Summer officially begins when the urban beach bums set up their colorful chairs and umbrellas at Jones Beach. The main draws are the sandy beach and splashing around in the water, but there are plenty of other great things to do in the area when you're traveling with kiddos. The boardwalk boasts a variety of snack and entertainment options that the whole fam will love. Toddler alert: In 2018, a new splash pad opened for the tots who are too young for the waves.
Rockaway Beach is one of the best things about New York. When you need a break from the urban jungle in the summer months, jump an A Train or hop on an NYC Ferry to the Rockaways Beach. Boasting 170 acres of sandy fun. Playgrounds, concessions with delicious food, a newly-renovated boardwalk with plenty of water fountains and foot showers, plus the only legal surfing beach in the five boroughs: This warm-weather destination is a hit for the entire family. If your high-energy kids need a little running around time then head to the Beach 30th St Playground, where little bathers can run under a series of blue arches that will soak them from head to toe and a ship playscape will have kids battling it out with water-shooting cannons to become king of the high seas!
Coney Island is the ultimate one-stop-shop for summer fun. Rattle around on the Cyclone, take in the Atlantic from the Wonder Wheel, order griddled hot dogs at Nathan's Famous: There's so much to do before you even hit the sand! True, the crowds can seem overwhelming, but you'll be able to find a spot on the beach the kiddos can build a sandcastles and you can kick back.
Ocean, schmocean: This is the beach for little ones who can't get enough of planes. They'll be delighted as jets fly overhead en route to JFK. The massive beach means the crowds are always manageable, but the distance to the food vendors is a trek. You'll want to pack as much as you can because once you set up your spot it'll be hard to had back to the boardwalk.
It's worth it to take the extra time and make your way out east to Long Island's Robert Moses Beach. It's a great place to spend the afternoon: Kiddies will love to walk along the beach in search of shells, but they most likely will be drawn to the playground area and boardwalk. When you're done soaking up the sunshine, head to Field 2 for a round of mini-golf.
The crescent-shaped beach is entirely man-made. Thanks to the sound's minimal waves, parents can feel more at ease with little ones playing at the water's edge, which definitely makes the spot one of the best beaches for kids. Nearby concessions keep hungry kids happy, while the changing rooms, showers and bathrooms ensure that everyone's sand-free for the ride home.
Manhattan Beach juts out from the same peninsula of Brighton Beach and boasts wide stretches of soft sand for families to romp around on. Between dips, the kids can face off in a game of volleyball on the regulation-size courts and explore the 36-foot-long pirate ship outfitted with wooden planks, talk tubes, a cannon and a crow’s nest in the nautically themed Pat Perlato Playground. Pack sneakers and sandals to take advantage of the space’s two handball courts and three basketball courts, then enjoy a picnic on or bring a barbecue to the northeast side of the promenade.
Need to cool off? Grab a spot on the Staten Island Ferry and prepare for a full-day beach getaway on New York Bay. As you make the trek down the Franklin D. Roosevelt Boardwalk, keep an eye out for the colorful Playland Playground, channeling an age-old Staten Island amusement park with carnival faces and dolphin decorations throughout. You won’t be able to miss the sea-turtle fountain—a favorite for kids to visit (bring your water shoes!)—and there’s plenty of activity nearby for those who’d choose sports over sand castles. Strap on skates or bring a set of wheels to use on the bike paths and skateboard park ramps.
Hop aboard the SeaStreak Ferry in Manhattan for a 40-minute ride to the immaculate soft-sand beaches of Sandy Hook. After disembarking near the lighthouse in the Fort Hancock Historic District, let the kids (48" and taller) climb up the 95 steps and a nine-rung ladder that takes you to the top. Guided tours are available on a first-come, first-served basis.
Get some fresh air in your lungs and hit the trails as a family at this scenic Staten Island oasis and one of the borough's largest parks. Meander through Wolfe’s Pond Park’s native forest (the spot is a wildlife and plant preserve), and keep an eye out for marine life such as blue crabs and jellyfish, and birds like killdeers and sandpipers. Active kids can hit the nearby basketball and tennis courts, or the family can kick back and enjoy a picnic and soak up some sun on the sandy beach, looking out over Raritan Bay.