Manhattan is famous for its museums, theater and restaurants but when visiting in the summer, Brooklyn is where it’s at.  After seeing all that Manhattan has to offer, take a stroll over the Brooklyn Bridge to discover Brooklyn’s free summer treasures. Read on for best free summer activities for kids in Brooklyn.

Brooklyn Bridge Park

Photo credit: Angela Tiffin, History Buff TravelingMom

Summer in NYC is my favorite time of year.  The masses leave the City for the cottages and summer travel while us staycationers, and visitors have it all to ourselves. As a resident of the borough for over 16 years, I’ve seen a lot of change that’s made living and visiting better for families.  Industrial areas have turned green and there are many free wide open spaces for kids to cool off and play (and it also has great theater, museums, and restaurants!).

Outdoor Movies 

Nothing feels more like summer than watching movies under the stars. The borough has several parks that feature free movies in in the evening, weather permitting.  Bring a picnic and sit back and enjoy the show, the view and the people watching.

Photo: Angela Tiffin, History Buff Traveling Mom

Photo: Angela Tiffin, History Buff Traveling Mom

After a day at the beach in Coney Island, Flicks on the Beach presents free films every Monday off of the boardwalk on West 10th Street.

On Thursday nights you can see Movies with a View at Pier One at Brooklyn Bridge Park near the Dumbo and Brooklyn Heights neighborhoods. Check the schedule first, most of their movies are not for little ones and are rated PG-13 and older.

On Friday nights, the Long Meadow in Prospect Park has many family-friendly movies, including Frozen this summer.

Brooklyn Bridge Park

This newly constructed park just keeps getting better and better. The park stretches 85 acres along the East River and boasts sweeping views of the Brooklyn Bridge and lower Manhattan. The park is made up of six piers with something for everyone. Throughout the summer the park hosts many kid-friendly events including free concerts, movies, story time and theater.

Brooklyn Bridge Park

Photo: Angela Tiffin, History Buff Traveling Mom

Activities in the park include:

  • Swimming is free at the park’s pop-up pool from Memorial Day until Labor Day. Although the pool is small and shallow at 4ft, it is a welcome break from the NYC summer heat. There is a man made beach area with a snack bar. It is surreal to lay on the beach with your toes in the sand while looking at the downtown Manhattan skyline.
  • Sports fields to watch and play: soccer, basketball, handball, and sand volleyball.
  • Jane’s Carousel, a beautifully restored1922 wooden carousel can be found next to Pier 1. Tickets are 2$.
  • Playgrounds:  there are 5 different state-of-the-art playgrounds at Pier 6 set among shady trees and man made hills. There is also the Water Lab, a multi-tiered splash park for the small to cool off.

Jane's Carousel

By Zmalik1786 (Own work) [CC BY-SA 4.0 (], via Wikimedia Commons

Governor’s Island

Take a short ferry ride from Pier 6 at Brooklyn Bridge Park to the unique Governor’s Island. Steeped in American history, it was first inhabited seasonally by Native Americans who named the island Pagganuck because of its plentiful nut trees.  In the 17th century, the Dutch came and thought it a nice island to camp out on away from the imposing wilderness in Manhattan Island.

Governor's Island

Photo: Angela Tiffin, History Buff TravelingMom

The British arrived later in the century they renamed it “Governor’s Island” for the British governor who resided there with his officers. It has been used for military purposes ever since and there are still many officer’s houses on the island, some that visitors can tour and others used for events.  In the 1990’s its last tenant, the coast guard, packed up and the island was returned to the people of New York City and designated an historic landmark.

There are no cars (except a few Parks & Recreation vehicles) allowed on the island so it makes for a relaxing and less hectic destination for families visiting the City. There is something going on all summer long including festivals, concerts and art exhibits in addition to  historic sites, playgrounds, sport fields, bike rentals, food carts, and even a beer garden for tired thirsty parents.

Prospect Park

Brooklyn’s largest park is surrounded by the neighborhoods of Park Slope, Prospect Heights, Crown Heights and Leffert’s Gardens. As you’d expect, the park has lots of playgrounds and open spaces for kids to run around.

Lefferts Historic House- Families can learn about settlers in early Brooklyn in this original 18th-century farmhouse. There are tours, games, and activities that teach children about life before cars and iPhones. Admission is a suggested $3 donation.

The park also has a small animal zoo, carousel, seasonal ice skating and rollerskating but these are not what make the park special.

Prospect Park, Brooklyn

Photo: Angela Tiffin, History Buff Traveling Mom

Nature is the reason to visit this park. There are many wooded areas to explore and an expansive lake with walking trails all around.  It is known as a haven for birdwatchers and for good reason.

By Andy Reago & Chrissy McClarren (Painted Bunting) [CC BY 2.0 via Wikimedia Commons

By Andy Reago & Chrissy McClarren (Painted Bunting) [CC BY 2.0 via Wikimedia Commons

Recently, a male Painted Bunting caused excitement when it was spotted in the park during the spring. Other animals and birds that can be spotted regularly include red cardinals, chipmunks, rabbits, field mice and a family of white swans live in the lake.

But before heading out for a nature hike, visit the Audubon Center to pick up a free Discovery Packs for families filled with binoculars, magnifying glasses, nature journals and games to help you explore the Park on the go. There is also free public rowing on the Prospect Park Lake but boats are first come, first serve.

There are also lots of other free and inexpensive things to do in Brooklyn for travelers of all ages.

Brooklyn for Free