The best summer activities for kids in New York City

Searching for things to do in summer with kids? We'll help keep you busy with an epic list of happenings!

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Photograph: Courtesy Shutterstock

It's time for sand between your toes and a hot dog at Nathan's. Summer activities for kids in NYC are aplenty, so start mapping out your perfect vacation. 

We round up seasonal happenings your crew can't miss—street fairs, frequent trips to water playgrounds for kids, pitstops at delicious ice cream shops in NYC and epic Coney Island activities. After all, what's a NYC summer without a ride on the Cyclone?!

Don't fret about your lack of a backyard. Between local pools, beaches and parks, there are countless places to go out and enjoy the summer sun. Make sure you have your sunscreen handy! 

Peruse our picks for the best things to do in summer with kids now!

Summer activities for kids

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Jane's Carousel
Photograph: Shutterstock
News, City Life

Time Out Market New York

Prepare your taste buds: DUMBO has a new, out-of-this-world food hall with spectacular views, and it's created by Time Out Group! How cool is that? Time Out Market New York is officially open at 55 Water St (within Empire Stores), a charming pre Civil War-era building. The new space boasts 21,000 square feet across two floors and includes three bars plus a scenic fifth floor outdoor roof deck. Say hello to views of the East River, Brooklyn Bridge, Manhattan Bridge and Lower Manhattan skyline—and our favorite spot to grab a bite with friends at sunset.

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Photograph: Courtesy Domino Park/Daniel Levin
Things to do

Kids’ playgrounds NYC families love

When the coolest kids’ playgrounds in NYC are available at your fingertips, you’re in for a fabulous adventure! From the newly opened Domino Park to the ever-popular Central Park green spaces, Gotham’s best playgrounds offer classic features such as splash pads and jungle gyms, but they also take recreation to a whole new level. Where else can pint-sized park-goers construct their own playground, play on a pipefish or hang out with dinosaurs? Of course, this is all up for grabs in NYC.

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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. Most of the picks on our list also have plentiful seating for parents.

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Photograph: Courtesy Shutterstock
Things to do

Beaches for kids in NYC

Pack the SPF! Trips to the best beaches for kids in NYC and beyond guarantee a fun summer afternoon for the whole family.  Not only will the kids love to search for shells and splash in the waves, but there are plenty of other cool amenities to enjoy. When in Coney Island, you're within striking distance of awesome amusement parks for kids. Other locales boast some of the best picnic spots in NYC and fun water playgrounds for kids.

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McCarren Park Pool
Photograph: Marielle Solan
Things to do

Swimming pools for kids

Cool off at New York's best swimming pools for kids this summer! Apart from being one of our favorite summer activities for kids, it's also a great way to meet families from all over the city. Choose from our favorite picks around town, including Astoria Park Pool, Manhattan Park Pool Club, John Jay Pool and more.

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Photograph: Shutterstock
Things to do

Picnic spots in NYC

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! 

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Photograph: Courtesy Shutterstock
Things to do

Strawberry picking in New York

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.) 

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Photograph: Shutterstock
News, Events & Festivals

Macy’s 4th of July fireworks

If anyone reading this has a rooftop with a view of the East River in either the Dumbo, Battery Park or Brooklyn Heights area, let’s be friends. After a brief departure, the Macy’s 4th of July fireworks show is back at the Brooklyn Bridge this year. The event’s 2019 return will mark the biggest ever, with three times more pyrotechnics across the entire bridge and four barges along Pier 17 in the Seaport District. The 43rd annual tradition is the largest show in the country and features musical guests, who will be announced in June. There will be more than a dozen designated areas to watch the 25-minute long spectacle. The show starts of 9:20pm on Thursday, July 4, but you might need to camp out all day to get a prime viewing spot.

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Photograph: Filip Wolak
Things to do

Roller skating in NYC

If you’re looking for a bit of retro with your family fun, you’ll want to check out the best NYC rinks that offer roller skating for kids. Put on your skates or roller blades (don't forget a helmet!) and zoom around these indoor and outdoor skating rinks for guests of all ages. And don't worry—if you don't have the right gear for the occasion, many spots will rent you some. 

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Photograph: Courtesy Shutterstock
Sports and fitness, Equestrian

Horseback riding in NYC

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. 

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Photograph: Courtesy NY Carousel Entertainment
Things to do, Sport events

Zip lining in New York

If you have a little thrill-seeker in search of a new undertaking, look no further. The best zip lining in New York lets dare devils big and small soar to new heights.  There are various courses and options (some of which include night-time zip lining!) that will keep your brood plenty entertained while swinging in the air, no matter their experience level.

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Photograph: Courtesy Alex Roche/ Manhattan Youth
Attractions

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.

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Photograph: Hudson River Park and Julienne Schaer
Attractions, Public spaces

Skate parks in NYC

These amazing NYC skate parks are perfect for tweens and teens! Grab helmets and boards and head to these sweet spots—which vary in difficulty—to practice tricks through dusk. Some of the picks on our list have more advanced ledges, ramps, pipes and other features, while others are mostly flat and offer plenty of room to play without getting in the way of more experienced skateboarders. Browse our list of great picks! 

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Photograph: Courtesy Alley Pond Adventure Course and Daniel Avila
News, City Life

Adventure Course Sunday series

Let your kids rocket through the sky on a zip line or brave an elevated adventure course (all for free) on Sundays with the help of this sweet NYC program. This year, the Adventure Course Sunday series runs from May 5–Oct 27, and each event is free and available to kids ages 8 and up.  The Adventure Course offerings include a Nitro Swing (teams work together to problem-solve and get all teammates from one "island" to another), a climbing wall, the Human Swing Shot (where you'll be hoisted above the ground and let go on a big swing) and a 40-foot-high zip line that runs 100 yards. Between May 5 and June 30, 2019, this Sunday program is first-come, first-served and does not require registration, so arrive at least a half hour before the start time (9:30am or 1pm) to secure a spot. For Sunday programming from July 7 to Aug 25, 2019, pre-registration for this program is required and tickets are given on a lottery system. Online registration will occur the Monday before each program date, beginning on July 1. You'll be allotted a maximum of four participants per registered party if you are selected. Please have your kids wear closed-toed shoes for their adventure.

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Photograph: Courtesy Dann_Ilicic + Wibit
News, Transport & Travel

New inflatable water park

We never decline a trip to fun bounce houses and exciting water parks near NYC, so when the best of both worlds join forces, you better believe we are ready for the grand adventure.  Grab those goggles and towels! According to Patch.com, our Jersey neighbors are in store for an inflatable water park on Barnegat Lake. In late June or early July, Lacey Township will unveil this extraordinary new project, which was created with the help of Commercial Recreation Specialists and Wibit. Wait until you feast your eyes on this inflatable water park jungle gym!

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Photograph: Courtesy Julie Larsen Maher ©WCS
News, City Life

Bronx Zoo will Dinosaur Safari

Looking for fun things to do with dinosaur-loving kids? Do we have some news for you! The Bronx Zoo's Dinosaur Safari will run through November 3, 2019 (included in the Total Experience ticket). Your kids should definitely prepare for a roaring good time. Advertised as the "biggest, most realistic dinosaur ride in America," the new attraction shuttles families (with narration) through a wooded area packed with 40 ultra-realistic (read: gigantic) animatronic dinosaurs. One of the most notable features will certainly be the two towering Tyrannosaurus rex—as well as the vegetarian Omeisaurus that stretches an impressive 60 feet long. And to make things as realistic as possible, the Bronx Zoo teamed up with a paleontologist from the American Museum of Natural History—Don Lessem even served as an advisor on the original Jurassic Park!  

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Photograph Courtesy: The Big Bounce House/ Hannah Woo
News, Sports & Fitness

Big Bounce America

The Big Bounce America—which holds the Guinness World Record for the largest bounce house in the world—delighted visitors with a Long Island pitstop in 2018, but now urbanites don't have to leave the five boroughs to enjoy a jumping session. The attraction just announced that it will set up shop in Brooklyn from July 26–28 at Aviator Sports, so start planning your summer bucket list and book those tickets ASAP! 

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Photograph: Courtesy of Rebecca Mensch/Mensch & Company
News, Events & Festivals

QuickChek New Jersey Festival of Ballooning

The 37th annual QuickChek New Jersey Festival of Ballooning announced it will also float into town on July 26–28. This feast for the eyes (and Instagram feeds) will feature 100 hot air balloons from around the globe that take flight twice each day—a scene the whole family will certainly appreciate. You and the family can make your way nearby to the Solberg Airport in Readington, NJ for the jaw-dropping display. (And yes, there's an option to ride the balloons, too.)  But the balloons are but one part of this exciting festival. What better way to ring in the summer than with fun performances from ABBA the Concert tribute band (July 26 at 8pm) and kids' musicians Dan Zanes and Claudia Eliaza (July 26 at 7:30pm)? Families can also look forward to a lot of other exciting entertainment such as amusement park rides, food vendors, crafters and more!

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outdoormovies.jpg
Photograph: Courtesy Hudson River Park Trust
Things to do

Free summer movies

Are your blankets ready? The season of free summer movies is upon us, and we're anxiously awaiting screenings of classic films, great cartoons and those live-action remakes that Disney does so well.  As we usher in the warm weather,  FREE screenings are a quintessential start to the summer for New Yorkers of all ages. Incredibles 2, The Lego Ninjago Movie and Christopher Robin are some of the films on the 2019 lineup! 

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Photograph: Courtesy Etienne Frossard
Things to do

Free kayaking in NYC

NYC really does have it all—even one-on-one time with nature.  Thanks to fantastic free kayaking and canoeing offerings, a trip out of town to feel at one with your surroundings is no longer necessary. You can feel adventurous and nautical, all while taking in gorgeous scenes as you paddle throughout the boroughs.

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Photograph: Courtesy Angelito Jusay
News, City Life

Free Bryant Park activities for kids

The Midtown green space is home to our favorite outdoor activities for kids, and it comes as no surprise that its 2019 lineup is packed with great activities. We can picture ourselves soaking up the fun already! Have a look at the *FREE* events for youngsters that are slated for this season, including Le Carrousel Puppet Shows, 
Le Carrousel StoryTime and more!

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Photograph: Courtesy Mari Spiker
Restaurants

Ice cream shops in NYC

What makes the perfect sundae? Add a dusting of sprinkles, a dollop of whipped cream and douse it with hot fudge. Viola! Your taste buds will be grateful for the super-sweet expedition. For delicious desserts, check out our list of the best ice cream shops in NYC for kids. No matter what you and the crew are craving, these destinations are nothing short of fabulous.

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Photograph: Courtesy Peter Mauss Esto Photography
Restaurants

Outdoor restaurants NYC families must visit

Don't try to deny it: You might have a ball visiting NYC's best attractions, but at some point, the kiddos are going to wipe you out. When you stop to refuel, make sure to take your lunchtime pit stop seriously. Thanks to the best outdoor restaurants NYC provides, you and your crew can enjoy a great meal and the best scenes in town.  Between a variety of cuisines offered throughout each borough, you can't go wrong with these options.

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green table chicken pot pie by linda pugliese.jpg
Photograph: The Green Table
Things to do

Farm to table NYC restaurants

Farm to table NYC eateries prove that amid subways, skyscrapers and concrete, people crave the flavor and nutrients of natural ingredients—even if there isn't a farm in sight.  Don't be fooled by any misconceptions or labels. Some of our favorite family restaurants and New York pizza slices are among locals' go-to farm to table restaurants. We're always willing to have a pie at Roberta's or a savory brunch at Friend of a Farmer! 

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Photograph: Courtesy Brooklyn Flea
News, Eating

Smorgasburg

Smorgasburg is a foodie's feast for the senses, and no list of things to do in the summer is complete without a visit to the behemoth of outdoor markets. Ready your napkins and Instagram feeds for savory dishes and eye-catching concoctions. Hungry visitors can make their way to East River State Park in Williamsburg on Saturday or Prospect Park on Sunday at 11am. For the first time in 2019, Smorgasburg will also take place at the Oculus at Westfield World Trade Center, which kicks off on April 12 at 11:30am.  

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Photograph: Courtesy CC/Flickr/ Shinya Suzuki
Things to do, Markets and fairs

The best farmers’ markets in NYC

You have your pick of everything needed for a farm-fresh meal, including eggs and dairy, fruits, veggies...even fish at these Farmers' markets! 

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Photograph: Courtesy Keith MacDonald
Restaurants

Rooftop restaurants in NYC

When it comes to dining out in New York, the view is just as important as the food. Why not enjoy great scenes and fantastic dishes at the best rooftop restaurants NYC has to offer? When it comes to these locations, everyone in your family will find a dish to devour—fresh seafood, classic sandwiches, fan-favorites like mac n' cheese. What else is on the menu? Park views, mini golf and so much more.

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Photograph: Courtesy Timothy Schenck
Attractions, Parks and gardens

Things to do on Governors Island

Can't decide what things to do on Governors Island this season? That's easy—you'll just have to explore everything!  Located in the heart of New York Harbor, one of our go-to family attractions offers scenic views, a country environment and a plethora of outdoor activities for kids and adults. From festivals and outdoor movies, to zip-lining and free kayaking, there is never a shortage of fun happenings. 

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Photograph: Courtesy Shutterstock/Christopher Penler
Things to do

Things to do in Central Park

Central Park is NYC's backyard, and we wouldn't have it any other way. The luscious greens and bucolic scenes are irresistible for natives and visitors alike. Plus, the venue packs a busy calendar—the list of things to do in Central Park are just as lengthy as the actual grounds. Between the zoo, one of the many playgrounds, a Marionette theater and so much more, youngsters will never want to leave...and you might not want to, either.

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Photograph: Marielle Solan
Things to do

Coney Island activities

For the quintessential New York (in summertime) experience, head to Coney Island to play the day away at the New York Aquarium, cruise the boardwalk, grab a sizzling hot dog and, if you play your cards right, even catch some beachside fireworks. Needless to say, Luna Park is also by far one of the best kids' amusement parks in town—and newbies, did we mention that it's right on the beach?

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Photograph: Courtesy Moreys Piers
Things to do

Water parks near NYC

Get ready for your best summer ever! Beat the heat with amazing water parks near NYC to enjoy your share of lazy rivers, exciting raft rides and more thrilling stuff like water luges and twisty-turny slides. There's plenty for tykes too, including tiny boat rides, water playgrounds, dump buckets and spray parks. Be sure to check each website for park season and hour information!

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Photograph: Courtesy Six Flags Great Adventure
News, Transport & Travel

Six Flags Great Adventure's biggest water park expansion EVER opens this summer

Six Flags Great Adventure just announced that its beloved Hurricane Harbor—one of our go-to water parks in NJ—will receive its greatest expansion since its 2000 opening. We dusting off our beach towels as we speak! Add a visit to the new Calypso Springs to your summer bucket list. This attraction, sandwiched between the Taak It Eez Ee Creek lazy river and Tornado water slide, includes 100,000-gallon beach entry-style pool, a geyser shooting out cool, refreshing water, a lounge deck and so much more.

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Queens Zoo Toddler Time Camp
Photograph: Julie Larsen Maher
Attractions, Zoo and aquariums

Zoos in New York City

Thanks to the fantastic zoos in New York City, families have the opportunity to see incredible animals from all around the world. NYC zoos are some of the most impressive in the world, and from the massive Bronx Zoo (one of the biggest in North America) to the petite Central Park Zoo, these family attractions invite kids to learn about numerous species through storytimes, art activities, camps, classes and hands-on interactions with nature.

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Things to do

Petting zoos in New York City

Run-ins with squirrels and pigeons are one thing, but many city kids don't often get the opportunity to meet farm animals in person. Luckily, several local zoos—like the Bronx Zoo and Central Park Zoo—have petting zoos so kids can pet and feed critters like goats, pigs and ducks. 

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Photograph: Courtesy Donna F. Aceto
Things to do

Kids' festivals

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 Museum Mile Festival (June 12) and NYC Unicycle Festival (Aug 29–Sept 1), among others. 

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Photograph: 92Y/Camp Yomi/Jennifer Weisbord
Things to do, Camps

Summer camps for kids

Summer camps for kids are great ways to keep youngsters entertained during vacation months. Now is the time to explore our list of summer camps in NYC and beyond for a wide range of outdoor activities for kids, STEM offerings, creative opportunities and day trips to beloved family attractions (think museums for kids, fun water parks near NYC and other adventurous spots). We won’t try to fool you: These programs are enviable, and you're going to be slightly jealous that you're not enrolling, too. 

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American Museum of Natural History Rose Center for Earth and Space
Photograph: AMNH\C. Chesek
Attractions

Free museums for kids

Free museums for kids? We're in! Many assume that free things to do with kids in NYC are few and far between, but truthfully, all you need to do is a little bit of research before embarking on an outing. These fabulous NYC musums offer pay-what-you-wish days, free museum days/hours and other great stuff for local families—you just need to read the fine print. Want to check out cool new exhibits like "T. rex: The Ultimate Predator"? Are your kiddos anxious to get their hands on permanent exhibits at the engaging and interactive New York Hall of Science? Stick with us, and we'll let you know how to make the most bang for your buck!

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Shakespeare in the Park
Photograph: Courtesy Joseph Moran
News, Theater & Performance

Public Theater

Central Park is due for a dose of Disney magic this summer, and all theatergoers need to mark their calendars.  The Public Theater, which is known for its annual Shakespeare in the Park series, will put on an adaptation of Disney's Hercules at Delacorte Theater, the 1,800-seat outdoor attraction in Central Park. According to The New York Times, this is the group's first Disney production, and needless to say we're ready to find a spot at the venue immediately...if not sooner.  Performances will be held from Aug 30–Sept 8. Snagging tickets might be tricky, so prepare ahead of time. According to the Public Theater's website, "Free tickets will be distributed on each performance day.

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The Intrepid
Photograph: Courtesy Shutterstock
News, City Life

Intrepid Sea, Air & Space Museum's free Friday series

One of our favorite family attractions just revealed a super-cool perk, and we're totally on board.  In efforts to increase community engagement, the Intrepid Sea, Air & Space Museum will launch a new Free Fridays series. Luckily, there are plenty of opportunities for patrons to participate. From April until October, one Friday each month will be free from 5–9pm. (General admission is $33 for adults and $24 for children ages 5–12.) Who are we to resist free museum days?  While visitors will have access to the flight deck, awesome scenes and indoor exhibits, there are a few more bonuses to look forward to with this new series, including performances, educational talks, film screenings and telescopes for stargazing, which will be a hit over the summer. The schedule is as follows:  April 26, May 31, June 21, July 19, Aug 16, Sept 27 and Oct 25. 

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Photograph: Courtesy Usdan Center for the Creative and Performing Arts
Things to do, Camps

Summer camps for teens and tweens

A week or two at NYC's summer camps for teens and tweens will certainly impress even the most difficult members of your brood.  Although older kids might not be quite as enthusiastic about showing off their camp spirit, when they try their hand at the best  sports camp programs, acting camp programs and other stellar offerings, they won't be able to resist any of these epic summer activities for kids.

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Photograph: Andy Jacobsohn
Things to do, Camps

Sleepaway camps in NY and beyond

We scoped out the best sleepaway camps in NY and the tristate area to ensure that summer 2019 is one for the books. While en route to your destination, make sure to play these festive summer songs for kids to get the party started.  But don't get teary-eyed, Mom and Dad: Sending the littles to one of these epic sleepaway camps not only exposes them to cool outdoor activities, fun sports and one-on-one time with Mother Nature—they help kids gain independence and hone in on their interests.

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camping.jpg
Things to do

Family campgrounds near NYC

Want to stargaze, roast marshmallows and sleep in a tent? These family campgrounds are a great way to escape the city for a weekend and spend some time in the great outdoors. There's plenty of fresh air to be enjoyed, hiking trails to be explored and cool bugs to identify, plus many of these campgrounds also host family activities at night, like free summer movies and singalongs. Some will even rent you tents and equipment so you don't need to lug anything along. RECOMMENDED: Full guide to the best family vacations Don't have a car? That's no problem. Many of the picks on our list are accessible by Metro North or LIRR, so it'll be easy to get your crew to and from their latest adventure. Enjoy the best outdoor activities for kids, NYC beaches and other great free activities for kids to make the most of the season.

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Six Flags Great Adventure Hurricane Harbor
Photograph: Courtesy Six Flags Great Adventure
Travel, Getaways

Summer day trips from NYC

This beautiful season is pretty spectacular in general—why not amp things up even more with an exciting summer day trip? After you've checked out all the coolest NYC parks, public gardens and carousels your neighborhood has to offer, plan ahead for a new adventure to one of these family destinations.

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Photograph: Courtesy Shutterstock/goodluz
Travel, Getaways

Summer weekend getaways

Who's ready for summer weekend getaways? There's plenty to love about our go-to destinations: fun kids' amusement parks, the most adventurous water parks you can imagine and all-inclusive family resort options that boast a little bit of everything. Venture to Annapolis with the maritime-loving kids, take a drive to Sesame Place with the Elmo-obsessed and enjoy the newly opened Kartrite Indoor Water Park and Resort, a new spot in the Catskills that holds the title for the largest indoor water park in New York State. Check out all of our recs! 

More summer activities

Photograph: Courtesy Lauren Spinelli
Things to do, Literary events

The best summer books for kids and tweens 2017

Plan ahead for some great summer reading this year! Our list of summer books offers everything from picks for brand new readers to picks for tweens (ya know, the ones who can't put down the iPhone). These summer books offer a great opportunity for all ages to unwind with a great story, whether told through pictures or shared through chapters. Looking for more great kids' books? Check out our guide to the best kids' books around, books about kindness and these truly wonderful baby books (where you'll be doing the reading)!

Photograph: Courtesy Beth Baumgartner
Things to do

The best popsicle recipes for the whole family

No need to trek to the bodega for a rocket popsicle! These popsicle recipes are sure to cool off adults and kids alike when the sun is shining and temps are rising. The best part is that these are all popsicle recipes you can make in the comfort of your own home, and there's no need for any fancy gadgets (many you can even make in a Dixie cup)! Homemade popsicles for the win! You can also go the healthy route with real fruit popsicles or banana popsicles (or go all out and pile on the sweet with some ice pops). 

Archive summer activities

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