Every June, you put a decent amount of effort into giving Dad a special day. This year, create a truly unique and unforgettable Father’s Day by putting the emphasis on a great family experience rather than a pricey present and a cheesy card. Consider these eight budget-friendly activity ideas in NYC, from free miniature golf and biking on Governors Island to free guided-hiking adventures in Staten Island and an afternoon spent between the batting cages and a beer garden on Randall’s Island.
1. Mini golf, the junior version of perhaps one of Pop’s favorite pastimes, is an easy way to involve all members of the family. Visit Governors Island for a modern take on the old 18 holes, as interpreted annually by the art collective, FIGMENT. “Arcade,” this year’s theme, gives kids the chance to have their golf ball engulfed by a Venus fly trap, travel through time, or hit through a pinball-inspired nature course, all at the low, low price of free. After golf, go for a ride on your bikes (free to bring over on the ferry on weekends from 10am-7pm) or rent them on the island for $15 for two hours.
How to get there: Governors Island is accessible via free ferry service. Take the 1 to South Ferry Street or the R to Whitehall Street to access the ferry.
2. At Wave Hill in the Bronx, put your best fashion foot forward with your father at this Family Art Project: T’s for Dad and Me/Franelas para Papá y yo on Sunday, June 17 from 10am—1pm. Roam the gorgeous grounds and get inspired to design a one-of-a-kind t-shirt for Dad made with fabric markers, special crayons, and of course, love. The event is free, and admission to the park is $8 for adults, $2 for children 6 and under.
How to get there: Ride the Metro-North Railroad to Riverdale. A shuttle will pick up visitors at 45 past the hour and drop off directly at Wave Hill Park’s front gate. The shuttle makes return trips at 20 minutes past the hour.
3. While Randall’s Island isn’t generally referred to as a patriarchal paradise, it might as well be with the Randall’s Island Golf Center’s batting cage, beer garden and driving range all located on 25 acres of verdant grounds. With 82 stalls to hit out of and $14 for a large bucket, golf balls will be flying and Dad will be de-stressing from the work week. At the cages, $3.50 will yield 30 pitches and a blast from Little Leagues past. After an active afternoon, stop into the beer garden and grill to relax with an ice cold brew.
How to get there: Take the 5 train to 125th Street. Walk to Lexington Ave and take the M35 bus towards M35 Ward’s Island.
4. Keep it crafty with a DIY Father’s Day festival at Brooklyn’s Prospect Park. Rather than purchase a pre-made proclamation of love for dad, arrive at the Audubon Center at 1pm and let the kids create their own cards using recycled materials. Continue the free-of-charge celebration at 3pm at the Lefferts Historic House, and enjoy a sweet treat of strawberries and home-made whipped cream while joining in a sing-along with musician Rory Dineen.
How to get there: Take the A/C/E train to West 4th Street. Transfer to the F train and ride until 15 Street- Prospect Park.
5. For the father whose day job exists in a maze of cubicles, an uphill hike can be as therapeutic as a massage. Give him a taste of the great outdoors and head to Staten Island’s Blue Heron Nature Center. Grab your hiking boots and a canteen and follow the park’s rangers on a moderate hike through the Nature Center’s trails. Achieve a day’s exercise while learning about Staten Island’s environment at this eco-friendly event.
How to get there: Take the R train to 86th Street. Catch the S53 bus bound for PT Richmond and depart at Hylan Blvd. & Steuben St. Transfer to the S78 bus bound for the Bricktown Mall and depart at Hylan Blvd. and Poillon Ave. Walk 5 minutes northwest to arrive at Blue Heron Park.
6. Nautically-inclined families should take advantage of a day in the surf and sun with free kayaking at Brooklyn Bridge Park. The volunteer-run kayaking program provides life vests, instruction and a watchful eye over the enclosed cove as families can kayak to their heart’s content. Make sure to arrive at the boathouse before the 11am start time; equipment is provided on a first come, first serve basis.
How to get there: Take the 1 train to 72nd Street and then take the 2 train to Clark Street. Exit onto Henry Street and walk down until you reach Cadman Plaza West/Old Fulton Street.
7. Relaxing while the game is on is an idea echoed by fathers across America. So, why not take the game out of the living room and watch the Brooklyn Cyclones take on the Staten Island Yankees on June 18. Seats are priced $16 at most, and decline in rate as they are located further from the field. Make sure the kids bring their own gloves and balls to enjoy some pre-game fun on the MCU field, at the weekly Sunday Funday event.
How to get there: Take the D/F train to Coney Island-Stillwell Ave. Walk one block to Surf Ave.
8. Fathers in the Forest at Staten Island’s High Rock Park promises to be fun for fathers and the entire brood. Hike along beautiful trails and track animals while learning about what the male species living in these woodlands do to survive. While the event is free, registration is recommended, and can be done through emailing email@example.com.
How to get there: Take the 1 train to the South Ferry stop. Board the Staten Island ferry and ride across. At the ferry terminal, catch the #S62 bus to Morani Street and Victory Boulevard. Across the street will be an entrance to the park.
Photo: Courtesy of Chris Gold