Fun and Free in New York City

Summer’s finally here in New York City, and as parents, that means no school and more potential for high-quality, fun family time that gets you all out and moving and taking in some of the great cultural summer events the city has to offer. But if you’re on a budget (and who isn’t?), by the time you factor in ticket costs, transportation, carting around all the strollers, sunscreen and other kid supplies you’ll need for a day or an evening out, you probably can’t afford to do everything you want without breaking the bank and frazzling your nerves. What’s a family to do?


Every year I like to put together a list of fun and free things to do that will pull you outside to enjoy the warmer weather and the great sights and sounds in your own backyard with friends and family. Below are five, family-friendly events to attend in the next month that are totally FREE to you and will put smiles on everyone’s faces.


Macy’s 4th of July Fireworks, “Ignite the Night” 2012


What would your 4th of July be without the spectacle of fireworks? This year, the fireworks celebration will be held at 9 p.m. between 18th and 43rd Streets on the Hudson River. The display will be broadcast on NBC and feature performances by Katy Perry and Kenny Chesney. But, what’s the point of living in NYC in the summer if you don’t get out to see America’s biggest 4th of July fireworks display live and in person? Still, most of us know that navigating the huge crowds with kids can be extremely stressful. The Mommy Poppins website offers some great insider tips for seeing the fireworks without getting eaten alive by crowds.


According to the site, the best viewing locations are …


  1. Twelfth Avenue and the West Side Highway. Since traffic is closed on the northbound lanes of the West Side Highway from 22nd – 59th Street starting at 2 p.m. on the 4th, this area turns into a big block party for the neighborhood. For access points, check out the Mommy Poppins site. But make sure to check before leaving the house, because the NYPD can change streets of entry at any time.
  2. New Jersey. The fireworks are just as visible from the other side in Weehawken, Hoboken or other cities on the Hudson. The website offers some tips on specific places to watch (most accessible via NYC/NJ public transportation).
  3. Riverside Park South. Macy’s and the NYC Parks Department have already issued an alert that viewing of fireworks above 59th Street is very limited. And no one will be allowed to enter the park post 4 p.m. However, if you stake out a spot there before 4, you won’t be asked to leave.

Mommy Poppins also offered up some locations to avoid. De Witt Clinton Park is closed to all but those with disabilities, and Hudson River Park piers and the Hudson River Park promenade will be closed. Battery Park City is another place NOT to go, as there will be no open areas with views. And if you’re looking to see the also impressive Jersey City fireworks display instead in Liberty State Park, it has been canceled for 2012.


After the 4th, there sure are a lot of concerts to enjoy!


SummerStage Kids’ Central Park Family Day


This is a don’t-miss FREE event for parents looking for kids’ entertainment, and SummerStage is a NYC institution. On July 8th, from 3-6 p.m. Justin Roberts & the Not Ready for Naptime Players/IllStyle & Peace Productions/New York Chinese Cultural Center/Performers from Bindlestiff Family Cirkus will provide three hours of diverse fun. Enjoy performances from local groups and groups from around the world, including puppetry, music, dance classes, arts and crafts workshops and magic!


Guthrie Family Reunion/Woody’s 100th Birthday


Who doesn’t love Woody Guthrie? On July 15th, from 7-10 p.m., storyteller and folk artist Arlo Guthrie will present a special tribute to his dad to celebrate his 100th birthday. He will be joined by other talented members of the Guthrie family including Abe Guthrie, Cathy Guthrie and Annie Guthrie, who show clearly why Woody’s legacy endures.  Check out this link for more event details and artist bios.


Orchestre Poly-Rythmo/Smod/Bibi Tanga & the Slenites/Chief Boima


The internationally-renowned Afro-funk band Orchestre Poly-Rythmo has stunned audiences globally for years, and this is your chance to see them FREE. On July 22nd, they’ll be coming to SummerStage alongside three other exciting African artists and DJs from 3-7 p.m. The Orchestre mixes drum, stunning vocals, brass,  guitar and percussion to create danceable music that will get you and your kids moving and teach them about exciting sounds from around the world. You can learn more about these great musicians and check out other event details here.


The Metropolitan Opera Summer Recital Series


Do you want to introduce your kids to live classical music without worrying about them getting restless? Or do you want a date night? The Metropolitan Opera Summer Recital Series started in 2009 and this year is featuring six great performances, which start off July 25 at 8 p.m. as part of SummerStage. This recital will feature some of the Met’s best performers, including Danielle de Niese (soprano), Dimitri Pittas (tenor) and John Del Carlo (bass-baritone), joined by pianist Dan Saunders who will present some of their favorite arias and duets.


Make sure to confirm all these events the day of, as cancelations and alterations can happen at any point. I hope they give you some new ideas about how to keep everyone engaged in this great city in the next month! Below, please also enjoy a performance of our song  “A Little Bit of Crazy is Good.” Happy Summer! xo — Amelia