Check out our guide to fun and low-cost things to do with kids in Brooklyn this July, including a free concert in Fort Greene, City of Water Day in Brooklyn Heights, and a new Cirque du Soleil show at the Barclays Center.
Fort Greene Park, Fort Greene
Bluegrass music is synonymous with yodeling, extreme displays of musicianship, moonshine, bolo ties, mandolins and fiddles, and songs about the Great Depression, the Gospels, and the green grass of Kentucky: so green it looks blue. Astrograss, meanwhile, is a band of Brooklynites with the requisite music chops to reimagine bluegrass music but in a non-religious, upbeat, very child-centric way that entertains the whole family. They once recorded a CD of Shel Silverstein poems set to their original music (and produced by Dan Zanes). Great American folksongs like “Oh Susanna” are also in their repertoire, and they occasionally record songs based on poems submitted by fans. Astrograss’ live shows are always interactive; children respond to questions and the audience does its vocal turn on some songs. Kids love being included in the festivities and are usually engaged throughout the show. FREE!
July 4th is a fun day that offers plenty of activities throughout Brooklyn and NYC, including these family events that are distinctly steeped in American history and the spirit of the day.
Commodore Barry Park, Vinegar Hill/Fort Greene
Close your eyes and pretend you are in an African marketplace, perhaps in a country like Senegal or Kenya. The music is uplifting and festive, people are dancing in amazing costumes, and children are busy making arts and crafts. Now imagine you can skip the pricey plane fare and get the same experience in your backyard. You can when you visit the International African Arts Festival, which runs for four days in July. What began in 1971 as a local block party dubbed the African Carnival is today an international event with a distinctly worldly feel. There will be more than 100 vendors in the marketplace. In the evening, a bevy of performers deliver a program that features hardcore R&B and funk, African dance, performers from South African and Brazil, an African drum ensemble, a Motown revival band, a chess tournament, and plenty of fun things for children. And did I mention the food? FREE admission!
Prospect Park, Windsor Terrace
Here’s a way to stay healthy, celebrate baseball, and raise money for the Sandy Relief effort. Coordinating with Major League Baseball’s All-Star game (hosted by the New York Mets at Citi Field), MLB and Nike are sponsoring an All Star 5K Fun Run in Prospect Park. In addition to the 5K run (about 3.1 miles), there’s also a family-friendly 1.5-mile fun run. Whether you walk or run, you’ll be raising money to help undo the damage done by Superstorm Sandy while having fun. On hand will be Mr. Met, baseball legends, and a few celebs. Why not put together a team and raise funds with the help of friends and family? Prizes will be given for top fundraisers, and each participant receives a T-shirt. (Running in a Yankees hat is permitted.)
Brooklyn Bridge Park, Brooklyn Heights
Planting seeds and watching things grow is the magical aspect of gardening, and children really seem to love that concept. Schools throughout Brooklyn, Staten Island, and the entire city are deep in the dirt with gardening programs, and show us a kid who doesn’t take pride in showing off tomatoes and strawberries grown directly from their garden. As part of its Green Series, Brooklyn Bridge Park offers Urban Gardening Design Challenge, a gardening design and construction workshop that will address the challenges facing urban gardeners. Parents and children will learn how to get around issues such as lack of space, sunlight, and shade, and they’ll create a wonderful garden to nurture together.
City of Water Day
Two locations: Brooklyn Bridge Park, Pier 1, Brooklyn Heights; Governors Island
Brooklyn Bridge Park: Many great cities are built near water, and NYC is no exception. New York City is beyond great, as we know, and its surrounding oceans, rivers, and harbors are big contributors to that greatness. City of Water Day offers us a chance to celebrate NYC’s legacy as a maritime town. Brooklyn Bridge Park offers kayaking, theater (the interactive show Perfectly Penguin), seining, and art activities. Didn’t you always wonder what life stirs beneath the East River’s surface? Go for the seining! FREE!
Governors Island: The fun doesn’t stop there! Governors Island also celebrates City of Water Day with boat tours, fishing, a waterfront activity fair, and lots of learning opportunities.
The best part? You can make it to Brooklyn Bridge Park and Governors Island all in one day, because the fabulous (and free!) Governors Island ferry leaves every half hour from Brooklyn Bridge Park’s Pier 6.
Barclays Center, Prospect Heights
The Montreal-based Cirque du Soleil is a massive arts organization that typically has several massive productions performing throughout the world at one time. The common thread among them all is a particular aesthetic that combines theater, acrobatics, daredevil-like stunts, hypnotic live music, lighting tricks, and a story narrative that somehow feels otherworldly. Quidam, Cirque du Soleil’s current U.S. production, finds audiences transported into that hazy world through the story of a bored little girl who’s whisked away (via a blue bowler hat, no less) from her couldn’t-care-less parents into a magical land (Quidam) where magical creatures and recognizable animals enchant her. Along with the dazzling acrobatics that help drive the story, there’s always some little detail that makes Cirque du Soleil’s shows feel so epic. Perhaps it’s the little details that you notice from the corner of your eye: a little unrecognizable creature scurries across the stage, or some dervish thing whirls away in a corner. If you leave feeling disoriented, remember that it was just another day at the Cirque du Soleil.
Governors Island Parade Ground
Now, as doping scandals and outrageous we’re-only-in-it-for-the-money contracts (everybody say A-Rod!) have dispelled the true essence of baseball, it’s a perfect time to revisit the great American pastime with a glimpse back on how it was played in 1864. It’s very different and truly fun, and can you believe there’s actually a baseball club called the Gothams who seemingly live in a baseball world of the 1800s? They look and act the part—in other words, they’re gentlemen. The Gothams will be demonstrating Vintage Baseball—or Base Ball, as it was called a few centuries ago—at various places throughout the Northeast this summer. Take the free ferry over to Governors Island to see them this month. FREE!
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