I love exploring the city with my kids. We frequent many of the major museums, wander the unique neighborhoods throughout the city and even visit the touristy sites at least once in a while. In our adventures we have discovered some off the beaten path sites that lack the crowds, are very affordable, and fun for the whole family. Here are a few that we return to often.
Even young children will enjoy the New York City Police Museum. The Junior Officers Discovery Zone is a fun, hands-on area for children up to about 10 years old. It is a separate area just for kids, so it is easy to keep track of the little ones as they hop from activity to activity. The Police Car has real lights, the Precinct Building is a climbing structure with a slide and they can pretend to rush to the scene of the crime in the ESU truck with the siren blaring. If they aren’t totally exhausted after all of the imaginary play, the Physical Challenge requires them to run back in for for 30 seconds at a time. Located downtown on the east side of Manhattan, it is easily accessible from many subway stations. The South Street Seaport isn’t far, so you can see the ships, have some lunch and, if the weather is nice, play at the Imagination Playground at Burling Slip.
The Rubin Museum of Art is one of the most beautiful museums in the city. Located on West 17th St, it is a nonprofit institution dedicated to the Himalayas. You can just stop in for a visit (admission is free for children 12 and younger) or sign up for one of their many Family Programs. Children as young as 2 years old are invited to participate in the Yak Packers Early Childhood Art Making class. Even at this young age they take trips to the galleries, do arts & crafts and listen to stories. Drum Beats & Little Feet classes get kids ages 2-5 moving and families with older children can participate in the Art Labs. Teens are invited to get involved in after-school programs, special Teen Art Labs and volunteer to be guides. A couple of times a year they have Family Days where the kids will enjoy crafts, food, music, gallery tours and more.
If you walk by The Mount Vernon Hotel Museum & Garden on East 61st St there is a good chance you will notice the historic building, but there is also a good chance you wouldn’t stop in with your kids. However, this colonial house is a reinterpretation of a hotel that operated in the 1800s and a tour of the building will transport you and your children back in time. During the summer months there is even a cute backyard area with a gazebo to enjoy. On the 3rd Friday of each month there is a historically-themed story-time that includes an activity and dress-up time. Visit the website to see the full calendar of events.
In all of our visits to the Enid A Haupt Glass Gardens there are never more than a few other visitors. It is our own private oasis in the city. Opened in 1958 for patients and visitors to escape the hospital atmosphere and enjoy the soothing properties of nature, it is now open to the public and perfect for little ones to escape the chaos of the city. As you enter the conservatory, the first stop is the pond. You can ask an employee for fish food so the kids can feed the catfish, goldfish and turtles. Which way you go next may depend on the weather. On cold or rainy days you will want to head deeper into the garden, which is overflowing with plants and animals in cages. On warmer days, the children’s playgarden is where you will want to be. There are swings, slides, a teaching garden and room to run around.
Visit each venue’s website for specific hours and pricing information. Sign up for my weekly Macaroni Kid Newsletter or visit the website to find out what is going on the city for kids in the coming week along with helpful theater and product reviews, crafts and recipes.
Jessica Murphy is the publisher of the Macaroni Kid NYC Downtown newsletter and website. Each week she publishes a list of family-friendly events going on in Manhattan along with articles covering topics such as show reviews, product reviews, recipes and more. She has been living in Manhattan for the last 13 years. Before becoming a parent Jessica and her husband Bill loved walking the streets of NY, running in Central Park, eating out, going to shows and having fun. Once they had children they continued doing these things, but of course the types of shows, restaurants and distance of each outing had to change. Jessica is excited to publish Macaroni Kid and hopes it enables you to plan some fun filled family adventures.
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