Upper West Side

22 Best Water Playgrounds and Sprinklers for Kids in NYC

When we were growing up, New York City playgrounds had sprinklers. Now parks and playgrounds across the five boroughs possess "water features"—fountains, geysers, rivers, pumps, and beautiful spraying statues. Kids just love them, and we parents prefer these newfangled playgrounds because they're pretty and cool, and make us feel as if our exorbitant NYC housing costs are justified.

As the city's sprinkler season gets into gear, it's good to know where to find the wildest and wettest playgrounds around. There are hundreds of water features in NYC parks, and we've highlighted some favorites by borough: the best in Brooklyn, best of Queens, and best of the Bronx. Some are cooler (literally and figuratively) than others, and more amazing ones seem to open every year. When we first published this article in 2008, we had five favorite splashing spots. Now we're up to 22 fancy playgrounds where kids can get wet in NYC. See if your favorites made our list.

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 knowing which is which, but don't worry, we've taken the guesswork out of it 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.

How to Get Tickets to NYC's New Harry Potter Exhibit

It’s a busy year for Harry Potter fans. Harry Potter and the Cursed Child is already setting ticket records on Broadway (if you can't get a ticket, see our other theater recommendations). Another of the Potter-prequel flicks hits theaters this fall, Fantastic Beasts 2: The Crimes of Grindelwald, and New York City is getting a brand-new museum exhibit dedicated to all things Harry Potter and his magical world of wizards and magic.

As every wizard knows, this year marks the 20th anniversary of the U.S. publication of Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone. To celebrate, the New-York Historical Society (NYHS) brings the British Library’s exhibit Harry Potter: A History of Magic to the Upper West Side in October. Tickets go on sale to the general public on Thursday, April 26, and it might be a good idea to buy them sooner rather than later as the museum expects the same Potter-happy crowds experienced last year at the British Library. 

Find out what exactly is included in the upcoming exhibition.

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.

Best Places to See Cherry Blossoms as a Family in NYC

There are few more delightful ways to celebrate the arrival of spring than by viewing the beautiful cherry blossoms flowering all over New York City. Everyone seems to know about the Sakura Matsuri Cherry Blossom Festival at the Brooklyn Botanic Garden, but there are other places to enjoy these gorgeous blossoms without the crowds this April and even deeper into the spring season.

In Japan, cherry blossom-viewing is taken to almost religious heights. Blooming flowers are carefully watched, enjoyed, and celebrated. Traditional Sakura Hanami parties feature eating, drinking, and music.

Here are the best places to see cherry blossoms in New York City this spring.

NYC's Best Playgrounds: 15 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, finding a go-to playground is a real sanity saver. When you live in tiny apartments, the neighborhood park is akin to a backyard, and while New Yorkers are lucky to have many awesome local play spots, some 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 15 of the city's best playgrounds—our NYC playground hall of fame.

The Best Spring Theater for NYC Kids: 17 Fabulous Shows

The spring is always a great time for family theater, but this season looks particularly exciting. There are page-to-stage adaptations of cool kid lit (The Little Red Fish for toddlers and Seedfolks for tweens); wordless spectacles to captivate all ages (clown show Air Play and underwater spectacle Symphonie Fantastique); and Lincoln Center's Big Umbrella Festival, the first-ever monthlong performance fest for children on the autism spectrum.

While on Broadway it's all Frozen, Harry Potter, and Mean Girls mania, there's no need to shell out big bucks to give your kids a memorable live entertainment experience in NYC. Most of the 17 shows we're spotlighting are just $25—or less—per ticket.

Top Traditional Summer Camps (with Modern Offerings) for NYC Kids

New York City has always been the best place on Earth to find uh-mazing summer camps, but the options for families looking for that traditional, all around camp experience have only gotten better over the years. Between city camps with tricked-out facilities, and lots of outdoor time, and accessible-by-bus destinations just outside the city, there are plenty of places that deliver those tried-and-true camp activities and then some, combining canoeing, arts and crafts, sports, and swimming with more modern camp curriculums and amenities.

If you'd like to stay within city limits, there are day camps across the five boroughs complete with 75-foot pools and outdoor ball fields, trips to amusement parks and adventure courses, fully-equipped air-conditioned gyms, and fun-filled days at the beach or the park. Meanwhile, if your kiddo is ready to travel, you'll find completely un-plugged media-free nature day camps, lush 27-acre campuses right nearby, lakes with boating and fishing, multiple-day overnight trips to state parks, and of course, that classic sleepaway camp experience.

Unseen Oceans: Explore Aquatic Wonders at New AMNH Exhibit

With last year's opening of National Geographic Encounter: Ocean Odyssey and the much-anticipated opening of Ocean Wonder: Sharks! at the New York Aquarium this summer, there seems to be a renewed interest in our oceans—and with good reason. Oceans cover 70 percent of the earth's surface and new science and technological advances have allowed marine explorers to learn more about our oceans than ever before.

The American Museum of Natural History is at the forefront of oceanic exploration and discovery, and its newest exhibit, Unseen Oceans, is designed to take visitors deep beneath the surface of the sea to a world scientists are just now beginning to understand—all presented in a series of family-friendly, easy to understand, visually stunning galleries.

The One Reason Families Are Applying to BASIS Independent in Droves

There is an educational renaissance happening in New York City. In the past few years we’ve seen dozens of new schools open, adding more public, private, and charter options to the mix. Two of those new programs are part of BASIS Independent Schools, a network of five independent schools nationwide. Their two brand new campuses in New York City offer a PreK-grade 12 in Red Hook, Brooklyn, and a PreK-8 on Manhattan’s Upper West Side.

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