Summer is the season of FREE in NYC—and here it comes. There's no-cost fun everywhere you turn, from festivals, outdoor movies, and concerts, to kayaking and fireworks. 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 Wednesday, June 27 and running all the way through Wednesday, September 5, 2018, 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 Events Calendar for more events.
Still searching for a summer camp for a week or two? Check out our NYC summer camp directory and guide.
Many events in this listing occur on multiple dates, so be sure to read through the entire description. We’ve also rounded up a number of 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.
Free Things to Do in June & July 2018
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Wednesday, June 27 Kick off the greatest summer with The Greatest Showman, playing at J. Hood Wright Park in Upper Manhattan.
Live the life of a nocturnal animal at Prospect Park's Nature at Night program. Photo courtesy of the park
Thursday, June 28 Blow bedtime and take part in the Prospect Park Nature at Night program. You'll meet the animals in the Audubon Center's collection as well as the nocturnal wildlife in the park.
Friday, June 29 Head to the backlot at Kaufman Astoria Studios, where you can enjoy a Broadway in the Boroughs performance from the casts of Beautiful and Once on this Island. Follow-up with a trip to the Museum of the Moving Image, which will offer FREE admission to concert attendees beginning at 1pm.
Saturday, June 30 Catch New York Classical Theater's presentation of Romeo and Juliet outdoors in Rockefeller Park.
Children (and creativity) rule in The Yard on Governors Island. Photo courtesy of Governors Island
Sunday, July 1 Let kids run amok in The Yard, Governors Island's adventure playground where parents are kept at a distance.
Monday, July 2 Pack a picnic and spread your blanket on the lawn at Bryant Park to enjoy the weekly movie festival. This week's pick: A League of Their Own.
Tuesday, July 3 Return to Bryant Park for a special story time and check out all the other fun on offer at the Midtown green space.
Wednesday, July 4 There's no place better to celebrate Independence Day than on the banks of the East River watching the Macy's 4th of July fireworks.
Thursday, July 5 It's off to Never Land (or the Old Stone House in JJ Byrne Playground, anyway) for Piper Theater's Production of Wendy Darling & Peter Pan.
Friday, July 6 Hop aboard the City Island Seaside Trolley and spend an afternoon exploring the quaint isle.
The Hot Dog Bus will serve up free hot dogs all summer. Photo courtesy of the Public Art Fund
Saturday, July 7 Nab a FREE hot dog in Brooklyn Bridge Park when the Hot Dog Bus serves up links with a side of cool public art.
Challenge yourself at the Alley Pond Adventure Course. Photo courtesy of NYC Parks
Sunday, July 8 Conquer your fear of heights on the Alley Pond Adventure Course in Queens.
Monday, July 9 Holy moly, Rolie Polie Guacamole plays a FREE concert in JJ Byrne Playground as part of their summer-long residency.
Tuesday, July 10 Head to Scandinavia House for a celebration of the Lego brick's 60th anniversary with a collection of sculptures and mosaics by Lego Certified Professional artist Sean Kenney, as well as interactive play zones.
The Madison Square Park Summer Concert series is a big hit with the whole family. Photo courtesy of the park
Wednesday, July 11 Catch the opening of the Madison Square Park Kids summer concert series when Suzie Shelton takes the stage.
Thursday, July 12 Enjoy Citi's Summer in the Square activities, including Art Farm Animals and a concert from Hot Peas 'n Butter.
Friday, July 13 Head to Hudson River Park's Pier 46 to catch Moana on the big (inflatable) screen.
RELATED: Best Events for Preschoolers This Summer — Mostly Free!
Build a cardboard boat and enjoy a race at City of Water Day. Photo courtesy of Governors Island
Saturday, July 14 Hit the city shoreline and the water beyond for one of our favorite annual fests, City of Water Day, featuring boat rides and a family festival. The best part: It's all FREE, though boat rides require advance registration and a small deposit.
Create beautiful art at the Rubin Museum's Family Sundays. Photo courtesy of the museum
Sunday, July 15 Embark on an "inner journey" with the Rubin Museum's Family Sundays program. After perusing the art, map your own journey to a person, place, or time you'd like to visit.
Monday, July 16 Preschoolers will have a ball at the preschool play session at Wagner Park. Sing songs, listen to stories, and enjoy open play with toys (all without messing up your own apartment!).
Tuesday, July 17 Journey to the Caribbean with the Cumbe: Center for African and Diaspora Dance as it performs an interactive Afro-Caribbean music class in Fort Greene Park.
Wednesday, July 18 Get your GAME ON! in Lower Manhattan. This annual outdoor series allows you to play ping-pong, shuffleboard, giant Jenga, and more.
Thursday, July 19 Play games, score some FREE custard from Shake Shack, and see a performance by TADA! Youth Theater at the Flatiron Summer Series.
Friday, July 20 More FREE frozen treats at the Mount Vernon Hotel Museum & Garden. Enjoy free ice cream treats and listen to ice-cream-themed stories, then craft pretend ice cream like 19th century New Yorkers.
Saturday, July 21 Head to the athletic field at Asphalt Green's Upper East Side campus for wet-and-wild Sprinkler Day. FREE frozen treats included here, too!
Sunday, July 22 Head to the Hudson River Park's Pier 25 for a Pop-Up Makerspace sponsored by Google, with water-themed challenges and activities for all ages.
Monday, July 23 Hit the shores at Coney Island for a beach day, and stick around for the FREE fireworks come nightfall.
Tuesday, July 24 Hit up Red Hook's Valentino Pier for an alfresco screening of Captain Underpants.
Check out the marine life at the Bronx Zoo. Photo by Julie Larsen Maher for WCS
Wednesday, July 25 Frolic with the animals at the Bronx Zoo, where Wednesdays mean pay-what-you-wish admission.
Thursday, July 26 Enjoy interactive art and contemporary dance during this week's Live at the Archway series in Dumbo.
Friday, July 27 Older kids and history buffs will appreciate climbing aboard the flight deck of the Intrepid Sea, Air & Space Museum to immerse themselves in Dunkirk, which plays here tonight.
Saturday, July 28 Two great family festivals to check out today on Manhattan's west side: The High Line hosts a music-themed day of family fun, while Lincoln Center's big annual Out-of-Doors Family Day takes over the Upper West Side arts campus.
Sunday, July 29 The idyllic Governors Island hosts a weekend-long Poetry Festival; advance registration gives you a chance to vie for Poetry Fest swag.
Monday, July 30 Try your luck fishing in Hudson River Park, and learn a few environmental lessons in the process.
Tuesday, July 31 Mastered fishing? Here's another catch-and-release sport to test your skills: Head to Madison Square Park to frolic with the fireflies.
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.