New York City

5 Best Indoor Activities for NYC Kids

Though the weather doesn't seem like it will ever approach the lows that will force you & your brood inside. It's going to happen! Whether you have a newborn, toddler or school-aged child you're going to be faced with long hours inside this winter. After you have watched every video, played every game & read every book in the house you're going to need to venture outside or risk what I'd like to call M.G.S.C. Disorder better known as "Mommy's Going Stir Crazy".

Here are some ideas on where to go for indoor activities in New York that will be fun for parents as well as children.

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.

 

Be on TV and/or enter The Great Green Giveaway

Hot off the press! I just got this email from Kate over at the Brooklyn Botanic Garden. They are looking for lots of parents and kids to come out tomorrow, Thursday October 25th to be on Good Morning New York to promote their Ghouls and Ghords Halloween event. It sounds like a lot of fun. Giant puppets, Audra Rox and everyone who shows up gets free tickets to return to the Brooklyn Botanic Garden another time. It's never too early to start your child''s television career! Here's the info and then check out our Great Green Giveaway below. Just leave a comment on this post and you'll be automatically entered.

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.

Eat pie and watch an elephant paint in Dumbo this weekend

This weekend there are two events happening in Dumbo, Brooklyn that will make a great day out with kids.

First is the 4th Annual Bubby's Pie Social where you can taste pies made by community members. It is expected that hundreds of homemade pies will be available. Kids can enter their own pies too. If you or your kids would like to make a pie register on line. The money raised from this event goes to benefit area public schools. So eat your heart out. It's for a good cause.

When you've had your fill of pie, wander a few blocks over to the 11th Annual Dumbo Art Under the Bridge Festival where you'll find, among other really unusual and artistic activities for kids, a painting elephant.

If you haven't had enough fun and excitement by then you could always tromp over to Brooklyn Heights to check out what's for sale at the St Ann's Rummage Sale.

A Kid's Guide to New York Underground: Subways and Beyond

Some kids are obsessed with the subways of NYC. They memorize the maps and know the trains inside and out. Other kids amble along the city streets never giving a second thought to what lies beneath. But at some point every kid wants to know what those big steam chimneys are for and if there really are alligators in the sewers. Here's some really cool places you can start to explore the world beneath our streets.

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?"

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