Long Island City

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 frequent Playground Thirty-Five multiple times a week), we’ve taken the time to scout the cream of the crop for NYC kids. From Astoria to the Rockaways, with rope spider webs to kid-sized Ferris wheels, 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 on 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!

Preschool in the Park? Outdoor and Nature-Themed NYC Classes

Nature provides the perfect classroom for preschool-aged kids. Even New York's little urbanites love to jump in puddles, make mud pies, climb trees, and dig for worms. For parents looking for a classroom that draws its lessons from nature, we've rounded up the city's best preschools, "forest schools," and toddler classes in which kids spend a significant part of each day outdoors or interacting with the natural world. As classes are often held rain or shine, proper outdoor gear is a must, so get some sturdy boots and rain pants and let your kids explore!

For more preschool options, be sure to check out the directory of schools, as well as our New York City Preschool Guide with tips on what to ask during a tour and how to ease the transition for kids (and parents).

Must-See NYC Fall Art: Garbage Trucks, Outer Space, Politics

New York City museums seem to always offer plenty of wonderful art collections, but this fall families in the five boroughs will find interesting exhibits on math, history, and more. Fittingly during this election season, a few museums have focused on past and current presidents.

While you might think kids would find exhibits about our country’s leaders and current events a bit boring, these museums have curated displays that ought to spark curiosity. Plus, if your child is at all like mine, this election has been a surprisingly hot topic among friends, which only proves New Yorkers of all ages love a good political debate.

Whatever your child’s interests, you’re sure to find something on this list that appeals and educates. After all, to quote a karaoke favorite, "the children are our future." (Sorry about the earworm.)

7 Free Outdoor Art Exhibits to See with NYC Kids Now

Want to see some art with your kids, but can’t handle the hordes of summer tourists? (Guilty!) Believe that museums make more sense during the frigid winter months? (Also guilty.) Just not able to make your work hours or the kids' naps coordinate with FREE hours at NYC museums? (Hand raised.)

Here’s the solution: check out these seven outdoor art exhibits on display in NYC now. Since they’re located in city parks and other public spaces, they’re FREE! All have art that is interactive (to some degree), educational, and fun for kids. At one exhibit—Swale, a traveling barge with a “floating food forest”—you can even feed your kids healthy food they pick themselves. What could be better? Maybe the fact that you're outside and your children can run around afterward and get tuckered out? (Guilty again.)

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