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The Ultimate Guide to NYC’s Best Summer Festivals

Summer is just around the corner, and that means a waterfall of summer festivals is about to begin. And no one will be happier than your kids (who will be permanently face-painted for the next three months). From barbecue feasts to kite-flying expeditions to art extravaganzas, this summer is jam-packed with nonstop celebrations that will keep everyone in your family happy.

World Science Fair

 Photo courtesy of World Science Festival

June

World Science Festival. Don your black-horned glasses and geek out at the World Science Festival. Although the festival last five days, the key day for families is June 1 when the Ultimate Science Street Fair takes hold of Washington Square Park. Explore cutting-edge science experiments on the International Space Station, blast off in an aerospace simulator, launch your own balloon rocket racer or build the fins on a robotic fish and race it against other robo-swimmers. Ultimate Science Street Fair, Washington Square Park, West Village, June 1, 10 a.m.-6 p.m.; World Science Festival, May 28-June 1, various locations, prices vary.

Red Hook Fest. For most people, summer unofficially begins on Memorial Day weekend. But for many Brooklyn families, the Red Hook Fest is when the summer really begins. Presented by Dance Theatre Etcetera, the 21st annual Red Hook Fest is spread over three days and features world-class music and dance performances and fun activities like face-painting, a BBQ & DJ dance party and free kayak rides in New York Harbor. Check website for various locations, Red Hook, June 5, 6 p.m.-8 p.m.; June 6, 5:30 p.m.-7 p.m.; June 7, 12 p.m.-7 p.m., free.

Big Apple Barbecue Block Party. Your cardiologist may say, “No,” but, oh, how you want to say, “Yes.” Go whole hog at the 12th Annual Big Apple Barbecue Block Party where you and the family can feast on ribs, sausages and pulled pork sandwiches. All these southern specialties are cooked by expert “pitmasters” from such barbecue capitals as Texas, North Carolina and Alabama. Throughout the two-day event, live music bands will play blues and classic rock tunes to get you in the mood. Madison Square Park, Flatiron, June 7 & 8, 11 a.m.-6 p.m., Free admission. $9 per plate.

 
NYC figment 02

 Photo courtesy of Figment NYC

Figment NYC. Figment NYC is a free, family-friendly participatory arts event held in multiple cities each year. Every June, this traveling arts fest with its wild sculptures and fun activities lands on Governors Island, transforming it into a large-scale collaborative artwork. Go golfing on the artist-designed mini-golf course, get touchy-feeling in the interactive sculpture garden, and explore a magical treehouse. Governors Island (Note: the Governors Island’s ferry now costs $2 round trip/adult, free/kids.), June 7 & 8, 10 a.m.-6 p.m., Free.

Egg Rolls & Egg Creams Festival. For years, Chinatown has been slowly spreading over the old Jewish neighborhoods of yesteryear. So what happens when these two great cultures collide? Maybe something like the 14th Annual Egg Rolls & Egg Creams Festival. The day-long event features a cultural mix-and-match of activities like synagogue tours, Chinese opera and acrobatics, Klezmer music, Chinese and Yiddish lessons and, of course, kosher egg rolls and egg cream drinks for all. Museum at Eldridge Street, 12 Eldridge St., Lower East Side, June 8, 12-4 p.m., Free.

10th Annual Kite Festival. This is one place where the phrase “go fly a kite” is an invitation rather than epithet. Sponsored by PS 132 in Brooklyn and CitiStorage, the 10th Annual Kite Festival gives kids and parents a chance to unspool a reel of string and watch their kites fly higher and higher. Sample food from local vendors, groove to tunes from local bands, and take a spin on some amusement rides. 5 N. 11th St. & Kent Avenue, Williamsburg, June 8, 12-5 p.m., Free.

Museum Mile 02

Photo courtesy of Museum Mile Festival

Museum Mile Festival. One day a year, nine of the country’s finest museums — all located on Fifth Avenue — collectively open their doors free to visitors for a mile-long block party and visual art celebration. Although the Museum Mile Festival starts around dinnertime, there’s still plenty for families to do. Kids can draw with sidewalk chalk on closed streets, listen to live music, get their face-painted and, of course see, the most amazing art for free. Fifth Avenue from 82nd St. to 105th St., Upper East Side, June 10, 6-9 p.m., Free.

Bronx River Festival. Put on your hiking boots, grab an oar and head to…the Bronx? Yes, the Bronx River Festival is a full-day celebration of all things outdoors. Take a canoe ride on the Bronx River, go on a nature scavenger hunt, plant a new baby tree and explore the Ramble on a guided tour — all for free. Shoelace Park, 219 St. & Bronx Blvd., Bronx, June 14, check website for hours, Free.

Mermaid Parade. The Mermaid Parade is more than just a Coney Island freak fest. It’s now a full-fledged family event, populated with plenty of merkids and adorable merbabies celebrating the individual spirit of New York. The parade marchers and motorized floats praise all things nautical as long they’re shiny, glittery, mythological and wacky-looking. Starts at W. 21st St. & Surf Ave. and ends at Steeplechase Plaza, June 21, 1 p.m., Free.

Harlem arts festival Photo by Tulkin Tagayev, courtesy of Harlem Arts Festival

Harlem Arts Festival. Celebrating Harlem’s artistic legacy, the Harlem Arts Festival presents free live music, dance, theater, spoken word, and visual arts. After you enjoy live performances on one of the two stages, head over to the Kids’ Corner for face-painting, arts and crafts and maybe a yoga session. Marcus Garvey Park, Harlem, June 27-29, check website for hours, Free.

July

Global Family Day. As part of SummerStage and presented by Disney, Global Family Day is a musical and dance fest geared to the smaller members of your family. This year the Okee Dokee Brothers bring their campfire folk music for sing-alongs, and Accrobuffos will wow the mini-masses with their water balloon gladiator show. And check out the circus arts workshop and other crafts activities. Rumsey Playfield, Central Park, July 6, 3-6 p.m. Doors open at 2 p.m., Free.

Tap City. Calling all future Freds and Gingers (or just Glee fans) out there! Tap City is a five-day festival full of fun tap dancing lessons that culminates in Tap It Out, a flash mob-style outdoor performance (which happened in Times Square last year). Although the classes are for older kids (age 9-12), the whole family can enjoy the final tap-insanity show. Various locations, July 8-12, check website for specific class and performance times; Check website for pricing. Tap It Out performance is free.

City of Water Day. City of Water Day reminds us that we live in a water city and that our waterways are what make NYC what it is today. This day-long celebration, which takes place on Governors Island and Maxwell Park in Hoboken, features fun activities like free boat rides, a cardboard kayak race, arts & crafts tables and live music. Governors Island and Maxwell Park in Hoboken, Nj, July 12, 10 a.m.-4 p.m., Free.

Bastille Michael GeorgePhoto by Michael George, courtesy of FIAF 

Bastille Day on 60th Street. To kids, the sound of the words, “Oui, oui” can be giggle-inducing, but that doesn’t mean they can’t still enjoy Bastille Day on 60th St. While you’re sampling fromage and sipping refreshing wine, the kids can munch on éclairs, watch the Can-Can dancers and maybe even learn some French besides “Wee-wee.” E. 60th St. between Fifth & Lexington Ave., Upper East Side, July 13, 12 p.m.-5 p.m., Free.

New Museum Block Party. The New Museum’s Annual Block Party is its biggest family event of the year. Held in Sara D. Roosevelt Park, the avant-garde shindig offers plenty of innovative art workshops, live dance performances and poetry slams. During the fest, take a family-friendly tour of the museum’s upcoming exhibition Here and Elsewhere, which examines contemporary art from and about the Arab world. 235 Bowery, Lower East Side, July 19, 12-5 p.m., Free. 

Come Out & Play Field Day and Family Day. Part of the River to River Festival, Come Out & Play Field Day and Family Day turns Governors Island into a giant playground for all. New games, new experiences, and new takes on old favorites, Field Day and Family Day gives visitors the opportunity to rediscover each other and the city they call home through joyful interactive play. Governors Island, July 19, 11 a.m.-5 p.m., Free.  

August

Hong Kong Dragon Boat Festival. What could be more fun than a boat race? How about one where the boats are designed like red and gold dragons? The Hong Kong Dragon Boat Festival is a two-day affair, featuring martial arts demonstrations by Shaolin Temple monks, traditional Lion Dance performances, dumplings galore and an exciting spectacle of a boat race. Flushing Meadows Park, Flushing, Aug. 9 & 10, 10 a.m.-4 p.m., Free.

Flynyc riverside conservancy

Photo courtesy of Riverside Park Conservancy

FlyNYC 2014. Up, up, and away! Come make and fly a kite along the Hudson River. Sponsored by the Riverside Park Conservancy, FlyNYC 2014 organizers will provide all kite-making materials for the kids. If the winds are weak, no matter. Just sit back and listen to the afro-Brazilian sounds of Batala as they perform for the crowd. Pier I in Riverside Park South, near W. 70th St., Upper West Side, Aug. 16, 11 a.m.-4 p.m., Free.

NYC Children’s Festival. As part of Harlem Week’s month-long summer celebration, NYC Children’s Festival welcomes thousands of kids every year to revel in Harlem’s rich culture. Dance performances, storytelling, Double Dutch competitions, face-painting, sports clinics and arts and crafts activities are all part of the nonstop fun. W. 135th St. between Malcolm X Ave. & Adam Clayton Powell Jr. Blvd., Harlem, Aug. 16, 12-5 p.m., Free.

Arthur Ashe Kids’ Day. Get in the swing of the U.S. Open at Arthur Ashe Kids’ Day. The all-day event is jam-packed with fun and healthy activities. Kids can run an obstacle course, learn to juggle, and of course play tennis on the same courts on which the tennis masters battle during the U.S. Open. The day ends with a concert at — where else but — Arthur Ashe Stadium. USTA Billie Jean King National Tennis Center, Flushing, Aug. 23, check website for hours, Grounds Festival is free. Check website for stadium show prices.

What’s your family’s favorite summer festival? Tell us in a Comment.

–Alice Perry

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