100 Free Things to Do in NYC this Summer With Kids

City of Water celebrates NYC's long history as a port and water-bound metropolis. Photo courtesy of the Waterfront Alliance
City of Water celebrates NYC's long history as a port and water-bound metropolis. Photo courtesy of the Waterfront Alliance

Summer is the season of FREE in NYC—and here it comes. There's no-cost fun everywhere you turn, from festivals and concerts to kayaking, movies, and more. With the public school break upon us, and the kids itching to play (and swim), we've rounded up FREE things for families to do every single day of summer vacation. Starting with Saturday, June 26, and running all the way through Sunday, September 12 (it's not summer without the Mermaid Parade!), we've compiled the best FREE things to do with kids in NYC all summer!

Of course, this list isn't comprehensive. There are literally hundreds of FREE fun events happening across our city this school break. You can find more cool seasonal activities and destinations in our Summer Fun Guide, including beach day trips, FREE splash pads, and more. Check out our Activity Calendar for more fun happenings.

Still searching for a summer camp for a week or two? Check out our NYC Summer Camp Guide.

Many events occur on multiple dates, so be sure to click through to the event listing or more information. We’ve also rounded up several anytime activities your family can try all season long. Whatever you end up doing in the city this summer, there's only one rule: Have fun out there.

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Free Things to Do in June & July 2021

See free August events | See free September events | See free anytime events

Saturday, June 26 Essex Market invites families to celebrate the onset of summer with live music, kids' activities, and a gift box raffle.

Sunday, June 27 Celebrate National Caribbean-American Heritage Month at a concert featuring the only instrument invented in the 20th century: Steelpan drums.

Monday, June 28 Catch a screening of The Lego Movie 2: The Second Part under the stars in Brooklyn's St. Andrew's Playground.

Tuesday, June 29 Flex those little green thumbs with an intro to organic gardening in Rockefeller Park.

Wednesday, June 30 Brooklyn Conservatory Community Orchestra pays tribute to Haydn, Dvorak, and the Bruch violin concerto outdoors as the sun sets at the Old Stone House.

Thursday, July 1 Try Salsa dancing in the glade at Little Island Park.

Friday, July 2 Introduce the kids to opera when Carmen brings her gypsy soprano to Bryant Park.

Saturday, July 3 Learn the history of Latin boogaloo, or bugalú, during a Spanglish Fly concert on The GREEN at Lincoln Center.

Macy's free Fourth of July Fireworks
The nation’s largest Independence Day celebration is back live from New York City. Photo by Kent Miller for Macy's

Sunday, July 4 There's no place better to celebrate Independence Day than (socially distanced) shoulder to shoulder with other New Yorkers watching the Macy's 4th of July fireworks. Note: Vaccinated viewers can claim viewing spots on the elevated portions of the FDR Drive.

Monday, July 5 Madison Square Park and Carnegie Hall team up to offer music-loving families tunes inspired by nature, performed by Ensemble Connect.

Tuesday, July 6 The Public Theater rolls back into the Delacorte Theater with Merry Wives, a contemporary take on Shakespeare's Merry Wives of Windsor. The show runs through Sunday, August 29.

Wednesday, July 7 Everyone loves a parade, especially one that celebrates Health Care Heroes. Pay homage to the everyday New Yorkers who kept the city running during the pandemic at a ticker-tape parade through the Canyon of Heroes.

Thursday, July 8 The River & Blues Concert series presents tunes framed by summer sunsets on the Hudson. Thursdays through July 29.

Friday, July 9 Applaud young filmmakers from NYC's Public Schools at the 3rd Annual Public School Film Fest. 32 short films get the "Movies Under the Stars" treatment each night this weekend: Friday in Queens, Saturday in Manhattan, and Sunday in Brooklyn.

Saturday, July 10 Hit the city shoreline and the water beyond for one of our favorite annual fests, City of Water Day.

Sunday, July 11 Brooklyn Bridge Park provides the backdrop for two Open Studios' open-air working rehearsals, culminating with a honed performance of their original works.

Monday, July 12 Did someone say family competition night? Get your game on under the Dumbo Archway, with giant Jenga and Connect Four.

Tuesday, July 13 Ready for another round of updated Shakespeare? Will Power's Seize the King reinterprets Richard III with a modern flair in Marcus Garvey Park.

Wednesday, July 14 Leo Sussman conducts a haunting performance in Madison Square Park, themed to Maya Lin's Ghost Forest.

Bryant Park Bubble Man's free performance
Visit the BubbleMan in Bryant Park. Photo courtesy of Bryant Park

Thursday, July 15 Who can resist bubbles, especially when they're bigger than the average human? Bryant Park gets all soapy with Bubble Shows on Thursdays, through August 12.

Friday, July 16 It's Teen Night at Little Island, so send your sweet (or surly) high schooler to the Glade to see catch a showcase of peer talent.

Saturday, July 17 What's summer without a Cyrcus? On Tuesdays in July, dancers, circus artists, musicians and mimes perform pop-up vignettes for the lunchtime crowd at Brooklyn Commons.

Visist Wavertree for free
Explore The Tall Ship Wavertree—just make sure to make a reservation. Photo courtesy of the South Street Museum

Sunday, July 18 Avast, ahoy, aye-aye, captain! The Tall Ship Wavertree is anchored at the Seaport and offers self-guided tours of the outdoor areas, main deck, and quarter deck.

Monday, July 19 Hang out with a librarian to hear new stories and old favorites read aloud.

Tuesday, July 20 Bring a mat and some water to Randall's Island on Tuesdays through September 14 to find inner peace, at least for an hour or so.

Wednesday, July 21 Brooklyn's Leonard Library invites kids to clamber into the garden for stories, songs, and rhymes.

Thursday, July 22 Wander through the lovely Riverside Park and take in the season-long, park-wide public art exhibit Re: Growth. Be sure to check out its lovely playgrounds, too.

Friday, July 23 March to a different drum on Friday evenings, when Sunset on the Hudson's drumming circle conjures African, Latin, and Caribbean Rhythms.

Saturday, July 24 Governors Island waxes iambic pentameter at the weekend-long New York Poetry Festival, where kids can channel their inner Yeats, or Cummings.

Sunday, July 25 Get fit with Chelsea Piers trainers in Brooklyn Bridge Park.

Monday, July 26 Enjoy story time in the great outdoors at the BPL's New Lots Library.

Tuesday, July 27 The City Parks Puppet Mobile pops up at the Hansborough Rec Center with a show featuring songs from many of the Swedish Cottage Marionette Theater's greatest hits.

Go kayaking in NYC's waterways for free
Kids can kayak for free in Brooklyn Bridge Park. Photo courtesy of the park

Wednesday, July 28 Find out what floats your boat and take the kids for an evening kayak ride in Brooklyn Bridge Park.

Thursday, July 29 Swing and sway to the sounds of Rev. Sekou & The Freedom Fighters at the River & Blues Concert Series in Robert F. Wagner Park.

Friday, July 30 Pack a picnic and stake out your spot on the lawn at Bryant Park for a Picnic Performance from Adrienne Warren and Friends.

Saturday, July 31 Nab some free tickets to the Restart Stages Concert featuring Elena Moon Park performing folk songs from across the globe.

See free August events | See free September events | See free anytime events

Check out our Summer Fun Guide and our Event Calendar for additional suggestions.

A version of this story was published in 2017; it is updated annually.

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