The Upper West Side offers endless possibilities for kids’ activities. Whether you opt for an afternoon at the Hayden Planetarium, a discovery hike in Central Park, or a visit with the butterflies at the Natural History Museum, it’s impossible to be bored in this neighborhood. Even the most intellectual of tots can find stimulation. Here are some top picks for curious kids:
American Museum of Natural History: “The Secret World Inside You” Kids know what germs are, but what about bacteria—the good and the bad? This exhibit explores the microbiome, the community of 100 trillion bacteria that live inside and on our bodies. Through interactive activities and live presentations, this show explores topics such as how we digest our food and how we train our immune system so we can be healthy throughout our adult lives. Through August 14, 2016.
New-York Historical Society: “Superheroes in Gotham” Comic book heroes are everywhere: they crop up in books, television, movies, on Broadway, in video games and apps, and – of course – on kids’ lunch boxes and bed sheets. Superheroes were born in New York, and this show traces their impact on our culture—from their emergence in 1930s comic books through their appearances in 1960s TV shows, and even to present-day paintings and cartoons. Highlights from the show include Batman No. 1 (1940), the first Batman comic book, and original Iron Man and Spider Man books from the 1960s. Through February 21, 2016. Click here for more information.
Bard Graduate Center Gallery: “Swedish Wooden Toys” Long before iPads and even before Legos, wooden toys were go-to entertainment for little hands and imaginations. Sweden has a rich tradition of designing and making toys, from sophisticated dollhouses, model ships and automobiles to simpler, handmade playthings such as building blocks and rattles. This exhibit examines the materiality of wood for the purpose of toy-making and celebrates the Swedish philosophy that wooden toys promote learning and creativity in a way that no electronic can mimic. Through January 17, 2016. Click here for more information.
Children’s Museum of Manhattan: “Frolic!” Tots five and under can rock out in this pop-up play space featuring a replica of a 1970s Volkswagen van, a Rolling Stones-inspired tongue slide, a mini performance stage, a ticket booth, and an interactive video music wall. The museum offers daily music, movement, and interactive story times, too. Through December 31, 2015.
NYC + Me: A Little Bite of the Big Apple If rock n’ roll is not your scene, try “NYC + Me: A Little Bite of the Big Apple,” a 3,000-square-foot interactive experience in which kids immerse themselves in the life of the city. From acting out roles like construction worker and cab driver to ice skating in socks in a replica Central Park rink, to taking the “NY Minute Challenge,” an obstacle course full of city-centric challenges, there is something for every interest. Through January 18, 2016. Click here for more information.
American Museum of Natural History: “The Butterfly Conservatory: Tropical Butterflies Alive in Winter” It may be cold outside, but it’s balmy in the vivarium, AMNH’s 1,200-square-foot butterfly habitat. Lush green foliage and blooming tropical flowers provide the backdrop for 500 different butterflies—insects that have come from places as widespread as Thailand, Brazil, and Kenya. Visitors learn about the butterfly life cycle, how butterflies live, and why they are important to the environment in this annual exhibit. Through May 29, 2016.
Central Park Conservancy: “Discovery Walks for Families” Kids ages five and older can experience Central Park with a guided tour. “Discovery Kits” – rugged backpacks filled with binoculars, field guides, and other discovery tools – are available to participants, facilitating hands-on examination of the plants, animals, and geology that make the park a sanctuary. Limit of three children per adult. Pre-registration required. Click here for more information.
Alice’s Tea Cup | 102 West 73rd Street After hoofing it around museums or shopping on Columbus Avenue, this literary-themed cafe is the place to unwind. Kids enjoy the sandwiches and baked treats while grownups usually go for the caffeinated beverages, salads, and soups. They host real tea parties (with names like “The Mad Hatter” and “Alice in Wonderland”) for birthdays and other celebrations. Choose from activities like face painting and princess crown decorating to round out the festivities. For reservations, call 212-799-3006.