While living in NYC is fun in all seasons, there’s something particularly magical about summer in the city. Yes, the sidewalks are steamy and train stations feel like saunas, but there is a never-ending list of places to see and explore. To give you some inspo for your summer bucket list, here are some free and low-cost ideas.
Friday fireworks at Coney Island: Hit up Coney Island on Friday nights during the summer to watch a weekly fireworks display. To keep it low cost, bring a cooler and chill in the sand with family and friends, or splurge on rides before the show starts at around 9:45 p.m. There are also fireworks after every Brooklyn Cyclones game, so be sure to check out the full schedule here.
Watch a free concert in a local park: All summer long, the NYC Parks Department hosts free concerts across the city. Musicians from around the world come to perform everything from rock to jazz. There is also a children’s performance series for kids under 7. See the full schedule here.
Challenge yourselves with a free adventure course at Alley Pond Park: The Alley Pond Adventure Course in Queens is a ropes course complete with a climbing and boulder wall, zip line, and more. The park offers free programming on Sundays, so families can register to enjoy the adventure course for free at either 9:30 a.m. or 1:00 p.m. The course is for ages 8 and up. Learn more and register here.
Feed budgies at the Bronx Zoo: The new Budgie Landing at the Bronx Zoo is officially open. Visitors are given a seed stick before entering a bird habitat filled with these boisterous and colorful parrots. Walk around and see just how many birds will land on your stick to enjoy a snack. PS- if you’re not already a member, we’ve got a special promo code to use for general admission tickets to the Bronx Zoo. Use code BRONXMAMABZ for 10% off admission through 7/28/23. Budgie Landing tickets are $3 for members and $4 for non-members. Learn more here.
Catch a drive-in movie against the NYC skyline: What’s cooler than watching a movie at a drive-in? Watching said movie with the New York City skyline behind it. Spend a beautiful summer night at Skyline Drive-In in Brooklyn, which offers stunning skyline views right on the waterfront. Don’t have a car? There is also a walk-in option with chairs that are provided. *This one isn’t as low cost as the rest, but pack your own snacks and you’ll pay less than at a regular movie theater. Learn more here.
Free kayaking on the Hudson River: On Sundays, head uptown to enjoy free, guided 20-minute kayak trips on the Hudson River with Inwood Canoe Club. This is a free public paddling program that runs Labor Day to September 3. Anyone 8 and up who can swim is able to participate. Learn more about the sign-up process here.
Explore a new neighborhood: Even if you don’t have plans to fly anywhere this summer, the city’s diverse neighborhoods can still feel like you’ve traveled far. Each week, plan to explore a different neighborhood so the kids can truly get to know the city they live in. Grab dumplings in Flushing, cannolis on Arthur Avenue in the Bronx or mofongo in Washington Heights.
Go camping in NYC: Try your luck at the NYC Park’s lottery system to have the chance to camp overnight in a city park with the Urban Park Rangers. Tents are provided; families just need to bring their own bedding. Park rangers plan fun activities for the evening like moonlight hikes and s’mores. Register for the lottery here.
Enjoy stargazing from the High line: Summers are for late bedtimes, so head to the Highline on a Tuesday night to enjoy stargazing for free from sunset until the park closes. Thanks to the Amateur Astronomers Association, visitors can check out the night sky through high-powered telescopes every Tuesday evening until October 31. Located on the High Line and 13th street. Read more here.
Take the ferry to Rockaway Beach: It doesn’t get more summery than taking a boat to the beach. Grab your chairs and boogie board and take the NYC Ferry to Rockaway Beach. Bikes are allowed on the ferry for an additional charge, so you can spend the afternoon riding up and down the boardwalk. There is often live music at Caracas Arepa Bar (106-01 Shore Front Pkwy), and over at the 97th Street food concessions. Time it so that you catch the sunset on the boat ride back and you’ve got yourself a million-dollar view for the price of a Metrocard. View the Rockaway ferry schedule here.
Cool off at the Water Lab in Brooklyn Bridge Park: Grab a change of clothes and take the kids to Pier 6 in Brooklyn Bridge Park. They’ll spend hours running around the park’s water-jet field. After, search for butterflies at the pier’s Flower Field or swing like Tarzan on the ropes at Swing Valley. Learn more here.