36 things to do in nyc this summer with kids!

with the warm weather upon us (and the splashpad waters officially turned on until the beginning of september), i wanted to share a post with some of our favorite things to do in new york city during the summer months with children! since this is often a frequently asked question this time of year with many of you heading this way to visit, i hope you can find this information helpful! this place comes alive during the summer months, and it’s my favorite place to be, albeit hot and sticky and sometimes very crowded. ;) so here are 36 (or so?) things to do in new york city this summer!

summer in NYC with kids: what not to miss!

  • top of my list would be central park! you could spend an entire day here and still not cover everything the park has to offer…  a few of our family’s favorite things include the granite slide (at the billy johnson playground, just north of the central park zoo), riding bikes around the lower loop (we like to pause at bethesda fountain for an ice cream break and hopefully catch the bubble man who often is out around that area), or renting and taking a boat out at the loeb boat house (also by bethesda fountain).  there are a number of playgrounds in the park, as well as free concerts offered including some by the nyphilharmonic orchestra which often end with fireworks (at least on the first night). the met opera will also be performing in the park (as well as other parks in the city all summer long! more info here.) and because we love centrak park so much, here is a little video guide we made a few years ago (when conrad was in my belly!) that highlights all of our favorite things in the park. everything in that guide is still relevant!
  • i mentioned biking in central park, but riverside park and the bike paths along the hudson river are also so much fun. you can rent bikes and also children’s bike seats or trailers at several places in the city or try citibikes which are everywhere. if you bike along the hudson river, check out pier 25 at hudson river park which has some fun water features and a fun playground that works for all ages. a short walk from pier 25 is one of our family’s favorite restaurants (and spot to grab pancakes!), bubby’s, you can get some fun silly photos taken in their old black and white film photobooth in the basement afterwards, too.
  • on particularly hot and humid days, this city has some incredible museums worth exploring. (best air conditioning ever!). our personal favorite is the american museum of natural history which has a great kids discovery room (be sure to check the hours each day). the met is also a great one (the rooftop has such a beautiful view of the park and city skyline) and the children’s museum of art has really awesome drop-in art classes for the entire family for a small fee (it includes singing time and their singing time cannot be beat!)
  • speaking of museums, the new york aquarium has a new shark exhibit that is supposed to be really exciting. we haven’t been yet, but it’s on our summer list for a rainy or super hot day where we can’t be outside.
  • governor’s island is a quick ferry ride away from manhattan and you can rent bikes (even tandem or 6-seater surrey bikes!) to explore the island. they have an incredible slide set up on one side and food trucks near a playground in the middle. but possibly the best attraction in our opinion is the kids junkyard playground which is designed to encourage risk-taking, experimentation and freedom through self directed play – only children are allowed inside! it’s full of hammers, saws, nails – it’s amazing. they do have a few play-workers inside to help the kids if needed, but the kids really do well on their own and our children have not stopped talking about it. i can’t recommend it enough!
  • coney island is always a good time and worth the experiences at least once! if you can swing it on a week day, we’ve found the lines and crowds to be much more managable. have always wanted to be there to witness the hot dog eating contest! someday…
  • speaking of hot dogs, let’s talk more about food and get to the good stuff….  ice cream! summer is our favorite for ice cream crawls around the city! honestly any kind of food crawl is the way to go in my book, but ice cream is something our entire family can get behind. here is a little video we did of an ice cream crawl a few summers back, but some of our spots include emack and bolio’s on the upper west side, ample hills (the ooey gooey butter cake can’t be topped!) and morgenstern’s (who’s newest location on houston street boasts 88 flavors! the cookies and cream milk shake is actually what we love most there.)
  • there is a great (though very small) outdoor pool at vesuvio playground that will also open up at the end of the month. it’s around the corner from dominique ansel’s bakery, so you can enjoy a cronut while your little ones swim! :)
  • there are several great splashpads for kids around the city, and almost every playground offering some kind of water sprinkler as well during the hot months. our favorite splashpads are at hippo playground on the upper west side (a lot of great shade at this one!) as well as the roof terrace of the american museum of natural history. in brooklyn, pier 6 has a great set up during the summer. we have also enjoyed the splashpad in prospect park at the lefrak center.
  • speaking of splashpads, domino park in williamsburg has an incredible water set up (although no shade! so be sure to come prepped with hats/sunscreen/etc). there is a great playground set up beside it with a taco shop in between so you really cannot go wrong.
  •  hudson river parks offers a free movie night for families on friday nights during the summer. you can find the movie showings schedule here. and not as kid friendly, but rooftop cinema club shows old movies on the rooftop during summer nights as well. more info here.
  • during the first three saturdays in august here in the city, our family looks forward to summer streets, where almost 7 miles of nyc streets are shut off to cars and open to the public to walk and bike along. it’s a lot of fun!
  • and we are anxious to go see the goats that were just released in the northern part of riverside park a few weeks ago for the summer. they were released by the riverside park conservancy for the summer from a local farm to help with the sloped terrain full of weeds and invasive plants! we are hoping to spot a few in the park this summer.
  • a few fun places to point out that little ones might enjoy are alice’s tea cup for a tea party (complete with fairy wings and a fairy dusting of sparkles as you sit down!), popbar in the village (who can resist having your popsicle of choice dipped in all sorts of chocolate and toppings)! samson is particularly fond of dylan’s candy bar on the east side (it’s where we like to go on mama-son dates to put together a candy bag). we also can never say no to some rice pudding from rice to riches (so many flavors to choose from!) down in nolita. and last but not least, an ice cream sandwich made out of edible cookie dough (or how about just a bowl full of edible cookie dough, yeah!?) at DŌ!
  • if you’re here around the end of summer, we really enjoy the US Open each year. we take the kids to a day match during one of the earlier days of the tournament, but they also have a family day during the opening weekend with a lot of fun activities centered around the little ones on the tennis grounds.

PS- here is a printable map covering all the elevators for the subways if you have a stroller! and here is a post with more tips and tricks for anyone visiting new york and looking for info on taking taxi cabs with car seats, broadway shows, etc. as well as this post on dining out in the city with little ones!

if you love anything in nyc over the summer that i missed, please share with others in the comments below!

  1. Amy

    Love these! But now I’m really missing NYC.

  2. Susan

    Great list of things to do! Where was the first picture taken with the dome in the background?

  3. Amira

    Can you do a things to do in NYC for adults?! :D

  4. Janet

    My boyfriend and I are heading to the city in September. This gives me some good ideas too! Kids at heart.

  5. Anne

    Very sadly the Brooklyn pop up pool is no more. They are going to build a larger permanent pool right above in Squibb park pending approval and the BQE project. Makes me really sad as it was such a fun spot!! Thanks for the list.

  6. Sierra

    I so appreciate your printable map! We rock the double stroller with the stroller board so it’s so helpful to know the ins and outs ahead of time. Central park is so great and we would love to Coney Island this year. Thanks for sharing! Sierra Beautifully Candid

  7. Mariel

    Great tips! Just one typo 7 miles for summer streets says 7 milkes.

  8. Kellie

    Love this list!! Thank you for sharing.
    While I don’t have kids, my girlfriends and I are planning a long weekend in July to visit nyc and some of these places in your post seem perfect!!!

  9. Brooke

    Brooklyn Bridge pop up pool has been removed

  10. Elizabeth Riddle

    What a timely post! I wasn’t just about to email you asking for tips as we are soon to travel to NYC for 3 days with our 10 year old daughter and 7 year old son. Do you have a recommended itinerary for those three days so that I can plan it out logistically and not waste too much time due to poor planning on my part? This could include any favorite food spots, too as that is as much our vacation experience as the sightseeing 😀. Thanks!

  11. Hello hello from UK! :-) I have some friends with children that have chosen New York for some holiday in August so I’ll definitely pass on this to them! They only have two babies but they were worried as it is the first international trip as a family. Thanks Naomi for this wonderful post! <3

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  13. Louise

    We’re heading over in October but this was really useful, thank you. Really excited to show our 8 year old one of our favorite places! Thanks for all your useful tips. Love your blog. xx

  14. katie

    Thank you so much for these helpful guides! we are from rural maryland and planning a trip in the fal(mid-Oct) l with our little’s and I was wondering if you will be doing a fall guide and also where you suggest on staying? Thank you so much for sharing your family and life with us!