RECOMMENDED: Full coverage of 4th of July for kids in NYC
Celebrate the holiday weekend with these fun 4th of July activities for kids! Be sure to check out New York's amazing 4th of July traditions like Nathan's Famous Hot Dog eating contest, the stunning display of Macy's 4th of July fireworks (now on the East River!) and our ranked list of cool 4th of July family festivals, picnics and other celebrations.
While this may be (or may not be, depending on your perspective), the best weekend to check out the city's top kid-friendly bars, there's plenty of other awesomeness on offer, including our favorite free summer activities for kids and other summer activities for kids. Don't forget to grab a scoop from our favorite ice cream shops.
4th of July activities for kids
At these festive 4th of July fireworks, NYC families can watch red, white and blue pyrotechnics light up the sky. Awesome 4th of July events for kids are sure to keep you and the gang busy throughout the day, but our nation's birthday wouldn't be complete without a dazzling show to cap it off. Settle in for view of the annual Macy's Fourth of July Fireworks over the East River, or ooh and ahh at other spectacles from a seat at a local ballpark or from a spot in the sand on NYC beaches like Coney Island.
Celebrate our nation’s independence by joining an estimated 40,000 viewers in watching people stuff their faces with franks. (America, ladies and gents.) In 2015, Matt Stonie ate 62 hot dogs! All ages.
Can't get close enough to see the hot dog eating contest? Visit the dozens of rides and games at Luna, and don't miss the Scream Zone, a separate section which houses four new rides for brave (and big enough!) kids: two coasters, a spinning disc called the Zenobio, and the Human Sling Shot. Plus, a full service restaurant, the Cyclone Café offers sushi rolls as an alternative to the usual hot dog/candy apple/ice cream.
Now in its 21st year, this Independence Day kid’s parade is a neighborhood favorite. Grab a moment of Zen with Land Yoga’s yoga for kids (10am) before joining a lively procession of families down Morningside Drive, led by an NYFD fire truck! After the parade, the truck turns on its hose to spray cool, refreshing water on the entire block, so be sure to bring swimsuits and water shoes for the kids. Free lemonade and snacks are provided, and prizes are awarded for the best-decorated bikes, tricycles and scooters. Encourage your little ones to get creative! 115th St and Morningside Dr. All ages.
Hamilton fans, it's your lucky Independence Day. The New-York Historical Society is hosting a Hamilton-themed soiree this Fourth of July with historians dressed as Revolutionary War soldiers (and, of course, Hamilton), a dueling history tour and songs and tales from the Hudson River Ramblers. Tykes can also nosh on kid-friendly fare and participate in patriotic craft workshops and trivia contests. All ages.
Fireworks junkies take note: State Fair Meadowlands is serving up two nights of dazzling pyrotechnics in celebration of our nation's independence. The shows don't start until 10:45pm, but we think it's worth postponing bedtime just this once. Really, what's better than watching fireworks from atop a ferris wheel? All ages.
Grab the folding chairs and head downtown for an unobstructed view of the 40th annual Macy's Fireworks Show. Keep in mind, no outside food or beverages are allowed at this event, but local food trucks will be on hand to offer a variety of tasty eats, plus beverages from Flagship Brewery for the 21+ crowd. Fireworks begin at 9:25pm. All ages.
Learn all about NYC's hippest borough on Circle Line's new cruise, Hello Brooklyn. This two-hour, guide-narrated tour sails within 100 feet of the Statue of Liberty and covers everything from early Dutch settlers to hip-hop titans. Drinks and snacks are available from Brooklyn Cupcake, Junior's Cheesecake, McClure's Pickles and more. All ages.
Beneath the shadow of two retired NASA rockets, kids can tee off at this real outdoor course that mimics the path of a complete space flight. As they play the nine holes, little ones must take careful aim to avoid gravity wells, wormholes, warped space and asteroids; they'll also learn about the laws of motion that move spaceships through the air. The final hole, called "Splash Down," has players putt at a target on a rotating model Earth. Ages 6 and up.
With so many people bustling around NYC at all times, it's easy to forget that our city is just a small piece in a larger environment. This high-tech exhibition in the Great Hall lets families better understand our impact on Earth's delicate systems, teaching kids how to keep things balanced through individual and collective actions. Hands-on activities let visitors interact with animated creatures, plants, trees and other objects on seven giant screens. Each displays a different environment—desert, mountain valley, plains, reservoir, jungle wetlands and a digital waterfall, towering above at 38 feet tall. As families move from one environment to the next they'll explore how the spaces are connected by shared resources and weather patterns and how their actions impact the larger environment. All ages.
Catch family concerts, storytelling, art activities and more on Sundays at Pier 6 throughout the summer. Each week features performances from kid-friendly bands, dance troupes and puppet companies, plus an outdoor pop-up reading room from the Uni Project and art projects from Private Picassos. Pier Kids kicks off in June with Suzi Shelton (6/19) and Wildlife Theater (6/26). July features A Royal Shindig and Brooklyn Beanstalk (7/3), Arm-of-the-Sea Theater (7/10), Hot Peas ‘N Butter (7/17), You Must Be This Tall (7/24) and Meet the Animals (7/31). The series closes with Shira & Friends (8/7). All ages.
More fun activities for kids
Do you love free activities for kids? Of course you do! Your suburban friends might question why we think NYC is the best place to raise a family, especially because things can get pretty pricey when you're living it up (or really just living!) in The Big Apple. The truth is...no one can really deny that New York life is expensive, which is why we've decided to give you some ammo against the naysayers: your ultimate guide to keeping family time fun-filled and free for all! These free things to do for kids will keep 'em busy through every season, and you won't mind partaking, either. This stuff is awesome! Got down time? Don't forget to check out our favorite outdoor activities for kids, indoor activities for kids and best kids' movies, too!