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Children's Museum of Art (Photo: Will Ellis)

8 Best Indoor Play Spaces in New York City for Kids

Like everything else in the city, NYC's drop-in play spaces are highly original with kid-approved features -- a zip line, toddler pool and triple slide are just the beginning

When it’s too cold or rainy for the playground, and your 7 A.M. Enfant-bound offspring is getting antsy, it’s time to get out of the house and blow off steam at one of New York City’s amazing indoor play spaces. Hidden throughout the city, these private spaces cater to the young antsy-pants crowd and their exasperated keepers, and they don’t require any planning ahead. Surprise your brood with a trip to one of these eight venues, whether an art facility with a petting zoo or an activity center tucked into the nook of a museum. We even found options where you can drop your kid off for a few hours while you run errands. Yes, those ubiquitous Manhattan Mini Storage ads cleverly remind us that raising a child in New York City is like “growing an oak tree in a thimble,” but step out of your thimble, and the city starts to feel more like one giant interconnected playground.

 

Discovery Room at the American Museum of Natural History

Discovery Room at the American Museum of Natural History (Photo: DFinnin/RMickens, courtesy of AMNH)

Upper West Side: Museum of Natural History’s Discovery Room
Best for ages: 5 to 12 years
The Museum of Natural History with its giant whale and intricate wildlife displays is a New York City kid mecca (If you’ve ever been on a rainy Sunday, you know what we mean), so it’s no surprise that cool kids gravitate toward the Upper West Side museum’s discovery room. Everything from tracking earthquakes to bird-watching to a quick hands-on archeological dig or model dinosaur building will keep 5- to 12-year-olds busy exploring. The first 40 minutes of your visit to the Discover Room are free. After that time period, consider buying tickets to the Hayden Planetarium or the museum itself for even more indoor fun. Central Park West at 79th St., 212-769-5100, amnh.org

 

Heimbold Family Children’s Playing and Learning Center

(Photo: Tina Buckman, courtesy of the Heimbold Family Children’s Playing and Learning Center)

Midtown: Heimbold Family Children’s Playing and Learning Center
Best for ages: 18-plus months
The Heimbold Family Children’s Playing and Learning Center’s two colorful and whimsical play areas hail many sensory activities — a light landscape and a wall that encourages touching  – in addition to a Lego Zone and climbing areas. Visitors can make the mushroom house their own or scale the walls of the climbing corner. It’s only open on Saturday afternoons for a fee of $15 per child (although it’s open to members all week), but it’s a perfect weekend activity for kiddos. As soon as kids can walk, they can join in the fun. Every few Saturday mornings feature Hans Christian Andersen story time — check the website for dates. An on-site Smorgas Chef restaurant serves family-friendly fare like Swedish meatballs, kale salad and burgers. Note: All children must be supervised. Membership is $125 per family. 58 Park Ave., 212-779-3587, scandinaviahouse.org

 

Childrens Museum of Art

Kids doing sculpture at the Children’s Museum of Art (Photo: Will Ellis)

SoHo: Children’s Museum of Art
Best for ages: 10 months to 5 years for Wee arts, through 15 for other programs
No need to sign up, just drop in to the Children’s Museum of Art for a quick class. Mini Picassos can flex their creative skills at Wee Arts, which runs from 10:45am to noon Wednesday through Friday and Mondays. Classes are structured: Art projects involving play dough and other materials are undertaken, and then there is music to cap off each class. It’s $25 for up to five family members, then, for an extra $6 (per person), you can stay and explore the exhibits, which feature interactive, kid-friendly hands-on pop-up activities focused on art and art education throughout the museum, such as the current exhibit Tweet, that focuses on the intersection of technology and art. 103 Charlton St., 212-274.0986, cmany.org

 

Klub 4 Kidz

Klub 4 Kidz (Photo: Courtesy of Klub 4 Kidz)

WilliamsburgBrooklyn: Klub4Kidz
Best for ages: 12 months-plus; must be 3 years old to rock climb
Awesome doesn’t even begin to describe Klub4Kidz, a playground full of such unique features that parents may well be jealous. It’s a feat to keep dads from flying down the zip line  (no age minimum) or traversing the crawl tubes at this four-tier complex that’s between $10 and $15 per session, depending on a child’s age. After 3pm, there’s an 18-foot rock climbing too (it costs $10 extra and includes belay help), and by the time your wee ones have crawled, clambered, climbed, zipped, slid and scooted, they’re guaranteed to be tuckered out. And that is priceless. A separate padded area for toddlers with blocks, doll houses and race cars keeps little guys from being trampled. 159 N. Fourth St., 718-599-5900, klub4kidz.com

 

The Learning Garden

(Photo: Courtesy of The Learning Garden)

Prospect HeightsBrooklyn: The Learning Garden
Best for ages: Newborn to 6 years old
Drop-and-go; the Prospect Heights Learning Garden will keep an eye on your mini-me while you run errands for $15 an hour. An open play day pass with caregiver supervision is a very reasonable $12. Kids up to 6 can enjoy the straightforward classroom-like atmosphere. There’s a block area, book nook and dress-up corner, as well as a wooden play house. In nice weather, kids are taken to the backyard to run around in a safe space (see, no need to move to the suburbs!). Cool fact: The Learning Garden is located behind Blue Marble, one of the finest ice cream shops in Brooklyn. 186 Underhill Ave., 718-399-6923, brooklynlearninggarden.com

 

Kids Fun House

(Photo: Courtesy of Kids Fun House)

Ridgewood, Queens: Kid’s Fun House
Best for ages: 5 months to 12 years
Gather a group of friends for a killer play date at this 5,500-square-foot, tri-level playhouse, which has mazes, tunnels, arcade games (entry includes a token allotment), obstacle courses and giant slides. While older kids will be vying for their chance to ride the super-fast triple slide, small tots have their own, smaller version of the big kid’s area. Open seven days a week, Kid’s Fun House is easy on the wallet — entry to open play is between $5 and $12 depending on the day. Toddler Classes as well as Mommy-and-Me classes with movement, crafts and music are available at the facility as well. 6273 Fresh Pond Rd., 718-418-5437, kidsfunhouse.com

 

Spa Castle

The kiddie pool at Spa Castle (Photo: Courtesy of Spa Castle)

College Point, Queens: Spa Castle
Best for ages: 1 year and up
No, this sprawling Queens spa complex is not the first location that pops into one’s head when thinking of kid-friendly indoor activities, but it should be. Spa-provided shorts and T-shirts take the place of the usual lounge robes on the upper floors — making it visually appropriate for little eyes, unlike the sex segregated Jacuzzi and sauna areas, which are nude — and plenty of not too hot pool options make it a swimming destination for water babies of any age. There’s even a separate toddler pool. If the brood gets hungry, just head to the food court with Italian fare, frozen yogurt, a juice bar and even an in-house Starbucks. Entry is $35, unless you’re under 2 years and/or under 3 feet tall, in which case it’s $20. 131-10 11th Ave., 719-939-6300, spacastleusa.com/ny

Upper East SideThe Art Farm
Best for ages: 6-plus months
Kids who’ve always wanted a pet are in luck at The Art Farm’s petting zoo where they can play with the turtles, ducks, bunnies and more without the commitment. The Upper East Side space has music, cooking and art programs for kids 6 months and older. Drop by for open play or in time to participate in one of the daily special activities — classes like Farm Foodies Cooking ($40), which teaches kids to cook with fresh fruits and veggies, can be attended a la carte — or come to get your play on with a $20 pass, which allows you to spend the afternoon, Monday to Thursday. Though supervised kids are welcome to drop by unannounced, drop-off care for Fun Fridays must be arranged a day in advance at no extra cost. 419 E. 91st St., 212-410-3117, theartfarms.org

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