Parks & Playgrounds

100 Things to Do in New York State with Kids Before They Grow Up

We might be biased, but we think New York state has it all for families. From the gorgeous Hamptons beaches to the rugged state forests, serene lakes, and deafening Niagara Falls to the culture and arts found in New York City on up through the river towns and beyond—we feel pretty lucky.

Plus, we’re pretty good at making delicious food items from ramen burgers and bagels to ice cream, and even wine at family-friendly vineyards on Long Island and through the Finger Lakes. There are children’s museums galore. Kids have no shortage of water and theme parks, cool playgrounds, zoos, outdoor art, and nature, of course.

And yet, the thing about childhood is that it’s finite. The kids grow up, maybe move away. Sniff, sniff. We want to soak up every moment. So we put together this list of 100 of our favorite things to do around New York, from upstate and the Adirondacks to Long Island and NYC. We collected suggestions from the many Mommy Poppins contributors, past and former, to fuse it all together just for you (OK, for us, too). Whether you're planning a long-weekend getaway or a family day trip, you're sure to find some ideas here. Enjoy!

Day Trip to Van Saun Park: 10 Things to Do with Kids

Looking for an outdoor play adventure beyond the local playground? Make Bergen County’s Van Saun Park your family’s day trip destination. My own family makes this hour-away journey a few time a year, and it never disappoints. With its massive playground, splash pad, carousel and train rides, plus a zoo, a trip to Van Saun almost feels like a theme park visit (minus the admission fee). The playground and zoo are open year-round, while some of the activities, such as the rides, are seasonal (April through October). A little tip-- there’s plenty of parking, but weekends get pretty crowded; you may want to arrive early. Please note that admission to Van Saun Park is free, including the playground and splash pad, but some features do require an additional fee, as noted. Here are 10 awesome things to do on your next Van Saun Park adventure:

10 Underrated NYC Parks You Don't Want to Miss

Central Park, Prospect Park, Brooklyn Bridge Park—even if you only just arrived in NYC, we probably don't need to tell you that these are all must-see green spaces. Yet, according to the NYC Department of Parks & Recreation, 14 percent of the city is parkland—that's more than 30,000 acres!

So if you're looking for a new-to-you outdoor destination to explore, we've got 10 off-the-beaten-path parks worth putting on your NYC family bucket list. Some are massive and boast a wide array of attractions for all seasons; others are small but picturesque and host popular annual events for families. Don't worry if you can't make it to all of these before school starts—we have at least a few more months of fair weather ahead!

5 Places to Watch Airplanes on Boston's North Shore

I met a fella recently who was stationed with binoculars on the border of East Boston and Winthrop, gazing at the planes lift off from nearby Logan Airport.

“It's beautiful to watch. It's almost mystical,” he told me.

A handful of youngsters also peered at the planes, which, depending on the wind direction, buzzed right overhead with a thunderous roar as they headed to destinations unknown.

If you have kids who are into aircraft, there are some great spots on the North Shore to watch the planes come into and leave the airport. Here are top viewing choices, along with other nearby activities – including the beach, restaurants, and playgrounds – to enjoy:

Bronx Park with Kids: Playgrounds, Zoo, Gardens, Skate Park

Bronx Park might not be the borough's largest park (that honor goes to Pelham Bay Park), but we think it probably has more fun kid stuff to do per square foot than any other. It boasts 700-plus acres and features several of the city's very top family attractions, including the Bronx Zoo, New York Botanical Garden, the Bronx River, and plenty of playgrounds, green space, and bike paths to keep kids entertained. The park is accessible by car or public transit, making it an ideal location for a day trip or afternoon outing, especially in the summer but really, anytime. Visitors might be surprised by just how diverse Bronx Park is, but locals know it's truly a hidden gem. Read on for the best things to do in Bronx Park with kids.

End-of-Summer Programs to Help Kids Re-engage With School

While the past few months may have been filled with camp activities, vacations and carefree days, the lazy, hazy days of summer are coming to an end and that means the kiddies need to get used to school again. Beat summer brain drain with these educational and inspirational events and activities to help get those wheels turning again. Be sure to check out our Summer Guide for more warm weather ideas.

Secret Parks of Orange County: 5 Hidden Gems Only Locals Know

Tired of visiting the same old parks? If your local jungle gym has recently lost its luster, be grateful that you live in (or are visiting) Orange County, where you can take your tykes to explore one of the hidden gems below. From giant Legos to beachfront slides to fountains and duck ponds, there are plenty of captivating playgrounds to explore throughout Southern California, but it takes a real OC native to know all five of these boredom-busting tot lots. Pick any one of them for an outing the whole family can enjoy.

South Mountain Reservation for Kids: Swings, Zoo, Fairy Trail

For an easy day hike with the kids, New Jersey’s local “reservations,” essentially mini state forests and parks, are my family’s go-to. The 2,110-acre South Mountain Reservation in Essex County is one of our favorites. The recreation complex includes hiking trails, but also a zoo, mini golf, and a fantastic playground.

Read on for our best family bets for this Jersey green space, or check out some of our other favorite NJ reservations like nearby Watchung, or day trip ideas.

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