Welcome to one of our favorite weekends of the year when summer officially arrives! There are lots of FREE ways to celebrate the new season. Throw on your best sea-themed costumes for the annual Mermaid Parade in Coney Island, board a vintage vessel and hit the water at Tribeca's North River Historic Ship Festival or head to Central Park for some athletic outdoor Adventures NYC.
There's also some great culture on tap for the weekend, like a pair of art fests in Queens—the QAX Block Party in Astoria and the Jackson Heights Arts Festival—plus the kickoff of the Carroll Park Kids' Concert Series with the ukelele stylings of Mil's Trills.
Speaking of cool music, Friday brings Make Music NYC, a one-day festival featuring hundreds of FREE public concerts throughout the five boroughs, including kids' bands and local schools. Browse the full schedule or just keep your eyes and ears open.
And don't forget to book your tickets to Mommy Poppins' special family event next Saturday: Ships, Sails and Tales of the Sea with Bill Gordh & Manhattan by Sail. Join us on a fun-filled 90-minute cruise on New York Harbor with master storyteller Bill Gordh and his banjo, an eye-spy scavenger hunt with the New-York Historical Society's DiMenna Children's History Museum and other enriching fun.
All of our best bets for this weekend are below. You can find additional options in our Event Calendar and our Summer Fun Guide.
North River Historic Ship Festival – Tribeca
Head to Pier 25 to tour historic ships like the Lehigh Valley Barge No.79, the 1904 tugboat Pegasus and the Coast Guard Lighthouse Tender Lilac, and learn about nautical life. Or go out on the water on the John J. Harvey fireboat or the Pegasus. Read our post for additional details about the fest. Most activities are FREE and first come, first served.
Cuban Cultural Fest – Hudson Square
Celebrate Cuban culture at the Children's Museum of the Arts. Enjoy live entertainment by Alex Fernandez Fox and Manny, and Rumba Tap by Max Pollak and Cuban Afro Dance by Rebecca Bliss. Then get creative with Cuban-themed animations, flower sculptures and Guiro instruments. Free with admission: $11
Saturday, June 22
The Mermaid Parade – Coney Island
Mark the summer solstice at this annual sea-themed celebration. Put on your best aquatic outfits or just come as you are and cheer on the decked-out showgirls, funky floats and vintage cars. Since Coney Island is still bouncing back from Hurricane Sandy, we expect this year's Mermaid Parade to be particularly off the fishhook. New this year: An earlier 1pm start time, and comedian Judah Friedlander as King Neptune and Real Housewives' Carole Radziwill as Queen Mermaid. Afterward, stay and enjoy all the family fun Coney has to offer. Three things to keep in mind: The parade is insanely crowded, there is mild nudity and there's nowhere to park, so take the subway. FREE
Adventures NYC – Upper East Side
Lace up your sneakers for a day of outdoor fun co-presented by the NYC Parks Department and Backpacker Magazine. Head to the Central Park band shell to try rock climbing, kayaking, fly fishing casting, standup paddle boarding, cycling, yoga and a few "winter in the summer" activities. There will also be bike helmet giveaways, live music and other entertainment. FREE
Solar One Family Day: Pollinators & Food – Kips Bay
Solar One, the green energy, arts and education center in Stuyvesant Cove Park, hosts its annual family fest. Kids can hand-crank ice cream, plant a native salad garden, create eco-themed art and other nature-inspired activities. FREE
Field Day – Brooklyn Heights
Get your game on at Brooklyn Bridge Park's Pier 5 with friendly soccer and volleyball play, an obstacle course and a tug of war competition. FREE
QAX Block Party – Astoria
The Queens Council on the Arts is throwing an art-filled block party with a slew of creative projects. Paint Jackson Pollock-style using brushes suspended from a fishing pole, or attach markers to remote-control cars and send them zooming across the canvas. There will also be live music and dancing, hands-on activities sponsored by Materials from the Arts and a ribbon cutting for the Council's new space at Kaufman Astoria Studios. FREE
Jackson Heights Art Festival – Jackson Heights
More cool art in Queens: Head to Diversity Plaza to help clean, green and paint the popular public space, after which local writers, artists and musicians will perform and host a variety of interactive activities. FREE
Starfish – Midtown West
Hit Bryant Park for an outdoor concert by this all-dad rock 'n' roll band, part of the Word for Word Kids summer series. FREE
Seining the River Wild – Dumbo
Learn about the ecosystem under the Manhattan Bridge with staff from the Coastal Marine Resource Center, who'll help kids catch, log and release fish and other East River creatures. FREE
Hawaiian Festival – Tribeca
Hawaiian Airlines is sponsoring the Liberty Challenge, the largest outrigger canoe race on the East Coast. But the main attraction for families is the concurrent festival in Hudson River Park, which features live Hawaiian music, dance and storytelling performances, Maori singing and vendors selling Polynesian wares. Afterward, hit nearby Pier 25 to romp in the popular playground or play a round of mini golf. FREE
Family Day – Harlem
Head to Morris-Jumel Mansion in Roger Morris Park to play colonial games, make old-fashioned crafts, take kid-friendly tours and enjoy the summer solstice in the period garden. FREE
Folktales of the Yoruba People – East Harlem
Experience this ancient West African culture through storytelling, music and art-making at this interactive El Museo del Barrio workshop. FREE
Inti Raymi: Festival of the Sun – Financial District
Celebrate this ancient fest at the National Museum of the American Indian by making a gold foil pendant with an image of a sun. FREE
Summer Fest – Jamaica
The King Manor Museum throws its annual end-of-the-school-year fete featuring old-school crafts and food making, including period ice cream! FREE.
Family Day at the Center: FitNation – Greenwich Village
Explore the Center for Architecture Foundation's latest exhibit to see how U.S. cities are encouraging their residents to stay active. Afterward, create a plan for NYC. Preregistration required. $20 per family
See all Saturday events.
Sunday, June 23
Mil's Trills – Carroll Gardens
Brooklyn's popular Carroll Park Kids' Concert Series kicks off today with the local singer/songwriter and her ukelele. There will also be fun kids' activities organized by the resourceful families of P.S. 58. Free for the concert but there are fees for food and activities.
Summer Solstice Celebration – Flushing
Welcome summer at the Queens Botanical Garden with a bird and nature walk, composting demos, a community art project, seed planting and face painting. Free with admission: $4 for adults, $2 for children ages 3 and up
A Clearing in Forest – Upper West Side
Central Park's family performance series continues today with a performance of the puppet show Little Superhero by Talking Hands Theater. FREE
See all Sunday events.
Are you a member of Kids Club Thirteen? It certainly has its privileges, including free admission to 13 tri-state area events throughout the year. Today, members can head to Connecticut's Stamford Museum & Nature Center to explore its bats exhibit, visit with the farm animals or go on a nature hike. Read our post about Kids Club Thirteen for details on member benefits and how to join. Free for Kids Club Thirteen members.
On Sunday, head to Terhune Orchards in Princeton, NJ for its evening firefly festival featuring games, music, wagon rides and firefly hunting.
If you haven’t had a chance to go strawberry picking yet, you better hurry! The season is quickly coming to a close. We have a roundup of great pick-your-own-farms near NYC but be sure to call ahead to confirm they're open and still have fruit.
Don't forget: There's even more fun to be found in our Event Calendar.