Jackson Heights

Get Out and Drop In! Best Queens Play Spaces and Gyms for Kids

From Queens' formerly industrial waterfront to deep in the borough, family-friendly spots and amenities are on the upswing. There are wide-open spaces to run with abandon, playgrounds are aplenty, and indoor play spaces with open play hours are strong in number: In fact, it has more than Manhattan and is gaining on Brooklyn.

We found 14 indoor romping locations in the borough that offer drop-in sessions open to the public (no membership required), including newcomer Jump N Play, which opened in Ozone Park this past summer.

Bonus: All of these spots host birthday parties, too, and most are much more affordable than their Manhattan competitors.

Best Places to Trick-or-Treat on Halloween with NYC Kids

One of my favorite childhood memories from growing up in NYC was Halloween in Greenwich Village. Back then, the Village Halloween Parade was just a couple hundred artists and others who marched through the neighborhood. Afterward, we would trick-or-treat up and down the brownstone blocks. Everyone was friendly, and we would come home with our shopping bags completely filled. It was magical.

Although the parade and Greenwich Village have changed a lot since then, your kids still can enjoy that kind of thrilling trick-or-treat experience in many New York City neighborhoods. Which neighborhood is the best for Halloween trick-or-treating depends on who you ask. New Yorkers love to bicker over the best coffee shops, the best (and worst) train lines, and yes, the best places to take their kids on Halloween. We also love to find that secret gem.

So we asked our astute readers and collected recommendations from our parent-driven NYC staff over many, many years to bring you a list of our favorite trick-or-treating spots so you'll know where to bring your kids this October 31.

Join one of the local Halloween parades and then go trick-or-treating throughout the community with local families. Or hit one of the neighborhoods or streets listed below: We have a slew of spots to try in all five boroughs. For more seasonal fun, check out our jam-packed Halloween Guide, showcasing FREE events, haunted houses, pumpkin patches, and more.

Free NYC Halloween Parades for Kids

Everyone loves a parade, which means we're all absolutely smitten with Halloween parades. While families with older kids may dare to take in the iconic Village Halloween Parade on Sixth Avenue in Manhattan, it can be pretty scary—it's always insanely crowded, loud, and many of the costumes are risque, gory, or in poor taste. If your children aren't up for that big Hallow-baloo, there are plenty of smaller, kid-friendly NYC neighborhood parades, in Manhattan, Brooklyn, Queens, and the Bronx, including the Ragamuffin Parade in Bay Ridge, the mega Jackson Heights parade, the famed Park Slope march, and a G-rated Village parade for little ones.

We've rounded up community-driven Halloween processions for families to watch or march in, most of which are FREE. If you don't live in a great trick-or-treating area, these parades are a wonderful way to hunt for candy in another neighborhood. Find even more seasonal happenings in our Halloween Fun Guide.

Ice Cream Bucket List: 10 Over-the-Top Shops To Try This Summer

Ah, August in the city! You've probably got your routine down pat at this point: art exhibits, subway-accessible beaches, and Summer Streets are all regulars in your summer schedule. As are trips for cool treats. If your neighborhood ice cream shop is feeling a tad too familiar at this point in the summer, it's time to step it up—and step it out of your 'hood.

We’ve rounded up 10 over-the-top ice cream establishments that are a little more under the radar than say Black Tap, but are the perfect way for you and your kids to enjoy before summer's over. Get ready to be blown away (and say goodbye to Mister Softee, for now): There’s rolled ice cream, innovative soft serve, make-it-yourself ice cream, and cutting-edge ice cream sandwiches. Go forth and enjoy, and check out our NYC Restaurant Guide for more great family eats.

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.

9 Queens Water Playgrounds and Sprinkler Parks

Let’s face it, sometimes you just don’t want to live by the schedule of open swim hours at your local NYC pool. Sometimes you just want to tire your kids out so they sleep until 6 (or even 7 ) in the morning. And sometimes you just want to relax outdoors with iced coffee and a book, but your children aren’t as into that idea as you are. This is why water playgrounds were invented; we're pretty sure, anyway.

While we already have profiled some of the top water playgrounds in other parts of the city as well as some of the top fountains for splashing, we realized we had neglected our Queens families. So in the interest of parenting solidarity we’ve put together a list of nine spraygrounds or water playgrounds in Queens. They’re all FREE, and as an added bonus most usually have an ice cream truck in the area—for the children, of course, totally for the children. 

Check out our NYC Beaches, Pools, and Water Parks Guide for more summer splashing or our Summer Fun Guide for more seasonal activities for the kids.

Best Summer Festivals and Fairs for NYC Families in July

So far this summer, we've posted about FREE outdoor movie screenings, FREE children's concerts, FREE kayaking, and FREE things to do every day with kids in New York City. Now we're rounding up our favorite and (mostly) FREE family festivals and city street fairs going on in this month.

Two of our favorite NYC annual fests take place this month, including the big Bastille Day street fair on the Upper East Side and City of Water Day on Governors Island. If neither of those tickles your fancy, we've rounded up several other options, including Come Out & Play Family Day and Boogie on the Boulevard. Still making your July 4th plans? We've got the details on that holiday, including where to see the fireworks.

So go get your calendar! Here are the best sizzling summer fests for New York City families.

23 Best Water Playgrounds and Sprinklers for Kids in NYC

When we were growing up, New York City playgrounds had sprinklers. Now parks and playgrounds across the five boroughs possess "water features"—fountains, geysers, rivers, pumps, and beautiful spraying statues. Kids just love them, and we parents prefer these newfangled playgrounds because they're pretty and cool, and make us feel as if our exorbitant NYC housing costs are justified.

As the city's sprinkler season gets into gear, it's good to know where to find the wildest and wettest playgrounds around. There are hundreds of water features in NYC parks, and we've highlighted some favorites by neighborhood: best of Queens and best of the Bronx. Some are cooler (literally and figuratively) than others, and more amazing ones seem to open every year. When we first published this article in 2008, we had five favorite splashing spots. Now we're up to 23 fancy playgrounds where kids can get wet in NYC. See if your favorites made our list (and if not, clue us in via Facebook).

13 Summer Camps for Preschoolers in Brooklyn and Queens

Summer camp is definitely more challenging for parents of preschoolers.

Just when the kids have got the routine down at their “regular” school or at home, they find themselves in a new environment, doing new things. As Martha would say, that’s a good thing—although it may be hard to keep that in mind while you deal with a meltdown at first-day drop-off. That's why it's important to know your little one is under the supervision of experienced counselors who know how to work with that delightful, but sometimes—ahem—difficult age group.

We've been there. To help out a fellow parent, we’ve created a list of some of the best summer camps for preschoolers around the city, and now we're zeroing in on options in the booming boroughs of Queens and Brooklyn. As you’ll see, some have specialties, like music or wildlife, while others are general camps geared for more traditional camp fun. The best news of all? This list means summer's coming! (Eventually.) And you'll be totally ahead of the game.

Remember, you can always search our NYC Camp Directory for more options. Just use the handy filters to sort by location, age, and interest. The list below is just a sampling of the many NYC summer camps available.

30 Fun Things to Do with Kids in Jackson Heights, Queens

Jackson Heights is often thought of as a hot, up-and-coming NYC neighborhood, but really it's just been flying under the radar for the last hundred years or so. This community, one of the most diverse in the United States, has been called an “international Mayberry” due to the small-town feel and the peaceful co-existence of so many different types of people. The fact that it was the nation’s first planned garden district—meaning that most of the buildings in the historic section are built around lush, green courtyards—doesn’t hurt, either. 

Eleven years ago, I moved to this Queens neighborhood from the East Village—which has its own, very different charms—hoping that a down payment and a dream would keep me from missing those Manhattan lights. I soon discovered that mere acquaintances here greet each other on the street, and I find myself in conversations with interesting people from all over the world. Once I had a baby, I met even more neighbors. 

To make it a little easier to find those great Jackson Heights gems with your children, we've compiled a list of neighborhood highlights. Enjoy!

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