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Best Summer Activities for Kids in Upper Manhattan

Capoeira combines martial arts with fitness and dance. Free family capoeira, sponsored by Bread & Yoga, in Inwood Hill Park, Wednesday, June 27, 2012.
Capoeira combines martial arts with fitness and dance. Free family capoeira, sponsored by Bread & Yoga, in Inwood Hill Park, Wednesday, June 27, 2012.
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Courtesy Abada Capoeira Bronx

UPPER MANHATTAN — When it comes to summer activities for kids, Washington Heights and Inwood are chock full of options.

From yoga in Fort Tryon Park to the Brazilian martial art Capoiera in Inwood Hill Park, there's something for everyone.

Officials from the New York City Parks Department packed each park with activities, with an emphasis on health and fitness, thanks to feedback from local parents.

Jennifer Hoppa, administrator for Northern Manhattan Parks and executive director of the Fort Tryon Park Trust, said the park took a survey of parents about what activities they wanted more of in the parsk, and fitness was most important.

"One of the goals of the Trust is to introduce more fitness options," Hoppa said, adding that [upper Washington Heights and Inwood has more kids than any other district in the city.

"Thirty-three percent of the population of Washington Heights and Inwood is under 18," she added, saying that with longer days, warm weather, no school and an almost unlimited potential for adventure, the parks are a perfect setting for youth-friendly activities.

The gorgeous sloping lawns of Fort Tryon Park, with its views of the Palisades and Hudson River has been offering free Parent & Me Yoga classes on Saturdays from 9:30 a.m. to 10:30 a.m. through July 14 on Abby’s Lawn. The class is open to all ages and participants are asked to bring a towel or yoga mat to join in.

If you’re after more free movement and dance, there are free Isadora Dance Classes offered for children on Thursdays and Saturdays at 10 a.m. at the Dongan Lawn.

If organized classes aren’t for you, there are newly refurbished Ping Pong Tables and Volleyball Courts available on the east side of Fort Washington Avenue at Fort Tryon's Subway Terrace. Simply bring your own net and paddles (for ping pong) or volleyball and the game’s on!

"We've learned that not everyone is a straight fitness person who will take a class," Hoppa said. "We hope that the restoration of the ping pong tables might introduce a child to that activity."

Organizers said opening up the classes to parents and caregivers also boosts the odds of greater turnout. "If we offer the same classes for multiple ages, we get additional participation," Hoppa said.

"In the summer, people are looking for things to do with their kids," added Bread & Yoga founder Marcela Xavier. "Having a program for the whole family is easier. If the parents aren't participating, they're sitting close by, watching."

Each Wednesday night from 6:30 p.m. to 7:30 p.m. now through August, free Family Capoeira Classes are offered at Inwood Hill Park in conjunction with Bread & Yoga. The Brazilian art form — which combines martial arts, dance, music and acrobatics for a full-body workout — is back for its second year because of its popularity.

The free classes also offer continuity for kids who take Capoiera classes at the Bread & Yoga studio during the year. "In summer you want to be outside, but also to join in. Many of our kids from the school year come out for this class," Xavier said.

While the City Parks Foundation's free summer tennis program was canceled in Inwood Hill Park this summer because of the reconstruction of the tennis courts, the tennis program is being offered at other locations.

The Inwood Hill tennis courts are set to reopen later this summer and will include USTA standard pavement markings for kids’ tennis.

Here are a few other free all-ages programs on deck:

* Morning Fitness Walks, Tuesdays and Thursdays from 7:30 am to 8:30 am, and Saturdays from 8:30am to 9:30am starting in Fort Tryon Park’s Heather Garden;

* Yoga, with Bread & Yoga, Tuesdays (June 19 through August 29) from 6:30 pm to 8 pm on Inwood Hill Park’s Indian Road Lawn. Bring a towel or yoga mat;

*Sunset Yoga, Wednesdays (June 6 through August 29 - no class July 4) from 6:45 pm to 8 pm on Fort Tryon Park’s Abby’s Lawn. Bring a towel or yoga mat;