Summer Streets 2015: Car-Free Fun for NYC Kids

Summer Streets in Manhattan

Editor's Note: We're awaiting word on all the activities offered for Summer Streets in 2016 and will update this post once that information is available. For the eighth year in a row, New York City is hosting Summer Streets on three consecutive Saturdays. On August 1, 8 and 15 from 7am to 1pm, the Department of Transportation closes Lafayette Street and Park Avenue to motor vehicles from the Manhattan side of the Brooklyn Bridge to 72nd Street so people can enjoy cycling, scootering, skateboarding or strolling. Plus, there's lots of entertainment and attractions along the way including the addition of a brand new attraction in 2015: Slide the City.

My family and I look forward to Summer Streets every year, and we always make sure to attend at least one of the Saturdays. We're big urban bike riders, so we really make the most of the long, safe, car-less route.

Every edition of Summer Streets is a little different. We've got the scoop on what's new this year, as well as tips for enjoying Summer Streets with kids in tow.

You can join Summer Streets anywhere along the route. The DOT has a detailed map that shows rest stops and open cross streets.

At 72nd Street, Summer Streets connects to Central Park, so cyclists can bike uptown and then over to the West Side Greenway (the one time you'll see cars), creating a giant loop. If you're so inclined, you can enjoy a lovely long ride from Harlem to Governors Island without having to deal with cars for almost the whole way.

The route is divided into two sections north and south of Union Square. The uptown section is best for kids, since Park Avenue is nice and wide, and has a median strip. In my experience, the downtown section tends to get overcrowded. I actually had a collision with another biker there a few years back.

There are always wonderful activities at every rest stop, and there's signage along the route to let you know what's coming up. The biggest event in 2015 is the Vita Coco Beach at the Foley Square Rest Stop which will host a 270-foot water slide. Don't expect to just show up and take the plunge down the slick surface, however, pre-registration is required and can only be done online. If you're hoping to get wet on the first Saturday, time slots are full. Visit the site on August 3 to register for the 8th; August 10th to register for the 15th. Parents beware, though, the attraction is only open to those ages 5 and over who are also 46 inches or taller and kids will be required to ride their own (provided) intertube down the attraction, though there will be a family lane. The 165-foot-long zip line returns this year, too, but will be located on Leonard Street between Lafayette and Center Streets.

Crunch Gym will sponsor the fitness zone at the Soho Rest Stop with yoga, Pilates, dance and aerobics classes. A limited number of bikes will also be available to rent gratis.

At the Astor Place Rest Stop man's best friend takes center stage with a dog park to frolic in. There will also be arts and crafts and tours of the areas architecture and arts.

The Midtown Rest Stop will host a performance stage, bike rentals, learn-to-ride classes, helmet fittings and more.

The DOT will sponsor a safety zone at the Uptown Rest Stop and various other activities include free, limited bike rental for exploring Central Park, face painting, arts and crafts and musical performers on stage.

There are always marketing booths, too, and it's worth hitting them for freebies like gift cards, snack samples and more. You can find a comprehensive list of attractions and activities on the Department of Transportation website.

If you plan to enjoy Summer Streets on wheels, here are some things to keep in mind:

  • Bring your water bottle. There are water fountains at all the rest stops so refilling is easy.
  • Remind your kids that they'll need to stop at some cross streets for crosstown traffic. Crossing guards with stop signs will be on hand to signal bikers and pedestrians.
  • Summer Streets ends at 1pm, so make sure you don't find yourself mid-ride as cars and trucks take back the roads. Definitely bring your MetroCard in case you need to make a quick getaway.
  • The only "hill" you'll encounter is by the MetLife Building, which is pretty cool to ride through. Make sure young bikers know how to stop and are comfortable going downhill.

As always in New York City there are lots of fun things to see along the way.

Tandem bikes are a common sight during Summer Streets.

Kids taking a crafting break at one of the rest stops.

IMG_0833.jpgI've been coveting this cargo bike ever since I saw it at Summer Streets.

IMG_0835.jpgThe water fountains are plentiful.

IMG_0842.jpgNo kid is too young to enjoy Summer Streets.

For additional seasonal fun, check out our Summer Fun Guide.

This post was originally published in August 2010.