As the weather gets cooler, we turn our attention from outdoor play spots to indoor ones. So out with Destination Playgrounds and in with Destination Libraries!
There are many wonderful branches throughout all five boroughs, but my family's favorite is the main branch of the Brooklyn Public Library at Grand Army Plaza. I frequently visit with my baby and two-year-old, and while the kids' section may not be as fancy or exciting as the recently opened Children's Library Discovery Center in Queens, the library is still a beacon for locals and offers lots of wonderful no-cost programming for families.
The fun actually starts outside the library. In warm months, fountains spray water onto the steps, and there is a small outdoor cafe. The library's regal facade is covered in golden shapes and figures that really captivate my kids (and many others I'm sure). My children also love the vast, echo-filled lobby—especially when they're using their outdoor voices.
The children's section has the same handsome, classic style as the rest of the library, which I really love. Usually kids' areas are full of screaming bright colors and educational play mats; not here. There's a generous selection of young-adult books, and a large area filled with all kinds of picture books. Although there are computers, I appreciate that they're tucked away in a separate nook, so that bookworms aren't distracted by the loud educational games the kids tend to play.
My two-year-old adores the "little" little kids' area, where shelves of board books enclose a cozy land of small furniture. The window seats offer views of busy Eastern Parkway and are great places to peruse the day's pickings. A few nearby comfy grown-up chairs are perfect for nursing moms, or families who want to curl up together.
My family and I have been to the Toddler and Baby RIF storytimes, and the Saturday morning story/playtime, and enjoyed all of them. Toddler storytime was our favorite: Unlike other similar events we've attended, this was hosted by a librarian who actually seemed to like children. She was really engaging, and she selected excellent stories and songs. Plus she ended with hand stamps, which made her super-cool in my kid's book. The one downside to these storytimes is that they tend to be crowded, so it's best to arrive early. As I once overheard a mother tell her restless son while they were waiting, "You live in New York; you wait in lines." The schedule for the children's storytimes and activities changes seasonally, so it's best to the website for up-to-date information.
The 189-seat Dweck Center, which is located inside the library, regularly hosts free weekend performances for kids. The Saturday Family Program is usually at 1pm. Visit the website for a complete schedule.
My only gripe with this branch is a minor one: the awkwardly placed changing tables in the bathrooms. Ask the security guard in the children's section for the key to the "secret" kids' bathroom, which is a bit better.
After you check out, you can appreciate one of the best aspects of this library: its location. BPL's main branch is a few steps from Grand Army Plaza and Prospect Park, and just a short walk from the Brooklyn Museum and the Brooklyn Botanic Garden.
The Brooklyn Public Library Central Branch is located at 10 Grand Army Plaza, 718-230-2100. Open Monday-Thursday 9am-9pm, Friday and Saturday 10am-6pm, and Sunday 1pm-5pm.