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Best Free NYC Swimming Pools for Toddlers and Kids

It's summertime and the livin' is easy—beaches, sprinklers, and awesome days at the playground. Oh the hard life of a New York City kid. And now, the NYC Parks Department is poised to open its outdoor pools on Thursday, June 29, 2017, the day after public schools let out.

We've rounded up our picks for the best free pools in the city. These are all places we've visited personally, or have come highly recommended by families we know. But the city hosts more than 50 outdoor pools this summer, so it will be hard not to find one you like. Time to get swimming!

Best Beaches Near NYC for a Dreamy Family Daycation

Summertime means beach time, but while there are lots of shores near and even in NYC, some are more family friendly than others. After packing up your gear and schlepping the kids by car, train, bus, or ferry, the last thing you want to find out is that your chosen beach has no bathroom or that bathing suits are optional. Skip the guesswork with our roundup of these seven beaches for NYC families, including detailed info on attractions, food, bathrooms, and hidden costs. Most are within two hours of Manhattan by car and are easily accessible via public transportation as well, so you can plot a great staycation for your brood.

Find more beach fun in our Beaches, Pools, and Water Playgrounds Guide, or check out these summer day trip ideas.

Free Outdoor Kids Music Concert Series in NYC This Summer

While lots of New York City's fantastic seasonal events are kid appropriate, children hold a special place in their hearts for music. And what's better than not just one but a series of spectacular, outdoor, family-friendly and FREE music performances?

It's likely that your neighborhood parks, playgrounds, piers and plazas right around the corner have a kiddie-filled line-up throughout the summer, so scroll, click, and set reminders with your favorites. With top family bands playing annual series like Mad. Sq. Kids and SummerStage Family Workshops, you're sure to find something everyone can wiggle to from one week to the next. We've already told you about the great concerts playing in June for NYC kids, and now we're rounding up the rest of the summer with concerts in July and August to keep the kids grooving all summer!

For specific family concert picks, check out our roundups of the best performances, or you can find even more family fun in our jam-packed Summer Guide.

Register for Free Swimming Lessons for NYC Kids

The New York City Parks Department offers FREE aquatic programs for children under 18 all year round, as well as adults, but you have to apply through an online lottery for each session. Summer swimming lessons are on the horizon; the lottery for the first two-week session opened on Monday, June 12 and runs through Sunday, June 25.

Summer swimming takes place in NYC's many outdoor pools, which open Thursday June 29, and are held each day during a session, meaning it's a great summer vacation activity to fill up the day for kids out of school.

Read on for the details on where to swim for free, or check our directory of paid kid swim classesmommy-and-me swim lessons for babies and toddlers, including those specifically in Brooklyn and in Queens.

Best Events for Preschoolers in NYC This Summer – Mostly Free!

Summer may be the best time to have a preschooler in New York City. Yes, the days are longer, but there is so much to do! From free concerts and festivals to swimming, sand-sculpting, and star-gazing, not a week goes by without outings and activities that will truly make lasting summer memories.

With this list of our best picks for summer events with your preschooler, you’ll find yourself wanting to stay in town to take advantage of it all. Best of all? It's almost all FREE.

Check out our Summer Fun Guide for NYC Kids for more to do for every age in every borough.

Macy's July 4th Fireworks 2017: Where to See Them in NYC

Macy's is gearing up for its annual July 4th fireworks in New York City. On Tuesday, July 4, 2017, fireworks will light up the sky over the East River, and the show promises to be bigger than ever as it celebrates its 41st anniversary. Spectators should be able to catch the show from many neighborhoods in Midtown Manhattan as well as parts of Brooklyn and Queens, but there are some important changes afoot this year.

The fireworks will take to the sky along the East River near Midtown. More than 60,000 are scheduled to burst forth at a rate of 2,200 per minute and all will be synchronized to a soundtrack of patriotic standards. New-in-2017 effects will include never-before-featured shells like color-changing chrysanthemums and happy faces in an eye-popping array of colors.

If you're hoping to watch Macy's 4th of July Fireworks live, it's never too early to start planning your viewing strategy. Tickets for paid viewing options like Fourth of July Fireworks cruises are already on sale and going fast. Of course, you don't need to spend a penny to see the sparklers, but there are some important things to know before you go. We've got the scoop on how to find the best places to watch, when to go, and what to bring.

And don't forget, there are frequent fireworks shows in NYC during the summer, from Coney Island to Central Park. Read our roundup of where else to see cool displays this summer.

9 Play Fountains Where NYC Kids Can Get Totally Soaked

While all three of my kids love to go for a dip, heading to one of NYC's public pools requires advance planning and me donning a bathing suit. Often, our summer fun is more spontaneous. For those hot summer days when we're out and about or need a last-minute distraction, I keep this list of play fountains in the back of my mind.

A more immersive experience than standard sprinkler parks, these play fountains feature shallow pools of water for wading, plus jets shooting H2O sky high. They're the perfect place for kids to frolic and get completely doused without mommy having to go all in—literally. Best of all? It's all completely FREE.

Here are nine fun play fountains in NYC where kids can get absolutely soaked. Most open for the season over Memorial Day weekend, though some start flowing earlier if temperatures hit 80 degrees.

Whale Watching Boats for NYC Kids: See Dolphins and Whales

Most New Yorkers were entranced back in 2014 when the unexpected happened—a humpback whale surfaced in New York Harbor and not only survived, he (or she) toured the city for days. My office was all abuzz, and my daughter and I tracked the whale on social media. (Who says New Yorkers hate tourists?)

When I moved to New York 20 years ago, I'd never have dreamed that we'd have healthy marine life frolicking in our waters, but apparently, whales started appearing in 2010. The numbers have increased exponentially every year since, which is great news for urban kids who want to see a whale outside of the American Museum of Natural History.

We've rounded up four local whale watching cruises, all about a two-and-a-half-hour drive from NYC. (One is even in Queens!). And if you want to make a vacation out of it, we've got the scoop on the best place for a whale-watching weekend getaway on the East Coast. 

Special Needs Programs and Classes for New York City Kids

Some kids take so many extra-curricular activities they barely have time to play, but for other kids, after-school classes can be a challenge. Whether your child has a developmental challenge, disability, or disorder, or they just struggle with all things organized, the slew of general after-school activities might not work well for them. Luckily, no matter how small or great a child's challenges may be, NYC offers a number of options for children of every ability.

We've rounded up more than two dozen great classes for kids with a special need or disability. Don't forget to ask about summer camps and holiday mini camps. Many of these programs offer them, too.

Check out our NYC Special Needs Guide for more ideas, programs and services, including sensory gyms, support groups, and sensory activities.

Best Family Hotels in New York City with Perks for Kids

As a born and bred New Yorker who is raising children here myself, my out-of-town friends always ask my advice when planning their NYC family vacation. They want to know everything: the best things to do, places to eat, museums to explore and, perhaps most importantly, where to stay.

New York City is, of course, loaded with hotels, many of which are kid-friendly. And while it's nice to have options, there are so many it can feel overwhelming. That's why we've compiled this list of 16 NYC hotels for families based on a combination of personal experience, trusted recommendations from friends and great reputations. Some have pools, others offer gratis strollers, while a number of our choices are located smack next to top kid attractions; some are more budget-friendly and others a splurge.

Our picks aren't all in Midtown Manhattan. We included places to stay with kids in downtown Manhattan, the Upper West Side, and Upper East Side, and even hotels that are in hot neighborhoods in Brooklyn and Queens.

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