- Dec. 26 2013 00:00
Parks and Recreation
Moscow may be closer to the polar circle than to the equator, the air quality might be bad, and courtyard and squares are more likely to be car parks than leafy havens. But for all that, the Russian capital is a remarkably green city with huge swaths of parks and recreation areas for adults and children. And the good news is that they are getter better, cleaner and cheaper all the time.
There are parks for play and sport, parks for nature, parks for art and history. There are glorious former estates where you can enjoy paths winding along lakes through landscaped gardens or take part in events and outdoor performances. And if these outdoor destinations do not satisfy your children, there are plenty of other ways to keep them — and their grown-up guardians — entertained.
Gorky Park opened in 1928, combining the lovely Neskuchny Sad, dating from 1753, with a newly developed stretch of land along the Moscow River. Its 300 green acres were always popular with Muscovites, although it fell out of favor during the post-Soviet period when it was home to an amusement park, tawdry carnival entertainment, blaring music and junk food. In 2011, it was completely redesigned into a peaceful, healthful recreational haven. Out went the admission fee, rides, cotton candy and disco music. In came sports facilities, free Wi-Fi and cutting-edge cafes. There are beanbag-like chairs for flopping on in the summer, and 18,000 meters of ice to skate on in the winter. Paddle boats quietly ply the ponds. Even the fountains dance to peaceful music. You can play chess, do a workout, take a yoga class, play ping-pong or tennis, and climb around trees at Panda Park (from 300 to 700 rubles). In the summer, there is a sandy beach where you can catch some rays or play volleyball. You can rent roller skates or a bike (both 200 rubles for the first hour, plus a 1,500-ruble deposit) and glide or ride along the Moscow River all the way to Vorobyovy Gory, or the Sparrow Hills, embankment. For a dash of culture, you can check out contemporary art at the Garage exhibition space. If you get sweaty or cold, there is a sports center with changing rooms and showers.
Now the only problem is finding a parking place.
9 Krymsky Val
+7 495 995 00 20
This 1,500-acre park in northeast Moscow owes its name to the falcon, or sokol, which was once hunted by tsars in the forests here. In 1879, with the help of several philanthropists, the municipal authorities bought the land from the state to keep it as an oasis of nature in the increasingly grimy and growing city.
Today it is the largest park in the city limits, with seemingly endless roads and paths for strolling, biking or skiing — depending on the season and visitor's proclivities. If you do not have your own, you can rent bikes, skateboards, roller skates or ice skates, scooters and even Segways, not to mention badminton and table tennis sets. There is a special, if terrifying, obstacle course for skateboarders and bikers, and pathways in the trees in summer for adventurers who like rope courses.
In the winter, the park has one of the city's largest ice rinks. In the summer, you can swim in an enormous pond or outdoor pool. Free Wi-Fi covers the park, so you can tweet as you tan. More sedate pleasures are to be had in the park's famous rose garden. Little folks enjoy amusement park rides, and children with disabilities can play in one of the city's rare playgrounds that are designed and safe for children with a range of physical abilities and limitations. The park also sponsors a great number of clubs for people of all ages. The exhibition spaces and concert venues always draw visitors, too. Throughout the park, there are dozens of cafes and snack stands.
1 Sokolnichesky Val
+7 499 393 92 22
Open daily, from 8:00 a.m. to 11:00 p.m.
Admission: free, but fees for individual activities
When the Soviet Union started to crumble after the failed coup in August 1991, the first things to go were the monumental statues of Lenin, Stalin, Brezhnev and other luminaries of the communist system. They were pulled down from pedestals and dumped on the grass by the New Tretyakov Gallery. This "museum of fallen statues" was one of Moscow's most popular informal tourist stops for most of the 1990s.
But the monuments were a problem. Should they be destroyed or displayed? Part of the population revered the Soviet era and leaders; another part reviled them. After long debate, it was decided to organize an outdoor sculpture museum by the New Tretyakov Gallery that would include Soviet-era monuments along with works by Soviet dissident artists and a wide variety of contemporary statuary.
Today, after another renovation, Muzeon is a vast outdoor art park surrounding the building that houses the Central House of Artists and New Tretyakov Gallery. The river embankment is now a beautifully landscaped pedestrian walkway — with interesting hillocks and jumps for skateboarders, skaters, and bicyclists — that has a covered outdoor art exhibition and sale space. In the summer you can attend outdoor films and concerts, enjoy the cafes, stroll among the hundreds of statues, and lie on the lawn or an air mattress to read a book from the book exchange, talk with friends, or listen to music. There are classes and events for children and adults.
2 Krymsky Val
+7 499 238 33 96
Open daily from 8:00 a.m. to 10:00 p.m. in winter;
8:00 a.m. to 11:00 p.m. in summer
On the banks of the Moscow River, a few metro stops from the city center, is one of the oldest summer palaces of the Muscovite Grand Princes and Russian royal families. Ivan the Terrible spent time here, and the glorious Church of the Ascension was built in the 16th century to celebrate his birth. In the 11th century, it was the favorite estate of Tsar Alexei Mikhailovich, who built a whimsical, meandering wooden palace that was so strangely magnificent that it was called the "eighth wonder of the world." Peter the Great spent part of his youth here, and even Catherine the Great visited, although by all accounts she did not like it.
Many of the most ancient structures were lost over the centuries, but after the 1917 Revolution, one of Soviet Russia's best art historians, Pyotr Baransky, began to move ancient wooden and other structures here from other parts of the country to save them from destruction. Over the next decades, Kolomenskoye grew into a kind of outdoor time machine, where visitors could experience several centuries of Russian history and culture in one place.
Today you can visit many of the churches and buildings that welcomed tsars, emperors and empresses, as well as a wooden mill, an apiary, a smithy and one of Peter the Great's wooden houses, with his enormous height marked on the wall for all to measure up against. In 2010, the city built a reconstruction of Alexei Mikhailovich's wooden palace and decorated it in full medieval glory. On the grounds there are pagan statues, old Russian markers and statues, and a ravine with fresh water springs where people disappear in the mist, or so they say.
In addition to the permanent and temporary exhibitions, the estate organizes a great variety of activities for children, from troika rides to concerts and even birthday celebrations, where little Tommy or Trish can get crowned Tsar or Tsarina. For a less magisterial meal, there is a row of outdoor cafes.
39 Prospekt Andropova
+7 495 232 61 90
Open from Tuesday to Sunday, from 10:00 a.m. to
7:00 p.m.; most exhibitions from 11:00 a.m.
Admission: kids, 70 rubles; adults, 300 rubles.
Mommy, I'm Bored!
Ten Things to Do with Your Kids on a Saturday
1. Go to a water park
One of the best in Moscow is the Kva-Kva ("Quack-Quack") water park, where your kids can slide, splash, surf and generally have a blast.
1 Kommunisticheskaya Ulitsa, Mytishchi (Yaroslavskoye Shosse, one kilometer beyond MKAD)
+7 495 258 06 83
Open daily from 10:00 a.m. to 10:00 p.m.
Admission: from 540 to 3,400 rubles, depending on day and time spent
2. Go to the Arlekino Play Center
The adults can dine in a nice cafe while the kids play on and in every kind of playground, with every kind of toy known to humanity, while being entertained by actors, circus performers and other taller creatures.
19/3 Verkhnyaya Radishchevskaya Ulitsa, Bldg. 1
+7 495 915 11 06
Open weekdays from 1:00 p.m. to 10:00 p.m.,
weekends from noon to 10:00 p.m.
Admission: kids from 400 to 600 rubles
3. Go to Fantasy Park
Four stories and four "continents" of playlands — from jungles with laser hunting, to pool halls and game rooms, to roller skating and swimming in a huge water park.
100 Lyublinskaya Ulitsa
+7 495 641 34 51
Open weekdays from 11:00 a.m. to 11:00 p.m., weekends from 11:00 a.m. to 7:00 a.m. (water closes at 11:00 p.m.)
Admission: free, but fees for each activity (from 30 to 850 rubles)
4. Go to the Space Museum
Neat rockets, Belka and Strelka stuffed for posterity, space food in the cafe.
111 Prospekt Mira
+7 495 682 57 60
Open Tuesday to Sunday, from 11:00 a.m. to 7:00 p.m., Thursday to 9:00 p.m.
Admission: kids, 20 rubles; adults, 200 rubles
5. Go to the State Darwin Museum
A huge museum of natural history. Very cool dioramas, fabulously disgusting live insect exhibit, great special exhibitions and a 3-D cinema.
57/1 Ulitsa Vavilova
+7 499 132 02 02
Open Tuesday to Sunday, from 10:00 a.m. to 6:00 p.m.
Admission: kids, 60 rubles; adults, 200 rubles, plus additional fees for special exhibits
6. Go to the Moscow Museum
The second-floor permanent exhibition is heaven for kids who like knights and castles and scary weapons. All the Moscow Museum affiliates have special children's programs.
2 Zubovsky Bulvar
+7 495 739 00 08
Open Tuesday to Sunday, from 10:00 a.m. to 8:00 p.m., Thursday from 11:00 a.m to 9:00 p.m.
Admission: kids, 20 rubles; adults, 50 rubles
7. Go to the zoo
Lions and tigers, white and otherwise; polar bears and brown bears; playful dolphins, coral reefs; creepy reptiles; terrifying snakes; pony rides; and much more.
1 Bolshaya Gruzinskaya Ulitsa
+7 499 252 35 80
Open Tuesday to Sunday, from 10:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m.
Admission: kids free; adults, 300 rubles
8. Go to the Panda Park ropes course
Put on your helmets, hook up your wires, don your gloves and head off to the treetops with your kids. Five locations in Moscow, with one — in Fili — open in winter.
Locations on site
+7 495 646 04 24
Open weekdays from 11:00 a.m. to 5:30 p.m., weekends from 10:00 a.m. to 5:30 p.m.
Admission: from 200 to 1,000 rubles, depending on time spent and location
9. Go ice skating
Indoor, year round; outdoor from late fall to late spring. Rent skates, dress warmly, prepare to fall. Think of hot chocolate.
Moscow has dozens of ice skating rinks: from the super cool on Red Square, to the romantic at Patriarch's Ponds, to the extensive at Gorky Park. Most rent out skates. To find an indoor or outdoor rink near you, see www.ice-skating.ru, which has information on lessons and everything concerning figure skating, or www.katok.su, which has a forum to discuss the pros and cons of various rinks.
10. Go to the mall
No, you will not turn your child into a grubby little materialist if you spend the day at a shopping center — especially one like Mega Mall or Yevropeisky that has special playrooms, cartoon showings, ice skating, bowling, and other fun activities for the short set.