Ahh the Upper West Side. It’s as family-friendly as can be. Anchored between two gorgeous parks—Central and Riverside—there are endless outdoor activities to be had for kids of all ages and so much green space your kids won’t clamor for a backyard. This neighborhood is also a culture lovers’ paradise, thanks to Lincoln Center and some of the kid-friendliest museums in the five boroughs. Food and shopping are also geared to families of all shapes and sizes. Read on for the hot spots for families and tots!
Check out that Dino Skeleton: At the American Museum of Natural History
You can’t talk about the Upper West Side without paying homage to the massive and awesome American Museum of Natural History. With over 28 interconnected buildings (and a big one on the way), the museum offers 45 permanent exhibitions and the Rose Center for Earth and Space that will wow your kid, whether she’s into minerals, rocks or plants. Visit now and prepare to be awestruck by the Butterfly Conservatory (open until May), Inside You (open until June) and Our Senses, an immersive experience that opened in November and lasts through next January.
American Museum of Natural History
Central Park West and 79th Street
LH via Yelp
Learn what it was like to be an NYC kid: at the DiMenna Children’s history Museum at the NY Historical Society
There’s no shortage of fun to be had at the DiMenna Children’s History Museum at the New York Historical Society, the first-ever to bring American history to life from a kid’s perspective. Ideal for kids ages eight to 13, the downstairs space focuses on newsboys and girls who sold newspapers on the city street, the Cuban teen and first Latin American to play baseball in the U.S. and so much more. The fact that your kid will learn via hands-on exhibits, interactive games and even a sit-down area full of books to relax and read just adds to the joy of a visit here.
NY Historical Society
170 Central Park West
photo: Lincoln Center
Catch the ballet and classical music bug: At Lincoln Center
To try and summarize all the happenings at Lincoln Center would be next to impossible. To find out what’s happening right now, the Family page on the website is packed with age-appropriate events to choose from, including the renowned New York Philharmonic Young People’s Concert series at David Geffen Hall, regular storytime at the David Rubenstein Atrium and classic musical experiences for babies at the Clark Studio Theater. Spend a little time surfing the Lincoln Center site and prepare to pack your calendar with events the whole family will enjoy!
Lincoln Center for the Arts
10 Lincoln Center Plaza
Visit a space geared to the youngest of kids: At the Children’s Museum of Manhattan
While the Children’s Museum of Manhattan will be making a move in four years to a way bigger space, for now there is tons of fun to be had on CMOM’s five floors of hands-on learning and programming. One favorite: Hello from Japan!, an interactive exhibit that transports families to two distinct parts of Tokyo. At EatSleepPlay, kids learn about healthy lifestyles (hint: your kids may just eat more fruits and veggies after pretending to drive a NYC bus to a greenmarket!)
Children’s Museum of Manhattan
212 West 83rd St.
photo: via Big Daddy’s Facebook page
Bring your appetite: to a throwback diner
At Big Daddy’s, your kids will get to learn about your era—the 80s are in full view here from the vintage lunchboxes and stacks of Trivial Pursuit cards at every table—while tucking into over eight pancake variations (the Oreo pancakes are life-changing), massive bowls of homemade mac-n-cheese (with a must-try side of tots), a wide variety of milkshakes and a kids’ menu that is pretty much the best (and most extensive) in town. Get here early—the diner opens at the parent-pleasing hour of eight AM seven days a week—to avoid the line.
Encourage your kids to love lox: at Barney Greengrass
Since 1908, this family-owned only-in-New York institution has been dishing out plates of smoked fish and egg combo plates that many claim are unparalleled. The atmosphere here isn’t for lounging around, but kids are welcome, and since the lines can be long on weekends get here as close to the opening hour of 8:30 AM as possible (and note that the restaurant is closed on Mondays). Who knows: Maybe your kid will one day become a sturgeon fanatic too. Give him time!
541 Amsterdam Avenue
Feel the farmhouse vibe: at Good Enough to Eat
A West Side institution, Good Enough to Eat has been serving American comfort fare in a farmhouse-themed space since 1981. Your kids will go crazy for the burger bites, mac & cheese, pancakes, waffles and French toast that are the stuff of Upper West side legend.
Good Enough to Eat
520 Columbus Ave.
photo: Kim Sunshine
Spend some time surrounded by kids’ books: at Books of Wonder
An Upper West Side newbie, this sister bookshop to the Chelsea location is a perfect place to stock up on the latest titles that will appeal to the youngest reader in your life all the way up to teenagers seeking the latest in YA literature. The shop holds regular author events and storytime, too.
Books of Wonder
217 West 84th St.
Get your gift shopping done: at Flying Tiger Copenhagen
One of a burgeoning chain of high-end tchotkes, the Flying Tiger across from the Museum of Natural History is well laid-out and has something for everyone, including giftie items for everyone on your list. Shopping for a birthday party? Head here for $2 rolls of gift wrap, hilarious party favors, notebooks, puzzles, cards, craft kits and so much more.
424 Columbus Ave.
photo: Monika D. via Yelp
Burn off some energy: at the Diana Ross Playground
Picking the best playground in the neighborhood isn’t easy. There are so many to choose from but the Diana Ross Playground is notable because of its proximity to the American Museum of Natural History, the fact that funding was provided by the singer Diana Ross after her Great Lawn concert in 1983 (so cool!) and it’s nestled amidst so many gorgeous canopy trees that it’s an ideal place for kids to play year-round (PS: There’s a sprinkler at this playground, too, to cool off during super-hot summer days).
Diana Ross Playground
Central Park West and West 81st Street
Make a pit stop: at the David Rubenstein Atrium
When in need, pull over for a loo break at the David Rubenstein Atrium at Lincoln Center, recently awarded 13th best bathroom by Curbed.com. Not only might you be able to check out a free concert while you’re doing your business, but there are accessible—and super clean—restrooms both on the first and second floor (accessible by elevator), a big relief when you’re with a stroller and free Wi-Fi if you need to connect with your mom friends while you’re on a stroll.
David Rubenstein Atrium at Lincoln Center
61 West 62nd Street
Do you have an Upper West must we missed? Share it in the comments!