Get your calendars ready! Here are the top 16 things to do with kids in New York City this April, six of which are 100% FREE. Bonus: Many of them take place during the public school break (April 23-May 1), so you'll have plenty of time to check them out.
Spring celebrations, offbeat circus spectacles and cool kids' culture abound in the latest edition of our NYC GoList. 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 revamped 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 and other experiences worth fitting into your schedule.
As always, if an event piques your interest, be sure to click through to our listing for all the details, including addresses and times. And keep in mind: In NYC, really cool things to do with kids often get booked up quickly, so buy your tickets ASAP or, in the case of FREE events, arrive as early as possible to try to beat the crowds.
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Aaron Nigel Smith — Lincoln Square
Saturday, April 2
Hit Lincoln Center's spacious David Rubenstein Atrium for a complimentary 45-minute concert by Aaron Nigel Smith of PBS Kids' Between the Lions fame. The Portland-based musician's catchy, multi-genre tunes fuse reggae, world music and rock 'n' roll, and they all highlight his signature “Call To Action” message, which celebrates community and encourages families to sing, dance and play together. Best for the preschool set. FREE
Thalia Kids' Book Club: A Celebration of Beverly Cleary — Upper West Side
Sunday, April 3
Beverly Cleary, author of more than 30 books for young adults including the beloved "Ramona Quimby" series, turns 100 this month! Celebrate this milestone and her amazing career at this Symphony Space tribute featuring readings of her work by some celebrity devotees, such as TV star Michael Urie (Ugly Betty), Broadway vet Rebecca Naomi Jones (American Idiot), and fellow YA authors Jarrett J. Krosoczka (Lunch Lady series), Tony DiTerlizzi (The Spiderwick Chronicles), Jeff Kinney (Diary of a Wimpy Kid) and R. J. Palacio (Wonder). Although the woman of the hour will not be in attendance, her young fans are still sure to enjoy this tribute, especially because most kid-lit events are aimed at tots. It's so nice to have one for the tweens!
RELATED: Best Spring Festivals and Fairs in NYC This April
Kids star in the Bindlestiff Cavalcade of Youth circus act at Coney Island USA. Photo by Norman Blake/courtesy of the production.
Bindlestiff Cavalcade of Youth — Coney Island
Saturday, April 9
Kids can run away and join the circus (or just watch) at the Bindlestiff Family Cirkus' biannual youth variety show at Coney Island USA. All of the performers in this one-day-only showcase are under 21. Children will love seeing their peers on stage juggling, hula-hooping, tumbling, clowning, plate spinning and even snake charming. Is your kid more interested in being in the spotlight than sitting on the sidelines? Find out how to apply to be part of the show.
Tales on Sugar Hill Featuring Sonia Manzano — Harlem
Saturday, April 9
Although her given name may not sound familiar, all parents and kids definitely know Sonia Manzano by her Sesame Street moniker: Maria. The actress, activist and author played the character for more than 40 years until retiring in 2015. After helping to raise multiple generations, she has fans of all ages (my daughter and I both count ourselves among them), and what a thrill it will be for them to meet her live in person at the Sugar Hill Children's Museum of Art & Storytelling. The NYC native will share some of her favorite children's books (she's written a few), after which kids can make crafts inspired by her stories. Free with museum admission
Hit the rides at the annual Children's Carnival at the Queens County Farm Museum. Photo courtesy of the venue.
Children’s Carnival — Glen Oaks
Saturday, April 9-Sunday, April 10 and Saturday April 16-Sunday, April 17
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? Unlimited carnival rides are included with admission (though there are additional fees for some other activities, like the petting zoo and pony rides).
Peppa Pig: Big Splash — Upper West Side
Saturday, April 9-Sunday, April 10
In her first U.S. theatrical tour, Peppa Pig brings her family and all her porcine pals to the Beacon Theatre for an upbeat, song-and dance-filled puppet performance, complete with muddy puddles and plenty of snorts. Our Mommy Poppins reviewer who caught it in nearby New Jersey says her daughter is still talking about going to see "Peppa's house!"
Milstein Science Series: Wild Antarctica — Upper West Side
Sunday, April 10
Part of the American Museum of Natural History’s educational and entertaining Milstein Science Series, this day-long festival celebrates the coldest continent with hands-on activities for all ages. Learn about recent Antarctic discoveries like incredible creatures and what's going on under all that ice. Plus, get up close and personal with real-live penguins, catch a cool (in more ways than one) performance by Central Park Zoo's Wildlife Theater, try on polar clothing and take a deep dive into arctic waters via an immersive dome. Free with suggested museum admission
Bello Mania — Midtown West
Friday, April 15-Sunday, May 1
Ages 5 and older
My circus-loving daughter and I can personally vouch for this show; we saw Bello Mania when it premiered in 2013. It was such a hit that the New Vic brought it back in 2014 and now again in 2016. Equal parts comedic circus spectacle and family memoir, it's the ideal showcase for former Ringling Bros./Big Apple Circus clown/acrobat Bello Nock, who was born into a circus family. Enjoy a cavalcade of new tricks, special guests and greatest hits, including his signature feat, when he climbs all the way to the New Vic ceiling on a swaying pole right over the audiences' heads.
RELATED: The Best Children's Theater in NYC This Spring
Who will win the "presidential" election in Up to You at TADA! Youth Theater? Photo by Kaila Mackenzie/courtesy of TADA!
Up to You — Chelsea
Saturday, April 16-Sunday, May 15
Of all the shows my daughter and I see together, those at TADA! Youth Theater make the most lasting impression. She loves watching her peers on stage. Local youngsters ages 8 to 18 perform in original musicals that are quirky and thought-provoking. This spring, the company is reviving its tuner Up to You, which is about a very timely subject: a presidential election—student council president that is. Set in 1977 at a typical American high school, the show is all peppy musical numbers and political drama as a cheerleader and a nerdy girl vie for high office. Who will win? Why, the audience, of course.
Spring Family Fair at the Morgan — Midtown East
Sunday, April 17
You may not think 19th century German classical composer Richard Wagner and 20th century Pop art legend Andy Warhol have much in common, but the Morgan Library & Museum dares you to find the artistic overlap at its annual family fete. Check out the culture spot's concurrent exhibits about these two icons, and then learn more about their work through hands-on activities like a dress-up station, head-in-the-hole cutouts, a themed photo shoot, craft workshops, a live radio show and an interactive performance by the Ben Jam troupe. Considering the Morgan is a decidedly grown-up museum, these family fairs are the best time to visit with tykes. FREE
Watch the giant dragon puppet parade at the St. George Day festival. Photo courtesy of the festival.
St. George Day — Staten Island
Saturday, April 23
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 on Location: Tribeca Film Festival Family Street Fair — Tribeca
Saturday, April 23
Although the details about this 15th annual fest are still being finalized, here's what we do know: The beloved Tribeca Film Festival Family Street Fair—always the highlight of the Tribeca Film Festival's family programming—has a new name: Tribeca on Location. As such, this community celebration will feature engaging ways to learn about the behind-the-scenes magic of filmmaking through events and workshops. But don't worry! There will still be all the old favorites including street games, vendors, performances by Broadway shows and the interactive Games for Change Public Arcade. The concurrent Tribeca/ESPN Sports Day will also be back with more athletic amusements. FREE
Head to Harlem for an annual games festival where kids can test out all manner of playthings. Photo by Raven Snook.
Street Games — East Harlem
Saturday, April 30
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
Dance the day away at the colorful Holi Hai celebration where all are welcome. Photo by Swarup Dutta/courtesy of NYC Bhangra.
Holi Hai — Midtown East
Saturday, April 30
Make sure you wear white and prepare to get messy at this NYC Bhangra-sponsored celebration of the Hindu holiday Holi, aka the Festival of Colors. Colored powders representing happiness, love and vitality are tossed about so everyone ends up covered in rainbows. There will also be live music, dancing and ethnic eats. FREE, but preregistration is encouraged.
Soh Daiko performs a Japanese lion dance at Sakura Matsuri in Brooklyn Photo by Mike Ratliff/courtesy of BBG.
Sakura Matsuri/Cherry Blossom Festival — Crown Heights
Saturday, April 30-Sunday, May 1
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. Free for children under age 12
LC Kids Presents Meet Me at the Fountain — Lincoln Square
Saturday, April 30, Saturday, May 21 and Sunday, May 22
Ages 7 and older
Don't expect to sit down at this show—or even stay in one place. For this interactive mystery subtitled Episode I: The Canary Flies at Midnight, audience members are tasked with helping a covert crime-fighting unit prevent a dastardly plot to sabotage the debut of an opera diva. You'll run all over the grounds of Lincoln Center looking for clues and criminals in this half-hour, site-specific adventure, which takes place 10 times per day and has a strict group maximum of 14 detectives.
NYC always has so many amazing things going on, it's difficult to choose. So here are some more cool events worth considering for your April calendar.
Celebrate Earth Day at green-themed fests throughout the month all over NYC—just search for the holiday in our Event Calendar.
Cheer on the adorable players marching in the Opening Day Little League Parade in Prospect Park on Saturday, April 2. FREE
Get into a good old-fashioned pillow fight at NYC's Annual Pillow Fight Day in Washington Square Park on Saturday, April 2. FREE
Check out cool indie comics, zines and cartoons at the annual MoCCA Arts Fest at Metropolitan West on Saturday, April 2 and Sunday, April 3.
Celebrate spring at the annual Shearing of the Heather Celebration in Fort Tryon Park on Saturday, April 9. FREE
Soak up Scottish culture during the annual Tartan Day Parade featuring thousands of bagpipers marching up Sixth Avenue on Saturday, April 9. FREE
Treat your preschooler to a show starring everyone's favorite oversize crimson canine when Clifford the Big Red Dog LIVE plays the Brooklyn Center for the Performing Arts on Sunday, April 17.
Give it up for NYC's amazing trees at the Queens Botanic Garden's annual Arbor Festival on Sunday, April 24.
Check out offbeat and underground video games at the Museum of the Moving Image's annual IndieCade on Friday, April 29 through Sunday, May 1.