Best Things to Do with NYC Kids: July 2013 Go List
As summer heats up, so do New York City family events. Our NYC July Go List, which highlights the absolute best things to do with kids throughout the month, includes some of our favorite FREE annual festivals, happenings my family and I mark in our calendars every year. Enjoy no-cost boat rides as part of City of Water Day on Governors Island, offbeat art activities at the New Museum Block Party on the Lower East Side, top-notch music and circus performances at SummerStage Kids Family Days in Queens and Central Park, and a no-cost concert by Dan Zanes at Lincoln Center Out of Doors Family Day.
There are also some new-this-summer happenings that we're really excited to check out like a festival of vintage carnival rides and carousels on Governors Island and Monkey: Journey to the West, a multimedia stage adaptation of an old Chinese folk tale featuring acrobatics, animation and rock 'n' roll.
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 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 try to beat the crowds.
Now get your calendars ready! Here are the top 13 things to do with kids in New York City this July, nine of which are 100% FREE.
Monkey: Journey to the West – Upper West Side
Saturday, July 6-Sunday, July 28
We were really excited to see this multimedia interpretation of an old Chinese story about a Monkey King and his pals on a quest to find holy scriptures but it didn't quite live up to our expectations. That said, there are still things to appreciate about the show, which features music by indie rock star Damon Albarn (of Blur and Gorillaz fame), animation by Jamie Hewlett (he did those cool Gorillaz videos), and traditional Chinese acrobats, singers, contortionists and martial artists. It's visually stunning and has some really fantastical sequences. However, if you're bringing kids, there are some things you should know before you go. Also, due to mature content and subtitles, it's not appropriate for children under 8. Tickets are $25-$250 but if you buy four you can save 25% on select price tiers.
Welcome Home Weekend – Riverdale
Saturday, July 6-Sunday, July 7
After a two-year renovation, beautiful Bronx oasis Wave Hill reopens its historic mansion to the public. To celebrate, the 28-acre garden and cultural center is offering no-cost admission all weekend along with a fun lineup of family activities, like guided tours of Wave Hill House and the blooming grounds, live Irish music, nature-inspired art projects at the reopened Kerlin Learning Center, yoga and martial arts. Bring your camera to snap pics of those stunning Hudson River and Palisades views. Afterward, stick around and explore the lovely Riverdale area. FREE
SummerStage Kids Global Family Day in Central Park – Upper East Side
Sunday, July 7
SummerStage Kids mounts multiple Family Days throughout the city, but the one in Central Park is always the main event. This year's lineup includes Grammy-nominated folksy singer/songwriter Elizabeth Mitchell joined by her talented husband and 11-year-old daughter; Caribbean percussionist group Natural Expression Rhythm Band; circus feats and dance theater by the Carpetbag Brigade Physical Theater Company and Nemcatacoa Teatro; and African dance and music performances. Disney Radio will also be on hand with giveaways, photo ops with Pirate Jake and Princess Sofia, and kids' activities. My daughter and I have gone many times and I do have a few tips: Arrive early! Lines for activities, especially the face painting, get long. There are usually all kinds of freebies, too, but they also go fast. Bring a blanket to sit on and a parasol or umbrella since there's no shade. There are chairs, too, but they're way in the back and fill up quickly. FREE
Sleepover – Chelsea
Friday, July 11-Sunday, August 3
We're always raving about the classes, camps (my daughter's there this summer!) and shows at TADA! Youth Theater. That's because, unlike many children's theater companies that use adult actors, TADA! is made up of talented local youngsters ages 8 to 18 who do three original musicals a year. The summer production is called Sleepover so expect songs about pajamas, pillows, snacks, friendships and cute pizza delivery boys. The shows are always under an hour and easy to follow, and kids really get a kick out of seeing their peers onstage. If you want to go, buy your tickets ASAP. Most of the performances are already sold out. $20-$25 for adults, $8-$15 for children
Come Out & Play Family Day – Governors Island
Saturday, July 13
Most of the Come Out & Play festival of street games is aimed at adults. But kids can get in on the action during Family Day on Governors Island. This year, families can participate in multiple interconnecting games themed around time travel, both back to the distant past and ahead to the future. Just head to the official Time Travel Agency to get started, and then play as few or many as you'd like. Games are best suited for children ages 6 to 11 and their adult companions. The full list of activities should be available on the website soon. FREE
Midsummer Night Swing: Kids Dance! – Upper West Side
Saturday, July 13
Midsummer Night's Swing is another fest geared toward grown-ups but for one afternoon, kids are inviting to put on their dancing shoes, too. At Kids Dance!, children ages 6 to 10 can learn some smooth new moves from Dancing Classrooms’ Rodney Lopez, star of the documentary Mad Hot Ballroom. Try the basics of swing, merengue, tango and salsa outdoors in Lincoln Center's Damrosch Park. FREE
Fête Paradiso – Governors Island
Saturdays, Sundays and Labor Day July 13-September 29
Originally scheduled to open on July 6, this awesome-sounding fest was pushed back a week. Head to Governors Island to try out late 19th and early 20th-century attractions like a traditional carousel, flying swings and one of the world's two bicycle carousels (the other was featured in Woody Allen's Midnight in Paris). But the main draw really isn't the rides; it's the Old World atmosphere. There will be a Music-Hall Ball Guzzler, a carnival game featuring life-size caricatures of Josephine Baker, Maurice Chevalier, Charlie Chaplin and other period stars; a bumper car pavilion repurposed as a beer garden and a children’s carousel that will function as a live performance space. The curators say they're going for a Fellini-esque feel and we can't wait to experience it! Free admission but rides are $3 each.
Bastille Day on East 60th Street – Upper East Side
Sunday, July 14
Celebrate French culture and cuisine at this annual outdoor fete hosted by the French Institute/Alliance Française. Taste freshly made crêpes and éclairs, dance to live French music, browse handmade wares at the market, and hit the Kids’ Corner for face painting, and arts and crafts. There's also a raffle with amazing prizes like trips to France, St. Barts and New Orleans. Free admission but there are fees for certain activities.
The Civil War – West Village
Monday, July 15-Sunday, August 16
Every summer, wonderful national children's theater company TheatreworksUSA produces a professional Off-Broadway show for family audiences and gives away the tickets at no cost. I've been to many of the summer productions in the past, and they're always high-quality, educational and entertaining. This year's show explores the history of the Civil War through personal stories of soldiers on both sides and period music. Given the subject matter, it's aimed at children ages 9 and up. In order to snag seats, arrive early! Tickets are given out on a first-come, first-served basis an hour prior to each performance. Camps tend to take over on weekdays so you're best off going on a Sunday or to one of the evening shows. By the way, there is absolutely no stroller storage at the theater, but you really shouldn't bring the babes to this one, anyway. FREE
City of Water Day – Governors Island & Liberty State Park in Jersey City
Saturday, July 20
This fantastic celebration of our local waterfront takes place on Governors Island, in New Jersey's Liberty State Park and on the water in between. Enjoy kayaking and canoeing, historic boat tours and live entertainment. Kids can also get up close and personal with reptiles and aquatic creatures, take fishing lessons, and enjoy landlubber favorites like arts and crafts, and bouncy castles. Plus, there's a free ferry between the two locations, so you can hit the fun on both banks. The no-cost boat rides are insanely popular and require preregistration. Tickets are currently available so book ASAP or you'll be stuck waiting in the standby line hoping for cancellations. This year, you are required to pay a $3 reservation fee per person, which will be refunded when you show up for the ride. Last year my daughter and her pal got to hoist the sails and take a ride on a sloop, and this year we're trying the Audubon Eco-Cruise. Yes, I already reserved my tickets! FREE
New Museum Block Party – Lower East Side
Sara D. Roosevelt Park, Chrystie Street between Delancey and Broome Streets
Saturday, July 20
The cutting-edge Bowery institution hosts live performances and interactive art in the nearby park, all inspired by current exhibitions. This year, families can make their own zines celebrating the history of the Bowery, create underwater creature trading cards, participate in a collaborative drawing project, paint American landscape postcards and see avant-garde dance performances. Need to escape to air conditioning? All festival-goers snag free passes to the museum for the day. FREE
SummerStage Kids Queens Family Day – Long Island City
Sunday, July 21
The second SummerStage Kids Family Day this month is in Long Island City's waterfront Queensbridge Park. Catch a tribute to Michael Jackson, the 10-piece PitchBlak Brass Band, which mixes hip-hop, jazz and rock styles, and groove at a Little Club Heads dance party. There will also be giveaways and other kids' activities. FREE
Lincoln Center Out of Doors Family Day – Upper West Side
Saturday, July 27
There are lots of eclectic no-cost performances throughout the summer at Lincoln Center Out of Doors but Family Day is the best offering for kids. In the afternoon, enjoy alfresco performances by the Brooklyn Youth Chorus, folk singer Elena Moon Park and a play-along concert with the classical Kronos Quartet. If you stick around until evening, you can catch Grammy-winning kid rocker Dan Zanes in a tribute to Lead Belly—a great way to introduce the brood to classic blues. FREE
NYC always has so many incredible things going on, it's difficult to choose. So here are ten more cool events (mostly FREE) that are worth considering for your July 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 Independence Day by watching Macy's 4th of July Fireworks on the Hudson River or heading to Coney Island to cheer on the competitors in the 98th annual Nathan's Famous Fourth of July International Hot Dog Eating Contest. Both FREE
Enjoy a wide variety of live entertainment, activities and religious services at the 125th annual Lady of Mount Carmel Giglio Feast, which runs July 10-21.
Watch the sun set straight down the NYC grid—a twice a year occurrence!—during Manhattanhendge on Friday, July 12 and Saturday, July 13. FREE
Hop a retro ride to Orchard Beach in the Bronx courtesy of the New York Transit Museum's Nostalgia Ride on Saturday, July 13.
Catch My City Park, a new musical by Making Books Sing, at public libraries throughout the five boroughs all summer long. FREE
There are a slew of outdoor film series in the summer but our favorite this month is Summer on the Hudson: Movies Under the Stars on Wednesday evenings, which is screening old-time musicals like Gold Diggers of 1933 on July 10, Duck Soup on July 17 and 5,000 fingers of Dr. T on July 24. FREE
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