Long Island City

School Closed? These NYC Camps Host Kids on Veterans Day and Other Holidays

Kids love days off from school like Election Day and Veterans Day (Tuesday, November 3 and Wednesday, November 11, respectively). Working parents? Not so much. While there are many wonderful mini-camps to choose from during extended school breaks, it's harder to find coverage for one-off holidays that pop up throughout the academic year.

But we did the research and found a slew of engaging, full-day, drop-off programs on these holidays where kids can enjoy activities like swimming, theater, robotics and chess. So there's no need to take the day off from work or schlep the kids to the office! Send your children to one of these cool holiday camps instead.

Halloween Goes to the Dogs: NYC Dog Costume Parades & Contests

There's nothing cuter than seeing little kids decked out in cool costumes...except, perhaps, dogs done up in fancy duds. Before I became a mom, I always looked forward to dressing up my pup, Hamlet, during the Halloween season. Now my son and I both enjoy this annual tradition. Over the years, our dog has been a skunk, Dracula and a grape, but frankly, these get-ups are pretty tame compared to some of the wild and creative outfits we've seen at NYC's many Halloween pet parades and costume contests.

Of course, you don't need to have a dog to enjoy these costumed canine extravaganzas, everyone is invited to gawk and "awwww." We found a handful of Halloween happenings for hounds in all five boroughs, so hit these parades to see who's really top dog.

You can find lots more season fun in our jam-packed Halloween Guide.

Queens Dance Classes for Kids: Ballet, Tap, Hip-Hop

Hey Queens parents: Do you have a kid who's pleading for dance lessons but you dread the thought of schlepping to Manhattan or Brooklyn? That was my worry when my preschooler started begging for ballet. But after doing a little research and talking to many of my fellow Queens moms, I was happy to discover that I don't need to leave the borough to find quality dance studios for children. Bonus: Dance classes in Queens tend to be significantly less expensive than their Manhattan and even Brooklyn counterparts, and many offer scholarships or sliding-scale tuition for those who qualify.

Some Queens dance studios are local favorites that have been serving their communities for years, like Landrum in Whitestone and Heavenly Bodies Dance Studio in Ozone Park. Others, like Astoria's Sol Dance Center, are part of the wave of new kid-friendly businesses opening up throughout the borough. And if you have a dance-loving boy, don't worry: Most of these programs offer classes for boys, including ballet and hip-hop.

Here are 12 Queens dance studios offering classes for kids and teens who are serious about ballet, tap, modern and other dance styles. You can find other enriching programs in our Classes Guide and Directory Listings.

Art Portfolio Prep for NYC Kids: Preparing to Apply to Specialized Art High Schools

When my oldest son was 8, he said his ambition in life was to sell his art on the street. So it's no surprise that at age 13 he's set his sights on getting into Fiorello H. LaGuardia High School of Music & Art and Performing Arts.

Like other specialized art high schools, including the High School of Fashion Industries, the Frank Sinatra School of the Arts, and the High School of Art & Design, LaGuardia requires applicants to submit portfolios of their work. While talent is key, taking a professional portfolio preparation class can really give applicants a leg up on the competition. We've rounded up New York City programs that help tweens and young teens prepare their artwork to apply to these popular high schools.

9 Yoga Studios in NYC with Parent-Child Classes

Mommy & Me yoga classes are a weekly date for my son and me. We have been going since he was about two years old and now, more than a year later, we are having as much fun as ever.

I have found that yoga is a great way to bond with your child while also getting a workout. When my son first started taking these classes, he loved being able to show off his downward dog or butterfly pose. Since then, he has gained great strength and flexibility, and even knows how take a deep breath as a means to calm himself—a technique we have used to stave off many a temper tantrum.

If you and your tot are looking to get your om on, here are our picks for Mommy & Me yoga programs in NYC.

Pierogies, Meatballs and Ice Cream Sandwiches: 14 Fun Specialty Savory and Sweet Spots

One-item specialty restaurants aren't anything new in NYC. This city practically invented bagel, doughnut and pizza spots. Since we first told you about the emerging culinary phenomenon back in 2010, the dining landscape has greatly changed. Some of those eateries, like The Meatball Shop, have opened additional outposts; others have sadly closed. (We do have high hopes that East Village mainstay, Pommes Frites, will eventually reopen after being shuttered by the recent gas explosion.)

That said, this super-specialty restaurant trend is here to stay, which is great news for families since most of these dining destinations offer quick service, and kid-friendly ambiance and menus. Dig in to delicious chicken fingers with a variety of unique sauces, plates of gourmet mac and cheese, sandwiches on homemade biscuits or plump pierogies. Finish off your meal with a sweet treat like an artisanal doughnut, ice cream sandwich or bowl of rice pudding.

Here is our list of 14 single-item specialty restaurants that kids will love in NYC.

Free & Cheap Indoor Movies for NYC Kids this Summer

We recently rounded up free outdoor film screenings for New York City families. But with temperatures stuck in the 80s and 90s, there are days when all you want to do is spend a few hours in a nice, dark, air-conditioned movie theater—you just don't want to shell out $30-plus to do it.

Happily you don't have to. Wonderful family flicks are playing at a theater near you, and the tickets are free (or inexpensive). Now all you have to do is dip into your 401K to pay for that popcorn.

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.

4 Freaky & Fun Zombie Experiences for NYC Tweens & Teens

We spend a lot of time writing about Halloween fun for little kids like costume parades and tame seasonal fetes. But what happens when your tween outgrows those kinds of all-ages celebrations? A lot of eye-rolling, that's what. As the mom of a nine-year-old desperate to grow up, I know that firsthand. But I also know he's not quite ready for full-on adult Halloween events like those super-freaky haunted houses.

Take for instance the monster of the moment: zombies. He's very into the walking dead but I won't let him watch The Walking Dead. (Especially not this season—yikes!) However, we have been able to enjoy a few freaky but not mega-frightening zombie experiences as a family. These interactive events like zombie laser tag and a zombie escape are way too intense for tots but thrilling for tweens and teens, not to mention adults. So if you're tired of hearing the "this is for babies!" complaint, take your angsty adolescent to one of these zombie-themed events.

Free Outdoor Summer Music Festivals & Concerts in NYC: Best Bets for Families

Although some New York City outdoor music and performance series are created specifically with children in mind, there are lots of grown-up ones that families can enjoy, too. At these wonderful alfresco events—most of which take place in parks and plazas—families can pack a picnic, stake out a spot, lay down a blanket and soak up some culture at no cost. Don't worry if the kids aren't totally into it; sit along the perimeter and let them run around, dance and play and they'll be happy.

While many series including SummerStage, Celebrate Brooklyn! and Lincoln Center Out of Doors host dedicated family days, it's worth browsing their full schedules. There's no minimum age to enjoy jazz, classical or rock, right?

We've rounded up NYC's best FREE outdoor music and performance series and highlighted the events we think will be of particular interest to families. You can find even more family fun in our jam-packed Summer Guide.

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