Readers' Choice: Top 42 Summer Outings for NYC Kids and Families

Things to Do in New York City During the Summer

When you're looking for something cool to do with the kids in NYC, who do you ask? Other local parents of course!

That's why we asked our readers to tell us about their favorite summer day trips in and around New York City. The answers ran the gamut from famous favorites (Coney, Coney, Coney!) to lesser-known destinations (Bannerman Castle on Pollepel Island) to creative city itineraries (a DIY walking tour based on Food Network shows. Yum!).

So in addition to all of our other roundups of summer fun, including 100 free things to do this summer and 40 staycation destinations, we're happy to share the 42 top summer outings for NYC families as chosen by our fellow moms and dads.

  1. Taking the ferry to Sandy Hook. The ride alone is exciting for my four-year-old. We take the first ferry out and have bagels on the boat. She loves the big yellow school bus that picks us up at the dock. We go on the bay side so she can catch crabs and sit in the "pond." On the short trek home, she falls asleep on the ferry with a smile on her face!—Brooke
  2. Breakfast at IHOP or Friendly's, the Queens Zoo or the New York Hall of Science or sometimes both, a walk around Flushing Meadows Corona Park (the kids ride their scooters), a carousel ride, lunch at the pizzeria off 108th Street, ices at the Lemon Ice King of Corona, back to the park, and then home for baths and bedtime.—Rosemarie
  3. Battery Park to romp on the playground, play basketball, Ping-Pong and Nok-Hockey. We finish off with some rides down the slide at Teardrop Park.—Liz
  4. When my grandchildren come to NYC, we love to do free things! We ride on the Staten Island Ferry, attend River to River events in the Winter Garden at Brookfield Place, swim in the Astoria Park Pool, do crafts at Socrates Sculpture Park and wander around Chinatown.—Beth
  5. Our favorite summer day trip is to Coney Island. We go early in the morning before it gets too warm for a dip in the cold water, but that doesn't deter my 4-year-old at all! We bring some breakfast and eat it on the beach, and play before the crowds come. Afterward we head over to Luna Park for a few rides, and then walk along the boardwalk. We make it home just in time for an afternoon nap.—Ruth
  6. There are so many wonderful day trips to take during the summer that it's always a challenge picking a destination—especially after checking Mommy Poppins for recommendations! One place we visit several times over the season is Governors Island. We usually spend some time at Brooklyn Bridge Park's Pier 6 Playground before hopping on the ferry.—A DLF
  7. We live in New Jersey and we love spending the day in the city. We hit the Metropolitan Museum of Art, take the trolley to the Boathouse in Central Park for lunch and then enjoy a boat ride. I took my 5-year-old last summer and she had a great time.—Tracy
  8. Breakfast on a beach! We get up early and find a great spot and just enjoy each other's company. Most people don't hit the beach until around noon, so it's nice to have some quiet time with the family.—Sharon
  9. We go to New York Aquarium in Coney Island and then spend time on the beach.—Israel
  10. We love anything that has to do with water. Beaches, pools, water parks. If we go together we know we'll enjoy ourselves!—Jenny
  11. Right around the corner from where we live is Prospect Park. There's the zoo, the carousel and horses. It makes us feel like we're in the country without the hassle of loading everyone in the car and driving.—Amy
  12. We always have a great time visiting the animals at the Bronx Zoo. We love watching the apes in a natural setting and looking at the family of lions. The short ride on the tram is fun. We even share our lunch with the peacocks, who are always friendly and hungry.—Colette
  13. I'm in the midst of planning a day trip to Meschutt Beach right now!—Kimberly
  14. We love Robert Moses Beach! It's close to home yet we feel like we're miles away.—Laurence
  15. My favorite day trip is to go to an amusement park like Victorian Gardens in Central Park.—Paula
  16. We love to go to Bear Mountain.—Diego
  17. Our favorite day trip is the New York Hall of Science.—Jeni
  18. We love driving out to the Tanger Outlets Deer Park Outlet where there's fun for everyone. We do lunch at Johnny Rockets. The kids have a blast watching the mini dance show and they love getting milk shakes. (Mom's favorite is the root beer float.) After lunch, we walk through different shops, then we sit by the fountain and enjoy a cold Red Mango dessert. We can even take in a movie as there's a theater right there. It's tiring. The kids go right out in the car!—Linda
  19. We love spending the day at the beach at Jacob Riis Park. There are great facilities, sandy beaches, clean salty water, and plenty of lifeguards and parking. You can reach it easily by taking the ferry from Wall Street on the weekends, or by train and bus. Further down the beach on Beach 92nd Street, there are wonderful food vendors so you can grab tacos, ices, salads, smoothies, fruit and even special drinks.—Elizabeth
  20. Our favorite summer day outing is a trip to the Crayola Experience in Pennsylvania! —Lisa
  21. We can't choose between Long Beach and Port Jefferson. It's a tie.—Kelly
  22. We love visiting Bannerman Castle on Pollepel Island!—Anna
  23. We enjoy going to our local park and having a picnic. It's so nice to unwind with our daughter after the work week.—Trina
  24. We adore spending the day at Sandy Hook. We bring our boogie boards, go fishing and build sand castles.—Gigi
  25. Wave Hill is beautiful year-round. But come back in autumn for a spectacular view of the Palisades' fall foliage. Beautiful!—Jae
  26. We love going to pick-your-own strawberry farms. I told my kids at an early age that local berries are so much better than store-bought. (It didn't take much effort to convince them.) Now we try to pick our own two or three times each season.—Carrie
  27. We create our own foodie tour by picking a section of Manhattan and visiting at least four eateries featured on Food Network shows. We make sure not to eat a full meal; we just have small snacks. Not only does it encourage our daughter to try new foods (she is very picky), we always end up walking at least three miles and exploring new neighborhoods.—Amanda
  28. During the summer, our favorite family activity is to go to Orchard Beach right when it opens. We play in the water, go to the park and munch on sandwiches we bring from home. (If it's a last-minute trip, we head over to the food stands for hamburgers and French fries.) In the afternoon, we head to City Island for an early dinner before we go home.—Lisa
  29. There's so much to do in and around NYC, it's tough to choose just one outing. I enjoy wandering the city with my 11-year-old son. We always find something new and exciting. The possibilities are endless. One day we ended up doing a tour of the United Nations. Another day we hit Dylan's Candy Bar. The Museum of Natural History and the Bronx Zoo are, of course, favorites. If we want to play tourist, we head to Times Square. You'd be surprised: Sometimes we see something really fun and amazing.—Nekisha
  30. Orient Beach at the end of Long Island. We pack lunch, our beach bag, some nice music and enjoy the 90-minute trip from our house. Admission to the park is free with our New York State Parks' pass. Once we arrive, we find a nice shady spot and set up camp. The park is great for spending the day. There is a variety of playground equipment that offers children the opportunity to climb, pretend, imagine, play alone or in groups. The beach is clean, the water is calm and there aren't too many people. We usually have lunch on the family-size bench-swings that are located right on the beach. In the late afternoon, we stop at the town of Greenport, where we have dinner, ice cream, walk around and take a ride on the carousel. There are plenty of small shops too.—Maria
  31. We love going to Montauk for the day, enjoying the beach, a lighthouse and that small town feeling.—Yael
  32. We hang out at Pier 46. We love people-watching, cartwheeling and seeing a movie under the stars.—Marie
  33. Martha Clara Vineyards on Long Island. There's a giant field for playing ball or flying kites, goats and pigs to feed, and the Scottish Highland Cattle. You can pack a picnic and buy eco-friendly carafes of wine for the grown-ups. A perfect day!—Danielle
  34. Ocean City, N.J. has the beach, the boardwalk with the amusement and water parks, putt-putt golf, and homemade ice cream and funnel cakes. Our seven-year old's idea of heaven!—Heather
  35. We love visiting Heckscher Playground.—Jody
  36. We go to Rockaway Beach. We feel so far from the city with the sand, ocean air and shell collecting. The beach is clean, safe and just a MetroCard fare away!—Allison
  37. A day trip to Philadelphia! All of the attractions are within walking distance from each other: the parks, the carousel, mini-golf and Chinatown's fire station with its pose-worthy mural and Kosher Vegetarian Chinese restaurant. If we skip the nap, we even have time to go to the Please Touch Museum or one of the other institutions that are just a stone's throw away.—Anona
  38. We enjoy driving up to Beacon and taking a dip in the mini-swimming pool built in the river and then going for some local ice cream—Ann
  39. One of my son's favorite spots in the world is The Dinosaur Place at Nature’s Art near Mystic, Connecticut. There are nice hiking trails in the woods around a lake, life-size dinosaur sculptures, and a dino-themed playground and splash pad. Inside, you can dig for fossils, pan for gold or unearth gems. The kids love it and my husband does too.—Lori
  40. My 8-year-old granddaughter loves the colonial period. So she adores going to New Bridge Landing. The first time we went, the homes weren't open, but we enjoyed just walking around and peeking in windows. A week later, we returned and saw a reenactment. We loved talking to the "Colonial" volunteers.—Sandy
  41. Our sons enjoy nature so we often go to Forest Park. We go to the pond by the carousel and feed the ducks, fish and turtles. Our boys can stay there for hours checking out the wildlife and plants.—Alla
  42. I am a teacher and so I have summers off. I don't send my kids to camp; instead we have what my stay-at-home-during-the-school-year husband calls "camp mama." I look through all of the events being offered around the city in the summer and plug them into my calendar. Every day we do something different (usually free). Our absolute favorite place is Yonkers, which has the incredible Science Barge and the exciting Beczak Environmental Education Center where you can go seining in the Hudson River! Totally cool and just a half hour away on Metro-North.—Shakira

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

This post was originally published in July 2011.

New York , NY
New York