Metro Mama & Metro Baby

By Jill Hodge

Want to escape the rat-race for a day, but don’t want to load up the car or go too far from home? I’ve recently rediscovered some city gems where family members can connect with each other, and nature, in quiet natural settings. Two of these natural cityscapes are: the Queens County Farm Museum and the waterfront park areas of Riverside Park South and Hudson River Park. If you’re like me, you tend to visit the same park areas and family play spots each summer. I recently ventured out and found a treasure-trove of natural wonders. A visit to these places will offer rest and rejuvenation for the whole family.

Queens County Farm Museum

Queens County Farm Museum

The Queens County Farm Museum dates back to the 1600s. The farm, now a historic landmark, is owned by the New York City Department of Parks. What makes this farm special is its simple, timeless design. Children will love the easy layout of the farm, which guides them through chicken coops, pig pens, goat, sheep, cow, and alpaca pens, as well as fields of fresh flowers and produce. For younger children, the children’s garden has plants that kids are encouraged to smell, touch, and taste. Everywhere you go on the farm, the sweet smell of wildflowers follows you. When you stop to think about it, you realize that the noisy, city car horns and construction sounds have been replaced by rooster calls, singing birds, and an occasional tractor in the corn maze. In almost every corner of the farm, there are hidden treats like the grape vineyards, the Italian honeybee hives, the Adriance farmhouse (with daily tours), and the charming gift shop and nursery.

Queens County Farm Museum

Riverside Park South and Hudson River Park

On my day at the farm, the annual American Indian Pow Wow was held on the farm’s orchard. Over 40 Indian Nations participated in a day of dancing, singing, and community spirit-building that was in perfect harmony with the setting. The farm has loads of family-fun events including an annual County Fair (September 22nd and 23rd), Corn Maze adventures (September 15th-October 28th), and harvest festivities throughout the fall. For upcoming events go to http://www.queensfarm.org or call (718) 347-3276.

Hudson River Park

Now that the dog days of summer are winding down, how about a visit to a breezy waterfront? Riverside Park South and Hudson River Park, spanning the river from 72nd to the Battery, offer a landscape rich with cool, water breezes, lounging spots among the tall grasses and under weeping willow trees, and family fun for everyone. Check out the seven sculptures from 59th-72nd Streets from the Art Students League’s Model to Monument installation. The sculptures, created by an international team of students, explore the theme of “flux.” These large sculptures, made of materials like aluminum, steel, and cast-stone, are located off the walkway, some among the ornamental grass. Talking about these large sculptures is a wonderful way to expose children to art, engaging their imagination as they explore the objects in a playful way.

Riverside Park South and Hudson River Park are urban landscapes where the city sounds of cars and helicopters mix with the cries of seagulls and the shuffling feet of joggers. It is a sensory paradise as you smell the fragrant grass and wildflowers, listen to the cicadas, breath in the salty air, and feel the breeze coming off the branches of the weeping willows. Throughout your journey along the pathways, especially the wooden planked piers, you see butterflies, dragonflies, and birds. On my stroll, I saw a line of nine Canadian geese gliding through the water and a beautiful Monarch butterfly perched on a wildflower stem. Taking these moments to refresh and connect with nature will feel good to the whole family. Bring your bikes, because the relatively flat bicycle paths are safe and easy for younger kids to navigate and offer a continuous waterfront ride.

In September and October, Riverside Park South and Hudson River Park are offering several family-friendly events. Riverside Park South has free weekend kayaking on the Hudson and the 10th Annual Westside County Fair on September 9th. Find out more about their events at: http://www.nycgovparks.org/events/summer_on_the_hudson. The Hudson River Park offers carousel rides at Pier 62 in Chelsea and has an 18-hole miniature golf course at Pier 25 in Tribeca. For more information on these events, visit their website at: http://www.hudsonriverpark.org.

Originally published September 2012
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