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Looking to add some pumpkin spice to your life? We found area farms in and around NYC where the pumpkin patches are poppin’. The spots below offer experiences of all kinds, from harvest festivals with fall fun and games, to chill spots offering fall foliage, baked goods, and maybe even a hayride. (Many also serve as a place to go apple-picking if you’re looking to double up, but you may need a reservation.)  Need more ideas for things to do with the kids in fall 2021? Check out our list of to-dos here!

New York City

photo: Carmen L. via Yelp

Queens County Farm Museum

You won’t believe how close you are to home at the Queens County Farm Museum. Dating back to 1697, the site is New York City’s largest remaining tract of undisturbed farmland. Starting October 1, the farm’s fields are filled with pumpkins to pick and buy (according to circumference), and The Amazing Maize Maze returns for those wishing to get lost. Hayrides are offered on the weekends as well. 

Hours: Oct. 1-31, Daily, 11 a.m. - 4:30 p.m.

Cost: Free, except on days with special events. 

73-50 Little Neck Pkwy

photo: Decker Farm

Decker Farm at Historic Richmond Town

Staten Island's Decker Farm dates to the early-1800s, and admission includes guided tours from historical reenactors. Weekends in October brings fall fun with pumpkin picking, pumpkin chucking, a hay maze and activities for kids. Tickets must be purchased online in advance and go on sale September 17. 

Hours: Sat. & Sun. in October, 11 a.m.-5 p.m.

Cost: $6/in advance; $8/at door (availability not guaranteed) 

435 Richmond Hill Rd.
Staten Island

Long Island

Schmitt’s Family Farm

Head to Long Island's Schmitt’s Family Farm farm on weekends from September 19 through October 31 to enjoy the farm's annual Fall Festival. In addition to the usual suspects such as a pumpkin patch, free hayrides and a seven-acre corn maze (this year featuring a “Arabian Nights, Legend Of The Lamp” design), you’ll also find Long Island’s largest straw pyramid (for climbing), farm animals and pony rides, mini golf and even the opportunity to walk through the haunted house in the daytime — a semi-scary experience more appropriate for little ones than the evening’s full-on fright fest. Plus you can pick your own sunflowers and vegetables here—but no apples. 

Hours: Weekends, 10 a.m. – 5p.m.; weekdays, Noon-4:30 p.m. (pumpkin picking and hayrides available throughout the week, other activities only on the weekends).

Cost: $10 at the door only, with some activities (corn maze, haunted house) additional fee. 

26 Pinelawn Rd.
Melville, NY

photo: Laura Green

Elwood Pumpkin Farm

For purists, it’s not pumpkin picking unless you are the one to cut the vine. Sure, pumpkins acquired this way tend to be encrusted with dirt, and you have to edit the selection yourself, but that’s part of the authentic experience fun, right? Visitors are require to wear masks here and socially-distance. You will also find a kid corn maze and hayrides here, although space will be limited on the rides. (Like what you see? Come back in December to cut your own Christmas tree here.) Elwood opens for the season September 19, from 1 - 5 p.m. Note: it's cash only here. 

Hours: Mon.-Fri., 3p.m.-5p.m.; Sat. & Sun., 10 a.m.–5 p.m. (Open Columbus Day, 10 a.m.-5 p.m. as well.)

Cost: Free admission for pumpkin picking; pumpkins are priced by size.

1500 East Jericho Tpke.
Huntington, NY

New York

Soons Orchard

At Soons Orchard, take a wagon ride up to the pumpkin patch for the full pumpkin picking experience—you can cut your pumpkin off the vine here, too. Online reservations are highly recommended, with some walk-up available. (Bring cash: it's cash-only for u-pick.) FYI, if it rains, the wagons don't go out; call the u-pick hotline at 845-670-4540 for the latest info. You can pick your own apples here as well. After you hit the pumpkin patch, take an adult break and check out Soons' tasting room featuring top-rated New York State wine, beer and hard cider.

Hours: Weekends, 10 a.m.-4 p.m.

Cost: Previous year's rates were $4/person for the hayride and pumpkins were 55 cents/pound.

23 Soons Cir.
New Hampton, NY

Dykeman Farm

This Dutchess County, fourth-generation farm grows 70 varieties of pumpkins, and there's always free hayrides and free parking. Plus face-painting, corn pits and other fall fun. Pumpkin picking is open weekends only, and beginning September 25 and continuing throughout October. 

Hours: Weekends, 10 a.m. - 5 p.m.

31 Dykeman Ln.
Pawling, NY

Outhouse Orchards

What began as a dairy farm in the 1800s is now is a family-owned and operated apple farm in the Hudson Valley. “Home of the Happy Apple,” Outhouse Orchards invites you to pick both pumpkins and apples, offers hayrides through its orchards and a corn maze with educational clues. Its farm stand is stocked with all kinds of farm-fresh goodness, including apple cider doughnuts, produce, maple syrup and more. 

Hours: Daily, 9 a.m.– 5p.m.

Cost: $30/small bag of apples; $45/large; $10 corn maze. Weekends by reservation, $12/car. 

139 Hardscrabble Rd.
North Salem, NY

Fishkill Farms

If you’re looking for a lower-key, more ecologically conscious pumpkin picking experience, check out Fishkill Farms in the Hudson Valley. Owned by the same family for more than 100 years, the picturesque 200-acre farm utilizes sustainable farming practices whenever possible, avoids synthetic pesticides and even grows a portion of its apple acreage organically. Weekends in September bring Fall Harvest Festivals with live music, wagon rides and hard cider sipping. Reservations are required for pick-your-own; make them here. 

Fishkill is one of our favorites for apple-picking and you can "add-on" pumpkin picking to an apple-picking reservation. As of this writing, reservations for pumpkin picking only have not yet been posted, but should be up by mid-September. 

Hours: 9 a.m.- 4:45 p.m., Tues. - Sun., by reservation only. 

Cost: Starting at $46/ five people weekends, $40/weekdays 

9 Fishkill Farm Rd.
Hopewell JCT, NY

New Jersey

Secor Farms

Secor Farms offers traditional fall activities like hayrides, a corn maze, mini hay maze for little ones and a petting zoo. They also decorate the farm with fun things like giant hay bale spiders and fun cut-outs for photo ops. Hayrides to the easy-to-navigate pumpkin patch are $5 (10 a.m. - 4 p.m. weekends, and 3-4:45 p.m. weekdays.) Secor Farms also sells a huge selection of mums, plants, and Halloween decorations to bring a little bit of the farm back home, as well as fall treats like apple cider doughnuts, pies and candy apples. 

Hours: Mon. – Fri. 3 p.m. – 5 p.m, Sat. & Sun. 10 a.m. – 4 p.m.

Cost: Free entry, pumpkins per pound. 

85 Airmont Ave.
Mahwah, NJ

Hillview Farm

This quiet, not crowded farm is the real deal, and pumpkin picking begins in October here, where you hop a tractor up to the pumpkin patch. This family-owned farm has been around for almost 150 years and doesn’t disappoint- check out their farm market on your way out for fresh produce and festive gifts.

Cost: No admission fee; tractor ride is $5 per person

223 Meyersville Rd.
Gillette, NJ

Alstede Farms

You can pick your own pumpkin and a whole lot more at Alstede Farms. (They give you the update on conditions for everything from veggies, to berries to apples, here.) Whatever you pick, it's by reservation only—make yours here. Admission price starting at $19.99 gets you access to two corn mazes, one for smaller kids, another for older ones, an evergreen maze, sunflower trail, hay pyramid and more. Additional opportunities for fun for an extra fee include pony rides and mini-tractor rides. 

Hours: Daily, 9 .a.m - 5 p.m.

Price: Pumpkins priced per pound

1 Alstede Farms Ln.
Chester, NJ

photo: Lindsay L. via Yelp

Ort Farms

Ort Farms is another northern New Jersey grower that really brings it in the fall. A family farm that’s been around for a century, Ort offers pumpkin picking (off the vine if you like), hayrides, pony rides, farm animals, a mini tractor play set, apple canons, a hay pyramid and even Monster Truck rides! Purchase a ticket to the farm's Fall Festival in advance ($8/person) and attend any date from September 4 to October 31. Fall Fest admission includes hayride, corn maze, farm animals and kiddie corral. Get tickets here.

Hours: 9 a.m. - 7 p.m., Mon. - Sat.; 9 a.m. - 6 p.m., Sun.

Cost: Pumpkins are 70 cents a pound, and other activities are priced individually.

25 Bartley Rd.
Long Valley, NJ


photo: Harris Hill Farm

Harris Hill Farm

It's only open to the public on October weekends, but Connecticut’s Harris Hill Farm, located in the hills of Litchfield County is worth the trip if you're in the area. Pick pumpkins in a thoroughly bucolic setting complete with weathered red barn and enjoy the view of the rolling hills in all their autumnal glory. The farm has a large selection of gourds, large pumpkins, white and pink pumpkins, and squash. Social distancing and masks are required. 

Hours: Weekends in October, 10 a.m. – 5 p.m.

Cost: Free admission

106 Ridge Rd.
New Milford, CT

— Mimi O’Connor

feature image: Jason P. via Yelp 


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Where to Pick Your Own Apples Near NYC


Gimme Shelter: Brooklyn’s Best Indoor Playgrounds

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Looking for a place to play inside in Brooklyn? The borough is full of kids, so you can be sure there are lots of indoor playgrounds for kids to explore. Whether you’re looking for a rainy day activity, it’s too darn hot, or you just need a change of scenery, here’s where the kids can play inside!


Twinkle is back open and ready to party! (Safely.) Far from your ordinary indoor playground or play space, Twinkle offers its visitors 4,500 square feet to run, jump, and embark upon some seriously imaginative play. The popular play space is debuting two new play areas, a Pet Shop and Tea Salon. Other setup include the "Pretty in Pink" beauty salon, "Brooklyn General Store" (it's styled after a 1950s market), and "Gently Down the Stream" water play area. Open play is by reservation with two-hour slots, and masks are required for all guests ages two and up. Additional safety measures include a new air filtration system and sanitizing procedures. Twinkle is only for kids ages six and under. 

144 Frost St.

Good Day Play Cafe

This Brooklyn play and snack destination is the second location of Good Day Play Cafe, which opened a spot in Queens a few years ago. This one, recommended for kids six and younger, can be found on 5th Avenue in South Park Slope. There’s a lot to keep kids stimulated here: a mini climbing wall, a slide into a ball pit, magnetic wall, play marketplace, puzzles, a mat with sensory toys for the very young, and more. And, as with the original Good Day, a Hioki Cypress wood cube pit, a supposedly more germ-free alternative to sand, etc. You'll need to make a reservation to play here; open play is on Mondays, and Wednesday through Saturday. You can also book private play sessions for a group, or host a birthday party here.  Read our full review here!

Good Day Play Cafe
591 5th Ave.
South Slope

Recess DUMBO

A 2,200-square-foot indoor playground for kids six months to six years of age, Recess DUMBO features a custom-designed modern and streamlined playscape of wood, rope, slides and more. Young ones get their own tiny slide and climbing area, as well as books and soft toys for early exploration. Bigger kids can duck inside a cubby with a ladder to another level, slide down a fireman pole, knock around a wall of pool noodles and even scale to a height and ring a bell at the top. Drop-in is $30, and memberships are available as well. A separate room here hosts classes, singalongs and more.

Recess DUMBO
81 Washington St.

photo: PLAY Kids Greenpoint

PLAY Kids Greenpoint

If you open a play space in one of the city’s trendiest neighborhoods, it had better be spectacular. And PLAY Kids, (formerly, PLAY Greenpoint) located at the intersection of Williamsburg and Greenpoint, across the street from McCarren Park, really delivers. In fact, we named it one of the best play spaces in the world. The 3,000-square-foot facility—which recently added a colorful new mural and an after-school program—has all the ingredients of a kid-approved good time: a sizable tumbling gym for mastering the somersault, a music and arts studio to get creative juices flowing, loud noisemakers that would never see the light of day in your apartment and a locally-made playset with slides (because Brooklyn). Separate from the happy chaos is a specially cordoned-off area just for babies that’s all rounded edges, cushiony surfaces, floor-to-ceiling windows and age-appropriate toys and books. Open play is seven days a week, except for parties and private events. Our advice? Call ahead before heading over.

33 Nassau Ave.

photo: Brooklyn Children's Museum Facebook Page

Totally Tots at Brooklyn Children's Museum

If you’ve never considered the Brooklyn Children's Museum as a little kids' play destination, think again. The Totally Tots area, dedicated to those ages five and under, offers a water-play space; an art studio; a theater; building zone, and more. There's even a "Baby Hub" to ensure safe, soft play for those under 18 months. (For outdoor play here, head to The Nest, located on the museum's rooftop terrace.)

You need to make reservations in advance to visit, and the museum is currently only open on weekends and select holidays. 

145 Brooklyn Ave.
Crown Heights

photo: Kid & PlaySpace

Kid & PlaySpace

Created by a group of Williamsburg parents looking for more safe, open play space in the area, Kid & PlaySpace is for kids ages six and younger. It's not fancy (it's located in the gym of Catholic school Our Lady of Mt. Carmel) but it is huge, affordable, and filled with lots of mats, ride-on-toys, tents and tunnels—and other kids! Play in the cooler months is just on Saturdays from 3:30-6:30 p.m. In addition to tons of space to run around, Kid & PlaySpace features kid's activities from various businesses and partners. Play for $12; siblings are $10. Open Saturdays, 3:30-6:30 p.m. 

1 Havermeyer St. 

little Lola & Tots

A play space for little ones (four and under) Little Lola & Tots offers open play as well as toddler enrichment classes (such as yoga) and preschool alternative. You’ll find a play kitchen, magnetic wall, lots of books, tiny climbing structures, a slide, lots of sensory toys and more here. They do story time and crafts here, too. Open play is $15/hour, and you must register in advance. Lots of Covid-1`9 precautions are in place, including mandatory masks and capacity limits The space also operates an outdoor learning program in warmer weather, and offers a "pod" learning space. 

503 Dekalb Ave.
Bedford Stuyvesant
Online: littlelolatots

Fairy Tale Island

Bay Ridge got its own indoor playground and play cafe a few years ago in the form of Fairy Tale Island. The 4,000-square-foot play space, designed for kids ages eight and under features an elaborate climbing structure with slides and swings, a ball pit, a faux sand pit, and trampoline. You’ll also find a mini climbing wall, and play grocery store and several play kitchens in the rear of the space. Parents can join in the fun or take a seat in the cafe area and relax with some coffee or tea. Read our full review here!

Open daily, 10 a.m. – 8 p.m.
7110 3rd Ave.
Bay Ridge

photo: BAX

Brooklyn Arts Exchange (BAX)

As a part of BAX's Early Childhood programming, the open play space offers a fun and creative environment for babies through preschoolers (and their caretakers) to play and socialize Monday and Friday, 9:30-11:30 a.m. Under the supervision of a staff member, little ones ages one to four can jump through hoops and tunnels, bounce balls, or read books. Drop-in rate is $10, or $80 for a 10-pack punchcard. 

421 Fifth Ave.
Park Slope

Kids N Action

Located in the neighborhood of Borough Park, with its impressive indoor playground, Kids N Action is both a major rainy day and birthday party destination for area families. The huge space contains a large, four-level softplay structure with ramps, slides, passageways and more. A separate, lower-key toddler area can also be found here, for the youngest of visitors, and thrill-seekers can take a spin on the mini indoor rollercoaster, which goes forward and backwards.  A more mellow ride is available on a tiny train, which snakes under the large play structure, and for the older/taller kids, there's even a small go-kart track. Other amusements include many arcade and carnival games (tickets can be redeemed for small prizes) as well as an on-site cafe with basic snacks and drinks. Softplay (the big structure and toddler area) is $8 on the weekdays and $10 on weekends; Softplay plus the rollercoaster, train and go-karts is $16 on weekdays and $18 on weekends. Note: Kids N Action is not open on Saturdays until one hour after sundown.

1149 McDonald Ave.
Borough Park

photo: Powerplay's

Powerplay Activity Center

While Powerplay is mostly a climbing gym and gymnastics facility for kids - they thrive on their classes for active tots - they also boast a unique play space. On the second floor, you'll find an indoor sandbox, playground including a tube slide, kiddie cars to drive, toys to push, a basketball hoop, play house, reading nook and more. While it's not shiny and new, it does have plenty to keep your tot enthralled. Recommended for ages 0-6 years.

432 3rd Ave.

photo: NYC Transit Museum Facebook Page

New York Transit Museum

Although not advertised as a play space per se, for kiddos who love to ride the rails, the New York Transit Museum is a great place to play. The museum recently reopened after a long, pandemic pause. Your would-be mini commuters can roam the wide open halls and explore all the trains, buses, turnstiles and other transit memorabilia that are on display. Kids can climb into the driver’s seat, run the length of a vintage train car, and maybe even learn a little something about our grand city's vast transit system.

99 Schermerhorn St.
Brooklyn Heights

 — Hanna R. Neier


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Just Opened! Private Picassos Walk-In Art Studio

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Like the idea of crafting with your child but hate the thought of paint and glitter all over your living room? Looking for a spot to send the kids on a school holiday? Thinking about an arty birthday party or enrolling your little creative dynamo in an art class? The new drop-in art studio Private Picassos is the place to do all of that and more. Read on for the scoop on this fresh maker space!

Picassos 9

A Colorful Background

Private Picassos is the brain child of self-proclaimed “die-hard Brooklynite” Valeen Bhat, who believes, as Picasso himself once said, that “every child is an artist.” Ten years ago, Bhat started Private Picassos as a “mobile art studio” to bring fine art instruction to the public. She took it from a one-woman show to a company with over 20 instructors working throughout the tri-state area. Now, she is setting up shop in Brooklyn with her first permanent walk-in art studio where kids ages 18 months and up can explore and create art with everything from acrylic on canvas to felt, clay and string.

From artists to art educators, everyone on staff at Private Picassos has experience working with kids. Bhat, the daughter of a painter/muralist and a blacksmith, got her start with a BFA/MS in Art and Design Education at Brooklyn’s own Pratt Institute. A resident of the borough for the last 15 years, Bhat says opening up the Art Studio in Brooklyn feels like home.

Picassos 7

photo: Private Picassos

Space to Create

Private Picassos has a relaxed, airy feel to it, with white walls and plenty of cool artsy goodies to check out. The space includes a large communal table for older kids, as well as a tots table for the very little ones. In addition, the studio is home to a popular large scale painting palette and an enormous chalkboard wall, as well as an assortment of fun kid books for little ones to peruse. (This place is serious about being family-friendly: you’ll even find stroller parking inside the studio.)

The shop is also stocked with a pretty sweet retail section that features the work of local artists and authors, Etsy vendors and other small businesses.

Private Picassos

Make Art Together
You don’t need to be a member here, or even make a reservation to start creating. Just walk-in, choose a project and get started.

Although the sweet spot for drop-in artistry here seems to be the three- to six-year-old set, Private Picassos has something for the very youngest of tots — starting at 18 months — as well as older children, and even for you. (In fact, Picassos was developed with parents in mind; Bhat says that her idea was to make a space that was at once whimsical and sophisticated so that adults would be just as excited about making art with the kids as the kids themselves.)

Picassos 2

Thinking Outside the Pot

While painting prefab figurines can be fun, you will not find any ceramic princesses to paint at Picassos. Instead, you and your kid can choose from a list of over 12 different art activities to create something truly unique and imaginative.

The genius of Private Picassos is that most of the activities offered are actually packaged DIY art kits that you can either purchase and use in the studio or take home to do at your leisure. (They also make really great gifts.) Each kit comes with all the materials you need, as well as a set of pointers such as, “how to mix your colors” or “how to plan out your composition.”

Staff members are there to help you tailor the activity of your choice to your kid’s age and ability level, so everyone can have a good time as well as learn a little bit about art. One popular activity kit, “Model Magic Sculptures”, utilizes a fun, playdough-like medium that eventually hardens like clay. Older kids can create very detailed sculptures, while younger ones can just enjoy exploring the new medium, while also working on their fine motor skills.

“Recycled Robots” is one of Picassos’ more popular art kits: kids can construct and decorate their very own robot pal from (you guessed it) recycled materials. Other kits include make your own stuffed animal, faux stained glass, acrylic on canvas and weaving.

Picassos 6

photo: Private Picassos

Good to Know
All the materials used at Private Picassos (except for the acrylic on canvas) are washable, and long sleeve smocks are provided for messier projects. All activities are available and tailored to all age ranges with the exception of the acrylic on canvas which is recommended for ages three and up. The majority of the projects offered are priced at $20 or less, and no project is more than $40.

Arty Parties
Birthday parties, one of Private Picassos’ specialties, will be available in the new studio as well, with prices starting at $55 per child. Parties include a two-hour use of the studio, about half of which is a guided art activity for the birthday kid and 11 of his or her closest friends. Private Picassos teams up with local eateries and bakeshops to get you a discount on birthday party noshables, too.

On the Horizon

The studio will feature a new, special project each week; pumpkin painting is coming soon in honor of Halloween.

Starting in January, Private Picassos will be offering more structured classes, available as drop-in sessions or a 10-week semester. Classes currently listed cover everything from shapes and colors to contemporary artists of the 20th and 21st centuries. On the third Wednesday of every month, Private Picassos will also be hosting evening workshops for grown-ups.  Make sure to keep tabs on their events calendar if you’re up for a more creative mom’s night out!

Private Picassos Art Studio
Open 7 days a week; 10 a.m. – 6 p.m.
237 5th Ave.
Park Slope

Know a great new space to get your art on?  Let us know in the comments below!

— Hanna R. Neier

15 Signs You’re a Park Slope Parent

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Park Slope. Home of the double stroller. Haven for the environmentally and socially conscious. Maybe you moved here for the terrific public schools, gorgeous brownstones, tree-lined streets and amazing community atmosphere, or maybe you just couldn’t bring yourself to move all the way out to the suburbs. Whatever your reasons, there’s no doubt in your mind that Park Slope is the place to have kids. Read on to discover the 15 signs you’re a Park Slope parent then let us know in the comments section which signs you see in yourself!

park slope food coop

Image: Sharon via Flickr

1. You’re part of at least one co-op — the Park Slope Food Coop, your friend’s babysitting co-op, a new preschool co-op and of course, your building co-op.

Park Slope block party

Image: Krista Fogle via Flickr

2. You actually know your neighbors — and you see them regularly in social settings.

strollers park slope

Image: Payton Chung via Flickr

3. You thought it was strange when that single guy moved into your building — isn’t this neighborhood just for folks with babies on the brain? 

container plants

Image: Maggie via Flickr

4. You have a backyard or a roof deck (or at the very least you’ve made a garden of your fire escape).


Image: Kessner Photography via Wikimedia Commons

5. You were super excited when composting FINALLY came to Park Slope. You gleefully sort your banana peels and eggshells every day into the tiny little dumpsters and those wickedly overpriced (but worth it!) biodegradable bags.

hrn park slope snow

Image: Hanna R. Neier

6. None of your friends live in a doorman building. You even shovel your own snow.

crowds manhattan flickr

Image: Ron Bulovs via Flickr

7. On your visits into Manhattan you always wonder — where did all the strollers go?

writer image

Image: Anita Hart via Flickr

8. You’re a writer. (Or at least half a dozen of your friends are).

prospect park kite

Image: Santos Gonzalez via Flickr

9. You see absolutely no need to move to the suburbs — you live walking distance to an enormous park and a fabulous public school. So what if your kids share a room and your entire apartment is only 800 square feet?


Image: Tom & Katrien via Flickr

10. You have no need for Facebook or Craigslist. You are hooked on Park Slope Parents and the endless stream of local parents who have advice to give or useful hand-me-downs to sell you.

Kale farmer market

Image: Neeta Lind via Flickr

11. Kale is a staple in your house. Your kids can name at least two varieties. If you don’t get it at the co-op, you buy it at one of the ‘hood’s three weekly farmers markets. 

playground nyc

Image: Eden, Janine and Jim via Flickr

12. Playgrounds are the new social hot spot. The bars are too overrun with babies.

kid yoga

Image: Axel Buhrmann via Flickr

13. You have an endless array of mommy and me yoga classes to choose from. You tried at least two of them before deciding that babies and mommies should have their own yoga class. Now your kids go alone.

hand me down

Image: Noah Easterly via Flickr

14. Your kid’s wardrobe is 50% second hand. Some of your best outfits were picked up from the stoop sale down the street.

baby in gap

Image: Shannon via Flickr

15. You have a love hate relationship with big box stores. You’re happy they’ve been kept out of your ‘hood as they are the downfall of mom and pops. So what if they’re convenient and fairly priced?! Sigh.

What did we miss? Share your Park Slope Mommy-isms in the comments below!

–Hanna R. Neier

Read next

Here’s a holiday PSA from us here at Red Tricycle NY:  Your mother-in-law does not need another serving platter that you picked up in a panic at Macy’s. However, she’ll love one personally hand-painted by her grandchild! Make holiday dreams come true — and keep your little one engaged on a cold or rainy day — at one of these drop-in spots where kids can unleash their creativity and help you cross a few folks off your gift list!

For Tons of Options: Make Meaning in Manhattan

With its four stories of lofty modern colorful creativity areas, Make Meaning is an Upper East Side hangout with lots of options for you and your crafty kid.  Make Meaning goes beyond the ordinary and offers an enormous range of activities and crafts like soap and candle-making to cookie decorating and more. Many projects costs less than $25 to make, including the make-your-own candles and soaps; you can also decorate a pair of four-inch cookies for $19.

Good to know: The activities here are suitable for all ages with the exception of glass-making, which is for kids ages eight and up.  Weekday mornings are open studio where you're pretty much on your own and receive little instruction and, depending on the day, limited to plaster and ceramic painting.  For more instruction, and more options, come in the afternoons or weekends when staff run drop-in, hour-long workshops every half-hour. Although drop-ins always welcome, Make Meaning offers and recommends making reservations if you want to avoid a table wait during busy hours.

Hours: Sun.-Thurs., 10a.m.-7p.m.; Fri., 10a.m.-8p.m., Sat. 10a.m.-9p.m.

1501 3rd Ave. Upper East Side


photo: Make Meaning/Shirley Serure Photography

Have a favorite DIY spot?  Leave a comment below and let us know about it!

—Hanna R. Neier

Read next

You may have already taken your kids to the Brooklyn Botanic Garden, but did they plant a seedling, or play with composting worms? Now is their chance! The Brooklyn Botanic Garden is celebrating the 100th birthday of the Children’s Garden with special events, classes and exhibits. Read on to discover all of the fun happening now through the fall.

Children's Garden 2014

Children’s Garden at Brooklyn Botanic Garden. Photo by Antonio M. Rosario. Courtesy of Brooklyn Botanic Garden.

A Little History

Since 1914, the Children’s Garden has been a place for kids to get their hands dirty and really learn what it means to nurture a plot of land and be a part of the wonders of nature. Now, 100 years later, your kids can learn the same skills through hands on classes. Throughout much of the year, kids ages 2 to 17 can tend their own mini-gardens under the supervision of garden instructors and even take home the fruits (get it?) of their labor.

The first of its kind to ever be created within a public botanic garden, the Children’s Garden has become not only the center of the Brooklyn Botanic Garden’s educational outreach, but an inspiration for everything from botanic gardens to schoolyards worldwide. In fact, this year, the First Lady presented BBG with a national award for community outreach programs like those offered by the Children’s Garden.

Photo: via U.S. Department of Agriculture on Flickr creative commons

Photo courtesy of U.S. Department of Agriculture on Flickr creative commons

What You’ll Find at the Children’s Garden

Today, approximately 150,000 kids a year get to be part of the Children’s Garden programs and some even get their very own plot of land in this idyllic space. The Garden, located at the south end of the BBG (near the site of the new kids Discovery Garden opening in spring of 2015) is closed to the public, but kids can gain access by becoming part of a Garden program.

Sign your kids up for one of the offered classes or workshops and they’ll not only learn a little about horticulture and agriculture, but also they’ll learn to appreciate the relationship between nature and the food that they eat. The kids even put on a farmers market for their families where you can buy everything from homemade bug repellent to dollhouse gardens. Every stage of the plant growth process is celebrated, from selecting seeds to planting, weeding, harvesting and utilizing the plants they’ve grown. This is a unique opportunity to get your kids out in the fresh air and learning in a very special environment.

Registration has just opened on August 4 for the BBG fall workshops and classes, which teach kids of all ages about gardening and even incorporate cooking and crafts to round out the garden experience. Toddlers with caregivers can try the Trees & Saplings class, pre-K/kindergartner can try the drop-off Seeds class, and older kids grades 1-8 can become part of City Farmers. Classes are offered on weekends and weekdays, and all fill up pretty fast. Fees vary by class, limited scholarships are available on a first come first served basis.

sunflower kids in BBGChildren’s Education at Brooklyn Botanic Garden. Courtesy of Brooklyn Botanic Garden.

How to Celebrate the Children’s Garden’s 100th Birthday

In honor of its 100th year, the Children’s Garden is offering a number of special events and programs throughout the BBG. On August 13, you and your kids (ages 8-12) can go on a Midsummer Magic Plant WalkHarry Potter and Lord of the Rings fans can learn about the real magic of plants from their favorite stories and even make their own potions. In addition, through the month of August, there are drop-in family activities in the Fragrance Garden, Tues.-Sat. mornings. Kids of all ages can create nature oriented crafts or plant a seedling – maybe even walk away with their very own baby tomato plant! Staff is available to guide your kids through these activities, and there are manned discovery stations around the Fragrance Garden where kids can get some outdoor story time, examine a bucket of composting worms and learn something new about plants. It’s the perfect way to spend an hour or two!

Older kids might also enjoy the 100 Years and Growing exhibit, on display in the the lower level of the Steinhardt Conservatory through September 21. There they can uncover the history of this award-winning, kid-centric gardening program through memorabilia and interactive displays.

Photo: via Michael Dougherty on Flickr creative commons

Photo credit: via Michael Dougherty on Flickr creative commons

Other Must-See Exhibits for Kids

Japanese Hill-and-Pond Garden – This beautifully serene part of the garden is a wonderful place to spot some big orange fish, turtles and water birds. A meandering, shady and somewhat stroller-friendly path leads you around the pond and into little enclaves and viewing points. There’s also a roofed viewing pavilion near the entrance of the Japanese Garden, and the benches inside overlooking the water make a particularly good place to take a break, load up on fluids and enjoy a cool breeze. It’s all very Zen. Maybe some of it will rub off on your hyperactive kid. Maybe.

Tree House Installation –  While the BBG doesn’t have a proper playground, if the acres upon acres of green lawns lined with gorgeous trees and lush flower beds perfect for a run and frolic aren’t enough for your little climber, check out the art installation by Roderick Romero constructed of trees downed by Hurricane Sandy. Flanked by log staircases, it feels part tree house, part mythical pirate ship. Take a seat on one of the benches nearby, and watch your kid’s eyes bug out as they explore this really unique structure.

Steinhardt Conservatory – This indoor sanctuary is a world in itself and you’ll feel like you’re traveling to different worlds simply by walking through this glass house. While a rainy day can ruin most outdoor outings, the Steinhardt Conservatory, with different pavilions exhibiting every climate from the arid and wonderful Desert Pavilion to the floating plants and orchids in the Aquatic House, is an escape so wonderful you almost pray for rain. Older kids might be interested in the different educational blurbs scattered around the conservatory.

Terrace Café – Unlike many museum cafeterias you’d be glad to skip, BBG’s Café offers delicious, sustainably grown and locally sourced organic goodness. The seasonal menu is unique and satisfying and there are a good number of umbrella-equipped tables to sit at. Order up a duck sausage sandwich or a kale salad garnished with BBG grown violas and listen as your kid squeals – she’s eating flowers for lunch! They have picky eater-pleasers like apple sauce squeeze pouches, too.

Insider’s Tip:  The Café is open Tuesday through Sunday. No outside food is allowed at the Café tables, or anywhere else in the garden for that matter (they do drive around and they will stop your picnic!). There are, depending on the weather, tables near the visitors center for bring your own lunch folks, and the rumor is you and your brown bag will not be kicked off the Cherry Esplanade, just don’t spread out a picnic blanket. Baby-sized blankets are permitted, however.

Plan Ahead:  For some extra credit with your kids, get a copy of BBG’s Kids Discovery Guide when you enter. Your little one will love having his very own map, and there are some cool game starters and ideas for things to do on your visit.

Go: Brooklyn Botanic Garden
150 Eastern Parkway, Prospect Heights

Hours: Tues. – Fri., 8 a.m.- 6 p.m., and Sat. & Sun., 10 a.m.-6 p.m. through October.

Admission: $10/adults, children under 12/free. Everyone gets in free on Tuesdays, and on Saturdays admission is free from 10 a.m.-12 p.m.

Have you taken your kids to the BBG? What is their favorite exhibit?

-Hanna R. Neier