Timeout New York Kids

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The best free summer activities in August 2012 for NYC families

We've got the scoop on this month's best free summer activities from outdoor festivals in Brighton Beach to tennis workshops in Queens.

  • Prospect Park Carousel

  • Prospect Park Carousel

  • Hong Kong Dragon Boat Festival

  • Hong Kong Dragon Boat Festival

  • Photograph: Grace Chu

    Jam on DUMBO

  • Photograph: Grace Chu

    Jam on DUMBO

  • Photograph: Clotilde Testa

    Summer Streets

  • Photograph: Clotilde Testa

    Summer Streets

  • Photograph: Molly Rosner

    Target First Saturday at Brooklyn Museum

  • Photograph: Molly Rosner

    Target First Saturday at Brooklyn Museum

  • History Day at Deno's Wonder Wheel

  • Photograph: Filip Wolak

    Civil War Weekend on Governors Island

  • Photograph: Filip Wolak

    Civil War Weekend on Governors Island

  • Kite Festival

  • Kite Festival

  • Photograph: Hubert Williams

    Harlem Week

  • Harlem Week

  • Arthur Ashe Kids' Day

  • Photograph: Andrew Burton

    Arthur Ashe Kids' Day

Prospect Park Carousel

The warm-weather months always pass too quickly, but you may surprise the kids with the number of free summer activities you can pack into their August schedule before school starts again. We've compiled a list of our favorite free summer activities happening over the next 31 days—everything from free spins on a Brooklyn carousel to a kite festival on the Upper West Side. Looking for more free events? Check out our round-ups of gratis concerts and outdoor movies.

Prospect Park Carousel
Carousels offer cheap thrills all summer long, but on Thursdays in August, kids are invited to take complimentary spins on the Prospect Park merry-go-round from noon to 6pm. Thu Aug 2, 9, 16, 23 and 30 noon--6pm. Prospect Park Carousel. Free. All ages.

Annual Hong Kong Dragon Boat Festival
Besides watching the dragon boat races, a tradition that began in 278 BC, families can observe a martial arts performance by warrior monks from the Shaolin Temple and visit the art tent, where artists will demonstrate traditional Chinese crafts, including rice doll making and calligraphy. After watching the demonstrations, kids also make their own Chinese crafts to take home. Sat Aug 4, Sun Aug 5 10am--4pm.Flushing Meadows--Corona Park. Free. All ages.

Jam on Dumbo Summer Family Music Festival

Celebrate one of the city's coolest neighborhoods at Jam on Dumbo's second annual kid-friendly music fest. This year, kids and parents can listen to tunes by three Brooklyn-based bands: Jeff Newell's New Trad Trio, AudraRox and Shine & The Moonbeams. When they're not rocking out to the awesome musical acts, little ones can create pieces of artwork using found objects, contribute to a graffiti mural project and cheer on emcee Miss Saturn as she performs a hula-hoop act. Sat Aug 4 noon--4pm. Superfine. Free. All ages.

Summer Streets

Families strap on their helmets and lace up their sneakers for this annual celebration, which closes off seven miles of city blocks for outdoor recreation. The route connects the Brooklyn Bridge and Central Park and lets participants take to the streets to walk, run and play. Sat Aug 4, 11 and 18 7am--1pm. Go to nyc.gov/summerstreets for exact street closures. Free. All ages.

Target First Saturday: Caribbean Rhythms
This month's evening-long event fetes the lively sounds of the Caribbean. Kicking things off is a Haitian music showcase (5:30--7pm), followed by a dance performance (5pm), a drop-in carnival headdress--making workshop (6:30--8:30pm), an Afro-Caribbean dance workshop with live drum accompaniment (7:30pm) and, finally, a dance party with DJ-spun tunes accompanied by live percussionists. The on-site caf is open all evening to keep the kids' energy up. Sat Aug 4 5--11pm. Brooklyn Museum. Free. All ages.

Civil War Weekend on Governors Island
Families can experience an 1863 soldiers camp demo at this commemorative event, complete with living historians in army garb who can fill kids in on the details of Civil War history. Weapons demos (think old school muskets) are also a must-see, and there's no need to worry about stay bullets—they only fire black powder. Sat Aug 11, Sun Aug 12 10am--4pm. Governors Island. Free. Ages 4 and up.

FlyNY Kite Festival

Kids can make their own kite and decorate it using crayons and markers at the park, bring a kite from home, or buy a homemade kite from a vendor. Families fly their kites along the river while listening to live music. Sat Aug 18 11am--3pm. Riverside Park, Pier I. Free. All ages.

Harlem Week: Summer in the City and Harlem Day
Highlights of the Harlem Week celebration include excerpts of Disney musicals at Summer in the City (Sat Aug 18) and a back-to-school children's fashion show at Harlem Day (Sun Aug 19). The Children's Festival spans both days: steer your brood towards the healthy eating and living demonstrations, basketball clinic and Nickelodeon bounce house. Sat Aug 18, Sun Aug 19 noon--6pm. W 135th St between Fifth and St. Nicholas Aves. (harlemweek.com). Free. All ages.

Arthur Ashe Kids' Day
At the U.S. Open's annual kickoff event for families, you'll have to pony up to see the stadium show (this year's setlist features big names like Carly Rae Jespen and the Wanted) but grounds events are totally free. Mini pros can also get autographs, play matches on the outer courts, enjoy hair braiding, face painting and a juggling workshop, and take in up-and-coming talent at the Hess Express stage. Sat Aug 25 9:30am--3pm. USTA Billie Jean King National Tennis Center. Free. All ages.

Hudson River Park Blues BBQ Festival
This outdoor blues celebration includes performances by The Bo-Keys, Glen David Andrews and Curtis Salgado, and enough barbecue from city eateries (think Dinosaur Bar-B-Que and Brother Jimmy's) to satisfy kids for a late lunch and dinner. Sat Aug 25 2--9pm. Hudson River Park at Pier 84. Free. All ages.

Brighton Beach Jubilee
The three stages at this summer fest feature Russian entertainment, rock and roll music and Dads competing in an arm wrestling competition for the title of the "strongest arm in Brooklyn." Sandy the Seagull, the Brooklyn Cyclones' mascot, will make an appearance, and children can take a spin on kiddie rides and get their faces painted. Sun Aug 26 10am--5pm. Brighton Beach Ave at Coney Island Ave (brightonbeach.com). Free. All ages.


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