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Free summer concerts 2012 for New York City kids

Get ready to rock out---summer 2012 is packed with free outdoor music series for the youngest set. 

  • Photograph: Kate Milford

    Audra Rox at Albee Square Series

  • Photograph: Luis Gutierrez

    Moeys Music Party at Albee Square Series

  • Photograph: Jill Hoffman

    Carroll Park Concerts

  • Photograph: Ryan Muir

    Celebrate Brooklyn - Kids Day

  • Photograph: Ryan Muir

    Celebrate Brooklyn - Kids Day

  • Polka Dot at Hoboken Family Fun Night

  • Photograph: Courtesy Madison Square Park Conservancy

    Madison Square Kids Concerts

  • Photograph: Courtesy Madison Square Park Conservancy

    Madison Square Kids Concerts

  • Photograph: Courtesy Fort Greene Park Conservancy

    Music in the Grove

  • Photograph: Courtesy Fort Greene Park Conservancy

    Music in the Grove

  • Photograph: James Worrell

    Summer in the Square

  • Ballet Fiesta, part of SummerStage

  • Sara Roosevelt Park, Mundo Ninos, part of SummerStage

  • Central Park Family Day, part of SummerStage

  • Word for Word

  • Erin Lee and Band at Word for Word

Photograph: Kate Milford

Audra Rox at Albee Square Series

One of the best parts about summer in the city is the onslaught of free outdoor concerts for families. These gratis performances at some of NYC's best green spaces are a great way to introduce kids to new bands, including some of our favorites, like the Deedle Deedle Dees and Princess Katie and Racer Steve. Plus, some of the shows take place in or right near one of the city's best playgrounds, where kids can let off steam afterward. Read through our list of this summer's can't-miss music series, then start marking your calendars for these great concerts.

Albee Square Children's Concert Series
This outdoor series features a wide variety of kid-approved musical groups, like Astrograss (May 31), steel-drum band ensemble JahPan (June 14), the porkpie hat--wearing outfit Dogs on Fleas (June 28), Ernie & Neal (July 26), rock & roll band the Fuzzy Lemons (Aug 9) and Aly Sunshine's Funkytown Playground (Aug 23). May 17--Aug 23, various days 10--11am. Albee Square at Bond and Fulton Sts, Downtown Brooklyn (fultonstreet.org). Free. All ages. 

Carroll Park Kids' Concert Series 
Everyone from Karen K & the Jitterbugs (June 23) and Astrograss (July 18) to Key Wilde and Mr. Clarke (Aug 25) and the Deedle Deedle Dees (Sept 30) perform at this popular Brooklyn park. June 23--Sept 30, various days 4pm. Carroll Park, Smith St between Carroll and President Sts, Carroll Gardens, Brooklyn (carrollparkbrooklyn.org/concerts). Free. All ages.

Celebrate Brooklyn!
While the bulk of Celebrate Brooklyn's programming is targeted toward adults, there is a smattering of just-for-kids and kid-friendly acts in the summer lineup. Prospect Park's free summer-concert series kicks off with reggae visionary Jimmy Cliff (June 5) and continues with Sweet Honey in the Rock, who'll perform at the Ezra Jack Keats Family Concert (July 8), and a Muppet Movie sing-along (July 28). June 5--Sept 3, at various times. Prospect Park Bandshell, Prospect Park West at 9th St, Brooklyn (bricartsmedia.org/celebrate).

Family Fun Nights at Shipyard Park
Take the crew to Hoboken's waterside Shipyard Park and check out a slew of outdoor, kid-friendly musical performances. Featured musical acts include the Polka Dots (June 5), a Kidville-sponsored Rockin' Railroad performance with arts-and-crafts tables (June 12), Preschool of Rock (July 17), the Fuzzy Lemons (July 24), Guitar Bar Jr. (Aug 14) and Erin Lee & the Up Past Bedtime Band (Aug 24). June 5--Aug 21 at 7pm. Shipyard Park, 13th St at Shipyard Ln, Hoboken, NJ (201-420-2207, hobokennj.org). Free. All ages.

Madison Square Kids Concerts
Madison Square Park hosts some of the best names in children's music for a special series of free outdoor family entertainment. Kid favorite Audra Rox kicks off the series on June 12 and will be followed twice a week by such acts as the Deedle Deedle Dees (June 14), Alastair Moock and Friends (June 19), Robbi K & Friends (June 21), Oran Etkin's Timbalooloo (June 26), Shine and the Moonbeams (June 28), the Itty Biddies (July 3), Moona Luna (July 5), the Wiyos (July 10), David Weinstone and the Music for Aardvarks Band (July 12), Bubble Do Beatles (July 17), WeBop Family Jazz Party with Matt Wilson (July 19), Songs for Seeds (July 24), Recess Monkey (July 26), the Dirty Sock Funtime Band (July 31), Princess Katie & Racer Steve (Aug 2), the Suzi Shelton Band (Aug 7) and Father Goose (Aug 9). June 12--Aug 9; Tue, Thu 10:30am. Madison Square Park, Broadway at 23rd St (212-538-4071, madisonsquarepark.org). Free. All ages.

Music in the Grove
Check out top children's-music acts every Wednesday morning, featuring names like AudraRox (June 20) and Jeremy Plays Guitar (June 27). Additional concerts include the Rozz & Val Show (July 11), Suzi Shelton (July 18), Astrograss (July 25), Robbi K & Friends (Aug 1), Moey's Music Party (Aug 8) and Rolie Polie Guacamole (Aug 15). There's ample stroller parking at the park, but you'll want to bring a blanket to sit on. June 20--Aug 15, Wed 10--11am. Fort Greene Park, enter at DeKalb Ave at Washington Park, Fort Greene, Brooklyn (fortgreenepark.org). Free. Ages 0 to 8.

Sandbox Music
Part of the Sandbox Program Series, these Central Park Brass concerts allow kids to chime in with percussion music of their own. Each live performance is in a different Central Park playground, so kids can enjoy some post-concert playtime. Check centralparknyc.org for location details. July 11-Aug 17. Weds, Thu, Fri 11am-12pm. Various playgrounds in Central Park. Free. Ages 3 to 8.

Summer in the Square
While we dig the free Wi-Fi, Summer in the Square is an even better reason to visit Union Square Park on Thursdays. Get in some early-morning fitness with Mommy and Me Yoga classes at 10am hosted by Bija Kids. The rest of the programming, offering family-friendly dancing, music and other activities, begins at noon. Notable names this summer include Hot Peas & Butter (June 21), Suzi Shelton (June 28), Zak Morgan (July 26), Bari Koral (Aug 2), Little Groove (Aug ) and others. June 14--Aug 9, Thu 10am. Union Square, 14th St to 17th St between Broadway and Fourth Ave (212-529-9262, unionsquarenyc.org). Free. All ages.

Summer on the Hudson: Children's Performance Series
This children's series isn't music only—check out family-friendly performances by Baze and His Silly Friends (July 12), an environmentally-themed show from Bash the Trash (July 19), Erin Lee and the Up Past Bedtime Band (July 26), Thaddeus Rex (Aug 2), The Funkey Monkeys (Aug 9) and a performance by the Puppeteers from the Swedish Cottage Marionette Theater (Aug 16). July 12-August 16, Thu 10:30am-11:30am. Pier I, Riverside Park South. Free. Ages 7 and under.

Summerstage Kids Presented By Disney
Sponsored by Disney, the SummerStage children's series hits all five boroughs. The Bindlestiff Family Cirkus, Fela's Queens and DJ Stormin' Norman perform in Brooklyn's Herbert Von King Park (June 10), while the Red Trouser Show takes to the stage in St. Mary's Park in the Bronx (June 30). Also in the mix are Justin Roberts and the Not Ready for Naptime Players in Central Park (July 8, part of SummerStage Kids Family Day) and, in Queens' Springfield Park, Randolph Matthews, LuckyBob's Magic Juggling Comedy and Little Club Heads (July 29). The series wraps up with Jazz at Lincoln Center's Jazz for Young People on Tour (and other guests) in Manhattan's Marcus Garvey Park (Aug 12). See website for full venue details. June 10--Aug 12, various times and locations. Go to cityparksfoundation.org for more information. Free. All ages.  

Summer Sandbox Series at Carl Schurz Park
This short and sweet series (concerts are only a half hour long) features only two performers: Moey's Music Party (July 17 and Aug 7) and Tony C (July 24 and 31). July 17--August 7, Tues 3pm--3:30pm. Carl Schurz Park. Free. Ages 2 to 8.

Washington Market Park Summer Concert Series
Set smack in the middle of Tribeca's hustle and bustle, this concert series is nevertheless a musical haven for kids and parents. This summer's setlist includes such names as Brady Rymer and The Little Band That Could (June 14) and Princess Katie and Racer Steve (June 21), then after a three week break, return for Astrograss (July 12) and electro pop group The Pop-Ups (July 19). June 14--July 19. Thursdays at 6pm. Washington Market Park, Tribeca (washingtonmarketpark.org). Free. Ages 2 to 6.

Word for Word Kids
The kids' edition of the popular Word for Word reading series includes music, arts and crafts, and favorite books read aloud. This summer, expect musical appearances from the likes of Moey's Music Party (June 23), Starfish: The Greatest Rock Band in the World...for Kids (July 14), Erin Lee and the Up Past Bedtime Band (July 21), Rolie Polie Guacamole (Aug 4) and Melissa Green Music for Families (Aug 11). June 16--Aug 18, Sat noon--1pm. Bryant Park Reading Room, 42nd St between Fifth and Sixth Aves (bryantpark.org). Free. Ages 3 to 9.




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