Central Park

Best New Classes for NYC Kids Fall 2014: 13 Enriching After-school Programs

When it comes to enriching after-school programs, NYC kids are totally spoiled—and their choices seem to get more plentiful and diverse every year. Our Classes Guide is already packed with a wide variety of posts, from coding classes to cheerleading, robotics to circus arts, as well as more traditional sports and arts lessons.

This fall's crop of brand-new classes brings a bunch of fresh options for all ages to the mix, including preschool music lessons developed by kindie rock queen Laurie Berkner, a program for tween entrepreneurs, hardcore computer coding for teens and an in-depth intro to the likes of Shakespeare and Socrates. In all, we rounded up 13 notable new kids' classes that either launch this fall or recently debuted. See which ones pique the interest of your young learner.

You can find out about even more excellent programs in our Classes Guide and our Class Directory, which allows you to sort listings by age, interest and neighborhood.

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.

5 Royal Ways to Play Princess for NYC Kids

Most little kids don't need an excuse to dress up. In fact, it's tough to get some of them to dress down. (I've been through that "But mommy, I need to wear my princess dress to school!" battle too, trust me.)

While it's great to put on fancy clothes just for the fun of it, sometimes it's nice to find a special outing to go with them. A few months ago, we shared our ideas for an exciting day out for wannabe pirates. Today, we've got royal suggestions for aspiring princesses and princes in NYC. We covered some of these experiences in our previous princess post but that was a number of years ago and royals need to keep up on all the latest fashions. One thing that hasn't changed much since then? The high prices for some of these destinations. But we've got a few FREE recommendations, too, to make sure your princess doesn't turn into a pauper overnight. So before you pass on those old Halloween costumes, here are five great ways to play princess with NYC kids. You can find more inspiration for themed outings in our Party Guide.

Celebrate National Poetry Month with NYC Kids

April is National Poetry Month (bet you didn't know that). Even if the last time you picked up a collection of adult poems was Sylvia Plath in college, chances are you read your kids rhyming stanzas by the likes of Dr. Seuss, Margaret Wise Brown or Shel Silverstein on a more regular basis. Little ones really respond to poetry; the rhymes help them learn to read, and older kids get into rap and slam poetry.

There are lots of special kid-friendly events going on in honor of National Poetry Month, including free poetry writing workshops, poetry slams and the annual Poem in Your Pocket day. But we've also got ways your family can celebrate the art of poetry year-round in New York City.

Free Winter Fun at New York City Nature Centers

[UPDATED: JANUARY 25, 2013]

Yes, New York City is home to skyscrapers and sidewalks galore, but our city is also made up of beaches, forests, marshlands and glacier formations. There are animals everywhere, too: seals in the harbor, red-tailed hawks on Fifth Avenue, raccoons in Central Park and even occasionally coyotes. And since we are located on the eastern flyway, our skies are filled with hundreds of different species of birds. My family is passionate about the natural world around us and so are many other New Yorkers, as evidenced by the myriad of nature centers available to us throughout the city.

Nature centers are a great way to while away a winter’s day and maybe even learn something new about the city. Drop in during their open hours and check out wonderful exhibits featuring animals, plants, history and geography. Or attend one of the many special events or organized group activities going on all winter. The best part is that most nature centers don't charge an entrance fee (although donations are accepted) so it's an affordable outing the whole family can enjoy.

Holiday Fun at New York City Zoos: Winterfest, Presents for the Animals and Clydesdale Carriage Rides

Winterfest isn't happening in 2012.
It's the season of lights. For the past few weeks, we've been posting about all of the dazzling holiday spectacles that illuminate New York City at this time of year, like Christmas tree and menorah lightings, holiday light displays and department store windows. Even the animals are getting in the illumination action. The Central Park Zoo is decking its halls with thousands of lights, and also hosting holiday-themed activities as part of its annual Winterfest celebration.

The festivities kicked off last weekend and continue every Friday and Saturday through December 17. I took my son and a few of his animal-loving buddies last year and they were mesmerized by the strings of twinkling lights threaded throughout the zoo. They also had a great time meeting the animals, making crafts and enjoying other special holiday activities.

Although the Central Park Zoo is the only New York City zoo that decorates its landscaped grounds, the Bronx Zoo and Prospect Park Zoo also have special holiday happenings, like giving presents to their residents and other seasonal activities.

Read on to find out about all the things you can see and do at NYC zoos this holiday season.

Get Smurfed! Smurftastic Fun for New York City Kids July 25-29

If your kids are anything like mine, they've been begging to see the reboot of The Smurfs since those little CGI blue guys (and one girl) started taking over all the ad space in the city. (They seem to be everywhere! On buses, phone booths, billboards, etc.) 

Although I was a big fan of the Smurfs back in the day and I adore NPH (a.k.a. Neil Patrick Harris, the movie's human star), I don't have the highest hopes. That said, I know where I'll be next Friday, July 29: in a movie theater enjoying the air-conditioning, eating popcorn and watching my son have a good time.

But you know what I actually am excited about? Smurf Week in NYC! NYCGo, New York City's official tourism organization, has partnered with local cultural centers like the Brooklyn Children's Museum and the New York Botanical Garden for five days of smurfy fun for families. Yes, it's a marketing ploy to get you to see the movie, which you'll probably end up doing anyway. But a lot of the activities sound super-smurftastic.

Read on for the smurfiest highlights (and we promise, no more smurfing around).

Free Outdoor Kids' Storytimes in New York City Parks

Summer in the city is all about free alfresco entertainment. There are complimentary concerts (for kids and grown-ups), no-cost movies and lots of free festivals.

But don't forget about free storytimes in city parks! Because you know your kids don't want to hear a tale told in a hot, crowded library. (And even if your local branch is swanky enough to have air conditioning, your children shouldn't be cooped up indoors.)

We've rounded up a dozen storytelling series for families to enjoy all summer long.

Best Foodie Spots Near Outdoor Music Concert Series in NYC

Summer in New York City can feel like one season-long music festival. There are an incredible number of free outdoor concert series around town, and my family and I try to hit as many performances as we can. (We never say no to complimentary culture.)

Since we often make a day (or evening) of it, some kind of meal is always involved, and as an ex-Food Network employee, I admit that I can be picky.

Some series, like Celebrate Brooklyn!, have wonderful concessionaires to complement the amazing performances. Others, like Waterside Plaza’s Music Under the Stars, leave the food up to you.

Here are five concert series that promise awesome eats or have great places to pick up snacks nearby.

Free and Cheap Places to Rent Bikes in NYC

My preschooler just scored a scooter for her birthday. Now I know that scooters lead to bikes, which means cycling is just around the corner.

I'm really looking forward to riding with my family—but not to storing all of those bikes. Who has the space for three cycles in a NYC apartment, I ask? Not most of us, which means I'm going to rely on rental spots to keep us on wheels.

I did the research, and here are some great places that rent bikes at reasonable prices—sometimes even for free! Happy Bike Month!

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