Toby and Anton have lived in New York City their whole lives (which is crazy for this Midwesterner-at-heart to think about), and they’ve fallen in love with certain spots. Here are the 11 places they regularly beg us to take them…
The Metropolitan Museum of Art (Upper East Side)
Toby says: “I love the Met! You can get a map!”
Parenting tip: The whole museum is spectacular, and our boys love the Egyptian galleries. Also, there’s a great library downstairs with children’s art books and story times. A cool exhibit coming this summer: Turner’s paintings of boats and humans encountering massive whales in the ocean!
Natural History Museum (Upper West Side)
Toby says: “My favorite parts are the whale and the glass elevator.”
Anton says: “The dinosaurs.”
Parenting tip: The whale room couldn’t be more relaxing. On warm days, walk up to the roof and splash in the sprinklers! Also, if you buy tickets on their app, you can skip the long entrance lines.
Toby says: “I like the hot dogs and soft pretzels.”
Anton says: “The boats.”
Parenting tip: The entire park is magical, but if you’re in a playground mood, check out the pyramid, tunnels and bridges at Heckscher Playground. In the summer, it becomes an epic water park, with cool jets spraying every which way, even inside the tunnels. Also, if your child, like Anton, believes they’re secretly a knight, get them to the Belvedere Castle. (Very castle-y.)
The secret slide in Teardrop Park (Battery Park City)
Toby says: “The slide is so tall that you are basically in the sky. It’s not scary, though, and you go really fast. I keep my arms up.”
Parenting tip: If you’re hungry afterward, walk to the Shake Shack down the street.
Taj Indian restaurant (East Village)
Toby says: “Can we go today? Can we go? Is it okay? Just say yes. The tabla guy lets me play the tabla. Can we go today? The lady is so nice.”
Parenting tip: There’s live music – sitars! sarangis! — every evening (starting at 6:30 p.m. on weekdays and 5 p.m. on weekends). The musicians are so, so lovely and often let the kids sit and jam with them.
Children’s Museum of the Arts (West Village)
Toby says: “The clay bar I definitely like.”
Parenting tip: We love the homemade play dough, kid-sized easels and rotating themed exhibitions. On the weekends, staff members will grab drums and do hilarious music sessions, usually around 11:30 a.m. and 1:30 p.m. For lunch afterward, head to Westville across the street.
Brunch at The Odeon (Tribeca)
Toby says: “I got oatmeal with raisins and yummy nuts.”
Parenting tip: Now and again, we’ll take the boys out to brunch as a special treat; when we do, we LOVE the Odeon. Overall, I find that “family-friendly” places can be chaotic, which makes our boys kind of wild and restless. But if we go to a quieter restaurant, they chill out and enjoy it. Odeon — a classic, old-school bistro — is perfect for this.
IKEA (Red Hook)
Toby says: “They have pretend houses!”
Anton says: “We play house with Mommy and pirates with Mommy.”
Parenting tip: On cold winter days, when the boys need a run-around, we head to IKEA. The boys pretend they’re grown-ups (THRILL!) in the fake model apartments, and they try out all the bunkbeds and desks in the kids’ section.
Brooklyn Bridge Park (Dumbo and Brooklyn Heights)
Toby says: “I like riding on the carousel. I go on the up and down ones.”
Anton says: “I go on the staying ones.”
Parenting tip: If you walk along the water (away from the carousel), Pier 6 has the best playgrounds — sandbox village, slide mountain, swing valley. Go bananas! There’s also a great rooftop pizza place with gorgeous views of Manhattan sunsets.
Brooklyn Crab (Red Hook)
Toby says: “I like basically everything.”
Parenting tip: The back garden — which opens for the summer this Saturday!!! — feels a million miles from New York City. Kids can play in the sandbox or on the climbing structure, while you straight chill at picnic tables having crab rolls and beers.
Wonder Wheel Park (Coney Island):
Toby says: “I like the rides, all the rides.”
Anton says: “I like the rides, all the rides, too.”
What would you (or your little ones) add? I’d love to explore Queens more this summer (we love Rockaway Beach), and these movie matinees look cool!
P.S. 8 more activities for toddlers, and our Brooklyn apartment.
(New York City photo by George Steinmetz. Photos of Toby and Anton by Julia Robbs. Graphic design by Diana Moss.)