Activities to Do With Your Kid on the Lower East Side
With great restaurants, bars, shopping, nightlife, an unbeatable visual arts scene, and numerous music venues, Manhattan’s Lower East Side is widely regarded as one of the city’s most vibrant neighborhoods for adults. What many don’t know, however, is that this popular New York City neighborhood is also jam-packed with exciting activities for little ones as well. Whether you’re a parent living in a nearby high rise, like the 68-story One Manhattan Square luxury tower rising over the East River, who’s looking for something to do with your own kids, an aunt or uncle hoping to earn some brownie points with your sibling’s children, or a babysitter in need of an activity, the Lower East Side more than delivers. Check out these great, kid-friendly ways to spend a day on the Lower East Side.
Teach them about New York’s history with a trip to the Tenement Museum: Long before New York City was home to the luxury developments it’s known for today, many of its residents lived in conditions that would be unrecognizable to most modern-day New Yorkers. New York City’s tenement buildings, usually occupied by immigrant families, were home to some of the most deplorable conditions imaginable, with entire families crowding into tiny spaces, where there was often no heat, running water, or electricity, and few precautions were taken for the inhabitants’ safety. The owner of one such tenement, located at 97 Orchard Street, refused to make his apartments more livable, choosing instead to board them up. This property was later bought by the owners of the tenement museum to showcase the conditions many of America’s first-generation immigrants were subject to when they first arrived. While the material may be a bit heavy, children will love exploring these homes frozen in time.
Expend some energy at Sara Delano Roosevelt Park: If there’s one way to make a child happy, it’s a trip to the park. Sara Delano Roosevelt Park, named after FDR’s mother, occupies nearly eight acres of space on the Lower East Side and is an ideal destination for children who need to blow off a little steam. The park is particularly promising for kids who like sports, thanks to its basketball court, soccer fields, and skating rink.
Catch a show at the East River Amphitheater: Artistically inclined kids will love checking out the shows at the East River Amphitheater. A great pit stop on a warm summer day, this charming outdoor venue has hosted some of music’s biggest acts during its free Summerstage performances. The park surrounding the amphitheater is also a pretty great destination for little ones, with batting cages, a baseball field, tennis courts, picnic tables, and some of the best views of Brooklyn you’ll find anywhere in the city.
Indulge your sweet tooth at The Sweet Life: Healthy eating has its time and place, but when you’re on the Lower East Side with kids, you’d be remiss to skip a trip to The Sweet Life. Since it opened its doors on Hester Street in 1982, this candy mecca has compiled one of the most comprehensive selections of sweets you’ll find anywhere in the city, with everything from caramel marshmallows to truffles to brownies to candy bars from the US and abroad earning a spot on the store’s packed shelves. Even those who are trying to eat a bit healthier can enjoy The Sweet Life’s selection — the store also stocks dried fruit, nuts, and has a plentiful sugar-free section.
Treat them to a special toy at Dinosaur Hill: When you need to entertain a child for hours on end, there’s no better place to do it than a toy store, and on the Lower East Side, Dinosaur Hill is the place to be. While it doesn’t boast the square footage you’ll find at your average suburban mall, Dinosaur Hill’s selection of toys, games, and books more than makes up for its diminutive size. Unlike many big box stores with toy sections, Dinosaur Hill focuses on toys that spark creativity in their users, forgoing many of the light-and-sound machines that are so heavily marketed toward kids these days. Instead, you’ll find wooden toys, handmade puppets, craft kits, hand-painted marbles, masks, dress-up costumes, puzzles, and books. Even if you’re not shopping for your own children, this is a great place to buy birthday presents for your kids’ friends, and one of the few places in New York where you might actually find something the recipient won’t be getting from five other birthday party attendees. While Dinosaur Hill is definitely geared toward an under-18 audience, adults just might find that this unique shop has what they’re looking for, as well — items like novelty pickle Christmas ornaments and nutcrackers imported from Germany have also earned spots on the store’s shelves.
The Lower East Side is one of Manhattan’s hidden gems when it comes to entertaining children. Whether you spend your day enjoying one of the neighborhood’s lush parks, spend hours trying to find the perfect piece of candy at The Sweet Life, or take an eye-opening trip to the Tenement Museum, the Lower East Side is the perfect spot to enjoy a day with the little ones in your life.