NYC Skyline
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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
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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, swimming pools, splash pads and so on. 

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

Summer activities for kids

kid bike
kid bike
Photograph: Shutterstock

1. 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. 

Cheesequake State Park
Cheesequake State Park
Photograph: Shutterstock

2. 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.

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Photograph: Shutterstock

3. 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.

Photograph: Courtesy Shutterstock

4. 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. 

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drive-movies
drive-movies
Photograph: Shutterstock

5. 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

6. 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. 

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

7. 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

8. 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. 

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governors island
governors island
Photograph: Courtesy Timothy Schenck

9. Governors Island's virtual activities

News City Life

We might not be able to hop aboard a Governors Island-bound ferry just yet, but we can still enjoy the best of the outdoor oasis right from home.  Thanks to a generous offering of online activities, New Yorkers' favorite getaway spot is still accessible, Check out cool activities: gardening help, birding videos virtual history tours and more! 

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

10. 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. 

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Photograph: Courtesy Mari Spiker

11. 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. 

Photograph: Courtesy Shutterstock/Rohappy

12. 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.

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NYPL Lions
NYPL Lions
Photograph: Shutterstock

13. 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. 

kayak
kayak
Photograph: Courtesy Pixabay + 931885

14. 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. 

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campfire
campfire
Photograph: Shutterstock

15. 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.

More summer activities

Photograph: Courtesy Lauren Spinelli

The best summer books for kids and tweens 2017

Things to do Literary events

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

The best popsicle recipes for the whole family

Things to do

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). 

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