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Free summer activities for kids

Pump up your summer with our picks of the best summer activities for kids, from family-friendly festivals to cool concerts

Photograph: Courtesy Angelito Jusay


RECOMMENDED: The best summer activities for kids in New York City


When the balmy weather hits NYC this summer, you'll want to take off on a few weekend getaways with the family, but don't stay away too long! There's so much seasonal fun to be had, and we've rounded up tons free summer activities for kids to keep it cheap. From cool street fairs and festivals to high-energy outdoor activities, these events provide plenty of entertainment to make sure your youngsters' summer days are not so lazy.



Free things to do this summer

Jeppe Hein: Please Touch the Art

  • Free

A standard afternoon in Brooklyn Bridge Park becomes a unique interactive experience when Danish artist Jeppe Hein’s installation takes over the public space. Curious kids will love walking through three separate works, discovering quirky additions to the landscape like benches that twist and curve, a mirror labyrinth that lets visitors see double (or triple) and a grid of sky-high water jets that create sporadic walls of H2O rising up from the ground. Families wander from the Manhattan Bridge along the waterfront to Pier 6, and get their hands on works of art instead of just observing from a distance, so make sure to bring a camera—the crazy-awesome photo opportunities will be more than worth the trip. All ages.

  1. Brooklyn Bridge Park Main St, at Fulton Ferry Landing, 11201
  2. Until Fri Jan 1
More info

Sweet Spot Festival

  • Free

Enjoy authentic Jamaican food, lively music, dance parties, a vintage craft pop-up market, free fitness workshops and art displays in Harlem. This month's Jamaican Indepen-dance bash features DJs including Herbert Holler, DJ MoMA, Rice & Peas, the Soul Summit Music crew and Kervyn Mark. All ages.

  1. Location TBA
  2. Sun May 31 - Sat Aug 1
More info

The Public Theater's Free Shakespeare in the Park

  • Free

The Public Theater continues its seasonal tradition of offering free Shakespeare productions at the Delacorte Theater in Central Park. This fall, the musical adaptation of The Winter's Tale will take the stage, with the New York Theatre Ballet performing Chase Brock's choreography. Ages 10 and up.

  1. Delacorte Theater Central Park, enter at Central Park West and 81st St
  2. Mon Jul 27 - Sun Aug 23
More info

Mad. Sq. Kids Concerts 2015

  • Free

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. Kicking off the series is Brady Rymer and The Little Band That Could (5/28), who will be followed every Thursday by other kid faves like lullaby-loving fiddler Suz Slezak (6/4), girl-rocker Audra Rox (6/11), the Woody Guthrie-esque Alastair Moock and Friends (6/18), high-energy kindie band Recess Monkey (6/25), quirky crooners Danny Weinkauf & his Red Pants Band (7/9), tot-friendly sing-a-long group Songs for Seeds (7/16), joyful songstress Suzi Shelton (7/23) and finally, an interactive JazzReach program, Yes Indeed!, introducing youngsters to American blues (7/30). All ages.

  1. Madison Square Park 23rd St to 26th St, between Fifth and Madison Aves, 10010
  2. Thu Jul 9 - Thu Jul 30
More info

Natural Areas Exploration Days

  • Free

Randall's Island is rife with natural areas for you and your kids to discover. Throughout the summer you can see and learn about anything from wetlands to bird migration just a trainride away from the concrete jungle. Wander through the island's nature at your own pace and learn from the Natural Areas experts. All ages.

  1. Randalls Island
  2. Sat Jul 18 - Sat Aug 22
More info

Lawn Time on the High Line

  • Free

Do your kids like bubbles, stories, and sing-alongs? Of course they do! Drop by the 23rd Street Lawn on Thursday mornings this summer for an hour of Lawn Time for Little Ones, led by community favorites like the New York Public Library and Housing Works. There will be storytelling, singing, arts, crafts, and lots of play. Ages 0-5.

  1. The High Line Washington St at Gansevoort St, to Tenth Ave at 30th St
  2. Thu Jul 9 - Thu Aug 27
More info

Urban Farm Exploration Days

  • Free

Every Saturday this summer, you and your little ones can take a break from the city streets and learn all about farming at the Urban Farm on Randall's Island. Chill with the chickens, learn about the rice paddies, and venture through all sorts of fruits and veggies on your self-guided tour around the grounds. There will be Urban Farm experts on site to answer questions along the way. All ages.

  1. Urban Farm in Randall's Island Park Wards Meadow Loop, at Hell Gate Cir, 10035
  2. Sat Jul 11 - Sat Sep 26
More info

Flaubert Frog & Friends

  • Free

At Bryant Park's 14-animal merry-go-round, kids will find this storytelling amphibian and his feline pal Cali Co Cat presenting stories and poems from Free to Be...You and Me and leading kids in songs and games. Ages 2 to 8.

  1. Le Carrousel Bryant Park, W 40th St, between Fifth and Sixth Aves, 10018
  2. Sat Jul 11 - Sat Aug 8
More info

The Art Yard

This Mad. Sq. Kids workshop series invites youngsters to spend their summer days picking up new skills and enjoying live entertainment. Track down cool demos from local teaching artists and be ready to jump in to a fun, hands-on activity with help from Mom or Dad. Throughout the summer, kids can further explore the park's newest installation "Fata Morgana," (6/20, 7/18, 8/22), try their hand at weaving (6/27), cartooning (7/11) and puppetry (7/25). Check the website for a full schedule of workshops. Ages 1–12.

  1. Madison Square Park 23rd St to 26th St, between Fifth and Madison Aves, 10010
  2. Sat Jul 11 - Sat Aug 22
More info

Hip Tot Family Day

  • Free

Celebrate the end of each month with Hip Tot–quality entertainment. In June, bring the kiddos to enjoy a few scenes of The Lion King Jr., performed by the students at Brooklyn's Community Roots Middle School before jamming out to tunes by Father Goose (June 14), then hit up a concert from Rolie Polie Guacamole and Dogs on Fleas, featuring Grammy-winning songwriter Dean Jones (July 12). Stay tuned for details on August's gathering (Aug 9), but make sure to come back in September for a fun-filled performance by The Trummytones (Sept 14). Ages 2 to 5.

  1. Lakeside at Prospect Park Prospect Park, enter at Lincoln Rd and Ocean Ave, 11215
  2. Sun Jul 12 - Sun Sep 13
More info

Le Carrousel Magique

  • Free

Gather at Le Carrousel, where master magicians (from popular show Monday Night Magic) enrapture youngsters with sophisticated tricks and sleight-of-hand stunners. Ages 2 to 8.

  1. Le Carrousel Bryant Park, W 40th St, between Fifth and Sixth Aves, 10018
  2. Sun Jul 12 - Sun Aug 2
More info

Brooklyn Bridge Park Family Field Day

  • Free

There couldn't possibly be a more perfect place than Brooklyn Bridge Park pier for staff-led soccer clinics, relays, potato sack races, freeze tag and rainbow parachute play all morning long. Stay tuned for location updates—the party may move over to Pier 6, where there'll be relays, volleyball, basketball, soccer and more. Ages 4 to 10.

  1. Brooklyn Bridge Park Main St, at Fulton Ferry Landing, 11201
  2. Sun Jul 19 - Sun Aug 23
More info

Pier Kids 2015

  • Free

Catch family concerts, storytelling, art activities and more at Pier 6 throughout the summer. Come by each week for performances from kid-friendly bands, dance troupes and puppet companies. Kick things off in June with Robbi K and Bakithi Kumalo (6/21) and Wildlife Theater's show, Polar Opposites (6/28). July brings entertainment from Jacqueline Schmidt (7/5), Play Date (7/12), Afro Brazilian by Cumbe Dance (7/19) and Puppetmobile (7/26). Close out the summer with an interactive demo with Volunteers of Wildlife, involving real Birds of Prey (8/2) and a jammin' concert with the Dirty Sock FunTime Band (8/9). All ages.

  1. Brooklyn Bridge Park Main St, at Fulton Ferry Landing, 11201
  2. Sun Jul 12 - Sun Aug 9
More info

Madison Urban Club for Kids (M.U.C.K.)

Gardener Steph schools curious kids on various horticultural and environmental topics each month throughout the summer. They'll get their hands dirty identifying insects (6/29), digging up the dirt on soil (7/27), work with tools in the park (8/31) and learn how math exists in nature (9/28). Kids who come to all four workshops become an official M.U.C.K. member and get a Club Card. Adult supervision required. Ages 4 and up.

  1. Madison Square Park 23rd St to 26th St, between Fifth and Madison Aves, 10010
  2. Mon Jul 27 - Mon Sep 28
More info

Wild Wednesdays on the High Line

  • Free

Wednesdays this summer will be wildly fun and educational at the High Line. Your little nature-lovers can learn all about the animals and plants that make High Line Park. Whether it's to find out how plants live way up on the High Line (July 1), investigate the creatures making holes in the leaves (July 22) or get to know some friendly ladybugs (8/22), a trip to the High Line this summer will include snacks, facts, and community fun. Wild Wednesdays take place rain or shine, so caregivers and their kids and drop by the 14th Street Passage anytime. Ages 4 and up.

  1. The High Line Washington St at Gansevoort St, to Tenth Ave at 30th St
  2. Wed Jul 8 - Wed Aug 26
More info

LC Kids' Dance!

  • Free

Let your little dancers 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. Ages 3 to 12.

  1. Damrosch Park at Lincoln Center W 62nd St between Columbus and Amsterdam Aves
  2. Sat Jul 11
More info

Bastille Day on 60th Street

  • Critics choice
  • Free

The fireworks from the Fourth of July have barely cooled, but midtown is ready to celebrate France’s Independence Day with face painting, can-can dancers, mimes, a Citreon vintage car show and French language workshops. New this year, families can enjoy a live performance by France's legendary Lyon-based theater group Compagnie des Zonzons, starring the iconic hand-puppet Guignol, plus music by Chorale Arpege, an impressive children's choir from Martinique. Petite New Yorkers will want to practice their fencing and soccer skills and head inside the FIAF building for cooking classes and film screenings before munching on Belgian waffles, crêpes, chocolates and éclairs from local French vendors. 60th St between Fifth and Lexington Aves (bastilledayny.com). Noon–5pm, free. All ages.

  1. Manhattan
  2. Sun Jul 12
More info

FAB Concerts for Kids

  • Free

Once a month during the spring and summer, FAB Alliance hosts live outdoor concerts for tots. This year's series kicks off with singer-songwriter and music therapist John Samson (May 15), followed by an interactive jam session with Moozika (June 19) and a fun class combining music, movement and dance from Shake, Rattle & Roll (July 17). Ages 1–5.

  1. Putnam Triangle Plaza Fulton St, between Cambridge Pl and Grand Ave, 11238
  2. Fri Jul 17
More info

City of Water Day

  • Critics choice
  • Free

This annual fest celebrates the natural resources of the New York harbor with a host of aquatic-based highlights. Sail to Governors Island or Maxwell Place Park in Hoboken for a kids' fair featuring ecology-themed games and activities. Families can also get gratis access to a plethora of watergoing vessels, including canoes, kayaks and rowboats; or fish, bike or kick back with food and music on dry land. Sign up early to nab a spot on a narrated boat tour of the harbor. Check cityofwaterday.org for events taking place throughout the five boroughs. All ages.

FAB Fridays

  • Free

Two Fridays per month this summer, the FAB Alliance hosts themed outdoor activities for kids in public plazas for music, art and more. Families can head to Putnam Triangle Plaza (May 8, June 12, July 10) or Fowler Square (May 29, June 26, July 24) to enjoy hands-on art workshops with local professionals, croquet games and jumprope, sidewalk chalk, FDNY safety training demos, hula-hooping and reading circles with the Brooklyn Public Library. Ages 4 and up.

  1. Fowler Square Fulton St, at Lafayette Ave, 11217
  2. Fri Jul 10 - Fri Jul 24
More info

Family Fun Nights at Shipyard Park

  • Free

Take the crew to sit waterside in Hoboken's Shipyard Park, where they'll have the chance to check out a slew of outdoor kid-friendly performances. Featured performers include YOSI (June 9), a special Sesame Street Tribute (June 16), Erin Lee & The Up Past Bedtime Band (June 23), Chuck E. Cheese (June 30), Preschool of Rock (July 7), Polka Dot (July 14), The Hey Ya Brothers (July 21), The Fuzzy Lemons (July 28), Guitar Bar Jr. All Stars (Aug 4), Garden Street of the Performing Arts (Aug 11) and Music Together (Aug 18). All ages.

  1. Shipyard Park 13th St, at Shipyard Ln
  2. Tue Jul 7 - Tue Aug 18
More info

Smorgasburg

  • Critics choice
  • Free

The venerable epicurean extravaganza spends Saturdays in Williamsburg and Sundays in Brooklyn Bridge Park's Pier 5 through the summer. We're still waiting on details for the 2014 iteration, but previous years have featured returning vendors such as comfort-food maestro Buttermilk Channel, offering its beloved fried chicken and cheddar waffles and newbies like Vermont’s Rockville Market Farm, peddling breakfast gorditas ($5) with farm-made sausage, eggs, butternut-squash hot sauce and Shelburne Farms cheddar wrapped in a double tortilla; they’ll also be hawking farm-fresh eggs by the carton ($5 for a dozen).

  1. Brooklyn Bridge Park Main St, at Fulton Ferry Landing, 11201
  2. Sat Jul 11 - Sun Nov 22
More info

Movies Under the Stars

  • Free

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 Saving Mr. Banks (June 25), The Hunger Games: Catching Fire (July 23), E.T.: The Extra-Terrestrial (July 30), Despicable Me 2 (Aug 6), The Lego Movie (Aug 13) and—wait for it—Frozen (Aug 20)! Ages 4 and up.

  1. Pier A Park Frank Sinatra Dr, at 1st St
  2. Wed Jul 8 - Wed Aug 19
More info

Storybook Theatre

Pack a picnic and escape into beloved kids’ stories like There Are Monsters Everywhere (June 13) and How I Became a Pirate (July 11). Poetry, dance, theater and music make up these interactive shows by Tempest Productions, which let little ones get involved by singing, dancing, whistling and humming along. The series wraps up on Aug 8 with The Circus McGurkus, taking kids on a Seussian train adventure where they’ll meet clowns and acrobats. Ages 2 to 8.

  1. Elysian Park Hudson St, between 10th and 11th Sts
  2. Sat Jul 11 - Sat Aug 8
More info

Summer on the Hudson Picture Show

  • Free

Pack a cozy blanket and a picnic for a family movie under the stars at Pier I. This year’s theme is “Lawns, Parks, Estates and Forests,” featuring cult classics like Jurassic Park (July 1) and Edward Scissorhands (July 8), plus new kid-friendly favorites like Beasts of the Southern Wild (July 29) and Moonrise Kingdom (Aug 5). Movies start just after dusk (usually around 8:30pm), so get there at least an hour beforehand to claim a good spot.

  1. Riverside Park, Pier I W 70th St, at the Hudson River
  2. Wed Jul 8 - Wed Aug 12
More info

Waterfight NYC

  • Free

No backyard? No problem! Break out those sweet ’90s Super Soakers for a proper water fight in Central Park. Every year, thousands of New Yorkers duke it out with buckets and squirt guns (and siblings look to settle the score). Pack a bathing suit and your water-spraying contraption of choice, slather on the sunscreen, and get pumped for a sopping-wet day of fun. Insider tip: Park officials won’t let you use water balloons, so avoid a Category five kiddie meltdown and leave those at home. Ages 6 and up.

  1. Central Park, Great Lawn midpark, from 79th to 85th Sts
  2. Sat Jul 25
More info


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