Snow Way! The Best NYC Sledding Hills

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In winter 2020, the place for family fun is outside. Be prepared to hit the slopes with the kids and check out our list of the best sledding hills in New York City. We found slopes in Manhattan, Brooklyn, Queens, the Bronx and Staten Island, and hills for little kids and bigger daredevils. (P.S. you might as well read up on where to grab one of NYC’s top hot chocolates  for an apres-sledding treat!)

Manhattan

Pilgrim Hill
The unanimous city favorite seems to be Pilgrim Hill at 72nd Street and Fifth on the East Side in Central Park. It offers a perfect incline, very few rocks or sudden drops and a smooth, level glide that evens out at the bottom. Unfortunately, being deemed the best sledding spot in the city also means it gets very, very crowded.

Cedar Hill
For a more mellow round of sledding with smaller kids, head to Cedar Hill on the East Side, between 76th and 79th Streets.

The Great Hill
Another popular hill for sledding in Central Park, the Great Hill is further north, inside the park on the west side. Enter the park at between 103rd and Central Park West. 

Carl Schurz Park
Don't want to wait your turn? Head a few blocks north and east to Carl Schurz Park on 89th Street and East End, on the lawn north of Gracie Mansion. Bonus: there are two separate dog runs here as well.

Riverside Park
Over on the Upper West Side, some swear by Riverside Drive from roughly 90th Street to 103rd, with a particularly good hill near Hippo Playground on 91st Street. But, the Urban Rangers have been known to host snowball fights, snowman-building contests and pass out hot chocolate at the hill on 103rd Street, so take your pick. The area’s biggest drawback is that being practically atop the Hudson River leads to some frigid winds sweeping in across the water. Bundle up!

photo: Kristine Paulus via Flickr 

96th Street/The Children’s Gate
Enter Central Park at 96th Street for another great Upper West Side spot that offers hills of various inclines, plus benches where you catch your breath. The biggest challenge here is to avoid those benches mid-flight — the ability to bail at the last possible moment is imperative.

Inwood Hill Park
Inwood Hill Park is a choice spot for sledding in NYC, especially kids with a need for speed. It's also less-crowded than spots in Central Park, and offers a nice view as well. Enter at Dykman Street or Payson Avenue. 

Inwood's Fort Tryon Park is another northern Manhattan spot for good sledding. Head to Billings Lawn, entering the park from its southern end on Margaret Corbin Circle where Cabrini Boulevard and Fort Washington Avenue meet.

More Upper West Side Sledding Options
Two other choices on the UWS are Morningside Park, from 110th to 123rd Street and Morningside Avenue, and St. Nicholas Park on 135th Street, the latter known for its gentle hills and being ideal for beginners.

Brooklyn

Prospect Park
Head for the hills near Prospect Park's Long Meadow near the entrance at Prospect Park West and 9th Street. Other favorites include the Long Meadow near Grand Army Plaza and behind the Picnic House at 3rd Street and Prospect Park West. However, if you have younger kids, you can find plenty of bunny hills throughout the park that are good for beginner sledders.

Fort Greene Park
You'll find four sled-worthy hills of varying height and intensity in Fort Greene Park between Myrtle and Dekalb Avenues.

Hillside Park
If you live in DUMBO or Brooklyn Heights, your closest spot is the tiny park that's technically in Columbia Heights. As its name suggests, Hillside Park is home to a respectable slope, and provides ample space to glide to a stop. (You'll likely see dogs romping in the snow as well, as the park is a very popular place to bring four-legged friends year-round.)

Sunset Park
Home to the highest point in Brooklyn, Sunset Park naturally provides some good sledding. The sweet spot is the interior of the park between 42nd and 43rd Streets.

Owl's Head Park
Further south in Bay Ridge, Owl's Head Park has nice rolling hills, with a good spot at Colonial Road and 68th Street. But dress warmly, as it is right on the water. Another southern Brooklyn sledding option is McKinley Park; head to Fort Hamilton Parkway and 75th Street for a good sledding spot.

Queens

Astoria Park
Take your sleds to Astoria Park at 19th Street between Shore Boulevard off Ditmars Boulevard for a fun sledding spot in Queens.

Juniper Valley Park 
For another popular place to sled in Queens, head to Juniper Valley Park in Middle Village. Slopes can be found at Juniper Boulevard North & South near the Tennis Building at 75th Street.

Mary Whalen Playground
If you're thinking of going to Forest Park Golf Course's Suicide Hill, think again. It's dangerous and sledding there is prohibited by the Parks Department. (But yes, you will see families going there.) Instead, Mary Whalen Playground will offer a less nerve-racking — yet still fun — experience at Park Lane South and 79th Street.

Bronx

Crotona Park
The slope behind ballfield #3 at Fulton Avenue and the Cross Bronx Expressway in Crotona Park boasts an official, NYC Snow Day designation, which means you'll find organized recreational activities, snowman-building contests, snowball fights, complimentary hot chocolate, and even sleds you can borrow here. Call 311 to find out when the program is in effect.

St. Mary’s Park
The largest park in the South Bronx not only features hills much less crowded than the ones above, but also a recreation center. In non-covid times, this is a good place to warm up before a second run.

Staten Island

Clove Lakes Park
A local gem, this protected Forever Wild site isn’t exclusively about ecology. It is also a Snow Day site where the park employees put out bales of hay to soften people's landings.

Mission of the Immaculate Virgin at Mount Loretto
This South Shore hotspot for sledding in Pleasant Plains was founded as an orphanage by a priest. The orphanage is long gone, but parents may find comfort in the idea that some angels might still be hanging around looking out for daredevil kids.

For a complete list of city parks that allow sledding, visit: nycgovparks.org.

— Alina Adams & Julie Seguss

feature image: via unsplash.com

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Flip It Good: NYC Gymnastics Classes For Kids

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Did your child get struck with a serious case of Biles fever, Laurie love or Aly admiration this summer? With all the excitement of the 2016 Summer Olympics still fresh in their minds, perhaps it’s time to give gymnastics a tumble. NYC is flush with great options for babies, beginners and those who want to make a serious play for the gold. Here’s our picks for the top spots for gymnastics in Manhattan.

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photo: via Chelsea Piers Field House Facebook page

Chelsea Piers
Starting with Tiny Tots general classes for babes 12 months old, Chelsea Piers also offers NYC’s youngest By Invitation Only program, “Future Stars” for 3.5 year-olds. Beginners five to 16 years old  can participate in the Developmental Gymnastics program, which introduces both the girls’ and boys’ Olympic events, before another invitation is issued to select 8-11 year-olds, who may then join the Advanced Training Class.

As you can probably tell, gymnastics are pretty hard core here. Chelsea Piers fields a seriously competitive team, which frequently places at the state and even national levels. This club’s biggest drawback is its way far west location. Unless you drive (and are lucky enough to find street parking or are willing to pay to use the garage), it’s not that convenient. Even the nearest subway drops you off a good distance from the Field House, requiring a lengthy walk or bus ride.

Chelsea Piers
62 Chelsea Piers
212-336-6520
Online: chelseapiers.com

NYC Elite Gymnastics
Barely walking nine month olds can be Tumbling Tots at NYC Elite Gymnastics, which offers classes for any age above that, as well as boys’ and girls’ developmental teams for ages 5-9 and 9-12. In addition to the traditional apparatus, NYC Elite also houses a trampoline, a cargo net and a giant foam pit. The competitive team is By Invitation Only and is part of the official USA Gymnastics program, beginning at Level Three and going up to Level Ten. NYC Elite Gym’s girls’ team qualified for Nationals this year.

421 East 91st St.
Upper East Side
212-289-8737
Online: www.nycelite.com
200 Riverside Blvd.
Upper West Side
212-775-1177

44 Worth St.
Tribeca
212-334-3628

The Little Gym
The exact opposite of a competitive facility, national franchise The Little Gym is all about little kids having big fun. Babies as young as four months can take classes here (as you may have guessed, Mommy still does a lot of the work in those), with Beginner, Intermediate and Advanced Gymnastics for boys and girls ages 6-12 also offered. Here, the focus is on age-appropriate curriculum and a gradual development of skills to go hand in hand with the child’s development outside of the gym.  Parents receive a weekly e-mail filling them in on what was covered that week, and every semester culminates with a show for families, complete with medals, the Olympic flame (paper, for safety) and musical fanfare!

Multiple locations throughout NYC
Online: thelittlegym.com

NY Kids Club
Future champions start even younger at NY Kids Club, where a class for two month olds is offered! This Infant Milestones class fosters growth through music, movement, massage, gentle stretching and tummy time. Original songs, developmentally appropriate props, and both energizing and calming infant massage techniques are used each week to stimulate auditory, visual, and physical growth. This, presumably, will lead to a child ready to take their Gym Babies class (for strapping six month olds!), followed by Gym Tots, and Gym Kids. Rather than a gym team, NY Kids Club has a Gym Club (natch). Acceptance is based on program commitment and student enthusiasm.

Multiple locations throughout NYC
Online: www.nykidsclub.com

ellitos-gymnastics

photo: Elliot’s Classes via Yelp

Elliott’s Gymnastics Classes
If you can stand the heat, consider signing your child up for Elliot’s Gymnastics Classes, which are held outside in the summer, though they do move indoors once the weather gets nippy. Along with the usual classes, starting with a Mommy & Me for six-month-olds and moving into Intermediate Tumbling for kids 6 and up, Elliott also offers Ballet and a pre-school alternative. Want to get to know Elliot and his methods before signing up for a full session? Try his free Infant Class!Elliott’s Gymnastics
131 West 86th St.
Upper West Side
917-517-8721
Online: elliottsclasses.com

Discovery Programs
There’s something for everyone at Discovery, including girls who just want to participate recreationally, those who want to compete at the top level they’re capable of, and those who are interested in competition, but at a slower, less intense pace. There is also a boys’ program, but it’s for kids ages 5-9 only.

Discovery Programs
251 West 100th St.
Upper West Side
212-749-8717
Online: discoveryprograms.com

 

92nd St. Y
Don’t confuse your Teeny Tumblers (12-18 months) with your Tiny Tumblers (18-24 months), or your Super Tumblers (3-4 years) with the Starbursts Advanced Super Tumblers (ages 3.5-4.5 years). This program splits minute hairs to make sure your child is placed exactly at their appropriate level and, as an added bonus, offers a program for kids with developmental disabilities, as well.

92nd St. Y
1395 Lexington Ave.
Upper East Side
212-415-5500
Online: 92y.org

columbus-gym-via-yelp

photo: Columbus Gym via Yelp

Columbus Gym
Not content with just listing the physical benefits of gymnastics, Columbus Gym wants you to know that it can help your child academically. As this is NYC, where kids start getting tested at age three, they offer a Tiny Tots class for little ones 10 month olds and their caregivers… to get you both ready.

Columbus Gym
606 Colombus Ave.
Upper West Side
212-721-0090
Online: columbusgymnyc.com

Gymtime Rhythm & Glues
The puns don’t stop with the gym name, as they also offer a class called Gym’ny Crickets. But what’s unique here is a chance to combine a gym class with cooking, sign language or cross-training for other sports. They even give you the option of creating your own combo class!

Gymtime Rhythm & Glues
1520 York Ave.
Upper East Side
212-861-7732
Online: gymtime.net

wendy-hilliard-fb-2

photo: via Wendy Hilliard Gymnastics Foundation Facebook page

Wendy Hilliard Gymnastics Foundation
Why should downtown and midtown have all the fun? Uptown kids looking to tumble and flip can take boys and girls artistic gymnastics, rhythmic gymnastics and even trampoline — at a cost much lower than most programs. (A Parent & Me class isn’t listed on the website, but it’s available. Contact WHF for more information.)

Wendy Hilliard Gymnastics
Riverbank State Park
679 Riverside Dr.
Upper Manhattan
Online: wendyhilliard.org

Harlem Armory
40 West 143rd St.
Harlem
212-316-0315

main photo: via Chelsea Piers Field House Facebook page

— Alina Adams

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We live in an on-demand world, where it seems virtually everything can show up on our doorstep with the help of credit card and a simple swipe. While there is no “birthday balloon artist app” (yet), there are plenty of birthday entertainers who are happy to come to your house, or venue of choice, to delight the tiniest of revelers. From mad scientists to magicians, balloon twisters, puppies and yogis, you’re sure to find someone for your fete in our picks for top birthday party entertainers that will come to you.

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photo: Brooklyn Balloon Company

Brooklyn Balloon Company
Available in Manhattan, Brooklyn and the Hamptons, one-time graphic, fashion and jewelry designer Robert Moy integrates his former professions into his current one, twisting everything from cars to dinosaurs from biodegradable latex balloons. A 15 minute magic balloon show comes with every booking, and guests decorating their own animal balloons is available as an add on. Contact for prices.

Online: brooklynballooncompany.com

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photo: Silly Billy

Silly Billy/Dr. Blood
He’s performed at the White House and on David Letterman, and taught comedy to folks at The Children’s Television Workshop. But kids are still Silly Billy’s preferred audience, whether they’re looking for belly laughs, or his more spooky and gross alter ego, Dr. Blood. As an added bonus, his shows are equally as entertaining for adults, with a mixture of high-brow and low-brow humor, lots of props and sight-gags, plus silly contests (such as making game audience members eat a dog biscuit). Call or email for a comprehensive price list.

212-645-1299
Online: sillybillymagic.com

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photo: Twinkle Party

Twinkle Party
Would your kid lose their mind if a real, live ballerina showed up at the house — complete with tutu, toe shoes and tiara? Twinkle Party can make it happen. Party packages start at with a basic 1/2 hour “Express Sauteé” option, which includes a lesson, performance, and interactive story, and get more twinkle-tastic from there. (tiaras, ballet crafts, tutus, etc.) Pricing is scaled for size and duration of party, starting at $175. 

917-275-7695
Online: twinklepartyfun.com

Daisy Doodle
Pirates? Superheroes? Olympians? Barbie? Daisy Doodle is on the job! Every theme party starts with face-painting to get into character, followed by balloon props, and a quick training period to get you ready for the adventures ahead. Then it’s a treasure hunt! Or relay races! Or a fashion show and dance party! It’s your kid’s day, and Daisy is there to make sure they have it their way.  ( And Ms. Doodle travels to Manhattan, Queens, Brooklyn and the Bronx!) Take note: she prefers to be reached by phone.

212-501-4828
Online: daisydoodle.com

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photo: Story Pirates

Story Pirates
You may have seen the musical sketch comedy group Story Pirates perform around town — like at Lincoln Center last weekend — or your child may have enjoyed them at an assembly at school. This nationally-respected group of educators, comedians and actors takes kids’ stories and performs them, and creates stories in the moment with the audience, too. The popular group has performed for tens of thousands, and now they can do a customized show in your living room in honor of your little birthday boy or girl. A 45-minute musical comedy show features hilarious stories by kids around the globe, and the world premiere of your child’s original story. The Pirates even bring their own set, which they promise can fit in your apartment. Parties are recommended for kids ages 4-10, and start at $1395.

Online: storypirates.org

Mad Science
We all go a little mad sometimes, don’t we? Especially at birthday parties? So why not run with the theme and host some “Awesome Science Demos”, complete with a take-home chemistry experiment for all guests, and a goody bag full of things that fly, stretch, grow and spin. The mad scientists aren’t only educational (without seeming like it) they’re also funny, mixing up bubbling potions with names kids love like the “Big Burp.” Prices range from $325-$525, with add-ons available.

1-888-623-3724
Online: madscience.org


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photo: via Puppy Party on Yelp

Puppy Party
Awww… Puppies! (That you don’t have to clean up after and get to send home when the party’s over.) Puppy Party brings the adorable fuzzballs to you, along with an instructor to teach kids how to properly treat the animals, and lead the entire brood through educational and empathetic activities. And it’s not just fun for the kids. It’s good for the puppies, who are being socialized in advance of placement with a family. (Just make sure you find out beforehand if any guests – or parents/guardians – are allergic, though Puppy Party claims they can make accommodations.) Cost is $175 for travel within 50 miles of Puppy Party’s Brooklyn location.

Online: http://puppyparty.com/childrens-puppy-party/

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photo: Nature Nick Animal Adventures Facebook page

Animal Adventures Parties
“Nature” Nick Jacinto, professional animal trainer, TV personality and author, likely has nothing against puppies, but his adventure parties kick things up a notch, with a selection of 7-10 animals, three of which — kangaroo, bird of prey, and monkey — are guaranteed at every appearance. Magic is also included in the 45-50 minute birthday show. Costs in Manhattan typically run $1,500, and include a gift for the birthday boy or girl.

613-456-3836
Online: animaladventuresparties.com

Karma Kids Yoga
It’s not Downward Dog, it’s Downward Doll! Karma Kids provides the yoga mats, props, and music, as well as games, foot massages and relaxation time (supposedly for the kids, but no one says Mom and Dad can’t jump in, too). Cost is $300 for a one-hour party for up to 10 kids, with an extra $20 for each additional child, and possible travel fees.

646-638-1444
Online: karmakidsyoga.com

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photo: via Steve Snodgrass on Flickr

Mobile Kids Spa Parties
Though based in New Jersey, Mobile Kid Spa will happily come to New York City to host a party for girls as young as 3, up through the teen years. Adults are also encouraged to join the fun! Get a massage, a facial, a mani/pedi, and your hair styled, or try a craft like making bubble bath, bath salts, and a sugar scrub, or your own lip balm. Mobile Kids Spa Parties will even provide you with an online photo album of memories. Pricing is based on the number of attendees and other factors.

877-480-8038
Online: kids-spa-party

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photo: via Angela’s Sugar Fix Facebook page

Angela’s Sugar Fix
Sugar: most parties have to have it, you might as well make it a part of the festivities. Angela’s Sugar Fix comes to the party with freshly-baked cookies and kits for decorating that are customized to your party’s theme. Kids play a game while the cookie decorating station is set up, then help decorate a pair — one to devour on the spot, and the other to take home as a party favor. (Revelers can even decorate the box used to carry the cookie home.) And best part (for parents): Angela cleans up afterwards. Add-ons include different butter-cream colors, mini aprons, and rolling pins.

Online: angelassugarfix.com

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photo: Strong Heart Fun


Strong Heart Fun
The birthday party entertainment that takes care of itself! A great option for the tiniest of celebrants, Strong Heart Fun will bring the ball crawl (and foam mats and “Nessie” rides-ons, etc.) to you! The company even has a teeny tiny “roller coaster” available. Packages start at $200 for a four-hour rental; you can also rent individual elements starting at $100 for four hours. And yes, all pieces are thoroughly sanitized between uses!

302-827-7386
Online: strongheartfun.com

My Baby Fingers
My Baby Fingers is far from the only place that offers music, storytelling, art, bubbles and face-painting for your child’s party, but they are the only ones with a unique add on – sign language! Ask for Jacob, a musical theater actor and sign language teacher, and get all the usual birthday party entertainment fare — with a little something extra.

212-874-5978
Online: mybabyfingers.com

Who’s your go-to for in-home kiddie party entertainment?

– Alina Adams

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Not quite up to shelling out the big bucks for Frozen on Broadway yet? Already seen Wicked? Have an older kid at home who might appreciate a cheeky sendup of both? Then check out Wicked Frozen, a satirical mashup of the two productions, which recently debuted at the upper West Side’s cozy St. Luke’s Theater.

photo: Adam Smith Jr. 

What Is It?
A parody mash-up of the monster Broadway hit, and the Oscar-winning movie well on its way to being  a monster Broadway hit, Wicked Frozen tells the story of 4th grader Adele Dazeem (yes, that is how John Travolta mispronounced the name of Wicked and Frozen star, Idina Menzel, at the Academy Awards in 2014) and her after-school drama teacher, Kristen Chenobell. (And yes: that would be an amalgam of the name “Kristen Chenoweth”, who also starred in Wicked, and “Kristen Bell”, who played Anna in Frozen).

Little Adele (Kathleen Armenti) has written a “totally original” play entitled Wicked Frozen — the story is set in Boston, where “wicked” sometimes translates to “very”— featuring “totally original” songs such as:

* For the First Occasion This Semester
* Follow the Path Marked In Black
* Don’t Hold On
* Disobeying the Laws Of Physics

photo: Adam Smith Jr. 

Who Will Like It?
To fully enjoy Wicked Frozen, a working knowledge of the original source material is a must.

The little girls (and boys) who in 2013 were asking “Do You Want To Build a Snowman?” and flicking their imaginary capes while swearing that “Cold never bothered me anyway,” are just the right age now to feel proud of themselves for getting the references to those moments in “The Wicked Frozen Overture,” “Romance Is a Room,” and, well, “Do You Want To Build a Snowman?”

The show will make them feel like they’re in on the joke, and sophisticated, knowledgeable theater-goers i.e. Real New Yorkers. Even if, in the end, it’s still the same familiar lesson about how it’s better when everyone works together and gets by with a little help from their friends. Plus, it never hurts to be on good terms with your school’s janitor.

Parents, on the other hand, may prefer the “I Get Lost In Ikea” number, which manages to make fun of the show’s break-out character, Prince Ikea (played to dim-witted yet cartoon handsome perfection by Will Jacobs), as well as the difficulty of shopping at the Swedish furniture behemoth in Red Hook, Brooklyn. Not to mention the reference to the action being set in ScandiNorFinDelle.

photo: Adam Smith Jr. 

Good To Know Before You Go
Though the show’s producers warn that the production is PG-13, it’s really appropriate for ages 8 and up. Your tolerance for scatological humor will determine just how amusing you find the constant references to their magic princess wizarding school, Shitz University, and all the puns therein. (Yes, there is a song about how great “Shitz” is.)

Though 90% of the show is harmless farce, it suddenly takes an abrupt and inadequately set-up turn when Adele, who clearly has been upset about something all along, which is what led her to writing her “totally original” play, suddenly runs out of the classroom and into a snowstorm.

Ms. Chenobell goes chasing after her and, when they return, Adele sings a plaintive lament about the horrible state of the world, everything from her parents’ fear of losing their jobs to climate change (which is represented in the show within a show as a villain prone to singing “Evil Laughter,” named Klee-Matt-Ay Shan-Jay) and how Adele just wants to be reassured that everything will “Be OK.”

As Stephen Sondheim wrote in Into the Woods, another show to feature witches and mass destruction, “How do you say to your child in the night/Nothing’s all black, but then nothing’s all white/How do you say it will all be all right/When you know that it might not be true….”

Parents of sensitive children might keep that in mind, in case the evening brings up questions about the real-world issues raised, and whether or not it will in fact all “Be OK.”

photo: Adam Smith Jr. 

Bargain Pricing
Tickets for Wicked, Frozen on Broadway, and (speaking of wizarding schools) The Cursed Child are currently retailing for hundreds of dollars (assuming you can even snag a four-pack or more for the night you’re available). Tickets to Wicked Frozen are in the $40 to $60 range.

This production will make the not-quite-grown-up yet feel about as grown up as you are comfortable with them being. It will give your tweens bragging right about how they didn’t go to see some baby show, but a show that poked (gentle) fun at what’s currently playing on the Great White Way. And they totally got it, too!

Wicked Frozen will run every Sunday at 7:30 p.m. through July 22, 2018 at:

St. Luke’s Theater
Tickets: $40-60
308 West 46th St.
Midtown West
212-239-6200
Online: WickedFrozen.com

Have you seen Wicked Frozen? Give us your review in the comments!

—Alina Adams

11 Birthday Party Ideas For Sporty NYC Kids

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Looking for some birthday party ideas for the sporty set? NYC is full of options that you can play indoors or out. From group games, individual sports, and a couple out of the ordinary choices (bubble ball, anyone?) we’ve got you covered. Click through to have a ball (and make a racket, break the ice, flip out, and strike the target!)

Bubble Ball Soccer

For slightly absurd sport, try a bubble ball party. <a target="_blank" href="http://bubbleballsoccernyc.com/kidsbubblesoccer/">Bubble Ball Soccer NYC </a>can hold your party for kids ages seven and up indoors or out. Play a straight game or opt for the upgrade if a five game sampler, where kids can play five different games in the bubble ball suits (bubble sumo, red rover, last team standing, relay, and President). Another perhaps irresistible add-on?: a 3-minute edited video that includes the use of a go-pro in the bubble ball suits. Venues are in Manhattan and Brooklyn (with cost passed on to host); BBSNYC provides a game coordinator, referee, 10 bubble ball suits, music and speakers.fuck

Where do you celebrate with sports? Tell us in the comments!

—Alina Adams

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VR, or Virtual Reality, is no longer the stuff of sci-fi, exclusive trade shows or your tech-obsessed friend with money to burn. It’s getting better all the time and it’s easier to find (and try) than ever before. VR World NYC just landed in midtown, and it’s where you can head with the family to give this trippy tech a try. Read on to find out what’s inside!

What is it?
VR World bills itself as “the largest VR experience center on this side of the planet,” and while it’s unclear if that’s technically true, at 16,000 square feet, it’s certainly got to be on the running. The techy center opened in late June in midtown Manhattan, just a few steps away from the Empire State Building.

What’s In It?
Ever wanted to climb a mountain, become a chef, create 3D art, mow down space aliens, jump off the roof of a 100-story building, throw a ninja star, shoot an arrow and drive a race car —  all in the same day? Then this is the place for you!

Designed to showcase VR to the mainstream at an affordable price, VR World NYC features three floors of interactive experiences. Stations showcase the full capacity of this brave new medium, offering a curated  selection of the highest quality entertainment and storytelling VR content currently available.

How Does It Work?
Dedicated to improving the user experience, VR World NYC offers over two dozen individual stations showcasing a variety of virtual experiences. Sessions of 10 to 15 minutes are overseen by trained guides from the social work and theater fields, there to help you maximize your 10-15 minutes of interaction (and to keep you from bumping into walls).

Of course, one of the main components of a VR experience is the headpiece users must wear.  We were assured that these are wiped off in between each customer, and did see packages of wet-naps at every station, plus disposable, surgical-like masks.

Once your headpiece is on, a switch is flicked, and you’re drawing with neon or hunting zombies, bringing creations to life in front of a green screen or running a convenience store.

Most of the games are designed to be played alone, but there are several multi-player and competitive options, too, for groups of up to four people.

Is It Good For Kids?
While we doubt you were contemplating taking your four-year-old here, it’s really a place for older kids — specifically, ages seven and up, and kids under 14 need to be supervised by an adult.

We visited with a 10-year-old girl who had a blast and begged to stay longer. (Her favorite was the Fruit Ninja game, where she got to swipe at virtual fruit with virtual swords. Her review: “That was a great workout! Can I do this for my school sport?”)

She also enjoyed the opportunity to try out different virtual careers. As a master chef she threw bread, tomatoes, carrots, mushrooms and eggs — with shells still on — into a blender… and forgot to put on a lid. Thankfully, the mess was also merely virtual. When she ran a convenience store at another station, she couldn’t get the cash register to open…so she kept her money in the freezer

Is it Educational?
VR World NYC is in the process of developing a program with the Department of Education which will generate discussion about the technology. They are inviting teachers to come learn how to utilize it for virtual learning in the classroom, as well as how to discuss its implications with their students. High-schoolers are also welcome for discussions about the medium’s potential creative and social service applications.

Though many of the games offered appear violent, a representative for VR World NYC stressed that all of its shooting games are not realistic. You are not killing people, just orcs and zombies and red… things. Also blenders.

Is It Good For Humanity?
In addition to destroying fantastical beings, VR World NYC wants to harness the power of virtual reality to engage, uplift and educate living ones. To that end, the mezzanine level features immersive documentaries on various pressing issues. A partnership with the United Nations allows them to evoke empathy via 360 degree content, such as one presentation which puts you in the head of someone who is legally blind.

Is It Good For Parties?
But it’s not just all do-gooding all the time! The mezzanine level also allows you to insert yourself on stage at a concert, and the whole space can be used for theme parties, corporate events, panels, and more.

Future plans include a monthly serial, through which real people will mix with virtual elements to solve a mystery or participate in an ongoing adventure. The wrist-bands issued at the beginning of the multi-session journey will keep track of where you last left off, like a very high-tech bookmark.

Good To Know Before You Go:
Food and drinks — including alcohol — are available for purchase, and the $39 per person admission buys you the entire day, as well as coming and going privileges.

Even Better To Know Before You Go:
The headsets can accommodate glasses, but ours got kind of sweaty, if contacts are an option, wear them. In addition, if you are prone to motion sickness, beware of some games, especially the race car. If your kids might get sick, remind them that they can close their eyes, or even pull off the headset at any moment.

VR World NYC
Tues. -Thurs., Noon – 10p.m.; Fri. & Sat., Noon – 11 p.m., Sun., Noon – 8 p.m.
$39/person with all day access
4 E. 34th St.
Midtown East
347-915-5802
Online: vrworldnyc.com

Have your tried VR with your kids? Tell us in the comments below!

— Alina Adams

Read next

Ballet may be the first style that comes to mind when New York City parents start thinking of a dance class for their tots, but it is hardly the only one available in America’s most diverse city. And hey — ballet isn’t for everyone. But with hip-hop, step, flamenco, ballroom and more offered throughout the city, there’s likely a class in NYC that will give your kid dance fever. Read on for ideas in every borough!

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photo: via Mark Morris Dance Studio Facebook page 

Modern

Ballet can feel a little old-school for kids who move at cyber-speed. So check out some of these more 21st Century (well, at least 20th) offerings, such as Graham, broadway, jazz or contemporary.

Mark Morris Dance Group
Located in the heart of the Brooklyn Cultural District, the Mark Morris Dance Group offers modern dance for kids as young as six years old. The classes, which are accompanied by live music, develop strong creative dancers through the study of technique and improvisation with a focus on musicality, dynamics, floor-work and artistic expression. Student begin with Modern Fundamentals and advance from there. (For a free taste, stop by the popular Dance with MMDG to learn some moves with members of the company as a family.)

3 Lafayette Ave.
718-624-8400
Brooklyn Cultural District
Online: markmorrisdancegroup.org

American Dance and Drama
This competitive dance school in Fresh Meadows offers kids as young as 6 not only instruction in floor-work, free movement, improv and those all-important jump-turns, but also the vocabulary necessary to continue their dance education anywhere.

188-22 Union Turnpike
Flushing, Queens
718-479-8522
Online: americandanceanddrama.net

Peridance Capezio Center
For the young dancer who appreciates complicated, physical patterns both on the floor and upright, these classes cover not just Graham, but also Horton and Limon techniques, along with a generous dose of personal expression.

126 East 13th St.
Lower East Side
646-798-8140
Online: peridance.com

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photo: knitsteel via Flickr

Tap

From Bojangles to Shirley Temple to Savion Glover to everyone who Thinks They Can Dance, this discipline can be as diverse as the personalities tapping. Spots to get your kids hoofing it up include:

Next Step Dance Studio
Not sure if you’re ready to commit to shiny shoes on hardwood floors? This Staten Island studio offers tap as part of a value class along with other styles for kids from ages 3.5 up through 6th grade. However, if you know that tap is for you, you may only take that portion of the class. It’s up to you!

6264 Amboy Rd.
Staten Island
718-683-8458
Online: nextstepds.com

American Tap Center
No splitting your time here! It’s all tap, all the time, including a Tap Youth Ensemble, a Tap Festival, a tap film series, a tap story-telling tour, and even a Shim Sham Crew!

154 Christopher St., #26
Lower Manhattan
646-230-9564
Online: atdf.org

 

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photo: via Ailey Extension Facebook page 

Hip-Hop/Breakdancing
Alvin Ailey Extension

Created specifically for children ages 7 to 11 who love to dance, this hip-hop for kids class covers the fundamentals of the style including basic body isolations, precision, performance quality and choreography. Students develop coordination, body awareness, build self esteem and gain confidence.

405 W. 55th St.
212-405-9000
Midtown
Online: aileyextension.com

92nd Street Y
When you think Hip-Hop and break-dancing, you naturally think the Upper East Side of Manhattan, no? Maybe you should. The nationally renowned Y(not-MCA, just Y) has a combined class for 4-7 year olds and another for 7-10 year olds, plus Hip-Hop for Tweens.

1395 Lexington Ave.
Upper East Side
212-415-5500
Online: 92y.org

Harlem School of the Arts
For a slightly more authentic take, you might want to head uptown, where hip-hop is a part of the HSA curriculum starting with the Dance Enrichment Program and going all the way up through their Pre-Professional and even their College Preparatory program. Now that’s commitment!

645 Saint Nicholas Ave.
Upper Manhattan
212-926-4100
Online: hsanyc.org

Ballroom

Shastakovtich School of Music, Art and Dance
At these south Brooklyn schools named for the famous Russian composer, music, art and dance are considered as critical to a child’s development and success as science and math. Ballroom dancing is just one of the styles offered here; students can also study ballet, tap, jazz, hip-hop and modern.

Various Brooklyn locations
718-781-0053
Online: shostakovichschool.com

Paul Pellicoro’s DanceSport
Dedicated exclusively to ballroom dancing, this school starts classes at age 7 and teaches multiple styles via group or private lessons. Choose from waltz, tango, Viennese waltz, foxtrot, cha-cha, swing, mambo and non-partner dances.

22 West 34th St.
Midtown Manhattan
212-307-1111
Online: juniorballroomdancing.com

Folk Dancing

All dance has a history and a culture, but some also have an ethnicity. Below are classes in individual folk dances that also come with some language and geography learning.

Yes, capes! Photo by Christopher Duggan for Ballet Hispanico

photo: Christopher Duggan for Ballet Hispanico

Flamenco/Salsa at Ballet Hispanico
Starting with the Los Pasitos Early Childhood program, Latin dance is a central pillar of this school, with Flamenco available as one option among others in the Open Class division.

167 W 89th St.
Upper West Side
212-362-6710
Online: ballethispanico.org

cumbe-dance

photo: via Cumbe Facebook page 

African Dance at Cumbe Center for African and Diaspora Dance
You’re never too young to move joyfully to the beat of a drum (OK, you have to be at least two years old here). These free and creative movement classes for 2 to 4-year-olds and their caregivers are held at Brooklyn Ballet until the permanent Bed-Stuy studio is ready.

160 Schermerhorn St.
Downtown Brooklyn
718-935-9700
Online: cumbedance.org

Step Dance at the Irish Arts Center
Registration for those ages 4 and up is rolling here, so you don’t have to wait for a new semester to kick up before you begin, and it runs year round, too. All students start their jigs in a soft shoe before working up to the harder, Riverdance variety, which is offered in an additional class.

553 West 51st St.
Midtown West
212-757-3318
Online: irishartscenter.org

Indian Dancing at Bronx Dance Theatre
It’s Bollywood in the Bronx for kids ages 8 and up with this fusion of traditional Indian dance combined with Western hip-hop and jazz. The most important thing to remember is it’s colorful, the music is catchy, and the movement is non-stop fun!

Bronx Dance Theatre
585 E. 187th St.
Bronx
718-364-2725
Online: bronxdancetheatre.com

A final important thing to remember: it doesn’t need to be either/or. Many, if not most of the schools listed above specialize in more than one dance style – yes, even ballet! So it’s possible to mix and match and find the perfect style for your child at one school or facility.

So, tell us: where will you be kicking up your heels?

— Alina Adams

Just Opened! Jewish Community Center of Harlem

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The new year is looking especially bright for families uptown — Harlem, specifically — where the sparkling, new Jewish Community Center of Harlem is celebrating a grand opening. Located at 118th Street and Frederick Douglass Boulevard, the center will serve all members of the community regardless of religious or cultural affiliation, with programs and services for families and beyond. (Read on for the scoop, and details on opening day festivities!)

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Serving a New, and the Existing, Community
According to Meg Sullivan, the organization’s Director of Programs and Community Engagement, over the past six years, between 8000 to 10,000 Jews have moved to the Harlem area, defined as stretching between 110th and 135th Streets and including areas of Hamilton Heights. Prior to opening, the JCC of Harlem conducted several studies assessing the needs of the residents, both Jewish and non-Jewish, to ensure that they would provide wanted services.

The Center is committed to the dual objectives of providing as many possible access points for Jewish life in Upper Manhattan by being a self-described “concierge of Jewish life in Harlem,” while also being a community center for all members of the community, regardless of religious or cultural affiliation. A satellite of JCC of Manhattan, the center has been in the works for about a year.

Hooray for Open Play!
One big neighborhood need the JCC of Harlem is ready to meet is that of an indoor play space that doesn’t require a long-term commitment or membership. As a result, there will be drop-in, open play for tots and their caregivers Monday through Friday at varying times throughout the week. Take note!: It’s free for the month of January, and $10 per session beginning in February, with $100 monthly passes also available for purchase.

Pre- Pre-school
Another program created for young families is the Not Quite Nursery for two-year- olds. Taking place Wednesdays and Fridays from 9:30 – 11:30 a.m., it’s an introduction to drop off, complete with art projects, creative movement, music and — of course — snack.  Jewish holidays will be celebrated in the program, but so will other traditions. There are also plans to have a “Family Share” time, during which each child will get the opportunity to introduce their classmates to a treasured family tradition. In fact, it’s the JCC of Harlem’s goal to embrace all sorts of families, be they intermarried, multiracial, and multiple other facets of diversity.

“The JCC of Harlem is an opportunity to reflect different kinds of Jewish families,” says Sullivan. “The access point may be different for different families. We want them to try things in our space that they might not consider in other spaces. We want them to use us to express interest in different aspects of Judaism. The JCC of Harlem welcomes all community members.”

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After School Programs, Classes and Weekly Family Storytime, Too
Local kids will find the space particularly welcoming thanks to the HubHouse, an after-school clubhouse of enrichment activities and homework helper for children in kindergarten though 5th grade. Currently, a walk-over service is available from Harlem Hebrew Charter School, but the program is open to children from all schools. If a school has a minimum of three students enrolled, Harlem JCC will provide a walk-over service, as well.

However, kids don’t have to be a HubHouse member to participate in the JCC of Harlem’s after school programming. Kids can choose from offerings like Bold Arts’ DanceMakers and BOLD Pop!, and Mainstages’ Superhero Academy and Twisted Fairytales (with a local, Harlem twist, natch).

For families looking for activities they can do together, there will be a weekly story-time on Sundays, hosted alternately by PJ Library and other partners.

This Martin Luther King Jr. Birthday weekend, the JCC of Harlem is partnering with Time for Good for a variety of hands-on volunteer activities, including a clothing swap, a food pantry, cooking and serving meals to the needy, and more.

Free Opening Weekend Activities!
Excited to learn about everything this new community center has to offer? Check out its free opening day party celebrating kids and families with games, music and food on Tuesday, January 3 from 4:30 to 6:30 p.m. (RSVPs are strongly encouraged.)

A Not Quite Nursery Open House will be held earlier that same day from 9 to 11 a.m., and an After-School Open House will take place on Sunday, January 8 from 1 to 3 p.m.

Jewish Community Center of Harlem
318 West 118th Street
212-865-1215
Online: www.JCCHarlem.org

What JCC of Harlem program are you most excited to check out? Tell us in the comments below!

— Alina Adams