EAST 72ND STREET PLAYGROUND
East side of Central Park at 72nd Street
Bigger kids will get a kick out of the tire swings or bravely scale a granite-faced pyramid, net climber or wooden tree house in this Central Park play space. There are toddler-geared swings and slides for the little ones. Kids of all ages can get giddy in the water spray area, when the weather’s right, or get digging in the accessible sandboxes. There’s plenty of space to just run around, too, when a game of chase ensues.
West 91st Street and Riverside Drive
As the name implies, hippos are the signature feature of this Riverside Park playground, which has been delighting NYC kids with its statues for more than 25 years. Beyond the unique art, the playground features swings with safety surfacing, slides, a spray shower, sand pit and picnic tables. When it snows, the hill on the east side of the playground becomes a sledding hotspot. The site is also home to such free family-friendly festivities as a summer concert series and Halloween Parade.
WASHINGTON SQUARE PARK
Base of Fifth Avenue between MacDougal Street and University Place
While some may come to the park for its iconic arch or water fountain, for kids, the playgrounds are the main attraction. The park is home to three - one for toddlers on the northwest side; another for bigger tykes, complete with multiple slides, a spray shower and a sandpit, on the northeast side; and play hills and an obstacle course in the southwest corner for adventurous kids.
COZY’S CUTS FOR KIDS
1416 Second Ave.
The pioneering Upper East Side children’s hair salon, now celebrating 25 years, pulls out all the stops for baby’s first haircut - balloons, bubbles, lollipops, a free toy and more. Kids will also have a blast in the car chair at each cut. Beyond haircuts, the salon does ear piercings and styles braids for special occasions on your little girl’s or tween’s calendar. Its celebrity parent cliente includes Drew Barrymore and Cindy Crawford.
KIDVILLE UPPER WEST SIDE
205 West 88th St.
The Upper West Side playspace has a kid-centric salon for members and non-members alike. Little ones can take the wheel of a truck or airplane in one of the salon’s themed chairs and get distracted with a game, video or toy. Packages are available to shave a little off each cut. Just need a bang trim? You can easily schedule that. First haircuts are made special with a certificate, hair clippings and a little something for the tot.
11 Christopher St.
This friendly Greenwich Village salon, which also has a NoMad outpost, has been cutting kids' hair since 2005. The taxi chair is a fun touch and perfect Instagram moment. Kill two birds with one stone and pick up a gift or two in the salon’s boutique for any upcoming parties. Adding to the local family community offerings, the salon also hosts a story time with L•M•N•O•Play!.
Best Kid-Friendly Restaurant
THIRD AVENUE ALE HOUSE
1644 Third Ave.
Don’t let the name fool you - this Upper East Side gastropub is a go-to for local parents and their brood. Family-friendly features include a welcoming staff, kid’s menu with favorites like grilled cheese and chicken fingers, changing tables, high chairs and booster seats. If you’re eating early (which you likely are with kids), get $2 off drinks during the weekday happy hour from 4-7 p.m.
5 NAPKIN BURGER
The NYC chain, with a location on the Upper West Side, has all the family fixings - changing table in the bathroom, high chairs and booster seats and a kid’s menu. Children 12 and under can choose from a burger (of course), grilled cheese, hot dog and more, with a side of fries or veggie sticks. If you make it your family go-to, you can join the loyalty program for perks like a free side dish.
BUBBY’S HIGH LINE
73 Gansevoort St.
The Meatpacking District location of the popular comfort food spot has two things going for it over the TriBeCa original: its proximity to the High Line (perfect for a pre- or post-stroll meal), and the on-site Ample Hills Creamery (add its ice cream to your pie or get on your way out). Otherwise you can expect the same Bubby’s family accommodations, from a kid’s menu (the mac ’n’ cheese is a hit) to crayons to its signature stroller parking.
Best Birthday Party Spot
137 East 62nd St.
The Upper East Side dessert destination - founded by a mom of three - offers the ultimate sweet time for birthday boys and girls, from making their own ice cream to “candy sprees.” For allergy concerns, the base for the ice cream is gluten-, egg- and nut-free, and dairy-free sorbet is also available. Book your party in a private space or on the floor with the venue’s dedicated party planner, and send out Coolmess-branded Paperless Post invitations.
THE PAINT PLACE
243 West 72nd St.
The Paint Place may be known for its wine-paired classes for adults. But it’s also a pro at throwing parties for all ages. For the private event, you can choose from a selection of colorful paintings that an instructor will guide everyone in recreating step by step. You can bring in whatever food and sweets you want. And at the end of the 90-minute session, everyone has a painting to bring home.
DOWNTOWN DANCE FACTORY
The TriBeCa dance center knows how to throw a birthday party, from decorating the space with balloons to providing dance-themed goody bags. Parents just need to bring the food and drink and sit back and let Downtown Dance Factory handle the rest. Celebrate third birthdays and up, with classes in ballet, jazz, hip-hop and more. Themed games like princess and superhero are also on offer.
Best Shoe Store
LITTLE ERIC SHOES
1118 Madison Ave.
Families have been visiting the Upper East Side shoe store for more than three decades. It’ll cost you a pretty penny for one of its handmade, Italian pairs, but parents come back for the high-quality shoes, classic designs and helpful service. Best-sellers like booties, available in a variety of colors and styles, are time-tested favorites.
HARRY’S SHOES FOR KIDS
Just a block away from the iconic Harry’s Shoes is its kid-centric shop. The Upper West Side staple’s children’s store is devoted to finding the right shoe in the right size for your little one. Its vast selection offers a variety of name brands in styles for all occasions, from play to parties. In a cute touch, families get a balloon with their purchase.
106 Reade St.
The designer children’s brand has several locations in the city, including this TriBeCa boutique. It specializes in classic shoes - your Mary Janes, booties, moccasins, t-strap booties and ballerina slippers - with a stylish flair, like color-blocking and faux-fur linings. Shoes are specially designed to meet little ones where they are, from pre-walkers to walkers (12-24 months) to kids ages 2 and up. Watch out for sales, where shoes are up to half off.
Best Kid-Friendly Museum
725 Park Ave.
This museum has locations across the globe, including in New York City on the Upper East Side. The educational institute encourages people of all ages to come in through family days stocked with crafts, performances, workshops and more tied to Asian holidays, such as Diwali and the Lunar New Year. In general, those under 16 get free admission, further making it family-friendly.
AMERICAN MUSEUM OF NATURAL HISTORY
200 Central Park West
It’s no secret, this Upper West Side museum is a city institution and a favorite for families near and far. From the Butterfly Conservatory to marvels like the Titanosaur and blue whale, there are highlights to discover for the first time, or return to on repeat visits. The museum, which this year is celebrating its 150th anniversary, continues to update and renovate to better inform and engage visitors of all ages. Its pay-what-you-wish admission also makes it easy to stay as long or as short as little ones’ attention spans can muster.
CHILDREN’S MUSEUM OF THE ARTS
103 Charlton St.
This Hudson Square museum offers plenty of hands-on, creative play, including its popular Clay Bar. There’s something for visitors as young as 10 months, up to 15 years old, in disciplines like drawing, painting, photography, animation and songwriting. The museum's summer Saturday Family Studios series offers a space for the whole family to learn and create together. With a mission of making the arts accessible to all children, admission is free during general public hours for children with a disability and their caregiver, and workshops are universally accessible.