While some New Yorkers like to skip town in August, there's tons of must-do summer fun left if you're sticking around for a staycation, including the summer's last FREE outdoor movies and summer family festivals. There's something FREE to do every day in August, and plenty of time to tick off a few more items on your NYC summer bucket list before fall.
Our top family event picks for August include annual favorites like Manhattan's car-free but activity-filled Summer Streets, the incredible Sand Sculpting Contest in Coney Island, and the colorful Hong Kong Dragon Boat Festival in Queens' Flushing Meadows Corona Park.
Find more fun things to do in our continually updated NYC Event Calendar.
As always, if an event piques your interest, be sure to click through to our listing for all the details, including price, location, recommended ages, and time. And remember, in NYC, really cool things to do with kids often fill up or sell out quickly. So buy your tickets ASAP or, in the case of FREE events, arrive as early as possible to beat the crowds. Be sure to sign up for our FREE newsletters, so you can get our NYC event picks delivered to your inbox.
Now get your calendars ready! Here are the top things to do with kids in New York City this August—most of which are 100% FREE.
Arts for All Festival — Lower East Side
Friday, August 2-Sunday, August 4
Celebrate the rich cultural history of Puerto Rican Plena, a form of traditional folk music and dance native to Puerto Rico, with a weekend of FREE theater, dance, and film. Children's theater performances every evening are followed by outdoor concerts and dance performances, culminating in a Sunday night dance party for all. FREE
Bring the kids to Lincoln Center for a day dedicated to dancing, singing, and fun around the fountain. Photo courtesy of Lola Lovenotes
Lincoln Center Out of Doors Family Day — Midtown West
Saturday, August 3
The annual outdoor music and dance festival for families returns to fun-packed Lincoln Center. This year's lineup of hip-hop, reggae, and world beat performances is guaranteed to get you and the kids grooving. FREE
Watching the dragon boat races is a thrill that belongs on your family's New York bucket list. Photo by Baldwin Saintilus via Flickr
Hong Kong Dragon Boat Festival — Corona, Queens
Saturday, August 3-Sunday, August 4
Watch 120 boat teams compete on the lake at Flushing Meadows Corona Park in colorful, custom-made vessels outfitted with dragon heads and tails. Families can soak up Chinese culture between races at the massive outdoor marketplace featuring ethnic eats (including kid-pleasers such as dumplings and bubble tea), live contemporary and traditional music, lion and dragon dances, crafts, martial arts displays, and kite flying. Once you've had your fill, explore the wonderful Queens park, which boasts a carousel, the Queens Zoo, the New York Hall of Science, and mini-amusement park Fantasy Forest. FREE
Celebrate summer in the streets of Manhattan at Summer Streets. Photo courtesy of the NYC DOT
Summer Streets — Manhattan
Saturdays, August 3, 10, and 17
For three consecutive Saturdays, New York families are encouraged to cycle, scoot, or stroll a car-free, seven-mile route that takes you all the way from the Upper East Side down to the Brooklyn Bridge. There are always wonderful activities at the rest stops, with signage along the route letting you know what's coming up. Many of the special activities tend to get mobbed, especially later in the day, so go as early as possible to avoid the crowds. FREE
RELATED: Best Family Festivals in NYC This August
Bring your blanket, picnic, and dancing shoes to the jazz concert on the Great Hill, which includes activities for kids. Photo courtesy of Central Park Conservancy
Great Jazz on the Great Hill — Central Park
Saturday, August 10
Pack a picnic and trek to the top of the Great Hill to catch this family-friendly Jazzmobile performance. The 12th annual event features singer Alyson Williams, the Harlem Renaissance Orchestra, and trombone great Wycliffe Gordon. Make sure you bring your dancing shoes, as this lineup is sure to make you want to shimmy! FREE
Battery Dance Festival — Battery Park
Sunday, August 11-Saturday, August 17
A full week of FREE outdoor dance performances and workshops with beautiful Battery Park as a backdrop, the Battery Dance Festival is the city's longest-running public dance celebration. This year's festival includes a day-long program of traditional Indian dance performances, and every evening closes with a free-for-all dance party worth blowing bedtime for. FREE
RELATED: 100 Things to Do in NYC with Kids Before They Grow Up
The Coney Island Sand Sculpting Contest is one of our favorite August events. Photo by the author
Coney Island Sand Sculpting Contest — Coney Island
Saturday, August 17
Grab your buckets and shovels, and hit the Coney Island beach for its annual sand sculpting contest and festival. All are eligible to compete—kids and adults, amateurs and pros—and there are prizes in multiple categories. Not feeling creative? Check out the amazing entries and live entertainment on the boardwalk. Afterward, hit Coney Island's other attractions. On-site registration for participants opens at noon. FREE
Harlem Week — Harlem
Saturday, August 17-Sunday, August 18
Take the A train to Harlem (or the C, D, 2, or 3) for this all-ages fest celebrating uptown pride. West 135th Street comes alive with a celebration of the neighborhood and its black history roots. Live performances feature diverse sounds from reggae and gospel to Latin and R&B, plus vendors selling food, art, crafts, clothing, and more. Special children's day programming on Saturday includes double dutch competitions, face panting, dance lessons, sports activities, and back-to-school giveaways. There will also be a vintage and collectible auto show Sunday. FREE
At a free tennis clinic at Arthur Ashe Kids' Day you might just run into some of the world's top players, like Novak Djokovic. Photo courtesy of the USTA
Arthur Ashe Kids Day — Flushing, Queens
Saturday, August 24
Kick off the U.S. Open at the Billie Jean King National Tennis Center with a day of fun and games. Get active at free tennis clinics and an obstacle course; watch big-name pros practice; enjoy face painting, juggling workshops, hair beading and braiding, storytelling, and a no-cost concert by young up-and-comers. (Note: There is a different ticketed concert at 1pm featuring better known performers that costs extra and usually sells out in advance.) All tennis and sports activities are FREE. Looking for more U.S. Open-inspired fun? Check out the U.S. Open Experience at Brookfield Place from August 20-August 30. FREE
RELATED: Summer Fun Guide for NYC Kids
Head to Battle Hill in Brooklyn to watch a reenactment of a key Revolutionary War fight. Photo by Jeff Richman/courtesy of Green-Wood Cemetery
Anniversary of the Battle of Brooklyn — Greenwood, Brooklyn
Sunday, August 25
Get a living history lesson about Brooklyn's important role in the country's fight for freedom by checking out this annual commemoration at beautiful, historic Green-Wood Cemetery. Kids can get up close and personal with reenactment troops and their horses, try period treats, and watch a soldier-filled parade march to the top of Battle Hill. FREE but advance registration is encouraged.
NYC Unicycle Festival — Governors Island
Saturday, August 31-Sunday, September 1
Whether you decide to test your balance by riding on one wheel, or leave it to the pros, this one-of-a-kind festival offers plenty of entertainment. Participate in group rides, take lessons, participate in games and contests, or just watch the pros do their one-wheeled tricks. FREE
Richmond County Fair — Staten Island
Saturday, August 31-Sunday, September 1
Introduce your city kids to the pleasures of a great old-fashioned county fair without having to drive hours outside of the city. Hosted by Historic Richmond Town, NYC's only living history museum, this 40 year Staten Island tradition features animals, rides, music, performances, contests, and lots of tasty fried fair food.
Hercules — Central Park
Saturday, August 31-Sunday, September 8
Disney's beloved animated movie is reinvented for the stage as part of the Public Theater's Public Works initiative. Don't expect this musical to be a copy of the film. It's got a brand-new script with fresh songs in addition to the old favorites from the flick. FREE
Wave Hill's signature Honey Weekend offers a buzz-worthy range of activities, from candle-making and honey-extraction demonstrations to a “Be a Bee” Family Art Project. Photo courtesy of Wave Hill
NYC always has so many incredible things going on, it's difficult to choose. So here are 11 more mostly FREE events that are worth considering for your August calendar.
Enjoy games, magic shows, children's theater, water slides, and pony rides as Kids Rule Weekend takes over Lehman College campus in the Bronx Thursday, August 1 through Sunday, August 4. FREE
Shake your groove thang at the outdoor family dance party the Sweet Spot Festival on Saturday, August 3. FREE
Bring a bathing suit and a towel for Water Festival on the Rockaway Beach Boardwalk, with a bounce house, face painting, and crafts as well as the requisite water slides and sprinkler fun on Saturday, August 3. FREE
Celebrate peace and harmony by watching lanterns set afloat on the East River in Brooklyn Bridge Park's Hindu Lamp Ceremony on Saturday, August 3. FREE
Celebrate the sweet sticky stuff at Wave Hill's annual Honey Weekend Saturday, August 17 and Sunday, August 18.
Create your own kite and let it soar at FlyNYC in Riverside Park South on Saturday, August 17. FREE
Tap into your STEM skills at the fourth-annual NYC Math Festival on Saturday, August 17. FREE
Groove to the sounds of the Despers USA Steel Orchestra at the Harlem Meer Performance Festival on the lovely northeastern edge of Central Park, Sunday, August 18. FREE
Visit Governors Island on Saturday, August 31 for the Japan Performing Arts Festival, which brings the colorful Japanese summer tradition of Bon Odori dancing to NYC. FREE
Get a peek at fall with apple picking at nearby farms, which often kick off the season in mid- to late-August.
This story is updated annually.