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Fencing Classes for New York City Kids

Your kids want to try fencing because they idolize Johnny Depp in Pirates of the Caribbean, and you want them to study it because you heard that it looks great on a college application.

But enrolling your kid in a fencing class has many more practical benefits. It's fantastic exercise, and helps kids improve their agility, concentration and decision-making skills. Plus, fencing often attracts kids who aren't into more traditional sports, since it depends more on strategy and skill than athletic ability.

We've rounded up six great NYC schools for your aspiring swashbuckler, most of which offer reasonably priced introductory packages that help you decide whether your kid's ready for a long-term commitment. En guarde!

NYC Picnic Spots Near Free Outdoor Entertainment

There are lots of lovely picnic spots in New York City. The city is home to many parks and unique outdoor spaces, many of which host cool spring and summer entertainment, the perfect complement to your alfresco meal.

Around this time of year, my family starts picnicking. My son adores it, and we don't have to worry about correcting his table manners or tell him to use his indoor voice.

Some days we enjoy a bona fide feast in a wicker basket; at other times, we just pack a lunchbox with sandwiches. I like to bring a fancy picnic blanket with a waterproof lining, but you can just sit on a park bench, picnic table or a patch of grass. In addition to the food, remember to pack napkins, utensils, dishes and cups (try to avoid disposable if you can. No reason to add to landfills!), and a plastic bag for garbage.

Read on for my family's list of favorite picnic places in Manhattan and Brooklyn, many nearby great outdoor performance series.

13 Concerts for Kids in New York City: Culture Guide Spring 2011

We recently highlighted 11 great stage shows and 6 cool exhibits for families this spring. Now it's time to tell you about all of the wonderful kids' bands that will be performing this season. Big names include Grammy winner Dan Zanes; legendary folk singer Peter Yarrow; Seattle’s answer to The Beatles, Recess Monkey; David Weinstone and the Music for Aardvarks band and an all-day concert at KindieFest.

So put on your dancing shoes and head to one (or more) of these 13 family-friendly concerts.

Gingerbread House Decorating and Holiday Cooking Classes for NYC Kids

Family holiday traditions often seem to revolve around food: cooking special meals, baking holiday cookies and creating gingerbread houses. These family moments create those warm memories that children will look back on with nostalgia. But if your inner Martha is on vacation, consider taking your kids to a holiday cooking class instead (or joining in on one with them!)

Several kids' cooking “schools” are offering classes in November and December, teaching holiday staples like sweet potato pie, cocoa and gingerbread house construction. Classes for toddlers through tweens could whet your child's appetite for culinary greatness—or just a really good sugar cookie. Instruction doesn't come cheap: the classes range from $30 to $95 per child. Then again, every holiday host knows eager kitchen help is priceless.

9 Brooklyn Bakeries with Delicious Thanksgiving Desserts

Now that it’s November, Brooklyn bakeries are taking orders for Thanksgiving treats. From Joyce Bakery’s upside down pear and cranberry tart to cookies hand-decorated by a Greenpoint artist, these nine places promise the perfect end to your turkey day feast. But don't take too long deciding which pies, tarts, spice cakes, sugar cookies, cheesecakes and other tempting sweets sound best -- most places require orders by November 19.

Chill Out at one of these 5 Great Ice Cream Places in New York City

Ice cream is the new cupcake. It seems like there are a million places selling high-end, artisan produced frozen specialties around nowadays.  But seriously, is that any sort of ice cream for a kid?  They don’t care if it the cream is steeped with Tahitian vanilla beans or if it was hand spun that morning and they are going to find the contemporary flavor combinations just plain weird.  All kids really care about is cold, sweet and NOW!

Of course, being in New York City, you don’t want to go to just any old chain store ice cream place and luckily you don’t have to.  There are lots of places to get ice cream in New York City that are a step above the ordinary, every day chain with delicious ice cream that can be the highlight of your child’s day (or maybe even their whole summer!) Read on to find our favorite ice cream experiences to cool down your NYC kid.

Photos of the New Pier 1 Playground at Brooklyn Bridge Park

Recently I took the opportunity of a brief (albeit cold) respite from the seemingly endless rain to stroll down the hill from Brooklyn Heights and check out the new Brooklyn Bridge Park. Pier 1 of Brooklyn Bridge Park officially opened in March on the same pier that housed the “pop-up” park last summer.

Read on to hear about the new playground and check out some photos for a peek of what to expect:

12 Great Hot Chocolate Spots in Brooklyn

Punxsutawney Phil saw his shadow, which means six more weeks of winter. Luckly, we've lined up 13 of the best places to grab hot chocolate in Brooklyn, just in time for the cold, dark February weather. And if Phil is to be believed, you'll be enjoying a hot cup well into March.

See our posts on where to get a great cup of hot cocoa in Manhattan and Queens also.
 

Shop Local at a New York Flea Market or Craft Fair

Why buy locally? Well, it ensures good independent businesses are here for the long run; it’s beneficial for the environment; and you can get some pretty cool one-of-a-kind items. Finally, these businesses provide excellent learning opportunities: Use shopping trips as a way to educate your child about how local companies operate. If you're already buying locally, take it a step further by increasing the products you purchase. You'll be surprised at how many fine items are made right here in New York City.

One way to shop locally is to visit the flea markets and craft fairs where local artisans and retailers often sell their wares. Brooklyn seems to be the epi-center of these markets now. Below are some of the best markets to buy locally, plus, surprisingly, an online source for local shopping as well.

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