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15 Ways for Families to Enjoy Summer 2020 in New York City

ways to enjoy summer

15 Ways for Families to Enjoy Summer 2020 in New York City

Classes are coming to an end, temperatures are rising and New York City public pools are remaining closed for the summer. Despite the current closures and restrictions, there are still ways for families to enjoy summer in New York City.

Due to COVID-19, city concerts, festivals and parades have been called off through June 2020 with the majority being postponed until Summer 2021. These include bright and beloved events like the NYC Pride Festival, the Israel Parade, the Puerto Rican Day Parade, Coney Island’s Mermaid Parade and more. Yankees and Mets fans won’t be able to make it to their team’s baseball games anytime soon, and theater fans will be bummed that Public Theater’s free Shakespeare in the Park season has been canceled. Nearly all of NYC’s museums have been closed until further notice, and the New York Public Library will only begin returning to limited services starting in July.

After months of quarantine, remote learning and remote work, we’re all feeling anxious to get outside and get active. Although so many New York City summer staples have been closed and postponed, there are still plenty of ways to take advantage of the coming warm weather and blue skies in the city. Try these 15 ways for families to enjoy Summer 2020 in New York City.

Staying inside? Check out summer crafts for kids to do from home!

Watch Macy’s 4th of July Fireworks

Mayor de Blasio has announced that the beloved annual Macy’s Fourth of July Fireworks show will go on this summer! In its 43rd year, the Macy’s fireworks show will celebrate our country with 28 colors and a host of new pyrotechnic effects. The fireworks will shoot off from a number of barges throughout New York City waterways. Watch in-person along the river or from your home on NBC-TV’s 2-hour entertainment special.

Enjoy Public Art

New York City is home to incredible street art and sculptures. From Brooklyn’s DUMBO Walls to the World Trade Center’s street art to the Audubon Mural Project, there’s no limit to NYC artists’ range of styles and subject matter.

In Queens, check out the Socrates Sculpture Park to see large-scale sculpture and multimedia installations that were built on the site of a former landfill.

See a Drive-In Movie

Skyline Drive-In NYC is a unique drive-in theater with a view! Opening in Greenpoint and situated on the East River, the outdoor cinema boasts the Manhattan skyline as its stunning backdrop. As we enter into summer, look forward to spending a warm summer evening watching movies and making memories with your family. When they open, the theater will have movies on Fridays and Saturdays from 8 pm to 1 am.

Go Bird-Watching

Bird-watching can be an exciting summer activity for all ages. Check out the New York City Audubon Society for great resources that can get you and your family started on identifying the over 200 species of birds living in the NYC metropolitan area; you could see up to 75 or 100 species of birds in one day! Central Park is even considered one of the United States’ birding hotspots due to the number of migratory birds it attracts.

Learn to Rollerblade or Skateboard

If you and your kids have gotten bored of biking and walking, why not try something new! Head to your favorite park to rollerblade or skateboard. Make sure your kids have proper protective gear (like a helmet, knee pads, elbow pads and wrist guards), and watch them enjoy mastering a new challenge and getting some exercise while they’re at it.

Fly a Kite

Enjoy the sun and get some exercise by finding a windy spot to fly a kite this summer! Check the weather — most kites work best when the wind is 8 to 16 miles per hour — and get outside. Some of New York City’s best kite-flying locales include Central Park’s Great Lawn, Long Meadow in Prospect Park and Brooklyn Bridge Park. If you’re looking to buy a kite, call the Battery Park City, TriBeCa or Staten Island location of Boomerang Toys; they’ll deliver!

Go on a Self-Guided Walking Tour

Have you ever wondered about the history of your neighborhood? Or wanted to explore a piece of New York City you’ve never had the chance to check out? Maybe you’re looking for a way to get your kids excited to leave the video games behind and head outside. In any case, try one of the expert-designed self-guided walking tours offered through the GPS My City app. The app includes 24 walking tours of New York City, each with varying durations, locations and themes. Each walk comes with a detailed tour map as well as photos and background information for the featured attractions. Learn more about the city at your own pace, without any packed busses or crowded groups!

Cool Down at an NYC Ice Cream Shop

Make your way to an ice cream shop on an especially hot afternoon; it’s one of the best ways for families to enjoy summer! Stop by Creme and Cocoa, a Brooklyn-based creamery making small-batch ice cream, frozen desserts and other sweet treats. Or try any of these 15 ice cream shops across New York City’s five boroughs, like Sprinkles Ice Cream, Eddie’s Sweet Shop, Lollipops Ice Cream and more.

Hike in the Hudson Valley

The Hudson River Valley is home to 18 New York State Parks, which offer kids-friendly hikes with beautiful, tree-lined trails and panoramic views. Pack a backpack with healthy snacks, fill up your water bottles, and try out one of these hikes with your family.

Depot Hill in Poughquag is a 3-mile trail that should take about 2 hours to complete. After a few moderate inclines and a trek along the Appalachian Trail, you’ll be rewarded with stunning views across the Hudson River Valley.

The Dover Stone Church Trail in Dover Plains is 1.2 miles long and takes about an hour. The hike will bring you and your kids to a cathedral-like cave and waterfall. 

Bear Hill Preserve is a lightly-trafficked Cragsmoor trail that’s 1.5 miles long and will take about 2 hours. At the top of the trail, you’ll have beautiful clifftop views to admire. 

Take a Kid-Friendly Hike in the City

If you’re looking to stay local, there are a number of hiking opportunities throughout New York City’s five boroughs. In Manhattan, take the 1.8-mile Blue Train at Inwood Hill Park and learn about the island before its skyscrapers through marked scenic sites and historic highlights. Hike the wetland border and admire waterfront views along Brooklyn’s Paerdegat Basin Park’s Red and Blue Trails. The Bronx’s Van Cortlandt Park offers over 20 miles of hiking trails that range in length and difficulty of terrain.

Check out these trails and more in our article, The Best Kid-Friendly Hiking Trails Around New York City.

Visit a Farmer’s Market

The Saturday market at Grand Army Plaza in Brooklyn, the Union Square Greenmarket and a number of other NYC Greenmarkets are all operational. Arrive early to beat the lines! Check out a full list of Grow NYC markets and their hours to find the open market nearest to you. Once you’ve finished shopping for your locally-grown market goods, enjoy a family picnic lunch at your favorite park.

Enjoy Fresh Air on the Staten Ferry

A passenger trip on the Staten Island Ferry is completely free. The ride lasts 25 minutes in both directions and can be a fun way to show your kids a close-up view of the Statue of Liberty and a new perspective of the city skyline. Plus, getting out on the water is a great way to take a break from the summer heat and cool down from the ocean breeze.

Go Fishing

There are plenty of fishing-friendly locations throughout the city. Teach your kids to cast and reel, and see if they’ll be able to catch a fish in any of New York City’s top saltwater and freshwater spots. Fish off the piers of Hudson River Park or the sloped, grassy shores of Van Cortland Park’s central lake. Check out Harlem Meer in Central Park’s northeastern corner or Brooklyn Bridge Park’s Pier 5.

Explore the City on a Family Scavenger Hunt

Make your own New York City scavenger hunt by creating a list of items to see while walking around the city. A scavenger hunt list could include a bagel shop, five subway stops, a pigeon, a big dog and a little dog, a fountain, a bench and someone drinking coffee! Work together as a team to find all of the items. If you want a challenge, add a time limit to your quest.

You can also check out Pogo Events or Watson Adventures. Each gives you the option to purchase themed scavenger hunt packages for families.

Go for a Bike Ride

Spend an afternoon outdoors and teach your child how to ride a bike or go on a ride with your family! Older kids and parents can use CitiBike for bike rental; CitiBike wants users to know that they’re doing what they can to keep New Yorkers safe, like sanitizing bikes every time they’re returned to a dock and offering a free month of membership to health care workers, transit workers and first responders.

Bike Manhattan’s Upper West Side loop for scenic, tree-lined views of Riverside Drive and a beautiful stretch along the Hudson River Bike Path. Then dive into history at the Eleanor Roosevelt Monument and Grant’s Tomb. If you’re in Brooklyn, bike along former airport runways at Floyd Bennett Field.

Are you and your kids looking for something more adventurous? Try Cunningham Park’s mountain biking trails in Queens. Trails are well-marked, and options exist for all ages and levels of experience.