New York City

Best Foodie Spots Near Outdoor Music Concert Series in NYC

Summer in New York City can feel like one season-long music festival. There are an incredible number of free outdoor concert series around town, and my family and I try to hit as many performances as we can. (We never say no to complimentary culture.)

Since we often make a day (or evening) of it, some kind of meal is always involved, and as an ex-Food Network employee, I admit that I can be picky.

Some series, like Celebrate Brooklyn!, have wonderful concessionaires to complement the amazing performances. Others, like Waterside Plaza’s Music Under the Stars, leave the food up to you.

Here are five concert series that promise awesome eats or have great places to pick up snacks nearby.

Jump: Martial Arts Meets the Three Stooges in This Kinectic Show

If your kids like comedy and kung fu, they'll get a big kick out of Jump at New World Stages. This martial arts show from Korea has been touring the world for the past few years (it previously played in NYC during the 2007-2008 season), and it follows in the tradition of Off Broadway offerings like Stomp: wordless spectacles that leap over age and language barriers.

I admit, my daughter and I are not huge martial arts fans. (Is it sexist of me to say it's a boy thing?) Even so, we were wowed by the fast, high-flying feats, and the kids in the audience particularly enjoyed all of the slapstick humor, which is choreographed with Jackie Chan-like precision.

If you want to see this show, you've got to move fast: We just found out that it's closing this Sunday, June 12!

Summer Reading 2011 for NYC Kids Kicks Off June 9 With Free Celebrations

This is the time of year when parents start worrying about how much their kids will forget over the summer. As the mom of a kindergartner who's starting to read on his own, I want to make sure that he continues to leaf  through—and more importantly, love—books. That's why I'm signing him up for Summer Reading.

On Thursday, June 9, New York City’s three public library systems launch the 2011 edition of this wonderful annual program. Since all public school students have that day off, they can attend one of many free kick-off celebrations and sign up for the program, which tracks kids' consumption of books, music, DVDs and video games.

Read on (or better yet, have your kids do it) for the info on Thursday's fetes, and how your children can get in on this summer-long tradition.

Fencing Classes for New York City Kids

Your kids want to try fencing because they idolize Johnny Depp in Pirates of the Caribbean, and you want them to study it because you heard that it looks great on a college application.

But enrolling your kid in a fencing class has many more practical benefits. It's fantastic exercise, and helps kids improve their agility, concentration and decision-making skills. Plus, fencing often attracts kids who aren't into more traditional sports, since it depends more on strategy and skill than athletic ability.

We've rounded up six great NYC schools for your aspiring swashbuckler, most of which offer reasonably priced introductory packages that help you decide whether your kid's ready for a long-term commitment. En guarde!

Frogs at the American Museum of Natural History: A Hoppin' Exhibit

This post was written about the 2011 incarnation of Frogs, so some details may have changed. Things are really jumping at the American Museum of Natural History. That's because the frogs are back. Frogs: A Chorus of Colors, which features more than 200 live specimens, previously appeared at the institution in 2009. Now the amphibians, from tiny dart-poison frogs to giant bullfrogs, have returned for another tour.

Since my son had only just been born the last time the green guys were in town, this is the first time I got a chance to check out the special exhibit. Even though it's a little advanced for toddlers, we had a fun time watching and learning about these waxy super-jumpers, some of whom can leap more than 20 times their body length.

Mommy Poppins Advance Screening of the New Judy Moody Movie!

I'm excited to invite you to a free advance screening of one of this summer's top family films, Judy Moody and the Not Bummer Summer, just for Mommy Poppins readers—yah!

I don't think there's a kid in New York City who doesn't read Megan McDonald's wonderful books about goofball Judy Moody—and to read them is to love them. Now the world of this gleeful third grader is coming to life in the new movie, Judy Moody and the Not Bummer Summer. The film looks like a lot of fun, and my kids and I are looking forward to checking it out at Mommy Poppins' exclusive (and free) advance screening. I hope you'll join us.

The screening will take place on Wednesday, June 8 at 5:30pm on the Upper West Side. We have an entire theater, but I expect these seats to go fast so RSVP ASAP if you'd like to go. Read on to get a behind-the-scenes peek at the making of the movie, as well as info on your chance to snag free tickets.

Free and Cheap Places to Rent Bikes in NYC

My preschooler just scored a scooter for her birthday. Now I know that scooters lead to bikes, which means cycling is just around the corner.

I'm really looking forward to riding with my family—but not to storing all of those bikes. Who has the space for three cycles in a NYC apartment, I ask? Not most of us, which means I'm going to rely on rental spots to keep us on wheels.

I did the research, and here are some great places that rent bikes at reasonable prices—sometimes even for free! Happy Bike Month!

Peter and Wendy: 8 Reasons to Take Kids 10 and Up to This Mature Puppet Show

There's a ton of theater in this town for little kids (especially girls). From Angelina Ballerina to Pinkalicious to Freckleface Strawberry, sometimes I think every pink-clad kit-lit heroine has had a musical made in her honor. But once your elementary schooler graduates to middle school, there aren't a lot of options, unless you're willing to spring for Blue Man or Broadway.

That's why I was so excited when I heard that the New Victory was bringing back one of its signature shows, Peter and Wendy, which played at the theater in 1997 and 2002. Based on J. M. Barrie's novelization of his Peter Plan play, Peter and Wendy is a much more melancholy take on the famous story. The suggested age is 10 and up, and that makes sense. With a deliberately slow pace (the production clocks in around two and a half hours), abstract puppetry (a pair of nightshirts represent Wendy's brothers, John and Michael) and a wistful tone, this tale of a motherless boy who won't grow up is best appreciated by those who have—or are about to—grow up themselves.

I have my criticisms of the production: The treacly Irish music sounded like the soundtrack to Titanic, and the Peter puppet was way more creepy than cute. But overall, it's a haunting, one-of-a-kind experience. Here are eight reasons why you should take your family (or, if your kids are too young, consider it for date night).

Beyond Ni Hao: Chinese Language Lessons for NYC Kids

Oh, to be young again! Like tennis, ballet and good hygiene, a second language is best started when you're young. And local kids are lucky: New York City is such a melting pot, they've got plenty of language classes to choose from.

The most widely spoken language in the world, Mandarin, is also one of the most popular to learn. Of course, watching Ni Hao, Kai-lan can only take your kid so far, but hearing my daughter count to three in Mandarin inspired me to research Chinese language lessons for kids in the city.

Here's what I found.

Free Fun for Families at the New York Public Library's Centennial Festival

One hundred years ago, the main branch of the New York Public Library—you know, the one with those stately lions Patience and Fortitude guarding its entrance—opened on Fifth Avenue and 42nd Street. Its construction took more than a decade, and when the stunning Beaux-Arts structure finally welcomed visitors for the first time, tens of thousands streamed through its doors.

These days, local families regularly enjoy the fabulous family programming offered at the branch, officially known as the Stephen A. Schwarzman Building, especially in its wonderful Children's Center. The branch marks its birthday on May 23, and the NYPL is celebrating with some fantastic free events. In addition to the retrospective Celebrating 100 Years—which opens this Saturday, May 14 and features a history of the building, and notable items like a Gutenberg Bible and one of Malcolm X's journals—there will be a big festival the weekend of May 21-22 with great events for all ages.

We've rounded up highlights for that weekend, as well as info on related events going on at branches across the NYPL system.

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