10 (mostly free!) New York activities for families this summer
You're about to have tons of free family time to fill, and we've got some of the best activities for kids to get you started.
Between sunny days and school break, summer serves up tons of opportunities for quality family time. We've gathered some amazing kid-friendly options (most of them free!) to get you started enjoying the best season to be a kid in New York City.
Nonstop fun in Hudson River Park
As soon as the weather warms up, Hudson River Park becomes a hub of kid-friendly fun. Summer of Fun at Hudson River Park brings dozens of free art and cultural events for all ages through Sept. 27. Everything from live concerts to fitness classes and karaoke are held along the scenic waterfront; top choices for kids include Play Dates (social parties with entertainers, crafts and games), family movie nights at Hudson RiverFlicks and a Children’s Performance Series.
Does anything capture kids’ imaginations quite like mummies? Maybe dinosaurs. So you’re in luck: You can find both at the American Museum of Natural History. Housing the largest collection of mummies in North America with 18 preserved figures from Egypt and Peru, Mummies reveals all-new secrets about what’s inside the wrappings and clues about the ancient civilizations that created them. It’s the perfect way to both inspire and educate kids of all ages. The exhibit runs through January 2018.
Dance for kids
Introduce your little ones to the arts, or a fun way to stay fit for life. Through July 1, catch the American Ballet Theatre’s new full-length production for all ages, Whipped Cream, which plays at the Metropolitan Opera House. Set to Strauss, the ballet follows a young boy who overindulges on sweets and enters a delirium of dancing treats (so if your kids like “The Nutcracker,” they’ll be sweet on this one). Then, LC Kids Dance returns July 15 with a full day of lessons in tango, salsa, merengue and swing with Dancing Classrooms during Midsummer Night Swing (ages 6-10).
Outdoor story time
A New York City tradition since 1956, Stories at the Statue brings free dramatic storytelling sessions on Saturdays at 11 a.m. to the Hans Christian Andersen statue in Central Park. Talented storytellers — often including surprise celebrity guests — read children’s tales from around the world. Sometimes they even feature musical performances or costumed characters, like a visit from H.C. Andersen himself at the annual Ugly Duckling Birthday Party on Sept. 30. This season includes “What the Moon Saw,” “Anansi Stories,” “Jack and the Beanstalk” and “Irish Tales.”
Become history detectives
There’s always a treasure trove of kid-centric educational displays at the New York Historical Society’s DiMenna Children’s History Museum in the basement. But for the first time, the NYHS has created a way to experience its regular exhibits just for visitors with little ones. Pick up a History Detective Briefcase on the museum’s newly renovated fourth floor, where the whole family can enjoy discovering the past through playing games, sketching with color pencils and surprise activities (they vary with each case!) like a secret decoder, scent jars and modeling clay. The briefcases are available on weekends, holidays and school vacation weeks. They’re free with museum admission and recommended for all ages.
A different kind of playground
Giving kids the freedom to play creatively builds confidence, but how many places can they really let loose outdoors? Take them to Governors Island, where the totally unique Play:Ground goes beyond the traditional swings and slides. At the customizable junk yard, kids can design their own playspace out of water, dirt, tools and found materials that might otherwise be “trash.” With a ferry ride out to the small island for a day of play, the trip can be an adventure itself. Add a lesson on eco-friendliness to this memorable experience, as Play:Ground is truly upcycling at its best. Open weekends through Sept. 25.
Art Festivals & Family Days
Art-filled family fests take place almost every weekend at museums across the five boroughs. It would be nearly impossible to list them all, but we’ve selected a few that you should absolutely circle on your calendar.
The free Figment Festival on Governors Island from June 3-4 gives kids the chance to get into some hands-on creative exploration with sound, puppets, paint, baking, breaking things, mini golf and more.
On July 9, head to the Whitney Kids Summer Family Day. It opens early for families offers special tours, art-making activities and music by Jazz at Lincoln Center.
And don’t miss Museum Mile on June 13, when Fifth Avenue closes from 82nd to 105th streets for a massive block party, plus free entry to museums from The Met to El Museo del Barrio. The street fair has food, music, crafts and more.