From playgrounds to museums, discover the best spots for toddlers in NYC
From sensory-filled experiences and interactive museums to sprawling parks, amusement parks and everything in between, New York City has so many engaging options for parents looking to entertain their little ones, making it the perfect destination for families with toddlers who are ready for some adventure!
If your child has just started walking and is between the ages of 12 to 36 months, they are commonly referred to as toddlers. And thankfully, NYC is home to many places where toddlers can have fun, learn, and explore. With their brains rapidly developing, toddlers are making connections and learning every day they need the stimulation so here’s the best of what NYC has to offer toddlers for entertainment and learning, throughout the year.
1. The Best Museums for Toddlers
Children’s Museum of Manhattan
At the Children’s Museum of Manhattan, you and your children can spend nearly a full day exploring its many exhibits. The museum boasts a Dora and Diego exhibit, where children can play and use their imagination at the Superpowered Metropolis. Additionally, the museum has an area called PlayWorks, which provides a drop-in Art Lab to help children develop skills in math, art, science, and reading in preparation for school. The museum also offers a variety of Early Childhood classes, such as Preschool Prep, specifically designed for children between the ages of two and three. Note: Timed-entry ticket reservations required.
212 W. 83d St.
Upper West Side
Brooklyn Children’s Museum
New York Transit Museum
If your children are fascinated by subway and bus lines, make sure to stop by the New York Transit Museum to help them release their energy. Children can climb aboard various subway cars from different eras and act as a bus driver on a replica city bus while enjoying a fun-filled experience going through turnstiles. Additionally, the museum has different exhibits, and there is a designated seating area where visitors can take a break and enjoy a snack. Note: All visitors are encouraged to book online in advance.
99 Schermerhorn St.
Staten Island Children’s Museum
Snugly situated in the charming Snug Harbor, the Staten Island Children’s Museum is definitely worth visiting, boasting plenty of green space surrounding the premises, as well as a plethora of fascinating exhibits and activities to discover within its walls, including a section devoted to enormous board games, a firehouse-themed play area called Ladder 11, a showcase of live bugs, an exhibit called “House About It” that showcases the inner workings of a house, and “Great Explorations,” an immersive exhibit with diverse environments to explore such as a rainforest, an ocean, and a tundra. During the warmer months, make sure not to miss the “Sea of Boats” outdoor area with soft, nautically-themed play structures, and water features. (Please note that the museum is closed during most holiday weekends. Advanced reservations are encouraged.)
1000 Richmond Terr.
Liberty Science Center
We are huge advocates of the Liberty Science Center located in Jersey City, especially since many of its exhibits cater to the youngest children. Let children aged 0-5 explore, balance, experience movement, and cause-and-effect at the Wobbly World. Additionally, there is a section called Dino Dig dedicated to future paleontologist enthusiasts, and a traveling exhibit usually available for preschoolers. Don’t miss the current exhibit: Thomas & Friends: Explore the Rails
222 Jersey City Blvd.
Liberty State Park
2. The Best Stroller Tours (AKA Museum Visits with Toddlers)
Occasionally, it’s the parents who crave museum visits. Fortunately, the Guggenheim, and the Brooklyn Museum of Art are examples of shining stroller tours. Please note: this is also an excellent choice for a mother’s group outing. (While many museums allow strollers, it’s best to verify with the museum before visiting.)
We also adore the outdoor stroller hikes in and around NYC. If you’re a Park Slope Parents member, they provide stroller tours of Greenwood Cemetery (especially lovely during springtime) a few times per year.
3. The Best Theater around Town for Toddlers
There is an abundance of theatrical performances available in NYC, with many specifically designed for toddlers.
Numerous show options are available throughout the city, such as the New Victory Theater (“BaoBab” as shown in here), BAM Kids, Carnegie Kids at Carnegie Hall, and Symphony Space’s Just Kidding series, which features performances for children. Alternatively, families can head to Puppetworks in Park Slope, Brooklyn, one of NYC’s oldest puppet theaters, which showcases shows every weekend.
Indulge your child’s imagination at CAMP’s exclusive sensory experience suitable for children of all ages. There is no admission fee for CAMP; you only pay for the projects you undertake. Children can paint in the Splatter Room, create slime, paint pottery, tie-dye, and much more. Besides its Columbus Circle location, you can also visit their stores at Hudson Yards, 5th Avenue, and City Point in Brooklyn—each CAMP provides a distinct experience.
4. The Best Play Spaces for Toddlers in NYC, Brooklyn & Queens
Whether it’s raining, snowing, or sunny, it’s never an issue! Visit one of our preferred play spaces (like the featured Play Lab), most of which have designated areas for young children. These are our favorite playspaces in NYC. And these are our favorite kid-approved place space a place in Brooklyn. And the best play spaces to visit in Queens.
5. Experience Free Live Music, Dance & More
Lincoln Center’s free series in the David Rubenstein Atrium, with performances scheduled. Check out the complete lineup here!
6. Visit an NYC Bookstore
Bookstores in NYC often make a concerted effort to ensure that families and children feel at ease. Discover our favorite independent bookstores for children in NYC.
7. Toddler-Friendly Classes Worth Your Time & Money
Whether you sign up for them or drop in on them, NYC provides various opportunities for singing, dancing, making a mess, and more with your child. Here are some of our favorite toddler-based classes around NYC. Drop in on a class in Brooklyn at these favorite, kid-approved spots. Or hit up a favorite toddler class in Queens here.
8. Visit Your Local Library
Remember your nearby library! Despite the abundance of storytimes available, NYC libraries organize numerous events for young children, such as music classes, live concerts, yoga, arts and crafts, and much more. (And most are free!) Explore the kids programs at New York Public Library here, Queens activities for children here, and Brooklyn Public Library programming here.
9. A Visit to FAO Schwarz Is Always a Good Idea
The NYC toy store is a great addition at Rockefeller Center, offering something for children of all ages. Get the opportunity to become a Barbie fashion stylist. Upstairs, the iconic piano from “Big” awaits and is worth a visit, along with a wide variety of adorable Steiff stuffies. The store also has a baby doll adoption center, a Build-Your-Own_RC section, an Elmo Monster factor, numerous puzzles, and more. Read about the grand opening in our article.
10. The Best Outdoors Play Spaces for Toddlers in New York
11. Where to Find Animal Encounters in New York
Encountering a large, furry creature (safely) is a unique experience for young children. NYC offers various locations where you can interact with animals and perhaps even feed them. Bookmark our complete list on where to find NYC’s best petting zoos and animal encounters.
12. Pick Your Own Produce
Throughout the year, there are numerous opportunities for young children to pick fruits and vegetables (with your assistance, of course), providing fun experiences and excellent photo opportunities. For cherries, head here. For berries, this is where to go. Fresh flowers can be plucked here. These are our favorite spots for apple-picking. Where should you pick a pumpkin? Try these patches near NYC.
13. Ride a Carousel
New York City has a plethora of merry-go-rounds, each boasting its unique style and personality. (A fish carousel? Check. A French carousel? You bet. A bug carousel? Absolutely!) These are our favorites! (Which are also great for birthday parties.)
14. Visit an Amusement Park
Amusement parks? We have those too and here are our top picks of amusement parks that can be found in NYC.
15. The Best Playgrounds for Toddlers around New York
New York City continuously offers fantastic outdoor play areas. Some of our favorites for toddlers, thanks to smaller structures, fun design features, and sometimes shade include Brooklyn Bridge Park’s Pier 1 playground (and the giant “Sandbox Village” on Pier 6), Manhattan’s Safari “Hippo” Playground, and Evelyn’s Playground in Union Square, and the accessible Playground for All Children in Flushing Meadows Corona Park. And even more awesome playground options can be found in Brooklyn.
16. The Best Beaches for Toddlers
On a hot day, why go to a sandbox when you can go to an actual beach? These are our NYC area favorite beaches that you can get to by train, and these are great ones a little farther afield if you’re looking to make a trip out of it. Headed to the Hamptons this summer? Here’s more ideas for fun while you’re there!