Free Outdoor Kids' Summer Music Concert Series in New York City Parks
While lots of New York City's fantastic summer performance series are kid appropriate, children know when an event isn't aimed directly at them. So while we totally encourage you to bring your preschoolers to hear the New York Philharmonic and the Metropolitan Opera perform in Central Park, make sure you take them to a few outdoor concerts just for them, too.
Happily, that's easy to do in this town. NYC's kiddie music scene is as hot as ever this summer. Although we're still waiting for the schedules from a few annual series, most of the big ones including Madison Square Kids and SummerStage Family Days have already released their stellar lineups. We’ve got the scoop on the coolest under(play)ground concerts in New York City's parks, playgrounds and plazas this season. So grab a blanket, score a good spot and enjoy the tunes, weather permitting. You can find even more family fun in our jam-packed Summer Guide.
Word for Word Kids – Midtown West
Saturdays, May 31-August 23 at noon
While this series in Bryant Park leans more toward lit (the kickoff event stars Clifford the Big Red Dog), it features music, too, like Funkytown Playground (Saturday, June 7), Erin Lee and the Up Past Bedtime Band (Saturday, June 14), the all-dad band Starfish! (Saturday, June 28), Lou Gallo and Jean Rohe from The Very Hungry Band (Saturday, August 2) and Rolie Polie Guacamole (Saturday, August 9). Afterward, go for a spin on the carousel.
Pier Kids – Brooklyn Heights
Sundays, June 1-August 3 11am-1pm
This brand-new family performance series at Pier 1 in Brooklyn Bridge Park is a mash-up of theater, kid lit and music. It kicks off with singer/songwriter Morgan Taylor of Gustafer Yellowgold fame (June 1) and other upcoming concerts include Mister G (June 29) and Shine & the Moonbeams (August 3). It's worth perusing the entire schedule because there's lots of non-music fun on tap, too.
Washington Market Park Summer Concert Series – Tribeca
Thursdays, June 5 and June 12 at 5:30pm; Wednesday, June 18 at 5pm
The Tribeca tot spot hosts three local family bands (though strangely, not the park's usual group Princess Katie & Racer Steve). On Thursday, June 5, catch the country-bluegrass outfit Astrograss. On Thursday, June 12, get silly with the Dirty Sock Funtime Band. The series closes on June 18 with a set by DJ Kai Song.
KidAround! – South Street Seaport
Saturday, June 7 1-3pm; Sunday, July 13 noon-2pm; Sundays, June 15, 22, July 6, 27, August 3, 10, 17, 24 and 31 2-4pm
Enjoy two hours of family fun, including storytelling, costumed characters and weekly kids' concerts. Although the website doesn't list the entire schedule yet, we hear many of our favorite groups are playing this summer including Billy Kelly & the Blah Blah Blahs (June 22), Tim Kubart & the Space Cadets (July 6), The Pop Ups (August 10) and Hot Peas ‘N Butter (August 31). Be sure to check the website for further updates. Afterward, hit the amazing Imagination Playground a few blocks away or check out other cool things to do with kids at the Seaport.
Madison Square Kids – Madison Square Park
Tuesdays and Thursdays, June 10-August 7 at 10:30am
One of NYC's best known kids' concert series celebrates its 12th anniversary this year, and as usual the lineup is packed with some of the best family rock bands around. The season kicks off on Tuesday, June 10 with Dan Zanes' regular Father Goose and continues with lots of other local favorites like AudraRox (Tuesday, June 17), Joanie Leeds and the Nightlights (Tuesday, June 24), Bari Koral (Thursday, July 17), The Dirty Sock Funtime Band (Thursday, July 24), Shine and the Moonbeams (Thursday, July 31) and Tim and the Space Cadets (Thursday, August 7). There will also be concerts by some high-profile out-of-town kindie rockers like L.A.'s funky and fabulous Lucky Diaz and the Family Jam Band (Thursday, June 26) and Boston folkster Alastair Moock and Friends (Tuesday, July 1). It's definitely worth browsing the complete schedule to see if your brood's favorite band is playing. After the show, hit the park's popular playground for active fun and art projects, and then eat at one of the area's delicious kid-friendly restaurants—there are a lot of other choices besides Shake Shack.
Summer in the Square – Kids in the Square – Union Square Park
Thursdays, June 12-August 7; yoga at 10am, performances at 11am
Warm up with a yoga storytime session courtesy of Karma Kids Yoga. Afterward, enjoy a variety of live family entertainment, including some of NYC's top-notch kindie bands like Rolie Polie Guacamole (June 26), Shira & Friends (July 3), Mike Messer of the Dirty Sock Funtime Band (July 10), Hot Peas 'N Butter (July 17), Karen K and the Jitterbugs (July 24), Joanie Leeds (July 31) and Suzi Shelton (August 7). Peruse the complete lineup on the website. Spend the rest of the afternoon in the awesome Union Square Playground. If you're still around at 5pm, you can enjoy free dance or Zumba lessons and other heart-pumping activities.
Hip Tot Family Days – Prospect Park & South Slope
Sundays, June 15, July 13, 27 and August 10 at noon
The NYC parents behind the Hip Tot Music Fest mount a series of no-cost concerts at the brand-new LeFrak Center at Lakeside in Prospect Park and Greenwood Park in South Slope. The lineup includes lots of popular local kid rockers like AudraRox (July 13), Suzi Shelton (July 27) and Father Goose (August 10), plus storytime, and arts and crafts.
Family Performance Festival – Upper West Side
Sundays, June 15-August 31 at noon
Formerly known as A Clearing in the Forest, this Central Park series has a new name and a new schedule: Instead of once every two weeks, it's now weekly. Head to Peter Jay Sharp Children's Glade for an eclectic lineup of dance, theater, storytelling and, occasionally, music. Shows are usually interactive and include nature-themed crafts. Find the complete schedule on the website.
Albee Square Summer Concerts for Kids – Downtown Brooklyn
Thursdays, June 19, July 17 and August 21 at 10am
The Fulton Mall’s public plaza hosts family-friendly performances throughout the summer, including kids' concerts on the third Thursday of every month: Aly Sunshine + Funkytown Playground (June 19), steel drum band JahPan (July 17) and Shira & Friends (August 21).
SummerStage Family Days – Citywide
Various dates and locations. See below.
While much of SummerStage is technically for adults, the citywide fest sponsors Family Days in every borough except Staten Island. All of these events feature circus workshops, face painting and Disney giveaways in addition to the performers listed.
- Brooklyn Family Day: Barolosolo Cirkus Company in Brooklyn Bridge Park on Saturday, June 21 and Sunday, June 22 features the show ile O, a mash-up of slapstick and acrobatics presented in a shallow pool of water.
- Global Family Day in Central Park on Sunday, July 6 features performances by the Okee Dokee Brothers, the Hybrid Movement Company, the Acrobuffos and National Dance Institute.
- Bronx Family Day in St. Mary's Park on Sunday, July 13 features performances by David Gonzalez' Aesop Bops! Funky Fables, the Kids Junk Orchestra and Secret Agent 23 Skidoo
- Queens Family Day in Queensbridge Park on Sunday, July 20 features performances by the Jazz at Lincoln Center Orchestra, Rashida Bumbray, and Michael Mossman & Copland Jazz
- Harlem Family Day in Marcus Garvey Park on Sunday, August 17 features performances by Shine and the Moonbeams, Moona Luna, Kojo Odu Roney & Friends, B-Love's Hip Hop Jazzy Groove and DJ KS 360
Music In the Grove: Kids – Fort Greene Park
Wednesdays, June 25-August 6 at 10am
Head to this lovely Brooklyn green space for gigs by beloved local bands like Suzi Shelton (July 9), Mil's Trills (July 16), Rolie Polie Guacamole (July 23) and Karen K and the Jitterbugs (July 30). Find the complete schedule on the park's official Facebook page. Afterward, discover all Fort Greene Park has to offer.
SummerStage Kids – Citywide
Sunday, July 6-Thursday, August 21
In addition to the Family Days, SummerStage also offers an awesome lineup of kids' entertainment at various city parks throughout the season. In fact, there are so many incredible performances, it's hard to choose highlights. But the ones we're really looking forward to include the Okee Dokee Brothers, Secret Agent 23 Skidoo, the Kids Junk Orchestra, the Chris Clark Bicycle Stunt Show, bilingual kids' theater from Teatro SEA and traditional dance from the New York Chinese Cultural Center. You'll definitely want to scan the full calendar, just remember to sort by SummerStage Kids.
Sandbox Music Series in Carl Schurz Park – Upper East Side
Tuesdays, July 8-29 at 4pm
The lovely Upper East Side green space hosts four alfresco concerts for tots: Lily Rose (July 8), Sing Along Steve (July 15), Eastside Westside Music Together (July 22) and Moosikikids (July 29). This one's definitely aimed at the diaper set.
Sandbox: Music – Central Park
Wednesday through Friday, July 9-August 15
Kids can hear and learn about classical music courtesy of professional quintet Central Park Brass. The group performs interactive concerts in various playgrounds throughout Central Park. The Central Park Conservancy also hosts three other kids' culture series on select weekdays as part of its Sandbox programs: Sandbox: Dance, Sandbox: Stories and Sandbox: Puppets, shows by WonderSpark Puppets.
Summer on the Hudson: Children's Performance Series – Riverside Park South
Thursdays, July 10-August 14 10:30-11:30am
While the Summer on the Hudson arts and culture festival is filled with offerings for all ages, its Thursday morning Children's Performance Series at Pier I at 70th Street is aimed specifically at young kids. This year's lineup includes five local kids' bands—Zinghoppers (July 10), Shine & the Moonbeams (July 17), Monkey Monkey Music (Thursday, July 24), Karen K & the Jitterbugs (Thursday, July 31) and The Pop Ups (Thursday, August 7)—plus a performance by puppeteers from the Swedish Cottage Marionette Theatre (Thursday, August 14).
Unconfirmed Kids' Concert Series
We're still waiting to hear if these annual summer concert series are happening in 2014. We'll update this post the minute we hear!
Jam on DUMBO has unfortunately been canceled.
Carroll Park Kids' Concert Series is in limbo at the moment.