Inwood

Enjoy Free Family Camping in NYC Parks with Urban Park Rangers

Contrary to what you might think, you don't need to invest in expensive equipment or even leave New York City to pitch a tent and camp this summer. The Urban Park Rangers offer FREE overnight family camping in city parks at select times and locations throughout the spring, summer, and fall. Bonus: They bring almost everything you need for a night spent under the stars, including the tent!

The annual program kicks off a little before Memorial Day and although it's FREE, advance registration is required for all campouts. Read on to find out how to snag a spot at one of these cool camping trips.

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 forbid preschoolers one of their 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.

Washington Heights and Inwood with Kids: Top 35 Things to Do

Two distinct neighborhoods make up the northernmost tip of Manhattan: Washington Heights and Inwood. Although these NYC nabes are constantly lumped together, they are really two unique areas that happen to share a lot of incredible history.

The Heights is a mix of multigenerational Hispanic families and young artists and families attracted to prewar apartment buildings and lovely parks. The area overflows with colorful Latino restaurants, shops, and cultural groups, and boasts multiple riverfront green spaces, notably Fort Washington Park, home to the famed Little Red Lighthouse, and Fort Tryon Park, where you'll find the Metropolitan Museum's medieval art mecca, the Cloisters.

Inwood is a quieter residential area that's quite tight-knit. Many family-friendly businesses are owned and operated by locals, like Indian Road Cafe, Bread and Yoga, and apothecary/soda fountain Dichter Pharmacy, which dates back to the 1940s.

Read on for all the top spots for kids in these Manhattan neighborhoods, from playgrounds to great eats.

Best Sledding Hills Across NYC

The best thing about a snow day is, of course, sledding! Hit these neighborhood hills across New York City for some wintertime fun with the kids.

In compiling this list, we asked our readers, family, and Mommy Poppins writers and editors for their top recommendations for sledding hills across the five boroughs, but we're always looking for more suggestions. Feel free to chime in if you're favorite isn't here.

Not sure if school is on or off? Read our post on how to know if snow has canceled class or not.

Best Places to Trick-or-Treat on Halloween with NYC Kids

One of my favorite childhood memories from growing up in NYC was Halloween in Greenwich Village. Back then, the Village Halloween Parade was just a couple hundred artists and others who marched through the neighborhood. Afterward, we would trick-or-treat up and down the brownstone blocks. Everyone was friendly, and we would come home with our shopping bags completely filled. It was magical.

Although the parade and Greenwich Village have changed a lot since then, your kids still can enjoy that kind of thrilling trick-or-treat experience in many New York City neighborhoods. Which neighborhood is the best for Halloween trick-or-treating depends on who you ask. New Yorkers love to bicker over the best coffee shops, the best (and worst) train lines, and yes, the best places to take their kids on Halloween. We also love to find that secret gem.

So we asked our astute readers and collected recommendations from our parent-driven NYC staff over many, many years to bring you a list of our favorite trick-or-treating spots so you'll know where to bring your kids this October 31.

Join one of the local Halloween parades and then go trick-or-treating throughout the community with local families. Or hit one of the neighborhoods or streets listed below: We have a slew of spots to try in all five boroughs. For more seasonal fun, check out our jam-packed Halloween Guide, showcasing FREE events, haunted houses, pumpkin patches, and more.

NYC Playgrounds with Shade: Shady Park Benches and Equipment

While kids can always cool off in NYC's many sprinklers, we parents are stuck baking in the sun all day during the heat of the city's summer as we supervise outdoor play. It's a problem our readers know too well—each summer we get requests for recommendations of shady spots to play.

Although we know of a couple playgrounds that offer exceptional amounts of shade—Hippo Playground in Riverside Park and Discovery Playground in Fort Washington Park come to mind—we decided to ask our readers if they knew of any super-shady playgrounds in New York City. They came through with a number of great suggestions.

Please keep in mind that the name of the game here is comfort on a hot summer day; though we have visited plenty of destination playgrounds, with a few exceptions, these shady suggestions tend to be neighborhood standbys and small playgrounds that have plenty of shade, but perhaps not too many bells and whistles.

7 Easy Fall Family Hikes in NYC

It finally feels like fall in New York City, which means my family is headed to the hiking trail. At least once a quarter, usually coinciding with the change of seasons, someone in the family decides it's time to escape to the woods for a little urban relief. And really, there's no need to head upstate or to the 'burbs to get that outdoors fix.  

Did you know that our fair city is home to over 300 miles of hiking trails through 10,000 acres of unencumbered Mother Nature? We have sampled enough to confidently share this list of trails that vary in length, difficulty, and scenery, including those just right for little legs and spots with water, bridges, and yes, that gorgeous fall foliage. Whatever borough you call home, my boy, who helped to compile this list, and I hope you will have a blast lacing up and hitting the trails. Note: He is too young to share mommy's byline. 

10 Underrated NYC Parks You Don't Want to Miss

Central Park, Prospect Park, Brooklyn Bridge Park—even if you only just arrived in NYC, we probably don't need to tell you that these are all must-see green spaces. Yet, according to the NYC Department of Parks & Recreation, 14 percent of the city is parkland—that's more than 30,000 acres!

So if you're looking for a new-to-you outdoor destination to explore, we've got 10 off-the-beaten-path parks worth putting on your NYC family bucket list. Some are massive and boast a wide array of attractions for all seasons; others are small but picturesque and host popular annual events for families. Don't worry if you can't make it to all of these before school starts—we have at least a few more months of fair weather ahead!

Hang with Animals at These Cozy Indoor Spots

Kids are innate animal lovers—we bet all parents go through that phase when they're convinced their child is going to grow up to be a veterinarian. But in wintertime when all living things in New York City seem to be hibernating, it's tough to indulge kids' craving for creatures beyond the ever-present subway rats. And who wants to pet one of those?! That's why we rounded up the best places to get up close and personal with animals in cozy, indoor environments. Here's where you can hang with cool cats, beautiful birds and butterflies, and even "adopt" a critter without ever having to take it home.

5 Great Places to See Fall Leaves in NYC

Signs of fall's arrival are all around us as the leaves in New York City's parks and along tree-lined streets start to turn. This is the time of year when many families plan a day trip upstate or to New Jersey to gaze at gorgeous red, orange and yellow foliage. But you don't need to leave NYC to take in some stunning autumn sights. In addition to major green spaces like Central Park, Prospect Park, Flushing Meadows Corona Park, Staten Island's Greenbelt and Van Cortlandt Park, there are some wonderful off the beaten path city spots where you can enjoy colorful panoramic views that deliver the full splendor of fall.

For this guest post, we turned to local parents Cheryl and William de Jong-Lambert, who regularly blog about their excursions at the Appalachian Mountain Club's Kids Outdoors New York City. Kids Outdoors is a FREE online community for families filled with ideas on alfresco activities in the NYC area and expert advice on how to get started.

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