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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"

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.

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Brooklyn Bridge Park, Brooklyn Heights Until Friday January 1 2016

NYC Parks Summer Sports Experience

Get out and get active at the NYC Parks Summer Sports Experience. No matter what kind of exercise you prefer, this summer camp provides an array of different sports and takes place at various parks throughout the city. Looking to ease that competitive itch? Come out and play lacrosse, basketball, soccer and other active games through the end of August! Recommended for ages 8-14.

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Friday September 4 2015

Hans Christian Andersen Storytelling

Every Saturday through the summer, bring your little ones to the Hans Christian Andersen statue in Central Park for an hour of storytelling. The statue is a fitting backdrop for the repertoire of international fairytales and folk stories that has been growing for the past 59 years, and the stories are often accompanied by live music! Ages 5 and up.

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Central Park 72nd Street Entrance, Lenox Hill Saturday September 5 2015 - Saturday September 26 2015

NYC Unicycle Festival

Critics' pick

This wacky one-wheeled weekend rolls into town with a One Wheel the West Side course from Battery Park up the West Side to Central Park (Sept 3), a ride over the Brooklyn Bridge, finishing with a stage show at Coney Island in celebration of Brooklyn Unicycle Day (Sept 4). Don't miss the main event—a giant festival on Governors Island with races, competitions, exhibitions, unicycle sports (basketball, hockey and sumo on wheels!), music, live performances and more one-wheeled activities for the whole family (Sept 5, 6). All ages.

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Governors Island, Governors Island Sunday September 6 2015

Harlem Meer Performance Festival

Critics' pick

Fill the dog days of summer every sunday with jazz, world and Latin jams at this lakeside performance series. Bring a blanket and picnic lunch to enjoy while you listen to the Harlem Blues & Jazz Band (Aug 9), Quimbombo (Aug 16), Ebony Hillbillies (Aug 23), Garifuna International (Agu 30) and the Dee Dee LeVant Gospel Ensemble (Sept 6). See the website for a full schedule. All ages.

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Central Park, Charles A. Dana Discovery Center, Lenox Hill Sunday September 6 2015

West Side County Fair

Critics' pick

The Upper West Side gets countryfied with carnival rides, games, music, square dancing, sideshow acts, a petting zoo and a Greenmarket. In the Green Acre environmental corner, young fairgoers get some hands-on schooling in eco-friendly living and animal care. Stay tuned for new of headliners on the mainstage this year. Last year's acts included Frets in Fire, PitchBlak Brass Band, Sioux City Kids and The Willies, plus more plaza performances. All ages.

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Riverside Park South, Pier I, Upper West Side Sunday September 6 2015

Great North River Tugboat Race & Competition

Critics' pick

Line up with your kids and cheer for your favorite tugboat in this exciting 23rd annual competition. After the race is over, check out the amateur line toss, spinach-eating contest (think Popeye) and tugboat-related exhibits for families, and see the tugs up close. To get your youngsters an even better view of the action, grab tickets to the spectator boat that follows the race along the Hudson River to the finish line ($25, children $12, ages 2 and under free). All ages.

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Hudson River Park, Pier 84, Hell's Kitchen Sunday September 6 2015

TADA! Youth Theater: The Odyssey

The Public Theater announces Homer's The Odyssey, in which the Tada! Resident Youth Ensemble joins Brandon Victor Dixon (Odysseus) Taran Killam (Cyclops), Karen Olivio (Penelope) and Lucas Caleb Rooney for a performance at Delacorte Theater in Central Park. Free tickets (required for entry) will be distributed (limit two per person) at noon on the day of the show at Delacorte Theater & via www.publictheater.org.

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Delacorte Theater, Central Park Until Monday September 7 2015

Back to School Bash

The popular eco-eatery will help give your tykes the proper send-off as they head back to the classroom. Stop by for delicious Cuban food, eco-friendly arts and crafts, glitter tattoos and live music from a kid-friendly DJ. All ages.

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Habana Outpost, Fort Greene Monday September 7 2015

West Indian-American Day Carnival

Critics' pick

This Caribbean celebration, known for having lively music and lots of skin, is never short on costumed stilt dancers, floats blaring soca and calypso music, and plenty of flags from countries such as Barbados, Jamaica, and Trinidad and Tobago. Look for vendors stationed along Eastern Parkway selling island eats like jerk chicken, curry goat and oxtail, to name a few dishes. Eastern Pkwy from Schenectady Ave and Flatbush Ave Ext, Crown Heights, Brooklyn.

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Grand Army Plaza, Prospect Park Monday September 7 2015
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Hannah D
Hannah D

Awesome things to do on the cheap!