5 Free and Cheap Things to Do in NYC With the Family

The 90-degree heat says summer has settled in for the long haul, so apply the sunscreen, throw on the hats and head out with the family to enjoy the cornucopia of free and cheap activities in and around New York City. You can keep the kids occupied through August, and without breaking the piggy bank, with these seven suggestions—from free outdoor movies at night to free biking and a tennis clinic with the champions—that should prove fun for everyone.

Governors Island | New York | govisland.com

Why: Bikes, quadracycles, and kids cycles are available for rent on the island. Each Friday, your first hour’s rental is free, just be sure to get there early to snag a tots-sized bike. Don’t miss a tour of the Added Value Farm, where three acres of fruits and veggies are grown organically and sold at the farm stand.

When: Governors Island is open for business Friday, Saturday and Sunday until early October. Plan a visit August 7 and 8 when the Civil War Weekend promises to be educational, fun and free. Living history demonstrations, music and loads of kid-oriented activities are also on tap. Check the website above for a full listing.

Cost: Free

How to get there: Getting here is part of the fun, via the free ferries that depart from the Battery Maritime Building (10 South Street) in Lower Manhattan and Brooklyn Bridge Park’s Pier 6 at the corner of Atlantic Ave and Furman Street. Brooklyn ferries run on Saturday and Sunday only.

Movies Under the Stars | Pier A Park | Hoboken, NJ | hobokennj.org

Why: Because it’s free and Bryant Park’s movie experience doesn’t come with stellar views of the full Manhattan skyline. The award-winning lineup includes True Grit, The Fighter, Breakfast at Tiffany’s, Waiting for Superman, Toy Story 3, and The Social Network. Bring a blanket and a picnic and settle in to watch a movie as a family—or just the parents—without the hefty admission price.

When: Wednesday evening movies start at 9pm in July, and around 8:15pm in August.

Cost: Free

How to get there: The Path Train to Hoboken. Exit the PATH station, turn towards the New York skyline and walk towards the river. If you walk along the riverfront walkway, you will arrive at Pier A Park in two minutes.

Arthur Ashe Kids’ Day | Flushing Meadows | usopen.org

 

Why: If swinging a racket with tennis giants like Nadal, Federer and Serena Williams seems an impossible dream, then you have never been to Arthur Ashe Kids’ Day. These champions have been participating in the free tennis clinics and demonstrations that take place annually on the Saturday before the Open begins. The event is open to all kids under the age of 18, and includes adaptive tennis programs for special needs players.

Cost: These events are free. There is a concert that kicks off at 1pm, and costs $10 or $20 per seat, depending on where you sit. Past musical performers have included tween favorites Justin Bieber, the Jonas Brothers and Demi Lovato.

When: Saturday, August 27, from 9:30am until 4pm

How to get there: The #7 subway to Mets/Willets Point Station.

Wave Hill | Bronx, New York | wavehill.org

Why: Wave Hill is a great retreat from the hectic pace of family life in the city in all seasons. Summer is a particularly wonderful time to stroll the lush, peaceful grounds that sit majestically above the Hudson River. Lucky parents may enjoy the view from an Adirondack chair, while the kids romp. Don’t miss participating in the Family Art Project, held each Saturday and Sunday year round. Lead by seasoned Art Educator Noah Baen, kids are encouraged to use natural materials in their creations.

When: Saturday, July 16 and Sunday, July 17 is the first annual The Mow-Down: A Garden Hoedown, with special, free events running both days.

Cost: Tuesdays are Target Free Days from 9 am to noon in May and June, and are free all day on Tuesdays in July and August.

How to get there: Take the Hudson line local train to Riverdale. Wave Hill is a lovely—although steep—15-minute uphill walk from the station. Walk up 254th Street; turn right onto Independence Avenue and continue two long blocks to the Wave Hill Main Gate at 249th Street. For free shuttle information during April – October months, and for other public transportation routes, go to wavehill.org

Brooklyn Cyclones | Surf Avenue, Brooklyn | brooklyncyclones.com

Why: Whether you root for the Mets or the Yankees, New Yorkers have two spanking new stadiums with high-priced tickets to accompany the glitz. Even those nosebleed seats up in the bleachers are now expensive. What’s a baseball-loving family on a budget to do? The boys of summer can be yours for a whole let less in Brooklyn. The Brooklyn Cyclones’ stadium is the perfect place to bring your tyke to watch his or her first baseball game. This minor league team plays in a relatively small sized stadium, which means you can get up close and personal with the on-field action.

Cost: Tickets begin at $8/advance purchase, $9/door.

When: Check out the 2011 calendar here. Make note of the Tuesday deal, which says tickets are buy 1 get 1 free via KRAFT singles. Just bring the package wrapper to a Cyclones game to buy tickets.

How to get there: Take the D train, F train, N train, or Q train to the last stop, Coney Island/Stillwell Avenue. At the corner of Stillwell and Surf Avenues (where Nathan’s is located, so have baby try a Nathan’s Famous hot dog, a quasi-rite of passage for New Yorker’s), turn right. Walk two blocks west along Surf Avenue to the ballpark.

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Allison Tibaldi
Allison is a native New Yorker, who has lived in Rome, Tuscany, Melbourne, Toronto and Los Angeles. She frequently contributes travel pieces to Family Travel Forum, using her own children as guinea pigs as they travel the globe. She is fluent in Italian and Spanish and laughably adequate in French. Her background as an Early Childhood Educator gives her an added understanding of what it takes to travel with kids in tow. She firmly believes that the most important part of education takes place outside of the classroom, on the road, around the world. She never misses a chance to sample local delicacies, as her love for travel goes hand-in-hand with her love for food and wine. Follow Allison at @gourmetrav.