There are a lot of analog games we enjoyed in our youth that our plugged in kids don't get to try much these days like pogo sticks, hippity hops and stickball. That's why I love the New York City Parks Department's FREE Street Games festival, which is all about celebrating that kind of old-school fun.
The eight annual Street Games takes place on Saturday, April 30 in East Harlem's Thomas Jefferson Park. I went several years ago with my then 6-year-old daughter and a friend with two tweens and we all had a total blast. The kids loved trying challenging new activities, and watching skateboard and pogo stick pros show off their tricks, and we parents enjoyed a serious wave of nostalgia.
Thomas Jefferson Park is a popular neighborhood park with lots of space for kids to get active. The first thing we saw was a makeshift skatepark where we watched teens and young adults do all kinds of cool stunts. Once we hit the ball fields, we found various activity stations with hula hoops, pogo sticks, jump ropes, hippity hops, hula hoops, even yo-yos. My daughter and her friends were really into the hippity hops, and even participated in a short race. Although all of the activities were supervised, there are a lot of people running around, so you'll definitely want to keep an eye on your kids, especially young ones. You're not going to be able to relax on a bench (and why would you want to? Adults are allowed to try these games, too!)
While there are definitely things to do for kids of all ages, many of the activities skew older so Street Games is ideal for tweens and teens. If your kids get tired, there's also an arts and crafts area and a stage with live performances. And since it's presented by Disney, there are always great giveaways. When we went, we got a hardcover copy of The Lightning Thief, some Toy Story tchotchkes, a plant to pot and some kind of princess thing (of course).
This year's festival sounds like it's going to be the biggest one yet. In addition to everything I already mentioned, there will be skateboarding clinics, bike riding lessons, street hockey, a soap box derby, relay races and the Red Bulls Soccer Skills Challenge. Plus Disney and other businesses will hand out all kinds of goodies and the Dance Theatre of Harlem will perform. As with pretty much any big festival in NYC, arrive early if you can—it gets more crowded as the day wears on. If you work up an appetite, hit one of East Harlem's many family-friendly restaurants, like the legendary Patsy's Pizza for lunch.
Street Games takes place on Saturday, April 30 11am-3pm in Thomas Jefferson Park at 114th Street and First Avenue. In case of rain, the activities will move indoors to the park's recreation center. FREE
Find out about other awesome spring fairs and festivals in NYC.
This post was original published in April 2012.