Can Your Family Break Out of Hoodwinked Escape's Game Room?

Can you beat the clock to escape from a locked room? That's the challenge at escape rooms, the latest craze in youth entertainment. Escape rooms are interactive, physical puzzles where players are locked in a room for 60 minutes with nothing but their wits. They must decipher clues and interact with everyday elements to find their way out. These fun games have been popping up around NYC for the past decade but are still a mystery to many families. Hoodwinked Escape opened in Harlem this past winter and we decided to check it out. 

 My son and I had already tried a zombie-themed room escape during a kid birthday party several years ago. While we all became the ghoul's dinner, we enjoyed working together against the clock to free ourselves.  From corporate team-building to a night out for twentysomethings, these adventure games also make for great family and friend bonding time, especially for tweens and teens in need of something new to do. 

Whether you are a newbie or a seasoned pro at these challenging adventure games you are in for a treat: Hoodwinked is so well thought-out, you just might linger to enjoy the experience rather than trying to break out in less than the required 60 minutes.

7 Free Outdoor Art Exhibits to See in NYC This Spring

New York City's parks and plazas are brimming with a new crop of kid-friendly public art installations just in time for springtime neighborhood walks.

These seven eye-popping statues are larger than life. There are gigantic glowing bunnies at Brookfield Place and a massive recreation of a DNA molecule in Marcus Garvey Park. You'll also find a 30-foot swimming pool propped up on its side in Rockefeller Center; a 25-foot-tall spinning, neon sign in Brooklyn Bridge Park; a pair of towering orchids at the entrance to Central Park; and an awe-inspiring, 30-foot-tall aluminum humanoid on the Park Avenue Mall. 

Visit these gigantic pieces one by one or link a couple together for a fun family outing, perhaps over the upcoming NYC public school April break. The best part of these seasonal art installations is that they all can be spotted in parks or other public places, so you can view them at your convenience and for FREE.  

10 NYC National Parks and Monuments for Junior Rangers

In my world, summer generally means a visit to Grammy and Papa's rustic, woodsy Colorado cabin. While I love raising my kids in NYC, with all of the museums, parks and culture it has to offer, I also enjoy escaping from the urban jungle so we can explore the great outdoors.

One fun and educational way to do that is the national Junior Rangers Program, which we discovered last summer in Colorado. My kids received different activity books—geared toward their respective ages—to read and complete with the promise that, once they were done, they could meet with a Park Ranger, discuss what they'd learned and be sworn in as Junior Rangers complete with badges.

Although my children became Junior Rangers far from the Big Apple in Rocky Mountain National Park, NYC kids can do it at 10 sites right here in and around Manhattan.

The Best NYC Kid Destinations that Opened in 2015

If NYC had a Facebook page, its Year in Review would go something like this: debuted three new museums, two cat cafes and one seriously jaw-dropping carousel. And that's not all! Dozens of cool kid attractions opened in New York City in 2015 and we've rounded up the 15 best new destinations to add to your family bucket list.

Read on to see how many you've already visited (they're all over the five boroughs, yes, even the Bronx and Staten Island), and then make an early New Year's resolution to check out the rest of these must-dos over holiday break (or, for seasonal spots, in 2016). Don't forget to post pics on Facebook to make your out-of-town friends Grinch-green with envy.

Best Holiday Shows for NYC Kids

'Tis the season to get the gang all dressed up to see some holiday shows. While there are certainly lots of spectacles to splurge on beyond 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 money. Bonus: We've got the scoop on how to save money to a few of the higher-priced offerings.

From live stage adaptations of holiday classics like A Charlie Brown Christmas and Elf to tot-friendly puppet shows to offbeat, eye-popping circus and dance, here are our top 16 holiday shows for NYC families.

5 NYC Sites Where 'Hamilton' Comes Alive for Kids

Lin-Manuel Miranda's historical hip-hop musical Hamilton needs more publicity about as much as Donald Trump. However, fans of the Broadway juggernaut, which include lots of tweens, teens and parents, can't get enough of the blockbuster that explores the dramatic life of "the ten-dollar Founding Father," from orphaned kid to teenage scholar to Revolutionary War hero to government player to his untimely death.

If you're lucky enough to have seen the show, chances are you're listening to the catchy original cast album on repeat just like I am right now. However, if you haven't been successful at snagging tickets, we've got some tips for getting some (even at a discount!), along with five NYC spots where school-age kids can learn more about Alexander Hamilton's legacy.

Sugar Hill Children's Museum Opens in Harlem

New York City just gained a brand-new children's museum. Sugar Hill Children's Museum of Art & Storytelling opens to the public on Saturday, October 3 with a FREE kickoff party that includes music, face painting and of course stories and art-making. The museum aims to serve the youngest New Yorkers with a target audience of 3 to 8 years old.

As a Harlem resident, I was especially excited about this new space and, after getting a sneak peek, I'm delighted to welcome it to the nabe.

Must-See Outdoor Art: 9 Exhibits Kids Will Love

Those seeking alfresco art have plenty of options to choose from this summer as a slew of brand-new, kid-friendly displays just debuted in New York City.

So skip the indoors, and make the city's parks and streets your summer museum while you check out these nine public works of art, including a giant Hello Kitty and a cheerful canopy of colorful umbrellas. Our list includes uptown and downtown spots, Times Square, Brooklyn, Governors Island and the Bronx.

Find even more outdoor public art in New York in our earlier list of spring debuts.

Free Family-Friendly Shakespeare in NYC Parks: Shorter & Less Crowded Than Central Park

To see, or not to see... with kids? That is the question when it comes to Shakespeare. While FREE outdoor mountings of the Bard's iconic plays abound in NYC every summer, some are more family-friendly than others. Yes, the Public Theater's Shakespeare in the Park productions in Central Park get all the press and feature big stars, but they also involve insane ticket lines and long running times, plus prickly patrons who may give you the stink eye if your child gets fidgety. Happily, lots of other local troupes put on quality, no-cost Shakespeare shows in various NYC parks. These revivals don't require tickets or reservations, are engaging and accessible, and often cut down to under two hours, so your kids have a better chance of making it all the way through (and if they don't, just leave quickly and quietly—no money wasted!).

I started taking my 9-year-old daughter to outdoor Shakespeare when she was 7, and now she's totally hooked. Here are seven FREE Shakespeare shows to enjoy with your kids this summer, plus tips on how to make the most of the experience.


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