Best Things to Do with NYC Kids: August Go List
August is traditionally the month when native New Yorkers skip town. But if you're planning a NYC staycation like we are, you're in luck! There's plenty of must-experience summer fun throughout the month, and we've got the scoop on the absolute best things to do with kids in our August NYC Go List.
This month brings many of our big annual favorites like Manhattan's car-free but activity-filled Summer Streets, the incredible Sand Sculpting Contest in Coney Island, Historic Richmond Town's old-fashioned County Fair on Staten Island and the colorful Hong Kong Dragon Boat Festival in Queens' Flushing Meadows Corona Park. Plus there are some new shows and offbeat experiences on tap, like FringeJr and a wind-up circus toy show.
As always, if an event piques your interest, be sure to click through to our listing for all the details, including address and time. And keep in mind: In NYC, really cool things to do with kids often get booked up quickly. So buy your tickets ASAP or, in the case of FREE events, arrive as early as possible to try to beat the crowds.
Now get your calendars ready! Here are the top 12 things to do with kids in New York City this August, seven of which are FREE.
Potions & Planting Children's Tea Party – Chelsea
Saturdays, August 2 and 9
While the immersive, Macbeth-inspired show Sleep No More is definitely not for the kiddos (no one under 16 allowed!), on two special Saturday mornings, families can enjoy a G-rated interactive experience in its gorgeous home: the formerly abandoned but now restored '30s McKittrick Hotel. Children and their favorite stuffed friends can head to the rooftop garden and restaurant, Gallow Green, for an interactive English tea party complete with finger sandwiches and pink lemonade. After the refreshments, kids enjoy a hands-on lessons in potions and planting. All participants get a mini flower press to take home and a personalized bib for their lovey. Advance reservations required. $25 per person
Summer Streets – Manhattan
Saturdays, August 2, 9 and 16
For three consecutive Saturdays, New York families are encouraged to cycle, scooter or stroll a car-free, seven-mile route that takes you all the way from the Upper East Side down to the Brooklyn Bridge. You'll find plenty of activities along the way at multiple interactive rest stops, including cycling lessons, bike tuneups, complimentary bike rentals, helmet giveaways, cool live performances, yoga sessions, parkour demos, even a zip line and a rock climbing wall. Risa Puno's popular public art/mini-golf course, The Course of Emotions, returns for a second year at the 52nd Street rest stop. New for 2014: Norwegian artist Jana Winderen will create Dive, a seven-block long immersive sound installation in the Park Avenue Tunnel using noises recorded underwater. Plus there are three interactive musical performance pieces. On August 2, 91 trumpeters will line Park Avenue from 45th and 72nd Streets to play a composition by Craig Shepard; on August 9, Chris McIntrye's Tilt Brass at Foley Square will feature trombones, trumpets, drums and speaker noise; finally, on August 16 just south of Astor Place, grab one of the music boxes being handed out for Nick Tobier's My (Our) Way that all play the classic Frank Sinatra (or Sid Vicious, depending on your musical taste) song. Warning: Many of the special activities tend to get mobbed, especially later in the morning, so go as early as possible to avoid the crowds. Read our Summer Streets post for important tips about going with kids. FREE
The Museum of Interesting Things: The Wind-up Circus Toy Show – Coney Island
Even though Denny Daniel doesn't have a brick-and-mortar home for his museum, you may have seen the giddy Goth-styled collector showing off his curios (early '80s computers, Victrolas, nickelodeons, animatronic doodads, etc.) at festivals like Figment on Governors Island or the Ultimate Science Street Fair in Washington Square Park. Today, he'll be at Coney Island USA showing off his incredible windup and circus-themed toys, some of which are more than a century old! In addition to listening to Daniel enthuse about these playthings (he's a hoot to listen to and very good with kids), children will get a chance to touch these toys. Definitely a one-of-a-kind experience. Afterward, check out all of the other fun things to do in Coney Island. $10
FringeJr 2014 – East Village
Friday, August 8-Sunday, August 24
Every August, the massive New York International Fringe Festival takes over multiple downtown Manhattan venues with cutting-edge live performances—most of which are not good for kids. However, this year there are four FringeJr productions playing at the 14th Street Y that are specifically aimed at families: the wacky sci-fi romp Alienne: The Musical Adventures of My Little Martian; And Then Came Tango inspired by the Central Park Zoo's famous male penguin partners that raised a chick in 1999; and a pair of bilingual musicals from the Italian company ExtraTeatro, My Monster Friend and Vagabond$. Want a sneak peek before you buy tickets? You can see excerpts and meet the casts in advance for FREE at Fort FringeJr. $13
Hong Kong Dragon Boat Festival – Corona
Saturday, August 9-Sunday, August 10
Head to Flushing Meadows Corona Park to watch 170 boat teams compete on Meadow Lake in colorful custom-made vessels outfitted with dragon heads and tails. In between races, families can soak up Chinese culture at the massive outdoor marketplace featuring ethnic eats (including kid pleasers like dumplings and bubble tea), live contemporary and traditional music, lion and dragon dances, crafts, martial arts displays and kite flying. Once you've had your fill, explore the wonderful Flushing Meadows Corona Park, which boasts a carousel, the Queens Zoo, the New York Hall of Science and mini-amusement park Fantasy Forest. FREE
Sand Sculpting Contest and Unity Day – Coney Island
Saturday, August 16
Grab your buckets and shovels and hit Coney Island beach for its annual sand sculpting contest and festival. All are eligible to compete, kids and adults, amateurs and pros, and there are prizes in multiple categories. Not feeling creative? Gawk at the amazing entries and check out live entertainment on the boardwalk including face painting, clowns and live music. And of course, there are lots of other Coney Island attractions like Luna Park and its brand-new Thunderbolt roller coaster, the New York Aquarium and the historic B&B Carousell. FREE but if you're planning to compete preregistration is recommended.
SummerStage Harlem Family Day – Harlem
Sunday, August 17
Head to Marcus Garvey Park for SummerStage's final Family Day of the season. The lineup includes the soulful Shine and the Moonbeams performing classic and original tunes, boppy bilingual band Moona Luna, child prodigy jazz drummer Kojo Odu Roney and his musical family, B-Love's Hip Hop Jazzy Groove dance performance inspired by the Harlem Renaissance, and DJ KS 360. Disney Radio will also be on hand with giveaways, character photo ops and kids' activities. FREE
Arthur Ashe Kids Day – Flushing
Saturday, August 23
Kick off the US Open at the Billie Jean King National Tennis Center with a day of fun and games. Get active at free tennis clinics and an obstacle course; watch big-name pros practice; enjoy face painting, juggling workshops, hair beading and braiding, storytelling and a no-cost concert by young up-and-comers. (Note: There is a different ticketed concert at 1pm featuring better known performers, like country star Hunter Hayes, that costs extra and usually sells out in advance.) All tennis and sports activities are FREE
West Indian American Day Carnival and Children’s Parade – Crown Heights
Saturday, August 30
The five-day West Indian American Day Carnival culminates in one of NYC’s largest parades on Labor Day, and while it's a colorful affair, it's also crowded and noisy. The Children’s Parade the Saturday before is a better bet for families. Kids of Caribbean descent don elaborate garb as they travel through Crown Heights and onto the grounds of the Brooklyn Museum for a costume contest and carnival. FREE for the parade, $2 to enter the museum grounds
NYC Unicycle Festival – Governors Island
Saturday, August 30-Sunday August 31
Head to Governors Island to give one-wheeling a try. Or stay on two feet and watch pros play unicycle basketball, hockey and other games, and participate in races, competitions and exhibitions. While on the island, check out all the other attractions. FREE
Richmond County Fair – Staten Island
Saturday, August 30-Monday, September 1
Step back in time at this old-fashioned carnival at Historic Richmond Town, NYC's only living history museum. The three-day fest has been a Labor Day weekend tradition for decades and features something for everyone. There are several performance stages with local bands playing country, rock 'n' roll, and acoustic music; pig races; pie-, hot-dog eating and hula-hooping contests; three-legged races, a water balloon toss and a midway with rides. The best part? All attractions are free with admission: $16, free for children under 30 inches. Advance purchase discounts will be available online as the dates gets closer.
Great North River Tugboat Race & Competition – Midtown West
Sunday, August 31
Watch a dozen or so tugboats race from the 79th Street Boat Basin down to Pier 84, where there will be line tossing, spinach-eating contests and other family fun. The races and competitions take place in the Hudson River and can be viewed at no cost between West 44th and West 79th Streets on the waterfront, though Pier 84 is where the landlubber action is. For an up-close view, you can buy tickets for the Circle Line spectator boat that follows the tugs. FREE from the shore, Circle Line tickets are $25 for adults, $12 for children under 15
NYC always has so many incredible things going on, it's difficult to choose. So here are ten more mostly FREE events that are worth considering for your August calendar. Be sure to sign up for our FREE newsletters so you can get our weekend picks delivered to your inbox every Thursday morning.
Hop on a 1950-60s-era subway bound for Rockaway Beach courtesy of the New York Transit Museum's Nostalgia Ride on Sunday, August 3.
Get hep at Central Park's annual no-cost Great Jazz on the Great Hill concert on Saturday, August 9. FREE
Improve your game at the B'rook'lyn Chess Festival in Crown Heights' Dr. Ronald McNair Park with sessions for all skill levels on Saturday, August 9. FREE
Take the A train uptown for the various Harlem Week festivities, including the Children's Festival on Saturday, August 16-Sunday, August 17. FREE
Watch the beloved film The Wizard of Oz at Hudson River Park's final RiverFlicks for Kids screening of the season on Friday, August 22. FREE
Gawk at the final fireworks display of the season in Coney Island on Friday, August 29. FREE
See what's going on at Staten Island's multiple shores during Staten Island Beach Fest, which offers a wide range of FREE activities every weekend through Sunday, August 31.
Take a day trip to a nearby pick-your-own farm to grab some apples, which ripen for the season right around Labor Day.