I never knew New York could have such an incredible summer. Being from Melbourne, I am used to extreme temperatures that last a few days and then BOOM, here comes a massive storm and the temperature drops 20 degrees in ten minutes and stays that way for another few days. Then the cycle repeats.
I have been in NYC for over seven weeks now and the temperature has not dropped below 28 degrees during the day. We have had one or two days of rain, but otherwise the sky has been blue, the sun has shone and life has been consistently good.
So there has been no excuse not to get out and enjoy all that New York has to offer kids in the summer.
For anyone planning a trip here in future summers, here are some of my top things to do in New York with kids at this time of the year.
Parks and Playgrounds
I have not seen a city do parks and playgrounds better than New York City. Because the rest of the metropolis is basically a concrete jungle, the parks and playgrounds here are absolutely revered. During summer, everyone floods out of their offices and sits in a park enjoying lush green grass, shady trees, beer gardens, sculpture and artwork installations, pop up farmers markets and street artists. But the playground is where you want to be with kids.
They invariably have two sections, one for big kids, one for little kids, PLUS most have a little water park section. Where colourful windmills fill up with water and dump buckets on kids heads, sprinklers pop out of the ground and fixed super soakers are there to take aim at anyone. All the kids turn up in their swimmers (or just strip to their nappies/underwear) and get involved. And parents pretend to run in and rescue their child just so they can enjoy the cool spray (yes, guilty).
Central Park has no comparison. Around 843 acres of lush wilderness in the middle of Manhattan – it has tonnes of playgrounds, lakes, a zoo, an amusement park (summer only), a carousel and more.
My other favourite parks include:
Madison Square Park, with the backdrop of the Flatiron building, an excellent playground, a Shake Shack & beer garden and lush lawns for having a picnic (or siesta).
Bryant Park, behind the New York Public Library, this park is a 4 acre urban oasis in Midtown. It has a giant movie screen during summer, an historical French carousel for kids, food and beverage vendors and a huge lawn.
Washington Square Park, in Greenwich Village, has a gigantic fountain in the middle (that people cool off in, despite the rule saying you can’t), many street artists including a baby grand pianist, an excellent playground and the famous Washington Arch.
Battery Park. I like to start at the south end of Manhattan in Battery Park where you board the ferry for Ellis Island, and take the riverside walkway northwest for around two miles to the Hudson River Park. With views of the Statue of Liberty and Jersey City the entire way, and plenty of things to stop off and see/do en-route (duck ponds, cafes, the Irish Garden and more) this is an excellent way to entertain kids and get some exercise and fresh air without any traffic.
Union Square. A brilliant farmers market four days a week, regular events, incredible shopping and dining all around and a great playground, what’s not to love?
An American institution. This is a New York neighbourhood located at the southernmost point of Brooklyn, about a 45 minute journey on the subway from Midtown Manhattan.
Coney Island has more than 50 amusement park rides, but it is not a centrally managed theme park. Instead, the rides are pretty much integrated into the neighbourhood and individually managed so you can switch between some time on the beach, a stroll along the huge boardwalk, a lunch stop at any of the very traditional American grills/diners (this is the birthplace of the hot dog!) or a ride on a roller coaster, to your hearts content.
It is an incredible and fun experience in American culture and geared all around kids so definitely pack your swimmers and sunscreen, and put it on your list.
Brooklyn Bridge to Brooklyn Bridge Park
For incredible views of downtown Manhattan and Brooklyn, walk between the two boroughs via the Brooklyn Bridge. An icon in itself, the bridge, which spans the East River opened in 1883 and is now a designated National Historic Landmark.
Walk or bike across (from either side) on the dedicated pedestrian walkway and the trip is around 1.3 miles (just over 2 kilometres) one way.
With kids, take the walk to Brooklyn and descend down the first exit into DUMBO (a neighbourhood of Brooklyn) and head for Brooklyn Bridge Park. There is a Shake Shack, Grimaldis Pizza, the River Café, playgrounds, a water park, an ice cream factory and more amazing views of Manhattan, the Brooklyn Bridge, Governors Island and the Statue of Liberty.
Don’t want to walk back to Manhattan? Just catch the train.
In 2003 the City of New York and State of New York purchased most of this 172 acre island from the Federal Government, and the former military base with two centuries of history was turned into a summer oasis for art and play.
Just 800 yards from Manhattan (and even closer to Brooklyn), a free ferry takes you to Governors Island between May and September where visitors have a huge choice in recreation.
Bikes and surreys (4-wheeled bicycles with carriages) are the favourite way to get around this car-free island, and you can hire them from either Blazin Saddles or the Citi Bike station upon arrival. Five miles of bike paths will take you past historical military buildings and fortifications, along spectacular shorelines with views of the Statue of Liberty and lower Manhattan, and through parks, gardens and playgrounds for kids.
There are plenty of food trucks for lunch, art exhibitions and performances, a compost learning centre in the island’s Urban Farm, ballfields, mini golf, sprinklers, a hammock grove play area and much more.
A revitalised former rail freight line, the High Line is now an incredible elevated New York park for all the family.
When the High Line, which opened in 1934, saw it’s last train run in 1980, there were groups of property owners lobbying for its demolition. Luckily for New York residents and visitors alike, it was saved and has been turned into 2.33 km of public landscape and a pedestrian walkway elevated above the streets of Manhattan between the Meatpacking District to West 34th Street.
With access points every few blocks, you can walk along as much or as little as you like (get on and get off to enjoy the sights below such as Chelsea Market), enjoying the incredible, seasonal display of public gardens, interesting art and sculpture installations, food and drink stalls and unique features designed to amplify visual highlights of the neighbourhoods around you.
Kids will love running along the path, smelling the plants, eating the artisan icy poles, playing on the different design features and generally not having to worry about Manhattan traffic. Parents will appreciate the freedom, the flowers, the food and the views.
It is also wheelchair (and stroller) accessible, and has restrooms.
An absolute must for young and old.