It's Sooo Hot in the City! Cheap (or free!) Activities To Do With Kids of All Ages in NYC during the summer

Looking for fun ideas on things to do with your toddlers and kids this summer? Here are some tips & suggestions that PSP members have shared. If you have more awesome ideas, let us know and we'll make sure they're added to the list! 

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In this article...



Parks & Playgrounds

Ferries, Transport & Islands





Museums & Libraries

Local Businesses


Quick Tips on How to Stay Cool

Check out's Beat the Heat page.

Check out the Park Slope Parents Best and Easy Meet-Up Map and look for the blue PSP logos marking parks and playgrounds with water features!

Keep yourself (and your plants!) hydrated.

Close all blinds and curtains to keep the heat out.

Eat cooler foods (fruits and veggies rather than pastas, meat, and milk). Gazpacho is always great!

Don’t use your stove/oven unless you have to, and wait to dry clothes until nighttime.

Take an umbrella if you have to go out.

Hold squirt bottle fights (lasts so much longer than a water balloon fight and better for the environment. You can pick up squirt bottles at most 99-cent stores.

Wet your hair.

Put water bottles in the freezer overnight to help keep kids lunch boxes cooler and have cold water to drink.

Wear loose, light-colored clothing.

Get window shades for your car.

Try a swamp cooler (putting a fan behind a bowl of ice water).

Get a bunch of baby wipes (or a washcloth) and put them in the freezer to have on hand.

Pick up some mist bottles (dollar stores typically have these in the travel section). Put the bottle in the fridge or freezer. Add some fun essential oils to make it a spa day.


Outdoor Activities: 

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Parks & Playgrounds

One parent says, "go to a Splash Pad or Playground with water features (the LeFrak Center in Prospect Park, Harmony Playground, Imagination Playground, Brooklyn Bridge Park)."

Other parks and playground suggestions:

Botanical Gardens - "free on Tuesday and before noon on Saturday!"

Prospect Park -  "Pretend to be explorers in Prospect Park! As one parent shares: “One of my favorite free places to take my boys (2.5 and 4.5) is the woods in prospect park.  the whole east side of the park has random trails that are fun to get lost on.  I usually just let them lead the way and I follow.  Yes, sometimes we walk in circles but that's actually really fun when they realize that we've just come back to where we were.”

Pier 6 -  “Pier 6 is awesome. Has super huge sand park, water area and climbing gyms.”

Battery Park City - "I really like Battery Park City in the summer. There is so much there you can spend a whole day...the slides, the mini golf, the older playground with trapeze nets and interesting pedal horse toy, the poetry library, a cool Irish monument/installation, tribeca playground is well shaded and has water play and whole foods is a great place to eat. I always have a good time. Plus you are right on the water and can just feel the breeze."

Hudson south of 14th Street - “If in Manhattan, playground on Hudson just south of 14th street is small but has nice playground, water, and sand combination (and free star gazing—saw Hugh Jackson there)

Coney Island - HERE is an article a PSP mom shared about her trip to Coney Island.


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Ferries, Transport & Islands

Staten Island Ferry - "The Staten Island ferry is free and, while not indoors, cool and comfortable, with great views. There's also the ferry to Ikea from lower Manhattan, or the bus to Ikea (Ikea has very cheap kids' meals)."

Governors Island - "The ferry leaves from Pier 6 in Brooklyn."

Roosevelt Island - One parent recently took the tramway to Roosevelt Island and reported: “My daughter loved it.”

The subway - "Also want to mention that for us, just riding the subways is a great way to stay cool and have fun.  My young son is completely entranced by the train and actually cries when we leave the subway platform."

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Public Pools 

Go HERE for more tips from PSP members about local pools in Brooklyn, and be sure to check the NYC Parks website HERE for opening and closing times (often city pools close for an hour in the afternoon for cleaning).


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Jacob Riis - "There's a whole food court complete with hammocks, tables with shade and bands/djs. A fun scene. Info here."

Brighton Beach - "I love Brighton Beach- easy drive, I always find parking, and have been taking my girl (now 8) almost since she was born"

Robert Moses Beach - "Robert Moses Beach is an hour away on Long Island but gorgeous and worth it. It had parking, showers, rentals for chairs and umbrellas and a concession stand. I just went Monday for the day. Sometimes a little traffic heading back of you leave between 5 and 6 but again worth it.

Rockaways (pictured) - "Easy access by the A train."

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Zoos & Aquariums

Wildlife Conservation Society - "My best recommendation for your kid's ages is to get a membership from WCS - a membership to them gets you free admission to all the zoos in NYC and the aquarium. The Aquarium has parking and it is on the Coney Island Walkway so you have beach (not the nicest beach in the world but suitable for a little running around and splashing) and an amusement park, plus the baseball field all nearby. The aquariums and the zoos all have indoor and outdoor spaces so you can get out of the heat. You can even take the kids to a 3D movie at the zoos. We are also members of the Natural History Museum - rain or heat - its a great place to skip the lines, let the kids wander, and learn a thing or two - from dinosaurs to space this is the best kids museum in the city. Most the big museums in NY are priced for SUGGESTED DONATION so feel free to pay what you can afford not what they ask. But the reason you get a membership is to skip the lines - and its worth every penny."

Prospect Park Zoo - "The Prospect Park Zoo actually has indoor exhibits that have AC and are very cool! Particularly the baboon exhibit! I highly recommend."


Indoor Activities 



Museums & Libraries

By the way: Cardholding patrons of the Brooklyn Public Libary age 13+ can sign up for Culture Pass, a program that gets you free admission to dozens of NYC cultural institutions, including museums, historical societies, heritage centers, public gardens

Brooklyn Museum - Check out the free first Saturday events.

New York Transit Museum

Natural History Museum - “Go up to the Ross Terrace, where there are dancing fountains kids can play in.”

The Children's Museum of the Arts - "I am also a big fan of Childrens Museum of the Arts in Soho. It is not an affiliate of the above museums, so you pay per visit or can become a member. They have a very hands-on art program. They also have free hands-on classes on Governor's Island (the calendar for governor's island - you get the ferry for free at the playground at the pier where Atlantic avenue ends)."

Brooklyn Children's Museum - "Get a membership to the Childrens Museums - now there are two Childrens museums in NYC - one is the Childrens Museum of Manhattan  and one is the Brooklyn Childrens Museum - they are both members of the same museum society so you should be able to buy one membership and go to Both BUT THAT IS NOT HOW IT WORKS - they have created a special exception so you cant use your card at both places BUT you can become a member of an affiliated museum - Like Port Discovery in Baltimore and then you get free admission to both NYC museums. You do not however get to skip the lines like members of the NYC museum can, and you dont get discounts on classes etc. But, it saves you money and gives you options. If you already had a membership in your old location, it may be valid here - I know we have used ours in Atlanta, Houston and CA."

Museum of Mathematics - 6th St btwn 5th/Madison - "Yes, many of the concepts would be lost on a toddler but it's an amazing place and there were so many fun things for my 18mo to do.  A plus is that Madison Square Park is just around the corner and on Tues/Thurs mornings (10:30AM) they host free kid concerts, art and more until Aug 8th. We saw Recess Monkey last week and they were awesome! There's also a nice playground (w/overhead sprinkler!) in the park."

The Brooklyn Public Library - View what PSP members say about BPL here for the central branch, the Park Slope branch, and the Brooklyn Public Library Cafe!

More on PSP:  Kid Approved Art, Museum & Music Events 

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Local & Private Businesses

Ikea - “Sounds odd, but if you can get there, there's a lot of good playing to be had in the kids' room vignettes and toy department, and the food is super cheap.” and another parent also suggests it for being "Cheap! Ferry! Kids' meals in the restaurant are seriously cheap (and even free on Tuesdays)."  And as another parent says, "there is plenty of space to play (and there is a child play area) in the IKEA in Red Hook, and its lovely to have lunch at the Fairway in Red Hook and then walk along the water to one of the near by Parks."

Barnes & Noble

City Point Mall in Downtown Brooklyn

World Financial Center - One parents describes how it "has lots of great restaurants and stores. Plus, they offer free arts programming."

See a movie! Nitehawk Cinema has locations in Williamsburg and Prospect Park, or head to Manhattan for the AMC experience.

Coffee shops and restaurants - see PSP reviews HERE for local restaurants and cafes. 

Indoor play spaces - see PSP reviews HERE for local spaces.


Further Reading:

Click HERE to read more reviews and recommendations on PSP about play spaces in Brooklyn.

Looking for things to do with a tween or teen? Get some ideas HERE.


Photo credits: Staten Island photo via here; Rockaway photo via here; Natural History Museum via here; all other photos via Pixabay