Welcome to the first full month of summer and our jam-packed NYC July GoList. Our roundup of 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, top-notch music and circus performances at SummerStage Family Days in Queens, the Bronx and Central Park, and a no-cost concert by Randy Newman at Lincoln Center Out of Doors Family Day.
There are also some new-this-summer events that we're really excited to check out like Theatreworks USA's musical Skippyjon Jones Snow What and an interactive Hunger Games exhibition at Discovery Times Square.
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 15 things to do with kids in New York City this July, 11 of which are 100% FREE.
The Hunger Games: The Exhibition – Midtown West
Opens Wednesday, July 1
Fans of the hugely popular young-adult trilogy The Hunger Games should be ready to battle it out for a chance to experience this interactive installation inspired by the blockbuster movies. Explore the dystopian future world through immersive experiences and detailed set recreations. The exhibit features seven galleries where fans can explore Katniss' home in District 12, examine an interactive map of Panem, check out the Tribute Train, find out what it takes to Make the Games, and witness the revolution in District 13. You can also ogle the fantastic "Girl on Fire" and Mockingjay dresses, the iconic Mockingjay pin, Cinna's sketchbook and Katniss' famous bow.
Skippyjon Jones Snow What (& the 7 Chihuahuas) – West Village
Thursday, July 2-Friday, August 7
Every summer, the wonderful national children's theater company Theatreworks USA 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 and entertaining. This year's show is a sequel to the company's smash hit Skippyjon Jones from a few summers back. Based on another one of Judy Schachner's picture books, Skippyjon Jones Snow What (& the 7 Chihuahuas) chronicles the continuing imaginary adventures of the title Siamese cat who believes he's a Chihuahua. After hearing the fairy tale Snow White and the Seven Dwarves, Skippy transforms into his Zorro-like alter ego, Skippito Friskito, and sets off to rescue princess Nieve Qué with a little help from his pals, the Seven Chimichangos. 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, so don't bring one. FREE
SummerStage Kids Global Family Day – Central Park
Sunday, July 5
SummerStage Kids mounts multiple Family Days throughout the city, but the one in Central Park is always the main event. Shine & the Moonbeams, a kid-friendly R&B band we've been raving about for years, headlines the show this year. The lineup also includes dancer Batoto Yetu, the wacky fire-juggling comedy duo the Red Trouser Show, and the dance-music hybrid Ziporah Roney and Collaborative Artists. My daughter and I have gone to Global Family Day 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
Princess Phooey – Chelsea
Friday, July 10-Saturday, August 1
We're always raving about the classes, camps and shows at TADA! Youth Theater. That's because while most children's theater companies use adult actors, TADA! is made up of talented local youngsters ages 8 to 18 who star in three original musicals a year. The troupe's latest offering is Princess Phooey, a kooky musical fairy tale featuring a rebellious royal, her crazy chambermaids and stable boys, and an offbeat prince. Although it has a happy ending, it takes a wacky road to get there! Bonus: TADA! shows only run an hour (great for short attention spans) and kids really get a kick out of seeing their peers onstage. If your child is little, be sure to ask for a front-row bench seat.
Midsummer Night Swing: LC Kids Dance – Upper West Side
Saturday, July 11
Lincoln Center's three-week Midsummer Night's Swing is geared toward grown-ups but for one afternoon, kids are invited to put on their dancing shoes, too. At LC Kids Dance, children ages 6 to 10 can try some smooth new moves from Dancing Classrooms’ Rodney Lopez, star of the documentary Mad Hot Ballroom. Learn a few steps of swing, merengue, tango and salsa outdoors in Lincoln Center's Damrosch Park, and then enjoy a performance by the Dancing Classrooms Youth Dance Company. FREE
SummerStage Kids Bronx Family Day – South Bronx
Sunday, July 12
Hit St. Mary's Park for a concert by Latin Grammy nominee Mister G, a former indie rocker now crooning bilingual tunes for tots. Additional entertainment includes the Houston-based dance troupe Soul Street Dance and DJ Asho spinning AfroCuba-style songs. FREE
Bastille Day on East 60th Street – Upper East Side
Sunday, July 12
Celebrate French culture and cuisine at this annual outdoor fete hosted by the French Institute/Alliance Française. Taste freshly made crêpes and éclairs, enjoy live French music and mime performances, browse handmade wares at the market, check out classic Citroën cars, and hit the Kids’ Corner for face painting, and arts and crafts. There's also a raffle with amazing prizes like trips to France and New Orleans. Free admission but there are fees for certain activities.
City of Water Day – Governors Island & Hoboken
Saturday, July 18
This fantastic celebration of our local waterfront takes place in two main locations: on Governors Island and in Hoboken's Maxwell Place Park. But there are satellite events all over New York Harbor. 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. All boat tours require advance registration! Reservations go live on the City of Water Day website on Friday, July 10 at 1pm and they go fast! So make sure you log on ASAP in order to snag your spots. You're required to pay a $5 reservation fee per person, which will be refunded when you show up for the trip. At previous City of Water Day celebrations, my daughter and I have gone on the Sloop Clearwater, an NYC Audubon Eco-Cruise and the Schooner Pioneer. We can't wait to see which ship we take this year. FREE
Come Out & Play Family Day – Governors Island
Saturday, July 18
It's the tenth anniversary of the Come Out & Play festival of street games, and while most are aimed at adults, kids can get in on the action during Family Day on Governors Island (yup, it's happening concurrent with City of Water Day!). 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. Developed by ESI Design, the games are best suited for children ages 6 to 11 and their adult companions; however, for the first time there will also be a separate T.O.T.S. (Time Travelers of Tiny Size) area aimed at preschoolers that's sponsored by the TV show Poppy Cat. Guardians must sign waivers for all players under 18. All games run multiple times but participation is first come, first served. FREE
SummerStage Kids Queens Family Day – Long Island City
Sunday, July 19
The third SummerStage Kids Family Day of the month has a jazz-and-dance theme. Head to Long Island City's waterfront Queensbridge Park to catch hep tunes by trombonist Wycliffe Gordon, while Karisma Jay, Samuel Coleman and the revue B-Love’s Hip Hop Jazzy Groove provide dance-tastic thrills. FREE
Lincoln Center Out of Doors Family Day – Upper West Side
Saturday, July 25
The main event for kids during Lincoln Center's two-and-a-half-week Out of Doors fest, Family Day features 10 hours (!) of alfresco activities, including a Baby Loves Disco dance party, an interactive National Dance Day celebration and various performances. But the highlight for music lovers is an evening concert by Grammy and Oscar winner Randy Newman (just tell kids he wrote the theme song to Toy Story) and trombonist Wycliffe Gordon in Damrosch Park. FREE
Waterfight – Central Park
Saturday, July 25
Update: The Central Park Conservancy informed us that this event is not permitted and won't be allowed to happen. We contacted the organizers who said it will be moved to paved areas of Central Park to avoid damaging the Great Lawn. Click through for more details.
Although this epic water battle is aimed at adults, children under age 16 are welcome, assuming mom or dad tags along. And why wouldn't you? Getting completely soaked is one of the best things to do during a sweltering NYC summer! Bring your own water shooter—Super Soakers, traditional water guns, squirt guns and even spray bottles all qualify, just no balloons!—and cool off while having a blast. Although there will be a water supply, lines get long so it's smart to bring your own full water bottles as well as a trash bag to help clean up afterward. FREE
High Bridge Festival – Washington Heights & the Bronx
Saturday, July 25
Celebrate the historic High Bridge, which recently reopened to the public after being closed for more than 40 years. Connecting Upper Manhattan and the Bronx, NYC's oldest bridge (it was built in 1848!) offers stunning views from a very high vantage point. The Parks Department's fest takes place on both sides of the Harlem River, and features activities organized by more than a dozen local community groups. Enjoy walking tours, outdoor fitness clinics, public art, a scavenger hunt and other fun, and then explore the adjacent neighborhoods in Manhattan and the Bronx. If you stick around until 7pm, SummerStage is presenting a concert featuring Jose Virgilio Peña Sauza y la Banda Gorda in Highbridge Park. FREE
Kid-friendly Shows at the New York Musical Theatre Festival – Midtown West
Many hit musicals actually made their NYC debuts at this annual fest (like Tony and Pulitzer Prize-winner Next to Normal and one of my personal favorites, [title of show]). Though most selections are aimed at adults, this year's fest features two intriguing children's shows. Catch them now before they move on to bigger and better things (and higher ticket prices—right now they're all $27.50):
The Calico Buffalo – Wednesday, July 8, Friday, July 10, Saturday, July 11, Sunday, July 12 and Thursday, July 16
When the first-born son to the chief of all buffalo shows up covered with the markings of a calico cat, the entire nation is thrust into a big adventure. This musical fable features songs by Grammy Award-winning composer Peter Stopschinski.
Acapella – Tuesday, July 7, Friday, July 10, Saturday, July 11, Sunday, July 12 and Tuesday, July 14
A young gospel singer strikes out on his own and quickly sells out. But along the way, he has an epiphany, and returns to his family and friends to reconnect with his true voice.
NYC always has so many incredible things going on, it's difficult to choose. So here are 13 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 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 annual Lady of Mount Carmel Giglio Feast, which runs Wednesday, July 8 to Sunday, July 19.
Celebrate quality kid lit at the Queens Museum's Children’s Book Celebration on Saturday, July 11. Free with suggested museum admission
Check out four vintage buses from the '40s and '50s on Governors Island courtesy of the New York Transit Museum on Saturday, July 11 and Sunday, July 12. FREE
Gawk at amazing floral creations at the Festival de las Flores in Jackson Heights on Sunday, July 12. FREE
Watch the sun set straight down the NYC grid—a twice-a-year occurrence!—during Manhattanhenge on Sunday, July 12 (full sun) and Monday, July 13 (half sun). FREE
More New York Transit Museum fun: Go for an old-school ride on a Nostalgia Train bound for Coney Island on Saturday, July 18.
Find out about everything the Rubin Museum of Art has to offer at its Chelsea Block Party on Sunday, July 19. FREE
See Native American culture in action at the 36th annual Thunderbird American Indian Mid-summer Pow Wow at the Queens County Farm Museum Friday, July 24-Sunday, July 26.
Catch kids sharing their best rhymes at the New York Poetry Festival on Governors Island on Saturday, July 25 and Sunday, July 26. FREE
Explore Brooklyn Bridge Park's interactive installation Please Touch the Art and then enjoy creative Family Day activities with art educators on Sunday, July 26. FREE
See a free family flick at one of NYC's many outdoor film series this summer.