• Summer Dreamin’: Fun Family Picks, In & Around New York City

    Best Beaches, Nature Spots, Water Parks, Camping, And More!

    By Jana Beauchamp

    134205658Are you ready to take on the warm weather with a sense of adventure? Your kids certainly are! They’ve been waiting to play outside since winter started (and took forever to end). Here are some creative ways to enjoy the sunshine and great outdoors both in and around NYC.

    Get Wet & Wild

    Celebrate the 30th season at Dorney Parks Wildwater Kingdom (Allentown, PA) with a variety (think 35+) water rides and activities. New this year are the Snake Pit, a water slide complex, and Fast Lane and Fast Lane Plus to bypass lines on popular attractions (which is sure to please antsy little ones). Head to Hurricane Harbor at Six Flags Great Adventure (Jackson, NJ) for a water adventure for kids big and small. With a kid-friendly area featuring a wave pool, pirate ships, and serious slides for bigger kids—plus plunge slide thrills for kids of all ages, this park has it all. Sahara Sam’s Indoor and Outdoor Waterpark (West Berlin, NJ) has attractions for guests of all ages, no matter the weather. With innovative rides like an indoor surfing simulator, a water obstacle course, and Splish Splash, for toddler-sized shallow water adventures, they have a unique combination of attractions for the whole family. Sesame Place (Langhorne, PA) offers educational, wet fun for the tiniest thrill seekers. Swim, slide, and splash at the Count’s SplashCastle, a multi-level interactive water-play attraction. And after tuckering out at the castle relax in Big Bird’s RamblingRiver. It’s guaranteed fun for the littlest kids and their big grownups alike. Splish Splash (Calverton, NY) was voted one of the best water parks in America by the Travel Channel. Check out each and every of its nearly 100 acres of water fun for the whole family.

    Editor’s Note: For even more water parks, check out our roundup: click here

    Kids Cool off at Saraha Sam's

    Kids Cool off at Saraha Sam’s

    For Anglers, River Riders & Seafarers

    It’s easy to forget that New York City is surrounded by water. You can stay in the city, escape rush hour, and go fish at the 107th Street Pier. Complete with a roof and electric lighting, it’s a well-kept secret for rainy day and night fishing. (Just remember that this is catch-and-release.) Row, row, row your boat at Loeb Boathouse in NYC’s beloved Central Park. Rowboats are available for rent so select your four favorite family members and hop in (they even have life jackets). Another popular favorite there is the Venetian gondola tours for up to six people. No rowing is required and your family is serenaded in song. Head down to Pier 25 in Tribeca to fish, kayak, or sail. Pier 25 is the longest pier in Hudson River Park and is home of the Offshore Sailing School, offering a variety of courses for families. You can also play beach volleyball, mini golf, and refuel at the Sweet Love Snack Bar with a healthy snack. Feel like you have traveled back in time to an old fishing village and happily spend the day fishing in Sheepshead Bay, Brooklyn. Families looking for fun can charter boats for the day and then enjoy the neighborhood seafood restaurants. Van Cortlandt Lake, in the Bronx, a beautiful man-made fishing hole formed in the 1690s, has fantastic fishing but the kids will love seeing the ducks, swans, and other animals. Plus, there are playgrounds, fields to frolic, and great hiking trails. If that’s not enough, there are also riding stables and golf courses if your little ones are not feeling like one with nature.

    Beach Buffs

    In under an hour by train or car (sans traffic), escape to the quintessential beach town of Long Beach, NY. Fondly called the Riviera of the East, the kids are sure to enjoy the sun soaking and swimming and parents will enjoy the surfing and people-watching. After a stroll on the newly renovated Boardwalk and a fun day at the beach, take a trip to Jordan’s Lobster Farm for a summer picnic. At the beautiful resort town of Long Branch, NJ, experience the free weekly outdoor concerts and movies under the stars throughout the summertime and enjoy the Seven Presidents Oceanfront Park, with an ocean beach, swimming, fishing, boating, volleyball plus a boardwalk. Looking for a less grandiose beach escape? Take a visit to the small, half-mile-long beach but big bang of Nickerson Beach Park in Lido Beach, NY. Your family can have it all with beaches, campgrounds, Fun Zone, ball fields, beach volleyball courts, cabanas and lockers. After you soak it all in, visit Point Lookout Clam Bar, the kid-friendly beach restaurant offering sail boat views. Robert Moses Beach on Fire Island is clean and serene for sand, surf, and sun. Offering five miles of ocean beaches for swimming, surfing, and more—as well as amenities like chair and umbrella rentals, concessions, and restrooms with showers—this beach is a summertime must. Plus, there is a new playground at Field 5, making it a perfect summer daytrip destination. If all else fails, head to Brighton Beach, one of the highly trafficked beach spots for NYC residents. Situated on the Atlantic Ocean and in close proximity to Coney Island, it will feel like the ultimate staycation.

    Editor’s Note: For even more on beaches in and around NYC, check out our roundup: click here

    Let’s Go Ride A Bike

    Located within the Bronx River Reservation, the Bronx River Pathway consists of three paved segments: a one-mile loop in Mount Vernon, a 3.6-mile section in Bronxville to Scarsdale, and a 5-mile section extending from Hartsdale to Valhalla. Heading to Governors Island? You can bring your own bike (as long as it is human-powered) or rent one (Saturdays, Sundays, and Labor Day) from their eclectic collection. Choose from children’s bicycles, Small QuadCycle, large QuadCycle, and Tandem bikes. The Hudson River Greenway is the longest greenway in NYC, running along the West Side from Dyckman Street in the north to Battery Park in the south. It is a scenic ride mostly through Hudson River Park and Riverside Park. And a fun fact for the kids is that it is the most heavily used bikeway in the United States (maybe because most of it is along the Hudson). The paved Rockaway Gateway Greenway bike path is for bicyclists of all skill levels who appreciate an enjoyable jaunt but most notable is the stunning scenery and the chance to see a diverse array of bird, marine, and other wildlife. The kids are sure to love this two-wheel journey. Or take the sea streak water taxi to the Sandy Hook bike path (which was recently extended) to enjoy beautiful flowers, historic segments, and a picture-perfect lighthouse. It spans the whole peninsula, boasting bay and beach views and scenic overlooks all the way to Manhattan and Long Island.

    Scenes from Camp Orenda

    Scenes from Camp Orenda

    Happy Campers

    Black Bear Campground, in Orange County, is the nearest full-service campground to NYC with expansive campsites. Black Bear has a beautiful, natural setting but with all modern conveniences. It also has numerous activities available to entertain such as mini golf and a children’s playground. Camp Orenda, in the heart of the Adirondacks, offers a genuine rugged camping experience while simultaneously offering modern luxuries (think heated showers, and open-air kitchen with a chef, and private canvas cabins decked in cozy decor). An all-inclusive, guests will enjoy a safe and comfortable wilderness experience in a scenic, mountain setting.The Delaware Water Gap in the Appalachians is close to the city but feels light years away. The vast 70,000-acre park will feel like home as you hike, bike, paddle, swim, and picnic while you camp. Enjoy the magnificent mountains and endless outdoor activities that meet a range of family interests. Looking for something even more remote? Inside the Delaware Water Gap, escape to the Dingmans Campground. A large campground within the acreage, it offers basic amenities like clean water and electricity to allow for a rustic stay at any of the 133 sites. Or seek out Mongaup Pond in Livingston Manor, a campground situated on an expansive lake, complete with forested campsites, swimming, picnicking, and boat rentals. According to the experts, the campgrounds become an outdoor classroom for young children and their families.

    Making friends at Art Farm

    Making friends at Art Farm

    Animal Instincts

    The widely loved Bronx Zoo is celebrating the 20th anniversary of its most popular family tradition, the Bronx Zoo’s Family Overnight Safari (for families with children 5 and older). It is a unique experience where zoo dreams come true and everyone is wowed by the fun and educational activities that you don’t even mind the sea lion wake up call. You’re sure to create memories to last a lifetime. The Central Park Zoo is hosting a variety of classes and camps so children from tots to teens can explore the zoo and all of its wonders. Programs feature animal encounters, exhibit visits, art activities, and more, encouraging discovery and nurturing an enthusiasm for wildlife while having a wildly fun time! The New York Aquarium offering week-long discovery camps with age-based programs to build your child’s love of all things under the sea. Both educational and fun, the camps are run with themes every summer, so there’s always a new study for the budding marine biologists. The Art Farm is taking residence both in the Hamptons and on the Upper East Side this summer. Enjoy summer camps, play groups, classes, animal care lessons, and more. And be sure not to miss the beloved and ever-popular weekend feeding and snuggling sessions. A family farm since 1886 and the top petting zoo on Long Island, White Post Farms is a family friendly day trip sure to please the whole family. If the petting zoo itself is not enough, there is unlimited fun on bouncers included with paid admission to the animal farm.

    The New York Botanical Garden

    The New York Botanical Garden. Photo by Joseph DeSciose

    Nature Lovers

    Visit Alley Pond Park and enjoy weekly workshops with opportunities to pet animals, take nature walks, get educated in animal care classes, and lots more. The Animal Room is a best bet, where you can meet and greet more exotic animal friends like Loke the Prairie Dog, the Blue Tongued Skink, and Bernie the Corn Snake. This year the Brooklyn Botanic Gardens are celebrating the centennial of their Children’s Garden. BBG was the first botanic garden to create a program exclusively for children, from toddlers to teens. Another great garden option is the New York Botanical Gardens, with the Everett Children’s Adventure Garden. The new family favorite, the High Line, offers kids programs to play, create, and learn, and mark your calendar now for a carnival-inspired summer party on June 14. In the meantime, don’t miss the Arty Hours hands-on art projects. Plus, be sure to secure your delicious Melt Bakery ice cream sandwich while there on these hot, summer days! Escape the concrete jungle and head to the Jamaica Bay Wildlife Refuge, the only wildlife refuge in the National Park System. Home to roughly half the bird species in the Northeast as well as a range of native reptiles, amphibians, small mammals, butterflies, and horseshoe crabs, it is a must-see. There are regular presentations on seasonal wildlife, sunset tours, hikes, boat trips, family programs, and an annual lecture series. Queens County Farm is another haven for families who want a fun farm visit without leaving the city. Stroll around the farm, check out the seasonal farm stand, and peruse fields, livestock, vineyard, and farm implements, but the highlight for the kids will be the goat feeding and the hayrides (offered on Saturdays and Sundays).

    Park-ing Breaks

    As the temperatures rise, you might dream of cooling down at some magical water oasis. Luckily, there are plenty of neighborhood playgrounds throughout the city have great water features. Complete with award-winning equipment, water features, and sand areas, Chelsea Waterside Play Area has everything you need for an afternoon of fun. Kids will have a blast running through fountains and parents can relax beneath shade umbrellas. Inspired by the nearby Bandshell in Prospect Park, Harmony Playground includes xylophones that kids can play—when they’re not running through water-spraying trumpets or playing in the roomy sandbox. Teardrop Park brings a little piece of the Hudson RiverValley to Battery Park City. Featuring an impressive “Ice Wall,” a children’s slide, sandboxes, water play, and more—it’s sure to keep your fam super-cool. Pier 25 Play Area is perfect for kids ages 2-12. Tots have their own place to play, older kids can enjoy the rock wall, and everyone will love the spontaneous buckets that drop water on little ones’ heads. Brooklyn Bridge Park’s Pier 6 Play Area features a fab Water Lab, which includes a jet field and water channel to keep kids occupied for hours. There’s also a giant sandbox that’s great for tots.

    Editor’s Note: For even more on playgrounds with water features, check out our roundup: click here

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