Midtown East

Places to Play in Midtown East: Parks & Playgrounds, Indoor Play Spaces & Cool Culture Spots

Midtown East may not be the first neighborhood that pops into your head when you picture a day out in a lovely park or an indoor play date at a cool romping spot. But once you get past the steel and concrete office buildings, you'll find a handful of great green spaces in the eastern part of the district. More impressively, there's a plethora of indoor destinations where kids can play for FREE like the hands-on high-tech Sony Wonder Technology Lab, the Children's Center at 42nd Street at the New York Public Library and Nintendo World. And if you're willing to shell out a few bucks, there's also the one-of-a-kind play space Heimbold Family Children’s Playing and Learning Center at Scandinavia House.

Here are the top indoor and outdoor drop-in play spots for kids in Midtown East.

Make Your Own Toys in NYC: Where Kids Can Build Muppets, Cars, Stuffed Animals & Dolls

Unfortunately FAO Schwarz closed in July 2015; we're looking into whether the make-your-own-toy experiences located there will move elsewhere. Shopping for toys is fun, but creating your own customized plaything is a much cooler and memorable experience. While NYC is filled with craft spots where kids can walk away with cute, homemade creations, there are only two places in town where children can drop in and make their own high-quality toys that look like they were just plucked from the retail shelf: FAO Schwarz and the Build-A-Bear Workshop. At these two megastores, kids can design their own dolls, cars, stuffed animals and more, usually not for much more than these items would cost anyway.

These make-your-own-toy experiences can also be turned into over-the-top birthday parties. Not only do the kids have a blast designing their own playthings, they go home with a party favor they'll truly treasure instead of those awful plastic-filled goody bags that always end up in the landfill.

NYC Allergen-Free Bakeries: 10 Sweet Spots for Gluten-Free, Nut-Free & Dairy-Free Cakes & Other Treats

In addition to having a teenager with special needs, my family was recently thrust into the world of food allergies. Our youngest is severely allergic to dairy, soy and nuts, and since I'm still nursing, that means I can't eat anything with those ingredients either. We've been allergen-free for about a year now, but as my son gets older, he’s beginning to beg for the same goodies that his brothers and sister get, making feeding the kids quite challenging, especially when we're out and about.

Thankfully, NYC isn't just filled with allergen-free restaurants, it also has plenty of allergen-free bakeries. In fact, I've discovered so many delicious shops selling nut, soy, dairy and gluten-free treats like cakes, cookies and even ice cream, I'm almost grateful to be eating allergen-free... almost. Here are 10 of my family's favorites.

Resources for NYC Dads: Meet-ups, Listservs & Support Groups for Fathers

We don't want to say that dads are the new moms because that sounds like some line you'd see in the ads for that awful new Fox sitcom. But fathers certainly are everywhere you look these days, beaming at ballet class, wiping boogers at the playground, and not just on weekends, either. New York City is definitely a hands-on dad kind of town every day of the week.

But just like moms, dads need support, too, whether just to hang with their peers or something more formal. Here are some great resources for New York City fathers of all stripes.

Free & Cheap Indoor Movies for NYC Kids

During the winter, families try to pack their free time with stimulating activities to keep out the stir-crazy. Museums, shows and, of course, movies are always a good bet. But before you go into hock taking the kids to your local cineplex, did you know that you can catch family movies for FREE (or on the cheap) throughout the year? Here are six great places where you can see no-cost or inexpensive flicks, making your "free" days a little freer.

Best NYC Brunch Spots for Families? Try A Hotel

The wonderful thing about brunch is that it embodies a sense of luxury and decadence: Waking up late, lingering over indulgent breakfast foods, and sometimes even drinking before noon! But then there’s brunch in NYC, which often includes waiting ages for a table at crowded and noisy restaurants. That may have been fine when you were childless, but now that you have kids, you're just happy if you can eat some eggs and get home without a meltdown. Hitting a trendy brunch spot and savoring a second cup of coffee is out of the question.

Personally, I’d given up on brunch long ago until a random and fortuitous thing happened. Last fall, I was forced to have breakfast in a hotel and something dawned on me. Hotels are great at breakfast, they are generally kid-friendly and, aside from a few of the famous ones, they never have lines for brunch.

To test my theory, I set out to look for the best hotel brunches with kids in NYC. Over the past six months, I’ve been brunching with my family at hotels all over Manhattan to find out if they really are the special secret I imagined them to be. After months of selfless brunch testing (see the sacrifices I make for you?), the results are in. I’ve discovered some truly off-the-radar brunch spots that you should definitely add to your list. After all, just because you have kids doesn’t mean you can’t enjoy the finer things in life—you just need to find the right place to do it.

5 Royal Ways to Play Princess for NYC Kids

Most little kids don't need an excuse to dress up. In fact, it's tough to get some of them to dress down. (I've been through that "But mommy, I need to wear my princess dress to school!" battle too, trust me.)

While it's great to put on fancy clothes just for the fun of it, sometimes it's nice to find a special outing to go with them. A few months ago, we shared our ideas for an exciting day out for wannabe pirates. Today, we've got royal suggestions for aspiring princesses and princes in NYC. We covered some of these experiences in our previous princess post but that was a number of years ago and royals need to keep up on all the latest fashions. One thing that hasn't changed much since then? The high prices for some of these destinations. But we've got a few FREE recommendations, too, to make sure your princess doesn't turn into a pauper overnight. So before you pass on those old Halloween costumes, here are five great ways to play princess with NYC kids. You can find more inspiration for themed outings in our Party Guide.

5 Unique Mother's Day Brunch Ideas in NYC: More Than Just a Meal

Mother's Day always feels like so much pressure. Where will you brunch? Will the kids like it? Will you ever be able to pay off the credit card bill? With Mother's Day fast approaching on Sunday, May 12, it's time for you (or your partner) to start planning (although what's the old adage? If you want something done right...).

Our NYC Kid-Friendly Restaurant Guide is filled with fantastic family restaurant recommendations in all five boroughs, including eateries with family entertainment. We even have two posts dedicated to traditional Mother's Day brunch options, both swanky spots and reader favorites. But if you're looking for a unique Mother's Day brunch experience, one that comes with more than just a meal, we have five offbeat ideas that include arts and culture, a cool waterfront foodie tour and fun at an iconic racetrack.

8 Spots for Young NYC Inventors: Places Where Kids Can Create Robots, Buildings and More

Children are natural inventors. They're always creating, building and tinkering, and coming up with inventive ways to solve life's problems. Take my oldest son, who after watching me scramble for his little sister's discarded sippy cup for the umpteenth time proposed that we add pop-out wings to her stroller to catch whatever she chucked.

While he never did figure out how to develop that product, he's certainly kept busy over the past few years inventing all sorts of other things at a variety of creative places. Here are eight NYC spots where your budding Benjamin Franklins can be inspired to make robots, model buildings, video games and lots of other cool stuff.

Holiday Break Camps for NYC Kids: Science, Nature, Chess and Other Enrichment Programs

Starting Friday, December 21 (or even earlier for private school students), New York City kids are in for a nice, long holiday break. Parents, not so much—especially if you need to work on many of the days the kids are off from school. Luckily, NYC has plenty of holiday camps to keep children entertained while you head to the office, to the grocery store or to the spa (hey, it could happen).

Although in past posts we've lumped different kinds of school break camps together, from arts to athletics to academics, this time around we're focusing specifically on enrichment programs, where kids can get hands-on experience in robotics, chess, fashion, foreign languages and even construction. Some of the camps sound so cool, we wish they took grown-ups. You can find even more December break camps and other seasonal fun in our Holiday Guide.

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