Long Island City Queens grabbed the international spotlight earlier this year when a certain, uh, tech giant smiled upon, and then reconsidered plans to move to the neighborhood. But anyone familiar with the Queens spot knows it’s been a place to be for years, and that includes kids and families. Longterm fixtures of the area (major parks and museums, neighborhood restaurants) have recently been joined by new establishments catering to the kid set—and their adults. Whether you’re looking to visit (you should!) or put down some roots, here’s our guide to doing Long Island City with kids, right!
What To Do
This is LIC’s newest, indoor venue for kids of all ages. Best for kids 11 and unders, at Kanga’s, kids can find tons of entertainment while the parents grab some food and coffee at the on-site cafe. There’s a giant jungle-gym style crawl and play structure, numerous Merry-Go-Rounds, an inflatable bouncy house, huge ball pits filled with plastic balls, a separate toddler area for the younger kids, and more. Birthday parties available.
An arts and fun space for kids of all ages, Okabaloo offers camps, after-school program, arts and music classes, birthday parties, private and public events and more. At Okabaloo, you can find "everything but the kitchen sink" for your kiddos, including, but not limited to: after school rec programs, a Valentine's Party/date night for the parents, a Kids' STEAM Play-Date and Parent's Shop-Day Crazy Robotics, and various camps.
Opened by a local father and professional artist who wanted to bring more kids art classes to the neighborhood, Playday is THE local arts hotspot for kids. It offers a plethora of unique and super creative classes and activities lead by industry experts who love both art and working with kids. Register online--or drop in--to enroll your child in classes such as Fiber Frenzy, Watercolor, Little Journalist and Banksy. There are also music classes for toddlers, chess, dance classes, and more, and in the summertime Playday’s backyard space is utilized for art and theatre classes. Playday is often open over school holidays and breaks, so it’s a great place to bring the kids to tap into their creativity when school’s not in session. Parties available.
This is a local, cute little indoor play space best for kids 5 and younger opened by a local mom. There are 4 different climbing and riding structures for babies and toddlers, including a rocking see-saw-like boat that fits 4 and a mini carousel. Whimsy music plays as kids enjoy the fun playspace. In the back is a huge climbing structure ballpit and climbing structure with a large, clear slide that looks like a pool float. All the on-site play equipment is foamy and super soft, so kids can climb and play safely with confidence. No cafe on site, but birthday parties are available.
This play space looks like a little mini house in which every mini-sized room and nook has something specials for kids to play with, from a kitchen to a sensory section with soft lights to dress-up clothes. There’s also an on-site cafe where mom and dad can grab a cup of coffee and a small snack while the kids play. In the outside section are sprinklers and riding toys; the outside area is utilized in the Spring and Summer. You can drop-in with your toddler for open play or one class, or become a City Owlets member. Classes available for parents and/or kids include Prenatal, Baby, Mommy & Me, and Toddler and you sign up and register online. Parties available.'
If you’re interested in introducing your child to Japanese culture, you must bring them to Resobox--which has two other locations in NYC--offers Japanese activities for children, which are advertised on the cultural center’s website. Classes that may interest your kids include Magna Drawing, ORINIGIRI, and exhibitions such as World Amigurumi, which educates kids and adults about Amigurumi (lit. crocheted or knitted stuffed toy), the Japanese art of knitting or crocheting small stuffed animals and creatures. Of note: There’s an-site cafe at Resobox with Ramen, Matcha Teas, Sake and more.
With all of these uniquely-Queens destinations, you probably won't be looking for one, but there is a Chuck E. Cheese in the heart of Long Island City should you feel the need to get your arcade on. This family fun center has games galore, and you can redeem infamous little tickets for prizes. You can drop in with the kids and play, or head in to celebrate a birthday. The first Sundays of every month are Sensory-friendly for children with autism or other needs in which they prefer a less simulated environment. The venue’s cafe menu has the usual munchies from pizza to chicken nuggets along gluten-free food options, fruit, and wraps.
This bi-level independent bookstore is a must-visit in our, uh, book. Part of a mini-empire (with other locations on the Upper West Side in Manhattan), Book Culture hosts events for both kids and adults (check out the storytime and singalong calendar here) and has a robust dedicated kids' space on the lower level (complete with cozy reading chair). You can also pick up any number of cool and/or locally-made products and gifts here, or join the
"Raising Little Humans" Book Club, for parents and caregivers.
26-09 Jackson Ave.
Take a Free Kayak Ride at Hallets Cove
Thanks to the Long Island City Community Boathouse, you and the kids can take a kayak for a spin free of charge. On select weekends and weeknights (check the calendar for dates) you can just walk up and sign up to give kayaking a try. (FYI: Hallets Cove is a short walk from Socrates Sculpture Park.) All are welcome to get in a boat, but children under 18 must be accompanied by a parent or caregiver. What's nice about this boating opportunity is that you launch from a beach into the shallow water of an inlet, and you can venture out as far as you and the kids feel comfortable. (Each trip is 20 minutes. Nobody else there and you want to head out again? No problem.)
Vernon Boulevard at 31st Ave.
Museums To Visit
MoMA P.S. 1
Housed in a massive former public school (hence the "P.S.") MoMA's Long Island City outpost is a great museum for kids, with its frequently funky art and large galleries. The museum is also home to an annual competition through which a temporary sculptural landscape is installed in its massive courtyard. On Saturdays in the summer, the space turns into a communal dance party dubbed "Warm Up" that goes into the night.
Thursday to Monday, 12 pm to 6 pm; closed on Tuesdays and Wednesdays.
22-25 Jackson Avenue at the intersection of 46th Ave.
The Noguchi Museum
Dedicated to the sculptural works of Isamu Noguchi, this museum is also devoted to including children and families in exploring the museum’s minimalistic artworks. Currently on view is an exhibit featuring Akari light sculptures made from the simple and beautiful white paper lantern. On the first Sunday of each month, Open Studio invites families for kid-friendly tours and hands-on artmaking. For the youngest of visitors, check out Art for Tots and Art for Families, which are held on selected weekends. Don't miss the museum's serene sculpture garden for an extra dose of Zen.
11 a.m.-6 p.m.; Wed.-Fri., 10 a.m.-5 p.m. Sat. & Sun.
$10/adults, free for children
9-01 33rd Rd.
Parks To Explore
There’s a long Boardwalk in LIC that has posts for fishing, awesome benches and chairs for reading and chilling, lots of lush greenery for picnics, close-up views of the famous Pepsi-Co sign, as well as breathtaking views of the Manhattan skyline and Hudson River. It’s been called a “12-acre Riverside Oasis” and has playgrounds for the kiddos, basketball courts, gardens, sprinklers, and even a deck area with cafe where you can catch the ferry to Brooklyn or Midtown Manhattan. (Next to the ferry dock is man-made beach!) Once home to gantries (large, bridge-like overhead structures with a flat, solid platform that holds crane and railroad equipment) today this LIC land is a relaxing and beautiful place for your family to spend the whole day--come here with a picnic basket, enjoy the breeze, and savor your time away from the grind.
Running alongside the East River, Socrates Sculpture Park park is an open, sprawling area that provides artists an opportunity to exhibit large-scale public art. In addition to lots of art to explore and great views of the river and city, the park also hosts "Healthy Living" activities including yoga classes and tai chi classes, outdoor films, kids arts education and workshops, and events such as a Harvest Festival and Summer Solstice Celebration. (Hot tip: if you can't find parking or need bulk toilet paper, there's a Costco across the street.)32-01 Vernon Boulevard at Broadway
Where to Eat & Drink
Be forewarned: LIC Market is not a huge place, and it can get crowded for brunch, but people go crazy for its sophisticated, market-driven comfort food, cozy yet hip vibe, and extensive natural beer and wine lists. (It also has a sweet little patio for dining al fresco.) They do lunch and dinner, too.
Sure, in NY of all places, pizza is a dime a dozen, but there’s just something about sLICes LIC that even the most “foodies” of New Yorkers enjoy. (True story: we know people who drive in from the 'burbs just to eat here!) At this cozy sit-down pizza place, located on bustling Vernon Blvd, you can find traditional and classic faves (cheese, Grandma, Sicilian, even Vodka pizza--don’t give that one to the kids) along with a variety of pastas and entrees such as Chicken Parm and Heros (meatball, eggplant, etc.) They’ll even make you a Gluten-Free pizza. It’s a great place to eat at after a fun day at one of the local parks or indoor play areas.
Communitea is an airy, large intimate coffee and tea shop with a checkered floor; in the back of the cafe you’ll find little toys and games you can bring to the tables, such as Russian Nesting Dolls, puzzles, and Connect Four--which will definite entertain kids. It’s a cute hangout spot for the whole family, and menu items include wraps, burgers, paninis, croissants and more.
Bierocracy is an indoor beer garden whose mission is to "raise the standard for beer halls in New York and elsewhere in the world." (It's also got room for your stroller.) It's a pretty lofty goal, but they are trying to accomplish it through a huge selection of local and imported beer options, great European-inspired meals and even a regularly published magazine that you can access from their website. Despite all this, the one food item everyone raves about is the pretzel, so be sure to give it a try.
Another place you can expect to be crowded, but worth it. People come from all over for Per Se vet chef Joshua Smookler's ramen; Anthony Bourdain even made the trip. So should you! You can get lunch and dinner here, but note that they're closed Mondays.
This is an old-school, traditional diner, and as most NYC parents of little ones know well--there’s no better place to bring your kids to for breakfast or lunch than a diner. Patrons know diners are kid hot-spots, and the large menu usually means your kiddo will find something to eat. Not to mention, diners in general are just cozy and familiar. Around since the 60, this diner’s got a retro vibe inside (although it’s been renovated since it opened…) and menu items include the usual: burgers, fries, brownie sundaes, egg creams--you know the drill, you’re a parent. Standout menu items include Disco Fries, Chocolate Chip Pancakes, and flan.
One of the most kid-friendly restaurant chains in all of New York, Bareburger, located in the heart of LIC, has a super impressive menu for tykes that will please even the pickiest of eaters. The restaurant’s “comfort food” (and the restaurant itself) prides itself on its sustainable and earth-friendly practices. Munchtime items include Cubby Meals for kids with beef burger options, turkey burgers, chicken tenders, a plethora of milkshakes, traditional or sweet potato fries, and much more fare. It’s a “must-eat-at” place for vegetarians and those who gluten-free, too!
Where to Work Out With the Kids
Whether your kid wants an introduction to rock-climbing and bouldering or is an old pro and wants to join a competitive team, The Cliffs at LIC has got you covered. (Beginner kids' classes are for those ages six to nine.) This massive indoor climbing gym also hosts school break and summer camps, and yes, they'll even host your child's sky-high birthday party.
11-11 44th Dr.
The Yoga Room
Founded in 2003, The Yoga Room is there for you before you even have a kid, with prenatal yoga and pilates classes, but they also hold Mommy & Baby yoga and even Mommy & Toddler yoga classes. The Yoga Room has a sister studio in nearby Astoria, and often leads free yoga in the parks during the summer.
10-14 47th Rd.
—Rachel Sokol & Mimi O’Connor