Spring celebrations, offbeat circus spectacles and cool kids' culture abound in the latest edition of our NYC GoList, a carefully curated roundup of the absolute best things to do with kids throughout April. Many of our favorite annual festivals take place this month, including the Brooklyn Botanic Garden's Sakura Matsuri Cherry Blossom Festival, the Tribeca Film Festival's huge Family Street Fair, the Queens County Farm Museum's Children's Carnival, Staten Island's St. George Day celebration and the old-school Street Games fest in East Harlem. Plus there are some cool-sounding family shows, new exhibits and other experiences worth fitting into your family's schedule.
As always, if an event piques your interest, be sure to click through to our listing for all the details, including address and time. And remember, in NYC really cool things to do with kids often sell out in advance or fill up really quickly, especially when they're free. So buy your tickets ASAP or arrive early whenever possible.
Now get your calendars ready! Here are the top 14 things to do with kids in New York City this April, four of which are FREE.
Catch Me – Midtown West
Through Sunday, April 19
Every spring break, the New Victory Theater presents an eye-popping circus spectacle. And why not? It's an art form that crosses all cultural and language barriers. Flip FabriQue, the troupe behind Catch Me, hails from Canada and engages in a slew of amazing feats, including awesome aerial acts and a trampowall where the performers seem to defy gravity. Sound like sensory overload for your kid? There's a special autism-friendly performance on Friday, April 10 with dimmer lights, muted sounds and other adjustments. $15-$38
Hip-Hop Revolution – East Harlem
Wednesday, April 1-Sunday, September 13
Learn about the history of hip-hop at the Museum of the City of New York's new exhibit featuring more than 80 photographs from the scene's early NYC days. Check out kinetic pics of deejays, emcees, rappers and break-dancers in action in the '70s and '80s. As always, the museum is offering a rich lineup of free-with-admission family programs in conjunction with the exhibition (make your own album covers, photo collages) to give young visitors a more interactive experience. Free with museum admission: $14 for adults, free under age 20
Life at the Limits – Upper West Side
Saturday, April 4-Sunday, January 3, 2016
Get up close and personal with creatures that survive in truly extreme situations (temperatures above 300° and below -458˚ Fahrenheit; breathing once every 90 minutes) at the American Museum of Natural History's new installation. In addition to videos, hands-on education stations and models, there will be live exotic specimens on view, including a mantis shrimp, a nautilus, an axolotl and an aquatic salamander. Free with General Admission Plus One: $27 for adults, $16 for children ages 2-12
Easter Bonnet Parade – Midtown East
Sunday, April 5
Calling this annual gathering a parade isn't really accurate. It's more of a promenade as Fifth Avenue between Rockefeller Center and 57th Street is closed to traffic and opened to incredible headgear. There are no floats or procession. Folks just meander about posing for pictures. While many opt for traditional flower-filled bonnets and their Sunday best, you'll see some really outrageous outfits and hats here—everything from decked-out drag queens with foot-tall wigs to homemade recreations of famous NYC landmarks perched precariously on the artists' heads. Since pictures speak louder than words, check out our Easter Parade 2012 slide show for a taste of what's in store. My daughter and I go every year! FREE
Children’s Carnival – Glen Oaks
Saturday, April 11-Sunday, April 12 and Saturday April 18-Sunday, April 19
Families love the Queens County Farm Museum, a real historic working farm with crops in the fields and all sorts of animals that kids can feed. While the agricultural spot hosts lots of great events throughout the year, the two-weekend long Children's Carnival is definitely a favorite. It's a huge, old-time affair with an authentic midway complete with kiddie rides, games and family entertainment. The best part? All carnival rides are included with admission (though there are additional fees for some other activities). $12
Séquence 8 – Midtown West
Thursday, April 16-Sunday, April 26
If your family loves watching jaw-dropping acrobatic and aerial feats, don't miss this new circus show by Montreal's Les 7 Doigts de la Main. Everything I've seen from these athletes is spectacular, from their Off-Broadway hit Traces to their Tony-winning Broadway revival of Pippin. No animals, flashy costumes or hokey clowns here; these performers are all about high-flying action and intense emotions set to a hip-hop soundtrack. I've already booked my tickets! $25-$110 but save on tickets through our affiliate Goldstar.
Carnegie Hall Family Concert: Take the Stage with Broadway Stars – Midtown West
Saturday, April 18
You know that old joke, "How do you get to Carnegie Hall?" "Practice." Well, not this time. At this special, one-day only, interactive concert, families are invited to sing and dance along to iconic numbers from Grease, The Sound of Music, Rent, Hairspray and other hit musicals with the help of onstage pros. Tony winner Jessie Mueller (of Beautiful: The Carole King Musical fame), composer Thomas Cabaniss and a lineup of Broadway vets teach kids and parents the songs and moves, and a few lucky families will even be invited onstage to show off what they've learned. Get ready for your spotlight! $10-$22
Cinderella & the Prince Who Slays the Magic Dragon – Upper West Side
Saturday, April 18
The venerable Little Orchestra Society has been introducing kids to classical music for generations (my mom used to take me to see their theatrical concerts when I was a kid; now I bring my daughter), and this production is one of my favorites. The classic fairy tale comes to life at Lincoln Center's Avery Fisher Hall through Sergei Prokofiev's evocative music, live dancers and puppets—including a 15-foot fairy godmother and a 20-foot dragon! $18-$90
Bindlestiff Family Cirkus Cabaret – East Village
Saturday, April 18-Sunday, April 19
More circus fun! This time, catch a revue by NYC's own Bindlestiff Family Cirkus. Their style is pure old-school vaudeville, comedic and edgy but still kid-friendly (you may have seen their schtick in the past at SummerStage or Lincoln Center Out of Doors Family Day). Catch one of their special, all-ages family matinees at the Connelly Theater featuring juggling, the diabolo, unicycling, Ringmistress Philomena's wicked humor and whip-cracking, and Kinko the Clown's silly silent antics. Come in a circus-style costume or makeup and you can haggle for a discounted ticket (really!). But you're probably better off taking advantage of the early bird family rate of $12 per ticket for four or more seats. In advance: $15 per person, $12 per person for four or more tickets; at the door: $20 per person; free for children under age 3
St. George Day – Staten Island
Saturday, April 25
Celebrate Earth Day and the arts on Staten Island at this annual fest, which takes place near the ferry terminal. There's a ton of fun on tap, including local artists selling their wares and leading workshops, live music and dance performances, storytelling and poetry, an Earth Day Zone full of eco info, and an entire area devoted to kids with arts and crafts, and a fanciful puppet show that recounts the St. George dragon-slaying legend with a less gruesome ending. The highlight of the day is the 35-foot puppet dragon parade. FREE
Tribeca Film Festival Family Street Fair and ESPN Sports Day – Tribeca
Saturday, April 25
This is no ordinary street fair. The highlight of the Tribeca Film Festival's family programming is really two fests in one. The Family Street Fair features contests, bouncy houses, giveaways, performances by Broadway musicals, interactive art and film workshops, a Games for Change Public Arcade featuring real-world and digital games, vendors, food and a slew of other attractions. Along the route, you'll also find one block set aside for ESPN Sports Day, with games, demos, and appearances by pro athletes and sports teams. FREE
Street Games – East Harlem
Saturday, April 25
Time to get old-school! This annual fest in Thomas Jefferson Park is dedicated to the kinds of analog amusements we grew up with back in the day (or the dark ages, as my daughter calls it). Leave your iPads and iPhones at home and encourage the kids to try out classics like pogo sticks, hula hoops, yo-yos, hippity hops, stickball, hopscotch, handball, skully and Double Dutch. There will also be an old-fashioned soap box derby race, skateboard lessons, a Radio Disney deejay, performances by the Dance Theater of Harlem and clinics with major league soccer's Red Bulls. FREE
Sakura Matsuri/Cherry Blossom Festival – Crown Heights
Saturday, April 25-Sunday, April 26
Celebrate spring and Japanese culture at the Brooklyn Botanic Garden's wildly popular annual fest, which is set in and around its beautiful blooming Cherry Esplanade. The lineup includes Taiko drumming performances, Samurai swords, flower arranging workshops, martial art displays, Japanese pop bands, tea ceremonies and cooking demos. Kid-specific activities include manga drawing, origami, crafts, magic and drumming workshops. Plus lots of revelers come dressed in their best anime-inspired outfits and there's even a cosplay fashion show. Although the fest usually doesn't sell out, the lines often snake around the block so arrive early. $25 for adults, $20 for students ages 12-17, free for children under age 12
The Trials of Alice in Wonderland – Chelsea
Saturday, April 25-Sunday, May 17
Out of all the shows my daughter and I see together, the ones at TADA! Youth Theater make the biggest impression on her, because she loves watching her peers on stage. Local youngsters ages 8 to 18 perform in original musicals that are quirky and thought-provoking. The company's latest production is based on Lewis Carroll's classic books, but expect a few twists and turns as Alice goes on trial for her kooky adventures in Wonderland. $20-$25 for adults, $10-$15 for children
NYC always has so many amazing things going on, it's difficult to choose. So here are a few more cool events worth considering for your April calendar. Be sure to sign up for our FREE newsletter so you can get our weekend picks delivered to your inbox every Thursday morning.
Go on a train-themed scavenger hunt with every preschooler's favorite monkey at a special Curious George Commuter Train Party at the New York Transit Museum on Thursday, April 2.
Go on a fun-filled Easter egg hunt—many are scheduled that first weekend of April.
Celebrate Earth Day at green-themed fests throughout the month all over NYC.
Or get into a good old-fashioned pillow fight at NYC's Annual Pillow Fight Day in Washington Square Park on Saturday, April 4.
Introduce your kids to an iconic graffiti artist at the Brooklyn Museum's Jean-Michel Basquiat First Saturday celebration on Saturday, April 4. FREE
Soak up Scottish culture during the Tartan Day Parade featuring thousands of bagpipers marching up 6th Avenue on Saturday, April 11. FREE
Check out cool indie comics, zines and cartoons at the annual MoCCA Arts Fest at Chelsea's Center 548 on Saturday, April 11 and Sunday, April 12.
Catch four brand-new family shows at the fourth annual New York Children's Theater Festival in Greenwich Village from Friday, April 24-Sunday, May 17.