We're in the process of updating this post for 2016. Please check back in late July.
While many New Yorkers like to skip town in August, there are plenty of must-do summer activities left if you plan on sticking around for an NYC staycation with us.
Our top family event picks for August include annual favorites like Manhattan's car-free Summer Streets, the incredible Sand Sculpting Contest in Coney Island and the colorful Hong Kong Dragon Boat Festival in Queens' Flushing Meadows Corona Park. Plus, there are some brand-new experiences on tap, like a fresh slate of FringeJR theater and a special outdoor screening of the '80s fantasy classic Labyrinth with pre-screening performances honoring late star David Bowie.
As always, if an event piques your interest, be sure to click through to our listing for all the details, including the price, address, and time. And remember, 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 beat the crowds.
Now get your calendars ready! Here are the top 13 things to do with kids in New York City this August—11 of which are 100% FREE.
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Now get your calendars ready! Here are the top 11 things to do with kids in New York City this August, seven of which are FREE.
Hong Kong Dragon Boat Festival — Corona
Saturday, August 6-Sunday, August 7
Watch more than 200 boat teams compete on the lake at Flushing Meadows Corona Park in colorful custom-made vessels outfitted with dragon heads and tails. Families can soak up Chinese culture between races at the massive outdoor marketplace featuring ethnic eats (including kid-pleasers such as 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 Queens park, which boasts a carousel, the Queens Zoo, the New York Hall of Science and mini-amusement park Fantasy Forest. FREE
Summer Streets — Manhattan
Saturdays, August 6, 13 and 20
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. As in years past, there are special activities along the way at interactive rest stops, like cycling lessons, bike-tune ups, giveaways, live entertainment, public art and a 165-foot-long zip line. But we're particularly excited about the debut of the Slide the City Water Slide, a 270-foot-long water slide at the beach-themed Foley Square rest stop. Advance reservations are a must and there are lots of rules, so you have to plan for this one. Warning: Many of the special activities tend to get mobbed, especially later in the day, so go as early as possible to avoid the crowds. Read our Summer Streets post for important tips about going with kids. FREE
SummerStage Family Day – Staten Island
Sunday, August 7
SummerStage's second annual Staten Island Family Day takes over Cloves Lake Park with a lineup of awesome music and dance performances. Secret Agent 23 Skidoo, Sierra Leone Dance Troupe and Wahoo Skiffle Crazies (in association with the Staten Island Arts Folklife). FREE
All American Drive-In — Staten Island
Monday, August 8-Saturday, August 13
For six nights, NYC's only living history museum, Historic Richmond Town, is hosting a retro drive-in theater experience. Patrons drive up, grab a parking spot, hit the concessions for snacks and settle in for a flick, just like back in the day. The only notable difference is the audio is broadcast from the car radio instead of outdoor speakers. Four of films are kid-friendly: Frozen (August 8), E.T. (August 9), The Wizard of Oz (August 10), and Up (August 10), but don't bring the tots to the last two: The Godfather and Jaws. All features are preceded by contemporary shorts. Admission is charged per carload, so it's a good deal. No car? No problem! Walkers are welcome to sit in the picnic area. Buying tickets at least two days in advance is a must! No day-of sales.
Labyrinth Screening in Prospect Park — Park Slope
Wednesday, August 10
RELATED: Family-Friendly Travel Ideas from NYC
Squirt Gun Fight — Coney Island
Saturday, August 13
FringeJR — East Village
Saturday, August 13-Saturday, August 27
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 at the 14th Street Y created just for families. TK Note about Fort Fringe
SummerStage Family Day — Lower East Side
Sunday, August 14
DJ Spinna celebrates Earth, Wind, and Fire / Shine and the Moonbeams at the final Summerstage Family Day of the season in the East River Park Amphitheater. FREE
Coney Island Sand Sculpting Contest — Coney Island
Saturday, August 20
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. Afterward, hit Coney Island's other attractions, including amusement parks, the New York Aquarium and the historic B&B Carousell. Preregistration to compete is recommended but entrants can sign up on-site first come, first served. FREE
Family Field Day — Brooklyn Bridge Park
Saturday, August 20
Pier 5 TK FREE
NYC Volkswagen Traffic Jam — Governors Island
Sunday, August 21
Arthur Ashe Kids Day — Flushing
Saturday, August 27
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 hip-hop star Flo Rida, international pop diva Zara Larsson, and Disney Channel actress Laura Marano that costs extra and usually sells out in advance.) All tennis and sports activities are FREE.
240th Anniversary of the Battle of Brooklyn — Brooklyn
Sunday, August 28
Get a real-life history lesson and learn about NYC's important role in the country's fight for freedom by checking out this week-long celebration of the largest battle of the Revolutionary War. While not all activities are kid-friendly, best bets for families include the annual commemoration at Green-Wood Cemetery on Sunday, August 28, featuring historical reenactments, live period music, old-school games and a soldier-filled parade to the top of Battle Hill. You can also experience the Colonial Days on Saturday, August 29 in Ridgewood, Queens at the Vander Ende-Onderdonk House with a reading of the Declaration of Independence, a historical scavenger hunt and other 18th Century fun. Both events are FREE, but Green-Wood Cemetery requires advance registration.
RELATED: Summer Fun Guide for NYC Kids
NYC always has so many incredible things going on, it's difficult to choose. So here are nine 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.
Celebrate peace and harmony by watching lanterns set afloat on the East River in Brooklyn Bridge Park's Hindu Lamp Ceremony on Saturday, August 6. FREE
Kids Rule Weekend 2016 on Saturday, August 6 and Sunday, August 7. FREE
Get hep at Central Park's annual no-cost Great Jazz on the Great Hill concert on Saturday, August 13. FREE
Don your bets duds and dance the day away at the 11th annual Jazz Age Lawn Party on Governors Island on Saturday, August and Sunday, August 14.
Create your own kite and let it soar at FlyNYC in Riverside Park South on Saturday, August 20. FREE
Step back in time at the historic Wyckoff Farmhouse during a FREE Family Day at on Saturday, August 20.
Take the A train uptown for the various Harlem Week festivities, including the Children's Festival on Saturday, August 20-Sunday, August 21. FREE
Hit Rockaway Beach for sun, surf, and skating at the weekly Dreamland Roller Disco Skate Party every Saturday night. FREE if you bring your own skates!
Watch the 1980s classic Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan at Bryant Park's final film screening of the season on Monday, August 22. FREE