Battery Park City

7 Spots to Explore the Immigrant Experience with City Kids

No matter your political leanings, immigration is a hot topic of conversation these days, and New York has a rich and ongoing history as a gateway to our country. We've combed through our city's top museums and cultural institutions to pinpoint some of the most kid-friendly destinations for those curious about the immigrant experience, or looking to teach children about diversity and tolerance for others.

Of course NYC often plays host to rotating art exhibits related to this theme, which you can always find in our event calendar. One upcoming highlight is the annual outdoor Photoville exhibition in Dumbo, where families will find both American and global diversity and immigration stories on display, from Syrian refugee tales to a Newark campus to Detroit.

Now, here are seven NYC spots where history leaps off the pages for interactive exploration.

5 Kid-Friendly Urban Farms Right Here in New York City

Times—and the food industry—have changed from when I was a kid. In the 1980s, everything we ate came from the freezer section, cans, and boxes. Microwaves were hot kitchen appliances. I didn't even know what an unpicked strawberry looked like or what type of plant blueberries grew on. Trees, maybe? Now, knowing where your food comes from, understanding sustainability, and eating local are all hot topics that parents are passionate about. New York City offers plenty of farmers' markets, gardens, and parks to get close to nature. But did you know there are plenty of farms, too?

We've compiled a list of open-to-the-public farms within NYC that all deserve a visit. Each one has a special and interesting hook. Make sure to check seasonal hours/days-of-operation before you travel. 

Several of the farms profiled below, while others are squeezed right into a standard city block. If you really want that full country vibe, you can always head out to the nearby farms of Long Island, New Jersey, and Westchester for pick-your-own apples, tractor rides, and petting zoos.

Battery Park City with Kids: Best Things to Do in this Manhattan Nabe

It's hard to imagine that Battery Park City didn’t exist 50 years ago. Built on landfill, this planned community of high-rise apartment buildings features beautiful parks and a show-stopping riverside Esplanade along the southwestern tip of Manhattan. It offers an almost suburban existence right in Manhattan, with two excellent, BPC-zoned public schools, small supermarkets, and chain pharmacies.

Residents have to cross West Street (a.k.a. the West Side Highway) to get to the subway, Whole Foods, and all of Tribeca, but there are three pedestrian bridges across the highway, one underground pedestrian tunnel from the World Trade Center Oculus, and via a free shuttle bus. It’s not a bad tradeoff for those who dream of a giant communal backyard with river views. And oh, the playgrounds!

There's little mystery why Battery Park City pops up in our 5 NYC Day Trip Itineraries Perfect for Preschoolers, our guide to NYC play fountains, and top NYC playgrounds with shade.

5 NYC Day Trip Itineraries Perfect for Preschoolers

New York can be a big, intimidating place for anyone to visit, but especially our smallest kids like preschoolers. Thankfully, the City That Never Sleeps offers plenty of opportunities to entertain even the most pint-sized of visitors.

Of course, you can visit our top zoos and amazing gardens, the mega stores for a special treat, or our top-notch museums like the American Museum of Natural History. These are all great choices and included in our 100 Things to Do In NYC Before Your Kid Grows Up list of the absolute best children's activities in NYC.

But we wanted to come up with something a little different, and a little more mellow for those preschoolers visiting from out of town, or even locals wanting to check out a new-to-you neighborhood—something that respects the limits of a preschooler's emotional and physical mileage. So we've rounded up five mom-tested itineraries that give you and your kid a glimpse of the city without totally wearing everyone down.

Planning ahead? Check out what special events might be taking place during your visit with our always-up-to-date NYC Event Calendar.

NYC Destination Playground: Nelson A. Rockefeller Park Has It All

In New York City, there are playgrounds—the kind you can step out the front door and find in your local neighborhood—and then there are playgrounds—these go beyond the basic jungle gym and include things like super-sized climbing structures, expansive sandboxes, or fancy water features. But, get this: Nelson A. Rockefeller Park has all that and some extra special features that make it truly destination worthy in my family's book.

Located in Battery Park City this playground provides enough entertainment for your whole family to while a day away, no matter your ages. Find more great playgrounds in our NYC Parks & Playgrounds Guide.

Summer Streets Brings New Water Park and Epic Slide to NYC

Citi Summer Streets, easily one of our favorite NYC seasonal festivals, returns for its 10th anniversary of car-free Saturdays on August 5. This year it's debuting something totally new, and yes, a little whacky near Central Park: an inflatable water park from LG with a dishwasher theme. Expect "massive slides in the shape of cutlery," hanging glide rails that lead to the pool, and a "3rd rack" section.

The annual Summer Streets event gives New Yorkers three consecutive August Saturdays of car-free fun to enjoy a seven-mile stretch of city streets from the Upper East Side to the Brooklyn Bridge. VitaCoco will bring back its epic water slide in lower Manhattan, and the always-popular zip line—rising 30 feet above the urban landscape and spanning a distance of 165 feet—returns as well for 2017.

Most all of the interactive stations like the dishwasher water park (will there be soap bubbles??) are 100% FREE but some require advance registration. Read on for all the details for this ultimate summer street fest.

NYC Playgrounds with Shade: Shady Park Benches and Equipment

While kids can always cool off in NYC's many sprinklers, we parents are stuck baking in the sun all day during the heat of the city's summer as we supervise outdoor play. It's a problem our readers know too well—each summer we get requests for recommendations of shady spots to play.

Although we know of a couple playgrounds that offer exceptional amounts of shade—Hippo Playground in Riverside Park and Discovery Playground in Fort Washington Park come to mind—we decided to ask our readers if they knew of any super-shady playgrounds in New York City. After clarifying that we were talking about shelter from the sun's rays, not sketchy parks, they came through with a number of great suggestions.

Please keep in mind that the name of the game here is comfort on a hot summer day; though we have visited plenty of destination playgrounds, with a few exceptions, these shady suggestions tend to be neighborhood standbys and small playgrounds that have plenty of shade, but perhaps not too many bells and whistles.

Mommy and Me Swim Classes in New York City for Babies and Tots

Mommy and me swim classes (or daddy and me) are a wonderful way to spend time with your baby or toddler. Ideally, these lessons should be enjoyable, stress-free, educational, and a good source of exercise for kids and parents.

During the summer, swim lessons offer overheated families the chance to cool off while young kids become comfortable in the water, a skill they'll certainly use a lot in the coming years, what with all the great swimming pools and beaches in NYC.

Most classes for wee ones and their caretakers take place in indoor pools. Except for the New York City Parks Department, which offers free swim lessons via lottery, mommy and me classes invariably cost something. We've rounded up eight well-respected programs across Manhattan. If you're further flung, check out our roundups of swimming classes in Brooklyn and Queens.

Find more classes for kids in our NYC Guide and Directory. Don't forget to check out our local DEALS page where you can score discounts on camps, classes, birthday party packages, and more for NYC kids. Check back often as we're constantly adding new ones.

The Best Boat Rides for Families in NYC

There's something magical about being out on the water in New York City. Whether you are sailing down one of the rivers, taking a FREE kayak out for a spin, or cruising on the ocean looking for whales, it's a lovely and relaxing activity, and a great way to stay cool on a summer day. It's also an opportunity to see the city from a whole new perspective.

Countless operators offer all kinds of boat tours around NYC, and of course, there's now the new citywide ferry service, too! So the question for parents is, which ones are truly family-friendly? After all, once you're on the water you're committed to the ride regardless of tantrums, seasickness, or boredom.

To help you figure out which NYC boat rides will work best for your family, we've broken them down by type (great for tots, wildlife watching, DIY rides, etc.) and highlighted some of our kids' personal favorites. You can find more seasonal activities in our Summer Fun Guide

9 Play Fountains Where NYC Kids Can Get Totally Soaked

While all three of my kids love to go for a dip, heading to one of NYC's public pools requires advance planning and me donning a bathing suit. Often, our summer fun is more spontaneous. For those hot summer days when we're out and about or need a last-minute distraction, I keep this list of play fountains in the back of my mind.

A more immersive experience than standard sprinkler parks, these play fountains feature shallow pools of water for wading, plus jets shooting H2O sky high. They're the perfect place for kids to frolic and get completely doused without mommy having to go all in—literally. Best of all? It's all completely FREE.

Here are nine fun play fountains in NYC where kids can get absolutely soaked. Most open for the season over Memorial Day weekend, though some start flowing earlier if temperatures hit 80 degrees.

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