Welcome to the first full month of summer! Our monthly GoList of the absolute best things to do with kids throughout July includes some of our favorite FREE annual events—happenings my family and I mark on our calendar every year. Enjoy the always FREE Fourth of July fireworks spectacle, no-cost boat rides as part of City of Water Day on Governors Island, top-notch music and dance performances at SummerStage Family Days in Queens, the Bronx, and Central Park, and the fun-filled Come out & Play Family Day on Governors Island.
There are also some new-this-summer events that we can't wait to check out like Theatreworks USA's musical Junie B.'s Essential Survival Guide to School and the Hills with those awesome looking slides on Governors Island. Plus, there are two family-friendly pop culture musts opening this month: an interactive Star Trek experience that celebrates the 50th anniversary of the franchise at the Intrepid and a cool virtual reality Ghostbusters game at Madame Tussauds. And Harry Potter fans will be lining up for the release of the eighth book in the series.
As always, if an event piques your interest, be sure to click through to our listing for all the details, including the price, address, and time. And remember, in NYC, really cool things to do with kids often get booked up quickly. So buy your tickets ASAP or, in the case of FREE events, arrive as early as possible to beat the crowds.
Now get your calendars ready! Here are the top 16 things to do with kids in New York City this July—nine of which are 100% FREE.
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Ghostbusters Experience and Ghostbusters Dimension – Midtown West
Friday, July 1
Who you gonna call? Ghostbusters! In anticipation of the highly publicized reboot this summer, Madame Tussauds has teamed up with Sony Pictures for a virtual reality ghostbusting experience. There are two parts to the exhibit: the first is the Ghostbusters Experience, a multi-floor immersive walk through props, costumes and sets of the Aldrich Mansion Museum and the Mercado Hotel Lobby; the second is an optional add-on adventure just right for kids, Ghostbusters Dimensions. Participants get suited up with proton packs to save NYC from evil poltergeists in this virtual reality game set in a NYC apartment. Created by The Void, the game makes for a realistic ghostbusting experience. Advance ticket purchase recommended. There isn't an age restriction for Dimensions, but children must be 48 inches to play.
RELATED: 100 Free Things To Do This Summer in NYC
Cool down as fire trucks spray the crowd after the Harlem Children's Parade. Photo courtesy of the parade.
Celebrate the July Fourth – Citywide
Monday, July 4
Celebrate Independence Day by gawking at Macy's incredible 4th of July Fireworks or heading to Coney Island to cheer on the competitors in the annual Nathan's Famous Fourth of July International Hot Dog Eating Contest. Other equally fun and probably less crowded ways to enjoy the day include spreading a blanket at Bryant Park's HBO Film Festival for an alfresco screening of Top Gun, decking out your bike or scooter to participate in the annual Harlem Children's Parade, visiting the South Street Seaport for a free live concert featuring Clifford the Big Red Dog, the Marcus Monroe Juggling Show and local fave Tim and the Space Cadets. Or, head to the New-York Historical Society to usher in The Summer of Hamilton with founding father of the hour: Alexander Hamilton. Meet Hamilton himself, enjoy a performance from the Hudson River Ramblers, meet Revolutionary soldiers, make crafts, and join in exciting family trivia games (plus admission is waived for kids under 17)!
Whitney Family Day – Meatpacking District
Saturday, July 9
Held in conjunction with the Whitney Museum of American Art's latest exhibit, Stuart Davis: In Full Swing, families can tour the indoor galleries and outdoor exhibits an hour before the museum opens and work on art projects inspired by the show. Plus, there will be a special performance by Jazz at Lincoln Center that kids can connect back to the exhibits. Free with paid museum admission
Adventures from Ezra Jack Keats: Skates & Maggie and the Pirate – Chelsea
Saturday, July 9-Thursday, August 4
We're always raving about the classes, camps, and shows at TADA! Youth Theater. That's because TADA! is made up of talented local youngsters ages 8 to 18 who star in three original musicals per year. The troupe's latest offering, Adventures from Ezra Jack Keats: Skates & Maggie and the Pirate, is a pair of short musicals based on the works of groundbreaking Brooklynite Ezra Jack Keats. The first show, Skates!, adapted from his 1973 book of the same name, focuses on two friends who nearly give up on roller skating. It's performed on wheels! The second production is Maggie and the Pirate, a song-filled adventure about young Maggie, who makes a new friend while searching for her lost pet cricket. TADA! shows only run an hour (great for short attention spans) and kids really get a kick out of seeing their peers onstage. If your child is little, be sure to ask for a front-row bench seat.
RELATED: Free Outdoor Movies in NYC This July
A Star Trek exhibit, as seen in Canada, flies into the Intrepid for a four-month NYC stay. Photo courtesy of Canada Aviation and Space Museum.
Star Trek: The Starfleet Academy Experience – Midtown West
Saturday, July 9-Monday, October 31
In honor of the iconic sci-fi franchise's 50th anniversary, the Intrepid Air and Space Museum will host the first stop on the American tour of the Star Trek: The Starfleet Academy Experience exhibit. The massive 12,000-square-foot exhibit is packed with hands-on interactives like a game using the iconic phasers from the television show, playing with leap motion, and communicating in Klingon. Plus, various props and costumes from the many series will be on display, too. The museum has special programs planned during the exhibit's run, including Star Trek- themed summer camps for kids! Trekkies won't want to miss this one. Entry is by timed tickets, which are already on sale and do not require museum admission.
Come Out & Play Family Day – Governors Island
Saturday, July 9
It's the 11th anniversary of the Come Out & Play festival of street games, and while most are aimed at adults, kids can get in on the action during Family Day on Governors Island. Families can participate in multiple interconnecting games themed around time travel, both back to the distant past and ahead to the future. Just head to the official Time Travel Agency to get started, then play as few or many as you'd like. Developed by ESI Design, the games are best suited for children ages 6-11 and their adult companions. Guardians must sign waivers for all players under 18. All games run multiple times but participation is first come, first serve. FREE
RELATED: Best Summer Festivals in NYC This July for Families
Celebrate with mimes and more at Bastille Day. Photo by Micheal George/courtesy of FIAF.
Bastille Day on East 60th Street – Upper East Side
Sunday, July 10
Celebrate French culture and cuisine at this annual outdoor fete hosted by the French Institute/Alliance Française. Taste freshly made crêpes and éclairs, enjoy live French music and mime performances, browse handmade wares at the market, and hit the Kids’ Corner for face painting and arts and crafts. Plus, catch performances from Broadway's An American in Paris. Free admission with fees for certain activities.
SummerStage Kids: Family Day – Central Park
Sunday, July 10
SummerStage Kids mounts multiple Family Days throughout the city, but the one in Central Park is always the main event. Kindie favorite Justin Roberts and the Not Ready for Naptime Players headline, a delight for both parents and kids with smart lyrics and rocking tunes. The lineup also includes performances by Mister G, the Latin Grammy award winner, scenes from Broadway's Finding Neverland, and the hysterical Gizmo Guys. This no-cost extravaganza is always crowded so arrive early and expect to wait for the activities, especially face painting. Bring a blanket, because seating is limited. FREE
The New York Musical Theatre Festival – Midtown West
Monday, July 11-Sunday, August 7
Many hit musicals actually made their NYC debuts at this annual fest. Though most selections are aimed at adults, this year's fest features some intriguing children's shows. Catch them now before they move on to bigger and better things (and higher ticket prices). Some highlights are Ultimate Man!, a satirical tuner about a comic book artist and the hero he's created; a song-filled summer camp adventure Camp Rolling Hills, and Tink!, a reimagining of the Peter Pan tale focused on the fairy.
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Teams build and then race their cardboard boats during the City of Water Day festival. Photo by David Gonsier/courtesy of Governors Island.
City of Water Day – Governors Island, Hoboken
Saturday, July 16
This fantastic celebration of our local waterfront takes place in two main locations: on Governors Island and in Hoboken's Maxwell Place Park, with satellite events all over New York Harbor. Enjoy kayaking and canoeing, historic boat tours, and live entertainment. The slate of activities hasn't been announced yet, but in the past kids got up close and personal with reptiles and aquatic creatures, took fishing lessons, and enjoyed arts and crafts and bouncy castles. Plus, there's a free ferry between the two locations, so you can hit the fun on both banks. All boat tours require advance registration. Reservations go live on the City of Water Day website at the end of June and they go fast! (You're required to pay a $5 reservation fee per person, which will be refunded when you show up for the trip.) At previous City of Water Day celebrations, my son and I have gone on the Sloop Clearwater, an NYC Audubon Eco-Cruise, and the Schooner Pioneer. FREE
SummerStage Kids: Bronx Family Day – South Bronx
Sunday, July 17
Hit St. Mary's Park for a concert by Seattle school-teachers-cum-kindie rockers Recess Monkey. Additional entertainment includes drumming by Legacy Women, the Bronx-based Music With a Message, and jump roping with Double Dutch Dreamz. FREE
Kidz Bop: Life of the Party – Coney Island
Sunday, July 17
Kidz Bop, the uber popular kids band, heads to Coney Island this summer to promote its 32nd album, which will be released in July. This talented and ever-changing roster of four singing and dancing teens with tons of style and 'tude perform cleaned-up versions of current pop hits just for kids, so you don't have to worry about your preschooler asking you what the song Cake by the Ocean is referring to. A perfect first rock concert experience for music-loving grade-schoolers. Plus, birthday boys and girls can score a special surprise during the show.
Workers install a cabin art exhibit by Rachel Whiteread on Governors Island new "Hills" section. Photo courtesy of Governors Island.
Grand Opening of The Hills on Governors Island – Governors Island
Tuesday, July 19
The long-awaited 30-acre "Hills" section of the activity packed Governors Island is finally opening to the public. We already told you about Slide Hill with its quartet of creative playground slides, especially that incredible 57-foot-long zoomer, but there is so much more to check out in this new area. Grassy Hill has gentle 25-feet-high slopes perfect for relaxing, Discovery Hill is great for strolling and packed with ornamental trees and a new permanent site-specific art installation by Rachel Whiteread, Cabin, and of course, the 70-foot-high Outlook Hill with its unobstructed 360-degree view of the New York Harbor. FREE
Junie B.'s Essential Survival Guide to School – West Village
Wednesday, July 20-Friday, August 19
Every summer, the wonderful national children's theater company, Theatreworks USA, produces a professional off-Broadway show for family audiences—and gives away the tickets for FREE. I've been to many of the summer productions in the past, and they're always high-quality and entertaining. This year's show is a musical adaptation of the late Barbara Park's popular book, Junie B.'s Essential Survival Guide to School, which follows the plucky first-grader as she instructs kids on how to navigate school. Tickets are given out on a first-come, first-served basis an hour prior to each performance (there is often a line, so plan ahead). Camps tend to take over on weekdays so you're better off going on a Sunday or to one of the evening shows. By the way, there is absolutely no stroller storage at the theater, so don't bring one. FREE
Harry Potter and the Cursed Child, Parts One and Two Release – Citywide
Saturday July 30 - Sunday, July 31
Chances are if you have a young Harry Potter fan in the house, they are too young to remember the incredible fervor, anticipation, and midnight release parties that accompanied the original seven books. On Sunday, July 31, that will all change as the eighth story in the legacy, Harry Potter and the Cursed Child Parts One & Two, is released to a new generation of Potter-heads. The new tome is a "script book" adapted from the West End show of the same name that also debuts this month. While the plot and format of the story are still under wraps, we do know that it takes place nearly 20 years after the Deathly Hallows ends. Harry is married to Ginny Weasley, a father to three youngsters, and has a job at the Ministry of Magic. Booksellers around the city including Strand, Books of Wonder, Barnes and Noble, and Book Culture on Columbus will all host release parties Saturday night with trivia, giveaways, and the chance to don your Hogwarts gear.
SummerStage Kids: Queens Family Day – Long Island City
Sunday, July 31
The third SummerStage Kids Family Day of the month has a jazz theme. Head to Long Island City's waterfront Queensbridge Park to catch hep tunes by pianist Marc Cary and vocalist Brianna Thomas. Joseph Webb: Dancing Buddhas will provide dance-tastic thrills. FREE
NYC always has so many incredible things going on, it's difficult to choose what to feature in our GoList. So here are 10 more cool events (mostly FREE) that are worth considering for your July calendar.
Enjoy a wide variety of live entertainment, activities, and religious services at the annual Lady of Mount Carmel Giglio Feast, which runs Wednesday, July 6-Sunday, July 17. FREE admission
Broadway in Bryant Park returns July 7 for a lunchtime series of FREE mini performances of top hits like Matilda, STOMP, and more, running through August.
See top family performers in outdoor music shows: Rolie Polie Guacamole will be at Albee Square on Saturday, July 9, Astrograss is playing in Fort Greene Park on Wednesday, July 13, Morgan Taylor, aka Gustafer Yellowgold, will be in Union Square Thursday, July 21, and local edu-rockers the Deedle Deedle Dees will be in Riverside Park on Thursday, July 21. FREE
Celebrate quality kid lit at the Queens Museum's Children’s Book Celebration on Saturday, July 10. Free with suggested museum admission
Watch the sun set straight down the NYC grid—a twice-a-year occurrence!—during Manhattanhenge on Monday, July 11 (full sun) and Tuesday, July 12 (half sun). FREE
Find out about everything the Rubin Museum of Art has to offer at its Chelsea Block Party on Sunday, July 17. FREE
Learn about honey and the tiny buzzing pollinators that make it during Highline Honey Day on Saturday, July 23. See inside a working beehive, sample some of the sweet stuff, and buy some locally produced honey to bring home. FREE
Get soaked at the Upper East Side Asphalt Green's annual Sprinkler Day on Saturday, July 23. Plus everyone gets a free icy treat! FREE
Catch kids sharing their best rhymes at the New York Poetry Festival on Governors Island on Saturday, July 30 and Sunday, July 31. FREE
Go for an old-school ride on a Nostalgia Train bound for Coney Island on Sunday, July 31.