NYC’s playgrounds and parks are wonderful. But when it’s freezing cold (or broiling hot, for that matter) you want a place where you and the kids can amuse yourselves in temperature-controlled splendor. You probably already know what’s happening at your local Barnes & Noble for the barely crawling and up set, or at the Apple stores for older kids. Now let Red Tricycle clue you in about 15 more sites, both world-famous and under-the-radar, where your little ones are guaranteed to find some fun.

toys_R_US_Dino_RT

photo via plainpaul on Flickr

MAJOR PLAYERS

Toys R Us Times Square
Sure, the ferris wheel and animatronic dinosaur are big draws. But they also come with long lines and scary noises. Avoid the waits (and the meltdowns that come with them) as well as the fear factor by heading straight to such lesser known attractions as the Thomas the Tank Engine play-table next to the book area, or the life-sized Barbie playhouse. Plus, the store is peppered with sales associates demonstrating the latest, hottest toys that your child is welcome to take for a spin (no purchase required). Try to go on weekday mornings, when the tourists are at a minimum.

Toys R Us Times Square
1514 Broadway
Midtown
646-366-8800
Online: toysrusinc.com

Bank Street Bookstore
Looking for something less corporate than Barnes & Noble? Come February, the bookstore that’s affiliated with a college of education is moving into brand new digs on 107th Street and Broadway. But don’t worry, the daily story-hours for toddlers,  musical story times and Fractured Fables puppet shows (not to mention the regular concerts by local kids and guest readings by celebrity authors like Stephen Colbert and Julianne Moore) are making the move right along with the Upper West Side favorite. Be the first to check out their refurbished space by clicking on over to the store’s web site!

Bank Street Bookstore
107th & Broadway
Upper West Side
212-678-1654
Online: bankstreetbooks.com

Disney Store Times Square
Just like all food consumed outside of the home has “no calories”, all media watched away from your digs doesn’t count as screen-time — right? Not only does the Disney Store in Times Square feature every piece of Big D tie-in merchandise known to man — from Cinderella slippers to Buzz Lightyear wings — all three of you can hang out in the video lounge area where classic Disney cartoons play in a loop on a giant screen. Remember: You’re not being couch potatoes — you’re having an outing!

Disney Store Times Square
1540 Broadway
Times Square
212-626-2910
Online: disneystore.com

photo: Alina Adams

FAO Schwarz
Everything you remember about the legendary store, including the giant piano, the tree house, the towering stuffed animals, and the life-sized LEGOr sculptures, are still there. But, as of Christmas 2014, the store emporium also features cool new area bound to mesmerize aspiring natural historians. Astro Kids lets you get up-close-and-personal with dozens of shiny crystals, fossils, dinosaur bones and even meteorites. Touching is not only allowed, but encouraged!

FAO Schwarz
767 5th Ave.
Midtown East
212-644-9400
Online: fao.com

HIDDEN GEMS

LEGO Store
Too far away to schlep to Manhattan’s newest LEGO Store? No worries. As of August 2014, the Staten Island Mall has a LEGO Store all of its own! Located on the lower level, the store boasts an interactive play area called “The Living Room,” where everyone is welcome to try the latest LEGO products. While the kids do that, grown-ups can follow the “Brand Ribbon” that runs all around the store and features model displays, a historical LEGO timeline, and a variety of fun facts about the colorful brand.

LEGO Store
Staten Island Mall
2655 Richmond Ave.
Staten Island
718-761-6800
Online: statenisland-mall.com

A drop in art class for kids. Photo by Flying Squirrel.

photo: Flying Squirrel

Flying Squirrel
In the market for some baby or toddler clothes? Kids’ clothing and toy store Flying Squirrel has a play area set up with secondhand toys where little ones can play while their parents shop. (You do need to be in range though — it’s not babysitting.) The store also recently opened an art center in the upstairs loft space and offers free, open art times during store hours. (Donations are appreciated to help replenish their art supplies, so bring a long some paint or extra crayons if you haven them.) Flying Squirrel also hosts sing-alongs on Wednesday and Friday mornings, so either avoid those times if you want to bypass the crowds, or get into the community spirit and jump right in!

Flying Squirrel
87 Oak St.
Greenpoint, Brooklyn
718-218-7775
Online: flyingsquirrelbaby.com

Blueberry Kids
Inspired by the owner’s experience of living in Europe, the goal of Blueberry Kids is to create a shopping space where the whole family feels comfortable. To that end, it features a Drop Off Play Group Monday through Friday, from 8:30 a.m. to 2 p.m., as well as Open Play hours from 2 p.m. to closing on Tuesday through Sunday for children ages 6 months to 4 years. The store also hosts Mommy Cocktails on the first Friday of every month for Blueberry Kids members, where adults can drink while the kids play. Now that’s really a store with more!

Blueberry Kids
732 Washington Ave.
Prospect Heights, Brooklyn
718-450-8811
Online: blueberrykids.us

ample_hills_RT

photo via Ethan Wolff on Flickr

Ample Hills Creamery
How awesome is the toddler kitchen play area at Ample Hills Creamery? So awesome that one mommy friend reports her kids are always begging to go there — not for the ice cream, but for the playtime! Luckily, you don’t have to choose one or the other. The ice cream is rich and homemade, and comes in inspired flavors like Rice Krispie Treats, Salted Crack Caramel, Honeycomb and more.  The Creamery’s seating area can get crowded, especially on the weekends — but then again, who cares? The kids are off playing in the pint-sized kitchen!

Ample Hills Creamery
305 Nevins St.
Gowanus, Brooklyn
347-725-4061
Online: amplehills.com

Photo by Hiho Batik.

photo: Hiho Batik

Hiho Batik
This isn’t only a store that sells handmade items for babies, boys, girls and adults. It’s also a store that allows boys, girls and adults (presumably not babies) to create their own handmade masterpieces. The retail location hosts an event space that welcomes walk-ins Tuesday through Sunday starting at 11 a.m. through 5 p.m. (though appointments are strongly recommended on weekends). Buy a T-shirt, pillow or hoodie then go crazy decorating it; prices range from $40-$50 for item and activity. You can leave the item to dry, then pick it up within 7-10 business days — which of course gives you an excuse to come back and play some more.

Hiho Batik
184 5th Ave.
Fort Green, Brooklyn
718-622-4446
Online: hihobatik.com

OUT OF THE BOX THINKING

Whole Foods Tribeca
No matter what you might think of the grocery chain’s prices or produce selections it’s hard to deny that this particular Whole Foods does parents a huge favor: upstairs in the eating area is a children’s corner with little tables and chairs, toys, blackboards, soft blocks and a play mat. You’ll never be in need of a place to refuel with the kids in Tribeca again!

Whole Foods
270 Greenwich St.
Tribeca, Manhattan
212-349-6555
Online: wholefoodsmarket.com

IKEA
 30 Rock adeptly addressed the phenomenon of relationships collapsing under the stress of trying to shop at IKEA, but NYC parents may actually be saving their marriages by visiting the Brooklyn location’s store.  The Swedish retailer invites parents to drop their rambunctious preschoolers off at the supervised Smartland Play Area, which even includes a ball room. The space hold up to 60 kids and offers an employee-to-child ratio of about 1 to 12. Toddlers too young for the ball room (kids must be between 37 and 54 inches tall, and potty-trained) have a smaller play area of their own adjacent to the cafe, but parents need to remain on-site.

IKEA
1 Beard St.
Red Hook, Brooklyn
888-888-4532
Online: ikea.com/us/en/store/brooklyn

Queens Center Mall
Macy’s, JCPenny, GAP Kids, The Children’s Place, Starbucks, and a children’s play area, too. Really, why would anyone ever leave? The mall’s kids’ zone is located next to the food court, though it gets packed and rowdy and, on the weekends, is no place for small or timid visitors. On the other hand, for their older siblings, there is a free, monthly Kids Club sponsored by National Geographic that promises rotating, educational activities.

Queens Center Mall
90-15 Queens Blvd.
Elmhurst, Queens
718-592-4039
Online: shopqueenscenter.com

Destination Maternity
Plenty of maternity store customers are prepping for their first child. But many others shop with their older child in tow. Destination Maternity on the Upper East Side of Manhattan had those moms in mind when they located a play area within their 3 in1 retail space, which is home to Motherhood Maternity, Pea in a Pod and Mimi Maternity. A big-screen TV is on hand for bored partners to watch, as well as granola bars, juice and water (in case you’re not going to the bathroom enough as it is).

Destination Maternity
575 Madison Ave.
Upper East Side
212-588-0220
Online: destinationmaternity.com

Making a new friend at PetCo. Photo my Alina Adams.

photo: Alina Adams

PetCo
Not a play area per se, but NYC-area PetCos seem to have gotten the memo that parents and kids like to come check out the guinea pigs, birds, reptiles and fish on display — and welcome the “just browsing” traffic. Some stores even hold open adoption events, during which they bring in dogs and cats in need of new homes, making your visit even more exciting…or tempting.

PetCo
Multiple NYC locations
Online: petco.com

UP AND COMING

Book Culture
The new kid on the block in the Stores With More space is the Upper West Side outpost of Book Culture. The retailer opened its doors this winter, and sells children’s books,  toys and clothes. But it also offers free storytimes in Spanish, French, German and even Persian! In addition, the store will consider buying back some of your old books, which means you could possibly make a profit on the visit!

Book Culture
450 Columbus Ave.
Upper West Side
212-595-1962
Online: bookculture.com

Where do you like to shop and play with your kids?

—Alina Adams