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Best Children's Museums for Families to Visit in New York City

New York City doesn't lack for world-class museums and cultural institutions. While I've been to The Met more times than I can count (and still haven't seen it all) and can while away an afternoon at The Whitney no problem, sometimes my kids need something with a little more action.

That's where New York City's many family-friendly children's museums come in. We've rounded up a dozen of our favorites, ranging from totally interactive playspaces to spots for making art, studying history, and much more. All of NYC's kid museums provide plenty of fun things to do, and are great indoor activities whether you're beating the summer heat or escaping winter's chill.

Best Carousels in NYC: 13 Merry-Go-Rounds City Kids Love

There's something wonderfully nostalgic about kids getting a thrill from a ride on a carousel. It's the simplest of amusement park attractions, and there are more than a dozen merry-go-rounds in New York City alone. It's easy to stumble upon them on your next park outing.

Each city carousel offers a unique spin on this traditional kiddie ride, from harbor views to a ride inside an iridescent fish. We've rounded up the best merry-go-rounds in all five boroughs.

5 NYC Day Itineraries Perfect for Preschoolers

New York can be a big, intimidating place for anyone to visit, but especially our smallest kids like preschoolers. Thankfully, the City That Never Sleeps offers plenty of opportunities to entertain even the most pint-sized of visitors.

Of course, you can visit our top zoos and amazing gardens, the mega stores for a special treat, or our top-notch museums like the American Museum of Natural History. These are all great choices and included in our 100 Things to Do In NYC Before Your Kid Grows Up list of the absolute best children's activities in NYC.

But we wanted to come up with something a little different, and a little more mellow for those preschoolers visiting from out of town, or even locals wanting to check out a new-to-you neighborhood—something that respects the limits of a preschooler's emotional and physical mileage. So we've rounded up five mom-tested itineraries that give you and your kid a glimpse of the city without totally wearing everyone down.

Planning ahead? Check out what special events might be taking place during your visit with our always-up-to-date NYC Event Calendar.

13 NYC Restaurants with Backyards and Patios for Kid-Friendly Dining

Great outdoor dining makes summer in the city tolerable, at least in my book. An hour sitting on a shady patio, sipping a cold drink, steels me for the rest of the week on sweaty NYC subways and dog-pee-scented streets. It's also a great way to savor those first sun-filled days of spring.

Of course, eating out with kids is never as simple as that, so we’ve selected not just sublime outdoor dining spots but ones with enough room to roam. Hopefully, these family-friendly Manhattan restaurants, from the Battery up to Inwood, will make you forget you are in New York City with that backyard living life, even for those of us whose apartments are too small and too dark with nary a leaf to be seen.

We’ve also covered the best backyard outdoor dining in Brooklyn and Queens. See all our restaurant recommendations in the Mommy Poppins NYC Kid-Friendly Restaurant Guide.

Best Water Playgrounds and Sprinklers for Kids in NYC

When we were growing up, New York City playgrounds had sprinklers. Now parks and playgrounds across the five boroughs have "water features"—fountains, geysers, rivers, pumps, and beautiful spraying statues. Kids just love them, and we parents prefer these newfangled playgrounds because they're pretty and cool, and make us feel as if our exorbitant NYC housing costs are justified.

Sprinkler season in NYC parks kicks into gear when the temps reach 80 degrees, although some parks may turn on water features earlier. There are hundreds of water features in NYC parks, and we've highlighted some favorites by borough: the best in Brooklyn, best of Queens, and best of the Bronx. Some are cooler (literally and figuratively) than others, and more amazing ones seem to open every year. When we first published this article in 2008, we had five favorite splashing spots. Now we're up to 27 fancy playgrounds where kids can get wet in NYC. See if your favorites made our list.

Cool Party Places to Celebrate Your Tween's Birthday

By the time you've hit the tween years, you've been to enough birthday parties to feel like you've seen it all. Looking for a new celebratory experience worthy of increasingly grown-up interests for your 10 to 13 year-old? We've rounded up 13 too-cool party spots to celebrate your tween's next big birthday. With party packages this out of the ordinary, you'll be able to please even the pickiest tween with unique fetes like zombie laser tag, DIY chocolate or ice cream, and jewelry making with semi-precious stones.

16 Great Parks and Playgrounds for NYC Kids' Birthdays

Savvy DIY parents know that during the warmer months, New York City's parks make a fun (and inexpensive) backdrop for a birthday bash. Granted, this type of party requires more work than booking one of those all-inclusive packages, but you get to control most of the details, including the cost (though sadly, not the weather).

Find more party spots in our NYC Birthday Guide, including inexpensive room rentals for when bad weather threatens the fun.

Roller Skating Rinks for Kids in NYC and the 'Burbs

All city dwellers seem to go crazy for ice skating season, but once the ice thaws and spring is upon us, where's a skater to go? It's time to introduce the kids to the old-school art of roller skating at one of these rinks within city limits and just beyond.

In addition to retro skating fun, many of these spots offer extras, including arcade games, bounce houses, and party packages. So lace up your skates and get moving at these rinks!

7 Cool Escape Rooms for NYC Kids to Conquer

For parents, life in a tiny New York City apartment can feel like a constant escape game. The clutter is closing in on you and you've got to locate two toddler shoes, a missing must-have accessory for your tween, and your own MIA cell phone before you can unlock the door to take on the mean city streets.

If your clever kids don't see the game in that routine, they might be up for a different kind of challenge. Consider splurging on an afternoon in one of these kid-friendly escape rooms, where their puzzle skills (and yours!) will be put to the test. Most offer birthday party packages, too. Be aware that most spots require a reservation to get locked in, so plan your outing in advance.

12 Rock Climbing Walls for Kids in New York City

Indoor rock climbing is a great way for kids to get some needed activity in the dead of winter or year-round. Let them bounce off someone else’s walls for a change! The sport takes concentration, discipline, and strength, all qualities we're happy to expose them to.

New York City boasts more than half a dozen indoor bouldering and rock-climbing spots, at least one in almost every borough, and more are due to open in 2019. A couple of these are only open during the summer months, but most are open year round. The best part? Kids tend to love the activity and it isn't too pricey. Try out a drop-in program, or sign up for one of the many after-school classes or break camps offered at the rock-climbing facilities profiled below.

Find more active fun in our Kids' Sports Centers Guide.

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