Memorial Day has come and gone, and school is almost over. But, for visitors to New York City and residents alike, there are fun and exciting things to do to keep everyone entertained while staying safe and healthy.
Deno’s Wonder Wheel, Luna Park, the Boardwalk, and the legendary Cyclone Roller Coaster have taken a year and a half off, but they’re ready to welcome you back. Brooklyn’s Coney Island has something for everyone, so hop on the train and pack your smiles. Even the youngest in your group will have a blast at the amusement park, riding on spinning teacups and playing arcade games to win stuffed animals.
Stuff your faces with a hot dog from legendary Nathan’s Famous at the Surf Avenue location, where it all began. Then treat everyone to amusement park goodies like cotton candy, candy apples, and fried dough just this once – you can return to healthy eating after this fun afternoon. Teens and older visitors will want to show off their daredevil side on the aerial and twisty rides. Insider tip: for The Cyclone, don’t seat two small people together in one car. It’s best to have a bit of cushion as you bang around in the wooden cars, which date from 1927. If the weather is nice, set up your beach blanket, socially distanced, and take in the people scene for which Coney Island is known. Timed admission is required in certain areas. Always check the website for information before you go.
New York City has some of the most beautiful and historic carousels in the country. While the famed Central Park carousel remains closed, others are open and spinning to the delight of all.
The SeaGlass Carousel in the Financial District is one-of-a-kind with luminous fish and iridescent shells for you to sit in as you revolve with views of New York Harbor. Classical music and sea sounds add to the ambiance, making the ride fun for all ages.
When you’re done, you can take a water taxi across the East River to DUMBO, where Jane’s Carousel is a true New York City treasure. Turning for happy riders for the past ten years, the carousel was built in 1922. Its 48 carved horses and artwork were saved from destruction and lovingly restored by Jane Walentas, who further enhanced the carousel with 1200 lights. The glass-enclosed carousel, designed by Jean Nouvel, has sensational views over Brooklyn Bridge Park and the Brooklyn Bridge.
Further out, Coney Island’s B&B Carousell is a beautiful revamp of the beach’s former carousel, which ceased operation in 2005. Set under a pavilion designed by the famed Rockwell Group, the carousel, initially built in 1906, has 50 vintage hand-carved horses and is part of the Luna Park experience. Check the websites for pre-booking and social distancing regulations.
New York City has a wide range of beaches!
Coney Island isn’t the only beach game in town, although it’s one of the most accessible with an MTA stop a few blocks from the beach and filled with entertainment options that go beyond sitting on the sand. You can venture just a bit further to Brighton Beach for a taste of “Little Odessa” with its many Russian restaurants and its lively boardwalk.
Orchard Beach and Promenade in Pelham Bay Park is a popular destination in the Bronx, also reachable by public transportation. The beach has easy parking, snack bars, and numerous volleyball and basketball courts. There’s also a playground for the kids.
The Rockaways is the location for New York City’s newest, most happening beach and boardwalk destination. Cleaned up after Superstorm Sandy to make it a true family destination, Rockaway Beach and Boardwalk is also reachable by subway. Food stands sell tacos and arepas, and you can find bike paths, shops, and even a new hotel. If you’re brave enough, try a lesson at the surf school. Wetsuits and surfboards are provided.
American Museum of Natural History
Kids love the American Museum of Natural History. T.rex, dioramas, fossils, rocks, and more appeal to all ages, and changing special exhibits warrant a return visit. This summer’s “The Nature of Color” focuses on feeling, experiencing, and making color. Next door, The Rose Center for Earth and Space is a fantastic, crowd-pleasing indoor escape to the skies. All admission this year is by timed entry and must be reserved online.
The Children’s Museum of Manhattan
The Children’s Museum of Manhattan has sprung back to life with activities and exhibits designed for those aged two and above. Tickets can be purchased for two-hour visits, ensuring limited capacity and maximum enjoyment.
Looking for a place for your kids to let off some steam safely? My Gym in Cobble Hill and Park Slope in Brooklyn offers a trial class for children from six weeks old to age 10. The indoor gym has all kinds of equipment in a structured, instructor-supervised space.
Inside the Art and Mind of Vincent Van Gogh
Opening in June, the original “Immersive Van Gogh” exhibit at Pier 36 brings Chicago’s wildly successful art, sound, and motion experience to Manhattan. Following the blueprint of Chicago’s original concept, the New York iteration was adapted for New York City by acclaimed creative director David Korins, known for his work in “Hamilton,” “Dear Evan Hansen,” and “Beetlejuice.” A little tease: the NYC exhibit has a secret passage that hints at the artist’s romantic relationships.