Summer Fun in the City, for Free

June 10, 2024

Summer is a great time for healthy outdoor activities for children. But finding affordable activities for keeping young ones entertained can be a challenge. So, we put together a list to help.

Outdoor fun is important to a child’s healthy development, according to the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia. An  article, published in March 2024, advises three hours of outdoor play for school-aged children. Playing outside helps with “socialization, understanding their bodies better, engaging in imaginative play, and enjoying the outdoors.”.

We put together a list of mostly free activities for your young ones to enjoy. Hopefully this will have your little ones giddy with excitement for all the fun you have planned. 

Children take part in a craft activity in a park.

Park Programs

NYC Parks offers tons of free programs and activities all across the city for families to enjoy during the summer.

Use the neighborhood filters on the NYC Parks website to find the offerings closet to you.

Kids in Motion: Four to seven hours a day of free activities in playgrounds, including organized sports, games, fitness demos, board games and water games. Kids in Motion is a drop-in program, with no registration required. Check the website for the park/program you would like to attend and what hours it will be offered. Plan to take part in the fun with your little ones. Kids in Motion is not a child care program, and children must be accompanied by an adult.

Urban Park Ranger: These events vary from activities for all age groups like gardening, to programs for older kiddos like intermediate canoeing. The Urban Park Rangers even put on overnight family camping events. Events such as this do have a cap on the number of families that can attend. A lottery system determines which families will be chosen to attend. Entry into the lottery and the camping event itself are both free. The Rangers also provide all the supplies you will need from tents to marshmallows.

Free movie nights: Check the NYC Parks website for the schedule of free movie showings in a park near you.

Kids running through water spray fountains in a park.Water Play

Swim programs: NYC Parks offers a variety of swim programs, ranging from lessons and recreational swimming to training for swim team competitions. The Learn to Swim program is for children of all ages, including toddlers. As your children get older, they can participate in the youth swim team from age 6 to 18. An adaptive swim program is available for children and adults with disabilities.

Spray showers: On those super hot days when your kiddos are begging to get into some water, splash pads can be a great option for both you and your kids. NYC Parks’ spray showers are great for little ones who aren’t ready for the pool, and they can be found in parks all across the city. Use the NYC Parks website filters to find one near you. The Mommy Poppins blog also compiled a list of what it rated as the best of NYC water playgrounds.

Our Faves

Here are our favorites from that list for locations close to our Luminous communities:

  • Walter Gladwin Park, formally named Tremont Park, in the Bronx, offers a recently renovated splash pad and playground for your kids to enjoy. Mommy Poppins points out that this can be a busy destination, but there a second sprinkler area in the playground on the corner of East Tremont and Arthur Avenue.
  • Roberto Clemente State Park, Bronx. This park has both a splash pad and pool to offer families each day from 10am-1:30pm and 2:30pm -6pm. This park does require an entrance fee of $1 for kids and $2 for adults.
  • Lakeside splash pad, LeFrak Center at Lakeside at Prospect Park, Brooklyn. This area of Prospect Park includes two ice rinks that are converted into a rollerskating rink and an amazing splash pad in the summer.
  • Harmony Playground, Prospect Park. Besides a water park with geysers and showers, Harmony also offers a music-themed playground for creative kiddos to make lots of joyful noise.

Outing Options

Families who receive EBT or SNAP benefits might have more options for low-cost or free summer activities. Many museums and other family friendly attractions offer reduced-cost or free admission for those who show EBT cards. For example:

  • Brooklyn Museum offers up to five general admission tickets for those with EBT benefits to be reserved on their website in advance.
  • Staten Island Children’s Museum allows five free general admission tickets (one must be an adult) with proof of ID and EBT card in person.
  • Manhattan Children’s Museum offers free admission for families who provide their EBT card at admissions.

We hope these suggestions help with finding healthy outdoor options for your children. At Luminous, we’re excited to hear about your summer fun.

Luminous removes the hassle of arranging for tuition vouchers and helps make childcare affordable. Vouchers can help ease your financial stress – reducing the cost to as little as $1 to $50 dollars per week per child depending on eligibility. Learn more about qualifying for HRA and ACS vouchers at our seven Bronx and Brooklyn centers. Payment can also be made by SEIU/1199 Child Care, check, credit card, and through the Luminous reimbursement program. Contact Luminous Early Childhood Learning Center at or call us at 929.228.1180.

Thanks to contributing writer and mom of a toddler Sophia Hamel for assisting with this article.