Summer bucket list for NYC families

NYC is packing in the kid-friendly fun this season, so start working on your family's summer bucket list

Photograph: Courtesy Luciana Golcman Arthur Ashe Kids Day

If you thought the school year was busy, try cramming the best things to do with kids into two short months. We're here to help make your summer bucket list better than ever, so prepare for an epic July and August. 

From gorgeous playgrounds, fun golf courses and free kayaking (yep, right in NYC), your family is going to have a packed schedule. Don't be intimidated—we're here to guide you through the best summer activities for kids so you know what's worth it and what deserves a pass. Grab your sunglasses and get ready for an adventure! 

While you're planning your itinerary, make sure to pay a visit to NYC's best water playgrounds and family attractions

Summer bucket list for families

Photograph: Courtesy Etienne Frossard
Things to do

Free kayaking in NYC

This summer, explore the best free kayaking NYC has on its roster. The season wouldn't be complete without a few rowing sessions across the East River.  Contrary to popular belief, you don't have to enroll the kiddos in sleepaway camps or pack up for family weekend getaways to enjoy a taste of nature. Even the greatest city in the world is home to some of the best outdoor activities for kids! All you need to do is grab a lifevest and hit the water.

Photograph: Courtesy Etienne Frossard
Things to do

Water playgrounds for kids

There’s nothing quite like New York’s summer heat—but thankfully, the city's best water playgrounds for kids are unmatched! Choose from fun splash pads with sprinklers, playgrounds with water cannons, spots with exciting play structures to climb and other great stuff not far from home. 

Photograph: Courtesy Alex Roche/ Manhattan Youth

Mini golf in NYC

If you're looking to get competitive with the best mini golf NYC has to offer, you've come to the right place. We've rounded up the very best teeny putting greens in the area, ranging from courses with sophisticated scenery to quirky, kitsch-filled adventures involving plastic animals, statues and tiny windmills.  

Photograph: Courtesy Daniel Levin
Things to do, Playgrounds

Gorgeous NYC playgrounds

Kids' playgrounds in NYC are works of art in their own right. Intricate details, whimsical features and scenic locations abound, catapulting these play spaces to a top spot on our list of favorite outdoor activities for kids. As the warm weather creeps in, we're always up for extending our playground visits well into the evening. We've tracked down the prettiest new, renovated and classic spots that are totally worth a visit this summer.

Photograph: Shutterstock
Attractions, Theme parks

Kids' amusement parks in NYC

Nothing says summertime like a trip to NYC's action-packed kids' amusement parks! Whether you have tykes in tow who might prefer the gentle rides of Sesame Place and Victorian Gardens, or older kids who love the hair-raising adventure rides at Six Flags New England, Luna Park and Morey's Piers, one thing is certain: There's something on this list for everyone—and a wide range of price points!

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Photograph: Melissa Sinclair
Things to do


icon-location-pin Multiple venues

The venerable epicurean extravaganza spends Saturdays in Williamsburg and Sundays in Prospect Park. No matter your preference, there's a little something for everyone. While kids can delight in sweets like fried cookie dough, those with a more expansive palate can opt for offerings such as seafood from Lobsterdamus, Boutros' pork shawarma tacos or PopdUp brewed teas, among seemingly hundreds of other dishes. This year, the new Pizza Cupcake and Fluffies Soufflé Pancakes (available Saturdays and Sundays) will be on hand to wow visitors! Note that admission to the food fest is free, but each vendor charges various prices. All ages. 

Photograph: Courtesy Magic at Coney
Theater, Circuses & magic

Magic at Coney

icon-location-pin Coney Island Museum, Brooklyn

Calling all junior magicians! Illusionists, escape artists, mentalists, and close-up magicians from all over the world will descend on the Coney Island Museum for a full afternoon of mind-blowing tricks and feats. Expect to see plenty of card tricks, levitating objects and perhaps some stuff disappearing right before your eyes. Who knows—maybe someone from your family will have the chance to become to be part of the magic if they’re picked as an assistant for a particular trick. All ages.

Governor's Island Unicycle Festival
Things to do

NYC Unicycle Festival

icon-location-pin Various locations, Midtown West

This wacky one-wheeled weekend rolls into town and begins with a pitstop in Battery Park (10 am on Aug 29), followed by a ride over the Brooklyn Bridge and ending with a stage show at Coney Island (Aug 30, meet at 2pm in front of City Hall in Manhattan on the base of the Brooklyn Bridge). 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 (Aug 31 and Sept 1 from noon–5pm). Learn more about the lineup on the festival's website. All ages.

Photograph: Courtesy Oscar Williams
Museums, Science and technology

"Above and Beyond: The Ultimate Flight Exhibition"

icon-location-pin New York Hall of Science | Queens, NY, Queens

The New York Hall of Science will take you out of this world when summer begins—and you don't even need to get out of Queens! In honor of the 50th anniversary of Apollo 11, the museum is delving into aviation and aerospace. Visitors can expect a group flying experience via motion-sensing technology, a simulated wind tunnel test, theater presentations and more. This exhibition is presented by Boeing and produced by Evergreen Exhibitions in collaboration with NASA and the Smithsonian’s National Air and Space Museum. Learn more at All ages. 

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