New York City

Spring Nature Activities in NYC: Hawks, Flowering Trees and Worms!

Springtime is when the nature in NYC makes itself most obvious to us city kids. While frequently we can be oblivious to the nature all around us, in Spring you can't help but notice the flowering trees, the buds bursting from the earth and, possibly even some wildlife. It's a great time to take your little urbanites to the park and observe the magic of nature at work. Here are some great ways to take in nature in the city this Spring, with places to see red-tailed hawk nests, flowering trees and earthworms.

Historic Richmond Town

This village and museum complex occupies 100 acres of living American history, as Richmond was the first town in Staten Island. There are 15 restored buildings, including the oldest Church on Staten Island, the first Court house on the island (which now serves as a museum), an old school house and an old print shop (remodeled, from 1860) that has an original printing press. There’s the Rezeau-Van Pelt Family Cemetery, which has graves dating back from the 1780s to the 1860s, a jailhouse, farm and a (seasonal) restaurant where you can eat foods from the time period. Oh, and the entire staff is always in period-appropriate attire, too.

Jacques Marchais Museum of Tibetan Art

Staten Island may not be the first place that comes to mind when you think of Tibet, but the only Himalayan temple-style building in the whole U.S. calls the borough home. 

The museum opened in 1947 and houses the private collection of Jacques Marchais, which is the largest collection of Tibetan art in the West. It is on a lovely little hillside, with meditation gardens all around.

In addition to the extensive permanent collection of religious statues and objects, bronze figures and other art and paintings, the Tibetan Portrait: The Power of Compassion exhibit just opened. Tibetan Portrait has portraits, interactive displays and other objects to show the tradition and beliefs of the Tibetan people, and emphasizes cultural understanding and religious tolerance. It also highlights photographic portraits of Tibetan people (from everyday people to the Dalai Lama) by renowned contemporary artist, Phil Borges.

Staten Island Zoo

It’s true that the Staten Island Zoo isn’t the most extravagant and is the Bronx Zoo’s smaller cousin, but its still has a whole lot to offer and is a great place for kids to really hang out with animals.

In 2007, a newly renovated Reptile Wing opened with an extensive collection of reptiles and amphibians, and a “Fear Zone” that teaches visitors the truth, and talks about the myths behind venomous creatures. It really is a lot of fun and teaches kids respect for these animals, instead of fear.

Staten Island Parks

Staten Island, though perhaps infamously known for the dump (which is currently being turned into a mega-park), is actually the “greenest borough.” Since Central Park is a bit of trek for locals, they can be found riding bikes, feeding the ducks and rowing boats in one of many of the island’s green playgrounds. Here’s a look at some that are definitely worth the free ferry ride over.

Family Friendly Shows at the St. George Theater

This historic theater, once the most lively and gorgeous on Staten Island, was renovated and reopened within the last few years, and is bringing the theatrical heyday back to the island.

The vaudeville house first opened in 1929, with a Wurlizter organ, one of the largest cantilevered balconies ever built, velvet seats, gilded balconies and grand staircases. Today, the theater emits that same old movie house feeling and really has the power to take you back to Olde New York.

Free Swimming Events in New York City

It may be April showers outside now, but it'll be bright, sunny and 75 degrees before you know it. You can plunge into the spirit of summer right now and get swimming season off to an early start with these free indoor swimming events that are perfect for kids of all ages. Read on to find out about YMCA Splash Week free swimming lessons and water safety and Asphalt Green's Big Swim event. 

Bronx Family Resources

There are many organizations dedicated to improving life in the Bronx for families. From libraries to recreational facilities and programs, here's a list of the top places to get more out of the Bronx.

Crotona Park

The largest park in the South Bronx, Crotona Park is a 127 acre natural oasis containing 28 different species of trees, a 3.3 acre lake, 11 playgrounds, playing fields, and basketball courts. Most Bronxites would agree that the true gem of Crotona Park is the 300 foot public pool… it’s the perfect spot to take the kids to cool off on a hot summer day. Other big draws for families with young children who visit the park are the recreation and nature centers, both of which offer outstanding programming to introduce kids to nature. Crotona Park also has the honor of appearing in Mommy Poppins’ "Best Sledding Hills in New York City” post. For all you tennis buffs out there, Crotona Park’s 20 tennis courts are home to the annual Bronx Pro Tennis Classic.

Pelham Bay Park

At nearly 3,000 acres, Pelham Bay Park is the largest park in New York City (take that, Central Park!). Home to Orchard Beach, the Bartow-Pell Mansion, the Pelham-Split Rock Golf Course (the only 36 hole course in NYC), and a stone’s throw away from City Island, Pelham Bay Park provides almost any distraction you’re looking for to spend a day outdoors with the kids. From hiking to horseback riding to biking, this park has it all. The only negative aspect of Pelham Bay Park can be the crowds during the summer, but this is mostly an issue at Orchard Beach. With 3,000 acres, there’s plenty of space to go around!

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