Spring Nature Activities in NYC: Hawks, Flowering Trees and Worms!

Springtime is when the nature in NYC makes itself most obvious to us city kids. While frequently we can be oblivious to the nature all around us, in Spring you can't help but notice the flowering trees, the buds bursting from the earth and, possibly even some wildlife. It's a great time to take your little urbanites to the park and observe the magic of nature at work. Here are some great ways to take in nature in the city this Spring, with places to see red-tailed hawk nests, flowering trees and earthworms.

Free Swimming Events in New York City

It may be April showers outside now, but it'll be bright, sunny and 75 degrees before you know it. You can plunge into the spirit of summer right now and get swimming season off to an early start with these free indoor swimming events that are perfect for kids of all ages. Read on to find out about YMCA Splash Week free swimming lessons and water safety and Asphalt Green's Big Swim event. 

Bronx Family Resources

There are many organizations dedicated to improving life in the Bronx for families. From libraries to recreational facilities and programs, here's a list of the top places to get more out of the Bronx.

Crotona Park

The largest park in the South Bronx, Crotona Park is a 127 acre natural oasis containing 28 different species of trees, a 3.3 acre lake, 11 playgrounds, playing fields, and basketball courts. Most Bronxites would agree that the true gem of Crotona Park is the 300 foot public pool… it’s the perfect spot to take the kids to cool off on a hot summer day. Other big draws for families with young children who visit the park are the recreation and nature centers, both of which offer outstanding programming to introduce kids to nature. Crotona Park also has the honor of appearing in Mommy Poppins’ "Best Sledding Hills in New York City” post. For all you tennis buffs out there, Crotona Park’s 20 tennis courts are home to the annual Bronx Pro Tennis Classic.

Pelham Bay Park

At nearly 3,000 acres, Pelham Bay Park is the largest park in New York City (take that, Central Park!). Home to Orchard Beach, the Bartow-Pell Mansion, the Pelham-Split Rock Golf Course (the only 36 hole course in NYC), and a stone’s throw away from City Island, Pelham Bay Park provides almost any distraction you’re looking for to spend a day outdoors with the kids. From hiking to horseback riding to biking, this park has it all. The only negative aspect of Pelham Bay Park can be the crowds during the summer, but this is mostly an issue at Orchard Beach. With 3,000 acres, there’s plenty of space to go around!

Bronx Museum

The Bronx Museum is a wonderful resource for art lovers in the Bronx. Its exhibits tend to be fresh, exciting, and uniquely urban. However, we recommend planning ahead if you’re visiting with the kids in tow. Visit the website and take a look at the upcoming events. Quite often, the weekend events are free and catered towards children. Visiting just to tour the galleries may be a bit boring for kids if there are no workshops or activities planned. Beginning June 21st, 2009, there will be a groundbreaking exhibit installed along the length of the Grand Concourse. Dubbed the “Tree Museum,” artist Katie Holten has designed a ‘museum without walls’ as a celebration of the Grand Concourse’s 100th birthday. We cannot think of a better museum for kids than one without walls!

Barretto Point Park

Barretto Point Park may be small, but its position right along the banks of the East River makes it a must-see for families looking for a waterfront recreational option in the Bronx. The park’s access to the East River makes for some interesting amenities, such as piers perfect for fishing and a site from which to launch kayaks and canoes. The park’s recent claim to fame was that it was home of the hugely popular "Floating Pool” for the 2008 summer season.

Brook Park

Located in the heart of the South Bronx, Brook Park is described as a “garden oasis” in the city. Brook Park is home to a bird sanctuary, chickens, and vegetable beds. Bronx youth and adults are introduced to indigenous teachings, and can take part in Labyrinth walks, art and dance workshops, a summer film series, park cleanups, and even canoe tours. The park prides itself on building multi-cultural bridges and has welcomed visitors from around the world.

Van Cortlandt Park

At over 1,000 acres of land, Van Cortlandt is the fourth largest park in New York City. The possibilities for family fun at Van Cortlandt are endless… There are playing fields and courts for every sport imaginable (baseball, basketball, tennis, softball, football, soccer, Gaelic football, bocci, cricket, handball/paddleball), along with an 18-hole golf course, a 9-hole golf course with driving range, hiking trails, four playgrounds, and a world-class cross country running course. Van Cortlandt is also home to the Riverdale Equestrian Centre, which provides riding lessons for both children and adults. If horseback riding isn’t enough to make you forget you’re in the city, you can also take the kids fishing in Van Cortlandt Lake. The park offers countless programs and educational opportunities for kids throughout the year. There’s even a pubic pool at Van Cortlandt… and it’s not gross! In Summer 2008, it was named the borough’s best pool by the Daily News due to its cleanliness and impressive amount of lifeguards on duty. Just remember if you plan on swimming, you should bring a lock with you. They are very strict about making sure everyone’s belongings are protected and won’t let you in without one.

Valentine-Varian House/Museum of Bronx History

Home of the Museum of Bronx History, the Valentine-Varian House was built in 1758 and is the Bronx’s oldest remaining farmhouse. The first level of the farmhouse is open to the public and houses three different galleries dedicated to commemorating the rich history of the Bronx. Exhibits at the museum rotate bi-annually. If you have young children, perhaps the best thing about the Valentine-Varian House is its close proximity to the Williamsbridge Oval. This wonderful public park is the perfect place for the kids to let loose after taking part in the educational programming offered at the Museum of Bronx History. The Valentine-Varian House is open to the public on Saturdays and Sundays, and during the week by appointment. Admission is $5 for adults and $3 for children and seniors.


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