Best Places to Shop and Play
Toys “R” Us: A ride on the 60-foot-tall indoor Ferris Wheel is the perfect way to start to your adventure at this giant toy emporium. Kids will love exploring the various themed sections of the store, including the Barbie’s Dollhouse featuring the latest dolls and accessories; Robot Galaxy where kids can build their own robot; and a 20-foot tall T-Rex from Jurassic Park. 1514 Broadway, 1-800-TOYSRUS.
Nintendo World Store: With more than 10,000 square feet of hands-on entertainment, kids won’t lack for things to do! Feeling clueless about the Wii phenomenon? Learn the basics with a virtual tour, and then test your new skills on the game stations. And check out the collection of Nintendo artifacts.%uFFFD 10 Rockefeller Plaza, 646-459-0800.
Build-A-Bear Workshop: At the largest Build-A-Bear Workshop in the world, pick out a fuzzy friend, fill him with stuffing, and dress him up. There are tons of outfits and accessories to choose from, including major league sports gear. 565 Fifth Avenue at 46th Street, 212-871-7080.
NBA Store: This store features the most comprehensive collection of NBA and WNBA merchandise and hosts free events, including player appearances and musical performances. The space is designed to look like a basketball court. 666 Fifth Avenue at 52nd Street, 212-515-NBA1.
World of Disney: For all the Disney fanatics in your life (i.e., fans of “High School Musical,” “The Little Mermaid,” “Wall-E,” etc.), the three floors of merchandise and entertainment won’t disappoint. Come to the Meet and Greets and snap a picture with your favorite character. 711 Fifth Avenue at 55th Street, 212-702-0702.
American Girl Place: A grand emporium of all things “American Girl,” the store includes a café where guests can dine with their dolls, a hair salon for dolls, and a photo studio where visitors can purchase a souvenir issue of American Girl magazine with their face on the cover. 609 Fifth Avenue, 212-644-1145.
Spectacular Spots For Stargazing
Alley Pond Environmental Center, Queens: Renowned astronomer Mark Freilich hosts the REACH FOR THE STARS Astronomy Programs. Families can choose from three Saturday sessions each held at 7 pm: January 17, February 14, and March 14. Sessions are two hours long and are designed to help families appreciate the mystery of the universe by viewing winter constellations like Orion Nebular and Deep Space Phenomenon. For more info: 718-229-4000.
Hayden Planetarium Space Theater, American Museum of Natural History: There’s plenty of star-related family programming at AMNH, like “Twinkling Stars” on January 13 and 20 between 4:30 and 5:50 pm; and “Celestial Highlights” on January 27 and February 3 at 6:30 pm. Advanced registration is encouraged. While at the museum, catch an IMAX film or a Space Show. For more information, call 212-769-5100.
Belvedere Castle, Central Park: Located mid-Park at 79th Street, Belvedere Castle is one of the most scenic spots in the city. Home to the Henry Luce Nature Observatory, the castle lets visitors study the stars using its vast collection of telescopes. Advanced registration is required. For more info call 212-772-0210.
The Best City Skating Rinks
The newly opened Polar Rink at the American Museum of Natural History overlooks the Rose Center for Earth and Space and features a 17-foot-tall polar bear decorated with twinkling lights around which kids can pirouette. 79th Street at Columbus Avenue, 212-769-5100.
Opening this month is Seaport Ice at The South Street Seaport, offering a visually stunning backdrop of tall ships and even taller skyscrapers. Pier 17, South and Fulton Streets.
With ice hockey, a skating school, public skating, and one of the most picturesque settings in the city, Wollman Rink in Central Park has long been a favorite of New York City families. Enter at 59th Street and 6th Avenue, 212-439-6900.
Lasker Rink, a twin rink facility tucked away in the north end of Central Park, offers a youth hockey league, ice skating school, and public ice skating. Enter at 110th Street and Lenox Avenue, 917-492-3856.
There’s free admission to skating at The Pond at Bryant Park, and individual and group lessons are available too. Between 40th and 42nd Streets and Fifth and Sixth Avenues, 866-221-5157.
Everyone should hit The Rink at Rockefeller Center at least once! Skating lessons and public skating are offered—not to mention a picture-perfect view of the Christmas tree. 5th Avenue between 49th and 50th Streets, 212-332-7654.
Everyone from beginners to advanced skaters can glide about the Sky Rink at Chelsea Piers, which has youth hockey, figure skating, general skating, and more. Pier 61, 23rd Street and the Hudson River, 212-336-6100.
The lesser-known Riverbank State Park offers reasonably priced public skating hours throughout the winter. 679 Riverside Drive, 212-694-3600.
Scheduled to open this season is the City Ice Pavilion in Long Island City, an NHL-style dome with an ice skating school, ice hockey training, and free public skating. 47-32 32nd Place, Long Island City, 718-706-6667.
Aviator Sports & Recreation is a mega-sports complex in Brooklyn with two NHL regulation-sized ice rinks. There are skating classes for all ages, as well as beginning and advanced hockey. Located on Flatbush Avenue, just South of Belt Parkway, Exit 11S, 718-758-7500.
An Indoor Sport For Everyone
The Climbing Wall in Central Park: The North Meadow Recreation Center (mid-Park at 97th Street) features indoor climbing walls for adults and children over the age of eight. The walls are supervised during working hours. Advance registration is required. For more info, call 212-348-4867, ext 14.
Chelsea Piers: Featuring a health club, day spa, climbing wall, bowling alley, skating rink, batting cages, basketball courts, indoor lacrosse, soccer fields, and more, this complex of four Hudson River Piers is the place to be when it’s too cold to play outside. For more info: 212-336-6666.
Sutton East Tennis: Located under the 59th Street Bridge, Sutton East’s red clay tennis courts are open every day from September through April. Court time can be reserved on an hourly basis—just be sure to book one week in advance. For more info, call 212-751-3452 or visit.
Bowling: For a classic family outing, head to one of the city’s great bowling alleys. We love 300 New York at Chelsea Piers, the glow-in-the-dark lanes at Bowlmor, and the karaoke theme night at Harlem Lanes.
Aviator Sports and Recreation: Located in Brooklyn, this center offers a wide selection of youth clinics, skating sessions, and a fitness center. Popular sports include gymnastics, soccer, ice hockey, basketball, figure skating, and volleyball. There’s also a mid-winter break camp beginning February 16. For more info: 718-758-7500.
Kid-Friendly Ski Slopes
Thunder Ridge, New York: It’s just 75 minutes from New York City and features 30 trails of varying difficulty levels. Three-hour lessons for children ages 5-12 are offered on weekends and holidays. If you don’t have a car, ride the Metro-North Railroad—on Saturdays and Sundays through March, enjoy free shuttle service between the Patterson train station and the slopes. Patterson, New York, 845-878-4100.
Mohawk Mountain, Connecticut: This spot boasts ski and snowboarding lessons for children ages 5 and up, popular junior racing programs, and women-only weekend clinics. There also are Parent and Tot Passes that let parents and 4-year-olds take lessons together. West Cornwall, Connecticut, 1-800-895-5222.
Mountain Creek, New Jersey: Go for just the day or spend the night. Overnight guests choose from the resort’s newly constructed ski in/ski out Appalachian complex featuring a fitness center, day spa, and underground parking, and its gated Black Creek district of fully equipped one- to three-bedroom townhomes. Triple Play Cards buy three full days of skiing for the bargain price of $75. Kids 6 and under ski free! Mountain Creek, New Jersey, 1-866-889-5060.
Smuggler’s Notch Resort, Vermont: Cruise any one of this award-winning ski spot’s three mountains, then trek over to the FunZone, a kid-friendly recreation center complete with an indoor playground and a mini-golf course. Condominiums come equipped with kitchens, internet access, and in-unit or nearby laundry facilities. Free lift tickets for kids 5 and under. Smuggler’s Notch, Vermont, 1-800-419-4615.
Woodloch Resort, Pennsylvania: Sitting on 1,000 acres within northeastern Pennsylvania’s Pocono Mountains, Woodloch is a four-season retreat. A few of the many winter activities guests enjoy are snow tubing, ice skating, and snowmobiling. Purchase a Woodloch VIP pass for quicker access to the 18 trails over at neighboring Ski Big Bear at Masthope Mountain. Hawley, Pennsylvania, 1-800-WOODLOCH.
Ski Butternut, Massachusetts: Beginners on these Berkshire slopes breathe easy. Three trails are designated Slow Zones wherein speedy skiing is prohibited. Novices ages 4-12 can receive full- and half-day instruction on weekends and holidays. For longer-term vacations, mid-week ski-and-stay packages are a steal. Great Barrington, Massachusetts, 413-528-2000.
Stowe Mountain Resort, Vermont: This all-inclusive ski lodge is a place to be pampered. Dine in at one of its distinctive restaurants. Indulge in star treatment at The Spa. Stay in one of 139 custom-designed rooms at the Stowe Mountain Lodge, or opt for more private dwellings at the cozy Inn at the Mountain. Also available are a variety of townhome rentals perfect for families. On the mountains, kids three and older strengthen their skills in full-day ski instruction programs. Stowe, Vermont, 1-800-253-4754.