Family-friendly summer activities in New York City

Looking for family-friendly activities around the city? If your child has limited summer camps or the family is enjoying a staycation this summer, these hot months offer numerous options for cost-effective fun at area museums, parks, and libraries. There are many activities that are open to the public and either free or require a modest fee, such as open play, theater performances, and movies. There are diverse offerings for families with children of all ages and abilities. Families can make the most of long summer days, evenings, or weekends as they enjoy unique offerings that so many others travel to our great city to experience. Encourage your family to find activities related to their interests or discover new passions by trying something new. Whether your kids are highly scheduled or their time is open and flexible, summer is a perfect time for the family to explore the city and its world-renowned restaurants, theaters, museums, and sports teams.

I’ve compiled a list of my top 10 summer activities for families:

Eat out

Take the kiddos out to lunch or dinner during New York City’s Restaurant Week. Between July 24 and Aug. 18, area restaurants offer $29-prix-fixe menus for lunch or $42 for dinner, and many kid-friendly favorites are taking part.


Try your luck at the lottery

Take your child to a Broadway show for a cultural experience that he will remember for the rest of his life. Several theater productions offer a lottery for discounted tickets. Enter your name for reduced tickets to shows like “Aladdin,” The Lion King,” and “Wicked.”


Check off the summer reading lists

Get your child a library card and check out books from his school’s summer reading list. There are summer reading events throughout the boroughs at local branches of the New York Public Library. Find your nearest location!


Visit a museum

Revisit your favorite museums. Many offer extended hours throughout the summer. Keep an eye out for free admission for kids or special activities for families included in the cost of admission. Local gardens make for wonderful outings, too! The Chihuly exhibit at the New York Botanical Garden running through October is a can’t miss!


Take in unique experiences

Lincoln Center offers exciting music and dance performances at Lincoln Center Out of Doors from July 26 through Aug. 13 free of charge. Try Double Dutch during its themed Family Weekend showcasing the activity with demonstrations, jump ins, a film screening with panel discussion, as well as a Double Dutch Classic.


Listen to the classics

The New York Philharmonic will offer concerts in all of the boroughs. Take a picnic to your local park and listen to the world-renowned orchestra. This is a fun way to expose children to classical music.


Spend the day at the park

Governors Island has so much to offer families with children. In addition to adventure activities like zip lining, the park also has a unique, hands-on playground and towering slides. It’s a great way to spend a summer day.


Go kayaking or take a nature walk

If you’re feeling adventurous, take a nature walk or hike in a local park, or grab a kayak or canoe and take to the water. Organizations like the Manhattan Community Boathouse offer free access. Let the volunteers know if you or anyone in your group are a beginner, and they set you up with the appropriate equipment and techniques.


Watch a movie in the park

Your kids will love watching movies under the stars. Parks all across the boroughs are offering free screenings of family-friendly films. The ever-popular event doesn’t start until sunset (8–8:30 pm). Bring a blanket and snacks to enjoy these film offerings, during the summer months. Arrive early to secure an optimal spot!


Take in a game

Professional sports like baseball (New York Yankees and New York Mets), soccer (New York Red Bulls and New York City Football Club), women’s basketball (New York Liberty), tennis (U.S. Open), and National Football League (New York Giants and New York Jets) training camp and pre-season games all take place during the summer months in the New York metro area. Or take advantage of modestly priced games played by the Brooklyn Cyclones in Coney Island or the Staten Island Yankees, just steps away from the ferry terminal in St. George Staten Island. If you have a little sports lover, choose one of these events! The U.S. Open kicks off at the end of summer and boasts a popular Arthur Ashe Kids Day on Aug. 26 with tennis activities and a concert in Arthur Ashe Stadium. (General admission tickets are only $10 each.)


Shnieka Johnson is an education consultant and freelance writer. She is based in Manhattan where she resides with her husband and son. Contact her via her website: www.shniekajohnson.com.