Summer Streets 2016: Car-Free Fun for NYC Kids

Summer Streets in Manhattan

For the ninth year in a row, New York City is hosting Summer Streets on three consecutive Saturdays. On August 6, 13 and 20 from 7am to 1pm, the Department of Transportation closes Lafayette Street and Park Avenue to motor vehicles from the Manhattan side of the Brooklyn Bridge to 72nd Street so people can enjoy cycling, scootering, skateboarding or strolling. Plus, there's lots of entertainment and attractions along the way.

My family and I look forward to Summer Streets every year, and we always make sure to attend at least one of the Saturdays. We're big urban bike riders, so we really make the most of the long, safe, car-less route.

You can join Summer Streets anywhere along the route. The DOT has a detailed map that shows rest stops and open cross streets.

At 72nd Street, Summer Streets connects to Central Park, so cyclists can bike uptown and then over to the West Side Greenway (the one time you'll see cars), creating a giant loop. If you're so inclined, you can enjoy a lovely long ride from Harlem to Governors Island without having to deal with cars for almost the whole way.

The route is divided into two sections north and south of Union Square. The uptown section is best for kids, since Park Avenue is nice and wide, and has a median strip. In my experience, the downtown section tends to get overcrowded. I actually had a collision with another biker there a few years back.

There are always wonderful activities at every rest stop, and there's signage along the route to let you know what's coming up. The Uptown Rest Stop (53rd Street) houses the popular zipline in 2016; the Midtown Rest Stop (26th Street) doles out a variety of food samples; the Astor Place Rest Stop offers pet-friendly fun with a pop-up doggie park, and in Soho (Spring Street) you can participate in a variety of fitness classes. The biggest draw happens at the Foley Square Rest Stop where the popular slide from 2015 returns. Rides on the 270-foot slide are free, but require advance registration. As always, there will be places to rent rollerblades and bikes and tons of entertainment to enjoy. There will be walking tours and architecture and art maps to craft your own tour as well as fitness classes, basketball and soccer stations, learn-to-ride classes, bike helmet fittings, arts & crafts activities, and much more. 

Building on the success of Summer Streets, the DOT is also sponsoring Shared Streets on Saturday, August 13. From 11am-4pm, a section of Lower Manhattan will have speed limits lowered to 5mph so that bikers, pedestrians and vehicular traffic can all enjoy the neighborhood from Broadway to Water Street and Park Row to State Street. 

There are always marketing booths, too, and it's worth hitting them for freebies like gift cards, snack samples and more. You can find a comprehensive list of attractions and activities on the Department of Transportation website.

If you plan to enjoy Summer Streets on wheels, here are some things to keep in mind:

-- Bring your water bottle. There are water fountains at all the rest stops so refilling is easy.

-- Remind your kids that they'll need to stop at some cross streets for crosstown traffic. Crossing guards with stop signs will be on hand to signal bikers and pedestrians.

-- Summer Streets ends at 1pm, so make sure you don't find yourself mid-ride as cars and trucks take back the roads. Definitely bring your MetroCard in case you need to make a quick getaway.

-- The only "hill" you'll encounter is by the MetLife Building, which is pretty cool to ride through. Make sure young bikers know how to stop and are comfortable going downhill.

As always in New York City there are lots of fun things to see along the way.

Tandem bikes are a common sight during Summer Streets.

Kids taking a crafting break at one of the rest stops.

IMG_0833.jpgI've been coveting this cargo bike ever since I saw it at Summer Streets.

IMG_0835.jpgThe water fountains are plentiful.

IMG_0842.jpgNo kid is too young to enjoy Summer Streets.

For additional seasonal fun, check out our Summer Fun Guide.

This post was originally published in August 2010.