Uptown

Upper East Side with Kids: Top 50 Things to Do, Eat, and See

Like the Upper West Side and Park Slope, the Upper East Side is one of those neighborhoods where you can barely go a block without passing some kind of kid-centric business or attraction.

Despite its somewhat snooty reputation, the 'hood has lots of fun (and often affordable!) activities for kids of all ages, from toddlers to teens. From unique play spaces to world-class art museums, lush landscaped parks, lovely independent toy stores, and afternoon tea complete with fairy wings, the Upper East Side has all that plus mansions, parades, public art, towering temples and churches, athletic complexes, and some of the priciest real estate in town.

Explore the neighborhood and see the best it has to offer NYC families with our top 50 things to do with kids on Manhattan's family-friendly Upper East Side.

Almost 50(!) Free Things to Do in May With NYC Kids

This month is all about outdoor spring fun, and we've got the lowdown on all the great FREE events happening in NYC, including some stellar street fairs and festivals, and even the start of outdoor movies and music. There's also the opening of Governors Island, a Memorial Day Weekend concert, and Kids Food Fest. With most of the events happening alfresco, New York City families will have a bit more space to spread out, throw down a blanket, and enjoy the (late!) arrival of the warmer temps.

Read on for more than 50 FREE things to do this May in New York City, including in Brooklyn, Queens, and the Bronx. Find more top events in our May GoList, or our always packed daily NYC Event Calendar.

Finally, get ready for the summer season with our roundup of the city's best beaches (opening Memorial Day), and a handy list of nearby water parks.

New York City Libraries with Great Play Spaces and Children's Rooms

It’s too cold or rainy to play outside and the kids are bouncing off the walls. What to do? Don’t feel like spending money to take the kids to an indoor play activity? The best default option, hands-down, is the library. Your kid can never finish reading all the books available, and many libraries also have children’s rooms and activities. And not only is a trip to the library an always-FREE activity, your library card gets you free access to more than 40 other institutions around NYC. To mix things up, venture beyond your own local library to these gems that have some of the best children’s play spaces in the city.

Best Family Festivals and Street Fairs in NYC This May

There are street fairs—and then there are street fairs. We don't mean those random ones selling irregular socks and fried Oreos; we're talking about true community festivals. Each one is unique, reflecting the character of its neighborhood, and many feature rides, performances, activities, and food. The hard part, of course, is deciding which community fairs to hit with the family in a calendar packed with options, but don't worry: We've taken the guesswork out of managing your family's busy festival schedule for you.

We've gone through the city's list of top annual festivals, street fairs, and carnivals and put together our roundup of top picks for May—more than two dozen. Most of these fetes are FREE or cost just a couple of bucks, and in many cases your dollars go to support a local charity or school. Here are some awesome fests happening in NYC this May.

You can find even more seasonal activities in our Spring Fun Guide.

Petting Zoos Near NYC Where Kids Can See Farm Animals

We're so fortunate to live in a city that offers an incredible array of fun spring activities for kids, but sometimes I fret over the disconnect from nature. I want my daughter to be as comfortable in the country as she is in the urban jungle, so we're always looking for ways to get out of NYC and explore the expansive farmland that borders the city.

While you can meet some furry friends at the city's wonderful zoos, and even get hands-on at their mini petting zoos, there's something particularly special about enjoying an authentic farm setting. We've rounded up our top petting zoos and animal havens to get some serious face time with furry friends. Get ready to load up the family for a day of donkey petting, goat bottle-feedings, and sheep shearing.

Here are our favorite spots for an up-close animal encounter, all within two hours of NYC.

Best Destination Sandboxes at Local Parks for NYC Kids

There's no denying it—kids love diving into a sandbox, running their shovels and hands through the grains of sand, dumping a full bucket over and generally getting their hands dirty.

Though NYC parents might get grossed out at the thought of what could be lurking in our uncovered, urban sandboxes, it's hard to refuse one of a preschooler's most beloved sensory experiences. So pull up a bench (and your cup of coffee; you'll be here a while!), and check out these eight toddler-tested, mom-approved NYC sandboxes. We've done our best to find the cleanest ones across the city. Besides, you can always wash their hands in the nearby sprinklers or park bathrooms when you're finally able to get them out.

And hey, you don't have to hoof it out to the local beach to reach this sand, which just means more time for other NYC kid activities. Find more destination playgrounds in our NYC Parks & Playgrounds Guide.

NYC's Best Playgrounds: 18 Parks Worthy of a Subway Schlep

Playgrounds may be as much a part of childhood as potty training and the tooth fairy, but to city families, having a go-to playground is a real sanity saver. When you live in a tiny apartment, the neighborhood park is like your backyard.

While New Yorkers are lucky to have many awesome local play spots, some NYC playgrounds are a cut above the rest. These spots offer plenty of space to romp and enough outdoor entertainment to make them worth a schlep on the subway. Without further ado, read on for 18 of the city's best playgrounds—our NYC playground hall of fame.

Where to Eat in Central Park Beyond the Pretzel Vendors

You're in Central Park with the kids and haven't packed a lunch. What are your food options when hunger strikes? It used to be tough to find much in the park other than pretzels, hot dogs, and ice cream.  City food staples? Yes. Healthy or yummy? Not so much. Now, thankfully, there are some better, and healthier, places to grab a bite and refuel in between your playground hopping. Here's a look at some food stops now open around Central Park and some that are coming soon.

The Best Annual Family Festivals for NYC Kids (Mostly Free)

With so much going on in NYC, it can be overwhelming to sift through all the events to land on something that's truly special. The many annual festivals that the city hosts are a great place to start. Some New York City celebrations are so great they're worth going every year, like the interactive, art-filled Figment on Roosevelt Island, the incredible (and educational) World Maker Faire New York, and Street Games, the Parks Department's tribute to old-school pastimes.

I know I'm not the only mom out there who likes to plan ahead, and since the festival season kicks into high gear this month, we figured it was a great time to round up our top annual festivals for families. Every single pick on our list is really worth your time and money—and in many cases they don't cost a penny.

Best Mother's Day Brunch Restaurants for Families Across NYC

Mother's Day is fast approaching, on Sunday, May 12, 2019, which means it's time to start planning a special day for the well-deserving mom(s) in your life. Speaking from experience, all moms really want is a little time off. You could choose breakfast in bed, but why not instead forgo chores altogether and hit one of NYC's many delicious brunch spots?

We've rounded up a host of scrumptious, kid-friendly places throughout Manhattan, Brooklyn, Queens, and the Bronx. As if that wasn't enough, we've got tons more picks in our Family-Friendly Restaurant Guide. Pinpoint your special lady's preference, make reservations, and get ready to dig in.

After brunch, head out to one of these great family events happening that Sunday. However you decide to spend the day, Happy Mother's Day from your peers at Mommy Poppins.

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