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 seems to get bigger every year. In fact, this season, there are almost as many free outdoor performance series for kids as there are for adults! We’ve got the scoop on the coolest under(play)ground concerts in New York City's parks, playgrounds and plazas. So grab a blanket, score a good spot and enjoy the tunes, weather permitting.
Jam on Dumbo – Dumbo
Saturday, June 8 9-11am; Wednesdays, June 12 and June 26 4-6pm
Families can groove to cool tunes at the Archway under the Manhattan Bridge and also enjoy complimentary face painting and art projects. Catch NYC folksters Zack Orion and the Ardeshir Mountain Boys (Saturday, June 8), the electric ukelele stylings of Mil’s Trills (Wednesday, June 12) and Preschool of Rock (Wednesday, June 26). Afterward, stick around and discover everything Dumbo has to offer families.
Word for Word Kids – Midtown West
Saturdays, June 8-August 24 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 the all-dad band Starfish! (Saturday, June 22), Funkytown Playground (Saturday, June 29), Rolie Polie Guacamole (Saturday, July 9), Erin Lee and the Up Past Bedtime Band (Saturday, July 27) and Astrograss (Saturday, August 3). Afterward, go for a spin on the carousel.
Madison Square Kids – Madison Square Park
Tuesdays and Thursdays June 11-August 8 at 10:30am
One of NYC's best known kids' concert series celebrates its eleventh 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 11 with SteveSongs, a.k.a. Mr. Steve of PBS Kids fame and continues with lots of other local favorites like AudraRox (Thursday, June 13), The Deedle Deedle Dees (Tuesday, June 18), David Weinstone and the Music for Aardvarks Band (Thursday, July 11), The Dirty Sock Funtime Band (Tuesday, July 30) and Shine and the Moonbeams (Thursday, August 8). There will also be concerts by some high-profile out-of-town kindie rockers like Lucky Diaz and the Family Jam Band from Los Angeles (Tuesday, June 25) and Seattle's awesome Recess Monkey (Tuesday, July 16). 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 13-August 15; yoga at 10am, performances at noon
Warm up with a yoga storytime session courtesy of the wonderful Karma Kids Yoga. Afterward, enjoy a variety of live performances for children, including a Baby Loves Disco dance party (Thursdays, June 13 and August 8); bands like Randy Kaplan (Thursday, July 11) and Hot Peas 'N Butter (Thursday, August 15); and excerpts from The Gazilion Bubble Show (Thursday, August 8). Peruse the complete schedule on the website. Spend the rest of the afternoon in the awesome Union Square Playground. If you're still around at 6pm, you can enjoy free dance or Zumba lessons.
Washington Market Park Summer Concert Series – Tribeca
Thursdays, June 13 and June 27 at 6pm
The Tribeca tot spot has reduced its annual summer music series from four to two concerts, but they are big ones! On Thursday, June 13, catch the Grammy nominated Brady Rymer and the Little Band that Could. Then on Thursday, June 27, the park's BFFs, Princess Katie & Racer Steve, take over the gazebo with their peppy pop tunes. In case of rain, the shows still go on at the nearby Downtown Community Center (120 Warren Street).
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. Brooklyn Family Day in Herbert Von King Park on Sunday, June 16 features a concert by Shine & the Moonbeams, a multimedia presentation by Something Positive Afro Caribbean Dance Theater and DJ Hard Hittin' Harry. Bronx Family Day in St. Mary's Park on Saturday, June 29 has juggling acts by the wacky Gizmo Guys, magic tricks by LuckyBob, and performances by KR3TS Dance Company, Double Dutch Dreamz and BAM's house DJ, Idlemind. Global Family Day in Central Park on Sunday, July 7 stars Elizabeth Mitchell, the Carpetbag Brigade Physical Theater Company and Nemcatacoa Teatro. Queens Family Day in Queensbridge Park on Sunday, July 21 features a tribute to Michael Jackson, the 10-piece PitchBlak Brass Band and a Little Club Heads dance party. Finally, Harlem Family Day on Sunday, August 11 features music by Robbie K & Friends, a dance performance by Illstyle & Peace Productions, and live DJ Stormin' Norman.
SummerStage Kids – Citywide
Through Wednesday, August 22
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 Colombian circus troupe NemcatacoaTeatro, jump rope masters Double Dutch Dreamz, Wildlife Theater from the Central Park Zoo, goofy tricksters the Gizmo Guys, the Kids Junk Orchestra and Renaissance League: Juggling + Magic. And that's just a small sampling. You'll definitely want to scan the full calendar, just remember to sort by SummerStage Kids.
Albee Square Summer Concerts for Kids – Downtown Brooklyn
Thursdays, June 20 and July 18 at 10am
The Fulton Mall’s public plaza hosts a pair of kiddie shows: Jazz-A-Ma-Tazz with Hayes Greenfield (Thursday, June 20) and steel drum band JahPan (Thursday, July 18).
Carroll Park Kids Concert Series – Carroll Gardens
Sundays, June 23 and September 2-5pm
Like Washington Market Park, this Brooklyn green space has also reduced its annual concert series from four to two this summer. Mil’s Trills kicks off the series (Saturday, June 23); the September concert has yet to be determined. Also expect performances by local school kids and fun activities like arts and crafts. We'll update this post as soon as we get more info or like the Carroll Park Kids Concert Series Facebook page for immediate updates.
Music In the Grove: Kids – Fort Greene Park
Wednesdays, July 3-August 7 at 10am
Head to this lovely Brooklyn green space for gigs by beloved local bands like Astrograss (Wednesday, July 3), Rolie Polie Guacamole (Wednesday, July 10), Suzi Shelton (Wednesday, July 17), The Deedle Deedle Dees (Wednesday, July 24) and others. Find the complete schedule on the website. Afterward, discover all Fort Greene Park has to offer.
Sandbox Music – Central Park
Wednesday through Friday July 8-August 16
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 as part of its Sandbox Program: Sandbox Dance on Mondays and Tuesdays, Sandbox Puppets, shows by WonderSpark Puppets on Mondays through Thursdays, and Sandbox Stories by Dan Kitrosser on select dates. The full schedule should be up on the website soon.
Summer on the Hudson: Children's Performance Series – Riverside Park South
Thursdays, July 11-August 15 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—Rolie Polie Guacamole (Thursday, July 11), Apple Seeds Songs for Seeds (Thursday, July 18), Moey’s Music Party (Thursday, July 25), Meg’s Melodies (Thursday, August 1) and Joanie Leeds & The Nightlights (Thursday, August 8)—plus a performance by puppeteers from the Swedish Cottage Marionette Theatre (Thursday, August 15).
Sandbox Music Series – Upper East Side
Tuesdays, July 16, 23, 30, August 6 and 13 at 4pm
The lovely Carl Schurz Park hosts this kids' concert series. The lineup isn't yet available but we suspect Upper East Side pop rocker Moey's Music Party will make an appearance. The schedule will be posted on the website soon. Afterward, stay and explore the waterfront green space.
A Clearing In the Forest – Upper West Side
Every other Sunday April 28-October 13 at noon
This family performance series at Central Park's Peter Jay Sharp Children's Glade features 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.