The last day of school is finally here! While children often enjoy their days at school with their friends, playing at recess, and the feeling of accomplishment when they do well on an assignment, school is not a walk in the park. Nowadays more than ever, the pace of teaching and learning has quickened, and much more is expected from students. This is not to say that this is a bad thing – if anything, it’s amazing to witness this strengthening of education. However, with the increase in homework, projects, and exams, children have a lot more work to do for school on a daily basis. That’s why, as the school year comes to a close, it’s important to celebrate not necessarily the end of school, but all of the effort and energy that your children contributed during the school year. Celebrate their achievements in school, their improvement in math or reading, and their hard work and dedication for nine months. As per usual, there’s a lot going on in NYC, from pride celebrations to end of school festivities. NYC is also full of exciting attractions and family-friendly activities that are perfect ways to kick off the summer and celebrate the school year. Thank you, next 2018-2019 school year, it’s time for summer!
Sadly, NYC pools are not quite open yet, but we’ve included plenty of ways to celebrate the school year that involve staying cool in other ways. However, plan your day at the pool now with our guide to NYC outdoor swimming pools, because the pools open the very next day, June 27!
School's Out Festival
Pick up your kids from school, and head right over to Beach Channel Park’s School’s Out Festival. What better way to kick off the start of the summer and the end of school than a festival for kids and families? Bounce on inflatables, play games, get your face painted, sing and dance to music, and eat buttery popcorn. Soak up some sunshine during the afternoon, the warmest part of the day, and check out all that the School’s Out Festival has to offer! 12-3pm.
Celebrate Pride Month
June’s almost over, but that doesn’t mean that the pride celebrations are. Pride events are fun and exciting for the whole family, because not only can you demonstrate your support of the LGBTQ+ community, but the events often feature performances, arts & crafts, food, and positive energy. On the evening of the last day of school, check out NYC Pride Ride, a free, glow-in-the-dark Cycling Edition at Tony Dapolito Recreation Center from 6:30-9:30 pm. Take a ride on the spin bikes (first-come, first served basis) and dance the night away at the dance party to conclude the night. If bikes and dancing aren’t your thing, maybe big time celebrity performances are. Bring your family to the WorldPride Opening Ceremony at Barclays Center from 7-10 pm to see performances by Cyndi Lauper, Billy Porter, Chaka Khan, Ciara, Daya, and Todrick Hall. Hosted by Whoopi Goldberg, this celebration of pride benefits the Ali Forney Center, Immigration Equality, and SAGE, leading organizations in the LGBTQ+ movement. Ending at 10 pm, this is a bit of a late night for the family, but hey, no school tomorrow! Make sure to purchase your tickets (starting at $45) in advance.
Bill Brown Family Day
Now that school’s out for the summer, the quality family time begins. The summer is the perfect season to spend time together as a family either around the city or on vacation, and you can start today with Bill Brown Family Day. Spend the afternoon playing games, doing arts & crafts, getting your face painted, dancing to music, and munching on popcorn at Bill Brown Playground in Brooklyn. While Family Day only lasts from 1-4 pm, prolong your family day into the evening by packing a picnic and playing on the Bill Brown Playground.
Independence Day Celebration and Fireworks Show
Wait a second…Independence Day is on July 4, not June 26. But we also know that NYC loves any excuse for a fireworks display in the summer, so the Independence Day festivities start a little early. Head to Parade Grounds in Fort Totten Park for the 5th annual concert and fireworks show. When we think of celebrations, two things come to mind: birthday cake and fireworks. And since we’re not celebrating a birthday (although maybe you are, in that case, happy birthday!), fireworks are the perfect way to celebrate the last day of school. Watch live performances from The School of Rock Band, Chicken Head Rocks, and Phil Costa & The Something Special Big Band. Then, enjoy the burst of color in the sky. Vending trucks selling funnel cake, fish & chips, corn dogs, fresh lemonade, gyros, and more will be on site as well. 6-10 pm.
Catch an Outdoor Movie
NYC is known for their free, outdoor summer movies, which take place all around the city. Family movie night is a great way to both spend time together and celebrate the last day of school with a unique experience outdoors. Bring a blanket, pack a picnic, and enjoy the movie. On June 26, there are two family-friendly movies that we recommend: Anastasia and Smallfoot. Anastasia is actually a drive-in movie, taking place in Manhattan Beach parking lot, 8:30-11 pm. Smallfoot is part of NYC Parks’ Movies Under the Stars outdoor movie series, taking place in Yellowstone Park, Queens, 8:45-10:30 pm. A helpful tip: if you want a great seat, get to the park early, because these outdoor movies are very popular! Spend an hour or two at the nearby playgrounds and enjoy the sunshine before the movie. Looking for more outdoor movies this summer? Check out our collection of the best free summer movies for families in NYC.
Visit the Bronx Zoo (Free Admission!)
General Admission at the Bronx Zoo is free on Wednesdays, so pay a visit to the zoo on the last day of school. Not only will your family enjoy seeing the vast variety of animals, but the Dinosaurs Rock! popup is open until June 30. Explore life-sized dinosaur fossils and catch the Fossil Adventure Show, happening at 1 and 2:30 pm. The popup exhibit is open 11 am-4 pm. Your little ones will also love the Children’s Zoo, where they can pet goats, sheep, or donkeys. Stroll through the Butterfly Garden and hop on the Big Carousel for more family fun. 10 am-5 pm.
Wellness Wednesdays at New York Botanical Garden
The transition from structured time in school with even more structured homework time to the unstructured freedom of summer (especially if your kids aren’t doing a summer camp or taking summer classes), it can be easy to fall into a pattern of relaxation (or laziness). And while it’s totally okay to relax in the summer, it’s also important to stay active, healthy, fit, and to be mindful of the decisions that we make related to our health. Start the summer off right with Wellness Wednesdays at New York Botanical Garden. Participate in activities that encourage healthy choices for the mind and body, such as the NYBG Farmer’s Market with locally grown produce and fresh baked goods, lawn games, story time, forest bathing, pick up the pace walking tour, and fresh from the garden tastings. And if you enjoy your end of school celebration at the garden, then keep going to Wellness Wednesdays through October 30! 10 am-6 pm.
NYC Beach Day (Pools Open Soon...)
Unfortunately, NYC’s outdoor, public pools do not open until the day after the last day of school. So plan to enjoy a day at the pool on June 27, but for now, spend the day with your family at the beach! Check out the top, easy-to-reach beaches from NYC to choose the beach that you want to visit. Build a sand castle, eat a picnic on the beach, curl up with a summer beach read, splash around in the water (if the water isn’t too cold), and take a stroll on the boardwalk. If you’re looking for more beaches in NYC, check out the free, public NYC beaches in our Memorial Day Weekend Guide.
Embark on a Surprise Day/ One Night Trip
While New York City is the prime location for an endless supply of events, activities, and popups, it is also at a prime location to nearby amusement parks, perfect for a day trip. Especially if your children are growing up in NYC, branching out into New Jersey or Pennsylvania for the day can be really exciting for them as they get to experience a new environment. Since school lets out in the afternoon, you still could do a day trip, but you could also get a hotel for the night – that way you’re not in a rush. Three kid-friendly places that are easily accessible from NYC are Six Flags Great Adventure in Jackson, NJ, Sesame Place in Langhorne, PA, and Hershey Park in Hershey, PA. Six Flags Great Adventure can surely be a day trip, but you might want to consider getting a hotel for Sesame Place and Hershey Park. We also recommend a drive to a U-pick farm near NYC to go summer fruit picking as an easily accessible NYC getaway and fun family experience!
Spend the Day in the Park
Parks and playgrounds are great places to celebrate the end of the school year. Play on the jungle gym, feel the breeze on the swings, eat a picnic on the grass, and cool off with the water attractions. We’ve got the ultimate guides to the new and renovated NYC playgrounds and the best NYC water playgrounds, so browse the list and plan your visit to the park now. Have you heard a lot about Domino Park? Well, there’s a lot to talk about with this unique park and also a lot to do. If you’re looking to spend the last day of school in Domino Park, we’ve got advice for how to visit Domino Park with the family.
Fulfill That Sweet Tooth at NYC's Sweet & Delicious Spots
Well, I know we suggested to visit Wellness Wednesdays at New York Botanical Garden, but life is all about balance! So why not give into your sweet tooth as a celebration of the last day of school? Especially with the tempting assortment of candy and dessert places in NYC, with their aesthetically-pleasing and instagrammable treats (#myphoneeatsfirst), it would be a shame to not take advantage of their sugary deliciousness every once in a while. If your kids love chocolate, then Max Brenner is the place. Enjoy chocolate fondue, chocolate pizza, chocolate crepes, and melted chocolate ganache in syringes! They also make an amazing skillet Mac & Cheese if you want to eat dinner before dessert (but totally acceptable to mix up the order). I think we’re all familiar with The Sugar Factory, but you can’t talk about elaborate desserts in NYC without mentioning the iconic place. Order huge sundaes, their well-known, sweet drinks, milkshakes, and pretty much anything sweet that you can think of. One more place we’ll mention is Dylan’s Candy Bar. The colorful cafe has booths that resemble giant cupcakes, and of course there’s the loads of candy to choose from. Treat your children on their last day of school with a dose of sugar!
Hit the Books At Your Local Bookstore or Library
While you may be thinking, Books? Why would we celebrate the end of the school year with books? But reading can actually be a truly enjoyable experience when you find a book that you love. Watch your kids fall in love with reading this summer by heading to your local bookstore or library and letting them choose a few books to read. They’ll not only enjoy looking through the shelves for their book of choice, but especially while your kids still have a school/classroom mindset, they’ll be more open to this trip to the bookstore or library. Start your summer off right with summer reading! You can head to your local public library branches of New York Public Library, Brooklyn Public Library, and Queens Public Library – or pay a visit to your favorite bookstore. Books of Wonder, both in Chelsea and Uptown Manhattan, has a great selection of books for kids. PowerHouse on 8th in Park Slope, Brooklyn also features a wide range of children’s books with story time on Sunday mornings.
Check Out Wave Hill
Wave Hill, the public gardens and cultural center in the Bronx, always has plenty going on for kids and families, and the last day of school is no exception. Take a walk through the various gardens, check out the art exhibits, and eat lunch at the cafe. There are a few art exhibits on display right now, but be sure to visit Christina Yuna Ko: Downloading Place, which associates objects in Korean American culture that are traditionally denoted as “cute” and “feminine” as legitimate and empowering subjects. If you find yourself still at Wave Hill in the evening, stay for the Sunset Wednesday concert with Bombay Rickey on the Great Lawn!
Dynamic H2O at Children's Museum of Manhattan
The iconic Dynamic H2O exhibit is back for the summer at the Children’s Museum of Manhattan’s Sussman Environmental Center! Bring your kids to learn all about where NYC gets its water, how it flows through the city, and the importance of water in the environment. The huge water table has 800 square feet of interactive water activities to follow of the path of NYC’s water. Children can create waterfalls, build damns, pump water to the top of a skyscraper, and even construct a city! Pools, beaches, and water playgrounds are always great, but NYC is full of unique ways to stay cool this summer- Dynamic H2O being one of them. Check out Dynamic H2O to celebrate the last day of school.
Explore Hudson Yards
Hudson Yards is just overflowing with things for families and kids to do. Of course there’s the vessel, which is even just fun to look at, but if you buy tickets, you can also walk through it! Your kids will love heading up and down the spiraled staircases with amazing views of the city all around. Afterwards, check out Snark Park, which features interactive and immersive exhibits. If you’ve already visited Snark Park, you’ll likely have an entirely different experience, because the park is constantly changing to keep the experience new and exciting. And if your kids aren’t afraid of heights, step out onto the Observation Deck, the highest outdoor deck in the Western Hemisphere to see the city’s skyline from a whole new perspective. Don’t forget to eat at one of the many restaurants for lunch and dinner, including Shake Shack, Hudson Yards Grill, Belcampo, KITH Treats, and so much more! To find out more about Hudson Yards, check out our guide to the best places inn Hudson Yards to visit with kids.