Free & Fun Things to Do this Weekend with NYC Kids: Mermaid Parade, Adventures NYC, Family Fishing Fest, Free Music June 23-24

Best Weekend Events and Activities in New York City for Families

Although public school kids still have a few more days to go before break, this is the first official weekend of summer! Welcome the new season in style at Coney Island’s colorful Mermaid Parade or Manhattan’s equally fabulous Gay Pride March and Festival.

Other free fun this weekend includes the Family Fishing Festival at the Harlem Meer, the annual Adventures NYC fest at the Central Park Bandshell, an outdoor concert by Moey’s Music Party and kickoff of Carroll Park's Kids' Concert Series featuring Karen K and the Jitterbugs.

Speaking of cool music, Make Music NYC takes place on Thursday. There will be hundreds of free concerts popping up all over the city, including cool kids' bands like the Fuzzy Lemons, who'll play Chelsea's Books of Wonder and Carl Schurz Park on the Upper East Side (at different times). It's worth browsing the full schedule, or just keep your eyes and ears open!

All of our best bets for the weekend are below. You can find additional options in our Event Calendar and our Summer Fun Guide, which is jam-packed with cool activities and destinations for the whole season.

All Weekend

Photoville – Brooklyn Heights
Beginning Friday, Pier 3 in Brooklyn Bridge Park will be transformed into an interactive photo exhibition mounted in shipping containers. The attraction includes a virtual reality dog run, a greenhouse where flowers are made of cameras and a beer garden. While this isn’t specifically aimed at children, it sounds like there's a lot to spark their imaginations. Afterward, explore everything Brooklyn Bridge Park has to offer, including a carousel and awesome playgrounds. FREE

BAMcinemaFest: Family Movies – Fort Greene
The annual film fest kicks off this week and this year family movies have been added to the lineup. On Saturday, the program Take Me to the Balloony Bin features the classic The Red Balloon and three other balloon-themed shorts. On Sunday, catch the NYC premier of coming-of-age fantasy Crazy and Thief with a post-screening Q & A with the director. $13 for adults, $10 for children.

Saturday, June 23

Mermaid Parade – Coney Island
That's Raven's daughter, Marlena, above dressed as a fairy-mermaid at last year's procession. They hit this awesome annual celebration of summer every year, as do many families. Although the kickoff is at 2pm, revelers arrive hours in advance decked out in their best sea-themed costumes. Expect mermaids, mermen, pirates, fish, showgirls, vintage cars, funky floats and a fair amount of topless ladies. Despite the (relatively mild) nudity, it's very kid-friendly, and of course Coney Island is filled with all kinds of family fun, like amusement parks, the beach and minor league baseball. FREE

Adventures NYC 2012 – Upper East Side
A day of outdoor adventures await you at this fest, which is co-presented by the NYC Parks Department and Backpacker Magazine. Families can give rock climbing, kayaking, cycling and yoga a try. Plus there will be free bike helmet giveaways, live music and other entertainment. FREE

Solar One Family Day: Pollinators & Food – Kips Bay
Solar One, the green energy, arts and education center in Stuyvesant Cove Park, hosts its annual family fest. This year's theme is pollinators and all the work they do to help make our food. Kids can hand-crank ice cream, plant a native salad garden, create some eco-themed art and crafts, and more. FREE

Brooklyn Kite Festival – Brooklyn Heights
B.Y.O.K. (bring your own kite) to Brooklyn Bridge Park’s  Harbor View Lawn on Pier 1 to let it soar in front of the glorious Manhattan skyline. If you don't have a kite, they will be available for purchase in the park. FREE

Little Club Heads Family Dance Party – Financial District
If you can't remember the last time you went clubbing, hit the dance floor with the kids at this all-ages party. In addition to the deejay, there will be activities like face painting, clowns, balloon twisters and games. $15

Karen K & the Jitterbugs – Carroll Gardens
Brooklyn's popular Carroll Park Kids' Concert Series kicks off today with the Brooklyn pop rockers. There will also be fun kids' activities organized by the resourceful families from P.S. 58. FREE

Family Fishing Celebration – Harlem
In honor of New York State's Free Fishing Days, families can cast a line in the Harlem Meer, no permit required. Catch and release largemouth bass, pumpkinseed sunfish, bluegill sunfish, carp and chain pickerel, and enjoy fish-themed art projects, a performance by Play Me a Story and microscopic explorations of the water. FREE

Summer Festival – the Bronx
The West Bronx Recreation Center hosts a seasonal celebration featuring kids' games and activities, robotics, sports and fitness classes, arts and crafts, and a performance by the Swedish Cottage Marionette Theatre. FREE

Inti Raymi: Festival of the Sun – Financial District
Head to the National Museum of the American Indian for Inti Raymi, the festival of the sun, which is celebrated by the indigenous peoples of the Andes. Families can enjoy performances by the Ayazamana dance troupe and Kichwa Nation musicians, and make a gold foil pendant with an image of a Nazca sun. FREE

El Día E, Día del Español – Midtown East
Whether or not you speak español, you're welcome at this street festival celebrating Spanish language and culture. There will be games, performances, kids' activities, food and drinks. And of course, you can practice your bilingual skills. FREE

Summer Fest – Jamaica
The King Manor Museum throws its annual end of the school year fete featuring old-school crafts and food making, including period ice cream! FREE.

Morris-Jumel Mansion: Family Day – Harlem
Hit the historic house's garden for colonial games, retro crafts and a dance lesson from the Harlem Swing Dance Society. FREE

Moey’s Music Party – Midtown West
The perpetually pink-clad kiddie pop singer plays her perky tunes at Bryant Park's outdoor Reading Room. In honor of the band's new CD, Princess Revolution, kids are encouraged to come in their best royal finery. Don't worry: If you don't have anything to wear, Moey usually hands out fabulous accessories. FREE

See all Saturday events.


Sunday, June 24

All of a Kind Family Walking Tour – Lower East Side
Fans of Sydney Taylor's classic children’s book about an immigrant family in NYC circa World War I will love this walking tour sponsored by the Museum at Eldridge Street. Families will visit the Lower East Side spots frequented by the characters in the story. $20 for adults, $10 for children under 18.

First Annual Family Day – Sunset Park
Green-Wood Cemetery hosts its inaugural family day. Activities include an architectural scavenger hunt, special family tours, and arts and crafts. Don’t let the locale deter you: The historic cemetery is a beautifully landscaped green space with rolling hills and bodies of water, and this sounds like a great way to explore it. Reservations recommended. $15 per family.

Gay Pride March – Murray Hill to Greenwich Village
The annual procession kicks off at noon at 36th Street and Fifth Avenue and ends at Christopher and Greenwich Streets, where there's a huge festival. It's super fun but super crowded. And like the Mermaid Parade, there is often mild nudity. Just be aware! FREE

Riverdale RiverFest – Riverdale
Head to our neighborhood of the month, Riverdale, for a festival on the banks of the mighty Hudson River featuring live entertainment, a reenactment of a Medieval battle, rides on the famous John J. Harvey Fireboat, arts and crafts, and more. Free admission but there are fees for certain activities, like boat rides.

See all Sunday events.

Outside NYC

Head to Terhune Orchards in Princeton, New Jersey on Sunday for its evening firefly festival featuring games, music, wagon rides and firefly hunting.

If you haven’t had a chance to go strawberry picking yet, you better hurry! The season is quickly coming to a close. We have a roundup of great pick-your-own-farms but be sure to call ahead to confirm they're open and still have fruit.

Don't forget: There's even more fun to be found in our Event Calendar.