Lazy summer days? Not in New York City—there’s just too much to do. Isn’t that why we love this town? Pack a water bottle and your kid’s fidget spinner and join us (and our shorties, of course) at our 13 favorite family-friendly New York City experiences for summer 2017.
Open through Sunday, October 1
The picturesque, car-free isle is a lovely place for summer fun. Though Governors Island is always kid-friendly, its Family Fun Day on May 28 ramps it up a few notches with a day full of activities and live performances. But all of the island’s events are fantastic for families; check out the arty Figment Festival, NYC Unicycle Festival, African Film Festival Inc.’s Annual Family Fun Day Celebration, plus attractions such as Slide Hill and play:groundNYC.
“Eloise at the Museum”
Friday, June 30–Monday, October 9
Child-lit fans will delight at the New-York Historical Society’s newest exhibition, “Eloise at the Museum,” dedicated to the book series about a precocious little girl who lives in the “room on the tippy-top floor” of the Plaza Hotel. The show will feature never-before-seen artwork from the books’ illustrator, Hilary Knight; original manuscripts; photographs; vintage toys and dolls; and more to celebrate the work of Knight and author Kay Thompson. In addition, the museum will host Eloise-related family programming all summer long. We loved the “The Art and Whimsy of Mo Willems” exhibition last year, so we’re definitely looking forward to “Eloise.”
Bronx Zoo Zip Line and Nature Trek
One of my family’s favorite places in the city is the Bronx Zoo. We visit several times a year; have celebrated birthdays there; and have participated in animal- and nature-themed camps that combine exhibit visits, games, animal presentations, and more for hands-on lessons in animal and wildlife preservation. Naturally, we were thrilled to learn that the zoo just debuted their Treetop Adventure, a kid-friendly ropes course of moving logs, rope bridges, and a tree house. A 45-foot zip line that crosses the Bronx River is coming soon; enter your email here to find out when it opens!
New York Musical Festival
Monday, July 10–Sunday, August 6
$27.50 per ticket; NYMF pass starting at $119
Though not specifically aimed at children, this annual festival debuts new musical productions at comparably low prices, and some of them are family-friendly. It’s a great opportunity to catch a few before they go on to bigger—and often pricier—venues. Family-friendly productions include:
Backbeard: A New Musical
Even pirates worry about their reputation. When his traditional pirate attire is ruined, fearsome Backbeard is persuaded to don decidedly un-piratelike threads and is consequently faced with a new challenge: finding the courage to stand out and stand up for who he is.
This coming-of-age tale follows an almost-all-girls math team as they head to a national competition. Faced with difficult rivals and adolescent pressures, they’ll need their laser-sharp focus to stay in the game and come out on top.
Peace, Love, and Cupcakes
In this page-to-stage musical adaptation of the first book in the best-selling Cupcake Club series, middle schooler Kylie is the new girl at school. When she has trouble making friends, she forms a cupcake club for anyone looking for friendship. Jealous of the new club, the school bully sets Kylie in her crosshairs.
Victory Dance: Program A and Program B
The Duke on 42nd Street
Program A: Thursday, July 13 and 20
Program B: Thursday, August 3
Victory Dance is an annual celebration of dance in New York City, with performances by accomplished New York–based dance companies, designed specifically for young audiences. Program A features Buglisi Dance Theatre, Bill Shannon, and Decadancetheatre; while Program B presents Preeti Vasudevan’s Thresh, Evidence, and Heidi Latsky Dance.
City of Water Day
Saturday, July 15
10 a.m.–4 p.m.
In the bustle of the big city, it’s sometimes easy to forget that New York City is surrounded by water. Not on City of Water Day! This daylong celebration features activities, boat rides, and aquatic fun of all kinds. Although registration is closed for boat tours, there is still plenty of fun in store. The Waterfront Activity Fair on Governors Island hosts activities in science and art, plus kayaking and paddleboarding, and Disney-sponsored activities are a highlight every year. Families can also cheer on competitors in the Cardboard Kayak Race, which kicks off at Kayak Hill near Pier 101 (race begins at 2:30 p.m.).
Rubin Block Party: Sounds of the Street
Sunday, July 16
This annual festival hosted by the Rubin Museum invites visitors to explore its exhibitions free of charge and create art with hands-on activities and interactive events inspired by the museum’s newest exhibition, “The World Is Sound,” opening June 16. Tours offer an in-depth look at collections and exhibitions that celebrate the Himalayas, India, and surrounding Asian regions, while outside, visitors can peruse tables set up by local Himalayan groups and other Chelsea neighbors while experiencing the Sounds of the Street.
Wednesday, August 2–Saturday, August 5
Tickets start at $25
Part of this year’s Encores! Off-Center season, New York City Center mounts the tale of an imaginative young Brooklynite and her friends whiling away a summer day by creating a quirky movie musical. Inspired by stories from Maurice Sendak’s Nutshell Library, with music by Carole King, this production is sure to delight literary and musical theater fans of all ages.
Saturday, August 5, 12, and 19
7 a.m.–1 p.m.
Grab your bikes (or strollers, inline skates, or plain old kicks) and venture off the bike paths during the first three Saturdays in August. Extending from Central Park to the Brooklyn Bridge along Park Avenue, visitors get seven long miles of car-free fun, with five rest stops along the route. Of course, you’re not just resting at these stations. Foley Square Rest Stop features Vita Coco Beach and the Beachside Slide, a 300-foot water slide sure to cool you off. Thrill seekers should also make time for the 165-foot-long, 30-foot-high zip line located at the Uptown Rest Stop. More into fitness? Stop by the Soho Rest Stop for sunrise salutations, boot-camp classes, Pilates, aerobics, and more. And for your canine companions, the Astor Place Rest Stop features Paws and Play Dog Park.
Arthur Ashe Kids’ Day
Saturday, August 26
9:30 a.m.–3 p.m.
Young tennis enthusiasts will enjoy kicking off the U.S. Open at this family-focused celebration. In addition to festive events and activities like face painting, storytelling, and juggling workshops, children can participate in free tennis clinics while watching the pros practice! Full details for 2017 have not yet been announced, but this annual event is never a disappointment.
Outdoor Public Art
The Big Apple is so wonderfully infused with art, often in unlikely places. Planning a laid-back tour around the Parks Department’s Art in the Parks exhibitions is a great way to take in beautiful works of public art. Little ones may particularly like Hippo Ballerina at Lincoln Center; The Floaters, a vibrant mural of a summer day in the pool by Henry Taylor at the High Line; and Descension, an intriguing installation showcasing a continuously spiraling funnel of water by Anish Kapoor at Brooklyn Bridge Park.