Fun under NYC bridges
Check out the great views from below, too.
Wed Aug 18 2010
Pier 1 in Dumbo
As neighborhood names go, it's hard to beat the kid-friendliness of Dumbo. Of course, the acronym has nothing to do with the Disney flying elephant, but rather the neighborhood's situation vis--vis its two towering bridges. Still, those bridges, and the many others that keep our city connected, have tons of tot appeal—as do the attractions beneath them.
Brooklyn and Manhattan
The Dumbo Arts Festival (Fri Sept 24--Sun Sept 26; dumboartsfestival.com) features puppet shows, circus performers, face painting and crafts. But special event or no, the area is worth a visit: Sit on the stanchion benches of Fulton Ferry Landing (end of Old Fulton St, Dumbo, Brooklyn) and read Walt Whitman while the kids watch ships sail by against the breathtaking Manhattan backdrop. Pier 1's spacious grass lawns are right next door, and nearby Brooklyn Ice Cream Factory (1 Water St at Old Fulton St, 718-246-3963, brooklynicecreamfactory.com) serves house-made frozen treats.
Completed in 1931, the world's busiest motor vehicle bridge soars over Fort Washington Park (W 155th St to W 179th St between Riverside Dr and the Hudson River). Below it is the beacon that inspired 1942's The Little Red Lighthouse and the Great Gray Bridge. On Saturday, September 25 from noon to 4pm, celebrate the diminutive landmark at the Little Red Lighthouse Festival (riversideparkfund.org). Families can enjoy crafts, live music and dance, a reading of the picture book—and a rare chance to climb to the top of the last remaining lighthouse in Manhattan.
Hell Gate and RFK-Triborough
Sixty-five-acre Astoria Park (Ditmars Blvd to Hoyt Ave between 21st St and the East River, Astoria, Queens) sprawls between the two spans. The rolling green space has tennis and basketball courts, a track and a bandstand, plus (in season) Astoria Pool, the city's largest and oldest. Let tykes run loose at Charybdis Playground, whose delightfully menacing name continues the "Hell Gate" theme (the bridge was named after the turbulent East River tidal strait it crosses). Unlike the mythical sea monster, the worst calamity the playground is likely to wreak is a skinned knee.
Underneath the longest suspension bridge in the United States lies Fort Wadsworth (210 New York Ave, Staten Island, 718-354-4500, nyharborparks.org), which guarded the entrance to New York Harbor for more than 200 years. Learn about the history of the fort in a ranger-led tour, or have the family romp on one of the park's verdant lawns. There's tons of programming, too—from readings of Moby-Dick to Civil War reenactments. Older kids will be thrilled to catch a lantern tour, when visitors bring flashlights and explore the fort after dark.