Sun’s Out, Fun’s Out! The Ultimate NYC Summer Bucket List

It’s summer in the city – there are outdoor movies to watch, free concerts to see, festivals to attend, food to eat and so, so much more to do. If the sheer array of staycation options is overwhelming, whittle down the choices with Red Tricycle’s go-to list of recommended summer activities for kids. From puppet shows to mini golf, a new shark exhibit and deluxe waterside park, it’s time to get out there and start checking a few of these must-do ideas for summer family fun off your seasonal bucket list.

photo: via Madison Square Park Conservancy Facebook page 

Concerts and Shows

1. Catch a kids concert at Madison Square Park. Did we mention they’re free?

2. See a marionette show at Central Park’s Swedish Cottage Marionette Theatre or track down the Puppetmobile on its citywide park tour.

3. Take in a show (or two or three) at Summerstage,  or Celebrate Brooklyn.

Outdoor Activities

4. Go swimming in Red Hook or one of 9 other favorite, free city pools.

5. Hit the beach with our guide to NYC’s best family-friendly shores reachable by public transportation.

6. Enjoy more than 155 free events happening in Union Square this summer at Citi Summer in the Square!

7. Play with the animals on a local farm or at a petting zoo.

8. Head to the hottest place to play this summer, Domino Park, where the playground of chutes, ladders and more is in the form of a sugar refinery.

9. See a family-friendly outdoor movie in your local park, at Bryant Park, at the Seaport, Greenpoint’s Transmitter Park, or Brooklyn Bridge Park.

10. Explore the Hamptons outside (and in).

photo: via MoMA P.S. 1 Facebook page

11. Head to Fort Tilden in the Rockaways to check out MoMA’s installation of Yayoi Kusama’s Narcissus Garden.

photo: via Seaport District Facebook page 

12. Stop by the South Street Seaport Museum for free admission on Fridays, and check out the new balloon installation by artist Geronimo.

photo: Julie Larsen Maher/WCS

13. Be one of the first to visit the amazing new Ocean Wonders: Sharks! exhibit at the New York Aquarium.


photo: via The Yard Facebook page

14.Hit up Governors Island at least once to check out the giant slides, art fests, anything-goes playground The Yard, mini golf, or the new “ice rink”! (Or make like a flapper and attend the Jazz Age Lawn Party!)

15. Take a ride on the Staten Island Ferry, row around Central Park or try one of six other NYC boat rides.

16. Head to the Bronx Zoo for animals, a bug carousel, treetop adventures for kids big and small and ziplining!

photo: LeFrak Lakeside

17. Beat the heat at one of the city’s top spray shower equipped playgrounds and water play areas.

18. Bike along the Hudson River through Riverside Park.

photo: Adventures Governors Island

19. Brush up on your mini-golf game at one of ten nearby courses (including a new one on Governors Island, pictured above).

20. Root, root for the home team at a Brooklyn Cyclones game.

21. Pay a visit to the Statue of Liberty and Ellis Island.


22. Grab lunch or dinner to go from a food truck.

23. Get ice cream! Lots of it! 

24. Create your own food tour at Smorgasburg, in Williamsburg or Prospect Park.

photo: Public Art Fund

25. Head to the Hot Dog Bus in Brooklyn Bridge Park for a free dog!

26. Pick your own cherries or berries at a nearby farm.

photo: Luna Park NYC via flickr

Even More Fun

27. No NYC kid’s summer is complete without a trip to the one and only Coney Island. PS: Free fireworks every Friday, weather permitting!

28. Find a zipline and race to the bottom!

photo: Diggerland

29. Race a mini-Land Rover, get behind the wheel of an excavator and more at Diggerland USA construction theme park.

30. Take cover in the shade on a kid-friendly nature walk within one hour of NYC.

31. Take a ride on one of the city’s many carousels. 

32. Go on a road trip and get medieval at the Renaissance Faire.

33. Escape the heat of the urban jungle and cool off at one of six favorite water parks within two hours of the city.

34. Frolic at a street fair or summer festival.

Field Station Dinosaurs

35. Attend a free storytime including one outdoors!

36. Go back to the prehistoric era and see the dinosaurs at Field Station Dinosaurs.

photo: via Liberty Science Center Facebook page

Cool Off Indoors

37. Drop into one of our favorite spots to keep cool during the summer’s hottest days!

38. Check out the summer of magic at the New-York Historical Society, with magicians, fortune tellers, escape artists and illusionists brought to life by living historians.

39. See what NYC’s youngest artists are creating at the Met’s “P.S. Art: Celebrating the Creative Spirit of NYC Kids”, which exhibits works by New York’s public school student.


photo: Christine Butler/ASF

40. Scandinavia House’s LEGO bricks celebration closes August 4. Catch it before it goes!

What’s on your summer bucket list this year? Tell us in a Comment.

– Mikaela Walker & Mimi O’Connor


Let Us Spray: NYC Parks with Water to Keep Cool

Cool It: Where to Chill on NYC’s Hottest Days

Everybody In! NYC’s Best Free Outdoor Pools



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