One of the things I love about raising kids in New York City is the accessibility and variety of theater aimed at children. It is an activity that is enjoyable for the entire family in any weather. Though aimed at children most of the shows we have seen are well produced and performed by incredibly talented professionals. From small theaters to large venues I have been surprised by my children’s reactions more than once. I have to admit I enjoy watching their reactions as much of the show sometimes.
I cannot predict which shows my children like let alone your child, but I want to provide you with some theaters that have consistently produced quality family-friendly shows. Check the schedules in the coming months and try a few of the shows you think will appeal to your family’s tastes. You will soon learn what types of shows they like best. But don’t get stuck on only one genre, it is fun to try a different formats or themes because you just never know what is going to stick. Here is what I have found with my children: slapstick humor makes them laugh every time, ballet is not their thing yet, and though there have been exceptions, in general, they do not like to see their favorite cartoons ‘live’ onstage. Finally, though they like sitting on the floor at shows, participating is not their thing.
You can’t escape the ads for Broadway shows and there are some good ones aimed at the young and old. Spiderman, Mary Poppins, and The Lion King to name a few. But these are long and expensive so a potentially risky investment. My children are 4 and 6 so we will be waiting a couple of years before seeing these.
The Theater at Madison Square Garden and Radio City are the venues of choice for large touring shows like the Sesame Street Live and Phineas & Ferb. These are great for young children who love seeing familiar characters on stage. “Princess Wishes on Ice” was definitely a dream come true for my daughter.
Off-Broadway shows are often more affordable and cater to shorter attention spans. The New Victory Theater on 42nd Street offers a unique assortment of family friendly entertainment. From puppet shows where youngsters sit on the ground to February’s “Brazil! Brazil!” which brings a South American celebration involving music and soccer-inspired dance alive on stage.
The New World Stages (340 W 50th St) theaters are state of the art so the perfect venue for the inventive performances such as the Gazillion Bubble Show . The Manhattan Movement & Arts Center (248 West 60th Street) facility offers unique programs and classes. Though not at all a “kids” show, “Traces” at the Union Square Theater was one of our family favorites this year.
The Vital Theater Company is the source of some long running favorites like “Pinkalious”, in addition to these ongoing shows, each season they introduce new shows like this year’s “The Bully”.
The Manhattan Children’s Theater (380 Broadway), TribecaPAC (199 Chambers Street), and the Skirball Center (566 LaGuardia Place) all offer packages for families which makes going to the theater more affordable. Plus, purchasing a series of shows ensures that you actually go! Each season brings a fun assortment of shows at these venues. “The Lonely Phone Booth”, “The Magic School Bus, Live! The Climate Challenge”, and “The Neverending Story” respectively. Show lengths, time and seating are all appropriate for children, but be sure to verify any age recommendations. There is actually a huge difference in the attention span of a 3 versus 6 year old.
The Canal Park Playhouse (508 Canal Street) is cozy and they offer a brunch before or after the show at The Waffle Iron Cafe. Their family friendly shows are meant to appeal to both adults and children which provides an interesting mix in the audience.
Puppet shows are a wonderful introduction to theater. The Swedish Cottage Marionette Theater in Central Park is one of the most popular where they often perform some classic tales such as Peter Pan. One nice days you can enjoy a picnic on the Great Lawn before or after the show along with a trip to the playground. The Penny Jones & Co. Puppets, WonderSpark Puppets and Teatro SEA are other great options.
In addition to being a fun family activity, many theaters also offer Birthday Party packages.
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.
The views and opinions expressed on this blog are purely the blog contributors. Any product claim, statistic, quote or other representation about a product or service should be verified with the manufacturer or provider. Guest writers may have conflicts of interest, and their opinions are their own.