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The Thunderbolt at Luna Park (Zamperla/Luna Park NYC)

10 Things Every Kid Should Do Before School Starts

Fall is just around the corner, but there's still time to pack in a whole lot of fun before the first day of school. To help you prioritize, we selected the essential experiences that will help end the summer on a high note

Summer break is a precious time for kids, with days blissfully free from responsibilities (remember that?). And there’s no better place to be than NYC, a wonderland of museums, parks, interactive exhibits, shows and general excitement. To help you make the most of the precious weeks remaining before school starts for the kids, we put together a list of the 10 things not to miss. We narrowed it down to quintessentially New York activities that are best experienced during the summer — either because the weather is ideal or because you’re more likely to enjoy it when you’re not trying to squeeze it in on the weekends between school weeks. Each gives them the opportunity to have a well-rounded summer — from seeing wildlife to swimming to experiencing New York in all of its glory. Don’t worry, parents, there are also lots of opportunities for the kids to learn a little something (shhh) while also having the time of their lives. Just think of the epic “what I did over summer vacation” essays they will be writing.

 

Floating Pool at Barretto Point Park (Photo: Courtesy of NYC Parks)

The floating Pool at Barretto Point Park in the Bronx (Photo: Courtesy of NYC Parks)

Swim in a Floating Pool
The kids may be jealous of their suburban friends with backyard pools, but how many have a floating pool? We’d guess none. Grab sunscreen and towels and head to the barge pool in Barretto Point Park in the Bronx. Built in 2007 by Anne Buttenwieser (aka the “Floating Pool Lady”), the structure started as a project in Brooklyn Bridge Park. It was so successful the pool was permanently moved to Barretto Point Park in 2008. Now it fills up each summer from the opening day on June 27 until it closes for the season on Labor Day, so there’s still time to splash about this season. The pool is open every day through September 1, 2014 from 11am to 3pm, and from 4 to 7pm. Tiffany Street and Viele Avenue, Bronx, 718-430-4601, nycgovparks.org

 

The Little Apple exhibit at Ripley's (Photo: Courtesy of Ripley's Believe It or Not!)

The Little Apple exhibit at Ripley’s Believe It or Not! (Photo: Courtesy of Ripley’s Believe It or Not!)

Experience The Little Apple
Located right in the heart of Times Square, Ripley’s Believe It Or Not! is packed with more than 500 oddities from shrunken heads to a black hole simulator to an albino giraffe that will fascinate kids of all ages. And small kids who want to feel big will love the museum’s new gallery The Little Apple. The exhibit brings New York icons down to size, allowing visitors to climb the Empire State Building King Kong-style and walk a tightrope between two skyscrapers. It’s the perfect place to go to help the kids gain confidence as they are about to tackle an even bigger challenge – middle school. 234 W 42nd St., 212-398-3133, get tickets

 

The Thunderbolt at Luna Park (Zamperla/Luna Park NYC)

The Thunderbolt at Luna Park (Zamperla/Luna Park NYC)

Take a Ride on the Thunderbolt
Dubbed the Thunderbolt, Coney Island’s newest super roller coaster gets its name from the original wooden roller coaster that graced the same spot off of Surf Avenue from 1925 to 1982. This new incarnation starts with a 90-degree vertical drop, then a 100-foot loop and finally, a zero-gravity roll. In between all this action you will also experience hills, dives and a stomach-churning corkscrew. The ride only lasts two minutes and that means you can expect to jump on this roller coaster again and again. Note that the height requirement for the Thunderbolt is 48 inches. The park is open seven days a week until September 7, and only open weekends and select weekdays until October 26. Surf Avenue and 15th Street, Coney Island, Brooklyn

 

Spiders Alive! at the American Museum of Natural History (Photo: D. Finnin)

Spiders Alive! at the American Museum of Natural History (Photo: D. Finnin)

See Some Creepy Crawlies
It’s a well-known fact that most kids are fascinated by bugs, that is, when they aren’t terrified of them. At the new Spiders Alive! exhibit at the American Museum of Natural History, 20 types of live spiders are safely secured behind glass, perfect for viewing without feeling too creepy crawly. There are also a few arachnids that the museum staff has on hand for up-close viewing by brave kids. The exhibit also delves into the anatomy of these eight-legged creatures, as well as their defense mechanisms, where they are found and the roll spiders play in the ecosystem. Central Park West at 79th Street; 212-769-5100, get tickets

 

James Monroe Iglehart as the Genie in Broadway's 'Aladdin'  (Photo: Cylla von Tiedemann)

James Monroe Iglehart as the Genie in Broadway’s ‘Aladdin’ (Photo: Cylla von Tiedemann)

See Their First Broadway Show
Nothing says NYC like Broadway, and right now there are many kid-friendly shows on stage. The newest is Disney’s Aladdin, a musical production featuring Tony Award-winner James Monroe Iglehart as everyone’s favorite Genie. Like the original animated movie, this fast-paced tale of a street rat who finds a magic lamp and becomes a prince is full of adventure, love, valor, a little bit of wickedness and of course, great tunes you will be humming days after you see the show. You can pick up matinee tickets on Wednesdays, Saturdays and Sundays, making this a great afternoon excursion that’s also a good way to beat the summer heat. 214 W 42nd St., get tickets

 

Sandbox: Dowel constructions in the Design Lab at New York Hall of Science (Photo: Andrew Kelly/NYSci)

Sandbox: Dowel constructions in the Design Lab at New York Hall of Science (Photo: Andrew Kelly/NYSci)

Create Their Own Science Experiment
Head to Queens to give your child an interactive adventure at the New York Hall of Science. The newly opened Design Lab is perfect for future engineers who like to build and are endlessly curious about how things work. Kids are encouraged to use their imaginations and employ critical thinking to create constructions out of wooden dowels and rubber bands, play with circuits and motors, and use zip lines and pulleys to move large objects. It’s the perfect place to learn while playing at the same time. 47-01 111th St., Corona, Queens, 718-699-0005, nysci.org

 

Marvel's Avengers S.T.A.T.I.O.N. (Photo: Marvel/Discovery)

Marvel’s Avengers S.T.A.T.I.O.N. (Photo: Marvel/Discovery)

Embrace Their Inner Geek
Why merely read comic books or watch movies when you can have a whole day “training” at Marvel’s Avengers S.T.A.T.I.O.N.? In this immersive experience, you get to fall into the world of the Avengers (you know, that team of superheroes that includes Thor, Iron Man and Captain America) and participate in a Scientific Training and Tactical Intelligence Operative Network. Once in, visitors have open access to a vast array of intelligence files, classified experiments and artifacts that delve into the history and science behind this crime-stopping team. Learn to operate Iron Man’s suit, map the stars and find Asgard and discover how the Hulk really works. 226 W 44th St., 866-987-9692, get tickets

 

A lemur in the Madagascar exhibit at the Bronx Zoo (Photo: Edenpictures/Flickr CC)

A lemur in the Madagascar exhibit at the Bronx Zoo (Photo: Edenpictures/Flickr CC)

See New York’s Wild Side
There is so much to see and do at the 265-acre Bronx Zoo that one trip won’t be enough, but at least it’s a start. Watch the sea lions paint a masterpiece and the baboons frolic in their reserve before exploring the Madagascar exhibit. There you’ll see cave-dwelling crocodiles, tiny frogs and lemurs scuttling about. If you need a break from walking around, take the monorail along the Bronx River and observe as antelope, Asian deer and guar (the world’s largest cattle) meander through the wooded area nearby. The zoo also has camel rides, a bug-themed carousal and 3D theater showing feature-length movies. Just in case you need a break from the outdoors for a while. 2300 Southern Blvd., Bronx, get tickets

 

The Shark Speed Boat Ride

The Shark Speed Boat Ride

Zoom Past the Skyline
If it’s adventure that the kids crave, get their blood pumping and help them say goodbye to summer with a bang with high-powered speed boat ride on the Shark. The 30-minute hair blowing, heart-pounding cruise flies past lower Manhattan out onto the river, with a brief stop at near the Statue of Liberty for a photo op (and to catch your breath). The boat leaves South Street Seaport on the hour every day from noon until 5pm, leaving you enough time to explore the historic area — once you get your land legs back, that is. The Shark operates seven days a week, and September 8 is the last day of the season in 2014. South Street Seaport, Pier 16, get tickets

 

Bowlmor (Photo: Courtesy of Bowlmor)

Bowlmor (Photo: Courtesy of Bowlmor)

Have Family Bowling Night
Think back to your own childhood, and your own family trips to bowl a few frames at the local bowling alley. This being New York, the “local bowling alley” is actually a full-scale entertainment complex. Bowlmor in Times Square has cushy red banquets (a comfy place to sit while switching to bowing shoes), a lounge area with multiple fire places, and plenty of food options by Boomer Esiason’s Stadium Grill that will satisfy the most of picky eaters. Aside from eating and bowling, Bowlmor also has mini golf, bocce ball, an arcade and boardwalk games a la Coney Island, so it’s easy to spend a day there just goofing off. The perfect distraction for a rainy day. 222 W 44th St., 212-680-0012, bowlmor.com

Want more advice about what to do with the kids in NYC? Read our picks for 10 Things Every Kid Should See Before College.

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