Relief at Jacob Riis Park
July 3, 2013

It had been a great night camping out at Floyd Bennett Field in Brooklyn. It was the second longest day of the year, and the view from the abandoned runways of the sun setting behind historic airplane hangars was amazing. There had been a few glitches. Daddy had forgotten to pack the chicken we were going to grill for dinner, and we realized that we had forgotten to buy a new bottle of mosquito repellant. Still, these are the moments in which you learn just how much like steak Portobello mushrooms can taste and which family member mosquitos prefer to bite. Fun family facts are, for better or for worse, always fun.

So let’s just say that when the campout was over, we needed to get to the beach for a pick-me-up. How convenient it is that Jacob Riis Park is just a short trip away! The historic beach is part of the Jamaica Bay region of the Gateway National Recreation Area, which also includes Floyd Bennett, Breezy Point Tip, Carnasie, and Fort Tilden. We are all familiar with the horrible impact of Hurricane Sandy upon “Breezy” (as the locals call it), and a section of the parking lot of Jacob Riis had served as a temporary dump for all of the debris in the aftermath. Everything has been cleared away now, and the beach is up and running for the summer.

Hitting the Beach

There are so many reasons (aside from the curative effects of salt water upon itchy bug bites) to hit the beach at Jacob Riis. Unlike Brighton Beach or Coney Island, where Breezy Point tip buffers the flow of the ocean, the shoreline at Jacob Riis Park stretches off into the Atlantic. This gives the waves lots of time to break, and beachgoers the dreamy sense that you could hop on a boogie board and float all the way to Europe. (Speaking of, since Jacob Riis is run by the National Parks Service and not the city’s Department of Parks and Recreation, it is also the only beach in New York City where floatation devices are allowed—a definite plus for sure.)

Aside from boogie-boarding, Halina, Riley, and a group of about a dozen kids who naturally gravitated toward one another loved digging for sand crabs, which thrive below the sand’s surface. The sand toys were thrust in and sifting at a mile a minute, as the surf rustled up a new batch.  Maybe it’s the time of year, but many of the crabs were larger than we’d ever seen before, with the biggest being about two inches long.

Right now the boardwalk concession pavilion—a gorgeous Art Deco stone structure—is cordoned off by chain-link fencing, presumably under renovation, but the restrooms are still open, and a nice selection of food trucks—from gourmet pizza to pirogues—park off the paved boardwalk, so you won’t go hungry. There are also playgrounds and a long stretch of worn-down basketball courts between the massive parking lot and the beach.  These areas lack shade so the playground equipment might get hot in the sun. 

What is your favorite New York City beach?

Getting There

We happened to be driving after our campout, but probably wouldn’t do so again because public transportation abounds.  The Marine Parkway-Gil Hodges Memorial Bridge is a $3.50 toll each way, and parking is $10 for the day.  The beach itself is free. 

New York Water Taxi leaves from Pier 11 in Manhattan to Riis Landing. By subway, take the 2, 5, B or Q train to Brooklyn College/Flatbush Avenue then take the Q35 bus.  It is about a 20-minute ride down Flatbush Avenue.


March 10, 2013 (1)
Imagine stargazing or making s’mores with your kids, then getting up the next morning to paddle along streams and around ponds, pointing out painted turtles or an old beaver lodge. Such experiences are easy to organize at the following campgrounds, which offer paddling options on site.
July 29, 2012 (6)
"I put power tools in the hands of second-graders," Gever Tulley often says when he describes the Tinkering School, a one-week camp he started in San Francisco in 2005.
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