Best NYC Family Festivals and Street Fairs This May

May 2016: Governors Island, Ninth Ave Food Fest, Hippo Spring Fair, Bike the Branches

There are street fairs and then there are street fairs. We don't mean those random ones selling irregular socks and fried Oreos; we're talking about true community festivals. Each one is unique, reflecting the character of its neighborhood, and many feature rides, performances, activities and food. The hard part, of course, is knowing which is which, but don't worry, we've taken the guesswork out of it for you.

We've gone through the city's list of festivals, street fairs and carnivals for the month of May and put together our roundup of top picks. Most of these fetes are FREE or cost just a couple of bucks, and in many cases your dollars go to support a local charity or school. Here are 25 awesome fests happening in NYC this May from the always popular tot-friendly Touch-a-Truck to a brand-new family fest at the Children's Museum of the Arts to Lincoln Center's annual Kids Spring Fling.

You can find even more seasonal activities in our Spring Fun Guide.

If an event piques your interest, click through to our listing for all the details, including address and time. And remember, FREE festivals tend to get crowded fast, so arrive as early as possible to try to avoid the crowds.

Court Street "Brooklyn" Festival – Carroll Gardens
Sunday, May 1
Free admission, but there are fees for certain activities.
Hit this neighborhood fete for children's rides, 200 vendors and live entertainment.

RELATED: 7 Free Outdoor Art Exhibits to See This Spring in NYC


The Hippo Playground fundraiser and fair includes a bouncy castle, crafts and everyone's favorite: the petting zoo.

Hippo Playground Spring Fair – Upper West Side
NOTE: Due to the rain forecasted for Sunday, May 1 the Hippo Playground Spring Fair has been postponed until Sunday, June 5.
Free admission, but there are fees for activities.
An Upper West Side tradition for more than 30 years, this annual benefit promises pony rides, a petting zoo, maze, bouncy castle and arts and crafts.

Irish Dance Festival – Upper West Side
Sunday, May 1
FREE
Watch as professional Irish dancers from NYC and beyond hit the stage, and then give it a go yourself at a movement workshop. Other activities include a singing circle and Gaelic classes.

Calhoun Carnival – Upper West Side
Saturday, May 7
Free admission, but there are fees for certain activities.
Enjoy carnival rides, bouncy houses, games, arts and crafts, and other kiddie fun at this annual school fundraiser.

Spring Fair – Morningside Heights
Saturday, May 7
Free admission, but there are fees for certain activities.
Best for the preschool set, the Columbia Greenhouse Nursery School's benefit features a petting zoo, pony rides, carnival games and craft projects. There will also be a rummage sale with gently-used kids' gear. Rain date: Sunday, May 8.

On A Wing: Family Festival – Central Park
Saturday, May 7
FREE
Head to Belvedere Castle to get up close and personal with birds of prey and live bats, and enjoy a guided birding walk with the Urban Park Rangers or Audubon Society.

PS 84 International Spring Fair – Upper West Side
Saturday, May 7
Free admission, but there are fees for certain activities.
Head to the Sol Bloom Playground (adjacent to the schoolyard) to enjoy a day of springtime fun at this annual school festival.

Nature Fest – Staten Island
Saturday, May 7
FREE
Head to Snug Harbor for the Staten Island Museum's annual fest featuring nature walks, arts and crafts, and other eco-fun.

Bike the Branches – Park Slope
Saturday, May 7
FREE
Celebrate the Brooklyn Public Library in this special borough-wide event. While there will be activities and Smorgasburg vendors at many locations, the main draw here is the giant block party on the plaza in front of the Central Library.

Cherry Blossom Festival – Randall's Island
Saturday, May 14
FREE
In addition to checking out the beautiful blooms, families can enjoy drumming performances, face painting, spring-themed arts, crafts and other seasonal fun.

RELATED: Hidden NYC: 21 Fun Things to Do in Central Park Besides the Zoo


Kids can literally climb on the trucks at the Touch-a-Truck fair and school fundraiser—every kid's dream. Photo by Dan Janzen.

Touch-a-Truck – South Park Slope
Saturday, May 14
$8 per person. (Infants worn or carried enter free of charge.)
Hit PS 295 to explore all sorts of vehicles like dump trucks, garbage trucks, ambulances and tow trucks. Buy a treat from one of Brooklyn's famous food trucks, enjoy arts and crafts and hit the bounce house. All proceeds support the elementary school. It gets packed, so come early (or late) and know that strollers, while in heavy attendance, can be hard to maneuver. 

Lincoln Center Kids Spring Fling – Upper West Side
Saturday, May 14
FREE
Head to Lincoln Center for a fun-filled day across its plazas. Join Todd Parr for a book reading and see performances by Jazz at Lincoln Center, The Chamber Music Society of Lincoln Center and The Verve Pipe. Short films will also be on view and there will be chalk drawing and crafts with the Children's Museum of Manhattan as well as scavenger hunts and more fun.

Jack and Jill School Spring Fair – Gramercy
Saturday, May 14
Free admission, but there are fees for certain activities.
The perfect fete for the preschool set. Kids can hit the bouncy castle, do crafts, get their faces painted and go on rides at this annual school fundraiser.

Ninth Avenue International Food Festival – Midtown West
Saturday, May 14 and Sunday, May 15
Free admission, but there are some fees for food.
Try international cuisines from Poland, Italy, Spain, Greece, Thailand and more. There will also be children's games and activities, and a stage with global music and dance performances.

PS 267 Spring Fling – Upper East Side
Sunday, May 15
Free admission, but there are fees for activities.
This school benefit promises bouncy houses, rides, carnival games, arts and crafts, snacks and more family fun.

Mamapalooza – Upper West Side
Sunday, May 15
FREE
This annual fest features moms rocking out, reading poetry, doing comedy and other types of family-friendly performances. There will also be kids' activities, vendors and fitness demos.

Kings County Fair – Marine Park
Thursday, May 19-Monday, May 30
See website for full pricing details.
Aviator Sports & Events Center hosts this full-blown, country-style carnival with rides, game booths, live music, a midway, tasty eats and other attractions. It's a great option for Memorial Day weekend! Make sure you look carefully at the pricing page to find the best value for your family as there are a number of packages available, including the new-in-2016 mega pass, which grants admission and most rides for $25. Another highlight of this year's event is the addition of The Tiger Encounter, an educational show that aims to raise awareness of the plight of tigers who perform with their trainer—the youngest female trainer in the U.S.


Watch as thousands, old and young, dance their way down Broadway during Dance Parade New York. Photo by Melnova Elena.

Dance Parade New York & DanceFest – Flatiron & East Village
Saturday, May 21
FREE
Watch as 10,000 movers and shakers make their way down Broadway doing more than 75 dances, including salsa, tango, waltz, African, Asian, the hula, break dancing and more. If you want to participate, you must register in advance and join a group. The procession ends in Tompkins Square Park with an after-party featuring choreographed performances, workshops and lots of dancing.

Families First Annual Spring Carnival – Cobble Hill
Saturday, May 21
Free admission, but there are fees for activities.
This nonprofit family center hosts a carnival with pony rides, refreshments, games, book and bake sales, arts and crafts, balloons, face painting and a bounce house.

CMA Kids Fair – Hudson Square
Sunday, May 22
FREE
The Children's Museum of the Arts will celebrate the season with its first Kids Fair, a FREE outdoor block party. Kids can participate in art projects, bubble making, chalk drawings, interactive performances and creative play. There will also be carnival-staples like face painting and bouncy house fun. If you want to step inside the museum, you'll have to purchase a special (and expensive) Family Day Benefit Ticket.

New York On Location: Street Fair and Celebration – Astoria
Sunday, May 22
FREE
Head to the Kaufman Astoria Studio's backlot for this daylong celebration of the movie-making industry in the city. Visitors will be able to hop aboard 20+ movie trailers and trucks, sample food from movie catering and treat trucks and watch stunt performers demonstrate their moves. The nearby Museum of the Moving Image will offer free admission all day long, too, making it a perfect time to stop in and check out the opening-this-weekend Arcade Classic: Video Games from the Museum's Collection exhibition.

Lower East Side Festival of the Arts Cultural Street Fair – East Village
Saturday, May 28
FREE
The Theater for the New City hosts its 21st annual weekend of visual arts, films, theater and dance performances. While the fest takes place Friday through Sunday, Saturday is family day with a street fair featuring live music, poetry, comedy and special youth performances.

Memorial Day Fair – Sunnyside
Saturday, May 28
Free admission, but there are fees for activities.
Kids can hit the sandpit, swoosh down the slide or swing in the lovely members-only Sunnyside Gardens Park, which opens its gate to the public for this fair. Other attractions include a bouncy castle, an obstacle course, a kiddie nail salon and more fun.

Dance Africa Bazaar – Fort Greene
Saturday, May 28-Monday, May 30
FREE
The streets around BAM are transformed into an African bazaar to honor the ongoing Dance Africa performances happening inside. More than 150 vendors will be on hand to sel wares from Africa, the Caribbean and beyond.


Catch the ferry to Governors Island for a day of games, crafts and other Memorial Day weekend fun.

Governors Island Family Fun Day – Governors Island
Sunday, May 29
FREE except for cost of ferry
The activity-filled isle opens for the season Memorial Day weekend with its annual family fest. Enjoy performances by Mario the Magician, Tim Kubart and the Space Cadets, Story Pirates and the Shinbone Alley Stilt Band. Enjoy arts and crafts with the Children's Museum of the Arts, puppet-making with Lisa Abbatomarco and compost lessons with Earth Matter. National Park Service Rangers will answer your questions about the historic isle and you can paint a birdhouse for native hatchlings in addition to enjoying tons of other great games and activities.

Find more great things to do this season in our Spring Fun Guide.

All photos provided courtesy the respective festivals.

This post was first published in May 2010.