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Free things to do with kids this summer in New York City

Put those wallets away! We've rounded up the best free things to do with kids this summer in New York City, including movies, concerts and festivals.

Good news! You can keep the kids entertained all summer long without breaking the bank. We've put together a list of 50 free things to do with kids this summer in the city. Scroll through our slide show, below, to find everything from unique festivals (Pogopalooza, the Unicycle Festival) to outdoor movie series at spots like the Intrepid and Hudson River Park. Know of more great free things to do with kids in NYC? Tweet us your suggestions at @TimeOutKids.


RECOMMENDED: All upcoming free things to do with kids


  • Photograph: Caroline Voagen Nelson

    Free things to do with kids this summer

    1. Arthur Ashe Kids' Day
    While the day's big concert costs money, this annual family fest always involves free outdoor tennis workshops, autograph signings with pros competing in the U.S. Open, plus fun for those less tennis-inclined like hair braiding, face painting, an obstacle course and storytelling. Sat Aug 24 at 1pm at USTA Billie Jean King National Center.

  • Photograph: Etienne Frossard

    Free things to do with kids this summer

    2. Bargemusic Family Concert
    Head to Brooklyn Bridge Park for a chamber music concert (programs are announced at the beginning of each performance) every Saturday all summer long. Each 60-minute concert is followed by a Q&A session with the musicians. Saturdays at 3pm at Fulton Ferry Landing.

  • Free things to do with kids this summer

    3. Beaches in NYC
    Need to cool off? Take a family trip to a sandy spot in or near New York City. Some of our favorites include Coney Island Beach (make sure to also take a spin on the new B&B Carousell), Rockaway Beach (the boardwalk is still in the process of being rebuilt post-Sandy, but the beach is open) and Jones Beach.

     

     

  • Photograph: Michael George

    Free things to do with kids this summer

    4. Bastille Day on 60th Street
    Celebrate France’s Independence Day with face painting, can-can dancers, French language workshops, live music, pétanque, and Beaujolais wine tastings for Mom and Dad. And of course, kids can munch on Belgian waffles, crêpes, chocolates and éclairs from local French vendors. Sun July 14 at noon on 60th St between Fifth and Lexington Aves.

  • Photograph: Joan Marcus

    Free things to do with kids this summer

    5. Broadway in Bryant Park
    Here's a cheaper way to sample some of Broadway's best: Bring the kids to Bryant Park on Thursdays for free lunchtime concerts by cast members of the Great White Way’s hottest musicals. Kid-friendly shows throughout the series include Cinderella and iLuminate: Artist of Light (July 11); Spider-Man: Turn Off the Dark (Aug 1); Annie and Wicked (Aug 8); and Mamma Mia and Motown the Musical (Aug 15). Thursdays in July and August in Bryant Park.

  • Photograph: Bryant Park Corporation

    Free things to do with kids this summer

    6. Bryant Park Summer Film Festival
    This free outdoor movie festival brings weekly screenings to the lawn of Bryant Park every Monday throughout the summer. This season's best family-friendly offerings are Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory (July 8) and E.T. The Extra-Terrestrial (August 19). The lawn opens at 5pm and movies start at sundown, so show up early if you want a good spot. Mondays in July and August in Bryant Park.

  • 7. Catch and release fishing in Central Park
    Kids and parents can spend the afternoon learning about the aqueous life in the Harlem Meer while fishing for largemouth bass, pumpkinseed sunfish and carp. As the event name implies, all fishies must be released after catching. No fishing pole? Not to worry. Poles can be borrowed, and corn-kernel bait is included. Through October 5 at the Charles A. Dana Discovery Center.

  • Photograph: Paola Canepa

    Free things to do with kids this summer

    8. City of Water Day
    This annual fest celebrates the natural resources of the New York harbor with a host of aquatic-based highlights. Sail to Governors Island or Liberty State Park in New Jersey for a kids' fair featuring ecology-themed games and activities, free boat tours, and live music. Or check cityofwaterday.org for events taking place throughout the five boroughs. Sat July 20 at various locations.

  • Photograph: Lia Bulaong

    Free things to do with kids this summer

    9. Come Out and Play Festival
    Get active with a Family Day featuring inventive games like Super Bacon Grab and Pirates, Ghosts, Ninjas, Oh My! Tweens and teens may opt for the more grown-up Field Day, in which participants face off in a dodgeball/chess mash-up and pelt each other with Nerf guns. Sat July 13 on Governors Island.

  • Photograph: Darial R. Sneed

    Free things to do with kids this summer

    10. Downtown Dance Festival
    Twirl, two-step or tap your way to Lower Manhattan for the 32nd year in a row. The five-day, completely outdoor fest will include performances by both local and international dance groups ranging from ballet to Native American. Sat Aug 11 to Sat Aug 15 at noon in Battery Park.

     

     

  • Free things to do with kids this summer

    11. Ezra Jack Keats Story Hour
    Participate in a summer tradition by the park’s Peter & Willie statue, two beloved Keats characters, and listen to stories from around the world. Saturdays in July and August in Prospect Park.

  • Free things to do with kids this summer

    12. FlyNYC 2013
    Kids can let their imagination take off as they make, and then fly, their own airborne contraptions. Live entertainment and other activities are in the mix as well. Sat Aug 17 at 11am at Riverside Park.

  • Photograph: Julienne Schaer

    Free things to do with kids this summer

    13. Fountains and sprinklers in NYC
    No lakefront house or backyard hose? No worries. On a hot day, one of the best places to cool off is at one of the city's many fountains and sprinklers. Head uptown to the Ancient Playground (its novel spray fountain is a big draw) or to Brooklyn Bridge Park's Playground at Pier 6 (we love the Water Lab).

  • Photograph: Grace Chu

    Free things to do with kids this summer

    14. Fourth of July Fireworks
    For this mother of all pyrotechnic displays, Macy's will explode more than 40,000 fireworks choreographed to a 25-minute patriotic playlist, courtesy of R&B superstar Usher. During the big finale, turn eastwards for mirroring lights on the top of the Empire State Building, where a mashup of Frank Sinatra's "New York, New York" and Jay-Z's "Empire State of Mind" will set the show. Stake out a nice spot along the Hudson to watch, and bring your own picnic basket with beverages to toast our country's birthday. Thu July 4 at 9pm.

  • Photo: Caroline Voagen Nelson

    Free things to do with kids this summer

    15. Governors Island
    Minigolf, interactive art installations, craft workshops, unique festivals (think NYC Unicycle Festival), historic tours and a free boat ride—need we say more? Open through Sept 29.

  • Photograph: Hubert Williams

    16. Harlem Week: NYC Children's Festival
    Enjoy the last stretch of summer by celebrating Harlem's rich culture at this annual event that promises live music, dance troupes, step shows, double-dutch competitions, arts and crafts and storytelling. Sat Aug 17 and Sun Aug 18 at noon on W 135th St between Malcolm X and Adam Clayton Powell Jr. Blvds.

  • 17. High Line activities
    Wild Wednesday, a weekly program at the park's 14th Street Passage teaches little ones about a different nature-related topic each month (July's theme is the life cycle of plants, August's theme is TBD). At Lawn Time for Little Ones, performers and musicians from local cultural institutions stop by the 23rd Street Lawn to entertain kids. Events take place throughout the week on the High Line.

  • Free things to do with kids this summer

    18. Hong Kong Dragon Boat Festival
    This annual sporting event celebrates the fifth moon (or fifth month) of the lunar calendar. Wee ones will get a kick out of the colorful, dragon-shaped vessels racing across Meadow Lake, their oarsmen rowing to the beat of Chinese drums. In addition to watching the 165 or so teams that have come from across the U.S. to take part in this year's race, families can listen to live music, catch martial arts demonstrations and munch on multicultural grub. Sat Aug 10 and Sun Aug 11 at Flushing Meadows–Corona Park.

  • Free things to do with kids this summer

    19. Intrepid Summer Movie Series
    Sit atop the Intrepid Sea, Air & Space Museum's flight deck to see a set of adventure-themed flicks that the tween set will love. On tap for this year's series:Jaws (June 28), Star Trek (July 26), Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone (Aug 2) and The Karate Kid (Aug 23). Fridays in the summer at the Intrepid.

  • Photograph: Alexa Hoyer

    Free things to do with kids this summer

    20. Kids Create!
    On certain summer weekends, Brooklyn Bridge Park's playgrounds are also the sets for a wide range of family-friendly arts-and-crafts activities, aimed at bringing out the creative side of your kids while they learn about the different ways of using materials in an outdoor space. On Friday, meet at Pier 1; Saturday and Sunday's activities take place at both Pier 1 and Pier 6. Various weekend in August at Brooklyn Bridge Park.

     

     

  • Photograph: Courtesy of Bryant Park

    Free things to do with kids this summer

    21. Le Carrousel Magique
    Gather at Le Carrousel in Bryant Park, where master magicians (from popular show Monday Night Magic) enrapture youngsters with sophisticated tricks and sleight-of-hand stunners. Sundays through Aug 11 in Bryant Park.

  • Free things to do with kids this summer

    22. "The Lightness of Being"
    Twelve quixotic sculptures by 12 different artists arrive in City Hall Park this summer in a show called "The Lightness of Being," from a totem pole of colorful, sometimes shiny stacking blocks to a pair of steel flip-flops and an artfully smooshed bicycle. Kids are bound to relate to the array of works, which are by turns fun, absurd and humorous. Opens Thu July 25 in City Hall Park.

  • Free things to do with kids this summer

    23. Macy's Fishing Clinics
    Aspiring anglers are taught fishing techniques, safety tips and catch-and-release tactics to keep their fishing expeditions animal-friendly. Spots are first-come, first-served, and kids must be accompanied by a parent or guardian. Through Aug 25 in Prospect Park

  • Photograph: Courtesy of Madison Square Park Conservancy

    Free things to do with kids this summer

    24. Madison Square Park Kids concerts
    Madison Square Park hosts some of the best names in children music for a special series of free outdoor entertainment for kids and their families. Keep an eye out for Big Bang Boom (July 2), Recess Monkey (July 16), Shine and the Moonbeams (Aug 8) and tons of other musicians. Tuesdays and Thursdays in Madison Square Park.

  • Free things to do with kids this summer

    25. Making Books Sing presents "My City Park"
    On its newest touring production, the arts nonprofit brings a story about the importance of green spaces in urban environments to various NYPL branches throughout the city. With the help of Odessa the Owl and Bucky the Squirrel, young Milo embarks on a mission to save his favorite city park from being torn down and replaced by a shopping mall. Puppetry arts, original songs and audience participation help teach little ones a valuable lesson in eco–consciousness. Various libraries through Aug 30.

  • Photographer: Grace Chu

    Free things to do with kids this summer

    26. Learn new moves at Midsummer Night Swing Kids' Day
    Little dancers can bust a move at this special family workshop, part of the Midsummer Night Swing series. Kids and parents will learn the basics of ballroom, salsa, merengue, and swing led by instructor Rodney Lopez, who appeared in the critically acclaimed documentary Mad Hot Ballroom. Sat July 13 at Damrosch Park at Lincoln Center.

  • Photograph: Section: Kids web

    Free things to do with kids this summer

    27. Movies Under the Stars
    Take a quick ride on the Path train to Hoboken to experience a free night of entertainment for the entire family with Manhattan skyline as a backdrop. This year's kid-friendly screenings include Mary Poppins (Aug 7), The Croods (Aug 14) and Madagascar 3 (Aug 21). Wednesdays in July and August at Pier A Park.

  • Free things to do with kids this summer

    28. Music in the Grove
    Top children’s-music acts like the folksy Astrograss (July 3), kindie stars Rolie Polie Guacamolie (July 10) and the old–timey Deedle Deedle Dees (July 24) play every Wednesday morning. Additional names include Suzi Shelton (July 17) playing poppy, girl–power tunes like "Tomboy in a Princess Dress", Karen K and the Jitterbugs (July 31) and Vered Music (Aug 7) whose songs are designed to assist healthy growth in babies. There’s ample stroller parking, but you’ll want to bring a blanket to sit on. Wednesdays in July and August in Fort Greene Park.

  • Photo: Caroline Voagen Nelson

    Free things to do with kids this summer

    29. New Museum Block Party
    Kids might be confused—or curious—about some of the works on display at the avant-garde museum, but a few blocks away, this free street fair is a no-brainer. The whole family can enjoy performance art, poetry slams, dance pieces and storytelling—or get hands-on with workshops that explore everything from the concept of copies, underwater trading cards, kinetic sculpture and magazines. While you’re there, pick up free tickets to the museum and enjoy a family-friendly exhibition tour. Sat July 20 at noon at Sara D. Roosevelt Park.

  • Photograph: Michael Skigen

    Free things to do with kids this summer

    30. NYC Unicycle Festival
    This wacky one-wheeled weekend kicks off with a 13-mile unicycle ride through Brooklyn (starting at City Hall in Manhattan and ending in Coney Island) to celebrate Brooklyn Unicycle Day. On Saturday and Sunday, cyclists and non-cyclists alike head to Governors Island for an afternoon of quirky sports like unicycle basketball and unicycle hockey, unicycle lessons for beginners, and cool races and exhibitions. Fri Aug 30–Sun Sept 1 at various locations.

  • Photograph: Michael Kirby

    Free things to do with kids this summer

    31. New York Philharmonic: Concerts in the Parks
    The New York Philharmonic kicks off their 48th season with five free outdoor concerts (and one that's indoors) where families can spread out a cozy blanket and spend an evening under the stars. Wed July 10–Tue July 16 in various locations.

  • Photograph: Alex Strada

    Free things to do with kids this summer

    32. NYPL's "The ABC of It: Why Children's Books Matter"
    Families can discover more than 200 books and objects from the NYPL's collection that celebrate the richness and diversity of children’s books. Kids can walk through a fur wall, which pays homage to Where the Wild Things Are; explore a rabbit hole in celebration of Alice in Wonderland; and stand inside a 3-D replica of the room depicted in Good Night Moon. Areas where families can read together are scattered throughout the exhibit. Through March 2014 at the New York Public Library, Stephen A. Schwarzman Building.

  • Photograph: Melissa Sinclair

    Free things to do with kids this summer

    33. Playgrounds in NYC
    For families, playgrounds are some of the city's most essential landmarks, especially in the summer months. Our 25 favorite—chosen for their high design, prime location and top-notch equipment—are must-visits in the warm weather.

  • Photograph: Nick McClintock

    Free things to do with kids this summer

    34. Pogopalooza
    Watch what happens when pogo sticks are mastered long beyond childhood at this three-day Extreme Pogo extravaganza, kicking off with Friday's citywide demos and an attempt to beat the current record for Most Consecutive Bounces on a Pogo Stick (no one has beaten 70,076 in 36 years!) On Saturday, head to Tompkins Square Park for open qualifying rounds (yep, that means anyone can enter on-site) as well as a Free Jump area, where families can show off their skills or learn a few new tricks. Sunday showcases the finalists, who will compete for the top spots in three categories: Big Air, Best Trick and High Jump. Families can also hang at the Free Jump area, and if they're feeling extra inspired, purchase a stick of their very own. Fri Jul 26–Sun July 28 at various locations.

  • Photograph: Courtesy Hudson River Park Trust

    Free things to do with kids this summer

    35. RiverFlicks for Kids
    Not only does this annual series feature a gorgeous view of the Hudson River, but kids can also fill their bellies with free popcorn as they settle in for a Friday night family flick. On the lineup this year are recent hits as well as classics: The Pirates! Band of Misfits (July 12), ParaNorman (July 19), Who Framed Roger Rabbit (July 26), Madagascar 3 (Aug 2), Rise of the Guardians (Aug 9), Beetlejuice (Aug 16) and Adventures of Tintin (Aug 23). Fridays in July and August at Hudson River Park at Pier 46.

  • Free things to do with kids this summer

    36. Rolie Polie Guacamole at J.J Byrne Playground
    Catch a show packed with music and dancing from this kindie jam band, whose songs pay homage to everything from hummus to acai berries. The musicians play a variety of locations this summer, including the popular J.J. Byrne Playground in Brooklyn. Various locations throughout the summer.

  • Free things to do with kids this summer

    37. Sand Sculpting Contest and Unity Day
    Watch NYC’s boldest sand artists compete in the annual Sand Sculpting Contest and Unity Day, where talented sculptors—and interested amateurs of all ages—will vie for a $400 grand prize. If it's anything like previous years, expect to see way out-there sand art like Moses receiving the Ten Commandments or a bald eagle holding a key. Throughout the day, there'll be local musicians, dancers, giveaways and, of course, yummy Boardwalk fare. Sat Aug 17 at noon on the Coney Island Boardwalk.

  • Photograph: David Rosenzweig

    Free things to do with kids this summer

    38. Sony Wonder Technology Lab
    Young techies revel in this midtown spot's hands-on activity stations. The best part: the museum-like space is completely free and makes a great rainy day activity. Sony Wonder Technology Lab.

  • Free things to do with kids this summer

    39. Story Pirates at Hudson River Park
    Watch this wacky comedy troupe transform kids' submitted stories into a hilarious improv show. They take requests and ideas from the crowd, so audience participation is a must. Mon July 8 and Mon August 12 at 6:30pm at Hudson River Park.

     

     

  • Photograph: James Worrell

    Free things to do with kids this summer

    40. Summer in the Square
    On Thursdays in Union Square, get in some early-morning fitness with Yoga Storytime at 10am hosted by Karma Kids, followed by performances by popular kid's musicians at 11am, like Hot Peas 'n Butter (August 15). Stick around for lunchtime jazz, courtesy of the New School for Jazz and Contemporary Music, and other family activites. Thursdays through Aug 15 in Union Square.

  • Free things to do with kids this summer

    41. Summer on the Hudson: Chlidren's Performance Series
    This morningtime children's series isn't music only—check out family-friendly performances by Rolie Polie Guacamole (July 11), Appleseeds' Songs for Seeds (July 18), Moey's Music Party (July 25), Meg's Melodies (Aug 1), Joanie Leeds and the Nightlights (Aug 8) and a performance by the puppeteers from the Swedish Cottage Marionette Theater (Aug 15). Thursdays in July and August in Riverside Park.

  • Free things to do with kids this summer

    42. Summer Sandbox Series
    Weather permitting, Upper East Side families can jam to local groups' educational music programming. Learn a few new words with I'm Bilingual (July 16), get in touch with children's innate musical talents with Eastside Westside Music Together (July 23), play with musical props at Moosiki Kids (July 30), singalong with LIly Rose and her puppet Princess Francesca (August 6) and bond with little ones as they master developmental goals with I Make My Music (August 13). Various Tuesdays in July and August at Carl Schurz Park.

  • Photograph: Dominic Perri

    Free things to do with kids this summer

    43. SummerStage Family Days
    The immensely popular two-month event series promotes arts education for little ones as part of their (generally adult-oriented) repertoire of concerts, comedy, film, dance and theater during the Family Days. These multicultural alfresco spectaculars involve tons of performances by local musicians and international arts groups, plus activity booths for kids, photo ops with characters (Disney is sponsoring this year’s events), and circus acts as part of the season-long International Contemporary Circus Festival. Various days and times.

  • Photograph: Marielle Solan

    Free things to do with kids this summer

    44. Summer Streets
    For this three-Saturday event, nearly seven miles of NYC turf from the Brooklyn Bridge all the way to Central Park will be cleared of vehicles, creating a pedestrian paradise complete with food and entertainment. This edition’s offerings are still being finalized, but previous years have included free bike rentals, a rock-climbing wall, a zip line and picnics along the route. Sat Aug 4, 11 and 18; from Park Ave at 72nd St to Centre St at Brooklyn Bridge.

  • Photographer: Jena Cumbo

    Free things to do with kids this summer

    45. Swimming pools
    Smaller wading pools for little ones, swimming lessons, great views and new concession stands—the city's pools may not be as glamorous as swimming holes in Miami, but they're clean, well run and, best of all, free. Dive in!

  • Photograph: Etienne Frossard

    Free things to do with kids this summer

    46. Syfy Movies with a View
    Set against a spectacular view of lower Manhattan, this outdoor movie mainstay at Brooklyn Bridge Park's Pier 1 seems to garner a larger following with each passing year. That being the case, be sure to arrive early to beat the massive crowds—you'll stay entertained with pre-movie sets by local DJs as well as a short film. While this is not a strictly family-friendly series (many flicks are rated R), this year's more kid-friendly picks include Ferris Bueller's Day Off (July 11), Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory (July 25), Roman Holiday (Aug 8), Rocky (Aug 15) and Vertigo (Aug 22). Music starts at 6pm, movies begin at sundown. Thursdays in July and August in Brooklyn Bridge Park.

  • Free things to do with kids this summer

    47.  Theatreworks USA's The Civil War
    This summer, Theatreworks USA's free annual musical focuses on one of our country's most defining moments—the Civil War—and the soldiers who fought in it. Keep an ear out for songs made popular during the era. Tickets are free, but go quickly—they can only be obtained onsite one hour before curtain time. Mon July 15–Fri Aug 16 at the Lucille Lortel Theatre.

     

     

  • Photograph: Joshua Bright

    Free things to do with kids this summer

    48. Welcome Home Weekend
    Help herald the reopening of historic Wave Hill House after a two-year renovation with house tours (Sat, Sun 11am-1pm), free activities like collaborative tapestry-making (Sat, Sun 1-4pm), live music from Mary Courtney and Morning Star (Sat, Sun 1:30-4pm), and a special edition of Wave Hill's Family Art Projects: "Pinapple Welcome Wishes," in which kids make and decorate silly paper pineapple hats (Sat, Sun 10am–1pm). Sat July 6 and Sun July 7 at Wave Hill.

  • Photograph: Courtesy of Bryant Park

    Free things to do with kids this summer

    49. Word for Word Kids
    This summer, expect appearances by the likes of Erin Lee and the Up Past Bedtime Band (July 27) and Moey's Music Party (Aug 3). On other weeks, kids can look forward to a 50th birthday party for Amelia Bedelia, a Comic Con Bryant Park graphic novel celebration and Where You Come From, an original play by Daniel Kitrosser (a.k.a. Flaubert Frog). Saturdays through August in Bryant Park.

  • Photograph: Courtesy Paramount Pictures

    Free things to do with kids this summer

    50. Williamsburg Summer Nights' Movie in the Park
    Sure, the Manhattan skyline is nice, but we're doubly excited about the return of open-air movies in East River State Park this summer. Family-friendly flicks include Hugo (July 8) and Up (July 22). Mondays in East River State Park.

Photograph: Caroline Voagen Nelson

Free things to do with kids this summer

1. Arthur Ashe Kids' Day
While the day's big concert costs money, this annual family fest always involves free outdoor tennis workshops, autograph signings with pros competing in the U.S. Open, plus fun for those less tennis-inclined like hair braiding, face painting, an obstacle course and storytelling. Sat Aug 24 at 1pm at USTA Billie Jean King National Center.




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