Photograph: Courtesy Shutterstock/pio3

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 Allie Early and Danielle Valente


Enjoy some fresh air with the best outdoor activities for kids in NYC! Whether you're interested in attending the coolest street fairs and fests (hello, fried dough!), seeing nature up close, watching movies under the stars or listening to an enchanting story, there's something for everyone on our list of cool outdoor activities for kids.

P.S. While you're out and about, don't forget to explore our favorite museums for kids, run wild at the coolest kids' playgrounds and end a day of play with a visit to these fun restaurants

Best outdoor activities for kids

Sakura Matsuri at BBG

See Cherry Blossoms at Sakura Matsuri

Things to do

You might think you've been transported to Japan thanks to Brooklyn Botanic Garden's legendary spring festival. Welcoming the peak of the cherry blossom season, the Japanese tradition of Sakuri Matsuri celebrates spring, the arts and the great outdoors with a slew of cultural arts and merry making. Expect performances, tea ceremonies, games and more. All ages.


Climb, slide and jump at a NYC playground

Things to do

Have you ever played with giant blocks at a water playground? Or scaled a giant bronze sculpture to go down a slide? NYC is home to some pretty amazing parks, many of which come equipped with equally amazing playgrounds. The outdoor activities for kids seems endless—jungle gyms, monkey bars, sandboxes, the list goes on and on.

Photograph: Courtesy Shutterstock

Plan a day trip


Get a breath of fresh air with fun family day trips to Cape May, Wildwood or the Poconos! Your kids can enjoy everything from seaside towns and water rides to hiking, scenic gardens and strawberry picking.


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. 

Bronx Zoo

Bronx Zoo

Attractions Zoo and aquariums The Bronx

Sure, the squirrels and pigeons are cool and all, but city kids deserve a real taste of nature too! Thanks to the Bronx Zoo, your urbanites (and future zoologists/conservationists) can meet fascinating creatures from around the world: Think reptiles, bears, giraffes, sea lions, birds and other amazing animals! The Bronx Zoo is also home to the Bug Carousel, where tykes can ride grasshoppers and caterpillars instead of horses.


Visit one of NYC's coolest gardens

Things to do

Walk the High Line, visit the Brooklyn Botanic Garden or head uptown to the New York Botanical Garden to see (and smell) the best flowers in town. It's a beautiful way to spend the day, plus you can always sign your crew up for exciting outdoor activities for kids. 

Photo: Caroline Voagen Nelson

Kid-friendly outdoor 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.

Photograph: Courtesy Timothy Schenck

Governors Island

Attractions Parks and gardens

With just a quick hop on the ferry, New Yorkers are transported to the calm, serene setting of Hammock Grove...or the adrenaline-inducing zip-lining course. Truly, this location is the best of both worlds.  If you're planning to visit the Governors Island playground (a kid-only spot) with your tots, make sure to take full advantage of the other amenities before heading home. There's a multitude of craft options, athletic activities and of course, places to take a load off (parents will love a pitstop on those hammocks). Plus, the annual Governors Island events are practically essential happenings on all New Yorkers' calendars.

Photograph: Courtesy Angelito Jusay Photography

Storytime for kids

Things to do Literary events

New York's literary scene is booming with activities for little ones. Not only can children attend a storytime at the bookstore, but outdoor venues such as Bryant Park and Central Park offer kids the chance to hear their favorite stories in the backdrop of NYC's most beautiful spaces.  

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

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.

Photograph: Courtesy Alex Roche/ Manhattan Youth

Mini golf


Get in on the very best mini golf NYC spots with your tots, kids and tweens (even teens!) to get competitive on some astroturf. Here in the city, we have teeny golf courses that offer many a mini-sight to behold, including tiny windmills, caves kids can walk through, statues and quirky plastic animals. 


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!

Photograph: Julienne Schaer

Splash parks 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.


Treetop Adventure Course at the Bronx Zoo

Take your climbing skills to new heights at the Bronx Zoo’s Treetop Adventure course. There, thrill-seekers will find aerial courses with rope bridges, tight ropes, ladders and swings that fly over the forest canopy. Dual zip-lines travel 800 feet round trip over the Bronx River and back. These outdoor activities for kids are definitely not for the faint of heart, but those who brave the course will be rewarded with some awesome views.

Photograph: Courtesy Hudson River Park Trust

Free outdoor movies

Things to do

Nothing beats grabbing your folding chairs and heading to a local outdoor movie screening—like a drive-in, but better! Various organizations (such as the Intrepid and Hudson RiverFlicks) host movie nights throughout NYC summers, plus some venues even provide free popcorn. We'd call that a win-win.

Photograph: Courtesy Paul Clark

Famous 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 Shutterstock/Leonard Zhukovsky

Go-karting in/near NYC

Attractions Arcades and amusements

Get ready to burn rubber at these NYC go-karting spots. Find a few friends and race around the track until you're crowned the winner. Little thrill-seekers will get a kick out of an afternoon at one of these fun and exciting venues. 

Photograph: Shutterstock

Pick your own fruits and vegetables

Things to do

Few things are more satisfying than bringing home (er—eating half of) a bushel of perfect apples or a few pints of blueberries, strawberries or raspberries. Little ones dig it just as much as you do, and some places even offer cute little wagons and add-on attractions, too.

McCarren Park Pool
Photograph: Marielle Solan

Outdoor swimming pools

Things to do

Once pool season starts up in June, it’s time to break out the swimsuits and beat the heat at any of the swimming pools around NYC. Most offer shallow wade pools and adjacent splash parks for tiny tots as well as deeper ends for the seasoned swimmer. If your little ones don’t know how to swim yet, NYC Parks offers free swimming lessons to keep kiddos (and adults!) safe.

Photograph: Courtesy CC/Flickr/ Shinya Suzuki

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.

Photograph: Courtesy Etienne Frossard

Go kayaking for free

Things to do

Families, rejoice! You don't need to plan a family vacation (or even head to the beach) for waterfront fun in the sun. Just head to one of these NYC parks/boathouses (Brooklyn Bridge Park, Hudson River Park, etc!) and rent a kayak or two-person kayak for free. Outdoor activities for kids don't get much better than this! 

Photograph: Courtesy Donna F. Aceto

Street fairs and festivals

Things to do

When the warm weather arrives, street fairs and festivals come right with it to pack your weekends with live music, family-friendly entertainment and art projects. Best of all, so many of these festivals are totally free! You'll definitely want to check out the Sheep Shearing Festival, Apple Blossom Children's Carnival and other fun picks throughout the year.

Photograph: Marielle Solan

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), but there's plenty more family-friendly entertainment near the expansive boardwalk, including summer fireworks and delicious food from local vendors. 

Photograph: Filip Wolak

Roller rinks

Things to do

Have some silly kid-friendly fun with the best roller skating NYC has to offer—you and the little ones can rent skates, helmets and pads or bring your own for these indoor and outdoor roller rinks for families. Afterward, be sure to hit up the 50 best family restaurants in NYC or grab a scoop at one of these special ice cream shops. 


Petting zoos

Things to do

Though the local lions and tigers may are not best-suited for cuddle time, these petting zoos' goats, chickens, ducks, turtles and other creatures are happy to let your little ones touch and feed them.

Photograph: Shutterstock

Amusement parks

Attractions Theme parks

If your youngsters love the carnival rides at NYC street fairs and festivals, they'll flip for the cool roller coasters, games and character visits at kids' amusement parks near New York City. Take the littles to Sesame Place on Pennsylvania, let your kids dig and use real construction equipment to their heart's desire at Diggerland, or hop over to Morey's Piers for some action ride (the latter two are in New Jersey).

Photograph: Shutterstock

New York beaches

Things to do

Pack a beach bag and take the subway (or Metro North or Long Island Railroad) 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.


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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