Now that spring has arrived, let’s get outside and get moving. Take the advice of no lesser luminary than our nation’s First Lady, who has declared war on childhood obesity, and be active with your kids.
You don’t need to be an expert, just make an example of what lifelong learning is all about and try a new activity with them. Living car-free is no excuse, as the big apple has a terrific variety of family-centric recreational opportunities in and around the boroughs that are easy to reach.
Seize the day, grab your Metrocard and get going to one of these ten active adventures near you.
Where: Van Cortlandt Park Golf Course, Bronx
Details: It’s not going to be mistaken for St. Andrews’ manicured greens, but this venerable course is the oldest public golf facility in the country. Rates vary depending on the time and day, and juniors 16 and under always play for discounted rates. This course is popular and can feel as congested as Times Square on sunny Sundays, so consider a weekday visit. Book a lesson or just enjoy the fun of being out on this 18-hole course.
How to get there: Lug your clubs (or rent them at the course) on the #1 train to 242nd Street, exit towards the right, go left into the park and walk for approximately 5 minutes.
Where: USTA’s Billie Jean King National Tennis Center, Flushing Meadows, Queens
Details: You don’t have to be named Roger or Rafa to swing your racket where the big boys do. The home of the US Open Tennis Tournament is open for public play, except during the US Open. Arthur Ashe and the other stadium courts are only for pros, but the well-maintained field courts can be yours. Prices vary according to dates and time of play. Private, group and summer tennis camps are offered.
How to get there: Take the #7 subway to the Shea Stadium/Willets Point station. The USTA National Tennis Center is a short walk down the ramp from the station.
What: Horseback Riding
Where: Riverdale Equestrian Center, Van Cortlandt Park, Bronx
Details: Learn the basics of riding under the guidance of an experienced instructor. There is a popular after-school riding program as well as a summer camp, or book a private lesson, starting at $45. As you gain experience and move out of the four sheltered arenas, you will appreciate the access to miles of crowd-free trails within lush and leafy Van Cortlandt Park. The center is closed on Wednesdays.
How to get there: 1 train to 242nd Street. Take the #9 bus to Broadway and 254 Street, or walk up Broadway. The stable is on the right.
What: Camping in NYC
Where: Various smoking-free parks throughout the four boroughs, including Van Cortlandt and Pelham Bay Park in the Bronx, Cunningham Park in Queens and Prospect Park in Brooklyn.
Details: Camping within the city limits is both possible and often, free. The Urban Park Rangers host family camping on select nights in June, July and August, and they even provide the tents. A typical program includes a cookout, stargazing and an evening hike before you hunker down for some sleep. This program is understandably popular, and there is an online lottery registration system for the limited spaces. Registration takes place within a 24-hour period a week or so before the scheduled overnight. If you don’t get in, you can still book a camping spot at Floyd Bennett field.
Where: Brooklyn Bridge Park Boathouse, Fulton Street
Details: Learn to kayak, canoe or row free of charge. No previous experience required, but you need to be a proficient swimmer. All equipment is provided, just come ready to get wet. Under 18’s must be accompanied by a parent or guardian. There is no need to sign up in advance; boating will be on a first-come, first-served basis. Check the Calendar of Events for dates and times.
How to get there: Check the website for directions from various parts of town.
Where: Prospect Park
Details: The 3.35-mile loop is closed to traffic all weekend and during certain non-rush hour times during the week, making it a serene place for families to pedal together. Kids are required to wear helmets, and they are suggested for everyone.
How to get there: 2 and 3 trains to Grand Army Plaza station.
What: Rock Climbing
Where: Brooklyn Boulders, 575 Degraw Street, Brooklyn (or their newer facility at 23-10 41st Ave in Long Island City)
When: Saturday and Sunday mornings, from 8-10 a.m., is an ideal time for parents and children who want to enjoy a morning on the walls. They offer a child belay service as well as several specially priced packages that will allow the entire family to climb together.
Details: They rent rock-climbing shoes for $8, which you are required to wear. Prices vary according to peak and off-peak hours. During family hours, you can hire an experienced staff member to belay you and provide assistance for $39 per hour. All levels of climbers are welcome, from newbies to experts, over age four. With practice, the whole family will be ready for the Gunks by summer.
How to get there: Take the 2,3,4,N,Q,R,B or D to the Atlantic Pacific subway station. Exit the station at Pacific and 4th Ave., go west on 4th Ave towards Dean Street, right on Degraw. Take the 2,3,4, N, Q, R, B, or D to Atlantic Pacific
What: Ice Skating
Where: City Ice Pavilion, 47-32 32nd Place, Long Island City
Details: It’s refreshing to ice skate in warmer weather, and a great rainy day panacea. This large indoor rink has public skating sessions year-round, plus a figure and hockey skating groups and private lessons for the entire family. You can rent decent quality skates for $5 that will help prevent those little ankles from caving in, but only practice makes perfect. Sessions cost $5 Monday-Friday, $8 on weekends and holidays.
How to get there: 7 train to the 33rd St.-Rawson St. Station. Walk one block West to 32nd Place. Turn left onto 32nd Place (cross Queens Blvd.). Continue on 32nd Place past 47th Ave. to the City Ice Pavilion entrance on the right.
What: Table Tennis
Where: Sportspark, Roosevelt Island
Details: If you grew up in the burbs, having a ping-pong table may seem pedestrian, but many urban kids are unfamiliar with the game. Take the tram to Roosevelt Island to get the kids acquainted with it. Sportspark features six Olympic-regulation tables with free play several times per week. The schedule changes frequently, so check the site before heading over. Lessons are available, and rackets and balls are loaned for free. It’s a good way to pass a few hours on a rainy day, or in fair weather stop in after a stroll around the perimeter of Roosevelt Island. The lighthouse and the Tom Otterness installation are visual treats for the whole family, and for the little flippers, there’s a newly reopened Olympic swimming pool with lifeguards on duty.
How to get there: Take the Tram from Second Ave. and 59th Street. When you get to the island, go south and you will see Sportspark.
What: Zipline Adventure
Where: Hunter Mountain, NY
Details: There are few experiences more exhilarating than the New York Zipline Adventure Tours at Hunter Mountain. If your child weighs at least 60 pounds., they can try the Mid-Mountain Tour, the perfect introduction to this adrenaline-altering sport. Participants will go through the forest for two to tw -and a half hours on a series of six ziplines, four suspension bridges and a rappel, enjoying the gorgeous scenery zipping by. The cost is $89 per person. If your child is at least four feet, two inches in height, a less expensive option is the Adventure Tower, a vertical ropes course that presents a series of nine obstacles with a rappel, costing $19.
How to get there: Trailways from Port Authority to Hunter Mountain in two and a half hours.
Allison is a native New Yorker, who has lived in Rome, Tuscany, Melbourne, Toronto and Los Angeles. She frequently contributes travel pieces to Family Travel Forum, using her own children as guinea pigs as they travel the globe. She is fluent in Italian and Spanish and laughably adequate in French. Her background as an Early Childhood Educator gives her an added understanding of what it takes to travel with kids in tow. She firmly believes that the most important part of education takes place outside of the classroom, on the road, around the world. She never misses a chance to sample local delicacies, as her love for travel goes hand-in-hand with her love for food and wine. Follow Allison at @gourmetrav.