New York City

50+ Ways to Keep NYC Kids Off Screens This Summer

"Brain drain." "Summer slide." No matter what you call it, the phenomenon of students losing months of math and reading skills during the eight-week summer vacation scares parents and teachers alike.  

Luckily, we live in a city that offers tons of opportunities for summertime excitement and learning, many of them FREE. We've put together a list of more than 50 of our favorite NYC activities, events, and even at-home challenges that get kids to exercise their brains, and keep them (and us) off our screens!

So get out there to try some of these ideas for enriching exploration and edu-tainment around NYC with kids this summer. You can find even more ideas in our STEAM Guide, and don't forget to check out our NYC Schools Guide as September approaches.

8 Kid-Friendly LIRR Stops for a Fun Day Trip

Let’s face it. Traffic on Long Island is no picnic. In fact, sometimes the thought of taking a day trip to another part of this beautiful island makes us cringe when we think of the hours on the road and the challenge of keeping the kids in the backseat entertained.

But there is a another way to get from here to there…the LIRR! Taking the train is a convenient, fun way for families to get around the Island without the hassle of driving. From beach communities to charming downtowns to family-friendly museums, there are plenty of LIRR stops where families can hop off and explore the area for the day.

We’ve rounded up a few of our favorite family day trips reachable via the LIRR, highlighting the best attractions and sights in the area. All aboard!

Visiting the Central Park Zoo with Kids: Best Things to See and Do at the Zoo

Nothing beats a day in Central Park with kids. From carriage rides to carousels, Central Park is full of possibilities for children of all ages, but the best way to spend a day in the park with kids might just be the Central Park Zoo, where children under three are always FREE

Nestled on the east side of the park near 64th Street and 5th Avenue, the Central Park Zoo feels like a natural extension of the tranquil green space. Limestone carvings of animals adorn the brick buildings, and are reminders of the history of this iconic spot. I recently visited the Central Park Zoo with my two toddlers on a Monday in the early summer. Here are our toddler-tested (and parent-tested) highlights, including where to see sea lions...and where to find bathrooms.

9 Play Fountains Where NYC Kids Can Get Totally Soaked

While all three of my kids love to go for a dip, heading to one of NYC's public pools requires advance planning and me donning a bathing suit. Often, our summer fun is more spontaneous. For those hot summer days when we're out and about or need a last-minute distraction, I keep this list of play fountains in the back of my mind.

A more immersive experience than standard sprinkler parks, these play fountains feature shallow pools of water for wading, plus jets shooting H2O sky high. They're the perfect place for kids to frolic and get completely doused without mommy having to go all in—literally. Best of all? They're all completely FREE.

Here are nine fun play fountains in NYC where kids can get absolutely soaked. Most opened for the season over Memorial Day weekend, though some start flowing earlier if temperatures hit 80 degrees.

31 Summer Day Trips to Take with NYC Kids

It’s summer road trip season! With school out, we’re itching to get outdoors to explore beyond NYC’s limits. Lucky for you, our Mommy Poppins reviewers know all the best spots in the tristate area, from beaches and water parks to cool nature spots and pick-your-own fruit farms.

We’ve rounded up more than two dozen of our favorites for summertime, including a few indoor options for (shudder) rainy days, or if you really just need to freeze in the a/c for a bit. All of these spots are under two hours away, because, well, who wants to day trip for longer than that with kids in the backseat?

Find more ideas in our full Day Trips and Getaways Guide, or try checking off something from our 100 Things to Do with Kids in New York State list.

Sharks Take Over Coney Island in the New Exhibit at NY Aquarium

On June 30, the New York Aquarium in Coney Island welcomed some sharp-toothed new residents to NYC, with the much-anticipated opening of the Ocean Wonders: Sharks! exhibit. The exhibit, which includes a learning lab, nine interactive galleries, and beautiful, immersive habitats that are home to over 115 species of marine animals, is a powerful reminder that New York is a coastal city, with thriving marine ecosystems right in our own (watery) backyard that deserve our respect and protection.

After the aquarium was pummeled by Hurricane Sandy, much of the complex had to close down for repairs. But with the opening of the shark exhibit, housed in a brand-new, three-story building with 57,000 square feet of visiting space, the New York Aquarium is better and more inspiring than ever. Gather up the kids and get ready for a day of close encounters with an incredible variety of ocean life. 

25 Great Things to Do in Montauk with Kids

If you're looking for a relaxing getaway, Montauk, on the extreme East End of Long Island, is the place to be. It seems to have something for everyone in the family, whether you crave excitement or exercise, or just want to read a book on the sand or tackle some waves.

From the western edge of the community to the lighthouse at Montauk Point, Montauk boasts more than 5,000 acres of parkland, a host of surf schools, fishing and camping adventures, and more. It's a welcoming destination with a host of diverse activities sure to entertain kids of all ages.

Stopping off in the Hamptons along the way? Check out our list of great East End activities for families and our guide to summer fun on Long Island

Weekend Fun: Our Lady Fest, One World Family, Mummenschanz Returns

July is here at last, and outdoor fun abounds. This weekend, options include a boat-making workshop at Wave Hill, a vintage car festival on Governors Island, and the annual Our Lady of Mount Carmel festival kickoff in Williamsburg, with carnival rides, unhealthy-but-delicious food, Saturday's musical Questua procession, and, on Sunday, a parade led by the massive giglio, soaring 65 feet high and covered with flowers.

Looking for something cool and indoors? Mummenschanz is back with a brand new show, or head to Governors Island for a FREE production of The Golden Dove. Young magicians in training will enjoy "meeting" Harry Houdini at the New York Historical Society. And don't miss the Family Fun Day at One World for face painting, balloon animals, and more fun with a view. Plus there's still time to take advantage of the Red, White and Deep Blue Sea 2-for-1 ticket deal, if you want to throw a WOW into the weekend.

Don't forget to check our list of water playgrounds and sprinklers if you're looking for another way to cool down (or just have a kid who loves a good splash). Or take the family out of New York City altogether to pick berries or go camping.

For more fun, consult our complete July GoList, our packed Summer Fun Guide, and our fun-filled Event Calendar.

Best NYC Playgrounds for Children with Special Needs

There's certainly no shortage of wonderful playgrounds and parks in New York City. But when you add a child with special needs into the mix, the selection of truly great playgrounds suddenly seems much smaller. As a mom of of a special needs child, I've explored quite a few of the city's playgrounds in search of the ones with the best play-for-all features and equipment.

Happily, many NYC playgrounds meet or exceed the Americans with Disabilities Act standards, and there are literally hundreds of special needs-friendly playgrounds throughout NYC. Some also include accessible JennSwings, those big plastic swings that offer full-body positioning support for kids up to 125 pounds. But the adaptive swing doesn't always appeal to my son, so there need to be other attractions for a playground to be cool in his book.

I'm spotlighting 17 playgrounds that I feel truly are the best. Not only are they accessible (half the battle), they're fun for all ages, with and without special needs. Grab some sunblock, towels, sand toys, and running shoes and get exploring: Your kids will thank you for it!

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