The island of Manhattan is an amazing place to play outdoors, especially with everything there is to do in the summer. But sometimes, you want to head inside for some A/C, a nearby bathroom, and maybe some toys or entertainment for your kid. That’s where these Manhattan indoor spots for drop-in play save the day. From drop-in singalongs and story times for babies and toddlers, to indoor playgrounds for older kids, these are the best places to hit up when you need an inside place to play.

UNION SQUARE

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photo: Union Square Play

Union Square Play

Opened in the fall of 2018, Union Square Play sees you. All of its classes, with the exception of a new mom's group with co-founder Jennie Monness, are drop-in, space permitting. (If you need to plan, you can also register for classes up to four weeks in advance.) In addition to numerous singalongs of all styles, classes, which aim to be thoughtful ands engaging versus entertaining and overstimulating, include Mandarin, Spanish, yoga, sensory art, sensory play, music, building, and more. You can see the full calendar here, filled with summer options; it's even more robust come fall. Open play in a welcoming space filled with toys and materials selected to encourage self-directed and creative play, is available for $30 for an all day pass, or $150 for unlimited use each month. 

36 E. 18th St. 
Union Square
212-604-0588
Online: unionsquareplay.com

UPPER EAST SIDE 

The Playroom NYC

Run by two Upper East Side sister (and moms), The Playroom NYC offers 3,000 square feet of fun in the form of a climbing structure, dress-up and stage area, play bodega and pre-walker space. You can drop-in any time, and pay the one-time fee of $35 (with $15 reentry fee if you want to leave and come back), get a multi-play pack (5 passes for $135, 10 for $250, etc.) or get a membership for unlimited play, which start at $250 for a month. A shoe- and nut-free facility, The Playroom NYC also hosts birthday parties, classes and special events like movie night.

1439 1st Ave.
Upper East Side
212-729-6149
Online: theplayroomnyc.com

The Art Farm in the City

Yes, there are actual animals at this Manhattan "farm"—chickens, rabbits, turtles, and other friends, which you and the kids can drop in and meet, but The Art Farm open play on weekdays for kids 6 months and up also features arts and crafts, and creative play in the cheerful playroom; stay and hour or the whole day. On Fun Fridays from 9:30 - 11:30 a.m., kids 18 months and older enjoy all of this plus a singalong. Mornings on The Farm take place Saturday and Sunday mornings, and the Farm Foodies Cooking Class has kids ages 2-8 making tasty treats of all kinds.  (P.S. Spending some time in the Hamptons this summer? There's an Art Farm out there, too.) Drop-in rates start at $20 per child, with discounts for bulk passes. 

431 E. 91st Street (between York & 1st Ave.), 2nd Fl. 
Upper East Side
212-410-3117
Online: theartfarms.org

TLB Music

Of course, they do music at TLB Music (and classes, and camps, and parties...) but you can also just drop in and play here in a fully-equipped playroom! You'll find eco-friendly, developmental toys and activities for babies, toddlers and kids up to six years old. Fun can be had with a clubhouse, rock-climbing mountain, big and little slides, a play kitchen with food, puzzles, large soft blocks, a train table, and more. While you don't need a reservation, it's best to call on very cold, hot, rainy or snowy days, as they do book up. Play is $20 for members, and $25 for non-members.  (You can also book out the whole space at certain times during the week if you want to have a play date with friends.)

266 E. 78th St.
212-744-0404
Upper East Side
Online: tlbmusic.com

UPPER WEST SIDE 

photo: Marlene Meyerson JCC Manhattan

Marlene Meyerson JCC Manhattan

Got a new baby on the Upper West Side? JCC Manhattan is a good spot for all kinds of family classes and programming, but you can drop-in for many early developmental sessions like Tummy Time, Crawlers, Wobbly Walkers, and Toddler Play. On Fridays, stop by Shajam music class to kick off the weekend. Rates are $15 for members/$18 for non-members; pre-registration for drop-ins is encouraged as space is limited. 

334 Amsterdam Ave. at 76th St. 
Upper West Side 
646-505-4444
Online: 

FLATIRON

photo: Mimi O'Connor

CAMP

Ok, yes, CAMP is ultimately a store. However, it's also a really cool experience tailored to kids. A Flatiron District storefront filled with lots of cool toys and goods, as well as a Milk Bar location, CAMP also contains a bookcase that opens into a much larger space. (Going through this "secret" entrance is a pretty magical way to start a visit.) In this second space, which changes themes every few months, you'll find play areas, workshops, performances, and lots more toys for browsing. Camp's current theme is "Cooking Camp", which follows the journey of food from farm to table. Free fun includes jumping on a mini trampoline, getting down in the ice box disco, climbing aboard a truck to ferry some "food" and cooking it up in a deluxe play kitchen. You can also sign-up in advance for workshops and shows, and if you're really into CAMP, you can become a member. Read our review from when it opened here! 

CAMP
Mon.-Fri.- 8 a.m.-8p.m.; Sat., 10 a.m. - 9 p.m., Sun., 11 a.m. - 7 p.m.
110 Fifth Ave. 
Flatiron District
Online: camp.com

CHELSEA

Chelsea Piers Field House

Chelsea Piers' Field House has options for both little and big kids. For kids ages six months to four years old, head to the Toddler Gym, a colorful padded playscape where little ones can explore, climb, and tumble in safety. Sessions are $12 and typically held 9:30 a.m. - noon and 1 - 5 p.m., but schedules do change, so call ahead to confirm. For older children ages five to 16, there's Rock-n-Roll sessions, during which kids do 45 minutes of rock-climbing, and 45 minutes of gymnastics. (Cost is $32.) These sessions are held on weekends and school holidays; again, call to confirm before heading over. 

Chelsea Piers, Pier 62
23rd Street and Hudson River Park
Chelsea
212-336-6500, Ext. 0
Online: chelseapiers.com

City Treehouse

A wet and wild time can be had by all at this Chelsea play and learning center. A two-story treehouse features slides, a secret star cave, kaleidoscopes, a see-through floor and whisper tubes. What takes this place to the next level, though is the water play area, which is outfitted with hoses, jets, waterwheels, dump buckets and lots of opportunity for interactive learning. Additionally, a soft play area for babies and young toddlers can be found here, and older kids can explore another play area with a ball pit, dress up area, large whiteboard for doodling and drawing, and multiple toys and games. Recommended for kids anywhere from 18 months to eight years of age, City Treehouse requires reservations, which you can make online or by calling. Bring a change of clothes and water shoes — kids understandably get soggy here! City Treehouse is open 10 a.m. to 5 p.m., and slots are $30 for two hours. 

129A W. 20th St.
Chelsea
212-255-2050
Online: citytreehouse.com

MIDTOWN EAST

photo: Tina Buckman, Scandinavia House/The American-Scandinavian Foundation, 2011

The Heimbold Family Children's Play and Learning Center

It's probably not a shocker that Park Avenue's Scandinavia House has one of the most aesthetically pleasing play spaces in the city. Designed for kids ages one to five, The Heimbold Family Children's Play and Learning Center is only open to the public on Saturdays from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. (for a modest $15/child fee), but it's worth the trip. The bright and playful space features two distinct yet complementary areas – an activity room and a sensory room. Highlights include a reading theater, sensory tunnel, custom LEGO corner, landscaped BRIO train table, indoor climbing corner, mushroom house, a “please touch” wall, light landscape, and imported Scandinavian educational elements. If you fall in love (which you might) you can gain access to the space all week long by joining Scandinavia House. One note: kids must be walking on their own to play here. (Note: the Center will be closed August 6 to September 2.) 

58 Park Ave.
Midtown
212-779-3587
Online: scandinaviahouse.org

EAST VILLAGE

14th Street Y

This East Village institution offer lots of drop-in options for kids ages two months to five years, including Baby & Me Yoga, Messy Play, singalongs, and more. Prices range from $20-$35 per class, and if you buy a "punch card" for multiple classes, you get a discount. (If you're a member, some classes are free.) See schedule and descriptions here; call 646-395-4310 to purchase classes, or 646-395-4336 for more info on offerings. 

344 E. 14th St.
Stuyvesant Town
212-780-0800
Online: 14streety.org

EVERYWHERE

photo: iStock

Your Local Library

Don't forget: libraries all over Manhattan (and the city) offer free programming for kids of all ages. And it's not just storytime (although of course that happens!) Drop-in for LEGO play, arts & crafts, toddler play, board games, special programming like concerts and performances, and more! Click the link below, filter by audience and search for your local happenings! 

Online: nypl.org

photo: iStock

Bookstores All Over Town

Many (most!) bookstores in Manhattan hold story times, author appearances, and special events weekly— and they're typically free. Check out The Strand, where characters are known to make appearances, Books of Wonder at its Flatiron location or uptown on the west side, Bank Street Books near Columbia University, and Book Culture, where story times are held in English, Spanish and German! McNally Jackson on Prince Street has themed story time every Saturday with author Yvonne Brooks, Housing Works hosts a weekly story time for $5, and Barnes & Noble hosts events at its locations throughout Manhattan. 

—Mimi O’Connor

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