Summer activities for kids
When we think of NYC landmarks, Lady Liberty and the Empire State Building come to mind, but children might have other ideas. For those who are anxious to run, jump and swing, we’ve rounded up our favorite kids' playgrounds throughout the city. No summer is complete without a trip to a few (or all) of these epic spots.
Zooming down terrifying (and mild) slides is a dream for most when the heat hits the sidewalks. Treat your brood to lazy rivers, water slides and more at our favorite water parks for families. Many have dedicated spots for the very little ones, so the older kids can tire themselves out while you chill with the tots.
It’s not just a thing of the movies—the Conservatory Water in Central Park lets kiddos rent and sail awesome tiny boats. In fact, it’s a tradition that’s over 130 years old! While you’re there, don’t forget to visit the statues of Alice in Wonderland and Hans Christian Andersen.
No need to pay big bucks for a show! If you want to sample snippets of the best, stop by Bryant Park and give your kids a taste of hit Broadway and Off Broadway shows. P.S.: This is perfect for squirmy kids who can’t handle a full performance.
Ice cream tastes even sweeter when you know you're chowing down for a good cause at the Jimmy Fund Scooper Bowl. This all-you-can-eat bonanza at Bryant Park—featuring favorites like Ben & Jerry’s, Big Gay Ice Cream and smaller but equally delicious venues—directly benefits the Jimmy Fund, which supports pediatric and adult cancer care at Boston’s Dana-Farber Cancer Institute and Spaulding Rehabilitation Hospital.
Poets large and small will find something to love at this outdoor summertime event on Governors Island. Whether it's getting behind the mic and reciting some fierce stanzas, listening in as other poets perform their work or browsing publications from different writers, there is something for everyone at this gorgeous literary bonanza.
Now that sunny days are finally here to stay, it’s time to enjoy the outdoors as much as possible. Summer in the Square returns to Union Square Park with a lineup of free family-friendly activities and entertainment. Head on over every Thursday for children’s shows, books to read, coloring activities, games, yoga and fitness classes, sing-a-longs and dancing with kids bands like Hot Peas n’ Butter, story Pirates, Josh & The Jamtones and more.
Get in on fun summer activities for kids like the Museum Mile Festival (June 12), Big Apple Barbecue (June 9) and more. The season just wouldn’t be complete without delicious barbecue and free museum perks.
Every summer brings new thrills and chills from NYC’s coolest kids’ amusement parks. Depending on your child’s age, you can deliver low-key or high-intensity fun (the best parks offer both) with the picks from our list! Coney Island will be adding a new thrilling attraction, AstroTower!, but for those who require a little TLC, Sesame Place and Diggerland offer more calming features.
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 exciting offering from Alley Pond Park. This year, the Adventure Course Sunday series runs from May 6–Oct 18, and each event is free and available to kids ages 8 and up.
Summer activities for kids
Who can say no to free movie screenings? Bring tots, kids and tweens to check out a movie in an amazing outdoor NYC venue. NYC Parks across each borough have a ton of kid-friendly films—Moana (Randall’s Island May 25, 8:30pm), Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle (Cpl. Thompson Park, June 30 8pm), to name a few.
NY farms have some juicy fruits that are just waiting to be picked. Grab the whole family and spend the day in nature enjoying sweet berries, fun outdoor activities and one-on-one time together. Fishkill Farms and Ochs Orchard are great places to start!
With plenty of amazing beaches near NYC, there’s no excuse for not getting out there at least once this summer. All you need to do is pack a picnic, slather on some sunscreen and head out to favorites like Coney Island Beach and Jones Beach for a great afternoon.
For this mother of all pyrotechnic displays, Macy's will explode more than 60,000 fireworks along the East River. Stake out a nice spot and get ready for a spectacular show. Don't forget to bring your own picnic basket with beverages to toast our country's birthday.
NYBG's Edible Academy just received a state-of-the-art makeover, and to celebrate, the venue will welcome families on Father's Day Weekend to enjoy cooking demos that reinforce a healthy lifestyle, get dirty with hands-on gardening projects and celebrate the completion of the project with music.But the fun doesn’t stop there: The venue will be open year-round for workshops, gardening, demonstrations and more.
The Island is one of NYC’s most underrated wonders, and it’s about time you took advantage of it. Grab a quick ride over on the ferry (get access at Battery Maritime Building all-week long and Pier 6 of Brooklyn Bridge Park on Saturdays and Sundays), then enjoy a full day of biking, picnicking, venturing through The Yard playground and even zip-lining. The Island truly boasts the best summer activities for kids, so don’t miss out.
Keeping your youngsters entertained all summer is no easy feat—especially in the stifling heat—but families can always count NYC's public swimming pools for a cool escape. Waterholes in all five boroughs provide kids with plenty of spots to splash around at no cost. Some of the best swimming pools for kids happen to be in NYC parks or right by Gotham's best playgrounds, making it easy to draw up an itinerary for some family summer day trips near the pool of your choice. Tip: Many city pools require visitors to bring a sturdy combination lock and may forbid items including food, glass bottles and electronics. Visit the NYC Parks Department for details before you make the trip!
When we think of summertime, we dream of Nathan’s hot dogs, beachy breezes and Luna Park’s thrilling rides, like the The Cyclone and Thunderbolt coasters, the Tickler and the Steeplechase. This summer, the park is rolling out another massive ride—the Astrotower in May! Time to get some thrills!
Nothing beats a meal outdoors...except ones that are above ground. Grab a bite to eat at one of the best rooftop restaurants NYC has to offer (such as Alma or the roof at Whole Foods) and enjoy catching a glimpse of the city from a new vantage point.
Summer activities for kids
New Jersey’s iconic state fair is back! As always, the giant event offers more than 150 rides and attractions plus tons of free entertainment such as an open-air circus, a petting zoo and plenty of live music. More specifics will be announced in the coming months, but mark your calendars—especially for fireworks displays on July 3 and 4—and check the website for the full schedule and times.
Even the most energetic kids will meet their match at hotspots like Bounce! and Urban Air Trampoline Park! They’ll bounce to their heart’s desire on trampolines big and small, even getting in on age-specific playtimes and glow-in-the-dark games! Plus, if you haven’t considered one of these venues as a spot for your kid’s upcoming birthday party, you definitely should—most have plenty of space for large groups.
Coney Island is well-known for being home to some top-notch amusement parks, but there's plenty more family-friendly entertainment to be found near the expansive boardwalk. In addition to squeal-inducing carnival rides, kids can also enjoy a day sprawled on one of our favorite NYC beaches, chow down on Nathan's Famous hot dogs and even catch a baseball game.
Drawing on inspiration from African American, Afro-Caribbean and African contemporary artists, the venue will open its new family art studio, ColorLab, this May with the hopes of fully immersing children in creativity. In this space, youngsters will have the opportunity to experiment with different ideas by way of public programs that explore collages, sculptures and other forms of art. The venue will host public programs on Thursdays from 2–5pm and weekends between 11am–5pm.
Set in a lovely park overlooking the Hudson River, the Cloisters are home to the Met’s Medieval art and architecture collections. A path winds through the peaceful grounds to a castle that seems to have survived from the Middle Ages (though it was actually built less than 100 years ago). Be sure to check out the famous Unicorn Tapestries, the 12th-century Fuentidueña Chapel and the Annunciation Triptych by Robert Campin.
Is there a better way to get competitive with the kids? We think not. Challenge your brood to a game at Rocket Park Mini Golf, Brooklyn Crab (*ahem* boozy slushies for mom and dad *ahem*) or another super-cool offering. It’s the perfect way to enjoy a cheap afternoon out in the sun.
Thanks to the fantastic zoos in NYC, most of which are backed by the Wildlife Conservation Society, families have the opportunity to see animals from across the globe without ever leaving the city. 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 and hands-on interactions with nature.
The Empire State Building and Top of the Rock are all well and good, but if you’re willing to branch out, NYC has plenty of amazing attractions that might be lesser known but certainly just as fun and entertaining. We’d recommend starting with Snug Harbor in Staten Island—a beautiful botanical garden that’s perfect for this time of the year.
It’s no mystery that kids go nuts when it comes to all-things dinosaurs—and can you blame them? These mega creatures came in so many shapes and sizes, were absolutely enormous and, frankly, it’s still hard to believe that they once roamed the earth. If your kids are as enthralled by these prehistoric being as we are, then these dinosaur-themed activities are a must.
Summer activities for kids
Domino Park, which will span six acres (a quarter-mile stretch) on the Williamsburg waterfront, is slated to debut in summer of 2018 as New York's hottest family-friendly destination. The playground (still under development) has three slides and a central climbing cage for access to the structure's sugar factory-inspired towers with mesh ceilings. The towers are connected by a short staircase, and the smaller tower is encircled by a balcony. The new water playground serves as a central water feature for the park. It's separate from the playground and fairly minimalist with mist/spray streams scattered throughout.
Situated behind the New York Public Library is Bryant Park, a well-cultivated retreat that hosts a dizzying schedule of free entertainment during the summer, including magic shows and story times for kiddies. Little ones with an interest in the circus can learn to juggle at juggling lessons held on weekdays in the Lawn or the 42nd Street Plaza. Families can take a spin on Le Carrousel, which features 14 different animals.
The annual science bonanza returns, this time highlighting the contributions of trailblazing female scientists who've taken the field by storm. Taking place in performing arts centers, museums and parks in all five boroughs, this giant fest offers both free and ticketed activities for the whole family, and it’s sure to be one of the most educational summer activities for kids. Visit worldsciencefestival.com to learn about the plethora of performances, debates, discussions and interactive demos the fest has in store this year.
When the sweltering summer heat calls for a calming paddle on the water, you'll be glad to know that your family can get afloat right in NYC. Instead of hightailing it out of town on day trips or shipping the kids off to outdoorsy summer camps, enjoy the easily-accessible, free kayaking NYC boathouses offer throughout the season. With kid-sized vessels, paddles and life jackets on loan, youngsters can practice their strokes and even catch a glimpse of NYC at sunset from the waves.
Kids will get to experience a traditional high tea of their own this summer. Taking place at the McKittrick Hotel’s rooftop Gallow Green, little ones and their parents will be treated to a traditional British high tea platter and pink lemonade. They’ll even get to bring a plus one for free—dolls and teddies will get their own mini seat and personalized bib. While there, families will make their own potions and receive lessons in planting. Everyone goes home with mini flower press, plant soil and seeds.
Dreaming of a summer paradise? These vacations closeby are a great pick for families. Those with a sweet tooth will love a visit to Hershey Park while those looking for a little adventure will totally take advantage of lake and outdoor activities at Woodloch Pines.
Hot summer days means the beach will be calling. While NYC offers up a variety of sandy locations, sometimes a mini-weekend getaway is just what the doctor ordered. Narragansett, Rhode Island, offers plenty of family-friendly options if you need an escape from the city.
Grab the freshest produce in the city at one of these awesome farmers' markets. Kiddies will have a blast sampling different foods while you stock up on your veggies for the week and find a few beautiful blooms for that new vase. The Union Square Market—the mothership—is a go-to, but if you’re looking for a smaller, less crowded venue, locations are available throughout each borough.
Head into Times Square to check out the littlest interactive experience with the greatest amount of fun. The installation is nearly 50,000 square feet and features miniature replicas of various sites around the world—some are even fictional places that have existed solely in books, films and our imaginations! Kids will fall in love with this spot.
School might not be in session, but kids are definitely hitting the books. Thanks to these fantastic summer reading programs, youngsters will be introduced to new genres, authors and series. Not only is it a wonderful way for students to spend their time, but it's a great way to keep the brain cells going during the vacation months. Check out what’s happening at the New York Public Library, Brooklyn Public Library and more venues.
More summer activities
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)!
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).