Midtown East

Manhattan's Best Drop-in Play Spaces and Kids' Gyms

Finding a non-membership, drop-in play spot for your toddler or preschooler in your neighborhood is like gold to New York City parents—almost as good as scoring a deal on rent. Because when it gets too cold for the city's many playgrounds, and another playdate at home seems dull (or, let's be honest, stressful), taking your kid to a cool indoor kiddie gym or other play space, where everything seems new and someone else will do the cleaning up, is a relief to the whole family.

While the outer boroughs of Queens and Brooklyn dominate the indoor play space market, Manhattan has plenty of creative kid spaces. Some of these dozen awesome spots profiled below allow families to drop in, while others ask that you make reservations, but none require any kind of long-term financial commitment.

For even more wallet-friendly play spaces citywide, see our roundup of budget-friendly play spots. And if you've got a child under the age of 5 to entertain, you might also check out our roundup of a dozen indoor play spaces perfect for the pint-sized set.

Free Times to Visit NYC Museums, Gardens, and Zoos

Many of New York City's top museums, zoos, gardens, and cultural institutions offer FREE or reduced admission on certain nights, days, or hours at least once a month—a city perk that no busy, cash-strapped parent should miss out on! Plus, many of the "grown-up" museums let kids in for free year-round.

It can be hard to keep track of when and where these freebies are available, so we've compiled an exhaustive list of reduced or FREE admission days at all of your favorite NYC cultural spots from the Bronx Zoo to the Brooklyn Children's Museum.

As always, you can check our Events Calendar for more budget-friendly kid activities every day or peruse our Free in NYC Guide. Try our Museum Guide or Zoos and Gardens Guide for more on the latest kid-friendly art and exhibitions in NYC. Also, don't forget to put your library card to work for free admission at many of these same places!

New Year's Eve Fireworks in NYC and More 2019 Family Celebrations

There are plenty of ways to ring in 2019 in New York City. We've rounded up the city's best family-friendly options from daytime celebrations for wee ones to 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 things to do with kids on school break.

Kids Play for Free at These New York City Stores

Looking for a new winter play destination? With a shiny new FAO Schwarz filled with delights and an American Girl mega-store, there's no shortage of stores in New York City where kids can play for free. You'll find options as varied as building Lego friends, exercising on the Wii Fit, or getting their train fix for the day, and the kids will be so exhausted by day's end, they might not even whine about leaving the Nintendo system behind (fingers crossed).

For more indoor play options, check out our guide to Indoor Play Spaces and Fun Zones in NYC.
 

Best Restaurants Near Rockefeller Center for Families

Some of those who visit regularly or work near Rockefeller Center admit they find the dining choices less than exciting. But whether you're there over the holidays to see the famed Rockefeller tree, ice skate, check out the holiday windows, or to enjoy one of the other fun experiences in this action-packed complex, you'll need to eat eventually, and there are some good restaurant options if you know where to look.

Here are our top picks for kid-friendly eateries near Rockefeller Center, and for more family-friendly restaurant options in NYC, check out our Restaurant Guide.

NYC's Most Dazzling 2018 Holiday Window Displays

There are very few things that can lure me into Midtown's big department stores during the holiday season. While I do make an annual exception for Macy's Santaland, the real holiday magic lies outside the doors as the holiday windows come alive with spectacular displays.

Always a Mommy Poppins favorite, and certainly a must-do FREE outing, a holiday windows walk in NYC is especially exciting this year, with interactive elements and beloved characters. We spent a good part of our Sunday afternoon checking out the dazzling displays. Read on for a peek at their magic, and relive the fun of NYC holiday windows in years past.

Things to Do and See at Rockefeller Center (Besides the Tree)

Rockefeller Center is undoubtedly the most crowded place in New York City during the holidays. Everyone, whether they live in town or are just visiting, goes to see "The Tree." But then what?

There is actually quite a bit for families to do besides gazing at the twinkling evergreen and battling tourists in this 22-acre complex. Rockefeller Center is a great holiday destination with plenty of shopping, eating, and culture for kids of all ages. Squeeze it in as part of a holiday windows walk; check it out while you wait for the Rockettes to start kicking; or grab a bite after your show—we've got great suggestions for no-reservation, family-friendly restaurants nearby.

Read on for some fun things to do at Rockefeller Center this winter.

Santa Claus Photo Spots in NYC for Christmas 2018

Santa Claus is coming to town, and he’s not camera shy. New York City parents have a host of options for where to see and pose with Santa, from the popular Santaland at Macy's to more casual events, where you can take your own festive photos of the kids while visiting Jolly Old St. Nick.

We’ve rounded up over a dozen of our favorite options for photos with Santa from across the five boroughs, including options for those who want to splurge, bring their pets, or just get it over with, as well as those with special needs. With so many alternatives, chances are, wherever you are, your kids won’t be far from Santa.

Find more seasonal fun, including a Santa brunch or tea, in our NYC Holiday Guide.

Best Holiday Train Shows in NYC for Kids: Botanical Garden and Beyond

Trains are a way of life for most New Yorkers, but there's something particularly special about the little engines and cabooses that take center stage during the holiday season. The New York Botanical Garden's Holiday Train show is one of the best things to do with kids in New York City during the Christmas season, with electric model trains whizzing by more than 150 NYC landmarks made out of acorns, twigs, bark, berries, leaves, and other botanical bits and pieces. My family and I make it a point to go every year—it's truly a quintessential New York holiday experience. There's a reason it's on our list of the top 100 things to do with kids in NYC.

But the big NYBG display isn't the only holiday train show in town. Read on for more details on all the Christmas train shows the city has to offer this season (including the Botanical Garden's big spectacle). And for an extra special holiday treat, take the kids on a full-size Christmas train ride with these nearby Polar Express and Santa locomotives.

Best High Tea Spots in NYC to Enjoy a Cup with Kids

Whether you're celebrating a special occasion or just looking for a memorable experience, afternoon tea—sometimes called high tea in New York City—can be a fun outing with kids. It's an especially great winter outing and particularly fitting during the holidays.

Several places serve high tea in New York City, with varying degrees of appropriateness for children. From the fancy Eloise Tea at the Plaza Hotel to the less frilly Russian Tea Room, there are teas—and goodies—for children of all ages and parents of all budgets. Here's our take on some of the best spots for afternoon tea with kids in NYC.

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