NEW YORK (AFP) - Excited children woke to a winter wonderland in New York on Sunday, shrieking with delight as they rode sleds in the sunshine after the second biggest snowfall in city records.
Thousands of families poured into the city's parks, where children flung themselves onto toboggans, engaged in snowball fights and parents introduced toddlers to the first major snow of their lives.
Intrepid dog walkers and the occasional jogger were the first to take to the streets, but as the sun got stronger and New Yorkers finished shovelling their sidewalks, the parks filled up.
"We love it, absolutely love it," laughed Bernie Sheary from Australia, out with his New Zealander wife and their 18-month-old daughter Chloe, who waddled across the sparkling snow chasing puppies.
"We're going to play around in this park for as long as possible, till she gets worn out or until I get worn out," he said.
Dozens of children bundled into jackets, waterproof pants, hats and mittens tore across Carroll Park, a small neighbourhood park in Brooklyn, many waiting for regular subway services to resume before frequenting larger hills in New York's bigger parks.
"They love it," said photographer Julien Capmeil, who brought five-year-old son Jake and six-year-old Ellie snowball fighting, sliding down a baby slope in the sled.
"They were out in the snow last night. We came out for a late-night snow session in the park when it was falling, it was really nice." Jake sat in the snow, muffled up in a giant coat. "I like it when it snows," he said. "It's really fun to play. I like sledding a lot."
"My favourite thing is to throw snowballs," said Ellie.
"I like it when he pulls me on the sled and then it goes 'vroom,' and it glides and it's fun," she laughed.
At the other end of the park, three-year-old Dylan Crews scooped snow out of her red sled onto the ground, watched by her parents. "We're going to make a mountain," she said.
"I love the snow," said her mother Amy, who works in marketing. "I think in winter you're too hunkered down in your house and everybody wants to go out and explore and kind of get the kid in them out."
Her husband Jim agreed. "It's beautiful," he said. "People can be more like themselves and play and have fun and not worry about life for a minute."
Jessica Edwards, a filmmaker from Canada, joined in the fun, pulling four-year-old daughter Hazel down a hill in a sled.
"Oh my God she's so excited, we left the house this morning and we packed a bunch of stuff to make a snowman," she said. "When the trains open again, we'll get up to Prospect Park and try and get on the bigger hills."
The blizzard also brought back memories for Anda Bordean, of winter life when she was a child growing up in Romania.
She said her three-year-old son Nicholas begged to go out as early as possible, fearing he had missed the best as the main roads cleared.
"His main fear this morning was that it would be all melted," laughed Bordean, who works for an asset management company.
For two days the family have been keeping a carrot, hoping to make a snowman, but the snow was too powdery on Sunday to stick together well.
"There was a lot of anticipation, actually ever since they started talking about it on the news he kept saying, 'We're going to see snow, we're going to see snow,'" she said.
"I wish this was a long weekend," she added.
During the blizzard on Saturday, the family took advantage of the travel ban to taste a different world on roads that saw no snow plow for hours.
"It was almost like old school," she said. "It was so amazing to go with him in the sled on the street with nothing to worry about. There wasn't anyone."