It’s happening again this summer. Curious G is attending Camp Mommy! We are excited to hit up all of the spots on this list. Read on, then bookmark this; for a list that’s chock full of newly renovated playgrounds, iconic classics, hidden gems, gardens, music, a lot of FREE options, rides, social opportunities, yummy food, ferry rides, indoor venues to escape the heat, art extravaganzas, sculpture gardens, guided workshops, learning experiences, splash pads, AND MORE! We cover all five boroughs, and almost every neighborhood in Manhattan. If you liked the list from last year, this one is more than double the fun! And, as always, follow us on Instagram for up to the minute updates on new openings and events!
This summer, we are planning to try these new venues and events. Some are new to us, and some are new to NYC. I am listing them here at the top, because they have never been featured anywhere on CuriousGandMe.com or on Instagram so they are super fresh.
Bounce America 3159 Flatbush Ave Floyd Bennett Field Brooklyn
The world’s largest bounce house is coming to Brooklyn. A giant bounce house, slides, mazes, and so much more will be arriving on July 26-28 and August 2-4. Tickets can be purchased here .
Time Out Market, 53-83 Water Street, DUMBO, Brooklyn
The latest food hall to try features 21 vendors including Juliana’s Pizza, Fish Cheeks, Clinton Street Baking Company, and Breads Bakery. I first heard of Time Out Market when my foodie friend raved about the one in Lisbon, so I was delighted when I saw the one that was opening in Brooklyn last month! We cannot wait to go!
Beyond the Streets, Williamsburg, Brooklyn
Community Sail at North Cove Sailing, Battery Park City
Queens County Farm Museum 73-50 Little Neck Pkwy, Floral Park, Queens
Hayrides, a petting zoo, a children’s garden, a historical farmhouse, and 47 acres of farm are open to the public to explore daily from 10am-5pm. Bring the kids for a respite from city life, and a dose of nature for FREE. This farm has been around for a while but we have yet to explore it!
Nowadays, 56-06 Cooper Avenue, Ridgewood, Queens
Has anyone been here? This spot has been on our list for years and we have never made it here. It was born of a weekend dance party that took place in Industry City back in the day, and now lives in a permanent location on the border of Bushwick and Ridgewood. It’s a family-friendly indoor and outdoor restaurant, bar, and party space that looks like fun. We will make it there this summer!!!
Now onto our list...
Downtown Manhattan (below 14th Street)
1. Color Factory, 251 Spring Street SOHO
Color Factory is still going strong. And it’s certainly worth a visit! We had a blast last summer when we went, and all of our friends that visited loved it as well. The scale, the flow, and dynamic variety of interactive stations made it so memorable. The treats that connect the different installations are enticing and exciting, and a dip in the giant ball pit that's filled with half a million light blue balls is akin to a cool pool dip. Read my Mommy Poppins review about it here , and get tickets here. Children’s Museum of the Arts is a very short walk away, as is Dominique Ansel Bakery. OR, make a Trader Joe’s run because it’s practically next door to the Color Factory.
2. Children’s Museum of the Arts, 104 Charlton Street, SOHO/Hudson Square
Speaking of Children’s Museum of the Arts, we love this museum year round, but it’s also a great option for those sweltering days when you need an indoor activity. This is a venue where kids can unleash their creativity in an art lab for kids 5 and under, as well as an older kid art lab, clay bar, sound lab, and more. Read all about one of our first visits to their drop-in classes (and what else we did that day), which take place during weekday mornings. They involve art, story time and music. The exhibitions here are very cool and the current one on view, Breaking Through the Glass Ceiling, will not disappoint.
3. DiSalvio Playground, 44 Spring Street, Nolita
We always find ourselves in this playground often because there are a lot of good food and shopping options surrounding it. It’s in a location that’s perfect for Curious G to let out some steam after sitting through a meal or sitting in a fitting room while I try on a ton of clothes; hence the spot on our top 14 NYC playgrounds list. The recent renovation (it just re-opened a few months ago) is awesome!! Read all about in my Mommy Poppins review here.
Seward Park got its own post last summer, and a spot in our list of 14 Best NYC Playgrounds because it is large with jungle gyms for every age group, it has a fun water feature, the bathrooms are fairly clean, and there is plenty of seating in the shade. There are also basketball and volleyball courts, as well as fun food options in the vicinity. If you are down there on a Saturday, stop by the Hester Street Fair to sample some delicious local fare, and browse local vendors. Each week features a different theme so stop by throughout the summer to see them all.
5. Pier 17, 89 South Street, Seaport District
We found ourselves at Pier 17 every time friends came to visit from out of town last summer. It captures the essence of NYC in the summertime. Sit on the sprawling deck, with or without an adult beverage from one of the bars, and soak up the views of the Brooklyn and Manhattan bridges while feeling grateful for having the pleasure of being in NYC. Read all about our first visit here. We returned to Pier 17 last winter to ice skate on the roof, where the views were spectacular. This summer, you will be able to enjoy those amazing views while also enjoying the summer concert series. Fulton by Jean Georges Vongerichten is now open and the David Chang restaurant, Andrew Carmellini restaurant, as well as Malibu Farms will be opening soon!
6. Hudson River Park, Battery Place to West 59th Street along the West Side
This riverfront park stretches across 550 acres from Battery Place to West 59th Street. It’s anchor playground on Pier 25 boasts an impressive splash pad with multiple water features, and is adjacent to beach volleyball courts and a mini golf course. It’s also where the oyster bar on a boat, Grand Banks, is docked. Throughout the summer, fun events including kids concerts are hosted. Pair a visit to the multiple piers, sprawling lawns, and stretch of jogging and bike lanes with a few hours in Battery Park City. Here is our tried and true recommended itinerary.
7. Elizabeth Street Garden, Elizabeth Street between Prince and Spring Streets
We love this garden so much. We have picked strawberries here, attended harvest fests, story times, helped to weed the bee balm, met some lovely people, and just taken moments to relax here. The free story times take place on Mondays, Fridays, and Saturdays, and you can find the schedules and see the other events here. The garden is open to the public from noon – 5 pm on weekdays and 10 am-5 pm on the weekends. The garden is currently in a lawsuit against the city in a fight to prevent a housing development which is planning to overtake the garden. Support their efforts here. This garden is truly a gem and you can see some more photos and details on what we like to do in the area around the garden here. You will also learn more about an amazing community garden with a treehouse in this link. AND, you can read about a fabulous garden in the East Village with a koi pond here! Curious G absolutely adores hanging out in community gardens in the summertime!
Union Square/ Flatiron / Chelsea / NOMAD
8. Citi Summer In The Square, Union Square Park Union Square
This has been a summer must for us since Curious G was walking. It is the best recurring FREE event in the summer time. Last year, we discovered Soul Science lab during its free live performance segment, watched puppet shows, created gigantic bubbles, did yoga with Yoga Kids, read books, did face painting, and more. We cannot wait to see the line up this year. It starts June 13th and takes place every Thursday through August 8th! This was the top item on our summer list from last year because it’s just that good! And, hey, if your kids somehow get bored you can always retreat to Evelyn’s Playground.
The Whitney Biennial is a great primer for what’s current in modern art, and it’s also a great reason to visit the Whitney to take in the fabulous views from the terraces, let the kids express themselves in the Open Studios, and jump on the High Line after for a stroll. There are many new art installations to check out along the way. You can also disembark down to 23rd Street to check out some other Chelsea galleries (read about some of our favorites here). OR, you can walk the entire length all the way to Hudson Yards to climb the Vessel, do some shopping and some wining and dining. Of course, the High Line also offers a plethora of tours and FREE family events. We loved the family days that we attended on the High Line; they all involved singing and dancing, arts and crafts, educational workshops, and tons of fun. And we LOVE Hearth on the High Line (previously Terroir on the Porch), and make it a point to go there several times during the summer. Love museums? Read about 14 Museums that were Kid Tested and Parent Approved.
10. Camp Stores, 110 Fifth Avenue Flatiron
Surprisingly, I never wrote a full post on Camp Stores because we were so impressed after our first visit back in December and have returned with friends many times since to enjoy Base camp. Base Camp has since become Cooking Camp. In case you don’t live in NYC, or just have not heard about Camp yet, it is an innovative retail concept with a REVOLVING BOOKSHELF THAT LEADS TO A MAGICAL TOY STORE/PLAYSPACE HYBRID. Other than the fact that Camp sells really cool toys and gifts that are awesome; and that your kids will probably want to spend hours there, just know that its free to browse and play and the store is open 7 days a week. Arts and crafts are usually available on site, and drop-in classes are hosted throughout the week for various prices.
11. Chelsea Waterside Play Area, 557 West 23rd Street (and Pier 62 carousel)
Chelsea Waterside Play Area is another playground that made it to our list of 14 Best NYC Playgrounds. It has the most unique climbing element and multiple water features, which makes it perfect for the summer heat. Conveniently located on West 23rd Street off the West side highway, right by the cluster of Chelsea galleries and a couple of blocks from the High line elevator on 23rd Street, you can add this playground to a day of art gallery hopping, or stop by post-High Line. You can also walk west over to Pier 62 and take a spin on the whimsical carousel, then sit on a bench nearby and soak in the Hudson River views.
12. The National Museum of Mathematics (MoMath), 11 East 26th Street NOMAD
MoMath is a very interactive museum. It is a very educational museum. If you would like a refresher course in all of the math that you forgot from high school, visit this museum. Then, if you are like me, you will stress out about how you are going to manage homework assistance that will be required of you in a few years down the road. I could not focus long enough to read the blurbs that accompanied each exhibit during our visit. However, Curious G had a blast and spent a good two hours exploring. You can read about the experience we had here, as well as what we did before and after our visit to MoMATH. Your kids will love this museum, and it is perfect when you need to spend a few hours inside. However, if your kid is under 3 and is generally not that interested in museums, then wait until he or she is older.
13. Billy Johnson Playground, Central Park, East 67th entrance Midtown Manhattan
We LOVE this playground. We have been frequenting it for a good three years. And now that it has re-opened after a major refresh we love it even more. The main attraction is the curvy granite slide that kids zoom down, and it’s new smaller sibling slide that was just added. We are thrilled that the new climbing nets have been installed, and think they are the perfect addition. And now that we are on the third playground on this list, allow me to introduce our list of our favorite playgrounds and what to eat, see, and do before and after your playground visits! Hey, did I happen to mention this list already?
14. 53rd Street New York Public Library, 18 West 53rd Street Midtown Manhattan
This library makes its way to almost every list for us because it is truly a magnificent branch. It even got its own post! The entire library looks like a modern trendy hotel, and the children’s room is large and packed with toys and other activities. The wifi is free, the air conditioning is crisp, and movies are even projected onto the enormous screen that hangs in front of the grand bleacher seating that is the centerpiece of the library. It’s also right across the street from MoMA and it’s also a block away from this amazing waterfall oasis. You can also wind down in this library after walking over from a couple of hours playing in FAO Schwarz, which is four blocks away.
15. The Vessel, 20 Hudson Yards Midtown West
The Vessel is the monument that is the centerpiece of the Hudson Yards garden and courtyard. It sits behind the mall in 20 Hudson Yards, and houses almost 2,500 steps inviting you to climb and enjoy the city from multiple vantage points. It is a very unique structure and locals have dubbed it “The Hive” as well as “The Shwarma”. I took Curious G two days in a row over her spring break and both times were exhilarating experiences. The structure itself is an interesting case to study. How did they design it? Will they let it patina, or will the upkeep include rigorous polishing? C.G. and her buddies (ages 4 and 2) had fun racing each other up the steps, and taking turns choosing which set of stairs we should take next. My friend, who was visiting from Italy, also enjoyed climbing the steps and soaking in the views along the way. C.G. and I also enjoyed lunch at Wild Ink, and shopping at Forty Five Ten after our trek up The Vessel. Tickets, which are free, for The Vessel can be reserved here two weeks before your visit. You can also get tickets on site the day of your visit.
16. Le Carrousel and free events in Bryant Park, 40th Street and Fifth Avenue entrance Midtown Manhattan
Curious G adores this carousel. She always goes for the frog. We also love the events hosted at Bryant Park every season (Bryant Park made our list last summer, and last winter). The free events during the summer are fabulous, and we particularly enjoy the story times and game tables. To be quite honest, C.G. enjoys just roaming around the park, then taking it indoors to the library for some reading. I love eating lunch in the park (vendors including Le Pain Quotidien and Wafels & Dinges are available inside the park), and there is a slew of lunch options all along the north side of the park like Hale and Hearty, Joe and the Juice, etc. There are also usually little tables set up next to Le Carrousel with books and coloring materials.
17. Safari Playground, Central Park 90th Street entrance Upper East Side
This playground is newly renovated and that means super thick, extra bouncy padding on the floors! Hooray for that because the adorable hippo statues that line the playground are open invitations for climbing and, if your kids are anything like Curious G, they will probably find the most precarious ways to mount the hippos. There is also a more conventional climbing structure/jungle gym in addition to little row boats and a simple splash pad. The entrance is a block north from the 90th street entrance to Central Park on the west side.
18. Sugar Hill Children's Museum of Art and Storytelling, 898 St. Nicholas Avenue Harlem
Sugar Hill Children’s Museum of Art and Storytelling is one of our favorite museums (hence its spot on our list of 14 Museums to Explore this Summer) because of its events. Last summer, they hosted block parties, AKA Nights at Sugar Hill, where arts and crafts tables were set up outside along side musical performances; and admission to museum was free for the evening. The Sunday Play dates and Sunday Fundays are activity-filled parties that will entertain and educate the entire family. Be sure to also look into IDNYC this summer for free annual museum memberships to select museums. When I signed up for it last year, Sugar Hill was a part of this program.
19. The Met Fifth Avenue, 1000 Fifth avenue Upper East Side
The Cantor Rooftop Garden has been a must every year for over a decade. I have fond memories of sipping cocktails while enjoying the best views of the Upper East and Upper West side skylines with my 20-something peers. That was so many moons ago! Now I get to enjoy the experience with Curious G. When C. G. was 4-months old, she had her first rooftop experience at The Met, and it has remained a tradition for us since then. This year’s sculpture "Parapivot" by Alicja Kwade is not so interactive, but still visually stimulating. This year’s Costume Institute exhibit is also a fun ride with its Camp theme. Not to be missed is The Met’s Start with Art program every Thursday and Saturday, when kids get free tours and then create art according to the theme of the day. Unsurprisingly, The Met made it to our list of 14 Museums to Explore this Summer. Last but not least, are the culturally rich story times in the Nolen Library, which C.G. loves.
20. John Jay Playground, Cherokee Place (by the FDR) between 76th and 78th Streets Upper East Side
This playground also made it to our list of 14 Best NYC playgrounds, but its draw practically doubles in the summertime. Is it the fact that it’s sprawling 3 acres is great for scooter riding and playing all day? Yes, but it’s also because the public pool opens on June 27th. Now you may hesitate to dive into a public city pool, but it is a very inviting experience when it’s 90 degrees out and your kids need to cool off. We went last year on a Monday around 11 am and it was not too crowded, the water was clean and a pleasing temperature! If you would rather not venture into the pool, there is a great splash pad in both the toddler playground and the older kid playground.
21. Victorian Gardens, Wollman Rink in Central Park
I have been taking Curious G here every summer for the past three years to ride the kiddie rides and play the carnival games. It is relatively pricey (unlimited rides are $25.50 during the week and $28.50 during the weekend, pay as you go pricing can be found here). It is obviously very fun, screams summertime, and is so centrally located right in Central Park. So you kind of can’t go wrong with a visit here with the kids. C.G.'s favorite ride is the ferris wheel. I enjoy riding it with her because the views of the park at the top are unbeatable. It is fairly empty during the weekdays towards the end of the summer, which means that "everyone wins a prize" when playing the carnival games. At least, that has been our experience.
22. Conservatory Water, East 72nd Street Central Park
The Conservatory Water is one of our favorite spots in Central Park. While we have only rented a remote control boat once here, it’s relaxing to watch them glide across the placid lake while other people are steering them. You can grab sandwiches and salads (desserts, coffees, beer and wine as well) at Le Pain Quotidien on the East side of the lake. But we like to picnic on the lawn across the street from the East 72nd Street playground, which happens to be steps away from the Conservatory Waters before playing at the playground. Then, we buy ice cream from the vendor between the playground and the Conservatory Waters before taking a break on one of the benches while we watch the mini sailboats sail along the waters. Curious G also likes to climb on the Alice and Wonderland statue on the North side of the Conservatory Water, and then call it a day.
24. Urban Farm, Randalls Island
On the weekends in the summertime from 11am-5pm, Urban Farm Exploration days are hosted where you can learn about the different crops, herbs, rice paddies, and chickens! Arts and crafts projects are also offered during the exploration days. If you are coming from Manhattan, you can walk to Randall's Island via the pedestrian footbridge on 103rd St. Or, you can take the M35 bus from Lexington and 125th Street.
25. Domino Park, 15 River Street Williamsburg
Domino Park was such a headliner last year, and it was dubbed as “The Sweetest Park in NYC” by yours truly. The beautiful splash pad became an instant summer classic, and we returned throughout the summer. Loved it, and still love it. We cannot wait to return again and again. We made it a stop in our last hurrah of the summer last year (following Coney Island, and followed by North Brooklyn Farms).
26. North Brooklyn Farms, 320 Kent Avenue Williamsburg
On our way to Domino Park during our last summer hurrah last year, we stopped into North Brooklyn Farms. We were attracted by the dirt bike track where kids were enthusiastically zipping through while executing impressive jumps and other tricks. We were also drawn to the infamous stain glass garden house by Tom Fruin, which most recently was hosted in Empire Stores in Brooklyn Bridge Park. The North Brooklyn Farms website describes the farm as a green space for the community “where children can run around barefoot, where produce is grown, where people can temporarily escape the stress of the urban environment without leaving their neighborhood.” And, well, who knows a child who doesn’t like to run around barefoot? Fun events are also hosted at the farm and can be found here.
27. Brooklyn Bowl Family Bowl on Sundays, 61 Wythe Avenue Williamsburg
Brooklyn Bowl can absolutely be rolled into a Domino Park day, but it is also worthy of being a headliner by itself. During Sunday Family Bowl, you can bowl a few rounds, then hit the dance floor for a Rock and Roll Playhouse performance. Gutter guards are available for the kiddos, and Blue Ribbon fried chicken is on-site to satisfy your hunger. But, if you would rather eat outside of the bowling alley, you can head over to one of our favorite spots Mr Dips after your visit to Brooklyn Bowl. It's a block away, and just happens to be the next item on our list! And, in case you are looking for more indoor venues, check out our 36 Ways to Stay Entertained Indoors with your Kids all Winter Long. Don’t let the title prevent you from checking out the seasonless indoor fun zones! You can use this list to escape the heat on oppressively hot days too!
28. Mr Dips at William Vale Hotel, 111 North 12th Street Williamsburg
Mr. Dips operates out of an airstream trailer on an elevated promenade that is a part of the William Vale hotel. You get the full-on summer vibes, an indulgent meal (burgers; vegetarian option available, fried chicken, cheese-dipped waffles, and fries), and very memorable frozen desserts. We love the Berry Gibbs and Chocolate P.B.D. soft serve cones. Grab a table as you wait for your food while sipping a beer, glass of wine, or a frozen lemonade.
29. Brooklyn Bridge Park DUMBO, Brooklyn
Oh, how we love Brooklyn Bridge Park! We could not even cover it in one post. Last year, we made our inaugural visit to Brooklyn Bridge Park via ferry and simply rode Jane’s Carousel and had lunch at Cecconi’s (read about it here and see the rooftop of Empire Stores, which you can enjoy while chowing down on the great selection from the Time Out Food Hall). BUT, you can also just stroll along the sprawling space that is available in the park. You can stop at one of the many playgrounds (especially on Pier 5), and you can participate in a vast selection of sports! Read more about what to do at Brooklyn Bridge Park here, but follow along on Instagram to see how we enjoy the park this summer!
30. Coney Island Boardwalk, Coney Island
Coney Island is as classic as it gets, and The Wonder Wheel is just about as iconic as it gets when it comes to summer in NYC. We rode it last summer for the first time with Curious G! Read all about our first visit here, which was capped off with a delicious visit to L & B Spumoni Gardens for amazing pizza and ice cream. On our following trip to Coney Island a few weeks after, we managed to get a table and some hot dogs from Nathan’s Famous because how could we not!? For some major Coney Island inspiration, read Outstanding in The Rain. This is one of our all-time favorite books that we have been reading since Curious G was just a few months old.
31. Industry City, 220 36th St Sunset Park
I cannot even list all of the reasons to visit Industry City in this little blurb, but you can read all about them here. Let’s just say that on Saturdays your kids can dance to fun performances by Rock and Roll Playhouse while you sit back in the courtyard and enjoy lunch from the amazing food court. Since the post in the link was published, a Dreamland Disco Roller Rink and Japan Village also opened in Industry City, so you have two new reasons to visit! Check here for all upcoming events. An added bonus is also the fun freight elevators in the food court, which are painted and refreshed with new themes almost every month, as well as the abundance of colorful murals throughout the collection of warehouses and courtyards that make up Industry City.
I listed these three places together because I plan to bring Curious G to all three spots in one day. Last summer, we had a fun seafood feast brunch with friends that ended with miniature golf and soft serve in the backyard section (Brooklyn Crab is comprised of three outdoor decks of seating plus a fun backyard). Our outing ended with a grocery shopping trip to Fairway right across the street. But this year, we will take the 2 minute walk to Ample Hills Creamery for dessert and a tour of the ice cream making fun! Pioneer Works has been on our list for a couple of years now, and it is only a ten minute walk from Brooklyn Crab!
33. Wave Hill, 675 West 249th Street
This 28-acre public garden and cultural center hosts Family Art Project every Saturday and Sunday from 10am – 1pm, where families can get their hands dirty while making creative art pieces. PLUS, a visit to Wave Hill grants you unmatched natural beauty you will not see anywhere else in NYC. I am talking about Hudson River vistas, gardens galore, historical houses, walking trails, and a thought-provoking museum. Free admission is offered on Tuesdays and Saturdays from 9am- noon; otherwise adults are $8 and children over 5 are $4. They also provide free shuttle service to and from the Riverdale Metro North station as well as the to and from 242nd St station for the 1 train.
This is the breakout hit of summer 2019 in NYC. People have been lining up for hours to see it. And it has not disappointed. While I personally think that Field Station: Dinosaurs is a more immersive experience, this was a pretty exhilarating ride though a “dinosaur safari” with a field area at the end where kids could “dig for fossils”. While we have not actually spent a day at the Bronx Zoo since Curious G was born, that could also be another draw for people to make it to this Dinosaur Safari. Tickets for the zoo start at $29.95 for kids and $39.95 for adults and online ticketing can be found here . The Safari is included in the price of admission.
35. Gantry Plaza State Park, Long Island City
This park is just pure gorgeousness. It makes me smile, and I cannot wait to take G to spend a relaxing morning here. The park is sprawling, green, dotted with playgrounds, and provides the most breath-taking views of the Manhattan skyline. We visited a few times last summer and you can read all about our inaugural summer visit here. This park is also included in our 5 Reasons to Ride the NYC Ferry this Summer.
This five-acre waterfront sculpture park is open 365 days a year and admission is free. The current exhibition Chronos Cosmos features nine artists, and explores the connection between space, time, and celestial bodies. Spend an hour or so exploring the park, then cross the street for some refreshment at Chateau Le Woof like we did. The Noguchi Museum (9-01 33rd Rd at Vernon BLVD) is just a five minute walk from the Socrates Sculpture Park, and is another must-see. Admission is $10 for adults. Kids under 12 are free. While we Uber’ed it to Socrates from Manhattan the first time we went, we could have taken the tram from Manhattan to Roosevelt Island and transferred to the ferry to Astoria terminal. To return home, we walked ten minutes to the Astoria terminal from the Noguchi Museum and took it to Roosevelt Island; then took the tram back to Manhattan. The whole trip only took 20 minutes.
37. PS 1 MoMA, 22-25 Jackson Avenue, Long Island City, Queens
The Courtyard at PS 1 MoMA features mesmerizing large-scale immersive art installations every summer. This museum, which is housed in a former schoolhouse (hence the name), also features some of the most current artists in the modern art scene and also showed up on our summer bucket list last year. This year’s featured art installation in the courtyard will be on display starting June 28th, and will include a panoramic jungle scene complete with waterfalls and hammocks. It is entitled Hórama Rama, by Ana Paula Ruiz Galindo and Mecky Reuss of Pedro & Juana.
38. Snug Harbor Cultural Center and Botanical Garden, 1000 Richmond Terrace
The Staten Island Children’s Museum is different from Children's Museum of Manhattan and Brooklyn Children’s Museum, and it’s totally worth a visit this summer. The bonus is that it’s located on the grounds of Snug Harbor so you can explore the expansive gardens and lush grounds afterwards. Admission to Snug Harbor is free but separate admission is charged for the Connie Gretz Secret Garden, as well as the NY Chinese Scholar’s Garden, which we visited last year. Bamboo and rocks were imported from China to build this garden, and we literally felt like we were transported to China while we strolled through this unique garden. See more photos and read about our visit here.
All over town
There have been so many food halls that have sprung up in NYC in the last few years. Smorgasburg Williamsburg made our list last year because it is classic and you can hang out at the playground or the “beach” at East River State Park after. Smorgasburg vendors will also be at World Trade Center, Hudson Yards, and Prospect Park this summer. Please DM me, email me, or comment below if you want more food hall recs because there are just so many (see above re: Time Out Market). But, if we had to point out two others to try, it would be Essex Market in the Lower East Side and Canal Street Market in Chinatown. Try to avoid the lunchtime rush at either location if you can. And, again, DM/email/comment for specific recs at each food hall.
40. NYC Ferry, East River
Last year, we must have jumped on the ferry once a week because it’s a fun summer ride and we love going to Governor’s Island, Brooklyn Bridge Park, Gantry Plaza State Park, and other destinations via ferry. You can read all about our top spots from last summer here. But, in a nutshell, it’s only $2.75 per adult for a one way ticket and you can enjoy a comfortable scenic ride with the kids while cruising on over towards summer fun galore. We highly recommend riding the ferry at least once this summer! Find out about the routes and schedules here.
41. Ice cream
Ice cream becomes a staple in our diets come June, and NYC is chock full of ice cream variety. Last year, we really enjoyed Stax, Ample Hills Creamery, Bibble and Sip, A La Mode, and so much more. Milkshakes, soft-serve cones, doughnut ice cream sandwiches, and good old-fashioned scoops are all on heavy rotation for us. Read about some of our favorite ice cream moments here, and please comment below or slide into my DMs on Instagram if you ever want an on-the-spot ice cream venue rec!
weekend trips / Outside of NYC (AKA, car trips)
42. Terhune Orchards, Princeton , NJ
Apple picking is to Fall as berry picking is to summer. Freshly-picked ripe, juicy strawberries are a welcome sight every June for us. We love Terhune Orchards because it is a relatively short drive from the city and has other fun farm activities for the kids. Read all about our visit from last summer here. Terhune is our orchard of choice; we returned this past autumn for apple picking and pumpkin patch/hayriding fun! For a full-on experience, you can have lunch or dinner in Princeton, then stroll around this quaint college town. I went to high school in the area, and have so many fun memories from Princeton!
43. Legoland Discovery Center, Ridge Hill Shopping Center, Westchester
If you have little Lego fans, Legoland Discovery Center is kind of a must. You get rides, a Ninjago climbing structure, movies, a VR experience, Lego building workshops, large scale Lego models, a Lego city filled with iconic NYC landmarks, and of course tons of Legos to play with! Tickets start at $24.95 and online ticketing can be found here. On top of all of the Lego fun, we spent a day at Ridge Hill Shopping Center when we visited the Legoland Discovery Center. We started at the Community Garden, where C.G. picked her own veggies; she also ate the ones she picked. We then made our way over to the Big Girl Playground, designed by Tom Otterness. Then, after lunch, we walked around enjoying all of the public art. We may have done some shopping while we were there too. The selection of stores is very conducive to picking up some essentials. There is also an indoor trampoline park and iFly, which we will partake in when Curious G is a bit older.
44. The Met Cloisters, Fort Tyron Park, Inwood (this is in NYC and can be reached via the A train and bus)
Spend a few hours here and you will feel completely transported to a green oasis of gardens, walking trails, river views, and an enchanting Medieval work of art, which is The Cloisters. If you need a real breather from the city and an ample dose of nature, Fort Tryon will hit the mark. Read all about the gorgeous blooms, the stunning art, the charming courtyards, and fabulous vistas from our visit last summer here.
45. Lido Beach, Lido, Long Island
This beach was the only beach on our summer list from last year, and it remains the only beach on our list this year. I truly hope it stays a “hidden gem”, even as I write this. A few people DM’ed me via Facebook and Instagram last summer about it, and were happy to have visited. We love this beach because it is a short 1.5 hour drive from midtown Manhattan, the water is almost always clear (unless it has been raining or other weather conditions have caused rough surf), it is not too crowded (biggest plus for us), and there is a fabulous kiddie pool next to the parking lot, that is paired with a fun playground. We always pack a cooler full of food and an umbrella because there are no food vendors or umbrella rentals available on site. Parking is about $20 per car.
46. Field Station: Dinosaurs, Leonia, NJ
Field Station is about a 20 minute-1 hour drive from the city (depending on traffic), and it is akin to stepping into Jurassic Park. Read more about, and see photos, from our visit last fall. Over 30 life-sized animatronic dinosaurs in their “natural habitats” are positioned throughout the park. Different trails lead to different sections of the park, where you can explore and learn about the history of and facts about a variety of different dinosaurs. Live shows take place throughout the day in different areas. While we were there a “T-Rex” literally walked onto stage eliciting a combination of roars of excitement and screams of terror. We also explored various tents where interactive Paleontologist activities were available for our enjoyment. There is food on site, but we did not try it. Field Station is located in Overpeck Park and a playground is adjacent to the entrance of the parking lot. Tickets start at $15.75 and online ticketing can be found here.
More weekend Car Trips:
Read about some of the car trips we took last year if you like nature, museums, and good food:
This year, we are going to Portugal and Wyoming (as well as a few surprise trips) so stay tuned for the highlights from those trips! In case you are interested in a fun family vacation that involves a great mix of hiking, exploring the outdoors, good food, art and relaxation check out our vacation in Colorado from last summer here (Denver leg) and here (Colorado Springs leg) and here (Vail leg)
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