This stunning carousel on the Brooklyn foreshore was such a favourite place of ours to visit that it’s become a constant to measure Cheese’s childhood against. When we lived in Brooklyn, the carousel was an easy 30 minute walk from our apartment so we would stroll on down at least once a week.
Now we no longer live in the city, we still make sure to visit every year (pictured above is our most recent visit). The carousel is so very special to us, and to many Brooklyn families whose children are similarly growing up with this carousel in their backyard as a regular play space to hang out and while away an afternoon.
Jane’s Carousel is actually the same age as Cheese, opening in the Brooklyn Bridge park on the East River in Brooklyn on September 16, 2011 – only a few weeks after Cheese was born. See above for her first ride on the carousel when she was 9 months old.
Of course the bones of the carousel are a lot older than that. The carousel used to be called the Idora Park Merry-Go-Round, and was built in 1922 for the Idora Park amusement park in Youngstown, Ohio by the Philadelphia Toboggan Company.
In 1984 Idora Park closed to the public, The carousel was bought at auction by Jane and David Walentas and moved to Brooklyn, New York for restoration.
Since the carousel opened in its current incarnation it’s been an incredibly popular addition to the Brooklyn foreshore for locals and tourists alike.
It was such an important part of Cheese’s childhood that we held her first birthday party at the carousel (above!).
Jane’s Carousel Dock St, Brooklyn, NY 11201 Hours: Wed-Mon 11am-7pm. Closed Tues. Prices: $2 (parents can ride with their child for free if the child is not able to ride by themselves) Online janescarousel.com Get Directions Image from Cheese’s first birthday party and horse’s face in opening image by Raquel Frechette.
Central Park is one of the best places for families to enjoy in NYC. In every season, the park is endlessly entertaining for kids of all ages, from itty bitty babies who are content to sit in their strollers and look at leaves, to busy preschoolers who can’t sit still, and tweens and teens who are beginning to take an interest in history.
Tips on making the most of your day in Central Park:
Bring a picnic lunch or lots of snacks. There aren’t many places to buy food in the park apart from hot dog vendors. If you’re entering from the south end of the park, you can pick up a delicious picnic lunch from Whole Foods at Columbus Circle. For reasonably priced food within the park, Pain de Quotidien on 69th street has light lunch and snacks. If you’re after a bit of a nicer meal, drop by Tavern On The Green at 67th street or the Loeb Boathouse.
With the temperature (finally!) rising, life with a kid is all about finding ways to cool down. There are only so many times you can go to your closest splash park before you literally go bananas from boredom (sorry, it’s the truth!). So why not venture out of your neighbourhood to try something new? You’re not the only one who will enjoy checking out a new playground – and getting there and back is just part of the adventure.
A great afternoon (and cheap!) outing we recently took was jumping on the East River Ferry to Wall st/Pier 11, and the Imagination Playground at the South Sea Port. It’s worth noting that the ferry trip alone made for a great adventure for the kids. They were insanely excited to sit in a big person seat next to the window, and see Manhattan quickly approaching. There is a cool breeze through the middle of the ferry while it’s on the water that will make you want to stay on the ferry and spend the entire day just going up and down the river…
We decided to test drive the Imagination Playground because we really wanted to see how the toddlers enjoyed playing with the blue, foam blocks that the Imagination Playgrounds are famous for. Imagination Playground blocks are suitable for kids aged two and up to play with. They’re basically huge shapes made out of non-toxic lightweight foam. The blocks come in a variety of shapes (curved and sharp angles) and sizes, and encourage kids to use their imagination to transform their play space into anything they can dream up. A robot, a play house, an animal or rocket ship – the only limit to what can be built with these blocks is a child’s imagination.
The blocks are only one feature of this great playground. At one end lies a huge sandpit, with a ramp running over the top and a twisty slide that ends up back in the sand. In the afternoons, this section is fully shaded, so gives a great respite from the heat if you can just get your kid to stay there.
At the other end of the playground lies the sprinklers, and a whole host of kids of all ages trying to cool down. Tip: dress your kid in their swimwear and water shoes, so they can run around from one area to the next without dirtying their regular clothes. Don’t bother with a swim diaper (the kids won’t get THAT wet), but do remember a hat and the water shoes in particular.
My toddler’s splash park outfit this summer consists of a long-sleeved swim top (better sun protection and less time spent trying to cover her in sunscreen while she wiggles and objects), a swim diaper (I put it over her regular diaper if we are somewhere that only has a basic sprinkler as she doesn’t get very wet, just so she has something to wear that’s water-friendly with her top) a hat and water shoes (we upgraded to the Natives shoes after taking these photos because the water come straight out, so your kid can wear the shoes in the water, and then all afternoon without getting wrinkly, soggy feet).
One last feature of the playground is an array of pipes and turning wheels, that older kids enjoyed climbing and the toddlers enjoyed spinning the wheels. Like everything else at the playground, each item can be played with by kids of all ages and abilities.
Imagination Playground at Burling Slip
Hours: Daily, 9am-6pm
Front St., John St., and South St.
East River Ferry
Cost: $4 per trip, $12 for an all-day pass
Hours: Ferries run ever every 20 minutes on weekdays, and every 15 minute on weekends. Be sure to check the schedule and your closest terminal. The trip from Brooklyn Bridge Park/DUMBO to Pier 11/Wall St only takes five minutes.
As transplants to this glorious city, we’re constantly seeking out fun new ways to experience everything NYC has to offer. We try to balance obvious kid-centric activities with things that we, as adults, are interested in. I also hope that exposing Missy E to art and culture will inspire in her an interest when she is older too.
I’ve always loved art galleries in particular, and never get sick of visiting the grande dame of museums and art galleries, the Metropolitan Museum of Art (AKA the Met). We used to take E fairly frequently to the Met when she was a baby and young toddler, when she was easily amused by large paintings with bright colors. We hadn’t taken her in a long time, especially since she hit the destructive toddler stage, out of fear of an extremely large bill at the end of our visit.
So it was with a bit of trepidation that we decided it was finally time to revisit the Met, especially because we wanted to check out the new Roof Garden Commission, an installation by Dan Graham with Günther Vogt. Major plus: Gardens are generally not breakable or easily ruined by grimy toddler fingerprints.
Since it was a special occasion, we dressed E in a super cute outfit, highlighted by her brand new shoes that she’s been dying to wear — a sparkly silver pair called the Alexis Silver by Pediped. E was so delighted with her fancy shoes that she showed them to literally every single person we encountered on our trip up there (“My shoes!! They’re sparkly!!”).
First things first however: getting to the Met. It’s a long train ride for us to the 86th St Station, so by the time we reached our stop, we all needed a snack. We dropped by Dean and Deluca (1150 Madison Ave at 85th St) to load up on coffee and croissants. Note: be sure to finish your food and coffee before entering the Met, or try to stow the food away until you get to the rooftop garden.
As soon as we reached the staircase leading to the museum, E and her fancy feet took off at a fast gallop. Let the races begin!
The key to enjoying an art gallery with a small child is to pick one thing you really want to see and to not try for anything more than that. Since the rooftop garden was our aim, we made our way to the rooftop elevator straight away, rather than browsing around the large halls.
We did however choose the path to the elevator that seemed to most intrigue Missy E — the Greek and Roman hall filled with sculptures. While we were a bit terrified of her crash tackling priceless art and smashing things, she was remarkably well behaved and surprisingly docile. We pointed out things we thought she might be interested in, like animals or statues of people, and she was particularly concerned about the statues that were missing limbs or heads.
The fountain was also a particular favorite. She was fascinated by the money in there, so we gave her spare change and taught her how to throw in coins and make wishes. “What do you wish for?” “The playground!”. Of course. “Anything else?” “Lions. And giraffes!”. Er, sorry Miss E. Wrong spot for those. But we will keep it in mind when we next visit the zoo!
Next stop, the rooftop garden. There is a special elevator that takes you up to the roof — ask for directions as you enter or you’ll be walking around in circles trying to find it. The garden is open seasonally, and offers spectacular views of Central Park and the surrounding buildings. It’s also a space where kids can run around a bit, particular with the current extremely kid-friendly exhibition. The Roof Garden Commission is kind of like a garden maze, with two-way mirrored glass set between ivy hedgerows, and is especially fun for toddlers. Missy E really enjoyed the maze aspect of it, playing hide and seek with us, and also got a thrill out of seeing her reflection in the glass.
All the while, the bright sunshine caught the sparkles on E’s shoes, making her fast-moving feet appear to actually be silver. With full sparkle from tip to toe, they are every girly-girl’s dream come true, as well as having all the features that matter to adults: a flexible rubber sole with grip on it for climbing, sparkles that are part of the material rather than glued on (so there is no loose glitter floating around the apartment), and an adjustable strap to keep the shoes on her feet when she’s running around like a crazy person.
These Pediped shoes also feature Memory Foam Technology (MFT). This means that the shoes include a memory foam insole that shapes perfectly to the child’s foot, thus acting like a custom insole and supporting the foot in all the right places. As a result, the shoes are an excellent fit and are super comfy. MFT also prevents kids’ little feet from slipping in the shoe by providing a secure fit. What I love most about these shoes is how they dress up any outfit, but still provide the support and fit that growing (and busy) feet need.
After the museum, we made E’s wish come true by taking her to the Hecksher Playground next door. Lucky her shoes were made for climbing!
Metropolitan Museum of Art
1000 Fifth Avenue (at 82nd Street)
New York, NY 10028
Hours: Daily, Sun-Thur 10am-5:30pm, Fri & Sat 10-9pm.
The Roof Garden Commission is on display April 29–November 2, 2014
The Alexis Silver Pediped shoes retail for $59 and are available on the Pediped website.
Brunch With My Baby was provided with a sample for reviewing purposes. All opinions, as always, are our own.
Desperate to get away from the cement landscape that is Manhattan? Us too, especially on days when the heat radiates from the ground up. One of our favourite easy escapes is an afternoon trip to Governors Island. The 172-acre island is just off the southern tip of Manhattan, near Brooklyn. Governors Island was used as a military base for almost two centuries, before 150 acres were sold to the people of New York in 2003. (The remaining 22 acres of the Island was declared the Governors Island National Monument that is overseen by the National Park Service.)
Each year, Governors Island opens every Memorial Day weekend through to the end of September, and is chock full of fun events all summer long. With a young toddler, our choices are a bit limited —so this year the best bets for us were the FIGMENT interactive installations (including the treehouse pictured, above) and a mini-golf course (open summer-long, at the Parade Grounds) the Fête Paradiso and Compost Outpost. Older kids will love the Children’s Museum of the Arts Free Art Island Outpost Program, which is open all season from 11am to 3pm, at Nolan Park. Kids can enjoy hands-on workshops including painting, sound design, sculpture, animation and podcasting.
As well as enjoying the seasonal events offered, it’s also really nice to simply take a walk around the island. I love this walkway (above) through the middle of the park, with the towering trees on both sides, and the empty buildings that once housed military personal (which can sometimes make you feel like you’re in a ghost town). On a quiet day, it’s an eerie vibe. You can walk or bike (BYO bike or hire one when you get there) around the entire island, to take in an amazing view of the Statue of Liberty and southern tip of Manhattan.
The hot event to visit this summer has been Fête Paradiso, a traveling festival of vintage carnival rides and carousels, making its American debut. The collection includes attractions from the late 19th and early 20th centuries, such as carousels, flying swings and a pipe organ. Not only is it cool seeing rare, museum-quality items in a setting as beautiful as the island, you can also ride most of the vintage attractions. Insider tip: The rides are a bit on the pricey side, particularly if you’re going with a toddler. If you’re riding with your kid, it will cost you each a ticket, even if you’re just holding your kid while they’re riding the carousel. The best value is a buying in bulk.
There are a lot of rides, mostly suited to adults and older kids due to lack of modern safety features. The best rides for small kids are the carousels.
A carousel with cars was the favourite among the junior set (vroom vroom!). The only problem? No seat belts to strap the kids in, so the merry-go-round presents a couple of challenges — a moving platform, plus a moving toddler ON the platform who wants to buzz from car to car to car. TOO MANY CHOICES FOR TODDLER BRAINS!
This miniature VW van was dubbed “the party bus” by the parents watching the chaos unfold, as all the kids scrambled to squeeze inside and take the wheel at once.
For a change of pace, calm everyone down at Earth Matter’sCompost Outpost (open all season, 10am-5pm, South Battery). Kids can get up close to chickens, goats, rabbits and worms, all of whom spend their days eating compost, care of Governor’s Island visitors. Older kids can learn about compost first-hand, by taking part in the daily composting.
Eating On The Island
When it comes to food, you have a few expensive choices. Fête Paradiso features an eatery inside a pavilion designed in 1900 for bumper cars. Food is available in a tent, catered by French eatery Le Gamin. You’ll be able to try some traditional bistro fare like Steak Frites ($15), Croque Monsieur ($8) Salade Nicoise ($8) and sweet crepes with Nutella, lemon sugar or jam ($5). Kid-friendly options include hamburgers ($8) and Rotisserie Chicken ($10). Adults can enjoy spirits and wine from the Languedoc region of France. There is also the King Island Food Court, featuring a variety of vendors and cuisines, and picnic tables at which to sit. For a really relaxing day, bring a packed picnic and blanket.
Tips to Know Before You Go:
There’s no drinkable water on the island (so no drinking fountains). You can buy water from island vendors and vending machines, but we’d advise bringing plenty of your own. Water bottles can be re-filled in the Governors Island Ferry Waiting Room at the Battery Maritime Building.
The only indoor bathrooms are located on the upper and lower level of Building 110, adjacent to the ferry landing. There are plenty of port-a-loos placed around the island if you can’t hold on to find these bathrooms.
Open every Sat, Sun and holiday Monday from 10am-7pm through to September 29. To get there, catch the East River ferry from Manhattan (from Wall St/Pier 11 ($4) or the free ferry from the Battery Maritime Building) or the free Brooklyn ferry from Brooklyn Bridge Park Pier 6. Check out the ferry schedules before you go, and be prepared for a long line if you’re heading across from Brooklyn.
Tourists love the Flatiron building. Actually, I do too. We end up in this area of town a lot, sometimes passing through with visiting friends, sometimes on our way to or from something fun like a gallery or shopping.
I’m always happy to stop at Madison Square Park, right next to the Flatiron building, because it has the key ingredients (ha!) for a successful outing with little kids. Good food, plenty of options, and a fantastic playground, all in the one block.
Best Place For Overwhelming Food Options:Eataly Eataly is where to go when you don’t know what you want to eat. It has so many options, from eat-in restaurants to takeaway counters, that there is literally something that everyone will like, even the fussiest of kids. My personal favourite is Le Vedure, the restaurant that focuses on vegetables – it was a huge hit with miss Cheese too, who really enjoyed the cannelloni.
200 5th Ave
New York, 10010
Phone: (212) 229 2560
Hours: Mon-Sat 11am-10pm, Sun 11am-9:30pm
Best Food To Grab And Go: Shake Shack
From its humble origin as a hot dog cart in Madison Square Park, Shake Shack sure has grown. It’s now the go-to fast-burger of choice for a lot of New Yorkers. Personally, I love their crinkle cut fries and thick, custard shakes. The Shake Shack we know, love and line up for today, officially opened in MSP in 2004. It’s in the perfect location to grab fast, decent food when you’re in the area, and sit in the park to eat it. Be warned though, keep your babies and toddlers away from the shakes – they’re totally addictive, even for the under 2s set.
Southeast corner of Madison Square Park
Near Madison Ave. and E.23rd St.
Phone: (212) 889 6600
Hours: Open daily, 11am-11pm
Best Place To Let Kids Burn Off Steam: Madison Square Park Playground
Madison Square Park is a huge, beautiful area with a kids’ playground, dog run, and big grassy area. The MSP playground is large and super clean, with a dedicated toddler area as well as the bigger kids’ gym. Good luck keeping your little toddler in their designated area though! The big kid area is just too enticing for little toddlers like our Cheese.
Something miraculous happened over winter. Pier 5, Brooklyn Bridge Park, opened to the public on a suitably arctic day, too cold for most New Yorkers to check it out.
We had a chance to take a look soon after it opened, and fell in love with the sweet little toddler play area, perfect for kids Cheese’s age (she’s currently 19 months old).
As well as the little toddler area, there is a playground for slightly older kids, with a spiders web to climb.
The new pier also features a 200,000 square feet sporting field and a picnic peninsula with tables, grills and umbrellas for some much needed shade come summer.
What to eat: After Memorial Day weekend, Prospect Heights’ Ample Hills Creamery will be serving crazy flavours like Maple Baon and Ooey Goey Butter Cake at the pier. You’ll also be able to walk to Pier 6 next door and grab a slice of pizza from Fornino, who are opening up for the season. Enough of this cold already, bring on the summer!
With an unseasonably warm forecast, we head down to DUMBO for lunch at Brooklyn Bridge Park. Since we’ve been craving sunshine for months, we decided to pick up a sandwich at Foragers City Grocer and head on down to the park to eat and let the Cheese run free.
Foragers have a great range of locally-sourced breads, groceries and snacks, as well sandwich and smoothie bars. While you can perch on stools and eat in, we prefer to take everything to go.
The area of Brooklyn Bridge Park directly under the Manhattan Bridge has possibly the best views of both bridges and Manhattan that you’ll see anywhere. It also has a huge grassy area, so bring a ball for the kids to kick around, or a blanket to sit on. The pirate playground that sits in this area of the park was severely damaged during Hurricane Sandy – we were thrilled to see that it has been repaired and is due to re-open next month.