Queens

13 Brain-Boosting NYC Playgrounds That Build Physical and Mental Skills

Playtime should be fun, but that doesn't mean you can't learn a few lessons along the way. In an age when STEM activities are all the rage, and we race our kids from class to class, sometimes it's worth slowing down and setting the kids free in a park or playground to see what skills they pick up on their own.

We've rounded up a baker's dozen NYC play areas that foster old-fashioned playground skills—like balance, strength, and coordination—while also offering unique features that encourage brain-boosting skills—like problem-solving, engineering, physics, cooperation, imagination, resilience, and teamwork. Plus, they're some of the coolest play zones in the city.

Almost 50(!) Free Things to Do in May With NYC Kids

This month is all about outdoor spring fun, and we've got the lowdown on all the great FREE events happening in NYC, including some stellar street fairs and festivals, and even the start of outdoor movies and music. There's also the opening of Governors Island, a Memorial Day Weekend concert, and Kids Food Fest. With most of the events happening alfresco, New York City families will have a bit more space to spread out, throw down a blanket, and enjoy the (late!) arrival of the warmer temps.

Read on for more than 50 FREE things to do this May in New York City, including in Brooklyn, Queens, and the Bronx. Find more top events in our May GoList, or our always packed daily NYC Event Calendar.

Finally, get ready for the summer season with our roundup of the city's best beaches (opening Memorial Day), and a handy list of nearby water parks.

Queens Art Crawl With Kids: Noguchi, MoMA PS1, Socrates Sculpture Park

While the Upper East Side's Museum Mile gets lots of love and tons of fanfare, there are other cool culture spots to visit in this diverse city. One of our favorite outer-borough destinations just might be Long Island City, which has solidified itself as the queen of Queens' vibrant art scene. In addition to a slew of funky galleries, the 'hood has a trio of art-centric museums worth visiting: MoMA PS1, the Noguchi Museum, and the outdoor oasis, Socrates Sculpture Park.

Read on for our review of these artsy spots, plus the kid-friendly programming that makes them worth visiting, whether you're a local or not.

New York City Libraries with Great Play Spaces and Children's Rooms

It’s too cold or rainy to play outside and the kids are bouncing off the walls. What to do? Don’t feel like spending money to take the kids to an indoor play activity? The best default option, hands-down, is the library. Your kid can never finish reading all the books available, and many libraries also have children’s rooms and activities. And not only is a trip to the library an always-FREE activity, your library card gets you free access to more than 40 other institutions around NYC. To mix things up, venture beyond your own local library to these gems that have some of the best children’s play spaces in the city.

Best Family Festivals and Street Fairs in NYC This May

There are street fairs—and then there are street fairs. We don't mean those random ones selling irregular socks and fried Oreos; we're talking about true community festivals. Each one is unique, reflecting the character of its neighborhood, and many feature rides, performances, activities, and food. The hard part, of course, is deciding which community fairs to hit with the family in a calendar packed with options, but don't worry: We've taken the guesswork out of managing your family's busy festival schedule for you.

We've gone through the city's list of top annual festivals, street fairs, and carnivals and put together our roundup of top picks for May—more than two dozen. Most of these fetes are FREE or cost just a couple of bucks, and in many cases your dollars go to support a local charity or school. Here are some awesome fests happening in NYC this May.

You can find even more seasonal activities in our Spring Fun Guide.

Petting Zoos Near NYC Where Kids Can See Farm Animals

We're so fortunate to live in a city that offers an incredible array of fun spring activities for kids, but sometimes I fret over the disconnect from nature. I want my daughter to be as comfortable in the country as she is in the urban jungle, so we're always looking for ways to get out of NYC and explore the expansive farmland that borders the city.

While you can meet some furry friends at the city's wonderful zoos, and even get hands-on at their mini petting zoos, there's something particularly special about enjoying an authentic farm setting. We've rounded up our top petting zoos and animal havens to get some serious face time with furry friends. Get ready to load up the family for a day of donkey petting, goat bottle-feedings, and sheep shearing.

Here are our favorite spots for an up-close animal encounter, all within two hours of NYC.

Easy Day Hikes Near NYC for Families To Explore

When the weather is fine, there are few things New Yorkers like better than a day outside with the family. Although NYC has incredible parks and playgrounds to explore, sometimes it's worth taking a day trip outside the city limits.

So pack a cooler and a picnic blanket and find your new favorite kid-friendly hiking destination among this list that takes you to the Hudson Valley, New Jersey, Long Island, and even some memorable parks within the five boroughs. Each of these hikes has something special to offer, and best of all, they are kid-tested and kid-approved! 

Best Destination Sandboxes at Local Parks for NYC Kids

There's no denying it—kids love diving into a sandbox, running their shovels and hands through the grains of sand, dumping a full bucket over and generally getting their hands dirty.

Though NYC parents might get grossed out at the thought of what could be lurking in our uncovered, urban sandboxes, it's hard to refuse one of a preschooler's most beloved sensory experiences. So pull up a bench (and your cup of coffee; you'll be here a while!), and check out these eight toddler-tested, mom-approved NYC sandboxes. We've done our best to find the cleanest ones across the city. Besides, you can always wash their hands in the nearby sprinklers or park bathrooms when you're finally able to get them out.

And hey, you don't have to hoof it out to the local beach to reach this sand, which just means more time for other NYC kid activities. Find more destination playgrounds in our NYC Parks & Playgrounds Guide.

NYC's Best Playgrounds: 18 Parks Worthy of a Subway Schlep

Playgrounds may be as much a part of childhood as potty training and the tooth fairy, but to city families, having a go-to playground is a real sanity saver. When you live in a tiny apartment, the neighborhood park is like your backyard.

While New Yorkers are lucky to have many awesome local play spots, some NYC playgrounds are a cut above the rest. These spots offer plenty of space to romp and enough outdoor entertainment to make them worth a schlep on the subway. Without further ado, read on for 18 of the city's best playgrounds—our NYC playground hall of fame.

The Best Annual Family Festivals for NYC Kids (Mostly Free)

With so much going on in NYC, it can be overwhelming to sift through all the events to land on something that's truly special. The many annual festivals that the city hosts are a great place to start. Some New York City celebrations are so great they're worth going every year, like the interactive, art-filled Figment on Roosevelt Island, the incredible (and educational) World Maker Faire New York, and Street Games, the Parks Department's tribute to old-school pastimes.

I know I'm not the only mom out there who likes to plan ahead, and since the festival season kicks into high gear this month, we figured it was a great time to round up our top annual festivals for families. Every single pick on our list is really worth your time and money—and in many cases they don't cost a penny.

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