UPPER WEST SIDE

Nestled between two gorgeous parks, this family-friendly neighborhood has culture for all ages among pretty brownstones and fancy high rises. Also see our guides to midtown and Central Park, plus upcoming events.

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EVENTS

Spring at the Atrium

Broadway between West 62nd and West 63rd Streets
May 26

Join Lincoln Center for concerts with artists from across the globe in genres ranging from swing to Afro-Peruvian to opera. Performers change nightly; some are more kid-friendly than others, but the vibe is usually relaxed with space to walk and dance in the back.

The indoor space is weather proof but with fountains and plant-covered walls giving it an open feel. Seating and entry are first-come, first-served; the line forms at the Atrium’s entrance on Broadway, between 62nd and 63rd Street.

Proof of covid vaccination required for all, ages 5+ only.

Wake Up, Daisy!

Central Park, West 79th Street & West Drive
May 27

The historic, cozy Swedish Cottage Marionette Theatre is back in action with modern take on Sleeping Beauty. Marionettes and music tells the story of Daisy, a lively little girl living in the heart of New York City in an apartment overlooking Central Park. At Daisy’s much-anticipated birthday party, she encounters three special guests, known as her “Squad-parents”, from Brooklyn, Queens, and the Bronx who grant her the gifts of courage, knowledge, and a second chance. When an unwelcome guest shows up and casts a curse on her, Daisy’s life is forever changed, but through the support of her friends and an adventure throughout the city, Daisy’s strong self-determination and vivid imagination may be all she needs to break the curse.

Capacity is limited for social distancing. Unassigned seating on benches in a small theater (grown-ups are encouraged to sit in the back). Stroller parking available in the lobby. Near the lovely Shakespeare Garden.

Thursday-Sunday 11 am & 1 pm

The Dance Floor at the Atrium

Broadway between West 62nd and West 63rd Streets
May 27

Dance at the Lincoln Center Atrium, featuring DJ-spun hits and live performances representing the most-loved musical genres of today, including Hip Hop, K-Pop, and the long-awaited return of the ¡VAYA! Latin dance music series.  Each night begins with a short dance tutorial.

The indoor space is weather proof but with fountains and plant-covered walls giving it an open feel.

Proof of covid vaccination required for all, ages 5+ only.

New York City Ballet Family Saturday: A Magical Midsummer

20 Lincoln Center Upper West Side
May 28

Explore George Balanchine’s beloved ballet inspired by Shakespeare’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream featuring feuding fairy kingdoms, quarreling couples, and a troupe of bumbling actors entangled in a magical forest.

See excerpts from this charming ballet, hear from the artists who perform it and maybe learn a few fairy moves from your elegant seat. Very engaging and entertaining for kids and grown-ups alike.

Proof of vaccination required for ages 5+, proof of a negative PCR test taken no more than 72 hours before the performance required for children under 5.

A Midsummer Night’s Dream

65th Street & Broadway
May 28

George Balanchine’s magical adaption of Shakespeare’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream features a lush forest besieged by quixotic love triangles, feuding fairy kingdoms, a hilarious hungry donkey and the cutest dancing butterflies. First act is more action packed than the second, so consider the cheap seats with the option to leave at intermission.

Anyone under 30 years old can get two $30 tickets through the $30 for 30 program. Technically it’s for ages 13-30, but my 6-year-old was able to bring me for cheap.  Also sign up for children’s dance workshops before some shows.

Proof of vaccination required; ages 5+ only. All are welcome at the (shorter) New York City Ballet Family Saturday on May 28.

GATHER: Rituals

65th Street & Broadway
May 28

Join participatory events with Amanda Phingbodhipakkiya, the creator of GATHER, public art installations throughout Lincoln Center. Rituals grounded in Southeast Asian  healing rituals, accompanied by live music, change weekly. Share a vision for the future on shades of gold ribbon to be tied around trees, release a floating vessel to carry away burdens, worries, or grief gently into the pool or throw water at a cylindrical tapestry of mixed media and pigment.

Grand Bazaar

100 West 77th Street
May 29

Shop at an outdoor market featuring 80+ hand-picked independent local artisans and dealers. Find one-of-a-kind handmade candles, skincare, fashion, vintage accessories and collectibles, handmade jewelry and furniture, rare antique silver- and glassware, and delicious artisanal chocolates and foods.

Profits are donated to four local public school.

Grown Up and Me Painting

243 West 72nd Street
May 29

10:30 am – 12 pm, paint as a family under the guidance of friendly instructors. Can be tailored to suit any kid and any vision, from Mother’s Day flowers to splatter paint abstract. Work together, or each person can create his/her own masterpiece.

From 1-3 pm, Professional artists guide ages 7+ step by step to help your create a one a kind masterpiece. Projects change each week; from Van Gogh’s white roses to fantastical mermaids.

Fees include ALL supplies (canvases, paints, brushes, other materials). Wear old clothes that might get messed up. Fee is per canvas, parents that do not want to paint are welcome to stay and watch.

Little New-Yorkers New-York Historical Society Storytime

70 Central Park West at 77th Street
May 29

Join museum educators in the lovely children’s library for story time and crafts. Each class includes a special hello song, silly dances and games, a story book reading, and a craft to do after the story. Themes related to New York history and current exhibits change monthly.

See our guide to New-York Historical Society.

Columbus Ave Open Streets

Columbus Avenue between 68th & 72nd St
May 29

Dine on fare from local restaurants and tables set up in car free streets. Enjoy activities for all ages including kids music, artmaking, live music, store discounts, food samples, sidewalk chalk, games and more.

Also look for art installations in storefronts.

Locomotive Lawn Live

Riverside Boulevard & West 61st Street
Jun 2

Join Moosiki Kids outdoor Musical Storytime that fosters a love of reading at a young age with musical stories, a mix of kid and rock songs  and sing along encouragement on a comfy, danceable turf lawn right by the big locomotive.

Free DIY egg shakers while supplies last, and bring your own instruments plus a mat to sit on. There is no shade on the lawn, so bring an umbrella or hats and sunscreen.
Enter at Hudson River Park at either W 59th or Pier I and walk towards W 63rd.

Bloomingdale School of Music 20th Annual Performathon

323 West 108th Street Upper West Side
Jun 4

Join the Bloomingdale School of Music community for live non-stop performances, music-themed carnival games, prizes, face-painting, a photo booth,
cotton candy and more in support of Bloomingdale’s mission to provide open access to quality music education.

MUSEUMS

Cathedral of St. John the Divine & Peace Fountain

1047 Amsterdam Avenue at West 112th Street Upper West Side

The largest Cathedral in the world, built in 1892, is open for visitors  Monday-Friday 9:30 am–3 pm and Saturday–Sunday 9:30 am-5 pm. Timed tickets strongly encouraged.

Explore rotating art exhibitions that span centuries, celebrating the creativity of 17th century weavers to modern painters and everything in between. 48 relief panels on the giant bronze front doors depict scenes from the Old and New Testaments and the Apocalypse.

Outside, see charming small bronze animal sculptures created by K-12 students from NYC and tri-state area around a 40-foot high bronze sculpture by Cathedral Artist-in-Residence Greg Wyatt. Depictions of a giant crab, nine giraffes, a double helix, Albert Einstein  the sun and satan represent the eternal conflict between good and evil. Also look for peacocks roaming around the lovely grounds.

Pick up at cappuccino, croissants & Eastern European treats at the funky Hungarian Pastry Shop across the street.

Sharks

West 81st Street & Central Park West

Get up close with dozens of life-sized models of spectacular, surprising, and often misunderstood sharks. Go inside the jaw of an megalodon, see fossils, touch models of teeth, hunt like a hammerhead and more in touch-free interactive displays.

See our complete guide to the Natural History Museum.

The Butterfly Conservatory

West 81st Street & Central Park West

Walk through a 1,200 square foot vivarium with over 500 butterflies of more than 100 different species from countries including Thailand, Brazil, Kenya and Australia.

The lovely plants, flowers and temperatures are tropical so dress in layers. Or get an outside view of the people, plants and butterflies through transparent walls in a hallway with educational illustrations like videos and displays about the protection of butterflies and New York species.

See our complete guide to the American Museum of Natural History.

Art on the Ave NYC: Creating Tomorrow

Columbus Ave between 68th and 77th streets

Take a gallery walk along Columbus Ave between 68th and 77th streets that spotlights artists from New York around the theme of “Creating Tomorrow” in a partnership between artists, storefront owners, and local businesses.

Visit businesses displaying Art on the Ave NYC signage to get a map as well as special discounts and offers. As you explore the art, scan the StoriDot next to each piece with your phone’s QR code reader to listen to a recording by the artist or make a purchase.

Also try educational activities inspired by the art.

GATHER: A series of monuments and rituals

65th Street & Broadway

From May 14–July 3, Amanda Phingbodhipakkiya’s participatory installations take over the outdoor spaces of Lincoln Center, filling the campus with color, light, dimension, and heart. Grounded in healing rituals from her Southeast Asian heritage, Phingbodhipakkiya invokes emotions of grief, hope, catharsis, joy, and connection in four moving installations. Visitors will reclaim space, foster belonging, and express their truth—finding a path forward.

The installations will be open to the public all day, and join artist Amanda Phingbodhipakkiya when she hosts scheduled interactive events each weekend.

Dynamic H2O

212 West 83rd Street between Broadway & Amsterdam

Cool off at a splashy water exhibit with 800 sq. ft. of of hands-on interactives and colorful graphics. Children can trace the path of New York City’s water as they play and explore. Learn about the water cycle, pretend to fish, pump water to the top of a skyscraper, create a 92 mile aqueduct and construct a city at the water’s edge.

See our guide to CMOM.

Children’s Museum of Manhattan (CMOM)

212 West 83rd Street between Broadway & Amsterdam

Explore interactive, educational, well-designed exhibits for babies to pre-teens.

* Assemble, create, peek into, crawl under, and walk through one of a kind sculptures and installations in Inside Art.

* Cool off at splashy (outdoor) water exhibit Dynamic H2O with 800 sq. ft. of of hands-on interactives and colorful graphics.

* Cross a rainbow bridge, learn Spanish, dance in Dora’s bedroom and imaginative play in the spacious Adventures with Dora and Diego.

* Sit on your own presidential desk and learn what voting is and why it matters and the role of the president of the United States in Right to Vote.

* Step into a playful, comic book version of New York City with a lively team of pigeons, Zip, Zap, and Zoom in Superpowered Metropolis.

* Enjoy educator-led experiences and special guest artist including weekly themed art projects, art scavenger hunts, storytime, dance-time & music.

* New $100 3-month “mini membership” includes unlimited free admission for 2 adults and up to 4 children  plus nannies and caregivers, access to members-only hours and events and 15% off purchases at the CMOM Store.

🌳 Lots of chances for climbing and sliding inside the museum; for outdoor play head a few blocks west to the River Run Playground or a little north to the destination Hippo Playground.

🍽 Nearby, choose from salads, sandwiches, amazing healthy artisanal bread and not-so-healthy pastries at the UWS outpost of the 100+-year-old Orwashers Bakery  or indulge at famous French dessert cafe  Cafe Lalo.

 

American Museum of Natural History

West 81st Street & Central Park West

Lovers of dinosaurs, sea creatures, outer space and more can get their animal & nature fix at this giant (45 fascinating halls) treasure trove of wonders.

* Favorite spots: Learn about moon rocks and meteorites in the stunning Rose Center for Earth and Space. A 94-foot-long blue whale hangs over an assortment of sea creatures in the Hall of Ocean Life.  Zebras, giraffes and other jungle animals surround a family of elephants in the Hall of African Mammals on the second floor. The famous dinosaur bones fill most of the fourth floor. We’ve hunted for everything from turtles to musical instruments to ‘Dora’s house’ (Mexican architecture) and aways found what we were looking for and so much more.

* Be dazzled at the sparkly new, expanded Halls of Gems and Minerals. Learn about the vast diversity of mineral species through more than 5,000 specimens from 98 countries, including giant amethyst geodes and the legendary 563-carat Star of India sapphire.

* Timed tickets can be purchased in advance for special exhibits ($3.50-$5); the shows sell out well in advance.  Go inside the jaw of an megalodon, see fossils, touch models of teeth, hunt like a hammerhead and more in (touch-free) interactive Sharks . Walk through a 1,200 square foot vivarium with over 500 butterflies in the Butterfly Conservatory. Experience the most advanced planetarium projection system in the world Lupita Nyong’o-narrated, Worlds Beyond Earth. See the stunning Wings over Water in giant IMAX.

* Download the Museum’s free Explorer app. for maps, self-guided themed tours, behind-the-scenes stories about exhibits, quizzes, and more.

* Coat check, drinking fountains, Discovery Room and touchscreen/interactive elements all currently closed.

* This place is huge, so be prepared for lots of walking. Strollers are welcome everywhere (except some special exhibits where they can be left at the entrance). Elevators are very slow so take the stairs if you can.

*   NY, NJ, and CT residents admission is pay-what-you-wish (ID required on arrival). But really you should become a member ($150+/year); it takes dozens of visits to see everything plus you get lots of perks. Online advance timed ticket purchase required, even for members.

* Entrances at Central Park West (stairs at 79th Street) and 81st Street (between Columbus & Central Park West – stroller friendly) are open (plus the lower level of CPW & 79th Street for members). In warm weather, frolic in large fountains on the second floor terrace outside the planetarium  – don’t forget a bathing suit & towel.

🍽 The Food Court is open 10:30 am–5:30 pm Wednesday-Sunday, plus snacks available in vending machines and gift shops. Pick up burgers and shakes from Shake Shack across Columbus and eat on the benches surrounding the museum.

🌳 Across Central Park West, climb on shaded wooden structures at the lovely Diana Ross Playground.

* Closed most Mondays & Tuesdays. Can get very crowded on weekends and holidays, but there is always a quiet nook to explore.

New-York Historical Society

70 Central Park West at 77th Street

Learn about the layered, diverse history of NYC at this fascinating museum.

* In the interactive Children’s History Museum, explore 350 years of New York and American history through character-based pavilions, interactive exhibits and digital games, and a charming library. Try cross-stitch, see historic baseball gear, ride an Orphan Train, play a newsies video game and much more.

* Look for kid-friendly objects throughout the galleries – a Noah’s Ark toy and historical fire fighting equipment, dragonflies in gorgeous Tiffany Lamps, and more discoveries. In-gallery interactives include the incredible design-your-own Tiffany lamp in the gorgeous fourth floor galleries.

* Explore a detailed re-creation of the White House Oval Office and hear audio recordings of presidential musing.  In the Meet the Presidents gallery, trace the evolution of the presidency through artwork and objects like the actual Bible used during George Washington’s inauguration in 1789 and a student scrapbook from 1962 chronicling JFK’s leadership during the Cuban Missile Crisis.

* Pose with bronze Abraham Lincoln and Frederick Douglass statues outside the West 77th Street and Central Park West entrances.

* Immersive multi-media films New York Story and We Rise screen alternating on the hour from 12 to 3 pm.

* Restrooms available on on each floor, with baby-changing facilities on the lower level, first floor, and fourth floor. All galleries are stroller friendly. Collapsed strollers may be left at coat check.

🍽 Sandwiches, pastries and more available at the counter-service Parliament Espresso and Coffee Bar or dine at the delicious Caffe Storico. Shake Shack is down the block, which has indoor seating or take-out for picnics on benches around the American Museum of Natural History.

🌳 Across the street from Central Park, and a short walk to the lovely Diana Ross playground and destination Hecksher Playground.

🛍 Shop for history & NYC themed educational toys, books & more at the wonderful gift shop.

Wednesday–Thursday 11 am – 5 pm
Friday 11 am–8 pm
Saturday–Sunday 11 am – 5 pm

Pay-as-you-wish admission Fridays 6-8 pm.

GATHER: Rituals

65th Street & Broadway

Join participatory events with Amanda Phingbodhipakkiya, the creator of GATHER, public art installations throughout Lincoln Center. Rituals grounded in Southeast Asian  healing rituals, accompanied by live music, change weekly. Share a vision for the future on shades of gold ribbon to be tied around trees, release a floating vessel to carry away burdens, worries, or grief gently into the pool or throw water at a cylindrical tapestry of mixed media and pigment.

New-York Historical Society Pay-What-You-Wish

70 Central Park West at 77th Street

Admission is up to you Friday evenings at this Learn about this fascinating museum.

* In the interactive Children’s History Museum, explore 350 years of New York and American history through character-based pavilions, interactive exhibits and digital games, and a charming library. Try cross-stitch, see historic baseball gear, ride an Orphan Train, play a newsies video game and much more.

* Look for kid-friendly objects throughout the galleries – a Noah’s Ark toy and historical fire fighting equipment, dragonflies in gorgeous Tiffany Lamps, and more discoveries. In-gallery interactives include the incredible design-your-own Tiffany lamp in the gorgeous fourth floor galleries.

See our guide to the New-York Historical Society.

OUTDOORS

Hippo Playground

Riverside & 91st Street

Frolic and splash with beloved hippo statues in this well maintained playground in lovely Riverside Park featuring swings, wooden and metal play equipment, slides, a spray shower, picnic tables, benches, sand pit, a drinking fountain, bathrooms and summer weekday art projects.

River Run Playground

West 82rd Street & Riverside Drive

A shady large playground nestled in pretty Riverside Park is  just big enough for range of ages but small enough not to lose wanderers within its fences.  Play on all sorts of equipment including see saws, swings, multiple jungle gyms, and monkey bars and a large sand pit.

On hot days, sprinklers create a replica of the nearby Hudson River, perfect for splashing and playing. Picnic tables and bathrooms available.

Diana Ross Playground

West 81st Street & Central Park West

Summit Rock, the highest natural point in Central Park, provides a shady (climbable) backdrop to this pretty playground. A large wooden climbing structure with multiple levels of platforms and decks links to ladders, slides, and tire swings, all set in a naturalistic sand area. Also enjoy toddler swings and spray showers in the summer.

Named after the  famous singer, who funded the construction of the playground following her concert in 1983 on the Great Lawn. No bathrooms, but across the street from the Natural History Museum (where all city kids should be member, not just for the bathroom usage).

Heckscher Playground

Sixth Avenue & Central Park South

Central Park’s largest playground features a shaded area with swings and slides, a large, maze-like climbers, seasonal water features, sloped turf, a large sandbox area, low monkey bars, tunnels, ramps and (our favorite) giant rocks to climb. Plus a spacious bathroom.

Face painters, musicians and giant bubble makers often congregate at the entrance.

Belvedere Castle

Mid park around 79th Street Upper West Side

One of the most iconic features in Central Park, this miniature castle is located atop the huge rock outcrop known as Vista Rock, the second highest natural point in Central Park.

The whimsical structure, designed by Calvert Vaux and Frederick Law Olmsted in 1869, provides the highest and best views of the Park and the adjacent cityscape – plus has bathrooms, water fountains, some informational displays plus medieval-esque staircases and doorways for playing princess/knight.

Download the Belvedere Castle Audio Guide  (available in English, Spanish and American Sign Language for info about the architecture and history of the castle.

EAT

Levain Bakery

167 West 74th Street at Amsterdam

Everything is baked on-site throughout the day at this legendary bakery, from an array of rustic breads to the world-famous, super-gooey, six-ounce cookies in five flavors: Two Chip Chocolate Chip, Walnut Chocolate Chip, Dark Chocolate Chocolate Chip, Dark Chocolate Peanut Butter Chip & Oatmeal Raisin (plus a gluten-free chocolate chip option). The whole wheat walnut raisin rolls are also yummy (and a little healthier).

Outposts also on the UES and in NoHo.

Alice’s Tea Cup

102 West 73rd Street at Columbus Avenue

Enjoy scones in rotating flavors as magical as the decor, sandwiches, salads and treats with optional fairy wings and glitter at a whimsical tea house inspired by Alice in Wonderland. Choose from hundreds of teas served in charming mismatching pots and cups.

Gets crowded on weekends; reservations recommended. Go early to beat the crowds (or take the scones to go for a Central Park picnic).

Also in the East 60s.


Wednesday–Sunday 11 am – 6 pm

Orwashers UWS

440 Amsterdam Avenue @ 81st Street Upper West Side

Try some of the best jelly donuts in the city, plus choose from salads, sandwiches, amazing healthy artisanal bread and not-so-healthy pastries at the UWS outpost of the 100+-year-old Orwashers Bakery with counter service and indoor/outdoor seating.

Also at 308 East 78th Street (between 1st & 2nd Aves).

Monday-Saturday 7 am – 6 pm
Sunday 7 am – 6 pm

Épicerie Boulud

1900 Broadway at West 64th Street Upper West Side

Chef Daniel Boulud’s casual outpost is one of our favorite stops before or after Lincoln Center shows. My daughter gets a gourmet hot dog, I have a tasty salad or quiches, my son gets a hearty sandwich, we all end with colorful macarons. Counter service with limited seating; we like to go across the street to Dante Park or Lincoln Center on sunny days – then come back for the artisanal gelato.

By the Way Bakery

2442 Broadway at 91st Street

A small cute bakery with muffins, cakes, cookies, cupcakes and more tasty treats, all of which happen to be gluten free but appeal to those without allergies too.

Also on the UES (1236 Lexington Avenue), Greenwich, CT and Hastings-on-Hudson, Westchester.

Daily 8 am–6 pm

Cafe Lalo

201 West 83rd Street

The extensive cheesecake-heavy dessert menu and charming Belle Époque decor lure locals to this cash-only tourist favorite. Dine on salads, sandwiches, pastries and all-day waffles, quiches and omelets or choose from exquisite desserts including 20+ cheesecake flavors, dozens of pies tarts and cakes (including 10 gluten-free options) and jumbo cookies a al a mode.

So Parisian and pretty it was in a Meg Ryan/Tom Hanks romantic comedy.

Monday-Thursday 9 am-1 am

Friday-Saturday 9 am-3 am

Sunday 9 am-1 am

Caffe Storico

170 Central Park West at 77th Street

Feast on antipasti, artisanal pastas, paninis and other Italian=inspired inventive, ingredient-driven dishes, plus mac & cheese and grilled cheese – at Caffe Storico, a classy yet kid-friendly eatery within the engaging New-York Historical Society (museum admission not required).

Indoor and outdoor seating available.

Wednesday – Sunday  11 am – 3 pm
Friday – Saturday  5 pm – 8 pm

Kee’s Chocolates

228 Columbus Ave at W 72st Street

Artisanal chocolates, freshly handcrafted by Kee Ling Tong, come in inventive flavors like sesame, green tea, ghost pepper, balsamic and more. Fresh ingredients from around the around world include yuzu from Japan, sea salt from France, and saffron from Spain. Available flavors of bonbons, truffles, pralines and macarons change based on seasonal ingredients.

Tuesday–Sunday 11:30 am – 6 pm

Columbus Ave Open Streets

Columbus Avenue between 68th & 72nd St

Dine on fare from local restaurants and tables set up in car free streets. Enjoy activities for all ages including kids music, artmaking, live music, store discounts, food samples, sidewalk chalk, games and more.

Also look for art installations in storefronts.