The 2021 NYC Summer Bucket List: What You Must Do with the Kids

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Summer 2021 in NYC is going to be one for the books. After a year of staying inside and close to home, New York City has reopened (with a few precautions to keep everyone safe). It’s hard to hit all the “hot” spots during a typical summer, this year it’s gonna be down right impossible. (Which is just how we like it.) Bonus: tons of activities are free! Buckle up: here’s our list of things to do with kids in NYC, summer 2021 edition. Now slather on some sunscreen and get busy!

Pick All the Things

Cherries are the first crop of the season. Here's where to pick your own!

Peak summer means it's time to pick strawberries, raspberries, blueberries and more. Here are our favorite places to pick near NYC!

There's nothing quite like a bouquet of flowers you pick yourself. Here's where you can do just that!

Visit Governors Island. This summer getaway in the harbor is back in a big way for 2021. Click here to see what's in store!

Feel the wind in your hair on a zipline, or traverse a ropes course. These are our favorites.

Celebrate Pride! This year's Grand Marshalls are Wilson Cruz, Ceyenne Doroshow, Menaka Guruswamy & Arundhati Katju, Dr. Demetre Daskalakis, and Aaron Philip. The celebration will be broadcast on Sunday, June 27, from noon-3 p.m., and will feature a mix of the live broadcast, a streaming virtual experience, and in-person pop-ups at local businesses using outdoor seating. 



Visit LEGOLAND. It's finally here! The newest LEGOLAND, located in Goshen, New York is open for previews through June 20. (Previews means they are putting the final touches on the park, so some attractions may not be ready, but you get a reduced rate!) The park will include seven LEGO-themed lands, with attractions such as Miniland, Ninja Training Camp, Build and Test, Robotic LEGO play, LEGO Creative workshop and tons of LEGO-themed rides for thrills, spins and more. You must buy tickets in advance. 

Preview tickets: $49.99/adults, $44.99/kids, through June 20
1 LEGOland Blvd. 
Goshen, NY

Experience Harry Potter New York. Hoo-boy. Starting June 3, the largest collection of Harry Potter and Fantastic Beasts merchandise under the sun can be found at 935 Broadway. In addition to three floors and 20,000 square feet filled with products, from the accessible to collectible, you'll find a deluxe wand shop, photo ops and even the chance to order up a Butterbeer.

Opens June 3
935 Broadway


Little Island @ Pier 55

 Visit Little Island at Pier 55. That undulating park off the West Side Highway is open! Make sure you make a reservation! 

Play all day at one of our favorite Manhattan playgrounds

Explore Brooklyn's best playgrounds. Brooklyn Bridge Park, Domino Park, the playgrounds in Park Slope and Prospect Park—Find them here!

Visit a sprayground to cool off. (That's a playground with water features.) These are our favorites to beat the heat!

Amber Waves Farm

Head to the Hamptons. But don't go without checking out our list of things to do with the kids in the Hamptons

Go to a drive-in movie. In the city, upstate, and beyond, here's where you can see a movie outdoors this summer!

Slip and slide at an outdoor waterpark. Click here to see our favorites!

Or opt for a climate-controlled, indoor waterparks. (Where you can often stay over and make a weekend of it.) Click here to get booking!

See some art. Spend a rainy (or too darn hot) day having fun and getting cultured at these NYC museums. And don't forget to catch art outside, too like KUSAMA: Cosmic Nature at the New York Botanical Garden, shown here. 

Take a hike! We love these kid-friendly walks in the city, and these treks a little further afield

Have an animal encounter. At one of NYC amazing zoos, at an aquarium, at a petting zoo! Find all of them here!


Go glamping. You've got lots of options to sleep in the great outdoors but still have some creature comforts. Try these glamping spots in and around NYC. For luxury tents, check out Tentrr—we did!

Try a farm stay. Get out of the city and down on the farm. We love these places that will host your family for a farm stay!

Pile into and RV.  RV curious? Check out these trips for a maiden voyage with kids. 


Get your licks in. NYC's cone runneth over when it comes to ice cream. Classic, crazy, hip-hop inspired, Big & Gay. Click here to see the best ice cream shops for kids in NYC!

Go the beach! NYC public beaches are free, and they open to the public for the 2021 season on Saturday, May 29!  Here's our guide to visiting NYC beaches this summer.(You  can get to all of these using public transportation. Note that if you drive, parking is not free, and often pricey.)

Visit Coney Island. Coney is back open, with new rides coming to both Deno's Wonder Wheel and Luna Park. (Heads up: Luna Park no longer sells tickets for individual rides. You need to buy a wristband for $42 just to walk in the park—even if you don't ride.) Wristbands are good for two hours at the park. The Mermaid Day Parade is happening this year, with exact ate TBD; probably in late summer or early fall. 

Sachyn Mital/Lincoln Center

Visit The Green & Enjoy Restart Stages at Lincoln Center. Lincoln Center is covered in Astroturf and it couldn't be more delightful. Stop by to chill and check out free arts programming (tickets by lottery) that's part of Restart Stages, the center's program to bring outdoor arts programming to its campus. 

See free outdoor concerts and shows all summer long. Shakespeare, movies, music and magic shows, it's all happening, and most of the time it's free. Click here to see what's happening around town!

Dive-in to NYC's free public pools. The city's free, often humongous, outdoor pools are open again as of Saturday, June 26. (Last year saw a limited amount open and a truncated season.) Find your pool here, and be sure to read the rules before heading out! 

Tour and taste at a brewery or a winery. We found both that are kid-friendly. See where you can get sipping them here!



Walk the Highline. This free, elevated park is a one-of-a-kind destination filled with native plantings and thought-provoking art. (It's also right by the Whitney Museum and Little Island @Pier 55.) If you visit on a weekend, you need a reservation, none are needed on weekdays. See hours, art and programming info at the park here.

Sample the best of NYC food at an outdoor market. Take your pick of where to nosh: Smorgasburg in Williamsburg, Prospect Park, Jersey City, FiDi, or Queens Night Market in Flushing Meadows Corona Park or Rockefeller Center. You'll find lots of options in Time Out New York in DUMBO's Brooklyn Bridge Park. It's inside, but you sit down or take it to go. 

Fight Summer Slide at the Liberty Science Center. Read our guide before you go! 

Visit a National Park Near NYC. Click here for our suggestions!

—Mimi O’Connor


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