The best kid-style fun for grownups
Grab a juice box, strap on that knapsack and follow our guide to that fountain of youth
Thu Aug 14 2014
Photograph: courtesy Shutterstock
Ah, New York City—that magical land where arrested development is not just encouraged but celebrated. Go ahead and take a slurp from the fountain of youth with our guide to the best kids' activities for grownups. NYC invites you to pair skee-ball, shuffleboard and ping pong with booze at its many bars with games. Or how about an adult sleepover (no, not that kind of adult sleepover) in one of our cool NYC parks? Or perhaps you'd like to embrace your inner-child by chowing down on Nathan's Famous hot dogs and riding the Cyclone—two of the best Coney Island attractions. NYC really is a true playground for adults. Recapture some of that youthfulness with these great activities.
Photograph: Jolie Ruben
Get tanked and watch toons at Nitehawk Cinema
Remember those Saturday mornings when you’d wake up early just to watch DuckTales and munch on Lucky Charms? Relive those blessed days at Nitehawk Cinema’s monthly Spoons, Toons & Booze series, which screens animated favorites from the ’30s through ’90s and serves all the tooth-decaying, marshmallow-filled, chocolaty cereal you can eat. One perk of not actually being a kid: You can slam some very adult beverages while you watch. 163 Metropolitan Ave between Berry St and Wythe Ave, Williamsburg, Brooklyn (718-782-8370, nitehawkcinema.com). Next up: Aug 16, 17 at 11:45am; $16.
Photograph: courtesy Down & Derby
Roller-skate in a park
Grab those tattered old skates, and attempt to remain upright for a few laps around the Central Park Skate Circle (cpdsa.org), just northeast of Sheep Meadow at about 70th Street. The circle is open only sporadically depending on scheduling of other events in the park, but most Saturdays, Sundays and occasional Mondays from 2:45 to 6:45pm, you’ll be able to do your thang to DJs spinning house music and more. Brooklyn cruisers should opt for the 16,000-square-foot rink at LeFrak Center at Lakeside Prospect Park (lakesidebrooklyn.com; $6), which has adult-only, tunes-fueled skates on Friday nights at 8pm through August 29.
Photograph: Chelsea Noelani Hale
Team up for Skee-Ball at Full Circle Bar
Rally two of your most baller friends for the upcoming Skee-Ball season at Williamsburg watering hole Full Circle Bar, which kicks off its next ten-week tournament in October. You’ll have plenty of time to practice: On Tuesdays and Thursdays till September, the Skee-Ball lanes are free, and you get gratis hot dogs with your drink. Win-win, playas. 318 Grand St between Havemeyer St and Marcy Ave, Williamsburg, Brooklyn (347-725-4588, fullcirclebar.com). $100 per player.
Photograph: Talia Simhi
Bowl at the Gutter
Remember all those bowling parties you went to as a kid? You know, greasy pizza, gutter guards and that one kid bawling his eyes out after dropping a ball on his foot? Relive the good ol’ days with a few beers and a few games amid the ’70s-style wooden decor at Williamsburg bowling bar The Gutter. Bowling is cash only and runs $7 per game (or $40 to $45 per hour), plus a $3 shoe-rental fee. Yeah, you still have to wear the shoes. Just consider it athletic normcore. 200 North 14th St between Berry St and Wythe Ave, Williamsburg, Brooklyn (718-387-3585, thegutterbrooklyn.com)
Photograph: courtesy SPiN
Drink and play Ping-Pong at SPiN
Full disclosure: Our fabulous guest editor-in-chief Susan Sarandon is co-owner of the Gramercy/Flatiron Ping-Pong haven SPiN, because she realized the same thing we all did in college: Ping-Pong and alcohol are a match made in heaven. We recommend savoring, rather than chugging, the diverse selection of domestic and imported craft brews ($8–$12). Walk-in rates for an hour of table time start at $30 before 6pm on weekdays, and increase in the evening and on weekends. 48 E 23rd St between Madison and Park Aves (212-982-8802, newyork.spingalactic.com)
Photograph: courtesy Creative Commons/Flickr/Senor Don Gato
Kayak around NYC's waterways
There are more options than you’d think to kayak for free in NYC. At the New York City Downtown Boathouse (Pier 26, Hudson River at North Moore St; downtownboathouse.org; Mon–Fri 5–7pm through Sept 5, Sat, Sun 9am–6pm through Oct 12), you and a pal can cruise during 20-minute sessions, which is how long it’ll take for your arms to get tired. Feeling (slightly) more ambitious? Row on the East River for a cool half hour at Brooklyn Bridge Park Boathouse (Brooklyn Bridge Park between Piers 1 and 2, Furman St at Old Fulton St, Dumbo, Brooklyn; bbpboathouse.org; Thu 5:30pm, Sat 10am; through Aug 31), but show up early, because everyone and their cousin wants to paddle around the charming view of the Brooklyn Bridge. Feel like peeping some art while you row? Kayak alongside outdoor sculptures at Long Island City Community Boathouse. 46-01 5th St between 46th Ave and 46th Rd, Long Island City, Queens (718-228-9214, licboathouse.org). Sat 1pm; through Sept 13.
Photograph: Filip Wolak
Play shuffleboard at the Royal Palms Shuffleboard Club
Perhaps the ultimate old-school conduit between grandparents and grandkids, shuffleboard can also
be a great bonding activity for you and your drinking buddies (aww). The Royal Palms Shuffleboard Club is 21-plus and features a full bar, so millennials can pound cocktails and push the biscuit (no, that’s not a euphemism) without making the trip down to Boca. Courts are available on a first-come, first-served basis for $40 per hour. 514 Union St between Nevins St and Third Ave, Gowanus, Brooklyn (347-223-4410, royalpalmsshuffle.com)
Photograph: Tina Zimmer
Check out arcade games at Barcade
In our day, we had to walk 20 miles to school in the snow—and we didn’t have any of those fancy Xboxes or high-speed Internet. We’d just go down to the arcade and play Donkey Kong for a quarter. Thankfully, that bygone era has returned anew at the understandably popular Barcade. Except it’s better now: There’s beer! In fact, the rotating selection of domestic craft brews on tap is almost as extensive as the more than 50 available classic gaming options (only 25 cents per play), which include classics like Frogger and Punch-Out!! 388 Union Ave between Ainslie and Powers Sts, Williamsburg, Brooklyn (718-302-6464, barcadebrooklyn.com)
Photograph: courtesy Justin Eastman
Join the Brooklyn Kickball league
Kids these days, with their grade-school games. And why the hell not?!? On Sundays, Brooklyn Kickball rallies up to 35 teams on two separate McCarren Park fields—and it’s always looking for new players. Just sign up for its nifty Free Agent Player list via its website and find yourself the perfect team, or start one of your own. It’s a real kick. (We know—so childish.) McCarren Park at Bayard St to Nassau Ave between Leonard and North 12th Sts (brooklynkickball.com). E-mail firstname.lastname@example.org to join and for more information.
Photograph: courtesy Wendy Moger-Bross
Create stop-motion animation at the Museum of the Moving Image
Cartoons are for grown-ups too, and it’s never too late to engage your inner animator at “Behind the Screen,” the Museum of the Moving Image’s flagship exhibit. There, you can create ten-second stop-motion animations using colorful cutout figures. You can also overdub your own dialog, sound effects and music over scenes from iconic films and TV shows like The Wizard of Oz and The Simpsons. Ever wanted Dorothy to make a fart joke? Now’s your chance, you class act. 36-01 35th Ave at 37th St, Astoria, Queens (718-777-6888, movingimage.us). $12, free Fri.
Photograph: courtesy Liz Ligon/Friends of the High Line
Stargaze on the High Line
Trips to the planetarium were a teenage highlight (mostly because of the cool laser shows and ample make-out opportunities). At the cosmic get-together Stargazing on the High Line, you can get starry-eyed alfresco—and this time you’ll have astronaut-worthy views with high-powered telescopes. Even better, the Amateur Astronomers Association will be on-site just in case you can’t tell your Summer Triangle from your Little Dipper (hey yo!). And here we thought you couldn’t see stars in New York City. Enter at 14th St and Tenth Ave (212-206-9922, thehighline.org). Tue 7:30pm; free.
Photograph: courtesy AMNH/D.Finnin
Sleep over at AMNH
New Yorkers aren’t known for being outdoorsy, but the more intrepid among us can take advantage of the NYC parks department’s camping program, which consists of park-ranger–supervised sleepovers in parks located in all five boroughs. The free adventures are held several times each month and, we should note, are very family-friendly. You’ll have to register through a lottery at nycgovparks.org/programs/rangers/registration. Too much nature for your liking? Earlier this month, the Natural History Museum (Central Park West at 79th St; 212-769-5100, amnh.org) hosted its inaugural “Night at the Museum” event, in which 150 attendees whiled away the hours enjoying special exhibitions and fine cuisine, and finding out if the dioramas really do come to life at night. Plans for an encore are in the works.
Take the Bushwick Beach Bus to Rockaway Beach
Field-trip days were the best days in elementary school, but those memories would likely be fonder if, instead of some third-rate nature museum, the destination were the beach—and you got beer, coffee and breakfast burritos instead of milk and expired applesauce. Show up at Pearl’s Social & Billy Club (40 St. Nicholas Ave at Starr St, Bushwick, Brooklyn) starting at 10am on Saturdays and Sundays for the Bushwick Beach Bus, and you’ll be able to load up on sustenance from neighborhood establishments Strangeways and Stan Cafecito and hop a $12 round-trip bus ride out to the Rockaways to make some summer memories. 347-627-9986, bushwickbeachbus.com. Through Sept 1.
Photograph: Cinzia Reale-Castello
Thrill-seek at Coney Island
No kid at heart can resist a day spent filling up on chili dogs and brews at Nathan’s Famous (1310 Surf Ave at Stillwell Ave, Coney Island, Brooklyn; 718-333-2202, nathansfamous.com), chasing them with a pine-tree–size serving of cotton candy and then taking a whip around the Cyclone (834 Surf Ave at 8th St, Coney Island, Brooklyn; lunaparknyc.com). Okay, so you should probably do that in reverse order, but go ahead and live your childhood fantasy. Perhaps you’ll find it gets better with age.
Photograph: courtesy Sara Cedar Miller/Central Park Conservancy
Bird watch in the great outdoors
NYC’s avian population extends far beyond all those pigeons, you know. Stop by Belvedere Castle in Central Park (centralparknyc.org) between 10am and 3pm any day of the week, and pick up a free birding kit, complete with maps and binoculars. The Jamaica Bay Wildlife Refuge (nyharborparks.org), situated in the middle of the bay between the Rockaways and JFK, is an even better, if less convenient, birding destination—it’s home to as many as 330 species.
Photoraph: courtesy Randall's Island Golf
Putt away at Randalls Island Golf Center
The sprawling, leafy 36-hole minigolf course at this Randalls Island sports complex is a far cry from the rinky-dink windmill-and-plastic-alligator circuits you grew up five-putting on. Once you’ve conquered the course ($9/game), take a few rips at the batting cage before cooling off with some suds at the adjacent Beer Garden & Grill. 1 Randalls Island (212-427-5689, randallsislandgolfcenter.com).
Photograph: Jena Cumbo
Swim at the Pop-Up Pool in Brooklyn Bridge Park
We’re willing to bet the lame pool parties you went to as a kid didn’t offer a stunning view of the Brooklyn Bridge like this chlorinated oasis near Pier 2. The pool only holds 60 people, and admission is limited to 45-minute increments, so you’ll have to show up half an hour earlier than you’re planning to swim to obtain a wristband for entry. Once the pool closes at 6pm, you can meander over to the beach to lounge and sip on sangrias from Lizzmonade Brooklyn. Brooklyn Bridge Park, Furman St at Pier 2, Brooklyn Heights (brooklynbridgepark.org).
Get a free workout at Macombs Dam Park
In an insidious effort to encourage health and fitness by taking advantage of our magical childhood nostalgia for jungle gyms and sandboxes, the NYC parks department opened an “adult playground” in Macombs Dam Park, in the shadow of Yankee Stadium in the Bronx, in 2012. It features exercise equipment cleverly disguised as kiddie playground apparatuses. Mayor De Blasio hopes to open more in the near future.
Photograph: courtesy Creative Commons/Flickr/Carter Brown
Play laser tag at Indoor Extreme Sports
Have you always enjoyed playing laser tag, but felt that it suffers from not allowing you to feel as though you are actually in a war zone? Then spend a few hours at this sprawling complex, which offers ultra-realistic-looking military-style weaponry to use during intense sessions of paintball or several different editions of laser tag. Their zombie laser tag is hair-raising enough to come with a disclaimer for kids 12 and under. 47-11 Van Dam St between 47th and 48th Aves, Long Island City, Queens (718-361-9152, indoorextremesports.com)
Photograph: courtesy Creative Commons/Flickr/Nathan Rupert
Play some Ultimate Frisbee
Manhattan Ultimate Disc, NYC’s ultimate, um, Ultimate organization, just wrapped up its summer league play, but if you’re one for whom hurling that disc around never lost its appeal, keep an eye out for announcements concerning the fall season. You’ll be able to join either a “competitive” or “recreational” bracket; this summer, MUD charged a registration fee of $55 for the latter and $65 for the former. manhattanultimate.com
- Bank of America Winter Village at Bryant Park Rink
- Union Square Holiday Market
- Macy's Thanksgiving Parade Balloon Inflation
- Out to See Festival
- Brooklyn Flea
- Radio City Christmas Spectacular
- Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade
- Bank of America Winter Village at Bryant Park
- Grand Central Holiday Fair
- Holiday Train Show
Here are the ten New York experiences you simply can’t miss.
Don’t fret, penny-pincher—each of these fun cheap date ideas will cost you $30 or less.
Tired of swamped tourist traps, huh? Check out these alternative things to do in New York.