Crown Heights with Kids: Top 25 Things to Do for NYC Families
Originally developed in the early 20th century as an upscale residential neighborhood before it fell on hard times, Crown Heights, Brooklyn is in the midst of a revival. It's no surprise really. The area boasts top cultural institutions like the Brooklyn Museum, the Brooklyn Children's Museum and the Brooklyn Botanic Garden; the northeastern section of Prospect Park, which includes the zoo; and lots of lovely buildings, especially near its main thoroughfare, Eastern Parkway (which, like Prospect Park, was designed by Frederick Law Olmsted and Calvert Vaux).
While Crown Heights was emblematic of New York City's racial tensions in the '60s through '90s, today its diversity is one of the things attracting new residents. Though the neighborhood is still primarily made up of Afro-Caribbeans and Hasidic Jews, families of all ethnic backgrounds are moving into townhouses and joining the active Crown Heights Parents Yahoo Group, new shops and restaurants are opening up, and local organizations are working hard to keep everyone happy. Stark contrasts remain, with pretty rows of historic houses giving way to vacant tenements on some blocks. But overall it's a vibrant area, especially around Labor Day weekend when Crown Heights hosts one of the biggest and most colorful festivals in the city: The West Indian Labor Day Carnival and Parade, which celebrates Caribbean culture with incredible costumes, performances and two processions, one for adults, the other specifically for children.
Throughout May, we'll be taking an in-depth look at everything Crown Heights has to offer families, including our favorite spots to eat, play and experience. For the purposes of our posts, our geographical boundaries are Washington to Howard Avenues, between Atlantic Avenue and Empire Boulevard (which transforms into East New York Avenue at Utica Avenue). Today we kick off our coverage with our top 25 things to do with kids in Crown Heights, Brooklyn.
- Take an international trip around the block in the interactive World Brooklyn or explore one of the other hands-on installations at the Brooklyn Children's Museum
- Get up close and personal with the residents of the Prospect Park Zoo at the recently renovated Discovery Center
- Chow down on delicious Neapolitan pizza at Barboncino
- Explore a historic 19th-century African-American community at the Weeksville Heritage Center, which is opening its new 19,000-square-foot Education and Cultural Arts Building in summer 2013
- Browse locally made, eco-friendly and fair-trade clothing, accessories and gifts at the Owl and Thistle General Store, which also offers family sewing classes
- Drop in to the Brooklyn Yoga Collective for Young Yogis, a free hour-long session for children ages 6 to 12
- Learn about Jewish history and culture through fun interactive activities like mini golf at the Jewish Children's Museum
- Grab a bagel and schmear at beloved local coffee shop The Pulp & The Bean
- This store closed in August 2014 Peruse cute clothes and supplies for children 6 and under at Stork, which also hosts occasional kids' events
- Shoot hoops and master the monkey bars at Brower Park
- Enjoy a burger and a shake (made with Blue Marble ice cream!) at Dutch Boy Burger
- Join parent cooperative play space The Stomping Ground for inexpensive classes and a living room away from home
- Sample amazing Caribbean treats at Royal Bakery and Roti House
- Catch family films about life in the neighborhood at the annual Crown Heights Film Festival, which takes place in October
- Stroll through the northeastern section of Prospect Park, which includes Lefferts Historic House, the carousel and the aforementioned zoo
- Stop in for tea and a cupcake at the adorable Lily & Fig Fine Cakes & Confections
- Get your hands dirty at the Brooklyn Botanic Gardens, which offers kids' classes and lots of seasonal events like the Sakura Matsuri Cherry Blossom Festival and Ghouls & Gourds around Halloween
- See what's happening at LaunchPad, a community center that offers lots of art and academic programs for local kids like Reading Stars Book Club
- Hit the Brooklyn Museum the first Saturday of every month for its free First Saturdays activities or, if you have tots, try a hands-on Sunday morning Arty Facts session
- Bite into a sinful grilled cheese sandwich at Glady's
- Wander through the 17-acre Lincoln Terrace / Arthur S. Somers Park, which boasts baseball fields, basketball courts, a playground and the Lincoln Terrace Tennis Program for kids
- Drop in for story play, arts and crafts, or chess time at the Crown Heights branch of the Brooklyn Public Library
- Grab a healthy salad, soup or wrap at Bella Greens
- Skip the super-crowded West Indian Labor Day Carnival and Parade and hit the much mellower Children’s Parade the Saturday before
- Check out eclectic and offbeat art exhibits at Five Myles Gallery
See all of our posts about exploring Crown Heights, Brooklyn with kids.