Queens

Free Outdoor Movies for NYC Kids This Summer: Hundreds of Them!

New York City will screen hundreds of FREE outdoor movies this summer, many of them just for kids and families. The popular Movies Under the Stars series, which debuted with screenings in parks and at playgrounds in all five boroughs last year, returns along with many of our favorite annual series. 

A few outdoor movie series, such as RiverFlicks for Kids in the West Village, are aimed specifically at children. But even grown-up series, such as those in Bryant Park and Brooklyn Bridge Park, include a family-friendly screening or two. Movies usually begin between 8 and 8:30pm, but plan to arrive early: The well-known series fill up fast. Sometimes there is even pre-movie entertainment.

So grab your calendars and start plotting your FREE summer of entertainment now. Find more seasonal activities in our Summer Fun Guide.

Take the Subway to NYC Beaches: Coney, Rockaway, Orchard Beach

Fourteen miles of sparkling sand and crashing waves can be found in four of the five boroughs (sorry river-locked Manhattan), which is good news for NYC families. Because as much as we enjoy hitting the Jersey Shore, Fire Island, and other Long Island beaches, we're not big fans of renting cars and sitting in traffic.

New York City's beaches are just a subway, bus, or ferry ride away. From the "Bronx Rivera" to iconic Coney Island and the Rockaways, these urban seasides often offer just about everything suburban beaches do except the out-of-town commute.

Socrates Sculpture Park: A Hidden (and Free) Gem in Queens

It’s a total cliché to say something is a hidden gem, but in the case of Socrates Sculpture Park in Long Island City, Queens, it’s hard to find a description that’s more apt. For four years, I constantly drove past the park, which is somewhat concealed behind a tall fence on Vernon Boulevard and Broadway, on the way to my daughter's school. Finally, my family decided to investigate.

We weren’t expecting to find a five-acre, open-air art park with amazing views of the East River and Manhattan. It was built on a landfill and unofficial dumping ground 30 years ago and has a free-wheeling bohemian vibe reminiscent of the '60s or '70s. Artwork changes regularly, but the people who visit are invariably engaged in the same activities: wandering among the sculptures, sunbathing, reading, taking in the city views or gardens, or just having old-fashioned conversation. (In all seriousness, it's one of the few places I can think of where I rarely see someone absorbed in a cell phone.)

Zip Lines, Ropes Courses, and Outdoor Adventure Parks Near NYC

We all need a little excitement in our lives. For some (like me), Jane's Carousel will suffice. For others (like my daughter), the idea of zip-lining through the air or tackling a ropes course is high on their to-do list. While my stomach may initially sink when I get to the top of a zip-lining platform, there are scientifically proven advantages that result from controlled risk-taking. Adventure parks help children learn problem-solving and how to work with others. Plus, it's just plain fun to play together as a family and create memories you'll never forget.

I don't think of New York City as the epicenter of adventure parks, but you can find some similar activities for kids: trapeze class, an impressive bowling alley ropes course, and yes, even one seriously high-flying outdoor zip line. But just outside the city, there are dozens of these rope and zip line courses.

We've rounded up a handful of our favorite outdoor adventure parks for a quick day trip—all within two hours drive of the city. So, if your kid is craving excitement that's a tad more wholesome than a walk through Times Square, we've got the perfect idea.

Queens Botanical Garden: Festivals, Classes, and Family Fun

Queens hosts one of the city’s largest parks, amazing beachfronts and, of course, its own botanical garden. The garden plays host to myriad family festivals and programming for kids year-round. It even offers one of the city's few "forest" or nature-based outdoor preschool programs.

It's a hike to get to if you're not right there in the Flushing neighborhood, though. So is it worth it? We've visited many times and wanted to highlight some of our favorite sights at this top NYC garden when visiting with kids.

Twirling Teacups Ride Debuts at Fantasy Forest in Queens

Our favorite Queens amusement park just added a new ride for kids and toddlers. Hold on to your hats, the Twirling Teacups have arrived at Fantasy Forest, the mini kiddie theme park in Flushing Meadows-Corona Park.

Debuted to the public on April 22, 2017, the spinning and rotating giant teacups promise to leave families dizzy for more.

Find more amusement and water park fun in our Theme Parks Guide.

16 Great Parks and Playgrounds for NYC Kids' Birthdays

Savvy DIYers know that during the warmer months, New York City's parks make a stunning backdrop for a birthday bash. Granted, this type of party requires more work than booking one of those all-inclusive packages, but you get to control most of the details, including the cost (though sadly not the weather).

Find more party spots in our NYC Birthday Guide, including inexpensive room rentals for when bad weather threatens the fun.

12 Mother’s Day Brunch Spots in Queens

Just as its population is diverse, so are options for Mother’s Day brunch in Queens. It’s mom's special day, and she'll want to relax with family, sip a mimosa and eat great food knowing that spills won't be met with rolling eyes. So we’ve curated this family-friendly list of brunch options in the borough, offering inventive twists on traditional favorites. Don’t worry, omelets and French toast still are represented.

Check out our suggestions for how to spend the rest of your 2017 Mother's Day in NYC, or peruse Brooklyn or Manhattan brunch options if you're thinking of hopping boroughs.

Queens Sensory Gyms for Kids with Disabilities

Sensory gyms are a great resource for children with special needs or a developmental delay or concern. The specialized play equipment entertains as it provides treatment, and it's often a supportive environment for families, too. While there are many activities parents and children can do at home, a sensory gym offers equipment not usually available in a New York City apartment. Some facilities even offer time with trained therapists. 

Queens doesn't have as many sensory gyms as Manhattan or Brooklyn, so it can be difficult to find quality classes or even an indoor play space where kids can play safely with other youngsters. It does, however, have a growing number of well-equipped gyms run by experienced therapists; we rounded up six for you below.

Best Family Festivals and Street Fairs in NYC This May

There are street fairs—and then there are street fairs. We don't mean those random ones selling irregular socks and fried Oreos; we're talking about true community festivals. Each one is unique, reflecting the character of its neighborhood, and many feature rides, performances, activities, and food. The hard part, of course, is knowing which is which, but don't worry, we've taken the guesswork out of it for you.

We've gone through the city's list of top annual festivals, street fairs, and carnivals and put together our roundup of top picks for May. Most of these fetes are FREE or cost just a couple of bucks, and in many cases your dollars go to support a local charity or school. Here are 20 awesome fests happening in NYC this May.

You can find even more seasonal activities in our Spring Fun Guide.

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