Broadly speaking, there are two kinds of kids’ play spaces in New York City: those open to all, and members-only spots. The latter frequently carry a hefty price of admission, but surely, you get some big perks for shelling out the big bucks— right? We looked into the most established and most popular members-only kids clubs and broke down what you pay, how the kids can play and what, exactly, makes each one special. Now it’s your turn to decide if membership truly has its privileges.
(A note: many of the businesses we profiled are chains, and if so we picked a representative spot in NYC; rates and services or facilities may vary from location to location.)
photo: via Playgarden Facebook page
This Tribeca all-things-kids resource is home to an early education program, classes such as sports, hip-hop, tap, music and ballet, as well as a 4,000-square-foot indoor playground outfitted with slides, ball pits, tunnels, climbing structures and bike rides. Local parenting support groups meet here, as does date night option Project Playdate. Plus, they do birthday parties and summer camps.
Who it’s for: Kids six months to 5 years old
Cost: Membership is available on a seasonal or annual basis. An annual membership ($3,000) gets you one weekly class and unlimited time in the play space, plus 45 guest passes; you get get an annual membership for just the play space for $2,500, which also includes 45 guest passes. Seasonally, you need to buy a class (starting at $750/class) to buy buy play space access, which ranges from $450-$75 per season.) A shortened winter season pass for a class and playground access is $650.
Membership Details: Membership gives you unlimited access to the play space, as well as five guest passes per session. Additionally, family play on weekends from 1 – 4:30 p.m. is open to siblings if one child is enrolled in a class. Members also get a 10 % discount on birthday parties.
Why people love it: The indoor playground is Manhattan’s largest indoor play space and it’s open seven days a week year-round. Also, germaphobes, rejoice!: the play space is cleaned three times a day, and the play equipment is rearranged every month to create a new play environment so kids don’t get bored.
The vibe: Bright, modern, cheerful and clean, with a community feel — but the service the residents of a tony ‘hood like Tribeca expect.
95 Franklin St.
Kidville is an international chain, so there are many of them, but don’t let that stop you from checking out this go-to for many moms, dads, nannies and other caregivers looking for a fun spot for their charges. Offering gym, music, dance, art, cooking and enrichment classes, they also have a preschool alternative program, camps, parenting seminars and open play sessions.
Who it’s for: the 0-6 set
Cost: At the Upper East Side location, classes start at $725 for 45 minute classes for the full semester of 16 weeks; hour-long classes are $775. Signing up for one class makes you eligible for Silver Membership, and has a registration fee of $76.21. Camp and Spring/ Summer Semesters are 16 weeks long. Camp is sold in 2, 8, 12 or 16 week sessions.
Membership details: Benefits include one indoor play pass and discounts at Kidville boutiques and cafés, and on Kidville birthday parties. You can up your membership to a higher level (which means more money, but also more benefits) from $365/year. There are so many details to the many membership options and their benefits, we suggest you read them here: http://www.kidville.com/eastside/about-kidville/membership-benefits
Why people love it: With locations uptown, downtown, Brooklyn and beyond, there’s bound to be one near you. Also, it’s neat and clean, the teachers are into being there, and therefore, when you see your kid smiling, you’ll be glad you’re there too. The valet stroller parking is an added bonus.
The Vibe: A place for kids to learn, play and grow, Kidville is welcoming from the moment you stroll in and see the boutique with kiddie fashions, and the café with kid-friendly snacks. You get the sense that the folks here have thought about all the needs of all kids under age six, be they babies, toddlers or older — as well as their parents. Interested? You can register for a free trial class.
163 East 84th St.
Upper East Side
photo: apple seeds
This indoor play space functions a lot like a club for adults. You can become a member to the indoor playground, and/or pay and take classes in everything from art, sports and music to dance, cooking, science and languages. Being a member gives you access to discounts, member perks and member events, and there are two types of membership options. The more you pay, the more benefits and perks you get, like discounts on haircuts, classes and birthdays.
Who it’s for: kids 0-5 years old.
Cost: A “Red Apple” membership is $124/month plus tax and “Green Apple” level is $156/month plus tax. All new members will receive a $100 class voucher for future class purchases (in addition to the member discount).
Why people love it: With a gradual separation program for children 2-3 and a summer camp, you feel like you and your child can grow with this place. There is also an upper west side location and a peter cooper village locale. Birthday parties are a big hit here, and if your child isn’t in the mood to use the playground, there are many ways to entertain them in the toy/book store and hair salon.
The Vibe: Bright and cheery with colorful decor, appleseeds is a modern play space and the playground looks like an updated children’s museum, complete with mini pretend deli, block building area and climbing toys.
10 West 25th St.
200 West End Ave. (at 69th St.)
Upper West Side
The cultural opportunities run the gamut here, with class offerings in cooking, art, dance, music and movement, as well as languages, science and even private music instruction. There’s a pre-school program, a summer camp and a 1,500-square-foot playground and gym for open play.
Who it’s for: Children 0-10
Cost: $1,250 annually for a family membership, which includes 10 guest passes, one eight-week enrichment class, complimentary storytimes, concerts, and parent seminars monthly and 10 complimentary coffees at their cafe. Semester-long classes start at $625 per semester.
Why people love it: Unlike many other play spaces, Citibabes offers group fitness classes for grown-ups. That’s right: personal training, parenting seminars and a Bari Studio and Junior’s Fresh cafe serves locally- sourced, farm fresh meals and snacks. A major plus: unlike many other clubs, you can drop by for free play at any time during hours of operation — not just small windows of time that always seem to fall during nap or meal time.
The Vibe: With a gym and classes for both kids and adults, this facility brings new meaning to the term ‘family membership.’ The open feeling and large rooms are a fresh respite from the cramped feeling of many downtown offerings. (Note that birthdays and camp are open to non-members.)
52 Mercer Street, 3rd Fl.
photo: Gymboree Play & Music
Gymboree Play & Music
This play space staple has been around for decades, and with over 500 locations in over 30 countries, the folks at Gymboree have earned the self-proclaimed title of “global leader in classes for kids”. Yes, there are locations throughout the world, but NYC-area outposts can be found in Bayside, Park Slope, Forest Hills and Scarsdale.
Who it’s for: Kids 0-5
Cost: New Member Initiation Fee: $45.00 plus cost of classes, but membership has its benefits, with discount coupons to Janie and Jack, Gymboree and Crazy 8, as well as free open gym times and access to exclusive shopping events throughout the year
Why people love it: Not only are there music, gym and art classes, but “family fun” classes offer the chance to bring siblings into the same class, for multi-age learning. In addition, the folks at Gymboree take safe play seriously, and their equipment was designed by a nationally-respected playground designer with over 30 years of experience.
The Vibe: Old-school atmosphere mixed with traditional classic fun, this place knows what works, and is sticking with it.
208-32 Cross Island Pkwy.
What’s your experience with members-only kids’ clubs? Chime in with a comment below!
— Kim Sunshine