Museum of Mathematics
11 East 26th Street
At first glance, a museum themed after the most widely-reviled school subject is unlikely to be most children’s first choice on a summer’s day. But the Museum of Mathematics has a tendency to surprise and impress. The only museum in the US themed specifically on math, ‘MoMath’ strives to illustrate the role math takes in patterns visible throughout nature and to stimulate visitors’ curiosity in the subject. It is heavily interactive, with exhibits children and adults can play with and explore, and was voted “Best Museum for Kids” by New York Magazine in 2013. Check visit.momath.org for specific dates and times.
New York Aquarium
602 Surf Ave
Head out to Coney Island for the oldest continually operating aquarium in the United States. The “Ocean Wonders: Sharks!” exhibit holds over 500,000 gallons of water and 18 species of sharks. At the New York Aquarium, kids can see sea lions, penguins, squid, and many more marine animals. Children ages two and under enter for free. Tickets and further information can be found at nyaquarium.com.
Riverside Park at W 91st St
Though it was originally constructed in 1937, Hippo Playground became the destination Upper West Side children love in 1993, when a designer was commissioned to install an unusual series of statues. Life-size sculptures of one of Earth’s largest land mammals are interspersed among the regular slides and swings in this quirky Upper West Side playground. Kids of all ages can spend a perfect (and free!) afternoon among the imitation pachyderms. The playground is known for a few extra hidden features: the hippos contain sprinklers that spout water in the summer, and one hippo even contains a secret cavity perfect for a game of hide-and-seek.
American Museum of Natural History
200 Central Park West
Entertaining and educational for kids of all ages, the Natural History museum has a few special exhibitions up this summer. An exhibit featuring blown-up macro photographs of now-extinct insect species is currently open, as is a space show called “Worlds Beyond Earth.” The Davis Family Butterfly Vivarium, which hosts 1,000 butterflies belonging to 80 distinct species and kept in tropical temperatures, is a fan favorite among kids. (Note that for some of these exhibits, a separate ticket is required.)
Minigolf at Hudson River Park
Manhattan’s only 18-hole minigolf course can be found here in Hudson River Park. Featuring foot bridges, sand traps, waterfalls, streams, a pond, and a cave, this is a professional grade miniature golf course and includes sweeping views of the Hudson and the New Jersey waterfront. The Pier 25 website states minigolf is “officially open from 12-6PM, but if the weather is nice will stay open later.” At only $4 for children and $5 for adults, this is a true bargain of the type that’s rare to find in New York these days, and a guaranteed afternoon of summer fun. No reservations are necessary for groups under 20 people.
Central Park Tisch Children’s Zoo
Central Park Zoo, 64th Street and Fifth Avenue
Central Park packs so much into its 843 acres, it’s easy to forget that not only does it have its own zoo, it actually contains a separate children’s zoo inside of that. Kids can see a Patagonian cavy—the world’s fourth largest rodent—some Mini-Nubian goats, and a wide range of waterfowl. Outside the children’s area, the rest of the zoo is also kid-friendly, and features animals you certainly wouldn’t expect to see in the middle of Manhattan, from penguins to a snow leopard. Tickets can be found at centralparkzoo.com.