Uptown

Free Parks Programs Let City Kids Discover the Nature All Around

I think I love being out in nature in the Fall better even than in the summer. The smell of the damp leaves on the ground, the crisp autumn air, it's very relaxing and great being outdoors with the kids at this time of year.

But you don't need to hop in the car to get your walk in the woods. There are woods all around us and the NYC Parks Department has tons of programs to help families enjoy them and teach NYC kids about nature. There are too many in one weekend to even list, but here's the top ones in every borough.

Staten Island: Haunted Hike
Explore the haunted history of Conference House Park, which was once a Native American burial ground. 7PM Friday, Nov 2.

Manhattan:Inwood Park Nature Walk
How would you like a guided nature walk by no less than the chief naturalist of the NYC Parks Department? Spot songbirds and learn about the ecosystems of Manhattan's last natural forest and salt marsh. Sat., Nov. 3. 8-10AM, Inwood Park

Queens: Fall Migration
Help Rangers count raptors as they pass by on their Fall Migration. Raptors are always cool and kids will love that they are helping the Rangers. Flushing Meadows Corona Park, 10AM Sat, Nov. 3.

Brooklyn: Backyard Ecology Walk
A kid-friendly introduction to Fort Greene's wildlife will teach NYC kids about the nature that lives right in their own backyards. Sure to open city kids' eyes to the world of nature around them. Sat., Nov. 3, 1PM, Fort Greene Park.

Bronx: Fall Foliage Walk
Enjoy some of the most exquisite fall foliage in the city on a guided walk through an oak, hickory and sweet-gum forest and search for the special 400 year old white oak. Pelham Bay Park, 2 PM. Sunday, Nov. 4.

Want more NYC nature walks?

Check out trails.com. A member fee is required, but it gives you unlimited access to detailed guides for hiking, biking, kayaking and more all over the US. There's tons of guides for NYC and the surrounding areas and even ideas for hikes with kids. You can try it out with their 14 day free trial.

Gorp is free site that has lots of hiking and other outdoor activity ideas around NYC and the country. The information is less detailed than what you'll find on trails.com or in a book, but it's a good starting place.

Best Hikes with Children in the Catskills and Hudson River Valley

is a book that features 51 easy hikes to enjoy with your kids in the area.

 

5 Magical Halloween Events for NYC Families

I can't believe how many Halloween events there are in this city. There is cool-sounding stuff to do for Halloween with kids in every corner of the city from now until the 31st. Little neighborhood events can be the best ones, so definitely keep an eye out for what's going on in your hood (and let us know).

I've picked out just five events that each take a different spin on celebrating the holiday, aren't too commercialized, and hopefully bring that Halloween magic that will give you and your family great Halloween memories.

Halloween Parade and Pumpkin Sail
Just as the sun is setting, children launch their lit Jack o' Lanterns out into the Harlem Meer and watch as the flotilla of jack o' Lanterns float across the water. Starting at 4PM there will also be mask-making workshop, lawn games, a costume parade, and costume contest. FREE. When: Saturday, October 28th, 4-7PM

Brooklyn Botanical Garden Ghouls and Ghords
At Ghouls and Gourds kids learn about plants as they engage in freakishly fun activities. In addition to the great big costume parade, carnivorous plant feedings with BBG's very own "Morticia Adams," giant ten-foot-tall puppets, a flying flea circus, mysterious music, and other eerie oddities. Music from Maracatu NY and the rockin' tunes of Audra Rox. Sounds cool.
When: Sunday, October 28 from noon to 6.

Scared Silly: Halloween in Prospect Park
A weekend of Halloween family fun in Prospect Park. There'll be the Haunted Carousel, Scary Stories from the past and period Halloween crafts at Lefferts Historic House, Creepy Crawly Critter Fest at the Audubon Center, Boo at the Zoo, and the Halloween Haunted Walk (Saturday only) and carnival. All free except for carousel and Zoo admission. When: October 27 – 28

Halloweekend
Grand Central Terminal's Vanderbilt Hall will be the site of a weekend full of family fun and events, but the highlight is sure to be the award-winning giant puppets of Ralph Lee. These puppets are just amazing and there's nothing like seeing them up close. It's sure to be some Halloween magic you and your children will remember for years to come. When: October 27-28

Di­a de los Muertos
Not eactly Halloween, but I thought it would be interesting to add a slightly different cultural perspective on this Holiday. Dia de los Muertos (Day of the Dead) is the Mexican version of our All Saints Day or Halloween. At this Family festival, families are invited to explore the ancient roots and contemporary DГѓВ­a de los Muertos customs through bilingual educator-led altar discussions, artist-led workshops, storytelling, live music and dance performances, and food workshops that teach about ofrendas (offerings) and the traditional foods involved in the celebration. Free, but registration required. When: Saturday, November 3, 12:00 pm - 3:30 pm

OpenHouseNewYork Weekend Guide for Kids

If you're planning on staying in the city for the long Columbus Day Weekend, then you've picked a good time to stay home. Besides the Apple Festivals we wrote about yesterday there's another special free festival this weekend with all kinds of unique activities for kids. The openhousenewyork weekend is America's largest architect and design event, opening 350 doors to off-the-beaten-track locations throughout New York City. And OHNY Kids has special programs designed just for children. You'll find programs that teach kids about sustainable living, discover places you've never heard of, go places rarely open to the public, see artist studios in action and participate in fun activities at one of the many historic sites around NYC. We've picked out some of the highlights for you, but you can see the whole Open House New York program guide online.

Unicorns, Dragons, and Mermaids, Oh My!: A Kids Guide to Mythical NYC

 

 

The current Mythic Creatures exhibit at the American Museum of Natural History is loaded with the fantastic stuff that kids love. Whether kids appreciate the underlying premise of the exhibit, that there are natural explanations for all of the occurrences of mythical creatures throughout history, or they just enjoy checking out all the great displays of cool mythical beasts, there's no reason to stop once you leave the museum.

We've dug up the best places for kids to see more mythical beasts around NYC so your dragon or mermaid-obsessed children can get their fill of fantasy fun.

No place in NYC has more unicorns than The Cloisters. With a whole cycle of unicorn tapestries, it's high-brow art that will surely engage children in it's bittersweet story of the unicorn hunt. The Cloisters are located in Fort Tryon Park which has been spruced up considerably and is now a nice place to enjoy a walk in the woods. Keep your eyes peeled for unicorns!

What a great way for kids to explore the Metropolitan Museum of Art than to treat the museum as a scavenger hunt for dragons and other beasts. There are about 25 pieces in the permanent collection that have dragons, the most prominent possibly being St. Michael and the Dragon. (Hint: do a search for dragons on the Met site so you know what you're looking for.) The Arms and Armor exhibit is a must for little would-be knights and damsels to continue the fantasy of slaying dragons.

For more imaginative play walk over to Belvedere Castle in Central park. It looks just like the real thing and is a great backdrop for playing knights and princesses.

A different kind of dragon hunt can be had in Chinatown where you can see all kinds of dragon puppets, masks and more for sale. Great for decorating a dragon-lover's bedroom. Make sure to come back in February for the Lunar New Year Parade when performers do dragon dances throughout the streets of Chinatown.

To see the real thing, head to The Bronx Zoo, home to the Komodo dragon where not only can they see the real thing behind glass, but toddlers will love climbing on the bronze dragon sculpture in the reptile house.

For more mythical beasts to climb on, take your kids to one of the carousels in our Carousel post last week or to Imagination Playground's dragon fountain in Prospect Park.

A day out looking at mythical creatures can be made more meaningful by coming home to read some great books on the subject.

A classic like the Three Tales of My Father's Dragon or tales of dragons and unicorns from other cultures will give kids perspective on what they are experiencing and expose them to some great culture.

Dragons: A Pop-Up Book of Fantastic Adventures, in addition to beautiful pop-up illustrations of dragons, gives kids a taste of some of dragon stories from different cultures including Beowolf and Japanese dragon tales.

The Unicorn Treasury: Stories, Poems, and Unicorn Lores includes unicorn stories and poems by some of the leading fantasy writers.

And, of course, every child should have a copy of Greek Myths for Young Children, an excellent introduction to Greek Mythology for children and the magical world of mythical creatures that inhabit it.

Lastly, next June don't forget to go to the Mermaid Parade in Coney Island. It's the perfect thing for little mermaids who love to get dressed up and see everyone else in their finery.

 
Find more tips for NYC art and kids shows in our Culture Guide.

 

Music for Aardvarks Rocks

 

Last week's post about Little Maestros got a bunch of interesting comments which shows how individual choosing classes for your child can be. Everybody has their particular likes and dislikes, another reason to be thankful we live in NYC where there are so many choices that we can find classes that suit our own tastes. My personal favorite for music classes is Music for Aardvarks. I just love David Weinstone's songs which are fun and groovy for kids and adults. The quirky lyrics and song subjects really relate so well to our lives here as city kids and their grown-ups. Classic songs like the "Taxi" song, "City Kid" and "Subway" celebrate the experiences of growing up in an urban environment, but I also love songs like "Lollipop Doc":

"I said okey dokey you know best 'cuz you're the doc but before I go, I'd like to know, hey, where's my lollipop?"

Little Maestros is Music to Moms Ears

Sherri Margulies is a an awesome film editor who happens to be the mom of an adorable little babe in NYC and, now, is Mommy Poppins' first contributor. Her first two posts, featured today and tomorrow, are about music activities for babies in NYC. Welcome, Sherri!

 

 

Just like everyone else in Manhattan, I learned quickly that I needed to register my little one for some classes in order to get her resume going to get into a good preschool. My nanny, who rocks, thought it best to demo some music classes. Demo classes for a 6 month old, sounded crazy, but I thought she must know something I didn't, and indeed she did. After trying out Music Together and Music for Aardvarks we came across Little Maestros and she was blown away.

Outdoor Summer Festivals in Every Borough are Fun for the Whole Family

The great thing about New York City's outdoor festivals is that everyone can enjoy them. If it's kids music, at least the grown ups can enjoy being outdoors on a lovely day or evening, relaxing. And, generally kids will put up with an outdoor concert or performance if they can run around, dance, play and picnic while you enjoy a little grown up entertainment for once.

The following free outdoor festivals are not specifically children's festivals, but they, for the most part, each have at least one kids performance and otherwise offer great performances in great outdoor environments around NYC, making a fun day or evening out with the kids either way.

Celebrate Brooklyn is considered by many to be NYC's best summer festival. Located at the Prospect Park bandshell, Celebrate Brooklyn is a great venue with a diverse range of excellent performances. You'll find music, dance, films and more. We already wrote about the child friendly outdoor movies that are part of Celebrate Brooklyn. Another great kid event at Celebrate Brooklyn will be the Dan Zanes concert on July 22; sure to be packed with toddlers, children and adults alike rocking out to the king of kid rock.

Lower Manhattan's River to River Festival has hundreds of events including dozens of children's and family events. As part of the River to River Festival you'll find children's workshops, story times, fairs, singing and dancing and more. Check out the calendar for the full list of children's events.

Everyone is familiar with Central Park's Summer Stage. Many of the Summer Stage events will be enjoyed by children, but for sure kids will love the Summer Stage Global Family Day on July 15th. Led up by Hip Hop Harry, a Kangol cap bearing big yellow bear described as Barney "if he had lived in the South Bronx in the '80s." Hmmm. Well, there will also be a marionette show of Cinderella Samba, a performance by hip kid rockers, The Sippy Cups, a performance outlining the history of break dancing, and finally, some good 'ol Brooklyn barbecue from The Smoke Joint.

The NY Philharmonic Concerts in the Parks Festival travels to all five boroughs plus Long Island and New Jersey, making classical music from the oldest philharmonic in the United States available to all for free. While there are no children performances, classical music under the stars, followed by fireworks is sure to be enjoyed by the entire family. Or it's a least a good way to sneak a little classical music into your children's repertoire.

The last festival we were planning on featuring was the NYC Fringe Festival which has a series of FringeJR events designed for families. Unfortunately, they have not published their calendar yet and haven't yet replied to our inquiries. We'll keep you posted or you can check the Fringe NYC site.

9 More Free Museum Programs in All 5 Boroughs

Wrapping up our week of free museum family programs, we're sending you off with some frequently overlooked museums that offer free classes for kids and toddlers. We're traveling to all five boroughs for lots of free family fun.

The Queens Museum is home to the NYC panorama and World's Fair memorabilia. They have free family drop-in art classes on Sundays and weekend scavenger hunts. Website is not updated, so check or call for summer schedule.

In addition, in July and August The Queens Museum resumes their Passport Fridays, a dance and music festival that features the culture of a different country every week. Brazil, Columbia, India, Mexico, South Africa and Tunisia will all be celebrated with live music and dancing followed by a film. Free children's art workshops are offered between 6:30 and 8PM.

MoMA's Free Family Programs Are Great for Parents, Too

The Museum of Modern Art hosts many incredible free family programs that introduce children and adults to the richly varied world of modern art through guided walks, art workshops, artist talks, film screenings, special events, activity guides and Web sites. Programs provide an approach to looking at and talking about art that enable people of all ages and all levels of experience to enjoy art together. Moms and dads will truly get as much from these fantastic art classes as children will. These are no "let's glue tissue paper to construction paper" workshops. Added bonus: these free classes include free admission to MoMA for kids and adults.

Free Outdoor Movies to Take the Kids to This Summer

There's something just totally magical about outdoor movies. Maybe it's just that we don't get to go out after dark that much any more since becoming parents, but sitting outside on a summer evening in New York under the stars and relaxing to enjoy a movie is just the kind of old fashioned, yet hip, kind of fun we love.

It's the best way for grown ups to go see kid movies because you can just enjoy being out on a nice summer evening with a nice picnic and the stars even if you don't care for the film. And, depending on your kids, it can be a great way to get out to see a grown up movie without spending the college savings on a sitter, as many kids will enjoy the classic films frequently shown or will just enjoy being out at night enough to sit (or sleep) through it.

Here's a rundown of the best free outdoor movies for kids in NYC this summer:

RiverFlicks in the Hudson River Park is the only kid-only film series. Shown at Pier 46 on Fridays, the 2007 series will be Charlotte's Web, Open Season, Back to the Future, Babe, Wizard of Oz, Happy Feet, and Willy Wonka. Grown-up movies are shown on Wednesdays at Pier 54 and a few, such as Rocky Balboa, Nacho Libre, Stripes and Superman Returns, might work for kids.

Bryant Park Film Festival shows classic films that many kids will at least tolerate if not enjoy. Not all of them are appropriate, but kids might like The Thing-From Another World, Paper Moon, The Sting, Bus Stop or Casablanca. You can buy a picnic dinner at kiosks and the park is a wireless hotspot to help pass the time while reserving your spot. Films are free every Monday starting June 18th.

Movies with a View, at the Empire-Fulton Ferry State Park under the Brooklyn Bridge, has some real winners for family movie viewers, including The Princess Bride, The Day the Earth Stood Still, The Muppets Take Manhattan, Hair, The Natural, and West Side Story. The setting is lovely, there's DJ music to entertain you while you wait for the movie to start and child-friendly food from RICE restaurant is available. Free films are on Thursdays in July and August.

Celebrate Brooklyn at the Prospect Park Bandshell only has three films this summer, but all are accompanied by live music adding an additional level of magic. Another nice thing about this venue is that the screen is so large that you can sit back on the lawn behind the general audience and little kids can run around and play. The best bet for kids would be the Laurel and Hardy shorts.

Movies Under the Stars are shown in that other Hudson River Park, Hoboken Pier A Park. If you're coming from Manhattan just hop on the PATH train and watch films like Happy Feet, Flushed Away, and Charlotte's Web with Manhattan as your backdrop. Films are shown on Wednesdays beginning June 13th.

Summer on the Hudson shows films on Wednesdays at Pier 1 in Riverside Park South (72nd St) in July and August. All the films offered require parental discretion, but the best bets for kids would be North by Northwest, Caddy Shack, and Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid.

 

Pages

Subscribe to RSS - Uptown