NYC Skyline
Photograph: Courtesy Shutterstock

The best summer activities for kids in New York City

No, summer's not canceled. We round up the coolest summer activities for kids: drive-in fests, hiking trails and more.

By Danielle Valente and Allie Early
Advertising

We'd be lying if we said that vacation didn't look a little different in 2020. However, the season is far from canceled—and these summer activities for kids are proof. 

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). We also provide families with the full scoop on summer's biggest trend: the return of the drive-in! From festivals to movies to theme parks, drive-in experiences are back in full force. Plus, we round up rules and regulations parents need to know before venturing out of the house, all of which you can find in our summer activities page

So yes, things might not be status quo, but we're still here to help you make the most out of school break. Check back often, as we're here to bring you up-to-date information on activities like amusement parks, zoos and so on. 

Summer: We're ready for ya. Pass the popsicles, please. 

Summer activities for kids

Kids hiking
Kids hiking
Photograph: Courtesy Shutterstock

1. 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.

Photograph: Courtesy Shutterstock

2. Beaches in New York and beyond

Things to do

Pack the SPF! Trips to the best beaches for kids in NYC and beyond guarantee a fun summer afternoon for the whole family. Before you go, read about the rules and regulations in place for 2020, as not all beach activities are permitted at this time. 

Advertising
Governors Island
Governors Island
Photograph: Courtesy Shutterstock

3. Governors Island reopens July 15

Attractions Parks and gardens

Curious about all of the things to do on Governors Island? Hop aboard the ferry! 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 (like one of the coolest kids' playgrounds NYC—with mighty impressive slides). This year, things will look a little different, so read on to learn more. 

NYC Pools
NYC Pools
Photograph: Courtesy NYC Parks

4. Select NYC pools will reopen this summer

News City Life

According to Mayor Bill de Blasio's June 30 press conference, which he used to discuss NYC's budget, several outdoor pools in NYC will open by Aug 1. They are as follows:  Bronx: Crotona, Haffen Brooklyn: Sunset, Betsy Head, K-Pool Manhattan: Hamilton Fish, Jackie Robinson, Marcus Garvey Queens: Astoria, Liberty, Fisher Staten Island: Lyons, Tottenville

Three pools will open on July 24, according to the July 1 press briefing:  Bronx: Mullaly Queens: Liberty Manhattan: Wagner.

Advertising
seal
seal
Photograph: Julie Larsen Maher

5. Wildlife Conservation Society reveals reopening plans for zoos and aquariums

News City Life

As much as we love livestreams of our favorite animals, we're pretty anxious to see all of the cute critters in-person once again.  And New Yorkers will soon enough! Today, the Wildlife Conservation Society announced that all of its zoos and aquariums will reopen to members from July 20–23 and to the general public on July 24. However, guests can expect plenty of changes this season. 

Six Flags
Six Flags
Photograph: Courtesy Six Flags Great Adventure

6. Six Flags Great Adventure has reopened

News City Life

Although the Coney Island season is still TBD, thrill-seekers can get their amusement park fix nearby at Six Flags Great Adventure in New Jersey.  The family attraction just reopened to the public over the July 4th weekend. However, the new season is already shaping up to be quite different than years past—here's how. 

Advertising
BK Playgrounds
BK Playgrounds
Photograph: Courtesy Shutterstock

7. Kids' playgrounds in NYC

Things to do

Playgrounds are officially open! If you're looking to keep the kids entertained, one of these 50 spots should do the trick. 

Advertising
Photograph: Shutterstock

9. 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 and set up your blanket in a cozy spot—it's time to dine al fresco.

kid bike
kid bike
Photograph: Shutterstock

10. Bike trails for families in NYC

Things to do Games and hobbies

New York, New York, it's a wonderful biking town! From protected paths on the Bronx waterfront to the low-key cycling in Battery Park City, we'll help you find the best trails throughout the five boroughs where training wheels are welcome. 

Advertising
drive-movies
drive-movies
Photograph: Shutterstock

11. Drive-in movie theaters near NYC

Things to do

In today's IMAX and HDTV era, seeing films at a drive-in is refreshingly low-tech. If your kids haven't experienced this old-school sensation, hit these fun spots with your crew. 

camping camp tent
camping camp tent
Photograph: Shutterstock

12. Camping spots for families

News Transport & Travel

Can NYC families go camping in 2020? The answer is yes...depending on where you want to go and when you want camp. Even then, it's not as simple as grabbing your gear, packing s'more fixings and pretending like it's 2019. We'll help you navigate the do's and dont's. 

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

13. The Parking Lot Social

News Events & Festivals

Adding a family-friendly twist to the drive-in experience trend  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. Local food vendors will be in attendance and serving up delicious bites straight to your vehicle. 

Yankee Stadium
Yankee Stadium
Photograph: Shutterstock

14. The Uptown Drive-In

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. 

Advertising
safari six flags
safari six flags
Photograph: Courtesy Six Flags Great Adventure

15. Six Flags Great Adventure's Safari

News Weird & Wonderful

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, following Governor Phil Murphy’s executive order permitting drive-through events where attendees can practice social distancing. Just book a reservation, hop in the car and 1,200 animals will be available right before your eyes. The Safari is open daily from 9am–4pm, weather permitting. Tickets will not be sold at the door. General admission during the week is $15 for those 10 and up, $13 for children 10 and under. General admission on weekends is $20 for those 10 and up and $18 for children 10 and under. 

Photograph: Courtesy Mari Spiker

16. Ice cream shops in NYC for kids

Restaurants

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. Call ahead, as some restaurants and shops have changed their policies. 

Advertising
Photograph: Courtesy Shutterstock/Rohappy

17. Summer songs for kids

Music

Someone tell Alice Cooper: School's out, summer songs for kids are in! We've rounded up the catchiest beats that celebrate the best of the season. Sand, surf and sunshine await thanks to these great tracks.

NYPL Lions
NYPL Lions
Photograph: Shutterstock

18. NYPL's 2020 Summer Reading program

News City Life

This is shaping up to be the summer of reading. The New York Public Library's annual Summer Reading event is going to be bigger than ever this year. Titled "Summer Reading 2020: Quest for Adventure," the program has a new homepage with online resources that will make reading that much more fun—and that will make your little bookworm feel connected to the library community. Just as important for parents, this Quest for Adventure could become a part of what saves this at-home summer. 

Advertising
kayak
kayak
Photograph: Courtesy Pixabay + 931885

19. Virtual summer camp programs

News City Life

If you're planning to keep things remote this year, find our favorite summer camp offerings, including Happy Camper Live  Counselors, Summer Camp Online and more. 

campfire
campfire
Photograph: Shutterstock

20. An update on NYC camps

News City Life

Many camps have adjusted their programs for all types of outcomes, including delayed openings, cancellations and the transition to virtual experiences (similar to what you can find on this site). We've followed up with programs from our 2020 camp issue and other popular offerings that NYC families love.  Read on for more info and check back frequently, as we'll be updating this page regularly.

Summer events

elf
elf
Photograph: Courtesy of Warner Bros.

21. Grab your elf ears: This drive-in is hosting a Christmas in July movie marathon

News Movies

Make like Buddy the Elf and spread some Christmas cheer!  The holidays are coming a bit early this year thanks to Movie Lot Drive-In's Christmas in July program, an outdoor activity you and Santa's helpers can't miss. From July 23–26, families can pull up to the Smith Haven Mall on Long Island for a screening of the best festive flicks around. The schedule is as follows:  July 23 at 9pm: National Lampoon's Christmas Vacation (PG-13)  July 24 at 9pm: Dr. Seuss' How the Grinch Stole Christmas (PG)  July 25 at 9pm: Elf (PG) July 26 at 9pm: Home Alone (PG) "Not many people can say they’ve watched these movies from their hatchback wearing shorts," said Lauren Powers, Senior Director at Starfish Junction, the production company behind the event. "I know people will really get a kick out of this. [It's] something different, something fun to do. We’re expecting a sell-out for the entire weekend.” Tickets are $40 per car and must be purchased in advanced. We hope you have some candy, candy canes, candy corn and syrup to celebrate the occasion. (Be sure to check out what's playing at other drive-in theaters across New York if you're still in a summer state of mind!)  Most popular on Time Out - The best hiking trails for NYC families to explore - The best strawberry picking in New York for families - Six Flags Great Adventure's Safari will reopen as a drive-through experience - The 2020 Summer Reading program from the NYPL is the best yet - NYC pools might reopen this summer after all

Recommended

    You may also like

      Advertising