The New York Public Library is great free spot to stop by with kids when visiting New York City. Located on 5th Avenue, it’s the second largest public library in the United States, and fourth largest in the world.
The library is home to more than 51 million items, from books, e-books, and DVDs to research collections.
Most tourists enjoy taking a photo Patience and Fortitude, the famous pair of marble lions that stand in front of the buildings entrance at Fifth Avenue and 42nd Street in Manhattan, but don’t venture inside.
If you’re visiting with kids in tow, I highly recommend dropping by the Children’s Center at 42nd Street to enjoy free access to a wide range of children’s literature, music, and media.
The library runs free storytimes suitable for kids from birth to age five. The full program is on their website.
The Children’s Center is open daily, same hours at the library, except Sundays 1pm-5pm
The New York Public Library
5th Ave at 42nd St, New York, NY 10018, United States
Hours: Mon 10am-6pm, Tue & Wed 10am-8pm, Thur-Sat 10am-6pm, Sun closed
Prices: FREE Get Directions
Little artists will love New York’s Children’s Museum of the Arts, a hands-on art museum dedicated to engaging kids aged 10 months-15 years. While the museum runs many hands-on programs throughout the year, we just love to drop by for a creative day out whenever we are in town.
So what’s there to do?
Explore the current exhibition in the Gallery and join in exhibit-themed workshops.
In the Media Lab, learn how to animate or watch a short film made by CMA students.
Mould a scene from your imagination at the very popular Clay Bar (ages 5 and over).
Upon request, record a song, speech, or score a soundtrack in the Sound Booth (only available on Thursday, Saturday, or Sunday).
Kids under five can get messy with art materials in the WEE Arts early childhood studio.
Head to the Fine Arts Studio is to paint, draw, sculpt, or sew an original masterpiece.
What you need to know before you go:
The Clay Bar is one of the most popular stations so sign up for a 35 minutes session as soon as you arrive then check out the other areas of the museum while you wait for your time slot.
The WEE Arts Studio for kids under five is open Monday, Wednesday, and Friday from 12-3:30pm Thursday, 12-6pm, and weekends from 10am-5pm. The studio is also open for WEE Arts Drop in sessions when the museum is closed to the public every Monday through Friday from 10:45 AM – 12 PM and Wednesday from 1:45-3 PM.
Prepare to get messy! While there are smocks provided, dress your child in clothes that they can get paint on.
Children’s Museum of the Arts 103 Charlton St, New York, NY 10014 Online Hours: Mondays: 12-5 PM Tuesdays & Wednesdays: WEE Arts Drop In Classes* ONLY ( for ages 5 & under, see below) Thursdays & Fridays: 12-6 PM Saturdays & Sundays: 10 AM-5 PM Prices: $12 per person Get Directions
It can seem like a big undertaking to take little ones to the MoMA. With its small rooms and quiet atmosphere, it can feel like a daunting prospect. However, the MoMA loves kids — just keep strollers and toddlers several feet from the art works and you’ll be fine. Use our guide below to enjoy showing your tiny tot or older child the beautiful of modern art.
This is your best bet with a baby or toddler. Stroll them around the exhibits you want to see (I’d suggest choosing only one exhibit per visit), then release them in the sculpture garden to play.
Bonus tip: The sculpture garden is free to visit on its own every morning from 9-10:30am. After that time you’ll need to buy a ticket, so get in early if you want to do a test run with just a little bit of culture before taking on the entire museum.
The MoMA offers programs for children ages 4 – 14 and their parents and caregivers. All programs are free.
Pick up a free art card or printed guide (you can download the guide here in advance) with activities, questions and ideas for looking at art in the MoMA.
MoMA Audio for Kids
The MoMA has special kid-friendly audio guides.
Kids ages 4 – 14 learn about ideas and techniques in modern and contemporary art in these free workshops.
The MoMA hosts free screenings of family films every month. They tend to show unusual films you might otherwise never see (no Disney here!)
MoMA Art Labs
Adults and kids can experiment, play, and create art in this interactive space. Explore tools, techniques and ideas about art in a family-friendly environment.
MoMA Art Lab App
Live too far from the MoMA to make a visit in person? Download the MoMA Art Lab app (suitable for ages seven and up) and your kids can enjoy creating artworks such as a shape poem, sound composition or group drawing.
Museum of Modern Art 11 West 53rd St. btwn 5th & 6th Ave.
As transplants to this glorious city, we’re constantly seeking out fun new ways to experience everything NYC has to offer. We try to balance obvious kid-centric activities with things that we, as adults, are interested in. I also hope that exposing Missy E to art and culture will inspire in her an interest when she is older too.
I’ve always loved art galleries in particular, and never get sick of visiting the grande dame of museums and art galleries, the Metropolitan Museum of Art (AKA the Met). We used to take E fairly frequently to the Met when she was a baby and young toddler, when she was easily amused by large paintings with bright colors. We hadn’t taken her in a long time, especially since she hit the destructive toddler stage, out of fear of an extremely large bill at the end of our visit.
So it was with a bit of trepidation that we decided it was finally time to revisit the Met, especially because we wanted to check out the new Roof Garden Commission, an installation by Dan Graham with Günther Vogt. Major plus: Gardens are generally not breakable or easily ruined by grimy toddler fingerprints.
Since it was a special occasion, we dressed E in a super cute outfit, highlighted by her brand new shoes that she’s been dying to wear — a sparkly silver pair called the Alexis Silver by Pediped. E was so delighted with her fancy shoes that she showed them to literally every single person we encountered on our trip up there (“My shoes!! They’re sparkly!!”).
First things first however: getting to the Met. It’s a long train ride for us to the 86th St Station, so by the time we reached our stop, we all needed a snack. We dropped by Dean and Deluca (1150 Madison Ave at 85th St) to load up on coffee and croissants. Note: be sure to finish your food and coffee before entering the Met, or try to stow the food away until you get to the rooftop garden.
As soon as we reached the staircase leading to the museum, E and her fancy feet took off at a fast gallop. Let the races begin!
The key to enjoying an art gallery with a small child is to pick one thing you really want to see and to not try for anything more than that. Since the rooftop garden was our aim, we made our way to the rooftop elevator straight away, rather than browsing around the large halls.
We did however choose the path to the elevator that seemed to most intrigue Missy E — the Greek and Roman hall filled with sculptures. While we were a bit terrified of her crash tackling priceless art and smashing things, she was remarkably well behaved and surprisingly docile. We pointed out things we thought she might be interested in, like animals or statues of people, and she was particularly concerned about the statues that were missing limbs or heads.
The fountain was also a particular favorite. She was fascinated by the money in there, so we gave her spare change and taught her how to throw in coins and make wishes. “What do you wish for?” “The playground!”. Of course. “Anything else?” “Lions. And giraffes!”. Er, sorry Miss E. Wrong spot for those. But we will keep it in mind when we next visit the zoo!
Next stop, the rooftop garden. There is a special elevator that takes you up to the roof — ask for directions as you enter or you’ll be walking around in circles trying to find it. The garden is open seasonally, and offers spectacular views of Central Park and the surrounding buildings. It’s also a space where kids can run around a bit, particular with the current extremely kid-friendly exhibition. The Roof Garden Commission is kind of like a garden maze, with two-way mirrored glass set between ivy hedgerows, and is especially fun for toddlers. Missy E really enjoyed the maze aspect of it, playing hide and seek with us, and also got a thrill out of seeing her reflection in the glass.
All the while, the bright sunshine caught the sparkles on E’s shoes, making her fast-moving feet appear to actually be silver. With full sparkle from tip to toe, they are every girly-girl’s dream come true, as well as having all the features that matter to adults: a flexible rubber sole with grip on it for climbing, sparkles that are part of the material rather than glued on (so there is no loose glitter floating around the apartment), and an adjustable strap to keep the shoes on her feet when she’s running around like a crazy person.
These Pediped shoes also feature Memory Foam Technology (MFT). This means that the shoes include a memory foam insole that shapes perfectly to the child’s foot, thus acting like a custom insole and supporting the foot in all the right places. As a result, the shoes are an excellent fit and are super comfy. MFT also prevents kids’ little feet from slipping in the shoe by providing a secure fit. What I love most about these shoes is how they dress up any outfit, but still provide the support and fit that growing (and busy) feet need.
After the museum, we made E’s wish come true by taking her to the Hecksher Playground next door. Lucky her shoes were made for climbing!
Metropolitan Museum of Art
1000 Fifth Avenue (at 82nd Street)
New York, NY 10028
Hours: Daily, Sun-Thur 10am-5:30pm, Fri & Sat 10-9pm.
The Roof Garden Commission is on display April 29–November 2, 2014
The Alexis Silver Pediped shoes retail for $59 and are available on the Pediped website.
Brunch With My Baby was provided with a sample for reviewing purposes. All opinions, as always, are our own.
Right, so this cold snap means we need to find places that are warm and entertaining for a toddler, FAST. The American Museum of Natural History (AMNH) is the the perfect place to take an active kid. It has enough rooms, exhibits and general cool stuff to occupy kids of all ages all day — and their parents too (praise be!).
The AMHN has plenty of special exhibits on as well as the permanents like ye olde dinosaurs. If you’re planning a day at the museum (and with toddlers, two hours often feels like a whole day), make sure you visit these toddler-pleasers:
Origami Holiday Tree The Origami Holiday Tree is a tradition that goes back 40 years at the museum. Volunteers start folding the ornaments in July to complete the hundreds of creatures that are displayed on the tree. Every year the tree has a different theme — this year it’s Wicked, Wild, and Wonderful, in honor of the Museum’s new exhibition The Power of Poison. The animals are mostly easily identifiable, even for toddlers, so you can easily spend a long time just at the tree, asking your toddler to show you the different animals, and pointing out those they they might not be able to identify themselves. It’s also a good photo op.
Dates: Through January 12, 2014 Entry: Included with general admission
Dinosaurs Everyone’s favourite dinosaurs are crowd pleasers for the toddler set too. We like to let Cheese loose in the dinosaur rooms and watch her roar at the T-rex. If your kid (or spouse) is a dinosaur freak, take the “Dino Tour” suggested by the AMNH website to help visitors take in all the dinos on offer. The most entertaining part of the dinosaur exhibits for us is when Cheese tells her dad that the T-Rex needs to brush his teeth (see pic above).
Dates: Permanent exhibit Entry: Included with general admission
The Butterfly Conservatory
These beautiful insects flutter into the museum every year. Entry is timed, so you need to buy a ticket for this special exhibit, and play close observance to the rules. I’d suggest taking only babies or older toddlers who can follow directions into this exhibit, as the butterflies are within toddler-reach at all times. The butterflies like to land on visitors — making for some very exciting times for toddlers when they experience their light touch. An enchanting experience, not just the toddlers.
Dates: Through May 26, 2014 Entry: Additional ticket required
Whales Of The Deep
This exhibit is fascinating for adults, and fun for kids. There is a life-sized whale heart that kids can crawl inside, and a massive sperm whale skeleton. Cheese’s favourite part of the exhibit was the sound chamber where you could spin a wheel and select a whale, and then listen to its distinctive sounds.
Dates: Through January 5, 2014 Entry: Additional ticket required
Frogs: A Chorus Of Color This live exhibit features frogs in bright orange, blue and red. Toddlers and kids of all ages will enjoy seeing such a large variety of frogs from around the world. It’s a rare chance to get up close to these critters, not to be missed for frog-lovers of all ages.
Dates: Through January 5, 2014 Entry: Additional ticket required
Milstein Hall of Ocean Life The 94-foot-long, 21,000-pound model of a blue whale hanging from the ceiling is a must-see for every visitor. The hall has recently been renovated, and now features 750 sea creatures, including computerized glowing jellyfishes, and includes modern technology in the exhibits, such as high-definition video projections and interactive computer stations. The best spot in the room is lying directly underneath the whale on the floor. No kidding. It’s amazing how different the world looks from down there.
Dates: Permanent exhibit Entry: Included with general admission
On a stupidly hot day, we were dying for an indoor space with super strong air-conditioning, where Cheese could also run around. We caught the A/C train straight up to 81st street to check out the Children’s Museum of Manhattan (CMOM).
The CMOM is a five-story paradise for kids. Each floor contains either permanent or special exhibits, which are highly interactive, and suitable for children of all ages— from birth on up. Cheese, at 22 months, particularly loved the “PlayWorks” exhibit, featuring a fire truck, MTA bus and a giant talking dragon who “eats” letters.
Other exhibits of note included an outdoor water play area in summer, a mural wall for kids to play on, a sand pit, a soft play area for babies and a Dora The Explorer rainforest world (with a jungle canopy and play exotic animal exhibits for kids to discover).
We went on the 4th of July holiday and it was not overly busy, which you’d expect on a public holiday (maybe everyone was out barbecuing?). You’ll need to check your stroller at the entrance, so bring a carrier for kids who aren’t strong walkers. Also, there are easy-to-access bathrooms with change tables available.
After working up an appetite we ducked into Cafe Lalo across the street (which is worth a visit on its own any day!) for a snack.
Since it was so hot, we each ordered the “Lalo’s Special” ($11.50). It’s a bowl of frozen yogurt with your choice of berries, fruit or nuts, and a fresh-baked breakfast pastry of your choice. We both ordered ours with the berries and went with an apple danish and cranberry scone since they were only two remaining pastries. As always, the yogurt was perfect, with the fresh mixed berries giving sweet zings of flavour to the tart yogurt. While the pastries weren’t our first choices (I’d usually go for a pain au chocolat, and Alec a plain crossant), they were delicious. The apple danish was flaky with big chunks of apple, and the cranberry scone was densely packed with sweet bursts of cranberry.
We let Cheese share our dishes—she loved the yogurt and berries most of all.
Cafe Lalo is actually known for two things—desserts (they have over 100 whole cakes, pies and tarts available), and for a famous scene in the movie “You’ve Got Mail“, starring Tom Hanks and Meg Ryan. As such, it’s always packed, either with lovers of sweets like myself, or busloads of tourists—who showed up at just the same time we did that day. The tourists mostly stayed in the front of the cafe to order a dessert to go, so it wasn’t as obtrusive as you’d expect.
The interior—with its walls covered in Toulouse Lautrec-esque prints—is charmingly Parisian. If you block out the decidedly non-European voices around you, it’s easy to imagine you’re in a cafe in Paris.
Taking children to Cafe Lalo is a mixed bag. They’re not especially set up for kids, so come prepared for your visit —you’ll need to leave the stroller outside, and be sure to speak up and ask for anything you need for your child.
Last bite: Drop by for a snack or dessert for a touch of Paris on the UWS. Kids are welcome—order them a pastry or share a “Lalo’s Special” for a fun afternoon (or morning) treat.
Stroller storage: You can’t bring your stroller inside, but they’ll store it for you somewhere mysterious under the restaurant. Easy access: No. Quite a few steps. Change tables: No. The bathrooms are pretty small. Kids’ menu: No, but there’s so much to choose from, from bagels and muffins to steamed eggs or homemade waffles.
201 West 83rd St. (between Amsterdam Ave. & Broadway)
New York, NY 10024
Phone: (212) 496-6031
Hours: Mon-Thur 8am-2am; Fri 8am-4am; Sat 9am-4am Sun 9am-2am. Holidays until 4am.
Children’s Museum of Manhattan
212 W. 83rd St (between Amsterdam Ave. & Broadway)
New York, NY 10024
Phone: (212) 721-1234
Hours: Sun-Fri 10am-5pm; Sat 10am-7pm. Closed Mondays.
One of the best places to take kids of all ages is the American Museum of Natural History. We’ve been taking Cheese there since she was in utero – true story. Whether you’re taking your baby, toddler or bigger kid, there’s literally something for everyone to enjoy. Babies are happy to look at ceiling fans, so the constant changing scenery of exhibits makes them happy to just watch everything pass by. Toddlers love the dinosaurs and giant whales, and bigger kids can get involved in the exhibits.
Before a trip to the museum, you really need to food up to get through the day. Instead of eating at the museum cafe, check out these nearby restaurants that you and the kids will all enjoy.
Best elegant dining:Sarabeth’s West
Book a table for a finer dining experience at Sarabeth’s West, where kids are welcome (and usually present, in abundance!). Try their four flower juice and the ricotta pancakes or omelette. No need to order for toddlers – they’ll steal your delicious brunch right off your plate. Ask for a kid’s sippy cup to entertain young ones and buy you a bit more time.
423 Amsterdam Avenue (80th Street)
Phone: (212) 496 6280
Hours: Mon-Sat 8am-10:30pm, Sun 8am–10pm
Best Friendly Staff:Isabella’s
Not only is the food amazing at Isabella’s, but the staff really go above and beyond to make families feel at home. Waitstaff happily entertained Cheese when we last visited, as well as delivering fast service and perfectly cooked food. FYI I had an omelette and it was devine. Last tip: be sure to book a table as they’re super popular and get busy on weekends.
359 Columbus Ave
Phone: (212) 724 2100
Hours: Mon-Fri 11:30am-10pm Sat-Sun 10am-11pm
Most appealing to little (and big!) kids:Sugar and Plumm
“Purveyors of yumm”, Sugar and Plumm are bright, cheerful and full of treats. They deliver a great brunch menu, sure to delight everyone in the party, regardless of their age. Kids are catered for with an innovative menu, sippy cups, crayons and a menu to colour in. The drawback: no reservations, so expect a long wait on weekends.
Sugar and Plumm
377 Amsterdam Ave
Phone: (212) 787 8778
Hours: Mon-Fri 9am-10pm, Sat-Sun 8:15am-11pm
Best fast food option:Shake Shack UWS
Fast food doesn’t necessarily mean bad food, as proven by the ever-popular Shake Shack. Right outside the museum, and only a block from Central Park, this is the best bet if you’re in a hurry. Solid burgers, fries and shakes will please most fussy eaters. The shakes are an especially big hit with the toddler crowd. They have high chairs and change tables, plus a downstairs rec room with extra seating, so be sure to check it out if the street level area is packed.
Shake Shack, UWS
366 Columbus Avenue
(at West 77th St)
Phone: (646) 747 8770
Hours: Daily, 10:45am-11pm