Every year, the long "home stretch" between spring break and summer vacation seems like a torturous marathon of end-of-year concerts, award ceremonies, and late nights running around followed by early morning lunch-packing woes and kids who, thanks to the longer hours of daylight, stayed up past bedtime...again.
But take heart, the finish line is in sight, bringing with it adventurous summer camp days and afternoons to while away at your favorite playground or water park. We're officially summer dreaming, and you're the beneficiary. We're sharing our list of 50 things we can't wait to do this summer. They're a mix of annual favorites and new openings, plus more more seasonal happenings that prove the best vacation may just be a staycation.
1. Explore New York City's newest neighborhood, Hudson Yards, climbing the stairs at The Vessel, taking in cool art at The Shed and Snark Park, and exploring the neighboring park.
Hop aboard the ferry to Governors Island. Photo by Sara M.
2. Catch a ferry to Governors Island and explore all the free, fun, family programming, including the City Volcano Lab and STEM Kids NYC workshops.
3. Go kayaking or canoeing in New York Harbor. We're particularly fond of Red Hook Boaters at Valentino Park Pier. Follow up with a visit to Steve's Authentic Key Lime Pie.
Go on a Dinosaur Safari at the Bronx Zoo. Photo courtesy of the zoo
4. Take a step back in time to the land of the dinosaurs at the Bronx Zoo.
5. Revel in the car-free fun during Summer Streets.
6. Bounce off the walls when the World's Largest Bounce House makes a stop in Brooklyn.
7. Feast your way through the international eats at the Queens Night Market.
8. Explore the blossoms, blooms and the tropical installation inspired by artist and landscape architect Roberto Burle Marx at the New York Botanical Garden.
9. Drop in to Industry City to check out its lively lineup of summer happenings, including the return of the roller rink, a rocking kid-friendly concert series, and much more.
NYC might be big city, but it's also got some pretty amazing beaches. Photo by Sara M.
10. Swipe your MetroCard and catch a train to the beach, or for more adventure, hop a ferry.
11. Refuel for your fun-in-the-sun with a visit to the Riis Park Beach Bazaar.
Cool down at Chelsea Waterside Playground. Photo by Jody Mercier
12. Walk The High Line and then explore the recently renovated Chelsea Waterside Playground nearby.
13. Play tourist for a day and visit the Statue of Liberty. A brand new museum and expanded ferry service debuts just in time for the season!
14. Blow bedtime to catch a summer movie series. We're especially big fans of the showings on the flight deck of the Intrepid.
Check out the interactive adventure Pip's Island. Photo courtesy of the production
15. See the recently opened Pip's Island where kids take center stage in an interactive adventure.
16. Pack a blanket and dine al fresco at Green-Wood Cemetary's popular Night at Niblo's Garden picnics.
17. Walk the boardwalk at Coney Island, indulge in carnival eats, get an up close view of the sharks, and fly high on Luna Park's new attractions.
18. Catch a ball game at Yankee Stadium, Citi Field or one of the minor league affiliates in Staten Island and Brooklyn.
19. Forget day camp: Check out Cooking CAMP, the new theme at the wildly popular store and play space in the Flatiron District.
20. Take the plunge (or some lessons) at one of the city's free public pools.
21. Catch a concert and fireworks courtesy of the New York Philharmonic Concerts in the Parks.
You can't beat the slide at Billy Johnson Playground. Photo by Jody Mercier
22. Whizz down the slide at Central Park's Billy Johnson Playground, which just underwent an upgrade.
23. Spend a day exploring the fabulous playgrounds in Brooklyn Bridge Park, then finish with a waterfront dinner overlooking the skyline at Fornino.
24. Explore the New York Hall of Science, visit its brain-boosting playground, and celebrate the 50th anniversary of Apollo 11 with space-themed programming.
25. Cool off in the Prospect Park splash pad tat Lefrak, or at one of these other kid-friendly play fountains.
26. Spot sailors and cool naval vessels during the annual Fleet Week festivities over Memorial Day Weekend.
Beat the heat with a trip to Sugar Hill Creamery. Photo by Jody Mercier
27. Turn down the heat with a sweet treat from one of the mom-and-pop ice cream shops within the five boroughs. Some of our favorites: Harlem's Sugar Hill Creamery, the ever-growing local chain, Ample Hills Creamery, and Brooklyn's Blue Marble. Another option: Check out one of these convenient-to-playground scoop shops.
28. Toast the birth of our country while joining the throngs of onlookers at the Macy's Fourth of July Fireworks.
29. Curl up with a good book at the brand new independent bookstore The Lit Bar.
30. Develop a new appreciation for the waterways within city limits at the annual City of Water Day.
31. Climb the sugar-factory inspired, multi-tiered playground at Domino Park in Williamsburg.
32. Explore the waterfront communities of Queens, from the stunning views at Hunter's Point Park South to the artful Socrates Sculpture Garden and its surroundings.
Bryant Park has great children's programming during the summer months. Photo by Jody Mercier
33. Enjoy a green oasis in Midtown's Bryant Park, with its reading room, game nook, ping pong tables, movie nights, lunchtime Broadway performances, and more.
34. Dance away the evening at the annual BRIC Celebrate Brooklyn! Festival.
35. Pitch a tent with the Urban Park Rangers and camp in a local park.
36. Build a sand castle at one of these destination sandboxes.
Listen to a story at Citi Summer in the Square.
37. Catch a kid-friendly concert or yoga class, hear a story, do arts and crafts and more at Union Square's Citi Summer in the Square.
If you need more adventure after the Dinosaur Safari then head to the Treetop Adventure Course at the Bronx Zoo. Photo by Jody Mercier
38. Challenge your fear of heights at the Alley Pond Adventure Course or the Bronx Zoo's Treetop Adventure.
39. Catch the first Friday City Island Land Ferry and explore the New England-inspired seaside retreat.
40. Explore the recently renovated DeSalvio Playground in NoLita, and then seek out some gelato in Little Italy.
41. Sit back and relax as the Metropolitan Opera Summer Recital Series visits a park near you for an alfresco concert.
42. Or catch the Classical Theater of Harlem's The Bacchae playing in July in Marcus Garvey Park.
Watch a match at the US Open. Photo courtesy of the USTA
43. See the world's top tennis players when the US Open comes to town taking over Flushing Meadows Corona Park.
44. Take the ferry to Staten Island and stick around to explore the oft-forgotten borough.
45. Lounge in the shade of the trees at the newly remodeled Safari Playground. It gets bonus points for eye candy: There's a stunning view of the reservoir from here!
46. See how many of the city's spectacular carousels you can twirl on before back-to-school.
47. Enjoy a sunshine-filled story time at the Hans Christian Andersen statue.
48. Let the kids roll up their sleeves and get to work with some hands-on, creative fun at Governors Island's The Yard.
49. Seek out some furry friends in Riverside Park, when a herd of goats takes up residence as summer weed whackers.
50. See how many of our 100 Things to do With NYC Kids Before They Grow Up you can cross off!