Tennis is not the most urban of sports. Besides the obvious reason—New Yorkers don’t wear white or skorts or visors, thank you very much—the issue of space and court availability makes it a tough game for kids to pick up here (although cool new indoor spots like Court 16 in Gowanus are aiming to change that).
So if your kids are interested in the sport—or if you’d like them to be—Arthur Ashe Kids’ Day at the U.S. Open is an excellent opportunity to pump up their passion. The event kicks off this Saturday at 9:30 a.m. with a free tennis festival on the Open grounds, where Net Generation will be hosting lessons, games, and drills on 14 courts. Yep, the same courts where Rafael Nadal has picked his shorts aplenty and the Williams sisters made parents everywhere worry less about their own kids’ sibling rivalries. In fact, you might be able to catch those big names practicing for the start of the tournament the next day (look for the pros at Louis Armstrong Stadium, Grandstand, Court 17, and Practice Courts 1–5).
There will also be face painting, hair beading and braiding, balloon artists, live music, juggling workshops, and general tennis-themed merriment. Your kids won’t think for a second about throwing a McEnroe and screaming at the umpire (that is: you).
At 12:30 p.m., there’s a two-hour ticketed show in Arthur Ashe Stadium with appearances by Nadal, Novak Djokovic, Sloane Stephens, and the Bryan brothers, plus musical performances from Blanco Brown, Ava Max, Austin Mahone, and Meg Donnelly. (OK, yes, I’ve never heard of any of them, but I’m guessing I’m not their target audience.) Unless your child is a superfan of one of those Disney stars, though, the show is skippable. It’s way more fun to wander around Flushing Meadows–Corona Park listening to the thwonk of backhands and watching adorable 5-year-olds swing rackets that are as big as they are. It’s a really lovely day and a lucky New York tradition.
5 More Fun Things to Do While You’re There
- Immerse yourself in six different ecosystems at the New York Hall of Science’s new interactive (and very cool) exhibition, “Connected Worlds.”
- Zoom around the Queens Motor Speedway in a miniature race car, take a turn on the Corona Cobra (the only roller coaster in Queens), or go round and round on the historic Flushing Meadows carousel, built for the 1964 World’s Fair, at Fantasy Forest Amusement Park, a kids’ paradise less than a mile from the Billie Jean King National Tennis Center.
- Eat your way home from the event on the 7 line, where you can find amazing ethnic food at every stop.
- Visit New York’s biggest Chinatown, in Flushing, where nonpicky eaters can try customizable dumplings, hand-pulled noodles, savory crepes, bone broth, pig’s feet, and ox tongue. We’ve got a guide to our favorite spots in the nabe.
- Or lunch with the sea lions instead at the Queens Zoo. Sardines, anyone?