Fun things to do with family in New York

For all its sophisticated, grown-up pleasures, Manhattan can be kid-friendly too – Vishaka Robinson shows you how

Manhattan in summertime might not seem an obvious destination for families with small children. Actually, you’d be surprised. The city injects just as much flair and originality into amusements for kids as it does into the culture, dining and nightlife adults love – and as a Brit writer living in Williamsburg with my husband and one-year-old daughter, Olive, I know all about making Manhattan work with under-12s in tow.

I suggest you start and end the day exploring the city’s parks, free festivals and newly-revamped riverside. The Brooklyn Bridge Park, which opened in 2011, has transformed the formerly industrial riverfront with Jane’s Carousel, a vintage merry-go-round, and promenades with great views of the city. On Manhattan itself, Riverside Park includes a skate park and bike path along the Manhattan Waterfront Greenway. Or try Bryant Park, which is hosting an open-air film festival over the summer. During the middle of the day, though, when temperatures often nudge over 85°F, you’ll want to dip indoors. Here are five gems for families who want some time out from the heat. 

Embarrass them on the dance floor

Seeing their parents break into some disco moves may be a horrifying vision for most kids, but if you have little ones in the six to 12 bracket, you need to get tickets to Fuzipop: weekend dance parties aimed at Manhattan’s most diminutive clubbers. Expect tunes spun by junior DJs-of-the-moment, state of the art lighting, professional dancers, free glow sticks and juice on tap. Proceedings are generally kickstarted with free dance lessons too, so it’s worth being an early bird.

Visit a floating museum

The incredible exhibits at the Intrepid Museum (think a 1940s aircraft carrier, Cold War submarine and restored space shuttle) are worth a visit any time of the year. Four decks inside the USS Intrepid are packed with military and maritime artefacts, plus there’s the Exploreum, an interactive exhibition space where you can climb inside a helicopter cockpit, squeeze yourself in to a submarine bunk or grab some Top Gun action in a flight simulator.

Get a sugar hit on the Upper West Side

The owners of Treat House have taken a humble childhood favourite, marshmallow and Rice Crispy squares, and whipped it into a gourmet delicacy. Choose from 25 flavours (sea salt caramel or crunchy cranberry almond normally get my vote). Then nab yourself a tree stump stool in the café’s stylishly re-imagined ‘urban tree house’ where kids can doodle on chalkboards and measure themselves on a mega-ruler. Jet-lagged parents will appreciate the joltingly strong Stumptown coffee.

Take a 3D view

Budding digital whizzes will go nutso for the Makerbot 3D-printer store in NoHo. On sale for $2,000-plus are 3D printers that promise to change the way we shop and create forever. Here you can watch them in action, get a 3D portrait taken in the store’s hi-tech photo booth and sign up for a $10 Saturday morning kids’ workshops.

Vishaka Robinson is one of the co-founders of Pip and Pea, a NY-focused lifestyle website for parents, and a contributor to Refinery29, Stylist and Gotham

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