Unexpected Things to Do in NYC with Kids

Seven unexpected things to do with kids in New York City

Itching for an adventure, and the usual museums and parks just won’t cut it? We scoured the city for the best-kept secrets in activities to do with your kids in New York City, from playing in a junkyard to getting your fortune told.

Explore the Gowanus Canal.

Join the Gowanus Dredgers Canoe Club for a self-guided canoe trip of the Gowanus Canal during walk-up canoeing. The canoe trips aim to raise awareness of harbor issues, and you may even see such wildlife as ducks, herons, horseshoe crabs, fiddler crabs, and jellyfish. Walk-up canoeing is held Wednesdays, 6-8pm, May-September, and Saturdays, 1-5pm, June-October. Canoeing and equipment use is free, though donations are accepted, and no reservation is needed. Meet the club at the 2nd Street Launch Site: 165 2nd St., Gowanus, Brooklyn.

gowanus dredgers canoe clubPia Peterson ©2017

Children participating in canoeing with the Gowanus Dredgers Canoe Club must have a waiver signed by a parent.

Whisper secrets to each other in Central Park.

While most of us know about the Whispering Gallery in Grand Central Station, a lesser-known place to whisper to each other is at the Charles B. Stover Bench—colloquially known as the “Whisper Bench” because if you whisper into one corner, your voice travels to the other side—in the Shakespeare Garden in Central Park (located on the west side between 79th and 80th streets).

Let your kids play in a junkyard.

No, not an actual junkyard! This summer, Governors Island will again be home to play:groundNYC, a junkyard playground that gives young adventurers the opportunity to work with tools and building materials to explore physical, social, and emotional problem solving. Don’t worry, though, trained staff provides support to help children construct and create. Play:groundNYC is free and open to the public through Oct. 1, Saturday-Sunday, 11am-3pm.

play:groundnyc governors islandCourtesy the Trust for Governors Island

The junkyard area of play:groundNYC on Governors Island, for kids only, is filled with materials and tools such as nails, hammers, saws, wood, tires, and fabric for children to create and play.

Bike, scoot, or walk across NYC’s oldest bridge.

Built in the mid-19th century as a part of the Croton Aqueduct system, which carried water from the Croton River in Westchester to Manhattan, High Bridge is now a pedestrian walkway that connects Washington Heights in Manhattan and Highbridge in the Bronx. It’s accessible in Manhattan via a staircase in Highbridge Park (West 172nd Street and Amsterdam Avenue) or a ramp at 167th Street and Edgecombe Avenue; and in the Bronx at University Avenue and 170th Street, or a ramp north of there. 

high bridge nycNYC Parks

Originally built in the mid-19th century as part of the Croton Aqueduct system, High Bridge opened in 2015 as a pedestrian walkway.

Go on an art walk.

In an effort to deter graffiti artists and beautify the Lower East Side, the 100 Gates Project—started by local artist and pro skateboarder Billy Rohan in 2014—connects local artists with businesses to collaborate on original murals that are painted on the roll-down security gates of those businesses. Over two years the project installed 100 gates throughout the Lower East Side of Manhattan, and currently has plans to expand to Harlem and Staten Island. Visit 100gates.nyc for more information and to find a map of the participating businesses.

Get your fortune told.

A 1907 Cleveland Grandma, who sits in a wooden booth at Deno’s Wonder Wheel Amusement Park in Coney Island, Brooklyn, has been predicting fortunes for almost 100 years. When her booth first opened, predictions were 1 cent, but due to inflation, they now cost a whopping 50 cents. 

grandma at deno's wonder wheel amusement parkCourtesy Deno’s Wonder Wheel Amusement Park

Wonder what your future holds? Ask Grandma, located at Deno’s Wonder Wheel Amusement Park in Coney Island, Brooklyn.

Zip through the air in Glendale, Queens.

Families can zipline, rock climb, or air jump at Zip Jump Climb, stationed at The Shops at Atlas Park (8000 Cooper Ave., Glendale, Queens), for just $10 each, but only through July 9. 

Main image: Located at 61 Hester St. on the Lower East Side of Manhattan, this mural was painted by Jessica Blowers as part of the 100 Gates Project.
Nina LoSchiavo


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