Sometimes you just need an excuse to get everyone out of the house. Something that’s not a hard sell. Summer Streets, when the city shuts down seven miles of prime Manhattan thoroughfare to traffic and opens it up to general pedestrian frolicking during the first three Saturdays of August, is one such excuse. It may not have the highbrow cachet of an afternoon at the Met or the unbridled stuff of kid fantasy you’ll find at Coney Island, but it will be pleasant and easy and set your day up to unfold in unexpected directions.
Besides, it can be exhilarating to scooter, skate, skip, or bike (free bike rentals will be available) down the middle of the street, unconcerned with stoplights, crosswalks, and turning cars.
To be clear, this is not a street fair. The route—which starts at Foley Square and heads uptown on Lafayette Street to Fourth Avenue, Union Square West, and then Park Avenue, all the way to 72nd Street—will be mercifully free of toy vendors and carnival games, so you won’t have to fight with your kids over bubble machines and those electronic flipping dogs.
Zip Lines and Obstacle Courses
Start at either the top or the bottom of the route. At the Foley Square “rest stop,” your kids (as long as they’re 50 or more pounds) can fly down Centre Street on a 165-foot-long, 30-inch-high zip line. Wait, maybe this is the stuff of kid fantasy! You can also play a game of life-size chess, Connect Four, or Jenga.
At the 52nd Street and Park Avenue rest stop, there will be musicians, dancers, and art activity booths aimed at families. My sons will skip those, however, and head for the Kids’ Fitness Zone to compete in the “urban functional” obstacle course created by PopFit Kids. And though, at age 11, they’re both past the pouch applesauce phase of their life, they will gladly suck down a few of the free GoGo Squeezes on hand there for old time’s sake. That’s right: free applesauce. If the zip line didn’t sell you, maybe that will.
The Summer Streets are only yours from 7 a.m. to 1 p.m., so you’ll still have the rest of the day for adventures. And since you’re already deep in the heart of the city, it’s that much easier.
5 More Great Things to Do While You’re There
- Play Skee-Ball, Dance Dance Revolution, and Pop-a-Shot at the decidedly–not–Chuck E. Cheese’s Chinatown Fair Family Fun Center. When this arcade first opened in 1944, its main attraction was a dancing chicken.
- Grab dim sum for lunch at Golden Unicorn, a 10-minute walk through Chinatown from Foley Square. Kids feel like kings when the carts come rolling by, depositing dumplings as they go.
- Walk down Doyers Street, the twisty Chinatown lane that is currently blanketed in a colorful mural called Connected Stories. It’s one of those rare things: a made-for-Instagram photo op that’s also truly special.
- Try 24-karat gold soft serve at Matcha n’ More, also an easy walk from Foley Square. Beats applesauce any day of the week.
- If you have mature older elementary school kids, tweens, or teens, visit the African Burial Ground National Monument and Visitor Center, just a minute’s walk from the Foley Square rest stop. An excavated burial ground for both free and enslaved African-Americans from the 1630s through 1795, it’s a sacred spot. The visitor center, open until 4 p.m., is small but offers a significant look back at an important part of our city’s history.