As a child I would spend my summer days wandering around my neighborhood totally untethered to my parents. I was usually tagging around after my brother and sister, but there were times when I would explore the neighborhood and surrounding wilderness all alone for hours at a time. The only requirement was I return home at the end of the day still intact and ready to eat dinner. Living in New York City, that is just not possible for my kids. Not only are there too many cars, unseemly people, and other hazards, but there just isn’t that much wide open space to explore. Some of the best playgrounds are so crowded even a helicopter parent will lose sight of their kids. That’s what I love about the Fountains at the Natural History Museum. The fountains cover an area about the size of a football field and it is never, ever crowded. There are trees providing shade all around and benches where parents can relax. Perhaps best of all, it is free.
Where It Is and Why I’ll Miss It: The fountains are located closest to 81st street and Columbus Avenue. If you are walking South on 81st and Columbus Avenue you should take a left onto 81st as if headed toward Central Park West. Instead of continuing down Columbus Avenue, cut in toward the Natural History Museum (but don’t do this at the handicapped and stroller entrance where buses are often parked – you have gone to far). If you follow a path you will see some pretty landscaping and a path to a staircase. Climb up that staircase and Eureka! – there it is. Maybe no one gets here because they can’t find it?