Beat the NYC Heat: The City's Best Summer Activities

School’s out, the brownstone is sweltering, and your neighbors just got friendlier. It must be summertime! Step outside and take your kids all over the city for a summer of movies, music, parks, and pantomime. 

First Festival of the Season

Welcome the summer season with New York’s Museum Mile Festival, a one-day event in June with a block party, live music, and arts and crafts. The highlight though, is free museum admission (from 6pm - 9pm) to nine museums along the path, including the Guggenheim, Neue Gallery, the Met, the Jewish Museum, Museo del Barrio, and the Africa Center, among others.

Cultural diversity, car-free promenading and family activity centers along the path make for an excellent day out to welcome the summer.

Soak Up the Summer

Head to one of 34 parks in all five boroughs to experience SummerStage Kids, a part of the greater citywide SummerStage cultural festival that caters specifically to children and families. Dates throughout the summer bring music, dance, puppets, and storytelling to every corner of the city with over 90 events.

Parents won’t be bored with kid-friendly rockers and jazz musicians, performances at the International Contemporary Circus Festival, and a range of juggling, puppeteering, and dance events throughout the summer. The festival runs from June through the middle of August.

Catch a Thrill

Brooklyn neighborhood home of summer amusements and quaint pop culture. Catch the bizarre circus of freaks at the Coney Island Circus Sideshow, watch or walk in the Mermaid Parade, and (naturally) ride the dozens of thrilling (if old-fashioned) roller coasters along the seashore.

Rides are not part of a centrally-managed theme park, but instead are individually owned and operated; thus visiting the neighborhood is a bit like an interactive museum of the early to mid-20th century.

The boardwalk and beach are maintained by New York City’s parks department and nurture the relaxing family atmosphere that has made the neighborhood so famous. Sunbathing, while not quite as thrilling, is another option.  

Make a Splash

Float through summer at one of the city’s public outdoor pools, perfect for cooling off during those sweltering heat waves. City pools are open daily from 11am until 7pm and have lap lanes, shallow zones, and swim lessons. Remember to bring a lock for your valuables. Babies and non-toilet-trained tots are invited to float as long as they’re wearing swim diapers.

Adventurous kids will love the Barretto Point Park Floating Pool, located inside a barge on the East River in the South Bronx. The pool is part of a big community development project that is becoming the best worst-kept secret of the Bronx.

Another recent addition to the city pool roster, rehabbed McCarren Park Pool, between Greenpoint and Williamsburg in Brooklyn, is a massive outdoor playa spanning more than 37,000 square feet of swimming area. Arrive early for a spot in the pool, which accommodates 6,000.

Dip into the Lower East Side’s favorite pool, the Hamilton Fish Park Pool, a giant semi-circle with a large, shallow kids end and several lap lanes heading towards the pool’s 11-foot-deep side. Check out the park’s Beaux Arts details as you sunbathe; the park was designated a historic landmark in 1982.

Besides the chlorinated variety, there is plenty of water to wade in all over the city. Rent free kayaks from the Downtown Boathouse at Pier 26 or from the Brooklyn Bridge Park Boathouse and paddle down the Hudson. Kids under 13 must be accompanied by adults in the same boat.

Get Out and Ride

Spin your wheels Saturdays in August when your family can bike the streets of Manhattan from the Brooklyn Bridge to Central Park without any pesky automobile annoyances. Summer Streets is seven miles of roadways just for pedal-pushers, pedestrians and pop-up rest stops along Lafayette Street and Park Avenue.

Each rest stop has themed activities perfect for families; these areas are designed to spread out your ride so no one gets too tired. Summer Streets planners have stolen a page from the Paris Plage playbook by creating a sand-and-palm-tree oasis at one of the rest stops.

See Stars Under the Stars

Pack a picnic, some blankets and maybe a few sleeping bags and take the whole family to see a movie in one of the summer’s myriad of screenings-in-a-park series. While many of these movie lineups are geared towards grown-ups (thanks in part to the post-sunset start times), there are usually a few family-friendly titles in the mix. Check your favorite park’s lineup for details.

 For teen and tween-friendly films, try a night out at Prospect Park’s Summer Movies Under the Stars at Long Meadow North or Coney Island’s Flicks on the Beach series, which alternates between all-ages and more PG-13 content.

The best bets for younger children are series that run through July and August with animation and live-action titles from the 80’s, 90’s and 2000’s. Atlas Park’s Movies on the Green, Hudson River Park’s River Flicks for Kids, and Summer Starz at Towne Square in Brooklyn offer great options every week. Check out New York Restoration Project’s Arts in the Garden Movie Nights, which rotate family-friendly films through garden spaces in Manhattan, Queens, and Brooklyn.

Catch the final rays of summer at Union Square’s kid-friendly Summer in the Square series in August.

How do you beat those sweltering NYC heat waves in the summer? Share your fun plans with us in the comments below!

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