The New York City Kids Guide
It may have a reputation as being a concrete jungle, but New York City is packed with incredible, kid-friendly delights and adventures. These are the crowd pleasing spots for little ones.
Alice’s Tea Cup102 W 73rd St., Upper East Side | 212.486.9200
These Alice in Wonderland-themed spots are pretty cute (there are now three outposts), making them a great option for a mid-afternoon snack or a birthday party destination. Pioneered by Lauren and Haley Fox, these teashops offer perfectly brewed teas, healthy snacks, and prettily arranged sweets—from cupcakes to cookies. There is a second location on the Upper East Side (on 81st Street), and one on the Upper West Side.
American Girl Place Café75 Rockefeller Plaza, Midtown | 877.247.5223
If you have an American Girl collector on your hands, then, well, this is the mothership. Besides the shop, there’s a hair salon (yep, a hair salon for dolls), a photo studio, and a café, where kids and their dolls can feast together on brunch, tea, lunch, or dinner. Seating times are strict, and reservations are required.
Bubby’s120 Hudson St., Tribeca | 212.219.0666
There’s not much to confuse or offend on this un-intimidating, all-American menu. It’s based on comfort food, meaning you’ll find casual basics like great mashed potatoes, pancakes, and pies galore. The no-frills, laid-back atmosphere make both outposts equally kid-friendly, as do sweet offerings, like the homemade pie (they're most famous for key lime).
Charlie Bird5 King St., Soho | 212.235.7133
Apart from the tasty Italo-American dishes—a now famous uni pasta, homemade spaghetti (kids go nuts for it), perfect roast chicken—the music is what really sets this restaurant apart. Colorful old-school boombox prints decorate the walls, and Snoop Dogg, Jay Z, and Dre boom from the speakers, making the meal a good one for a big group (they actually have a private dining room if you're inviting more than ten people), rather than an intimate gathering.
Doughnut PlantFalchi Building, 31-00 47th Ave., Long Island City
For many years Mark Israel’s plain glazed doughnut recipe was enough to draw crowds to this Lower East Side foodie destination, but more recent additions, like Mexican churros, house-made jelly filled doughnuts, and cake doughnuts have made Doughnut Plant legitimately legendary. While you can find Doughnut Plant on the menus of many hotels and restaurants throughout NYC, there's also a location in the Chelsea Hotel, Brooklyn, and now Long Island City.
Erin McKenna’s Bakery NYC248 Broome St., Lower East Side | 212.677.5047
You wouldn’t know it from the cute, unassuming exterior, but Erin McKenna revolutionized healthy baking (sounds like an oxymoron, but it’s true). Inside the bubble gum pink, ‘50s-inspired interior, you’ll find punk rock girls serving delicious cupcakes, cookies, and pastries, many of which are gluten- and sugar-free.
Grand BanksPier 25, Hudson River Park, Tribeca | 212.960.3390
From June through October, this oyster bar aboard the historic Sherman Zwicker schooner docks at Pier 25 in Tribeca. Under yellow and white stripe canopies, servers in appropriately nautical outfits distribute casual sea-side fare and cocktails from the built-in bar. During weekend days, it’s a fun lobster roll destination with kids, and in the evenings, thanks to a solid list of schooner-themed cocktails and oysters and small plates, it’s a pretty great night out. While the location is a bit remote, it’s still conveniently close to downtown—plus, how cool is it to eat on the water?
Junior’s1515 Broadway 45th St. B/W Broadway & 8th Ave., Midtown | 212.983.5257
Palatial old-fashioned entrees (tuna melts, grilled cheese sandwiches, chicken fingers) and a whole lot of legendary cheesecake round out the offerings here. (The cheesecake really is where it's at.) There are two city-centric options (including one in Times Square), but if you have time, head to the original on Flatbush in Brooklyn, which still retains its 1950's aesthetic—red booths and banquettes, formica countertops, old-school uniforms, the works—and its friendly, neighborhood feel.
LandmarcTime Warner Center, 10 Columbus Circle, Upper West Side | 212.823.6123
Big, bustling, and long-standing, Landmarc is one of those spots that can appease even the fussiest of palettes. Beyond the fact that they're never annoyed by the presence of young ones, they're quick with the crayons and the kid-friendly menu, which includes hits like macaroni and cheese, chicken fingers, and peanut butter and nutella sandwiches. Did we mention they serve cotton candy? Meanwhile, parents will find plenty that appeals, too, as well as a really nice wine list. It's great for groups as the one in the Time Warner Center in particular is huge—and open until 2am. The original is in Tribeca.
Madeline’s Tea @ Bemelmans BarThe Carlyle, 35 E. 76th St., Upper East Side | 212.744.1600
From October through mid-December, the Carlyle’s legendary Bemelmans Bar—beloved for its wall-to-wall murals painted by Madeline author and illustrator, Ludwig Bemelmans—opens up for afternoon tea and cake for kids. Little ones get to sing Madeline’s songbook along with Tina de Varon at the piano.
Murray’s Bagels500 6th Ave., West Village | 212.462.2830
There are few weekend morning activities quite as essential as picking up coffee and bagels at a local neighborhood shop. In the West Village, the place to go is definitely Murray’s, a long-time neighborhood favorite. While they don’t toast bagels, they do offer every conceivable type of schmear, including a great egg salad. There are tables for eating in, though these travel well, making them pretty perfect picnic fare in warmer weather.
Russ & Daughters Café127 Orchard St., Lower East Side | 212.475.4880
While take-out from the 1914 original on East Houston is an unparalleled New York City experience, the new, wonderfully turned-out, old-world café is about a ten minute walk from the mothership, with waits that are two or three times that long. We heartily recommend the classic open-face sandwich, the super heebster nosh with wasabi roe, and matzo ball soup. Dying to try next: Chocolate babka french toast, along with their potato pancakes, which are topped with Gaspe Nova smoked salmon and a sunny side up egg.
Serendipity 3225 E. 60th St., Upper East Side | 323.838.3532
It’s really all about the frozen hot chocolate here, to the extent that we can’t really vouch for many of the other offerings on the menu. We do know that Serendipity 3 (named for its three founders, not three outposts) came into its own as a coffee shop. Nowadays, it offers a dense menu of classics (both savory and sweet), though kids really do freak out for the hot chocolate. Reservations suggested.
SmorgasburgEast River State Park, 90 Kent Ave.
We’re big fans of Sunday’s Smorgasburg on Pier 5, where vendors like Dough (the ideal doughnut), bigBao (little rice pancakes stuffed with South Asian goodness) and Takumi (Mexi-japanese tacos) roll out their wares. Situated right on the water facing downtown Manhattan, this is the perfect family pitstop thanks to plenty of seating and multiple playgrounds.
Westville173 Ave. A, East Village | 212.677.2033
In the last few years, Westvilles have popped up all over Manhattan, which is probably a good thing since the original West Village outpost was way too tiny. You’ll find every variation of comfort food, from mac and cheese to the hot dogs that made them famous. Beyond myriad toppings and preparations, they offer vegan dogs, too. There's also an outpost that's very close to the Children’s Museum of the Arts, as well as locations in Chelsea and the West Village.