BILLY JOHNSON PLAYGROUND IN CENTRAL PARK
East Side of Central Park at 67th St.
This unique playground eschews traditional swings and jungle gyms in favor of structures that mimic in miniature the surrounding park. A little stone bridge, a log maze and and a timber-log swing set are just a few of the features that make the park ideal for creative play and imaginative games. Don’t miss the hidden water fountain; children can press a button that causes water to spring from the ground in the tiled mosaic area.
Riverside Park at West 91st St.
Among the world’s largest land mammals, real hippopotami are dwindling in population as a result of poaching and habitat destruction. Life-size sculptures of hippopotami, however, continue to thrive in this 91st Street playground among swings, slides and picnic tables. The cheerful pachyderms spout water in the summer, and one hippo contains a secret cavity perfect for a small child to hide in. The park is also known as a favorite spot for neighborhood children’s birthday parties.
HESTER STREET PLAYGROUND
Sara D. Roosevelt Park at Forsyth St., Hester St.
Integrated into the Sara D. Roosevelt Park, this playground in the heart of Manhattan’s Chinatown has structures to entertain bigger kids and younger kids alike. Picnic tables in the park are perfect for parents to sit while supervising their kids. The classic monkey bars, climbing rope and twisty slide are sure to enthrall younger children, while older kids can wander over to the nearby basketball courts for a pickup game.
Best Kid-Friendly Museum
MUSEUM OF THE CITY OF NEW YORK
1220 Fifth Ave at 103rd St.
While this museum wasn’t designed specifically with kids in mind, there’s plenty for them to delight in. Exhibits explore NYC’s history of live music, fashion, immigration, art, activism, and more. Relatively small compared to the Met or the Guggenheim, the museum allows children to soak in the history without getting overwhelmed. For the adults, this is the ideal place to nerd out on NYC culture and trivia, with exhibits chronicling everything from Lenape chiefs to the Dutch settlers to ‘80s graﬃti art.
DIMENNA CHILDREN’S HISTORY AT NEW-YORK HISTORICAL SOCIETY
170 Central Park West
212-873-3400 (for the NYHS)
Located inside the New York Historical Society, this children’s museum travels through American history with a special focus on New York City. Diﬀerent areas of the museum focus on diﬀerent moments in the city’s history, with hands-on activities to help kids connect with what they’re learning. The museum frequently features special programs like story hours and arts-and-crafts events; check their website to see what’s coming up.
MUSEUM OF MATHEMATICS
11 East 26th St.
While math may not fit into the average child’s idea of an entertaining afternoon, the National Museum of Mathematics is a far cry from addition and subtraction drills. The museum’s two floors of exhibits use interactive games, shapes and patterns to illustrate how math is involved in our everyday world. Children’s interest will be piqued by geometric shapes that light up in the floor and an exhibit that teaches them about fractals using colorful cameras.
1416 Second Ave.
Cozy’s has been doing NYC children’s haircuts for upwards of 25 years. Their experienced stylists know how to put nervous kids at ease, and understand how big an occasion a baby’s first haircut can be. They also do ear piercings, and braids or hairstyles for special events like first communions or bat mitzvahs.
205 West 88th St.
Open seven days a week, this salon is located inside Kidville, a play place which oﬀers classes and activities. The salon is stocked with books and movies to distract restless kids long enough for a haircut (or almost long enough, anyway). A haircut package is available, with a discount if you pay for five haircuts in advance.
ROSIE’S KIDS CUTS
275 Greenwich St.
From the fire engine-shaped chair to the gummy-bear hair pins, every detail in Rose “Rosie” Negron’s neighborhood salon is designed with children in mind. The staﬀ’s patient attitude and way with kids make haircuts here a fun and engaging experience rather than a chore. Babies and children of all ages are welcome.
Best Kid-Friendly Restaurant
THE MEATBALL SHOP
1462 Second Ave.
How much can a restaurant really do with the humble meatball? A lot, as it turns out. Several types of meatball hero are on the menu at this local chain, plus meatball appetizers and a meatball flatbread. The kids’ menu allows younger diners to get creative, choosing a meal from three types of meatballs, various sauces and several sides. (Adults will be pleased to know they also serve plenty of non-spherical foods, such as salads, ossobuco and assorted pastas.)
ALICE’S TEA CUP
102 West 73rd St.
Most children, after reading “Alice in Wonderland,” probably try to imagine what it would be like to fall down the rabbit hole themselves. Kids in New York have the benefit of Alice’s Tea Cup, where they can experience a version of the book’s whimsical setting. Fanciful foods like scones with clotted cream and over a hundred varieties of tea allow any child to feel as though they’re at a proper tea party.
519 Hudson St
Though NYC is replete with incredible restaurants, it’s not every day you come upon a place that does chicken-fried chicken and Frito pie. While I can’t, as a native New Yorker, give Cowgirl’s food a Texan’s stamp of approval, I can confirm that the county-fair vibe and colorful, kitschy decor make it fun and family-friendly.
Best Toy Stores
MARY ARNOLD TOYS
1178 Lexington Ave.
NYC may have lost its iconic original FAO Schwarz location a few years back, but we still have toy stores with a place in the city’s history. Mary Arnold, which claims to be New York’s oldest continually operating toy store, is a local gem of a boutique shop with a great selection of high-quality toys. The personal touch available here is worlds away from the big-box toy stores. They sell an array of seasonal items, and often have old-school toys that can be tough to find elsewhere.
WEST SIDE KIDS
498 Amsterdam Ave.
At least fifteen years ago, I can personally vouch for the fact that West Side Kids supplied a marble-trading and -collecting craze among Upper West Side grade-schoolers. Who knows if cat’s eyes and comet marbles are still popular, but whatever the kids are into these days, West Side Kids probably has it.
60 West 15th St.
This family-owned shop was named Best Indie Toy Store by New York Magazine. Their carefully curated stock includes something for children of every age. Staﬀ care about what they do and are happy to recommend the ideal toy for your child. Their website also helpfully allows you to shop by brand, type of toy, or age.