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The best summer activities for kids in New York City

We round up the coolest summer activities for kids: drive-in fests, hiking trails and more.

Written by
Paulina Jayne Isaac
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New York City becomes a completely new place in the summer. Once kids are out of school and the weather’s beautiful, most people head outside. Central Park is crowded, the subways are hot, and tourists are everywhere. It can feel overwhelming to figure out what to do with your family once kids are out of school.

Well, if you’ve found yourself scratching your head because you don’t what to do, you’ve come to the right place. A city with as many options as NYC means that there’s something for every family. The nature-lovers, the explorers, and the food-lovers will all find something that suits them on this list—promise.

If you're wondering how you're going to keep your little ones busy while staying safe, check out our roundup of the best outdoor activities for kids (think hiking trails and bike paths).

Summer activities for kids

  • Attractions
  • Zoo and aquariums
  • The Bronx
  • price 2 of 4

If you live in NYC then odds are you’ve made your way to the famous Bronx Zoo. Even if you’re visiting, you’ve probably heard of it since it’s one of the largest zoos in America and takes up 265 acres. The good news is the zoo is open. To enter, all guests must have a date-specific ticket. Masks are recommended (not required) and contactless entry is being implemented. Before your arrival, print your ticket or have it available on your mobile device to use at the self-scanning machines.

  • Sports and fitness
  • The Bronx
  • price 2 of 4

The more activities you can do outside this summer, the better. Riverdale Stables is located in the Bronx and dubs itself, “Where New York City Learns To Ride!" So, if you’ve never tried riding, grab some durable shoes (boots if you have them), and hit the saddle. Riverside Stables are open for lessons by appointment seven days a week.

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Take a foraging tour at Prospect Park, Forest Park or Central Park! You’ll learn about the common and mostly overlooked wild plants and mushrooms that are not only edible but also medicinal. They’re often considered “weeds,” but after a tour with “Wildman” Steve Brill and his 14-year old daughter, Violet Brill, your family might think twice the next time they step into the local supermarket. You can take a tour of a local park and also gain a new skill!

You don’t have to vacation in New England to spot whales and dolphins in their natural habitat. In case you haven’t noticed, New York has beautiful beaches on the Atlantic Ocean that are home to marine life. The American Princess Cruises are approximately 3.5 hours long and depart from Sheepshead Bay, Brooklyn, Pier 3. There’s a great chance you will see whales or dolphins while on the tour. The cruise company had a 97% sightings rate in 2020. Kids under five are free, which makes this a great option for families with your children.

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  • Things to do

Biking is the new walking, didn’t you hear? With multiple biking companies like Blazing Saddles, it’s easy to rent a bike, scooter, or surrey to explore Governor’s Island. You can take a simple trip to the island and upgrade it by making it a fun adventure for the entire family to explore a new and scenic part of New York. Governor’s Island is only a  7-minute ferry ride from Manhattan. Blazing Saddles is located on Hay Road, between Castle Williams and Colonels Row. They open every day at 10 a.m. and are offering a free one-hour rental program for bikes on weekdays (excluding holidays). Don’t forget your sunscreen!

Take a sight-seeing cruise
  • Attractions
  • Sightseeing
  • Hell's Kitchen
  • price 2 of 4

Let’s not forget that New York is an incredibly historical city. It’s easy to take advantage of the 130 landmarks in the city. Yes, there are that many. If you want to go (or cruise) back in time, book a cruise with Circle Line Sightseeing. You can sail around the Hudson and East Rivers to see the Statue of Liberty, the Chrysler Building, and the Brooklyn, Manhattan, and Williamsburg bridges.

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  • Things to do

Alright, let’s run down some of New York’s best beaches. We have Rockaway Beach, Coney Island, and Fort Tilden Beach. That’s just in the city. There are also Long Island and New Jersey beaches that are a short drive or train ride away. If you are going to make a family outing to a beach, bring some towels, water, snacks, and all of your swimming essentials. If you want to avoid crowds, try to head out early in the day.

  • Attractions
  • Parks and gardens
  • Chelsea

Every family needs a little healthy competition—emphasis on healthy. We’re not going to assume that you might end up in a heated match with your kid over miniature golf, but we also can’t assure you that it won’t happen. What we can assure you is that the views at Hudson River Park combined with it being Manhattan’s only 18-hole mini-golf course make it the perfect outing for a family looking to enjoy a fun group activity.

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  • Sports and fitness
  • Kayaking & canoeing
  • Hell's Kitchen

You might be sensing a theme here. Manhattan is an island, but not everyone utilizes the benefit of being surrounded by water. When you’re in the middle of Midtown or making your way through Central Park, it doesn’t feel like an island. Summer is a great time to take advantage of water sports that are available like kayaking. Manhattan Kayak Club is currently taking reservations for summer.

  • Attractions
  • Zoo and aquariums
  • Coney Island
  • price 2 of 4

If the Bronx Zoo interests you then most likely, so will the New York Aquarium. The aquarium is currently offering its exhibit, Spineless, which highlights animals who live without spines. You can view the Pacific octopus up close, see moon jellies and check out zombie worms, which apparently exist. But, just like the zoo, you must have a date-specific ticket before you arrive and masks are recommended. 

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  • Movies
  • Greenpoint

There’s something nostalgic about a drive-in theater. You can probably find one in almost every state in the country. They’re not specific to New York, but Skyline Drive-In airs a film and shows spectacular views of the Manhattan skyline. If the movie doesn’t capture your attention, we’re sure the views will.

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  • Restaurants
  • Food court
  • DUMBO
  • price 1 of 4

Grab your family and head to the Brooklyn neighborhood any day of the summer. That’s right—Daily Dose of Dumbo hosts free activities every day during the summer. Mondays and Thursdays are the perfect days to bring the kids because of the games offered at the beginning of the week and the kid-friendly activities and DJs on Thursday. And after, be sure to stop by Time Out Market New York for a fun brunch.

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