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 and no-cost boat rides thanks to City of Water Day, which moves its hub to the South Street Seaport in 2018. There's also Bastille Day on East 60th Street, Come Out & Play Family Day, and the Lincoln Center Out of Doors Family Day — all are FREE, too!
In addition to family-friendly festivals, we're also looking forward to some spectacular performing arts—from dance to theater to music—as well as new public art, so get your calendars ready! Here are the top 20 things to do with kids in New York City this July—most of which are 100% FREE.
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.
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Narcissus Garden by Yayoi Kusama – Rockaway Beach, Queens
Opens July 1
Japanese artist Yayoi Kusama reprises her famous Narcissus Garden piece at Fort Tilden's former train garage. The exhibition is meant to call attention to both its long-neglected industrial surroundings as well as the destruction that still remains from Hurricane Sandy. FREE
Celebrate July Fourth — Citywide
Wednesday, July 4
Celebrate Independence Day by gawking at Macy's incredible Fourth 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 taking a stroll through history with a Revolutionary Walking Tour or catching the Staten Island Philharmonic in concert with post-show fireworks. In fact, we've rounded up a dozen ideas of fun things to do on July 4th that do not involve fireworks!
RELATED: 100 Free Things To Do This Summer in NYC
Grab a blanket and picnic and head to Bryant Park for a sneak peek at upcoming Broadway and Off-Broadway shows. Photo courtesy of the park
Broadway in Bryant Park – Midtown
Thursday, July 12 to Thursday, August 16
Take in sneak peek performances from the best of Broadway and Off-Broadway on the Bryant Park Stage on Thursday afternoons. Hosted by LITE FM's on-air personalities, the series runs through August 16. More than 20 different shows are featured throughout the run. FREE
RELATED: Best Summer Festivals in NYC This July for Families
Summer Stage is fun and welcoming for New Yorkers of all ages. Photo courtesy of City Parks Foundation
SummerStage Family Workshops — Citywide
This year, SummerStage hosts pre-concert, free family workshops in parks all around the city. Highlights this month include Alvin Ailey’s Revelations Celebration Dance Workshop (July 13, 27) and Funky Freestyle with Theresa Lavington on July 20, plus a youth matinee with Kyle Abraham’s A.I.M. on July 31.
Engineer your own cardboard boat at City of Water Day. Photo by David Gonsier for City of Water Day
City of Water Day — South Street Seaport
Saturday, July 14
Head to Lower Manhattan or a satellite event all over New York Harbor for this wet-and-wild festival. Enjoy kayaking and canoeing, historic boat tours, and live entertainment. All boat tours require advance registration. Reservations go live on the City of Water Day website in early July and they go fast! (You're required to pay a $5 reservation fee for each person, which will be refunded when you show up for the trip.) The South Street Seaport Museum, a new festival sponsor, will offer $5 admission and new, narrated boat tours take you along two miles of Hudson River waterfront to detail the City's maritime history. In addition, Disney sponsors plenty of kid-friendly activities. FREE
Back to the Beach – Midland Beach, Staten Island
Saturday, July 14
Head to the Midland Beach boardwalk for a day (and night!) of fun in the sun. There will be kid-friendly rides, tons of family-friendly entertainment, and an extra special evening fireworks display to end the night with a bang. Vendors are on hand selling their wares and food. Admission is FREE, but there are fees for some activities.
Bastille Day on East 60th Street offers a full celebration of French culture. Photo by Michael George for FIAF
Bastille Day on East 60th Street — Upper East Side
Sunday, July 15
Celebrate French culture and cuisine at this annual outdoor fête 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. FREE admission with fees for certain activities.
Thicket & Thistle's What's Your Wish? – Midtown West
Premieres Monday, July 16, but plays multiple dates
Part of the New York Musical Festival, Thicket & Thistle's What's Your Wish? is among the fest's most family-friendly titles. It chronicles the adventures of two teenage BFFs who are sucked into a story book and struggle to return to reality. See the full festival lineup online for more budget-friendly live productions.
Twelfth Night – Upper West Side
Opens Tuesday, July 17
If Shakespeare is more your style, catch this re-interpretation of Public Works' 2016 production, which opens its five-week Central Park run on July 17. The performance is staged by a cast of professional artists and a rotating community ensemble. FREE tickets are available via mobile lottery, in-person lottery at the Public, and at various borough partners.
RELATED: Free Outdoor Movies in NYC This July
Come Out & Play Family Day is celebrated in the streets of Dumbo. Photo by ESI Design
Come Out & Play Family Day — Dumbo, Brooklyn
Saturday, July 21
It's the 13th 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, which moves to the Manhattan Bridge Archway in Dumbo this year. 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 served. FREE
Learn about Native American cultures and experience the Mid-Summer Powwow at The Queens County Museum. Photo courtesy of the museum
Thunderbird American Indian Mid-Summer Powwow — Floral Park, Queens
Friday, July 27 to Sunday, July 29
Our favorite NYC farm (the Queens County Museum) opens its grounds for a real-live powwow this weekend. More than 40 Indian nations participate. Watch dance competitions, check out the vendors, and introduce kids to native cultures.
Lincoln Center Out of Doors Family Day — Upper West Side
Saturday, July 28
Whether you've got the moves or just want to marvel at them, head to Lincoln Center for this fest, featuring an invitation to dance with the Mark Morris group. Catch a performance by the Marching Cobras, or participate in an interactive performance by Soul Science Lab, among other showstoppers. FREE
Sprinklers and icy treats make a perfect summer day for kids at Asphalt Green's Sprinkler Day. Photo courtesy of the venue
NYC has so many amazing things going on, it's often difficult for us to choose our GoList picks each month. So here are a few more cool events worth considering for your July calendar.
Climb aboard the historic Fireboat John J. Harvey, which serves as a public art project, thanks to Tauba Auerbach, who painted the vessel with a "dazzle camouflage" pattern, an homage to WWI era boats, meant to make them harder to track by enemy subs. Gawk at the art and take a free ride on the boat beginning Sunday, July 1.
Catch a silent production of Mummenschanz, which returns to NYC for the first time in four years on July 4, and plays throughout the month. The sculptural puppetry show is entitled you & me.
Liven up the dog days of summer by catching the talented kids of TADA! Youth Theater in Golly Gee Whiz, which opens its run on Saturday, July 7.
The multi-day Feast of Our Lady of Mount Carmel includes live music, carnival rides and great eats, along with a traditional procession of flower-strewn towers. If you're only going to make it one day, the big feast is on Sunday, July 8. Be sure to check the full schedule before heading over, because there are different activities every day. FREE
Celebrate New York's vibrant dance scene with the annual homage to dance, Victory Dance at the New Victory Theater. The two-show run features the works of a wide variety of companies and genres. Performances are set for July 19 and July 26.
Get soaked at the Upper East Side Asphalt Green's annual Sprinkler Day on Saturday, July 21. Plus everyone gets a free icy treat! FREE
Celebrate stanzas at the Annual NYC Poetry Festival, which takes over the shores of Governors Island annually the last weekend in July.
Enjoy an alfresco flick playing in one of New York's parks and gardens nearly any night.