Community Staple Raising Astoria Reopens with Drop-in Playtime & Kids' Classes in Queens

When Raising Astoria originally opened in 2012, it offered the Astoria community a great local spot for kids' consignment and fun classes. However, this past February it closed for upgrades and changes. As owners Kim and Laurie put it, they were letting the needs of the community define their mission—and that continues to be true. Many local parents helped Raising Astoria transform from a store into a kids' enrichment destination by helping clean out the consignment shop, along with other odds and ends.

While kids missed the classes during the transition, the reopening was a great, refreshing start for this beloved spot. If you are looking for a wonderful play space or are a new or expecting mom, Raising Astoria is an invaluable resource, with its close-knit community feel, informative workshops and lots of hands-on fun!

Kid-Friendly Global Queens Food Crawl

Foodies know that NYC's most diverse borough is where it’s at for the best international dining delights. You can travel the globe with your kids going from neighborhood to neighborhood, exploring the different ethnic enclaves and great restaurants. But as a car-less Manhattanite, the treasures of Queens always seem just out of reach. Everything in the borough is spread out and often far from mass transit. So when Toyota offered me a loaner car, I knew exactly how we would use it. I didn’t dream of packing up and going skiing or driving to another city. The one thing I wanted to do was taste all the global foodie goodness in Queens efficiently.

After extensive research, we packed the kids in the car and set off to Queens to eat as much as we possibly could. Our Queens food crawl featured eight stops, seven distinct nationalities, six neighborhoods and one Toyota Sienna. We didn't just eat great food; we had fun experiences and expanded our horizons. This is why we live in New York City, folks. If you haven’t done your share of exploring the ethnic eateries of Queens, get hoppin’. Here’s where and what we ate:

Holiday Shopping in Queens: 8 Great Stores for Unique Gifts for Kids

When looking for truly unique presents for my family, I skip the big chains and shop locally at some of my favorite independent stores. Lucky for me, many of my go-to gift spots are located right in my home borough of Queens.

Over the past few years, lots of cool, locally owned Queens boutiques have been opening up or expanding. These are the kind of places where you can pick up interesting (and often eco-friendly) toys, clothes, books, gear and other items for children and sometimes adults, too. If you don't have time to stop in, most of these stores have websites so you can buy online while still supporting a community business.

Holiday Markets in New York City 2014

New York City is a flurry of holiday shopping at this time of year. There are wonderful seasonal markets all over town selling crafts, unique boutique goods, food and more. These cool local spots aren't just in Manhattan either; there are several markets in the outer boroughs, too.

Unlike the craziness of Black Friday, these shopping experiences are much more relaxed for families. Plus, you're often supporting local businesses and artisans. We love shopping local so much, we made it the focus of our Holiday Gift Guide. Read on for our round-up of New York City holiday markets.

Family-Friendly Restaurants in Astoria, Queens: Not Just Greek, Try Ethnic Eats from Around the World

We finish up our series of posts about Astoria, Queens with a roundup of our favorite family-friendly restaurants in the area. While Astoria is rightfully known for its Greek eateries, you'll find lots of other awesome ethnic cuisines in this diverse neighborhood, too. Our list includes Czech, Japanese, Cajun, Middle Eastern and good ol' American burgers spots, plus two of our top ten destination family restaurants in all of Queens. Here are 13 kid-friendly restaurants to check out in Astoria.

Astoria Park & Other Places to Play in Astoria Queens

We continue our month-long focus on Astoria, Queens with an in-depth look at its parks and playgrounds. Its namesake green space—the beautiful, 60-acre, waterfront Astoria Park—is unquestionably the neighborhood's crown jewel boasting NYC's largest outdoor public pool, a popular playground and great photo ops with the Hell Gate and RFK Bridges.

But there are other smaller Astoria parks and playgrounds worth checking out, too. Some even offer FREE summer programming and beloved annual family festivals. Here are 9 parks and playgrounds to explore in Astoria, Queens.

Free & Cheap Indoor Movies for NYC Kids

During the winter, families try to pack their free time with stimulating activities to keep out the stir-crazy. Museums, shows and, of course, movies are always a good bet. But before you go into hock taking the kids to your local cineplex, did you know that you can catch family movies for FREE (or on the cheap) throughout the year? Here are six great places where you can see no-cost or inexpensive flicks, making your "free" days a little freer.

Karaoke for NYC Kids: Family-friendly Singing Spots

Ah, karaoke, a favorite activity for rowdy office parties and over-21 birthdays. The last time I went to a karaoke place, my coat ended up on the floor, soaking in a puddle of beer. It was a fun night out... but one I couldn't share with my children.

But karaoke-loving kids don't need to confine their singing to the shower. They can enjoy an authentic experience, minus the R-rated lyrics and copious amounts of alcohol, at a number of New York City karaoke spots that have family-friendly hours during the daytime. Many of these places even offer children's party packages where the bottomless pitchers of beer are replaced with juice or soda.

Favorite Family Restaurants in Queens

As a proud Queens native, I'm always looking for new ways to encourage others (including my own family) to explore my home borough. And since it's famous for being culturally diverse, a do-it-yourself food tour is a great way to get a taste of all the different neighborhoods.

Queens boasts some of the best kid-friendly restaurants in New York City—and I'm not just saying that because I was raised here. You can introduce your children to a wide variety of authentic cuisine at reasonable prices, and the portions are so big you always end up with leftovers to take home. Plus there are off-the-beaten path gems that have incredible kid appeal, like coffee house Waltz-Astoria and its family concerts and old New York soda fountains Eddie's Sweet Shop and Jahn's.

I thought about all of the places I've eaten in Queens over the years and came up with my personal list of the top ten restaurants, bakeries and ice cream parlors that are all worth schlepping the kids to, even if you live in another borough. See if your favorites made the cut and feel free to share your additions in the comments as I know there are many, many more.

National Hispanic Heritage Month: Meaningful Ways to Celebrate Latino Culture All Year Long

The problem with giving various groups a designated month—Black History Month, Women's History Month, Gay Pride Month, etc.—is that after 30 or so days the topic is unceremoniously dropped and not mentioned until the next year. Well, we're not going to fall into that trap. While National Hispanic Heritage Month officially runs from September 15 to October 15, there are lots of ways to celebrate Hispanic culture all year round in New York City. (Not surprising since, according to the most recent census report, more than 2 million people of Hispanic descent live in the Big Apple!) Here are some of our favorite places to explore and learn about Latino culture with kids in NYC during National Hispanic Heritage Month and beyond.


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