Long Island City

LIC Welcomes Playday, an Art Center for Kid Creators

Once just a neighborhood of sprawling factories and warehouses, Long Island City, Queens, has transformed into a hot spot for young professionals and families. New things seem to open every day. We love the outdoor thrills at Gantry Plaza State Park and the rest of the waterfront to indoor romps at the Noguchi Museum and play spaces like City Owlets.  

But now there's a brand-new, distinctly unique creative environment in LIC: Playday. Is it an education center? Is it an art school? Is it a kids' crafting club? It’s all those things and more.

Best NYC Holiday Shows for Kids: Elf, Charlie Brown, and More

'Tis the season to get the gang all dressed up to see some holiday shows. While there are plenty of spectacles to splurge on like the Radio City Christmas Spectacular and all those Nutcrackers, if you've got young children you may not want to blow all of your bucks on theater tickets.

That's why our roundup includes a range of productions, from inexpensive, low-key offerings perfect for fidgety preschoolers, to extravaganzas that are worth the investment. Bonus: We've got the scoop on how to save money on a few of the higher-priced offerings.

From live stage adaptations of holiday classics such as A Charlie Brown Christmas, Tim Burton's The Nightmare Before Christmas, and the movie Elf, to tot-friendly fairy tales and Hanukkah tales, to amazing magic tricks, here are our top 14 holiday shows for NYC families.

5 Must-Try Laser Tag and Paintball Arenas for NYC Kids

Are your big kids bored of bowling? Not quite ready for the zip line? Consider laser tag or paintball, both fun party options and action-fueled activities you can find right here in NYC.

For the uninitiated, laser tag is a high-energy game of tag meets hide-and-seek that’s played with infrared laser guns in a darkened arena. Paintball pelts participants with small dye pellets. The object of both games: Get to your opponents before they get to you out by strategically shooting, running, and hiding from cover to cover. Don't worry, the laser guns emit harmless, invisible rays that register a "kill" by lighting up a spot on your adversaries' vests and paintball pellets might sting for a few seconds, but there's no long-lasting effects.

Check out one of these five fast and furious laser tag and paintball spots.

Totally FREE and Crazy Cool Art NYC Kids Can See Outdoors

One of the best things about living in an urban area is the access to culture. It's everywhere! From concerts and museums to festivals and parks, there's something to learn and appreciate every time you turn around, especially this summer.

Public art is an excellent (and FREE!) way to introduce your kids to (mostly) hands-on art, without opening your wallet. As the weather heats up, head outdoors to enjoy some of the coolest installations around town, from a giant whirlpool to murals and even some kooky goats.

If you like FREE events (there's only one answer to that question), check out our FREE guide, full of museums, sports program, movies, and more.

The Best Playgrounds in Queens

Although every pocket and corner of Queens has a neighborhood playground, we’ve taken the time to scout the cream of the crop for NYC kids. Whether you're visitn from another borough or just want to explore a new-to-you-neighborhood, here are 11 of our favorite romping spots. Ranging from Astoria to the Rockaways, you'll unique features from rope spider webs to kid-sized Ferris wheels and super cool sprinklers. One commonality: These parks offer clean, safe equipment with innovative and fun details that go beyond the metallic jungle gyms of the past.

Looking to make more of a splash? Check out our roundup of the top water playgrounds in Queens or find more playgrounds across the five boroughs in our NYC Parks & Playgrounds guide.

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.)

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.

10 New Kids' Birthday Party Spots Around NYC

I'm always looking for birthday party ideas that don't involve a potential slideshow of my Pinterest fails, especially for my 9-year-old who is blossoming into a mini Martha Stewart. Luckily, NYC seems to open new party spots monthly for the kids.

We've rounded up a sampling of some of the top new locations around the city that are offering kid party packages or room rentals, including a rock climbing spot and cool preschool-age play spaces.

Need further inspiration to kick that birthday fatigue to the curb? Check out our NYC Birthday Party Guide, or peruse these special occasion options, from dine-in movie theaters and fancy high tea to museum sleepovers.

So read on for a list of great birthday party venues that might just save your couch, the dog, the cat, your relationship with your downstairs neighbor, and your sanity!

9 Exciting New Spots in NYC for Kids' Classes

Confession time: Sometimes, I feel a little overwhelmed by just how many children's classes are available in New York City. Should we do gymnastics or ballet? Robotics or writing this semester? It can be hard to know which are worth the time and money. An inspiring instructor can shape a lifelong hobby or even a career, but if that first class isn't good, a kid can sometimes lost all interest in a subject.

We've put together a list of nine new spots around the city offering cool kids' classes; hopefully this list makes your choice a little more manageable! Your child can get a mental workout at one of the new maker spaces or work off any excess energy with more physical classes, like yoga or rock climbing. 

Remember, this is just a sampling of offerings in NYC. For more enrichment options, check out our Classes Guide or Directory of businesses for a more complete listing.

City Owlets: LIC's Newest Play Space for Tots and Preschoolers

New year, new indoor place space in Queens! City Owlets is Long Island City's newest hot spot for babies, toddlers, and preschoolers. My 1-year-old and I were delighted with the space, which just opened on Jackson Avenue after months of development.

It features a pint-sized play cafe and market, sensory wall, costumes, classes, birthday parties, and so much more, including perks for grown-ups. Part of a growing trend of "play cafes," such as Good Day Play Cafe, which opened last year in Bayside, Queens, Sunnyside Plays in Queens, and The Coop in Bay Ridge, Brooklyn, there's a full espresso and snacks menu for parents (and kids) to enjoy. A welcome addition to the neighborhood, City Owlets is a definite go-to for curing cabin fever with fuss-free play and enrichment.

Find more Queens play spaces in our article on the top gyms and kiddie drop-in spots around the borough. Looks like we'll be adding one more to it!

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