The always kid-friendly New York City provides many events this summer for families to enjoy together—a good number of them free. For a start, there’s music at SummerStage Kids, tasty samples at the Big Apple Barbecue Block Party, July fireworks and the late-summer US Open Tennis Championships. Plus, outdoor movies get screened all season long. Read on for the details.
For three decades SummerStage has been the City’s preeminent outdoor concert series, taking place mostly at Rumsey Playfield in Central Park. It's now expanded to venues across the five boroughs. Among the free performances are readings by famous authors, world music shows and Summerstage Kids. That festival within a festival features circus acts, music and dance geared toward the young ones—though plenty of the regular concerts are good for kids too. Stay tuned for details on this year’s lineup.
A favorite among Brooklyn’s summertime concert series, Celebrate Brooklyn is set at the beautiful Prospect Park Bandshell, where tons of seating and tree-shaded areas make for a lovely spot for a picnic and a free show. There’s usually a concert or two pitched especially at the kids, but most of the performances start early enough in the evening to bring the whole family regardless. Stay tuned for information on this year’s lineup.
Free movie screenings are a local tradition, especially in the City’s parks. The Central Park Conservancy Film Festival screens classics just north of the Sheep Meadow (enter the park at West 72nd Street). Bryant Park, Astoria Park, Hudson River Park and Coney Island are just a few other places than can be relied on to show films. Make sure to bring a blanket, arrive well ahead of time and, most important, check to see if the movie is appropriate for your kids.
Big Apple Barbecue Block Party
Pit masters from NYC, Alabama, Texas, Tennessee, North Carolina and other locations near and far descend on Madison Square Park for the annual lip-smacking food festival. In addition to some seriously tender vittles, folks can enjoy live blues, rock and country music and catch seminars on the art and science behind the brisket and ribs.
National Puerto Rican Day Parade
The parade up Fifth Avenue celebrates Puerto Rican community and culture, which connects the millions of Puerto Ricans living in the New York City metropolitan area and across the United States with their compatriots in the Caribbean. “Lively” doesn't even begin to describe this event, which attracts tens of thousands of marchers and millions of spectators every year and includes energetic musical performances, floats and a host of Puerto Rican celebrities.
Copa America Soccer
June 12, 17 and 26
The 100th anniversary of the Copa America tournament features 10 teams from CONMEBOL (the South American soccer federation) and six from CONCACAF (North America, Central America and the Caribbean). MetLife Stadium will host three games: a group-stage match between Haiti and Ecuador (June 12); a quarterfinal that could, if form holds, pit Brazil against the United States (June 17); and the championship game (June 26). International stars, including Lionel Messi—whom many consider the planet's top player—plan to suit up.
Museum Mile Festival
The annual Museum Mile Festival offers free admission to some of the world's finest art collections during extended evening hours. The 23-block stretch of Fifth Avenue is home to seven participating institutions—El Museo del Barrio, the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, the Met Fifth Avenue, Cooper Hewitt, the Jewish Museum, Neue Galerie and the Museum of the City of New York. In addition to all the art to see inside, there are plenty of outdoor festivities: face painting, chalk drawing, live music and other block-party-type events. The festival kicks off at 6pm, rain or shine.
Night at the Museums
Under the umbrella of the River to River Festival, a number of downtown museums and historic sites will offer free admission and special programming on June 21, from 4pm to 8pm. The participating organizations have yet to be announced, but last year's event included the 9/11 Memorial Museum, Federal Hall National Memorial, Fraunces Tavern Museum, Museum of American Finance, Museum of Jewish Heritage–A Living Memorial to the Holocaust, National Museum of the American Indian–New York, Skyscraper Museum, South Street Seaport Museum, 9/11 Tribute Center, NYC Municipal Archives Visitor Center and Wall Street Walks.
Macy’s Fourth of July Fireworks
It wouldn’t be the Fourth of July in New York City without the annual Macy’s fireworks show, which made its debut in 1976 to commemorate the nation's bicentennial. The display will take place over the East River, with fireworks set off from the Brooklyn Bridge and from barges in the water below. The best viewing spots will be from Brooklyn Bridge Park and the Brooklyn Heights Promenade, and along the east side of Lower Manhattan. If you plan on heading to where the action is, arrive by 5pm to snag a good spot (the light show starts around 9:15pm).
Nathan’s Famous Fourth of July Hot Dog Eating Contest
With a combination of steely grit, limber lips and highly expandable stomachs, competitors in the annual Nathan's Famous Fourth of July International Hot Dog Eating Contest devour wieners galore to the delight of throngs of screaming fans. A select group of skilled eaters convene at high noon, eating Nathan's dogs (and buns) for 10 minutes straight, stopping for nothing—not ketchup, not mustard, not even a french fry. Competitive eating champ Joey Chestnut held the top spot for eight consecutive years but lost to upstart Matt Stonie in the 2015 battle. The stakes will be high this year as Chestnut seeks to reclaim his title. Plus, 2016 is the 100th anniversary of Nathan's and, purportedly, of the competition itself (historians, take note—records for the event extend no further back than the early 1970s).
Experience France without leaving the City at this family-friendly fair on East 60th Street in Manhattan. Sample authentic cuisine, stroll among market stalls, enjoy arts and crafts, watch live performances and dance to French-style music—all in commemoration of the beginning of the French Revoution.
What began in 1974 as a one-day tribute to Harlem has evolved over four decades into a monthlong celebration of the community's rich economic, political and cultural history. Harlem Week reaches a fever pitch during the bursting-at-the-seams weekend of events held under the banner of “Summer in the City,” including a college fair, children’s festival, “Dancing in the Street” party, fashion show, tennis clinic and Motown musical concert. Among the other highlights: a special Harlem Week series of “Amateur Night at the Apollo” concerts (with surprise musical guests added into the mix), a hoops tourney at historic Rucker Park and the annual Percy Sutton 5K run/walk.
For three Saturdays in August, the sounds of honking horns and idling delivery trucks give way to the gentle footfalls of pedestrians and the ring-a-ding-ding of bicycle bells. From 7am to 1pm, a corridor connecting Brooklyn Bridge to Central Park—long stretches of Lafayette Street and Park Avenue, and a few connecting streets—will be closed to motor vehicles and open to the public for biking, strolling, dancing and aimless peregrinating. There are also “rest stops” along the way, offering activities galore—a water slide, parkour, bicycling, tai chi demonstrations and a 165-foot zip line.
Hong Kong Dragon Boat Festival
A colorful multicultural tradition, this festival paddles back to Flushing Meadows Corona Park for a weekend-long celebration. The fest gets its name from the roughly 180 dragon-boat teams from around the world that come to race on the Queens park’s lake. Back on shore, expect plenty of traditional food and live entertainment, martial arts demonstrations from the monks of the Shaolin Temple, lion dance performances, Chinese crafts and children’s activities. Races take place throughout the day.
US Open Tennis Championships
August 29–September 11
It’s the final Grand Slam tournament of the year—one that makes or breaks seasons and sometimes careers. The US Open is a celebrated event in American sports, on par with the Masters, the World Series and the Super Bowl. Last year, men’s favorite Novak Djokovic beat Roger Federer in four electrifying sets, while a grand slam slipped away from women’s singles star Serena Williams when she lost to Roberta Vinci in the semifinals. Watch the action unfold this year at Flushing Meadows.
West Indian American Day Carnival
Even in New York City, few events overwhelm the senses more than the West Indian American Day Carnival, the annual celebration of the culture of NYC's Caribbean community. More than a million spectators turn out to hear the sounds of reggae and calypso music, taste freshly cooked delicacies and see revelers in elaborate, colorful costumes. It’s a great chance to experience firsthand the City's trademark diversity—and, of course, to purchase the foods, crafts, books, clothing, art and jewelry offered by vendors along the route, which runs on Eastern Parkway from Schenectady Avenue to Grand Army Plaza. The parade starts at 11am.