Best of Manhattan 2023: Kids

| 12 Dec 2023 | 12:18



Ancient Playground

85th Street and 5th Avenue

While Central Park has many excellent playgrounds, the setting of the Ancient Playground, adjacent to the Metropolitan Museum of Art, is unrivaled. Inspired by the Met’s famed Egyptian collection, the adventure style playground was designed to resemble an ancient city, including pyramids, an obelisk and a sun dial. Climbing and crawling through tunnels are strongly encouraged. Ra, the Egyptian sun god, says yes!


Hippo Playground

91st Street at Riverside Park

Kids love hippos and, although no actual hippopotami live in Riverside Park, what better way to spend time with kids than to visit the playground which honors the large, and beloved, amphibious land mammals? Features include a jungle gym, slides, swings, and a sandbox. Well-shaded in summer, there are also two water play areas and, in winters when it snows, a sledding hill.


Seward Park

East Broadway & Essex Street,adjacent Straus Square

Located in the heart of the old Lower East Side and today part of greater Chinatown, Seward Park is many things to many people. For toddlers and little kids, there are multiple sections with age-appropriate play equipment. For older children and teens, there are basketball courts, volleyball, even ping pong tables—though kids might have to share the last with adults. A great bonus is the adjacent Seward Park Library, open every day but Sunday, and whose second floor children’s section is among the best in city.




El Museo del Barrio

1230 5th Avenue


Located at the northern end of the Museum Mile, El Museo del Barrio celebrates both New York’s rich Puerto Rican heritage and that of all Latin Americans in the United States. Part of this mission includes an extensive array of programs for families and children: free weekend exhibition hours, storytelling and art-making workshops, concerts, a bilingual Coqui Club (named after the Puerto Rico’s beloved frog mascot) for children 3-5 and more.


DiMenna Children’s History Museum

170 Central Park West


While the greatness of the American Museum of Natural History goes without saying, the wonders of its neighbor just one block to the south, the New York Historical Society, are sometimes overlooked. Among its many highlights, the DiMenna Children’s History Museum—it’s a museum within a museum—stands out. Opened in 2011 as part of an extensive building renovation, it’s exhibits are unique in that they are not just for children but about them as well.


Color Factory

251 Spring Street


Somewhere in between a museum or art gallery and a play space, sits the New York branch of the Color Factory. (There are also unique locations in Chicago and Houston.) Consisting of a series of bright, playful and interactive exhibit rooms, each designed by different artists, the Color Factory offers an intensely sensory experience to delight kids of all ages. For social media minded adults, there are photo kiosks within each room that will take your picture and e-mail it to you for free. For actual children, the ball pit, confetti room and conveyer belt snacks are especially compelling.




Barnes & Noble

1550 3rd Avenue at 87th Street

Upper East Siders of all bookish persuasions rejoiced with the July 2023 return of Barnes & Noble, ending a nearly three-year absence after its prior UES location closed. No disrespect to the proverbial mom and pop bookseller, but the B&N’s virtues are considerable, not least for harried parents and restless kids: its extended hours, clean restrooms, comfortable café and seating areas, in addition to a large children’s section, make it an oasis for the whole family.


Strand Books

450 Columbus Avenue


Part of the legendary—and legendarily busy— Strand Book Store headquartered on Broadway at 12th Street, this Upper West Side location offers a neater, less hectic, but still satisfying version of the classic Strand experience. Though not a children’s bookstore per se, their kids’ section is well-designed and well-stocked. Further, the attractive presentation of so many other categories of books, as well as other gifts and souvenir knick-knacks, can only benefit curious young minds. As any children’s bookstore should, there is a clean bathroom.


Books of Wonder

42 West 17th Street

For a children’s book specialty shop, Books of Wonder is simply the best. Their selection includes books for all ages, from infants to teens, and includes nearly any categories, and style of book you can think of, both new and old. For serious bibliophiles, there’s always an intriguing selection of collectible, vintage books for sale. A smart selection of art prints suitable for kids rooms and their parents also impresses. Unlike at some other bookstores, the staff are exceptionally engaged, the aisles are all stroller friendly and the bathrooms are welcoming.




EJ’S Luncheonette

1271 3rd Avenue


Kids—and parents— love diners and EJ’s is a wondrous example of why: a wide menu selection, all day breakfast, long hours, a happy commotion at busy times, and a good bathroom always. The attractive 1930s-style décor—minus that era’s Depression-related travails—is another plus. Quality bagels come from the classic Ess-A-Bagel, although children of our acquaintance favor the Belgian waffles and challah French toast.


Holy Schnitzel

654 Amsterdam Avenue


If you have to ask yourself, “is this restaurant kid friendly?” forget it. They’re doing it wrong. At Holy Schnitzel, there’s no question that kids are as welcome anyone. Operating under the franchise slogan, “Keepin’ It Kosher,” it should be noted that gastrophiles of all faiths will enjoy burgers, schnitzel (of course, in chicken or veal), salads, wraps. For children, try the chicken fingers, hot dog or the Holy Kids Meal In A Box. Six other locations across Brooklyn, Queens, Staten Island and Long Island offer a familiar refuge on family day trips.



519 Hudson Street


This Texas themed southern restaurant isn’t just for kids—they serve quite spicy dishes and alcohol too— but its attractive, kitschy Southern decor and broad, playful menu make it a popular family destination. The weekend-only brunch menu with Paris, Texas French toast; The Ranch Handler plate (2 eggs, 2 flapjacks, chicken apple sausage or bacon) and a whole “KIDDOS” section for children 11 and under are sure to please.




Mary Arnold Toys

1178 Lexington Avenue


The legend is true: though its changed location a number of times over the last nine decades, this is the oldest continuously operating toy store in New York City. Such longevity is no accident. With a helpful staff clearly devoted to their trade, here one can find not just something for any kid, but more remarkably, lots of toys, games, art projects and youth-friendly items that chain stores simply don’t carry. Pick hit for musical toddlers: DJECO brand, four-string Animambo Banjo, $45.


West Side Kids

201 W. 84th Street


No kid ever has enough toys—or so kids think! Parents might disagree but usually give in. Enter West Side Kids, a neighborhood favorite since their opening in 1981, though they only moved into their current location in July 2023. Rest assured, it’s the same clean, friendly store, with a larger-than-you’d-expect selection of games, puzzles, arts and crafts projects, stuffed animals, books, balls, building blocks and more—basically, everything a child needs to fill—or overfill—their home with fun.


Kidding Around

60 West 15th Street


Opened in 1989 by owner Christina Clark, this independent, family-run West Village favorite has only gotten better—and bigger through the years. Noted for their exceptional customer service, it’s almost as much fun to ask for help to hear an unexpected suggestion as it is to explore one’s own. Books, dolls, games, puzzles, puppets, playsets and much, much more—Kidding Around will have something—usually many things—of interest to even the most jaded customer. Their selection of wooden toys is exceptional.