Whether it’s too hot or too cold, too rainy or too sunny, sometimes it’s just better to stay inside. But being indoors with the kids in NYC doesn’t mean no fun—quite the opposite. We’ve rounded up 21 places where you and the kids can head when you need to play and have fun inside, for free!
Greenlight Bookstore via Facebook
1. Read Along with Author and Bookseller Storytime at Greenlight Bookstore: Join Greenlight staff in reading their top kid picks on Sundays or visit on Saturdays for author readings, often accompanied by themed arts and crafts activities (recommended for kids 3-8). Older readers have some time for themselves here, too, at the Greenlight Young Readers Book Group, where children aged 9-12 gather on the first Tuesday or Wednesday of each month (depending on location) to discuss books over fresh pizza. 686 Fulton St., Fort Greene and 632 Flatbush Ave., Prospect Lefferts Gardens
2. Take Part in Yoga Storytime at Karma Kids: Exercise the mind and body with yoga storytime, a free drop-in class for kids up to 6 years old. Get a workout while enjoying a story with other families!
25 West 23rd St.
3. See the Original Winnie-the-Pooh in Central Library: Visit the Children’s Center for a rotating collection of kid-friendly materials, free children’s programming on a regular basis and, of course, a glimpse of the original Winnie-the-Pooh toys that provided the inspiration for the stories!
Ground Floor Room 84
Fifth Ave. at 42nd St.
Jazz Guy via Flickr
4. Experience the Magic of Grand Central Terminal: Whether you’ve been here a hundred or a handful of times, Grand Central is always a fun place to explore. Check out the whispering gallery, eat good food, or just marvel at the artwork all around. Seasonal events happen throughout the year, like the famed train show in the winter, so check the website to see what’s happening now.
89 E. 42nd St.
5. Explore Belvedere Castle in Central Park: You might have seen it from the outside, but have you ever stepped foot inside? See Central Park from a different perspective in this castle, that gets its name from the Italian word for “beautiful view.” At the time of this writing, the castle is undergoing restoration with plans to reopen to the public newly fixed up and improved sometime in 2019.
Mid-park at 79th St.
6. Visit the Audubon Center at Prospect Park: If you need to take a breather while exploring Prospect Park, the Audubon Center provides a nice respite full of information about the birds and other animals of the park. Free family-friendly events are held throughout the year so stop by to see what’s happening.
Lincoln Road/Ocean Ave. entrance
photo: Central Park
7. Play Chess and Checkers in Central Park: Stop by the Chess and Checkers House for a game of, well, chess or checkers! Games are available to borrow on good weather days, as well as a few other board games.
Mid-Park at 64th St.
8. Relax with a Book at Barnes and Noble: For when your kids want to curl up with a book but you’re tired of reading the same thing over and over, had to a Barnes and Noble for a change of pace. Find a new favorite or check out the play areas with toys and LEGO tables for younger kids. Something is always happening so check the schedule for free upcoming kid-friendly.
9. Watch a Show at Scandinavia House: While many of the events and shows here do have a cost attached, there are regular family events as well that are often free of charge or low-cost. For a great free kid favorite, check out the monthly storytelling sessions with The Hans Christian Andersen Storytellers.
58 Park Ave. (near Grand Central)
10. Make and Discuss Art at the MoMA: Introduce your kids to art early with free workshops at the MoMA. Programs use existing exhibitions to get inspiration for themed crafts and workshops for kids of various ages. Although workshops are free, advance registration is required. For a change of pace, try out the MoMA’s “Family Films” series, which includes a screening and discussion of a short family-friendly film. Tickets for the film workshops are first-come first-serve.
11 W. 53rd St.
photo: Posman Books at Chelsea Market via Facebook
11. Wander Around Chelsea Market: The atmosphere at Chelsea Market makes it a great place to pop in to wind down. Check out the unique shops like kid-friendly Posman Books bookstore or the wonderful wares of Pearl River Mart. As a bonus, if you get hungry there are plenty of options all around you!
75 9th Ave. (between 15 and 16th St.)
12. Learn Fire Safety at the FDNY Fire Zone: Located inside Rockefeller Center, this fire safety hot-spot is open every day and free for inquiring young minds. Kids can climb around on a model fire truck, put on firefighter gear, learn how to crawl under smoke in case of emergency, and meet a real firefighter. For $5, you can take part in a fire-safety presentation.
34 West 51st St.
photo: Kids Hour via Apple
13. Learn to Code at the Apple Store: Kid Hour is a special program by Apple that introduces kids ages 6 to 12 to coding through the Sphero robots program. Advance registration is recommended, as these tend to fill up. Various locations
14. Learn About Your World at Brooklyn Bridge Park: The Ed Center at Brooklyn Bridge Park is an excellent educational spot for kids who are curious about their environment. Open Tuesdays, Thursdays and weekends for only a few hours at a time, the center is worth a visit for a crafting session, to read some books, or to take part in any of the activities the place has planned for the day.
334 Furman St.
15. Escape to Nature at the Ford Foundation Atrium: Get some peace and quiet with this hidden gem: a lush indoor garden free for everyone to enjoy. Sit and relax in the tranquil atmosphere while the kids explore this impressive indoor “jungle” of real plants.
320 East 43th St.
16. Build and Play at the LEGO and Nintendo Stores: Some stores are just perfect for kids, and these two are loads of fun without even having to buy anything. The Nintendo Store at Rockafeller lets kids try out cool new games, see life-sized figures of their favorite Nintendo characters, and check out a mini-museum dedicated to the company’s consoles. The LEGO stores around the city and its boroughs are equally fun to explore, loaded with miniature world, giant creations, and the occasional building event.
10 Rockefeller Plaza
17. Dance and Sing at Lincoln Center: Introduce your kids to the vast world of music through the Free Saturdays at the Atrium program. Recommended for kids ages 2-5, this program occurs on select Saturdays at 11 a.m. in the David Rubenstein Atrium and has guests playing music from all over the world, in an interactive blast fun for the whole family.
61 West 62nd St.
Upper West Side
photo: Home Depot
18. Build Your Own Crafts at Home Depot: You might not think of Home Depot as a kid-friendly place but stores around the city host free building workshops where kids can apply STEM skills to crafts like making little wooden boats, heart-shaped boxes for Valentine’s Day, and other themed fun. Kids get to keep their craft and receive a certificate of completion they can proudly display. Various locations
19. Wiggle It out at Brookfield Place: Bring the kids to the Saturday Morning Show at Hudson Eats between 10 and 12 for a live children’s music performance where they can dance, sing, and participate in the show. This event is seasonal from January to April, but there’s always something going on at Brookfield Place so visit anytime for fun exhibits, shows, and events or just to wander around amid the indoor palm tree forest.
230 Vesey St.
Battery Park City
20. Visit Your Local Library: One of the best places to head for a good time indoors is your local library. Not only is is a good way to encourage reading, but most libraries host regular free children’s programming, crafts, storytimes, singalongs, game nights, and so much more. Check out the library websites for Brooklyn, Queens, and Manhattan/Bronx/Staten Island.
21. Explore a Museum: Many of NYC’s museums are either pay-as-you-wish or offer free hours — and some offer free admission for kids at various ages. Check out a list of museums free and donation-based offerings at NYC-Arts.