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by Ellis Whitman

Related: parks, festivals, shows, amusement, fairs, crafts, beaches, gardens,

Fortunately for those who are spending the summer in the city — by choice, or by necessity — New York City’s parks feature family-friendly events and activities, many of which are free. Don’t let your kids spend the summer sweltering on tar beach, or stuck indoors. Citywide, parks offer great alternatives. You can download a full 2009 special events schedule from the City of New York Parks and Recreation website at www.nycgovparks.org.
   Here are a few of our favorites.  


Central Park
212-534-7639; www.centralpark.com    
   Manhattan’s oasis has activities that include boating, swimming, live music, nature walks, and workshops — and you don’t have to leave town to visit an amusement park! Victorian Gardens, a mini-amusement park in Wollman Rink, has rides and events all spring and summer. Best of all, kids under 36” tall are allowed in for FREE with an adult ticket (general admission $6.50/unlimited rides $12; weekends and holidays general admission $7.50/$14 unlimited rides). Victorian Gardens is open May 28 through mid-September. For more information about hours and events, visit www.victoriangardensnyc.com.  

   From June 5 to August 15, FREE outdoor concerts, live comedy, and dance performances take the stage at Rumsey Playfield for SummerStage, Central Park’s summer series. Many concerts start at 3pm and end at 7pm, so the whole family can enjoy the whole show. For SummerStage’s schedule, visit www.summerstage.org

   Want to catch a cool breeze on a hot summer day? Through October 11 you can hop on a boat at the Loeb Boathouse (hours are 10am-5pm), where four-person boats rent for $10 for the first hour, $2.50 each additional 15 minutes; $30 cash deposit required. No reservations are necessary. At the boathouse you can also rent bicycles; rentals are $9-$15 per hour, and you must leave identification or a credit card as a deposit. Call 212-517-2233 for more information.

   If you’re looking to take a dip, Lasker Pool (mid-park from 106th to 108th Streets) is FREE; all you have to do is bring a lock. The pool opens July 1 and closes after Labor Day, seven days a week from 11am-3pm and 4-7pm.

Bryant Park
   Situated behind the New York Public Library between 40th and 42nd Streets and Fifth and Sixth Avenues, Bryant Park has a variety of children’s activities planned this summer. In addition to Le Carrousel (mid-park on the 40th Street side), which offers rides for $2, and their free HBO Bryant Park Summer Film Festival, the park also provides indoor activities for when the weather is too hot. Word for Word Kids workshops, in the Bryant Park Reading Room, are for kids who love to write; it kicks off on May 9, and runs through mid-August.



Prospect Park
   For Brooklyn-based families, Prospect Park offers outdoor concerts, athletics, and activities. This park’s nature-related tours and programs, particularly those at the Audubon Center, are ways that your child can learn about nature in your own backyard. The Nature Babies Program (Mondays 10-11:15am) is a nature-themed music, storytelling, and crafts program for ages 18 month-3 years. Drop-ins are welcome ($20); call 718-287-3400 x104 for more information.

   For those interested in the aquatic, electric boat tours depart from Audubon Center every half hour. The 25-minute tours run on Saturdays and Sundays only. In June and October they are conducted 12:30-4:30pm; July-September, 12:30-5:30pm. $8, $4 ages 4-12, ages 3 and under ride FREE. Pedal boats can be rented at Prospect Park’s Wollman Rink during the spring and summer. The boats rent for $16.25 an hour plus a $20 refundable deposit, from Thursday-Sunday and holidays through Labor Day, 12-6pm.

   If your family loves music, dance, spoken word, and film, Celebrate Brooklyn at the Prospect Park Bandshell has all that and more. Opening day is June 8 and the series runs through the summer. Suggested donation $3. For a full schedule, go to www.briconline.org.

Brooklyn Bridge Park
   In Dumbo, this park has a free summer outdoor movie series, Movies with a View, including many kid-friendly choices. At Seining for Kids, kids find out what lives under the East River; FREE. Besides those options, this newly rehabilitated park is just a great place for both children and adults to wile away the hours.




Wave Hill
718-549-3200; www.wavehill.org     
   Each spring and summer, this gem of a botanical garden and cultural center, located at West 249th Street and Independence Avenue, offers nature walks, family workshops, and crafts.


Bronx River Park
   On June 27 the Bronx River Festival takes place here from 11am to 3pm. There will be fun for the entire family, with games, music, canoe rides, live entertainment, and food. For more on this event, visit www.nycgovparks.org.

Bartow-Pell Mansion
   On July 11, they will have a showing on their lawn of ET: The Extraterrestrial. Call 718-885-1461 for more information.


Flushing Meadows Corona Park
718-760-6565. www.nycgovparks.org
   Home to CitiField, the USTA Billie Jean King Tennis Center, the Queens Museum of Art, and the New York Hall of Science, Flushing Meadows has boating in Meadow Lake, which is also the location of the annual Hong Kong Dragon Boat Festival, this year on August 8 and 9, 10am-6pm. Each year in August, as part of the U.S. Open, which held at the USTA Billie Jean King Tennis Center, Arthur Ashe Kids’ Day (held this year on August 29) has interactive games, live music, and meet-and-greets with tennis stars. Grand Central Parkway, Van Wyck Expressway.

Dancing under the Stars
   June 3-July 29, Dancing under the Stars will be held in parks throughout Queens, and features free dance lessons, music and lots of fun. On July 23, 6-7:30pm, the series visits Forest Park.

Forest Park
718-235-0815. www.nycgovparks.org
   On June 4, enjoy a free day of storytelling and crafts at the park’s 9th Annual Read-a-Thon. Woodhaven Boulevard and Forest Park Drive.

Bayswater State Park
   At Bayswater State Park kids can enjoy the Schools Out for the Summer Festival on June 27. Music, games, refreshments, and Ranger-led programs help celebrate the first unofficial day of summer. Pre-registration required; call 718-318-4000.

Photo credits:
Central Park Lasker Pool Malcom Pinckney – NYC Parks & Recreation
Prospect Park: Prospect Park Alliance


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