Valentine-Varian House/Museum of Bronx History

Home of the Museum of Bronx History, the Valentine-Varian House was built in 1758 and is the Bronx’s oldest remaining farmhouse. The first level of the farmhouse is open to the public and houses three different galleries dedicated to commemorating the rich history of the Bronx. Exhibits at the museum rotate bi-annually. If you have young children, perhaps the best thing about the Valentine-Varian House is its close proximity to the Williamsbridge Oval. This wonderful public park is the perfect place for the kids to let loose after taking part in the educational programming offered at the Museum of Bronx History. The Valentine-Varian House is open to the public on Saturdays and Sundays, and during the week by appointment. Admission is $5 for adults and $3 for children and seniors.

Orchard Beach

As part of Pelham Bay Park, Orchard Beach is over 100 acres of sandy beach situated along the Long Island Sound. There is a heavily trafficked promenade complete with shops, food vendors, and locker rooms. Orchard Beach also features two playgrounds, two picnic areas, and 26 courts for volleyball, basketball, and handball. During the summer the only indication visitors to Orchard Beach have to remind them that they’re in the city are the crowds. Don’t fret… the promenade is usually the most crowded part of the Orchard Beach. It’s certainly large enough that you can find you own little slice of sandy heaven if you are willing to walk a bit. Orchard Beach is perfect for families with children because the waters of the Long Island Sound are relatively calm and safe. Since parking is the only thing you’ll have to pay for to spend the day at Orchard Beach, treat yourselves to a delicious meal over on City Island (located just over the City Island Bridge) at the end of the day. Almost all the restaurants along City Island Avenue cater to kids and are absolutely delicious.

Hall of Fame for Great Americans

Completed in 1900, this attraction is on the campus of Bronx Community College and is the original “Hall of Fame” in the United States. Warning: This is a really quick sight to see, and it won’t be for everyone. It’s essentially just an open air promenade lined with busts of noteworthy Americans. We do recommend it for its beauty, historical value, and affordability: it’s completely free to check out the Hall of Fame. Another plus is that it’s a museum-worthy exhibit that is outside… so no worrying if the little ones are going to break something or are making too much noise.

Bartow-Pell Mansion

Located in Pelham Bay Park, the Bartow-Pell Mansion is a gorgeous New York City landmark which dates back to 1842. The prestigious beauty of the mansion itself will certainly be appreciated by adults and older children, while younger kids will enjoy running through the well manicured gardens, or participating in the hands-on demonstrations and craft projects which are offered year-round. If you’re looking to visit the mansion on a budget, keep in mind that entrance to the surrounding grounds and gardens is completely free. Admission prices for the mansion and carriage house are as follows: Adults - $6, Children/Seniors - $3, Children under the age of six are free.

Williamsbridge Oval

This well-manicured park (whose name can be misleading... it's actually located in the Norwood section of the Bronx) hosts many programs and offers an array of amenities for families, all of which are open to the public for a nominal annual fee (and free for kids). Some of the major highlights you'll find at the Oval include: tennis courts, four different playgrounds, shuffle board courts, basketball courts, a newly renovated synthetic turf playing field with surrounding track, as well as a top notch recreation center with a fitness room, senior citizen room, and computer resource center. The recreation center hosts an array of interesting programs, including an after-school program, karate, self-defense, and arts and crafts. At just under 20 acres, the Oval is a quaint little park with the unbeatable amenities that rival any large city park.

Bronx Zoo

If you have children and live in or around NYC, you simply must get to the Bronx Zoo once or twice per year. Arguably one of the nation’s most famous zoos, the Bronx Zoo is home to 265 acres of wildlife habitats and attractions. It’s nearly impossible to see all that the Zoo has to offer in just one day, so we recommend doing a little research on the Zoo’s website before each visit. A great place for families with young kids to start off is the Children’s Zoo, which is three acres of kid-friendly activities and wildlife attractions. We highly recommend that you build the animal feedings and enrichment demonstrations into your trip. What fun is visiting the animals if they’re all lounging around and sleeping right? The twice daily Sea Lion and Penguin feedings, as well as the Bee-Eater Buffet, Primate Training, and Tiger Enrichment sessions, guarantee that your kids will get to see the animals in action. If you’re on a tight budget, plan to visit the Bronx Zoo on any Wednesday of the year when admission is free. If you find yourself visiting the Zoo with you family frequently, you may want to consider becoming a member of the Wildlife Conservation Society. For $120/year, two adults and their children get free admission to the Bronx Zoo and New York Aquarium, as well at the Prospect, Central Park, and Queens Zoos.

The Bronx Zoo is open 365 days per year. Winter and Spring/Summer hours and rates vary, so check out the website for more information.

Wave Hill

Situated in Riverdale overlooking the Hudson River, Wave Hill is a gorgeous 28-acre public garden and culture center with extensive programming for children. Each weekend, Wave Hill sponsors a different “Family Art Project” which coincides with whatever seasonal event or holiday may be around the corner. These programs are free with admission on Saturdays and Sundays from 10am to 1pm. We find one of the most unique aspects of visiting Wave Hill to be the sense of utter relaxation which washes over you upon your visit.

Although Wave Hill is not nearly as large in acreage or horticultural diversity as the New York Botanical Garden, it can actually feel a bit more ‘family-friendly’ because visitors are encouraged to use the grounds to their fullest extent. There are lounge chairs placed sporadically throughout the beautiful lawns, which makes it the perfect place for parents to spend an afternoon with a toddler who is just beginning to crawl or walk. For apartment dwellers that don’t get to spend much time close to nature, Wave Hill serves as the perfect place to pretend you have your very own backyard! Wave Hill also offers concerts and other special programming throughout the year.

Some tips to keep in mind to plan an affordable visit: Saturdays from 9am to 12pm are free all year round, Tuesdays are free all day during off-peak months (January, February, March, April, July, August, November, and December) and are also free from 9am to 12pm during the remaining peak months. Children under six are always admitted free. It’s a relatively affordable attraction anyway: $8 for adults, $4 for students and $2 for children ages 6 and up.

Poe Cottage

Located at Kingsbridge Road and the Grand Concourse, the Edgar Allen Poe Cottage is truly a unique sight to see in the Bronx. Surrounded by bustling traffic and towering apartment buildings, the simple white structure is like a relic from another time. Perhaps the best thing about visiting the Poe Cottage with kids is its size. The cottage is teeny tiny, which means it’s perfect for fidgety kids who don’t do well with long, drawn out tours of historical sites. Tours of the cottage are $5 for adults and $3 for kids. Stay tuned… the best is yet to come for the Poe Cottage. It is slated for a $250,000 restoration and will soon get a $3.2 million, 2,000 square foot visitor center! These improvements are a fitting tribute to the nearly 200-year-old cottage where it is believed Poe penned “The Bells,” “Annabel Lee,” and Eureka.” Click here to visit Poe Cottage’s website. If you’re looking to pair your visit to the Poe Cottage with another outing, consider visiting the new Bronx Library Center, which is just around the block. We affectionately refer to it as a “library on steroids.”

Old New York Soda Fountain Restaurants

New York has changed a lot in our lifetimes. When I was a kid we really didn't have that many chains stores and restaurants in Manhattan. I used to see ads for Red Lobster and Beefsteak Charlie's on TV and pine for the suburbs. Now, of course, I know better and pine for the old neighborhood places. Most of them are long gone, but there are a few places left that have miraculously survived.

You can take your kids to any one of these old-fashioned soda fountains and it's like stepping into a time travel machine. Each of these kid-friendly restaurants is a great place to stop by for ice cream drinks and desserts and is a window into a long-gone NYC. Experience old New York at an old-fashioned soda fountain. Isn't history yummy?

New York Botanical Garden

The New York Botanical has not one, but two gardens designed especially for kids. Both the Everett Children’s Adventure Garden and the Ruth Rea Howell Family Garden provide supervised, hands-on activities to introduce children to the science of horticulture. Perhaps the best part about a trip to NYBG is that it’s a truly perfect family outing any time of the year. For those long, cold winter weekends, the Everett Children’s Adventure Garden provides a warm, cozy indoor space for kids’ activities, and the Enid A. Haupt Conservatory is always a balmy, tropical temperature. During the summer, the acres and acres of lush, green grass provides the perfect setting for kids to run around and explore. A must-see exhibition for all families is the Holiday Train Show, which takes place each December/January and features tons of NYC landmarks recreated entirely out of plants and natural materials. If you’re looking to visit NYBG on a budget, plan on going on any Wednesday of the year when a “grounds only” pass is free. Please note, NYBG is closed each Monday throughout the year, except holidays. Click here to check out our past coverage of the Train Show.


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