Park It: 10 New Ways to Spend a Day in the Park

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Remember when merely going to the park and sitting on a blanket was fun enough for your kids? Now they want to do something cool at the park. Sigh. Those lazy, hazy, minimum effort days of summer are over. Fortunately, New York City parks are bursting with classes and workshops for kids of all ages and interests. From creating art to discovering a world of bugs, read on to find 10 new ways to spend a day in the park.


1. Discover nature with the Urban Park Rangers.

Forget the Lone Ranger, the real action this summer is with the Urban Park Rangers, your family’s ambassadors to the wonders of the city’s natural world. Adult volunteers offer daily (yes, daily!) programming in all five boroughs, including:

Freshwater Fishing in Brooklyn
Insect Exploration in the Bronx
Basic Canoeing in Harlem
Scavenger Hunt in Queens
Family Nature Hike in Staten Island

2. Watch performing arts. 

More artistically minded families might want to check out a Piper Theater performance at the Old Stone House in Park Slope, Brooklyn or catch up with the PuppetMobile, which is touring city parks with Little Red’s Hood this summer.

3. Brush up on sporting skills before fall try-outs.

Every Wednesday morning this summer, little ones age 5 and under can brush up on soccer and basketball skills at Riverside Park South. And on Friday mornings kids ages 7 to 12 can learn beach volleyball skills at Brooklyn Bridge Park’s Pier 6.

4. Be brainy with a game of chess.

Beginner chess players can learn new skills and strategies at Brooklyn Bridge Parks Pier 1 Promenade every Wednesday evening through August 14.

5. Catch a free concert and make art at Madison Square Park.

Madison Square Park’s Kids Concert Series happens every Tuesday and Thursday at 10:30 am during the summer. While you’re there, stop by Art in the Park – an all-day activity that’ll help kids make everything from origami boats to paper plate clowns.


6. Practice engineering skills on The High Line.

Drop by every Wednesday to get your hands on the Workyard Kit, a crate full of custom-designed wood planks, wheels, ropes, gears, pulleys, tools, found objects, over-sized nuts and bolts, retro-fitted vintage cranks, knobs, and metal odds and ends that budding engineers can use to make their imaginations run wild.

7. Explore the great outdoors at Hudson River Park

Every Tuesday at 10:00 am on Pier 25 and every Thursday at 10:00 am on Pier 46, River Tots, features crafts, music and watery scientific experiments geared toward the toddler set (ages 2-5).

8. Play games at Riverside Park.

Longing for the good old days when kids could self-organize and play wholesome outdoor games from dawn to dusk without supervision and their parents never worried a whit about them? Well, those days didn’t really exist. But, if you’d like to pretend they did by giving your own little ones a chance to try giant tic-tac-toe, lawn bowling, hopscotch or jump rope, hit the Game Days all through August. There are also daily art workshops at Hippo Playground and even a kite making festival!


9. Have an animal encounter in Brooklyn’s Prospect Park.

Look for the Pop-Up Audubon tent throughout Prospect Park from 12:00 pm to 4:00 pm on Saturdays and Sundays through October 19. Get an introduction to bird watching, meet an animal and learn about the local nature.

10. See and create art in Socrates Sculpture Park.

Head to Queens to see the art (hey, you need something interesting to do during those endless afternoons, too!), then stay for an art workshops. Held every Saturday, they feature guest artists and a new theme each week, ranging from Whatever Floats Your Boat to Wearable Works of Art to Plastic Bag Couture and even Concrete Poetry!

Many of the above programs are free, and even those that aren’t cost less than a similar activity done privately. What better reason to “Park It” and enjoy your summer with kids?

What’s your kid’s favorite park activity?

– Alina Adams