9 great reasons to visit Prospect Park this summer
Your guide to where to go and what to do this summer in our favorite Brooklyn staycation spot, Prospect Park!
Fri May 30 2014
Photograph: Ryan Muir
As if you needed another reason to visit Olmsted and Vaux's most beloved gift to the borough of Brooklyn, we've rounded up nine great reasons to tote the kids to Prospect Park this summer, including awesome outdoor events like Celebrate Brooklyn and NY Phil's Concerts in the Parks, plus little-known treasures like the Natural Exploration Area and all-new features like Lakeside. See if you can cross all nine off your summer to-do list!
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Prospect Park Bandshell is to Brooklynites what Central Park SummerStage is to Manhattan residents—the place to hear great music in the great outdoors. The programming for the summer festival Celebrate Brooklyn! mirrors the borough’s diversity: The music runs the gamut from folk to indie and, of course, kid-friendly fare. Be sure to attend the annual Ezra Jack Keats Family Concert, in which Ozomatli's OzoKidz will perform (for free!) along with a reading of the historic author's work (June 14, 3pm) as well as the NY Philharmonic's free concert in Prospect Park (July 9, 8pm).
- Prospect Park West, (at 9th St)
- Price band: 1/4
The Carousel in Prospect Park has been a popular attraction since 1952, and was first erected in Coney Island in 1915. Hand-carved three years earlier by renowned designer Charles Carmel, the ride is known for its expressive equestrian figures that seem to elegantly prance to the tunes of a Wurlitzer organ. By coincidence, Carmel drew inspiration from his many visits to the Prospect Park stables, which were located just a few blocks from his home. Among the 51 horses, the handsome Gray Ghost is a favorite. Brownie the lion, one of three menagerie animals, has many fans, too. Find them in the Children’s Corner of the park, adjacent to Lefferts Historic House and the zoo. One ride will set you back $2, or book five rides for $9.
- Prospect Park, enter park from Willink entrance, (Ocean Ave at Empire Blvd), 11225
- Price band: 1/4
A walk through any street in Brooklyn may find you up close with a wide variety of diverse folks, but that's nothing compared to what you'll find at the Prospect Park Zoo. Here, meet otters, kangaroos, red pandas and other furry, feathered or fishy critters. On especially warm days, there's sure to be a commotion by the sea lions, and no visit it complete without trading a few funny faces with the monkeys and baboons.
- 450 Flatbush Ave, (at Empire Blvd)
The all-new Lakeside area in Prospect Park has just returned from a winter full of ice-skating and cold weather fun, but with summer comes even more ways to frolic: Kids can splash in the water fountain or take skating lessons on a roller rink. Look out for special Toddler Tuesdays and DJ Roller Dance Series.
- Prospect Park, Lakeside
Located in Prospect Park's early-20th-century Boathouse, the Audubon Center is devoted to wildlife preservation and education and contains the park's visitor's center, a café and an exhibition area. Stop in for the park's free wildlife workshop, Pop-Up Audubon (Saturdays and Sundays through Oct 19, 12-5pm), where each month's theme will have kiddos on park beautification duty, heading out on a bird watching walk or learning to fish.
- enter at Ocean Ave, (and Lincoln Rd)
Outfitted as a Prospect Park destination for kids, Lefferts House depicts Brooklyn family life in the 1820s to the present. Throughout the month of June, kids can take part in a History In Your Hands workshop (Saturdays and Sundays, 2-4pm), where they'll use farm tools to process flax into linen. Visits to the second floor of the historic house are also available through tours that run every half hour on weekends. Mark your calendars for June 5, when families can hop in a potato sack race and other old-timey games at Race Around the Farmyard (1-4pm).
- Ocean Ave, (at Empire Blvd)
At the Donald and Barbara Zucker Natural Exploration Area, kids can repurpose trees that have fallen as a result of storms or other natural damage into their very own playground. Situated in the northeast corner of Prospect Park, the trees are flanked by sand and water for an immersive natural habitat.
- Prospect Park
The horses at Kensington Stables cater to all ages groups, even the littlest of riders. A one-hour lesson runs at $57; a half-hour lesson is $34. Got a summer birthday? The Kensington Stable ponies are always on call for your child's birthday bash.
- Prospect Park, E. 8th St at Caton Pl
The name of the spacious Imagination Playground refers not to the blue-block-filled kind of imagination but rather that of tall tales and storytelling. A bronze sculpture of a dragon that seems to pop right out of a book is the park’s main water feature (water flows along the dragon’s back). And in 1997 the Ezra Jack Keats Foundation commissioned a sculpture of Keats’s beloved character Peter and the boy’s dog, a fixture that’s now a popular spot for organized storytimes (Saturdays at 2pm during July and August). There's also the Garfield Tot Lot, which features appropriately tiny equipment meant just the littlest climbers, as well as Harmony Playground near the bandshell.
- Ocean Ave, (between Parkside Ave and Lincoln Rd)