Best of New York City for Kids 2014: 21 New Must-See NYC Spots
One of my favorite things to do over holiday break is look back through the 500 or so posts we've published throughout the year to remind myself of all the cool places for kids that have opened since January. (Yeah, I'm nerdy like that.) Although we were sad to say goodbye to some big family destinations (The Moxie Spot, Bowlmor Union Square and the soon-to-shutter Scholastic Store), one of the great things about New York City is that there's always something new and interesting opening up.
In 2014, we welcomed a few new state-of-the-art parks and playgrounds, some offbeat indoor play spaces, and a couple of new or overhauled museum. Even if you're still working your way through our list of the best new family destinations for 2013 (or 2012 or 2011 or 2010), here are 21 brand-new New York City attractions to add to your must-explore list.
After a $91 million renovation, the Cooper Hewitt Smithsonian Design Museum reopened in December with expanded gallery space and cutting-edge technology that personalizes your experience. More than 200,000 objects from 30 centuries of design are on display in the remodeled Fifth Avenue mansion, and every visitor receives a digital pen (launching in mid-January) that allows you to virtually collect interesting items and play with them on brand-new interactive design tables. There's also a new Immersion Room and a Process Lab where visitors of all ages can explore a variety of design concepts in both digital and analog ways.
The New York Hall of Science debuted a new permanent hands-on Design Lab where kids can get creative with a variety of STEAM'D-themed projects (Science, Technology, Engineering, Art, Math and Design).
Also of note, especially for budding goths: the new Morbid Anatomy Museum in Gowanus, which displays esoteric artifacts of mourning and death, and occasionally hosts FREE kids' events like art workshops and offbeat holiday parties.
The 9/11 Memorial Museum also opened in 2014, though whether to visit with kids is an intensely personal decision. If you are interested in checking it out as a family, we have tips for how to prepare them and how to snag free tickets.
New Roller Rinks
NYC got two brand-new roller-skating rinks this year, both in Brooklyn: the Pier 2 Roller Rink in Brooklyn Bridge Park and the Lakeside roller rink in Prospect Park. Both rinks are seasonal so they're currently closed, but we expect them to reopen come spring.
New Parks & Playgrounds
A bunch of new or overhauled green spaces opened this year. We covered a bunch, and while some were modest, a few really stood out as destination playgrounds.
The High Line opened its third and final section, which happens to contain some of the elevated park's best kid attractions, including the Pershing Square Beams play area and the 11th Avenue Bridge.
Governors Island, already a top summer destination for families, unveiled 30 acres of new parkland that includes wooden climbing structures, a rope web, swings, 50 hammocks, and a large play lawn with stunning views of New York Harbor and the Statue of Liberty.
After years of delays and $38 million, four derelict piers were transformed into Brooklyn's waterfront Bush Terminal Park featuring sports fields and open space with awesome New York Harbor views.
Brooklyn Bridge Park debuted two new piers with a host of attractions. Pier 2 boasts basketball, bocce, handball and shuffleboard courts; swings, fitness equipment, play turf, walk-up kayaking and the aforementioned seasonal roller rink. Meanwhile, Pier 4 has the Beach, a sandy shoreline that gives visitors East River access.
And finally, in warm weather, Prospect Park's Lakeside Splash Pad, located right next to the roller rink, is an incredible place for kids to cool off with dozens of water jets shooting out of the walls.
New Rides & Amusement Parks
Although they're all closed for the winter, these rides should be back and spinning come springtime:
Staten Island's beachfront Fantasy Shore Amusement Park featuring a handful of mild rides and games perfect for the preschool set.
The Staten Island Zoo's Conservation Carousel featuring two dozen mostly endangered creatures to ride, including a Komodo dragon, a koala, a rhinoceros, a polar bear and a Tamandua.
Finally, Coney Island's Luna Park debuted a brand-new roller coaster, the Thunderbolt, inspired by the thrill ride of the same name that was demolished in 2000. With a top speed of 55mph and a stomach-dropping 90-degree vertical free fall, this is for tweens and up!
New Indoor Places to Play
While lots of members-only kiddie gym chains opened new locations in 2014, we were particularly impressed by the independent play spaces that debuted, all of which offer open play hours:
Enjoy bouncy houses, inflatable slides and a rock climbing wall at Astoria's Bounce 'N Play, which was opened by a local Queens mom.
Another mom-owned and operated business: Blueberry Kids, Inc. in Prospect Heights is both a children's boutique and play space, and even offers drop-off child care!
Great for school-age kids, Park Slope's Brooklyn Game Lab offers challenging analog play sessions (think card and board games) that help kids hone their critical thinking, diplomacy and collaborative skills.
Finally, Bowlmor Chelsea Piers just opened a city-themed laser tag adventure and ropes course, which we're dying to check out with our tweens (participants must be at least 44 and 48 inches respectively, so it's great for middle schoolers). Expect a post sometime in the new year!
Other Cool New Attractions
These last four spots don't fit into any of the categories above, but they're all worth a visit if you haven't been:
Popular Prospect Heights' ice cream parlor Ample Hills Creamery opened a new two-story scoops shop in Gowanus where you can indulge in offbeat artisanal flavors. This outpost is particularly kid-friendly, with a small play area, a roof deck and a window through which you can watch the staff make the sweet stuff.
The Lego Store debuted its new Flatiron District flagship location, which, in addition to selling a slew of sets, hosts FREE mini model building sessions the first Tuesday of every month.
In an era when brick-and-mortar bookshops are going the way of the dodo, we were thrilled when independent Morningside Heights lit spot Book Culture opened a new Upper West Side outpost on Columbus Avenue.
And one of the top spots to build robots in Brooklyn opened a new Manhattan location. Though saying Brooklyn Robot Foundry Tribeca sounds a little strange, we're certainly fans of its hands-on workshops.
What are your favorite places for families that opened in NYC in 2014? Tell us in the comments.