Summer. Summer. Summertime. The days are longer, the schoolwork is over and visits to the beach and ice cream parlor happen on the regular. Summer is when living in the suburbs really pays off – green leaves and chirping birds are everywhere. To kick off this great season, here are 6 Fun Summer activities for families in the NYC area!
Visit a Local Amusement Park in Westchester or Long Island
Kids love rides and summer is the season of carnivals and amusement parks. Lucky for us, Rye Playland is less than 20 minutes from my house, and Adventureland is not far from where I grew up. No need to for Disney, friends! Rye Playland has been amusing the residents of Westchester County and its surrounding areas every summer since 1928. This amusement park is more than just rides and games – it’s a National Historic Landmark! The park features about 30 thrill rides, plus a large designated area called “Kiddyland” offering calmer rides for its smaller guests. Check the Playland website for concerts and performances happening around the park during the season. And bring sunscreen, as there is not much shade on a warm day. On Long Island, Adventureland is a similarly sized amusement park to Playland, built in 1962. It also features thrill rides, a few water rides (aka log flumes) and some kiddie rides. I remember going as a kid, and from the pictures I’ve seen online, it appears to have been updated better than Playland. If water is more your thing, then drive out a bit further on Long Island to Riverhead and hit Splish Splash – ranked the third best water park in the U.S. by the Travel Channel.
Bring Some Serious Eats to the Playground in Darien, CT
One of my favorite local playgrounds is at Cherry Lawn Park in Darien, CT. There are two side-by-side playgrounds here, one meant for smaller kids and one for the bigger kids. The smaller kid playground is conveniently gated to prevent your kiddies from running off. It has a large sandbox with climbing structures inside and usually some buckets and shovels with which to dig. There are swing sets, slides, cute seesaw rocking creatures and fun bucket seats to spin in. There is also a nice shaded gazebo where caretakers can relax. The big kid section is rather large and has enough bells and whistles to excite a seasoned playground-goer. My kids especially love going down the slide with the rollers on it.
What really sets Cherry Lawn apart from the pack is that this playground is less than a mile and a half from the best quick eats breakfast duo in Fairfield County. Before your hit Cherry Lawn Park, make a pit stop on Grove Street for some third wave coffee (or maybe iced coffee – it is summer) at Neat and then walk exactly one storefront over to Flour Water Salt Bread for some delicious sourdough confections. Both make for wonderful and portable breakfast treats to enjoy while the kiddies hit the playground.
Enjoy an Outdoor Performance in Katonah or Pleasantville
Everything is better outside in nice weather, including concerts and performances. From Summerstage in Central Park to your local town theater company, there are many opportunities to get outside and enjoy the arts this summer.
Caramoor Center for Music and the Arts is a beautiful venue in Katonah, New York that offers a slew of summer programming in its breathtaking gardens. If you have kids, definitely attend one of their Dancing at Dusk series happening on select Wednesday evenings in June and July. Guests arrive at 5pm for a themed craft, followed by an hour long performance at 5:30pm, and finally, a “meet and greet” with the performance artists. Each week, different performers introduce families to the songs and dances of their culture.
On July 13th, head to Pleasantville for the 15th annual Pleasantville Music Festival. This year’s lineup includes 90s favorites Everclear and Soul Asylum as headliners. Though the festival (which includes, among other things, a Beer and Wine Garden) leans more “adult-oriented,” the shows are “all ages” and kids under 12 are free. There will also be kid-centric activities offered throughout the day.
Ride your Bike….on the Bronx River Parkway
This activity has always intrigued me but alas, 50% of my family does not yet know how to ride a bike. On Sundays in June and September, the Bronx River Parkway is closed to car traffic from 10am to 2pm for Bicycle Sundays. Bikers, along with walkers, joggers, skaters and scooters, can safely move between Exit 22 (Westchester County Center) and Exit 4 (Scarsdale Road in Yonkers) on the Bronx River Parkway without fear of being run over by a car. The event is free and all participants must be off the road by 1:50pm.
Attend the Hudson Valley Hot Air Balloon Festival
I am dying to hit the Hudson Valley Hot Air Balloon Festival at Dutchess County Fairgrounds. From July 12th through July 14, thousands of people will flock to the Dutchess fairgrounds to watch majestic hot air balloons take flight. Guests will also be treated to hayrides, games, live music, food and drink tents and many other activities. If you actually want to be in one of the hot air balloons when it launches, buy advance tickets to board a launch happening at either 6am or 6pm.
Or if you’re like me and are too afraid to actually take flight, you can instead get a tethered hot air balloon ride for just $20 per person. On Friday and Saturday evening at 8:30pm, stick around for “Balloon Glow” – where after dark, a few balloons will fire their burners, causing the balloons to glow.
General admission to the Hot Air Balloon Festival is $10 per person per day or $25 per pass for a weekend access pass.
Have the Perfect Summer Family Meal in Norwalk, CT
Here’s one Norwalk eating experience that will satisfy your entire family this summer. First, head to Knot Norm’s, located on an adorable, beachy stretch of land in East Norwalk right on the Long Island Sound. The space is small but bright, airy and nautical, and it’s very much casual enough to bring the kids. Knot Norm’s is counter service and you seat yourself, which is perfect for families.
Half the menu at Knot Norm’s focuses on “Rolls” served on a toasted hot dog bun – delicious things like lobster rolls, Norwalk’s own Copps Island oyster rolls, lump crab rolls, as well as fried chicken, brisket, pork belly, and steak and cheese rolls for land lovers. The other half of the menu is “Knot Rolls” – salads, steamers, fish tacos, soups, roasted oysters, chicken wings. No matter what you pick, it will be tasty, and summery. After you finish dinner, walk one teeny tiny, itsy bitsy block over to Mr. Frosty’s Ice Cream, located on that same street as Knot Norm’s. Mr. Frosty’s is a counter service seasonal ice cream spot with a large patio for seating. They have pretty much every kind of ice cream flavor and preparation you could think of. There’s custard soft serve (their signature) and all kinds of hard ice cream flavors. There are sundaes and “Tornadoes” (blended soft serve ice cream and toppings a la Dairy Queen Blizzard). There are ice cream sandwiches and dipped cones and all kinds of fruit smoothies. You can’t go wrong.
On a warm day, I’m not sure you can have a more summery meal than Knot Norm’s into Mr. Frosty!
About Marissa Millman
A corporate lawyer by day and blogger at Donuts at the Disco by night, Marissa Millman is so excited to finally let her more creative side shine as a blogger. Marissa was born on Long Island and spent her entire life in New York before meeting her CT born husband, Michael, in 2006 and eventually moving with him to Greenwich, CT in 2011. Together, they have two CT-born little ladies, and over time, their passion for exploring and experiencing all that’s around them has become a family affair. Marissa started her blog in the summer of 2018 to share what her family is up to in hopes that it may inspire other families to do some of those same things. Visit her website. Instagram @donutsatthedisco
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Suburbs 101 is an online lifestyle guide for the New York Suburbs of Westchester County, Long Island, Fairfield County and Northern New Jersey. Get the inside scoop on what it’s really like to live in the New York suburbs through our weekly interviews with local suburbanites and features on Food, Fashion, Home, Travel, and Local Events. Be sure to Follow Us on Instagram, Like Us on Facebook and subscribe to our Monthly Newsletter.