With just a bit of planning, a free mid-winter staycation can be your kids’ favorite vacation yet. Here are some ideas for free or low-cost activities around NYC.
If you’re anything like me, I know exactly what you’re looking for. Day activities that most of the kids won’t totally hate, that are free, or at least super low-cost, and that won’t give Mom and Dad a splitting headache. My personal ‘vacationing with kids’ hack is bringing my family to places that I can enjoy too. It means my kids are Chucky Cheese deprived, but it also means that they have a happier, more relaxed Mom. Here are a few of our family’s favorites, just in time for mid-winter.
The Brooklyn Children’s Museum
Your older kids will love climbing on The Nest, an interactive playscape on the museum’s rooftop terrace, your littles will love the sensory play in the Toddlers Tot exhibit, and every age will have a blast playing in ‘World Brooklyn,’ a mini-Brooklyn just for kids. And you? You’ll love the price tag!
Address: 145 Brooklyn Avenue, Brooklyn, NY 11213
Price: Free on Thursdays, from 2 p.m.-5 p.m.
The Brooklyn Botanic Garden
What are your feelings about doing something outdoors in the winter? If you’re brave, the Brooklyn Botanic Garden has free weekday admission during winter weekdays. Visit the Discovery Garden, a 1-acre garden for kids with interesting plants and habitats. Print out this guide before you go and have fun exploring.
150 Eastern Parkway, Brooklyn, NY 11225
455 Flatbush Avenue, Brooklyn, NY 11225
990 Washington Avenue, Brooklyn, NY 11225
Price: Free weekday admission during winter weekdays
The Metropolitan Museum Of Art
Now, before you scroll on, hear me out. I couldn’t tear my boys away from the arms and armor exhibit and they were thrilled to find a shofar in the musical instruments exhibit. The Met is massive: expect a lot of walking and to not get through it all! I got this map from the entrance and let each kid pick one exhibit to visit. Bonus points if you get your kids to read ‘From the Mixed-Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler’ before; they’ll enjoy seeing the museum they read about up-close.
Address: 1000 Fifth Avenue, New York, NY 10028
Price: NYC residents and NY, NJ and CT students pay what-you-wish
Note: Closed on Wednesdays
Ride the NYC Ferry
For really little ones, going on a boat ride is enough of a trip! But if you’re up for more adventure, make some stops along the way. In Long Island City, Gantry Plaza State Park is a must-visit, the playground is gorgeous and right on the water. Stop at DUMBO and take a short 5-minute walk to the beautifully refurbished Jane’s Carousel (tickets are $2, plus an adult and small child can share a ticket). Once everyone’s tired out, head back on the ferry and make it an early night.
Price: Adults pay $4 a ticket, children under 44 inches ride free
Website: Visit ferry.nyc to see tickets and scheduling info
If you’re not boat people, for non-city kids the subway is a full-on adventure. If you’re from Lakewood, drive to Deal and take a train to Penn Station. Once you’re in the city, there’s endless things to do. Ride the subway, Central Park, window shop, people watch, you name it.
Go Deal-Hunting on Groupon
If all else fails, and you’re willing to spend the time looking, you can discover all sorts of things to do on Groupon. You’ll find places near you you’ve never been and can try them out at a huge discount. I’ve discovered eclectic bowling alleys, mini-golf, and an off-brand trampoline park at a fraction of the price you’d pay at the ones everyone you know goes to. Is it a risk to try a new place? Read the reviews, and decide for yourself!
Most importantly, remember that your attitude decides how fun your vacation will or won’t be. Be positive, come armed with a plan and back-up plan, and have a great time!