Who says you have to spend a fortune to have fun with the family in NYC? There is actually a plethora of free kids events, performances, exhibits, and activities going on every month of the year. Read on for 52 free things to do with kids in New York City (and not just in Manhattan!)!
Explore The Highline, one of the hands-down most fun-filled free outdoor spaces in NYC. This elevated park, built on top of abandoned train tracks, features child-based programs, camps, festivals, art shows, and nature tours with the most offered in the spring and summer months.
It wouldn’t be summer without Bryant Park movie nights. Each week features a new movie to snuggle with your kids and watch beneath the stars of NYC. The lawn opens at 5pm and movie starts at sunset (8-9pm).
Hester Street Fair outdoor community market is a bevy of activity on Manhattan’s Lower East Side every Saturday and some Sundays from spring to fall. Check out handmade goods, girls’ club, ice cream socials, music and art performances, creative products and artisanal food at this popular NYC fair.
Summon up anticipation for Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade the night before and be a kid again while watching the giant balloons inflate! Watch SpongeBob, Angry Bird, Charlie Brown, Snoopy & Garfield, Hello Kitty, and Shrek get all the helium they need to make the long trek down Sixth Avenue.
There is nothing better to get you in the holiday mood than a visit to the Holiday Train Show at Grand Central. See a 34-foot-long model train layout of trains and subways that run on eight loops of track inside the New York Transit Museum Store.
Kids learn about fire safety while also climbing on genuine fire trucks and trying on official gear at FDNY Fire Zone at Rockefeller Center. Children enjoy activity books, coloring pages, and puzzles while learning everything they need to know about staying safe from real firefighters.
Junior chefs won’t be able to pass up the Chelsea Farmers Market with fruits, vegetables, meats, and eggs from regional farms and a wide variety of foods from local food makers. It’s not free to shop, but browsing is just as fun! The market is open every Saturday from May through November.
Count on your local library for fun when it’s rainy, too cold, too warm, or just any old day! The Children’s Center at 42nd Street at the main branch of the New York Public Library near Bryant Park, the Central Branch of the Brooklyn Public Library in Prospect Heights, and the Children’s Library Discovery Center in the Queens Library have phenomenal children’s events like reading, story time, arts & crafts, and more. How lucky are we to have these amazing free resources in New York City?
Inspired by the landscapes of Central Park, the Billy Johnson Playground is one of the Park’s most distinctive play spaces. Constructed primarily from natural materials, the playground includes bucket swings, a granite slide set into a hill, and a stone bridge. Lush plantings create ample shade and divide up the space, creating small play “rooms.”
Children and adults can learn to swim in the Learn to Swim program. Beginner and advanced swimming lessons are offered for all ages in all boroughs. Registration is conducted through a free online lottery.
play:ground NYC is a 50,000 square foot is a 50,000 square foot playspace on Governors Island where kids can imagine a world of their own making and experience self directed play. Modeled after a junkyard, the adventure playground lets children shape their environment using an assortment of materials, tools, water, and dirt. A family play area, open to all ages, is adjacent to the Junkyard play area.
Little architects in the making can embark on a mini model build or take part in a free class at the Lego store. Register online for these monthly offerings. Just walking around and seeing the immense selection of Lego bricks and kits (including just about every shape and size) is sure to fill up an afternoon!
Children wearing crowns join real camels, sheep, a donkey, colorful puppets, musicians, and community leaders dressed as kings in the festive Three Kings Day Parade and celebration in East Harlem.
Kids 16 and under are always free at the Metropolitan Museum of Art (MoMA). Children can take part in tours, art workshops, enjoy interactive spaces, hands-on activities, art labs and family films.
Apple Camp enables kids ages 8 to 12 to get creative and learn through hands-on projects across three tracks ranging from movie making to coding robots. Kids attending Apple Camp in summer 2019 can choose from coding and robotics, movie making, or musical storytelling.
Sure, you can practice, practice, practice … but you can also just take your child and go to Carnegie Hall any old day. The prestigious hall offers family programming for families with children ages 3-10 in the form of interactive musical activities and performances.
Celebrate the spirit of community at the Rubin Museum’s Annual Block Party each June. Hands-on activities and for children and adults include museum tours and meditation spaces.
Each summer, Hudson River Park offers Big City Fishing for kids as young as five to learn how to fish while also learning all about the Hudson River environment. Rods, reels, bait and instruction are provided. The program also provides participants with a first-hand opportunity to learn about river ecology and the many fish species that can be found in the river.
Learn how Native people were the original innovators of the Americas and explore Native scientific discoveries and inventions at the National Museum of the American Indian. Solve puzzles, perform experiments, and play state-of-the-art computer simulations.
Hudson River Park brings out all of your favorite New York City family performers. From music to magic to interactive storytelling, Hudson RiverKids will keep your family entertained all summer long, in two locations: Chelsea and Tribeca.
Enjoy Free Fridays at the Seaport Museum where kids can learn about the rise of New York as a port city, see its historic buildings and ships, and participate in interactive exhibits.
The Delacorte Theater transforms into the most enchanted forest in all of theater in Shakespeare’s beloved comedy, A Midsummer Night’s Dream with special celebrity actors along the way. It’s a regular special summer treat.
Every kid deserves at least one summer trip to Coney Island, to swim, lounge on the beach, visit Luna Park, Deno’s Wonder Wheel, and the infamous Cyclone. Top it off with bumper cars, arcade, boardwalk games, and lunch at Nathan’s Famous hot dogs.
The Prospect Park Alliance offers nature education programs in “Nature Exploration” at Prospect Park’s Audubon Center including Radical Raptors, Climate Clues, and Incredible Invertebrates.
The Environmental Education Center at Brooklyn Bridge Park The Ed Center is open to the public with free, on Tuesdays and Thursdays from 3-5 pm, and weekends from 1-5 pm. Explore a 250-gallon aquarium filled with sea animals straight from the East River, and a 10’ scale model of Brooklyn Bridge Park, while engaging in art & crafts and a reading corner.
Take a walking tour along the Salt Marsh Nature Center and take in a hike, go bird watching or paddle a boat along Gerritsen Creek in this 530-acre grasslands ecosystem.
Kids jam with Dan the Music man every first Sunday of the month at Feed in DUMBO. RSVP required.
Visit the Earth Rocks exhibit at Brooklyn Children’s Museum where kids can explore our planet’s ecosystems through art-making, animal encounters, science demos, and live music. Free admission every Thursday from 2-6pm and Sunday from 4-7pm.
Learn about the Battle of Brooklyn at the Old Stone House, the location of the largest battle of the American War for Independence. View interactive maps and then stroll through Prospect Park where the battle was fought.
Tee off at the City Parks Foundation Junior Golf Center in Dyker Heights. Enjoy weekly lessons for ages 6-17 on a 6-hole par 3 course, putting and chipping greens, a driving range, clubhouse and classroom.
Take part in a beginner lacrosse clinic with Brooklyn Crescents Lacrosse is offered for children and teens.
Rock out with favorite children’s performer Suzi Shelton and other beloved children’s musicians at Brooklyn Central Library. Times/days vary.
Visit the Sahara or get up close and personal with a leopard habitat without leaving Staten Island! The Staten Island Zoo offers animals big and small: ostriches, a southern ground hornbill, and scimitar-horned oryx along with birds of prey, foxes, kangaroos, farm animals, reptiles and an aquarium. Free admission after 2pm on Wednesdays.
Check out the many exhibits and programs at Staten Island Children’s Museum, including Big Games, Block Harbor, Portia’s Playhouse, Bugs and Other Arthropods, and Sea of Boats. Free admission on Wednesdays from 3-5 pm (September – June) and from 5-7 pm (July & August).
Spend an active day at Clove Lakes Park and take part in their baseball diamonds, basketball courts, football field, soccer field and multiple playgrounds. Or sign up for the Outdoor Skills: Fire Making class and fine-tune your child’s camping skills.
It’s a rite of passage for every New Yorker, big and small, to take a round trip on the Staten Island Ferry. The ferry runs from St. George on Staten Island and Whitehall Street in lower Manhattan, and provides service for 22 million people each year.
Junior food aficionados can rise and shine early to get first dibs on the goods at St. George Greenmarket, where you’ll find fresh seasonal fruit, produce, cheese, meat, seafood and baked goods.
Drop in for Saturday Sculpture Workshops at Socrates Sculpture Park from May through September. Kids can enjoy a creative and engaging new topic each week.
The Hong Kong Dragonboat Festival is an annual treat at Flushing Meadows Corona Park. Each August, kids and parents gather at this family oriented festival to watch boat races, cultural performances, foods, arts and crafts, and more.
The latest innovations in art, film, television digital media are all at your fingertips at the Museum of Moving Image. See the popular Jim Henson Exhibit, a collection of 400 artifacts from the family of Jim Henson including puppets, original artwork, and rare film and television footage. On Free Friday Nights, admission is free from 4-8 pm.
Take you little science buff to the New York Hall of Science for free from September through June, on Fridays, 2 – 5 pm; Sundays, 10 – 11 am. Live daily science demonstrations take place such as cow’s eye dissection, cool chemistry, and air play. Learn how make ice in just seconds, crush a can without touching it, and how hot air balloons really work.
Visit the Animal Room at Alley Pond Environmental Center and see over 80 animals of all kinds including mammals, reptiles, birds, insects, arachnids, and more. Then walk the center’s Yellow Trail which spans 2.2 miles.
The annual Arthur Ashe Kids’ Day features musical performers, celebrities and tennis pros, and offers interactive games and family activities including net generation tennis, face painting, juggling workshop, hair beading and braiding, balloon artists, roving entertainers, and more.
You won’t think you’re still in New York City once you step into Wave Hill, a spectacular 28-acre public garden and cultural center overlooking the Hudson River and Palisades in the Bronx. Family Art Project lets kids draw, write, and play together. Admission is free Tuesdays and Saturdays, 9am-noon.
Make it a “Family Affair” at the Bronx Museum. This program helps kids and adults enjoy and learn about art through hands-on art-making and exhibition tours. Family Affair includes hands-on activities, performances, guided tours, screenings, and more.
It might take than one day to fully see everything there is to see at the Bronx Zoo! From the most popular exhibits like Tiger Mountain, Himalayan Highlands, Congo Gorilla Forest, and World of Reptiles to Treetop Adventures and the Children’s Zoo (with more animals than you can imagine spread across its 265 acres), the zoo is free every Wednesday.
Spend an afternoon at the City Island Arts & Crafts Fair which features paintings, photography, jewelry, stained glass, native crafts, bath & body products, clothing, face painting, fishing trophies and more.
You can’t really go wrong with a museum that refers it itself as “Hudson Valley’s best place for little kids”. While the Mid-Hudson Children’s Museum does normally have an admission fee, it offers free admission on monthly family nights on the third Saturday of the month.
Learn about over 83 species of butterflies Trailside Nature Museum, one of the oldest museums of its kind. Then view their large collection of mounted animals, American Indian artifacts, educational exhibits, child-friendly interactive displays, and nature-oriented artwork.
Take your preschoolers for some library fun. Enjoy great stories, sing alongs songs, LEGO and TinkerToy tables at the Rye Library.
Take a trip to Muscoot Farm to visit our 50+ animals including cows, horses, donkeys, sheep, goats, chickens, turkeys, ducks, and pigs, and then visit historic buildings such as the milk house, the ice house, the brooder house, and the carriage house.
Go on one of over 20 Spring Bird Walks offered by Saw Mill River Audubon and witness the spring bird migration across the Lower Hudson region.
Did we miss anything moms and dads? Let us know what amazing FREE things you love doing with your kids across New York, by emailing [email protected], and if we get enough suggestions, maybe we can make it to 100 Free Things!