School is out, the older kids are in camp, the weather is great, so... what to do with those toddlers? Tired of your September-to-May rut? Shake up your week and take your kids to these great spots in and around Westchester.
If you haven't been to the Westchester Children's Museum, you're missing out. Open Wednesday to Sunday, this small beacon of educational play (Phase 1 is opened, and an expansion is in the works) is a very pleasant way to spend the day with a little one. Park in the Rye Playland parking lot (which unfortunately costs about $10 during the summer season). If it's a nice day you can take a stroll on the pier and have lunch at the Tiki Bar restaurant next door (and they validate a portion of that pricy Playland parking!).
Or drive a bit farther to either Stepping Stones Museum in Norwalk, CT, the Mid-Hudson Children's Museum in Poughkeepsie or Liberty Science Center in Jersey City, NJ. All are great day trips for little ones.
If you're looking for a museum for you, head to the Bruce Museum in Greenwich, CT. One Wednesday a month they offer stroller tours where loud or crying kids are permitted. The Katonah Museum of Art also offers a stroller tour one Friday a month.
Right on our doorstep is the Hudson River Museum in Yonkers. It's located next to a park with free ample parking and a cozy outdoor plaza to hang out or picnic in. It's not 100% babyproofed, but it's easy to stroll around in and as long as your keep your little ones in arms reach (no knocking down priceless statues like that kid in Kansas!), they'll love walking around. Our children's favorite section is the Hudson Riverama, a "hands-on environmental teaching gallery" where they can push buttons, pull levers, and touch the exhibits to their hearts' delight. There's also a planetarium with child-themed shows in the afternoon. There are recurring family events, so check the calendar on their website.
Want a museum that's not so...museumy? Head down to the Intrepid Sea, Air & Space Museum on Manhattan's West Side. Board a 1940s aircraft carrier that houses a space shuttle, a Concorde airplane, and a submarine, among other exhibits.
Don't forget to check with your local library before you plan your trip. Many of the branches have museum passes available to borrow.
Parks & Playgrounds!
It's swim season in the Westchester parks! Get ready to swim with your parks pass and/or swim pass! Here's how it works: For $75, you can get a Westchester County Adult 3-year pass, which lets you and up to 4 adults and 5 children guests into parks where passes or admission fees are required. It also gives you discount admission and parking to several of the county park's parking lots and water parks.
For example, at Tibbetts Brook Pool, a park pass gets you $8 admission instead of $15, and discounts in the parking lot. Or if you plan to swim all summer, you can get a season swim pass for $125 per year, which allows you free admission and parking at Glen Island Beach, Saxon Woods Pool, Tibbetts Brook Pool, and Wilson's Woods Pool. Kids under 5 are free, so do the math before you shell out for a $300 family swim pass.
However, if you're only planning to drop in one or two times and everyone with you is under 5, you might just want to bring proof of residency and pay a la carte. A resident fee at Tibbetts Brook Pool is $15, and the little ones are free. (Or ask a small group in line if you can be their guest for the day!) Going without a pass costs more per visit if you are a frequent visitor, but if you just want to drop in once or twice, it will save you money in the long run, plus the hassle of getting passes.
The Greenburgh Nature Center in Scarsdale has a great natural-wood playground, shaded hiking trails, and animals to see, plus it's free to play and walk around. They also feature regular kids programming for a small fee.
Or you can go playground hopping. The Facebook page Playgrounds in Westchester has photos and reviews of several play spots around the county. Look one up and go on a pilgrimage. Some of our favorite playgrounds are Jack's Friendship Garden in New Rochelle, Harbor Island playground in Mamaroneck, Hyatt Field and it's superfun zip line and outdoor adult exercise machines in Scarsdale, the Kensico Dam playground and running/walking paths in Valhalla, and Gedney Park in Chappaqua. Find your favorite and report back to us!
It's pretty amazing that we live 15 minutes away from the best zoo in the country (and maybe even the world). The Bronx Zoo is a great way to spend a summer day, especially since the zoo tram and ropes course are now open. If you're looking for something with a little less walking, the Beardsley Zoo in Norwalk or the Central Park Zoo are two smaller-scale spots to see animals.
Zoo too much? Head to Muscoot Farm in Katonah for a free peek at plenty of farm animals. Or Stone Barns in Pocantico Hills has free admission to the grounds on the weekdays, and plenty of children's programming. Or visit the Greenburgh Nature Center for some more offbeat animals like owls, ferrets, and snakes.
Or take a hike at the Rockefeller State Park Preserve in Pleasantville, the Kensico Dam in Valhalla, or Croton Gorge Park in Croton-on-Hudson. All are free or under $10 a car, are kid-friendly in length (or bring the jogging stroller) and are scenic.
Let's pull on our rash gards, lather up the sunscreen, throw on hats and sunglasses, and get some (safely-filtered) sun! Where to go? Compo Beach in Westport is popular with the mom squad. It's got a great beach on the Long Island Sound, which is tamer (read: more child friendly) than the ocean. It's also got a playground and a place to get snacks. Bring your wallet though, we've heard parking can be as much as $65 on the weekends. But load up the minivan with your favorite swimmers and it's not a bad deal. There's no other admission charge.
Glen Island Beach in New Rochelle is part of the Westchester Parks system. If you don't have a parks pass, admission is $10, but children under 5 are free. Parking is another $10 without the Parks pass. It was originally developed as a summer resort in the 1920s, but now is a public beach with plenty of picnic spots.
Oakland Beach in Rye is near Rye Playland. If you don't have a resident permit, the cost to head there on the weekend is $20 per car and $15 per person for access to the beach, but kids 12 and under are free. Parking and access is $5 cheaper on the weekday.
Cove Island Park in Stamford has swimming on the Sound, a snack shack, a playground, picnic areas, and a running path. It's free to get in, but parking is about $50 per car.
Harbor Island Park in Mamaroneck has a beach and kids splash zone. Parking is $10 a car on the weekend, and access to the beach and spray ground costs about $3 for kids 3-12 and $7 for everyone else.
Croton Point Park Beach in Croton-on-Hudson is one of the few up-county places to go. It's quaint and on the less expensive side. $4 for adults, and kids under 5 are free. Parking is about $10 without a Parks pass.
And the true sun professionals head out to Long Beach Island in New Jersey. They love the beaches, the shore towns, the boardwalks, the nightlife, the kid-friendly activities, and the lodging options.
It's not a beach, but the Playland Pool is a public pool open to nonresidents. Entry is $6 for an adult, and kids under 5 swim free. Parking is about $10.
It's not summer without a trip to the amusement park. Pack a (soft) cooler and head out for a daytrip or overnight at Sesame Place (see our insider tips) Dorney Park in Allentown PA, Dutch Wonderland in Lancaster PA, Land of Make Believe in Hope NJ, Hershey Park in Hershey PA, Crayola Experience in Easton PA, Thomas Land inside Edaville Family Theme Park in Carver, MA or Diggerland construction theme park in West Berlin, NJ.
And there's another one nearby...what's it called? Playland Park? Rye Playland is a quaint amusement park that's a quick drive and easy on the wallet. Try their $15 family nights, or Westchester County residents who aren't planning to go on any of the rides can walk around for free with the Spectator wristband.
The Kiddieland section is great for the little ones, but we've found kids taller than 36" hit the sweet spot, since many rides in Kiddlieland can't hold adults so your little one has to be big enough to go alone. We're excited to take our short 3.5 year old, who clocks in at 36.25", to the park this season so she can finally experience all of Kiddieland.
Want something close to home that's a bit wetter? Splashdown Beach in Fishkill is "America's Biggest Little Water Park". For $30-$35 each, you can experience the wave pool, the lazy river, the splash zone, tons of slides and a wading pool.
These next entries aren't amusement parks, per se, but amusement resorts like Kalahari in the Poconos are a great time in the summer as well as the winter. Kalahari just completed construction on their outdoor waterpark, or skip the sunscreen and weather worries and stay indoors in their 80-degree shaded indoor waterpark. In that category there's also Great Wolf Lodge, Camelback, and Rocking Horse Ranch.
Or bring the kids to Mohonk Mountain House and experience summer camp for the whole family. They have a lake, tennis courts, horseback riding, kids programming, and a spa for Mommy's Time Out. Smuggler's Notch in Vermont also has loads of family-friendly activities for a week or weekend away.
Club Getaway in Kent, CT also has family camp. Lodge in their rustic cabins and send the kids off with the camp counselors while you enjoy a dip in the lake, hiking, archery, the zipline, or just a plain old nighttime dance party (drink in hand optional!)
Nothing says summer like fresh fruit picked ripe off the vine. Luckily there are plenty of Pick-Your-Own Orchards a short drive from Westchester. Just make sure to call ahead as crop yields and picking hours vary. You don't want to drive all that way and come back with an empty fruit container. Bring a jogging stroller or wagon for the kids, as you'll do a lot of walking over uneven terrain.
Fishkill Farms in Hopewell Junction has daily picking from 9am to 5pm.
Ochs Orchard in Warwick has a cash-only PYO are that is open Wednesday through Sunday.
Harvest Moon Farm & Orchard is trying out a PYO day on July 14. Pay $5 per person admission that includes a hayride (children 3 andunder are free). Then it's $10 per quart of blueberries. If you haven't been to Harvest Moon in the fall, it's worth a trip. They are known for Apple Cider donuts, live entertainment on the weekends, and their Hard Apple Cider.
Our favorite no-frills pick is Ellsworth Hill Orchard and Berry Farm. Located in Sharon, CT, they are open every day and have delicious fruit that is grown without pesticides. They are also cash only.
Take the train!
Hop on Metro-North, where getting there is half the fun (unless you're late for work, of course!). Head into New York City for a daytrip that starts at Grand Central Station. Then walk west to Bryant Park for lunch and a ride on the carousel. Or head uptown to the Central Park Zoo and the Victorian Gardens Amusement Park in Central Park. Head crosstown to the American Museum of Natural History and the Children's Museum of Manhattan or downtown to the Children's Museum of the Arts on Charlton Street and the new Seaglass Carousel.
Easily accessible via train, the New York Botanical Garden is a great trip with kids. Or take them out to the ballgame at Yankee Stadium. Some scheduled games have trains that go to the stadium directly from your home station.
Or stay intra-county for these fun destinations just steps from a platform:
The village of Bronxville is a shopper's delight! Load em in the stroller and head to Value Drugs for a great toy selection at every price point (and they take Bed Bath & Beyond coupons!). Then check out Silver Spoon and Adrian East for adorable kids clothes and gifts. Don't forget Candy Rox for their sugar fix, or head to Topps Bakery for their gorgeous decorated sugar cookies and my favorite treat: the Marigold, which is a cross between a cupcake and a black and white cookie. Yum! If you want a more substantial lunch, head to Lange's Delicatessen for a sandwich, or go on a Tuesday afternoon and hit up Pete's Park Place Tavern, where kids eat free Tuesdays between 4pm and 7pm.
Go up to Valhalla and have lunch at Valhalla Crossing restaurant. Sit in their Presidential Train car and watch the commuters fly past. Then head across the street to the Village Creamery & Sweet Shop for one of the county's best ice cream cones. It's a 5-minute walk from there to the playground at the Kensico Dam Plaza.
Or head to Larchmont station with its ample shopping. Hit up Pink on Palmer for gotta-have-it housewares and beauty products, then let the kids loose at Three Goms and the Corner Store. Take a break at The Voracious Reader, a bookstore and cafe. The board book types can relax in the Bitty Baby reading zone. If they're in the mood for something sweet, Larchmont is the home to the Longford's Ice Cream, another best in county, or for something lighter try Red Mango. The candy store Sweets will delight even the most finicky of dessert eaters. For an easy lunch or dinner, there's MOOYAH Burgers, Fries & Shakes. Cap it off with a short walk to the Pine Brook Park playground.
On the Hudson Line? Head up to Tarrytown! Start with a scoop from Lighthouse Ice Cream Kompany, right next to the train station (or maybe mommy gets a quick glass of rosé from Rivermarket Bar and Kitchen.) Walk west to the splash zone at Pierson Park, or head east up the hill into town. The Taco Project and Main Sweet Sweets will satisfy your little nibblers, or have a more expansive sit-down at Mint Premium Foods or Lefteris Gyro. Take a 5-minute walk around the corner to the Warner Library and hang out in their large children's area. Then hit up the playground at Patriot's Park next door. Support local business at A NU Toy Store, which sells new and used toys and hosts local author readings and events. With a little planning, you can time your outing to catch a family-friendly show at the Tarrytown Music Hall.
Rainy Day Fun!
Don't let a little weather keep you home! The play areas at the Westchester Mall, the Stamford Mall, and the Jefferson Valley Mall are perfect to blow off a little steam while mommy gets some retail therapy.
The Play Place in Elmsford is also an easy spot to drop by anytime. Their play area has different zones, so you can relax with your crawler in the baby space while the toddler goes bananas in the climbing structire.
The Palisades Mall is one of my favorites for an errands-and-fun combo. Mommy gets Target, Bed Bath & Beyond, and DSW, Junior gets Billy Beez, the Palisades Climb SkyTykes, and the mall's own Ferris Wheel and Carousel.
LEGOland in Ridge Hill has Toddler Tuesdays every Tuesday morning, and Rockin' Jump in Ridge Hill and Mount Kisco both offer toddler jump times. Bounce U has open bounce slots during most afternoons. FunFuzion in New Rochelle has bowling, mini-golf, and arcade games.
Or check out the open gym schedules of World Cup in Chappaqua, The Little Gym in Scarsdale, Kidville in Mount Kisco, Gymcats in Yonkers, Gymboree in Scarsdale, My Gym in Dobbs Ferry or Mamaroneck, Kids in Sports in Scarsdale, Jodi's Gym in Mount Kisco, Great Play in Scarsdale, Kids U in Pleasantville or Port Chester or, Gymtime Place in Scarsdale. Or take a free trial class at any one of those mentioned.
Is your kid more the creative type than the athletic type? Check out the drop in hours at Scribble Art Workshop in Dobbs Ferry.
I hope this list motivates you to get out there this summer and have a blast!
That's it for this week! As always, check our website for events. And if you like what you're reading, help keep the computer screen on by following us on Facebook or Instagram and signing up for our weekly emails at BabyGotChat.com.
See you next time!