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The best outdoor activities for kids in NYC

There's plenty to explore in NYC. Check out these fun outdoor activities for kids and let the adventure begin!

By Danielle Valente and Allie Early
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Tired of being cooped up at home? Have a gander at our list of fun outdoor activities for kids and families for a change of pace! 

Whether you're hitting a cool drive-in (summer 2020's biggest trend), going fruit picking or stopping by the best playgrounds and splash pads in the Big Apple, you'll be able to stay busy all season long with this roundup. 

We'll admit, this year might not be what we had expected, but there are still plenty of ways to embrace the vacation season and freedom. Don't sweat anything—we're here to help you make the best of it.

Best outdoor activities for kids

kid bike
kid bike
Photograph: Shutterstock

1. Family-friendly bike trails in NYC

Things to do Games and hobbies

New York, New York, it's a wonderful biking town! From protected bike paths on the Bronx waterfront to the low-key cycling in Battery Park City, we'll help you find the best bike trails for families in NYC. When the weather warms up, there's nothing quite like going for a bike ride with the kiddos—it's one of the best things a family can do in New York City right now. (Training wheels welcome!) 

Domino Park Playground
Domino Park Playground
Photograph: Courtesy Daniel Levin

2. Kids' playgrounds

Things to do

This is a golden age of playgrounds. In recent years NYC has completely transformed what playtime is like for a city kid, introducing creative playgrounds to every corner of the Big Apple. There are so many gorgeous playgrounds to visit in NYC, and this list will help you set off on a fabulous adventure.

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87.pier6_004.jpg
87.pier6_004.jpg
Photograph: Julienne Schaer

3. Splash pads and water playgrounds

Things to do

Two words: water cannons. Come prepared with a swimsuit and watershoes to brave the city's best water playgrounds and splash parks. You and the whole family are guaranteed an afternoon of (free) outdoor fun! Don't miss destinations like Prospect Park Splash Pad, Chelsea Waterside Park Play Area or Brooklyn Bridge Park Pier 6 Water Lab.

Photograph: Shutterstock

4. New York beaches

Things to do

Pack a beach bag and head to these great local beaches for some swimming and sandcastle building! Jones Beach, Rockaway Beach and Jacob Riis Park Beach are some of our favorites for families. Note that 2020 visiting rules are different, so check before you make a trip. 

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Photograph: Shutterstock

5. Picnic spots in NYC

Things to do

No restaurant, no problem. Our favorite picnic spots in NYC are great places to refuel (and take in gorgeous scenes to boot).   Grab your favorite snacks, set up your blanket in a cozy spot and get ready to chow down! Locations such as Central Park and Prospect Park, offer striking distance from the best kids' playgrounds NYC has to offer, so you can pack in a ton of outdoor activities for kids in one afternoon! 

hiking
hiking
Photograph: Courtesy Shutterstock

6. Hiking trails for NYC families

Things to do

Just because you live in the Big Apple doesn't mean you can't spend time in the great outdoors. There are amazing family-friendly hikes close to NYC—in fact, the Bronx River Greenway and Inwood Hill Park are right in the middle of the city! So: Check the weather, pack a picnic and make plans to visit mother nature with the fam. These hiking trails are great for children of all ages, from toddlers out for a stroll to bigger kids looking to go for a scramble. 

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drive in
drive in
Photograph: Courtesy Greenville Drive-In

7. Drive-in theaters in and near NYC

Things to do

You heard it here first: This is going to be the summer of the drive-in. What could be better than a double-feature under the stars? A new generation is joining the family-run throwbacks, and now it's easier than ever to sit back in your car and enjoy the best family movies to watch together.  In fact, many of the films you'll see are from your childhood: Back to the Future, Jaws, Jurassic Park and other family comedy movies your kids will love. 

The Parking Lot Social
The Parking Lot Social
Courtesy: The Parking Lot Social

8. The Parking Lot Social

News Events & Festivals

Even though summer events are going to look a little different this year, we're still eager to explore what the season has in store for us.  Adding a family-friendly twist to the drive-in experience trend (have you heard about the Six Flags Safari?) is The Parking Lot Social, the brainchild of Grahame Ferguson and Cameron Craig of XL Event Labs. The new touring fest packs a ton of fun for visitors that they can enjoy without having to get out of their car.  Consider it as a modern twist on an old-time tradition: Upon arrival, guests will find two 40-ft screens, a 52-ft-tall rainbow-shooting fire hydrant and two inflatable Parking Lot Social gorillas. Then, the fun begins: live music, karaoke, Bingo, kid games and more.

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Yankee Stadium
Yankee Stadium
Photograph: Shutterstock

9. Uptown Drive-In at Yankee Stadium

News City Life

Thanks to the revival of the drive-in trend, once seen as a relic of the 1950s, New Yorkers can still gather together while social distancing in their cars. Uptown Drive-In, a new festival-like event coming to the parking lot of Yankee Stadium this season, is a summer party we can all get behind. The carnival-like experience, set to happen every weekend starting in July, will be a combination of a drive-in movie theater and a live-music concert featuring local NYC artists. It will also feature carside dinner service from beloved New York street vendors. Attendees for the Uptown Drive-In will also find live interactive games, raffles and giveaways. 

Six Flags Safari
Six Flags Safari
Courtesy: Six Flags

10. Six Flags Great Adventure's Safari

News Weird & Wonderful

Pretty soon, an animal safari won't be out of the realm of activity possibilities for NYC families. (Yes, really.)  Six Flags Great Adventure in New Jersey just announced that its Safari adventure will open as a  drive-through experience. Just book a reservation, hop in the car and 1,200 animals will be available right before your eyes. 

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child gardening
child gardening
Photograph: Shutterstock

11. Fun gardening activities

News City Life

If your little ones have a green thumb, you'll want to dig into these great at-home activities from NYC's best gardens and attractions. (See what we did there?)  Grab those planters and find the best lighting in your apartment—it's gardening go time.  

habana.jpg
habana.jpg
Photo: Caroline Voagen Nelson

12. Kid-friendly outdoor restaurants

Restaurants

There are plenty of NYC restaurants that embrace the little ones (and all the potential catastrophes that go along with them). These outdoor restaurants are a great fit for you and the whole brood.

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13. Outdoor artwork in NYC

The Metropolitan Museum of Art isn't the only spot to soak up some gorgeous artwork. Take a gander at statues and sculptures all around the city—you can even make it a competition to see how many you can visit in one day!

14. Explore Central Park

Things to do

Think you know Central Park? Think again! There is so much to explore throughout the 843–acre playground for New Yorkers of all ages. Rent a boat from the boathouse, send a sailboat across the Conservatory Water, catch an outdoor storytime and pay a visit to the Central Park Zoo (for starters). Exploring your options for fun outdoor activities for kids? Your little ones will love spending a day at this iconic NYC location. 

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Photograph: Courtesy Paul Clark

15. Explore artwork at NYC playgrounds

Attractions Parks and gardens

No need to visit museums to catch a glimpse of the best artwork in the city. Did you know some of New York's coolest playgrounds feature the work of famous artists, designers and architects? Catch cool moveable blocks, spectacular graffiti art and more at these epic kiddie hotspots.

Photograph: Courtesy CC/Flickr/ Shinya Suzuki

16. Farmer’s markets

Things to do Markets and fairs

Kids might reconsider their aversion to veggies when they get to meet the super-cool farmers that grow them! Local bakers, chefs and growers set up tables at these farmers' markets in NYC to show off seasonal favorites, while local artisans display their coolest creations.

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Photograph: Courtesy Shutterstock

17. Strawberry picking in New York

Things to do

It's a berry good idea to go strawberry picking in New York. Not only will you have fresh fruit for the kids' lunchboxes, but you'll be more inclined to whip up that delectable cake that the whole family's been dreaming about. (No birthdays required.)  

Photograph: Courtesy Unsplash + veeterzy

18. Blueberry picking in New York

Things to do

While it's practically impossible to resist a sweet summer strawberry, let's not let the popular fruit hog all of the attention: Blueberry picking in New York—and the surrounding area—is equally as delightful, and if you're craving homemade sweets, stop by your local farm for a bushel of berries. 

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Photograph: Shutterstock

19. Peach picking in New York

Things to do

What's sweeter than peach picking near NYC? Well, blueberry and strawberry picking are equally as delightful during the summer.  If you have a hankering for fresh produce and want to spend some time outdoors with the kiddos, check out the local farms in your area for PYO hours and rules (many of which have changed this year). Not only will you head home with a bushel of fruit, but the adventure makes for a great day trip. Check out our list and enjoy!  

cherry picking
cherry picking
Photograph: Shutterstock

20. Cherry picking in New York

Things to do

What better way to escape the city than by spending the day at one of the best cherry-picking spots close to NYC?  After all, going to a PYO farm is guaranteed summertime fun for the fam. The kids get to be active and snacky, while the grownups can do their best to save enough fruit to make a crumble at home. 

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Boundless Adventures
Boundless Adventures
Photograph: Monte Isom

21. Boundless Adventures

Attractions Theme parks

Boundless Adventures is an enormous aerial adventure park on a forested part of the campus of Purchase College in Westchester: There are nine courses with more than 90 bridges, 17 zip lines and a diverse terrain that will dazzle you with its natural beauty. New to aerial adventure parks? No problem. Boundless Adventures has four difficulty levels, which means every participant will be matched with the right course - plan on spending around four hours climbing, zipping and cruising through the trees! Also: Plan on your kid deciding you're the Best Grownup Ever for the trip to Boundless Adventures. Note that the park is taking special precautions to ensure everybody's safety for the summer of 2020.  Reservations are required. $60, $55 ages 7-12. Ages 7 and up.

Jane's Carousel
Jane's Carousel
Photograph: Courtesy Creative Commons/Flickr/Justin Kiner

22. NYC carousels

Things to do

Whether you're keen to go round and round atop a ceramic horse, sea creature or other critter, these carousels can deliver. Some are old, some are new, and each offers its own unique (and beautiful!) experience for NYC kids. We especially love the Seaglass Carousel at The Battery, a newer addition to NYC, where families can go on an undersea adventure inside vibrant fish.

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coneyislandopeningday40.jpg
coneyislandopeningday40.jpg
Photograph: Marielle Solan

23. Coney Island

Things to do

Coney Island delivers some of NYC's best outdoor activities for kids. It's most well-known for being home to top-notch amusement parks (Luna Park, Deno's Wonder Wheel Park, though they're currently closed), but there's plenty more family-friendly entertainment near the expansive boardwalk, including summer fireworks and delicious food from local vendors. 

24. Family camping near NYC

Things to do

Trade a weekend in your beloved concrete jungle for swimming, hiking and other outdoor activities out in the woods! First, pack your week with the best summer activities for kids in the city, then when Friday rolls around, branch out and book a campsite, borrow a tent and do some stargazing. These campgrounds span from cushy to rustic, so whatever your interest, we've got you covered. 

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Photograph: Courtesy Shutterstock

25. The best horseback riding NYC has to offer

Sports and fitness Equestrian

Saddle up! A visit to the best horseback riding NYC has on its roster, including Kensington Stables and the New York City Riding Academy, will be a hit among your brood's budding equestrians.   For all those who thought outdoor activities for kids in Gotham were limited to playground visits and strolls through public gardens for families, think again. Stables and riding trails are scatered throughout the five boroughs and will help turn your littles into pros. What can you expect from the best horseback riding NYC families love? There are pony rides for the tykes, private lessons for equestrian enthusiasts, birthday party packages, jumping lessons for the adventurers and thereaputic programs for those with special needs. Who wouldn't want a chance to ride in the concrete jungle? It's one of the most exciting things to do in spring and summer, so giddy-up and book a ride or lesson ASAP!

Petting Zoo Goat Kids
Petting Zoo Goat Kids
Photograph: Shutterstock

26. The petting zoos in NYC

Things to do

What better reason to get outside than to visit one of the best petting zoos in NYC? It's a chance for your little one to get up close and personal with the animal kingdom, and learn how to be kind to our fine furry friends. 

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