Parks & Playgrounds

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The Secret Glass Gardens

Sadly, this garden has closed. New York is filled with amazing little secret spots that are cool to discover. One that's fun for kids on a cold winter day is the Rusk Institute's Glass Gardens at NYU Medical Center. This beautiful 1,700 square foot conservatory garden is right in midtown Manhattan, has a koi pond, tropical birds, a sand pit for kids and extra-wide stroller-friendly paths, since it was designed as a therapeutic garden and to accommodate wheelchairs.

Free Parks Programs Let City Kids Discover the Nature All Around

I think I love being out in nature in the Fall better even than in the summer. The smell of the damp leaves on the ground, the crisp autumn air, it's very relaxing and great being outdoors with the kids at this time of year.

But you don't need to hop in the car to get your walk in the woods. There are woods all around us and the NYC Parks Department has tons of programs to help families enjoy them and teach NYC kids about nature. There are too many in one weekend to even list, but here's the top ones in every borough.

Staten Island: Haunted Hike
Explore the haunted history of Conference House Park, which was once a Native American burial ground. 7PM Friday, Nov 2.

Manhattan:Inwood Park Nature Walk
How would you like a guided nature walk by no less than the chief naturalist of the NYC Parks Department? Spot songbirds and learn about the ecosystems of Manhattan's last natural forest and salt marsh. Sat., Nov. 3. 8-10AM, Inwood Park

Queens: Fall Migration
Help Rangers count raptors as they pass by on their Fall Migration. Raptors are always cool and kids will love that they are helping the Rangers. Flushing Meadows Corona Park, 10AM Sat, Nov. 3.

Brooklyn: Backyard Ecology Walk
A kid-friendly introduction to Fort Greene's wildlife will teach NYC kids about the nature that lives right in their own backyards. Sure to open city kids' eyes to the world of nature around them. Sat., Nov. 3, 1PM, Fort Greene Park.

Bronx: Fall Foliage Walk
Enjoy some of the most exquisite fall foliage in the city on a guided walk through an oak, hickory and sweet-gum forest and search for the special 400 year old white oak. Pelham Bay Park, 2 PM. Sunday, Nov. 4.

Want more NYC nature walks?

Check out trails.com. A member fee is required, but it gives you unlimited access to detailed guides for hiking, biking, kayaking and more all over the US. There's tons of guides for NYC and the surrounding areas and even ideas for hikes with kids. You can try it out with their 14 day free trial.

Gorp is free site that has lots of hiking and other outdoor activity ideas around NYC and the country. The information is less detailed than what you'll find on trails.com or in a book, but it's a good starting place.

Best Hikes with Children in the Catskills and Hudson River Valley

is a book that features 51 easy hikes to enjoy with your kids in the area.

 

Help shape the parks of our children's future

The National Parks Conservation Association is reaching out to NYC parents to get our input on the redevelopment of Gateway National Park. Specifically they are holding a design competition for a new park at Floyd Bennett Field in Queens and have invited Mommy Poppins readers to vote.

Best Biking for Kids on Bucolic Governor's Island

Imagine what Central Park would be like if you had it practically to yourself. And, instead of being surrounded by tall buildings, imagine it's surrounded by the NYC harbor, so every time you catch a glimpse through the trees, you see sailboats and ferries gliding by. While we're dreaming, imagine that every weekend a free concert or event takes place, but unlike every other event in NYC, there aren't huge crowds. Wouldn't that be nice?

Well, pinch yourself, you're not dreaming. This is the perfect description of Governor's Island and we highly recommend it as a family outing destination, and possibly the best place to bike with kids in NYC.

Visit Kid-Friendly Dumbo

One of my absolute favorite things to do with the kids on a nice day is to walk over the Brooklyn Bridge into Dumbo. This excursion has all the makings of a perfect day out with the kids; a little relaxing exercise, great ice cream and pizza, a great park and a boat ride. I can't think of a better way to spent a day.

This weekend is an especially good time because Saturday, June 2nd is the Dumbo Block Party. So pack up some sunscreen and water (in your new aluminum water bottles and head to the Manhattan side of the Brooklyn Bridge. (You can start from Brooklyn and follow this backwards if you prefer.)

Crossing the Brooklyn Bridge is stroller friendly, just stay right, out of the bicycle lane.. You can stop under the arches to take in the view, snap some photos and read the plaques which describe some of the amazing history of the Bridge. When you get toward the other side, your first opportunity to exit will be a set of stairs. Take the stairs down from the walk way and walk around the corner and back toward the waterfront.

If you're hungry from your walk, stop by Grimaldi's Pizza, considered by many to be NYC's best pizza. Then walk over to Brooklyn Bridge Park which has a great playground, a pebble beach with lapping waves and all, a large lawn surrounded by a sculpture garden and incredible views.

If you're in the mood for shopping head over to ultra-hip children stores Half Pint and Pomme (this store is now closed. If you can resist buying anything, then you definitely deserve a chocolate reward from artisan chocolatier Jacques Torres Chocolates.

At 56 Water Street, gaze at the beautiful and fully restored original Coney Island Carousel. Rides are not allowed until they find permanent home for it, however, so you might want to avoid this just as much if you've got a little one ready for a melt-down.

But, tears will come to a screeching halt if you head back toward Fulton Ferry Landing for ice cream at the Brooklyn Ice Cream Factory. The ice cream here is unbelievable. If you ever splurge on a sundae, this is the place to do it. The caramel tastes like crГѓВЁme brulee topping and the fudge is out of this world.

When you've had enough, the easiest, fastest and most fun way to get back to Manhattan is to just hop on the Water Taxi to the South Street Seaport or around the harbor to another destination in Manhattan. Kids especially like to ride upstairs in the open air.

MOMMY POPPINS TIP: The story of the Brooklyn Bridge is really quite amazing and has lots of elements that kids will love. Here are a couple of book ideas for children of different ages that will add an additional layer of interest and excitement for kids when visiting the Brooklyn Bridge.

Twenty-One Elephants is a picture book that tells the story of a little girl who helps convince grown ups to trust that the bridge will hold. It is well researched and based on the real story of PT Barnum's participation in the opening of the Brooklyn Bridge.

The Brooklyn Bridge:The Story of the World's Most Famous Bridge and the Remarkable Family That Built It tells the amazing story of the construction of the bridge for older kids. It is part of a series of Wonders of the World Books.

Play Worker, that kid took my play prop!

What do the iPhone, Bennifer and a new playground have in common? A) They've revolutionized their fields (hmmm). B) They're curvy and sexy. C) People hang around them seemingly needlessly. D) They've created an absurdly overblown media frenzy. E) All of the above. If you haven't figured it out I'm making a joke about the new David Rockwell-designed playground that is set to be built by the South Street Seaport. It was a really funny joke, maybe you just didn't get it because you somehow missed the massive (for a playground) amount of press it's been getting. The New York Times alone printed two stories and a flurry of opinion pieces about it last week. David Rockwell is a really cool architect who has designed places like Nobu and sets for Cirque de Soleil. His thing is creating experiences--seems like a good fit for a playground. Apparently the dude moved to Lower Manhattan (I told you he was cool) and then had a kid and realized that there weren't really any playgrounds by his house. So, what do you do if you're a super cool, famous architect and there's no playground near your house? You offer to design a super cool one and the Parks Department and private donors (hopefully) line up to pay for it. So what's all the fuss about?

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