At just over 635 acres, Alley Pond Park is Queens' second-largest green space behind Flushing Meadows Corona Park. While there are plenty of traditional urban park attractions, including three playgrounds and a slew of sports fields, what sets Alley Pond Park apart is its natural wonders like forests, meadows and wetlands, and its Adventure Course, featuring the largest public high ropes challenge in the entire Northeast.
Separated into three distinct sections thanks to highways crisscrossing its expanse, Alley Pond Park has an Environmental Center in its northern section and a Sports Center in its southern area. In between, nature trails (the oldest in NYC) invite visitors to explore the verdant environment dotted with wildlife, especially a wide variety of birds. With so much to do and see, Alley Pond Park makes for a perfect daycation. I've been coming here since I was a kid and I find something new to me on every visit. Here are the top 10 things to do with kids in Alley Pond Park.
Visit the Alley Pond Environmental Center
Hands-down my family's favorite attraction in the park, the Alley Pond Environmental Center is open year-round and offers a wide array of educational programs for kids and grown-ups, after school and school break camps, and even birthday parties. Located by Little Neck Bay, the center teaches visitors about the park's unique ecology and its conservation efforts. APEC's grounds include meadows, ponds, fresh and saltwater marshes, and forests that are home to more than 300 species of birds. And the best way to see them is to...
Explore the Nature Trails
My girls love hiking these trails, many of which are paved making them preschooler-friendly. On our walks we've spotted squirrels, chipmunks, butterflies and, of course, lots of our feathered friends. Wondering what kinds of birds you're looking at? The New York City Audubon has a great overview of some of the species you'll spy.
Conquer the Adventure Course
At the Alley Pond Park Adventure Course, a trained professional leads athletes ages 8 and up through a series of team-building challenges, including a low- and high-ropes course, a zip-line, a climbing wall, a trust-fall station, swings, nets and balance platforms. The course is FREE and open to the public on a first-come, first-served basis on Sundays May through November. During July and August, families must register in advance the Monday before the Sunday they want to go.
Romp in a Playground
Alley Pond offers three playgrounds to enjoy. My girls like the large tree house in the one near Springfield Lot and the ball fields. Meanwhile, Wild Flower Meadow Playground and Horatio Playground both have sprinklers if you're looking to cool off.
Whatever sport your kids are into, they can probably play it here. There are basketball, tennis and handball courts; football, soccer and baseball fields; plus a full-fledged golf course with mini-golf for kids.
Enjoy a Barbecue
There are three designated barbeque areas, just remember to arrive early (they're popular) and bring your own supplies.
There are plenty of paved trails including a few near the playgrounds that are perfect for cycling.
Families can try catch-and-release fishing at Oakland Lake. Bring your own equipment and no barbed hooks allowed. Read our post about fishing in NYC for additional details.
Check the Calendar for Special Events
With so much space and so many resources, it's no surprise that there's always something interesting going on in Alley Pond Park, and often the events are FREE. So peruse the calendar to see what's coming up from wildlife watching to live entertainment to family camping to canoeing clinics.
Don't Forget Your Dog
Alley Pond Park has a popular dog run. And even if there's not a canine in your family, your kids can enjoy watching other people's—I know my girls do.
Find out more about Alley Pond Park on the New York Parks Department's website.
Read about other fabulous NYC green spaces in our Parks & Playgrounds Guide.