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Visiting Jacob Riis Park in the Rockaways

July 8, 2012

As a transplant from the middle of the country, I still find the ocean new and exciting. Luckily, my children share this awe and affection and accompany me on trips to play in the sand and splash in the water.  One of my favorite beaches in New York City is Jacob Riis Park. After visits to Coney Island and South Beach in Staten Island (both of which have their place for fun activities), I was blown away that a beach with so much natural beauty could exist inside the boundaries of a metropolitan city.  The sand is real, soft and lovely.  This summer the water is already pretty warm.  Be warned, this beach can have pretty high waves and a strong rip tide.  Lifeguards are stationed pretty regularly and seemed to be in constant action on the day we were there.  Keep a close eye on your kids!

Jacob Riis beach


  1. Bring a good sand shovel and dig your kids a small pool of their own a few yards from the shore.  You want it close enough that the waves will help you fill it but far enough back that small kids can happily splash without being knocked over.
  2. Go early: we arrived at 9:30am and had our pick of spots.  The kids had a lovely time and we packed it up around 1:30pm to head back from some rest time.  By this time the beach was much more crowded.
  3. It might be worth bringing a lightweight stroller or cart with sand friendly wheels.  It’s a five minute walk or so to the beach and with two kids and all our gear, it was helpful to be able pile things onto our Maclaren Volo.
  4. If the lifeguards hear thunder, they will clear the beach for 30 minutes.  We caught a summer squall on one visit and hung out in the shelter of the restrooms until it passed.

Equipment: Beyond the usual supplies, I highly recommend a beach umbrella.  Use your shovel to dig down a bit to make sure it’s securely anchored and everyone will be much more comfortable with a bit of shade.

Facilities: Jacob Riis does have bathrooms (in the small brown brick building to the left of the large bathhouse if you are facing away from the beach) and outdoor showers  (just near the beach not far from the bathrooms).  An ice cream truck is frequently parked here near the restrooms around 11am and a concession stand is further along the boardwalk to the west.

Transportation: A car is your best bet for this trip.  Jacob Riis has a HUGE parking lot that costs $5 10 for the day.  It took about 45 minutes in the car from Fort Greene.  Bring towels to throw over the car seats while you are on the beach.  With no shade, it gets really hot inside the car!

For public transportation, take 2 or 5 to the Brooklyn College-Flatbush Avenue subway stop and transfer to the Q35 bus to Riis Park.  Get off at the first stop after the bridge (request stop on the bridge, cause, if you intend to do so once you’re off the bridge, you’ll have passed it already).  Follow the path to Rockaway Point Blvd, cross said Blvd, walk down Beach 169th St. You’re there.  Our friends who did the public transportation route said it took 1.5 hours- but I understand that was exceedingly unusual.

Extras: Between the sand and the parking lot is a big playground.  It’s not the newest or the nicest, but my kids loved running around and playing in the sprinklers.

Jacob Riis Beach and its art deco bathouse

Carolyn Pravda is a stay-at-home mom in Brooklyn, NY.  She is a member of the Yahoo! Mother Board and is a moderator for the lively and helpful online parenting group Bococa Parents.  Finally, she contributes to AChildGrowsInBrooklyn.com with a column on fun things to do this summer in New York for an adventurous mom of two preschoolers who didn’t sign up for any camps!