While many New Yorkers like to skip town in August, there's plenty 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.
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 11 things to do with kids in New York City this August—10 of which are 100% FREE.
Bring your blanket, picnic, dancing shoes to this 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 4
Pack a picnic and trek to the top of the Great Hill to catch this family-friendly Jazzmobile performance. The 11th annual event features the Jimmy Heath Big Band, the Alyson Williams Quartet, drummer Winard Harper and friends, flutist Gabrielle Garo, and vocalist Kameelah Harper. Make sure you bring your dancing shoes, as this lineup is sure to make you want to shimmy! FREE
Celebrate summer in the streets of Manhattan at Summer Streets. Photo courtesy of the NYC DOT
Summer Streets — Manhattan
Saturdays, August 4, 11, and 18
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
The Puppet Fringe Festival kicks off with a performance of Sueno: A Latino Take on A Midsummer Night's Dream. Photo courtesy of the festival
Puppet Fringe Festival — Multiple Locations
Wednesday, August 8 through Sunday, August 12
The inaugural Puppet Fringe Festival kicks off with a performance of Sueno: A Latino Take on A Midsummer Night's Dream on August 8, but that's just one of more than 40 live performances taking place during the four-day fest. Internationally-known puppet companies participate in live performances, symposiums, and artist talk-backs, which organizers hope will become an annual event. See our calendar for more performances.
West Side Story Reimagined — Upper West Side
Friday, August 10
Hear West Side Story in a whole new way at this special concert in Damrosch Park. Leonard Bernstein's iconic score gets an infusion of eclectic beats, drawing on influences from a variety of musical styles including Afro-Puerto Rican, Cuban, Dominican, Brazilian, Venezuelan, and Mexican rhythms, plus funk, rock, and jazz. The concert is preceded by a spoken word performance from poets La Bruja and Rich Villar. Admission is FREE and seating is first-come, first served, so arrive early.
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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 11-Sunday, August 12
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
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 18
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, especially the brand new sharks exhibit at the New York Aquarium. On-site registration for participants opens at noon. FREE
Harlem Week — Harlem
Saturday, August 18-Sunday, August 19
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 includes double dutch competitions, face panting, dance lessons, sports activities, and back-to-school giveaways. There will also be a National Historic Black College Fair and Expo on Saturday and an 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 25
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 25-August 31. FREE
Boogie on the Boulevard — Grand Concourse, the Bronx
Sunday, August 26
Celebrate the rich culture of the Boogie Down borough...and, well, boogie down, while you're at it. The center lanes of the Grand Concourse are closed to traffic and open for all kinds of activities, from dancing to fitness classes to kid-friendly fun. Just like the Bronx itself, there's something for everyone. 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
241st Anniversary of the Battle of Brooklyn — Greenwood, Brooklyn
Sunday, August 26
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 — Multiple Locations
Thursday, August 30-Sunday, September 2
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 on Manhattan's West Side and Brooklyn, or spend the weekend at the main event on Governors Island watching the pros, taking lessons, and participating in games and contests. It's always an action-packed, hilarious good time. FREE
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. And don't forget that this is the month that many of the FREE outdoor movies wrap up, as well as other summer freebies like concerts, bowling, and the $1 indoor movie series. Find more FREE events in August with our summer roundup.
Spend an evening aboard the Intrepid, exploring outer space at the museum's family astronomy night. Participate in stargazing and catch pop-up planetarium shows. Admission to the event on Friday, August 3 is FREE, but registration is required.
Shake your groove thang at the outdoor family dance party the Sweet Spot Festival on Saturday, August 4. 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 4. FREE
Enjoy games, magic shows, children's theater, water slides, and pony rides as Kids Rule Weekend takes over the Lehman College campus on Saturday, August 4 and Sunday, August 5. FREE
Celebrate the International Day of Friendship with Brooklyn borough president Eric Adams with a unity parade, kid-friendly activities, international eats, and more.
Explore Crown Heights and its cultural treasures at the One Crown Heights Neighborhood Festival. In addition to the family-friendly street fest, the Brooklyn Children's Museum will offer FREE admission all day on Sunday, August 5.
Catch The Wiz, as part of the Bryant Park Summer Film Festival on Monday, August 6. FREE
Team up with your local precinct for National Night Out Celebrations on Tuesday, August 7. We've got details on events in Manhattan, Queens, and the Bronx. FREE
Celebrate the sweet sticky stuff at Wave Hill's annual Honey Weekend Saturday, August 11 and Sunday, August 12.
Create your own kite and let it soar at FlyNYC in Riverside Park South on Saturday, August 18. FREE
Step back in time at the historic Wyckoff Farmhouse during a FREE Family Day on Saturday, August 18.
Tap into your STEM skills at the third-annual NYC Math Festival on Saturday, August 18. FREE
Belt out the Frozen soundtrack at a special outdoor sing-along edition of Hudson RiverFlicks at Clinton Cove on Thursday, August 23. FREE
Get a peek at fall with apple picking at nearby farms, which often kick off the season in mid- to late-August.
A version of this story was published in 2017; it is updated yearly.