Family Fun on the Upper West Side: Guide to Child-Friendly Activities

Children's Museum of Manhattan

The Upper West Side of New York City is a perfect mix of natural beauty and cultural richness. This classy, vibrant neighborhood has so much to offer, from parks to museums to cafés. The Upper West Side is one of the best neighborhoods for family adventures, due to its world-class cultural institutions — which are perfect for all ages — and its calm, verdant environment. Home to such must-visit destinations as the American Museum of Natural History, Columbus Center, and Lincoln Center, the Upper West Side gives parents a wide array of family-friendly activities to choose from.

No matter if you are a local or a visitor, these are six absolutely essential destinations for families on the Upper West Side. 

American Museum of Natural History (4 min. drive / 13 min. walk)

As one of the most fascinating museums in the city, the American Museum of Natural History is a must-visit for everyone. This iconic destination features more than 34 million specimens that span a vast period of Earth’s history. Its permanent exhibits, of which there are over 40, explore everything from fossils to space exploration, and ocean life to dinosaurs to anthropology. Some of the exhibits children will love most are the Butterfly Conservatory, which houses some of the world’s most beautiful and exotic creatures, and Hayden’s Planetarium, which offers state-of-the-art space exploration simulations. 

The Museum of Natural History doesn’t just offer exhibits, though. It also organizes a range of educational experiences, from hands-on workshops to science camps. The Discovery Room, for one, is designed for kids to learn about the natural world through interactive games.

Children’s Museum of Manhattan

(3 min. drive / 9 min. walk) 

The aptly named Children’s Museum of Manhattan, founded in 1973, is another perfect destination for younger kids especially. Its focus is on education, music, art, science, and health, which it teaches through interactive exhibits, educational workshops, and engaging experiments. 

Some of its current exhibits include Dynamic H2O, a seasonal outdoor experience that explores the water cycle and how New York City gets its water, and Right to Vote, which teaches kids about women’s suffrage and civic participation in the United States. Child-oriented and incredibly educational, the Children’s Museum of Manhattan is an amazing experience for kids. 

Lincoln Center

(4 min. drive / 16 min. walk) 

Located at the southern end of the Upper West Side, Lincoln Center is a cultural hub that is home to 11 different arts organizations, including the New York Philharmonic and the New York City Ballet. Besides that, though, Lincoln Center also offers programs geared towards kids and families. Many of their art-focused shows for families are free or choose-what-you-pay, making them highly accessible for everyone. 

Some examples include a fusion show by La Mezcla, an ensemble that performs contemporary tap and Mexican zapateado, and Inspector Pulse, an introduction to classical music for kids ages 6 and up. Beyond that, Lincoln Center offers performing arts classes, ballet excerpts, and much, much more. 

Vital Theatre Company

(1 min. walk) 

Dedicated to performing theater for children, the Vital Theatre Company is a joyful, collaborative group that shows an average of three to five new musicals for children every season. In 2012, the theater company received the 2012 Off-Broadway Alliance Award for Best Family Musical, and it has continued its high quality since then. 

They mostly perform at the McGinn/Cazale Theater (also known as the WP Theater) on Broadway, which is less than 300 meters from The Wallace; they also perform on occasion at the John Cullum Theater and the AMT Theater, which are both on the Upper West Side. Their current productions include Pinkalicious: The Musical, and Kid Frankenstein: The Musical, which are sure to please a range of children. 

Baked by Melissa

(3 min. drive / 9 min. walk) 

Cupcakes, macarons, desserts, oh my! Baked by Melissa offers beautiful, bite-size sweet treats that are perfect for family sugar cravings. Their iconic mini cupcakes are the perfect way to end a day of trekking through New York City, and are sure to stop any tantrum in its tracks. Some of Baked by Melissa’s best flavors include Red Velvet, Chocolate, Vanilla, and Tie-Dye, as well as a range of more unique offerings, and the cupcakes come in sets of 6, 12, and 25. 

Try some delectable cupcakes — that are perfect for all ages — at one of the Baked by Melissa stores on the Upper West Side. There’s one at Columbus Circle and one on Broadway (only half a mile from The Wallace). 

Riverside Park

(2 min. drive / 6 min. walk) 

Spend some time outdoors enjoying a sprawling view of the waterfront with a stroll around Riverside Park. This scenic Upper West Side destination has lots of green space for active kids to run around, throw a frisbee, and explore nature; it also offers various public playgrounds for kids to work off their energy. Bordering the Hudson River, Riverside Park’s views are gorgeous for parents and children alike. 

Enjoy a luxurious New York City stay with your whole family at The Wallace. Book now!