Four Excellent Summer Outings for NYC Kids
Mommy Poppins reader, Jodi Call, like many NYC parents, is sticking close to home this summer, but that doesn't mean she's not having a blast. With Mommy Poppins, and her friend Kara, as her guides, she's been on a quest with her son, Roan, to make this summer the Best Summer of His Life. (No pressure or anything.)
Lucky for us, she's reported back, sharing four of her best days so far this summer. Read on to hear about some of the great adventures they've been having, what's worked, what she will know better next time, and where the bathrooms were along the way. [Thanks, Jodi!]
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Name of Adventure: Free Biking Along the Manhattan Greenways
I’ve been curious if 4 year old Roan is old enough to ride safely on one of those Tag-A-Long bikes. I feel like he is but what if he sees something shiny and then looses focus and then of course falls to his death? I’m just saying. So imagine my joy when I read about Bike Around Downtown. Free bike rentals (is it called a rental if it is free?) for three hours at South Street Seaport. They even provide helmets. [An aside: it is at these times I must let go of my anxiety about bugs called lice and hair, and their pervasive presence in NYC.] Anson (my husband), Roan and I hopped on these bikes, and I’m sorry to use all caps here, but IT WAS AWESOME. We rode around Battery Park onto the Hudson River Greenway, stopped and had some ice cream, continued on up to 20th Street and crossed Manhattan on the 20th street bike lane over to the East River Esplanade.
When we were done, we dropped the bikes off at the Seaport, and high-tailed it to Pier 11 (about a two-minute walk from the bicycle drop-off point) for the free Water Taxi to Ikea. I know, Ikea on a Sunday? Am I cuckoo? A little bit but I’ll address that with my therapist. With café views of the Statue of Liberty and Lower Manhattan combined with $.99 Mac + Cheese, seriously – need I explain further? We wound down the day on the B61 bus heading home, and Roan didn’t even last 15 seconds before he was snoozing. Happily so, guessing by the goofy grin on his mug.
What I Wish I’d Known: To bring my internet bicycle reservation number WITH me so I didn’t have to call my sister and have her hack into my email account leaving me to wonder if she was tempted to read the “Top Secret Really Personal Emails” Folder.
Bathrooms?Yes - inside the South Street Seaport, upstairs. Along the Hudson River Greenway, there are plentiful public restrooms, and they are remarkably clean. The Water Taxi also has a restroom, and of course, Ikea has nice brand new restrooms, even family ones.
Name of Adventure: Visiting Roosevelt Island by Tram
Ever since riding on the Skyfari ride at the Bronx Zoo, Roan’s been a loyal Sky-Tram Enthusiast. To that end, I posted Roosevelt Island on our to-do list, with the goal of riding over on the tram, having a picnic at the lighthouse, and then riding back.
We boarded the 4-minute tram at 59th Street and 2nd Avenue (accessible with a Metro Card) and that thing was a hit. However, I totally blew the rest of the plan, as I thought I would just run into the lighthouse with no knowledge of where it really was. We hopped on the red bus (only $.25) right off the tram stop, and looped all around the island, never seeing any sign of a lighthouse. As I gave up I saw the strategically placed Visitor’s Center, also just off the tram stop. The lady there gave us tons of information (including how I had just passed the lighthouse). But Roan was over it, so we rode back and had ice cream in Central Park, just down 59th. The day was saved, and I do believe I could convince my boy to give me a re-try on this one. [Mommy Poppins tip: next time stop at Serendipity for their famous frozen hot chocolate and enourmous sundaes.]
What I Wish I’d Known: Check in with the Visitor’s Center – they have a lot of information on attractions on the island. They also seem a little lonely.
Bathrooms? Anytime I’m heading to Central Park, I stop at FAO Schwarz first (we’re usually coming from the 59th Street entrance). Roan digs a quick look at all he will never have, and they have super-clean restrooms on the second floor, including a great changing area in the Family Restroom.
Sadly FAO Schwarz closed in July 2015 but you can find bathrooms right next door at the Apple Store.
Name of Adventure: Long Beach is Paradise for Kids
I suppose I’m late on this, but I just truly had no idea that the beaches so close could be so nice. Given my affinity to frequent Coney Island, I’ve just thought that was the standard, that this was our lot. Not so, let me say it again: not so.
Long Beach is the perfect beach for kids — sunny, safe (the most active and attentive lifeguards I’ve ever seen), with aquatic life discoveries that surprised both my son and myself – but you really really really just need to get there yourself. Go ahead. If you have a day, you have the time, and you will then send me an email and say “thanks” for the urging, and I will reply “well, it was the least I could do, really after all you’ve done for me” and we will laugh and laugh because you’ve not really done anything for me because we’ve never met, but still.
[You can get to Long Beach via the LIRR. They have a discount package that includes train fare and beach admission. ]
What I Wish I’d Known:That this beach existed and was easy to get to and that I could have actually been swimming in the ocean way before last week.
Bathrooms? Essentially, your basic beach bathrooms are available. Not disgusting, not pristine.
Name of Adventure: Row Boating at Clove Lakes Park
It's just a hop, skip, and a jump across the Verrazano-Narrows Bridge to Staten Island’s Clove Lakes Park where you can rent a rowboat on a lake surrounded by trees and wooded paths. The trees on the lake have low-hanging branches you can row under and this water is packed with schools of fish. There are reportedly turtles a-plenty though I wasn’t watching for them. The kids mostly enjoyed my friend, Kara, trying to run-over a tiny fountain in the middle of the lake, and yelling, “echo” when we would pass under the bridges.
We returned the boat and decided to re-fuel. There are a few basic selections for food – a basic hotdog cart, and a restaurant. We chose hot dogs and then all agreed the ocean was next, so we hopped in the car and drove about 10 minutes over to South Beach on Staten Island.
The upside of South Beach is that the beach parking is free, there's lots of shops and a lively boardwalk. The downside? This beach makes Coney Island look pristine. After Roan used a discarded tampon applicator as a castle flag, we were compelled to giddy-up on out of there. That is, after the customary ice-cream binge.
What I Wish I’d Known: At Clove Lakes Park, we spent about 45 minutes rowing around the wrong part of the pond, because we didn’t realize that the OTHER way (opposite of the blockaded bridge) were the best adventures. Advice – row towards the bridges that are not blocked off. The beach gave us a few smiles, but I’d skip it next time.
Bathrooms? There are well-maintained public restrooms at Clove Lakes Park; dirtier ones at South Beach.
Plan your own Best Summer Ever with our Free Fun Summer: A free activity a day for the entire summer!