Best beaches for kids
Snacking on cotton candy, taking a ride on the iconic Cyclone and digging your toes in the Coney Island sand are all city rites of passage that can't be matched. It’s worth the trip to Brooklyn to experience our most iconic beach and boardwalk (now a historic landmark!), which includes Luna Park, the New York Aquarium and Deno’s Wonder Wheel Park, as well as super tasty food and drink options nearby at the original Nathan’s Famous. Though the beach can get a little crowded, you’ll definitely be able to toss down a blanket and lay claim to a decent spot if you get there in the morning. It’s also easy to park yourself near one of the public bathrooms if you’ve got little ones in tow.
Enjoy a day of fun in the sun, minus the crazy crowds. Airplane-obsessed tots can feel the rumble of jets en route to JFK at this underutilized beach near the airport, which is part of the Gateway National Recreation Area. In addition to sunscreen and towels, pack a picnic for the gang. It might be best to avoid schlepping the youngsters to one of the faraway food vendors.
Head to the south shore of Long Island to enjoy a beautiful beach and boardwalk. While most folks will spend their time in the surf and sand or nibbling on treats from one of the numerous concession stands, there’s plenty more to see too—including the Theodore Roosevelt Nature Center or a visit to one of the area’s many playgrounds. Don’t miss the Bethpage Air Show on Memorial Day weekend or great summer concerts at the Jones Beach Theater!
Avoid the crowds of Brighton Beach, and kick back at its calmer seaside sister. Manhattan Beach juts out from the same peninsula 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 and hit the roller hockey rink, try out handball and shuffleboard or bring a set of wheels to use on the bike paths and skateboard park ramps.
The crescent-shaped beach is entirely man-made. Thanks to the sound's minimal waves, parents can feel more at east 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.
This Long Island venue is a little farther out, but it might be worth the extra travel time if Jones Beach is too crowded for you—and if you have a car (the easiest way to get here). Thanks to ample parking spots and multiple trails to the beach, hauling the kids' supply of buckets and toys is a bit easier. Stroll along the long, flat shoreline and help the tots search for seashells, but be forewarned—the easternmost stretch, called Field 5, is clothing-optional.
Encompassing more than 170 acres of sand, this family-friendly beach (and the city’s only legal surfing beach) attracts New Yorkers from all five boroughs. Seven playgrounds (yes, seven!) keep kids happy while wave riders enjoy hanging 10. There are also opportunities for stand-up paddleboarding, fishing, volleyball, skating and channeling your inner mermaid (otherwise known as swimming). Pack your beach bag and head out there!
Hop aboard the SeaStreak Ferry in Manhattan for a 40-minute ride to immaculate, shell-strewn Sandy Hook. After they've been dropped off near the lighthouse in the Fort Hancock Historic District, kids (4-feet and up) can climb 95 steps and a nine-rung ladder 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. 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.