Christmas tree lighting in New York City.

We've rounded up some tree lightings that are much less crowded and every bit as hip, from Brooklyn and Queens to the Bronx and everywhere in between. These community holiday celebrations are festive and (mostly) FREE, and there’s no need to stand on your car to glimpse the goings-on. So grab that cup of hot chocolate and cozy up to one of these holiday illuminations in New York City. Find even more seasonal fun in our Holiday Guide.

9 Outdoor Ice Skating Rinks to Visit with Kids in NYC

It's time to sharpen those ice skates. Many of New York City's outdoor rinks are open for family fall, er, winter fun.

Whether you prefer to twirl with the tourists at Rockefeller Center and Central Park's Wollman Rink, or go off the beaten path to a Mommy Poppins favorite such as Lasker Rink, the city offers plenty of options for newbies to polished skaters—even a FREE skate spot. If it ever gets too cold to glide outside, you can always hit one of NYC's indoor ice skating rinks.

15 Not-So-Scary Halloween Events in NYC for the Preschool Set

When my son was a baby, I wondered if he'd ever know the joy of trick-or-treating door to door like his suburban counterparts. But over the years, I've learned that NYC really knows how to celebrate Halloween. There are a dizzying number of FREE Halloween celebrations, kid-friendly costume parades, and close-knit communities that dole out copious amounts of candy to trick-or-treaters.

For little New Yorkers, the holiday can sometimes seem more scary than sweet—or take place mostly after bedtime. So we've put together a list of 15 Halloween events perfect for the preschool set, many of them FREE. Ease them in and enjoy the holiday fun while it lasts; they'll be celebrating at the Village Halloween Parade before you know it.

For more Halloween happenings, check out our Halloween Guide and our events calendar, which is continually updated with new, fun events as we find out about them.

Free NYC Halloween Parades for Kids

Everyone loves a parade, which means we're all absolutely smitten with Halloween parades. While families with older kids may dare to take in the iconic Village Halloween Parade on Sixth Avenue in Manhattan, it can be pretty scary—it's always insanely crowded, loud, and many of the costumes are risque, gory, or in poor taste. If your children aren't up for that big Hallow-baloo, there are plenty of smaller, kid-friendly NYC neighborhood parades, in Manhattan, Brooklyn, Queens, and the Bronx, including the Ragamuffin Parade in Bay Ridge, the mega Jackson Heights parade, the famed Park Slope march, and a G-rated Village parade for little ones.

We've rounded up community-driven Halloween processions for families to watch or march in, most of which are FREE. If you don't live in a great trick-or-treating area, these parades are a wonderful way to hunt for candy in another neighborhood. Find even more seasonal happenings in our Halloween Fun Guide.

Central Park's Top Playgrounds Ranked for NYC Kids and Visitors

When out-of-towners ask me how I have managed to stay sane with three kids in Manhattan, my answer is always easy: Central Park. It's been our family playground for more than a decade. In fact, my son's first steps occurred there, and every day of elementary school in our house has started with a trek across the urban oasis, while our afternoons just don't feel quite right without a stop at the East 110th Street Playground, where my daughter finally conquered the monkey bars.

Central Park is our family's collective happy place, thanks in large part to its diverse array of playgrounds, which always keep us coming back for more (sanity saving) playtime.

In the spirit of our recent post ranking Prospect Park's best playgrounds, we present our top picks for Central Park.

Destination Playground: Central Park's Heckscher Playground

The Central Park Conservancy has been on a mission of late renovating playgrounds all along its border from south to north, but one playground has stood the test of time, not only in the decade-plus since I've been a parent, but well beyond: Heckscher Playground.

Ask any native New Yorker, and they'll tell tales of their youth spent frolicking on the interconnecting pyramid-like structures in this 1.8-acre kiddie paradise, which is Central Park's oldest and largest playground.

Though originally built in 1926, Heckscher Playground was last renovated in 2006. Featuring different play areas for preschoolers and big kids, the playground is smartly designed. It's pyramids are hard to resist in any season, but it's a particularly cool destination in the summer when the spectacular sprinklers send towering jets of water into the air, and it's water-filled walkways provide a cool respite for tired toes.

Looking for more inspiration for your next playground day? Visit our Parks and Playgrounds Guide.

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