Tweens & Teens

C'mon Summer: 50 Things We Can't Wait to Do This Summer in NYC

Every year, the long "home stretch" between spring break and summer vacation seems like a torturous marathon of end-of-year concerts, award ceremonies, and late nights running around followed by early morning lunch-packing woes and kids who, thanks to the longer hours of daylight, stayed up past bedtime...again.

But take heart, the finish line is in sight, bringing with it adventurous summer camp days and afternoons to while away at your favorite playground or water park. We're officially summer dreaming, and you're the beneficiary. We're sharing our list of 50 things we can't wait to do this summer. They're a mix of annual favorites and new openings, plus more more seasonal happenings that prove the best vacation may just be a staycation.

Best Water Parks and Water Slides around LA and Southern California

Nothing is more fun on a too-hot day than some water play—just ask a kid. If you want to give the kids a welcome surprise on a summer day, take them to a water theme park. There are several water parks in Southern California, with large scale splash parks to please every kid from toddler to teen. Of course, if you're looking for something smaller, closer, or more low-key, you can always check out our list of water play features at city parks; but if you're looking to make a big splash, check out one of the SoCal parks below.

12 of the Best Outdoor Water Parks in the US

If your kids love the adventure of amusement parks but are looking for a way to cool off this summer, an outdoor water park might be just the ticket for your family. We've searched out some of the nation's best to compile this list of our favorite family-friendly water parks with relaxing pools, splash pads for toddlers, and thrilling water slides and rides for teenagers.

From New England to Orlando to California, there are plenty of water parks from which to choose. At some of these water parks, visitors can ride the ups and downs of a water coaster, slip through a trap door on a drop slide and spin around an oversized funnel slide for maximum thrills. To truly chill, just pick up a tube and float down a lazy river or rent a cabana with poolside dining.

Have your heart set on a water park vacation but don't want to risk the weather? Check out our list of the 10 Best Indoor Water Parks for Kids in the US.

12 Cool Themed Playgrounds in NYC to Inspire Kids' Imaginations

Imagination is the stuff of childhood magic—and NYC's cleverest themed parks and playgrounds are designed to inspire your kid's always-active mind. Whether your kid fancies playing prehistoric explorer, dreams of conquering Ancient Egypt, or wants to trek across Africa on safari, there's a playground for that. Here are 12 of our favorite themed playgrounds across all five boroughs.

Cirque du Soleil's Jaw-Dropping LUZIA Opens Under the Big Top

One of the reasons my family and I love going to Cirque du Soleil spectacles is we never know what to expect. Sure, there will always be world-class circus artists performing jaw-dropping feats, but what sets the company apart from other troupes are the eye-popping environments it creates through sumptuous design. We know we're going to be transported, but to where? For Cirque's latest extravaganza, LUZIA, currently running at Citi Field in Queens, the destination is a fantastical imagining of Mexico filled with oversize puppet animals; cascading walls of water; mariachi-tinged music; colorful projections; and, of course, gorgeously outfitted acrobats, aerialists, and other athletic performers who seem to defy the laws of physics.

With two jaded teens in tow who've seen many a circus, I worried they might pull a been there, seen that 'tude. Heck, I figured I might feel that way, too, because I've been attending Cirque shows since before I became a mom. But at 13, 16, and even my advanced age, we were all as wide-eyed with wonder as the youngsters sitting behind us, because LUZIA is one of the most breathtaking Cirque creations in years.

Awesome Amusement Parks on Long Island

Feeling the need for speed and splash? Long Island amusement parks are ready for you and your thrill-seeking family. If your kids are eager to check out the latest rides and attractions, or you can’t wait to make new memories with your family at parks you enjoyed as a child, now is the perfect time to explore these local amusement centers.

For more entertainment inspiration, see our guide to Long Island amusement and water parks or our roundup of children's sports centers and fun zones in Nassau and Suffolk. Our guide to family fun on Long Island is loaded with reviews of local and regional destinations sure to delight your child.

Cool Party Places to Celebrate Your Tween's Birthday

By the time you've hit the tween years, you've been to enough birthday parties to feel like you've seen it all. Looking for a new celebratory experience worthy of increasingly grown-up interests for your 10 to 13 year-old? We've rounded up 13 too-cool party spots to celebrate your tween's next big birthday. With party packages this out of the ordinary, you'll be able to please even the pickiest tween with unique fetes like zombie laser tag, DIY chocolate or ice cream, and jewelry making with semi-precious stones.

Free Kayaking, Canoeing, and Rowboat Options in New York City

With all the water surrounding New York City, it's no wonder there are so many sightseeing cruises and fun ferry rides to great kid destinations. If you want to be your own captain, NYC offers many seasonal opportunities for NYC families to get out on the water by themselve—kayaking, rowing, canoeing, and sailing. Much of the fun kicks off Memorial Day weekend or early summer.

We've rounded up 11 great New York City organizations that offer boating sessions on our wonderful waterways—and they're all FREE. Ahoy!

Summer Festivals Chicago Families Won't Want to Miss

Here it comes: The most fun-packed, jam-packed, outdoor festival-and-fair-packed season of the year in Chicagoland. Seriously, just compiling this list of all the family-friendly street fairs, festivals, and neighborhood celebrations in Chicago this summer—many of them FREE—called for major backup, and a nap.

Why do Chicago families love summer festival season so much? Let's count the ways: concerts in Millennium Park, movies on Navy Pier, and neighborhood festivals honoring the many communities that call our city home, including Lincoln Park Greek Fest, Lincoln Square's German Maifest, Andersonville's Swedish Midsommarfest, Hermosa's Colombian Fest, and the Chinatown Summer Fair. And then, because it's Chicago, there are the food fests: Ribfest, the Chicago Hot Dog Fest, the Pilsen Tacos y Tamales Festival, Roscoe Village Burger Fest, Taste of Polonia, and the big one: Taste of Chicago. Even the biggest party-scene street festivals in Chicago, like Do Division, make room for families with kids' zones and activities. 

So while your local playground may beckon and your backyard grill may look lonely, there's just too much fun happening out there not to sample a street fair or two this summer. Bookmark this list and get your calendar (and some comfy shoes) ready.

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