Pant With the Panthers at the Bronx Zoo

When you’ve cleared the decks for a family day, head up to the Bronx Zoo, with 265 acres that 650 animal species call home. Even if your kids aren’t animal enthusiasts, they’ll be thrilled to check out red pandas and snow leopards on the Himalayan Highlands and ride a monorail through Wild Asia, where deer and antelope play.

And your own heart will race when you hear an elephant trumpeting through the jungle or a lion roar, or watch a giraffe grab a leafy snack from the top of a tree. When you’ve seen it all, head over to nearby Arthur Avenue, a longtime Italian enclave where real New York pizza waits, perfect for a long, breathless recap of all the animals.

[Photo: Ian C]

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Amusement at a Seaside Playground

When New Yorkers want a family getaway, they leave town without leaving the city by day tripping out to legendary Coney Island. Only a MetroCard swipe away, this seaside playground nestles right up against the Atlantic Ocean, with a wide beach populated by New Yorkers of every stripe. Slather the kids in sunscreen and let them go wild in the sand and surf, like city kids have done for generations. When it’s time for a change of scenery, head to the far side of the boardwalk, where bumper cars and go karts will satisfy your kids’ need for speed.

Not fast enough? Catch a ride on the Cyclone, an original wooden roller coaster that’s been doling out serious thrills since 1927. Hold hands during the butterfly-inducing incline, then feel the wind and catch a glimpse of the sea as you plummet down the hills and around the bends. Go ahead and squeal with delight, you won’t be alone. Across the street, a reborn Luna Park has even more amusement park adventures waiting. When it’s time to reflect on all the action, take the kids to one final New York icon, Nathan’s Famous, where a classic hot dog awaits hungry families still beaming from a day of fun.

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Frank Sinatra and a Ballpark Frank

For a group outing in New York City, find a spot with plenty of room, like the 50,000 seats waiting for you at the new Yankee Stadium. You’ll feel the excitement even from the sidewalk outside, where a sea of Derek Jeter jerseys leads you into the massive concourse. If you’re hungry, a ballpark frank is a classic, but in this new era your crew can also grab sandwiches from Nolita favorite Parm, or steak from fifth-generation butcher Lobel’s.

Once you’re settled into your seats you’ll be talking up the perfect sightlines, which show off the massive centerfield scoreboard and the glowing Kentucky bluegrass below. The game starts, and the knowing crowd will soon be riffing on the opposition. The Bleacher Creatures will get waves from the Yankee defense. The tension builds. You nod to the beer man for another round. You’ve got America’s Pastime and a billion-dollar building that only New York City could produce. Win or lose, you’ll still be soaking in the camaraderie as you file out, with Frank Sinatra over the loudspeakers singing “New York, New York.”

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[Photo: Rian Castillo]

Put Some Spin On It

For your next group get-together, grab a paddle and bring on the competition. New York’s take on Ping-Pong injects some serious glamour, so break out of the bar routine and take your friends to SPiN in the Flatiron District, a posh Ping-Pong parlor where you can perfect your serves, slams, and boo-yas. Hold court and talk trash at one of seventeen tables, or grab some beers with your buds and check out the expert paddle-work of the pros—their crazy skills just might rub off on you.

The casual crowd is ready to yell like mad when a rally won’t die or somebody pulls off a crazy shot, helping you feel like the champion you are. Full-service means you won’t waste time fetching balls, as there’s staff for that, as well as for mixing up your crew a creative collection of cocktails for the losers to pay for. An interior that feels more like a nightclub than a basement rec-room makes the atmosphere even livelier—your crew can take solace there after you’ve schooled them in the awesome power of your topspin.

[Photo: Anthony Quintano]

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Amor y Amargo: Cocktail Hour, Elevated

For your next couple’s night out, impress your partner with a sophisticated take on the cocktail. New York’s next-generation parlors are waiting to hook you up with the world’s finest tequilas, whiskeys, even tiki drinks, along with the less-traveled realm of bitters. For the best of both, visit Amor y Amargo in the East Village, a “bitters tasting room” that raises the use of herbal essences in cocktails to an art form. Step through the wooden door and behold an intimate, blue and yellow-accented space, perfect for conversation with your partner or your neighbors. Admire the tile bar and pressed-tin ceiling, which lend some classic New York atmosphere.

When it’s time to order, let the menu lead you to something like the Eight Amaro Sazerac, which combines the spirits of New Orleans and Italy in a densely layered glass. Take your time savoring the hints of orange and Chartreuse liqueur—these drinks were made for sipping. Or hash out something bespoke for your paramour. Tell the bartender “smoky” and “spicy,” and wait for a complex blend of mezcal and habanero bitters to appear. Your partner leans in, intrigued. There’s an upbeat soundtrack. The bartender circles back to add a little more to the story, then gives you some space to be alone. After all, the name of the bar translates to “Love and Bitters.”

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Chocolate to the Max

When your kids have earned a family fun day, surprise them with a visit to chocolate paradise Max Brenner. The café’s central location near Union Square is a lot more convenient than tracking down Willy Wonka’s factory. It’s a feast for the senses, beginning with the sense of smell, as the sweet aroma of chocolate fills the room, exciting the kids for what’s in store.

Their eyes will pop when they see the menu and its chocolate crepes, chocolate bagels, and even chocolate pizzas. And where else can they order a chocolate syringe from a secret chocolate menu? Watch the smiles grow as a warm mud cake arrives, complete with its own chocolate swimming pool and whipped cream mountains. Or maybe you’re ready for some family quality time, with everyone pitching in to dip bananas and strawberries into a decadent pot of fondue. You’ll also find a full menu for mom and dad, with White Russians and Chocolate Martinis. They’ve earned a treat, too.

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[Photo: Tom Newby]

Roll With Friends at Brooklyn Bowl

Think bowling’s old fashioned? Then grab the guys and experience New York’s ultra-modern take on tenpin, with alleys that double as nightclubs and rooms inspired by Manhattan icons. Brooklyn Bowl is set in a converted ironworks, with plenty of room for your whole crew to cheer, drink beer, and do the stay-out-of-the-gutter dance.

After feeling the thrill of victory–or the agony of defeat–step into the adjacent concert venue, where everyone from M.I.A. to Snoop to the Yeah Yeah Yeahs will have your mates bouncing to the beat. The Blue Ribbon crew serves food that’s a major step up from standard alley fare, so elbow each other aside for ribs and oyster po’ boys. Just remember to eat with your non-bowling hand, as that blackened catfish can make the ball slip off your fingers and onto your toes. Guys’ night out has come of age.

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[Photo: John Walker]

Shakespeare In the Park: World Class Theater for a Song

For your next romantic date night, consider one of New York’s greatest cultural attractions, Shakespeare in the Park. You can play the hero by getting the tickets, given away free at noon in Central Park on the day of a show. Pack a picnic for your spouse before the show. Acres of grass on the Great Lawn beg for a blanket, with the city skyline twinkling in the distance. Or flash a little plastic and let Public Fare, the theater’s café, cater for you—they’ve also got beer and wine to help set a mood.

Around dusk the show will start. You’ll settle into your seats alongside a knowing crowd, with the sky the only ceiling overhead. World-class actors, featuring a face or two you’ll recognize from the movies, will take the stage. Nestle close to your significant other as you watch one of the greatest plays ever written. When the show ends, the enchantment will linger as you wind your way through the trees and back into the pulse of the city.

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[Photo: Francisco Diez]

Merry-Go-Round and Round

For your next family fun day, treat the kids to a merry-go-round ride they’ll never forget. Jane’s Carousel in Brooklyn may be one of the city’s newest institutions, but the thrills it provides are nothing short of classic. Watch the little ones’ eyes brighten as they take in the rows of ponies, each brightly painted and endlessly detailed. Saddle up, grab a pole, and try not to be dazzled by the mirrors and jewels on the horses, which sparkle in tandem with the glowing lights that ring the ride.

The bell sounds and you’re off, kiddie hearts racing to the upbeat music of an antique organ. As the ride spins, you’ll enjoy priceless views of the Brooklyn Bridge and the Manhattan skyline–though the kids may be too into their horsemanship to even notice. Afterwards, check out river breezes and the spectacular glass pavilion that houses the carousel. Or give in to the clamoring voices and relive your own childhood by going for another ride.

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[Photo: jhillen69]