23 Fall Festivals, Fairs, Carnivals and Celebrations for NYC Kids September 2013
Summer break is almost over but just because the kids are going back to school doesn't mean you can't continue having lots of family fun. Some of New York City's best annual festivals take place in September including FREE family favorites like the West Side County Fair in Riverside Park South, the Medieval Festival in Fort Tryon Park and Brooklyn's biggest street fair Atlantic Antic.
There are also celebrations that aren't specifically aimed at families but have plenty of kid appeal, including Little Italy's Feast of San Gennaro, the multidisciplinary Dumbo Arts Festival and the mind-blowing Maker Faire at the New York Hall of Science, which we rave about every year.
We've got the scoop on all of these plus 17 other shindigs, 23 in total! So mark your calendar: You don't want to miss these fun and mostly FREE festivals and celebrations. Also, be sure to check out our September NYC Go List for the top 13 things to do with kids throughout the month.
New York City Honey Fest 2013 – Rockaway
Saturday, September 7 11am-sundown
Rockaway Beach Boardwalk at Beach 86th Street
The Brooklyn Grange Urban Rooftop Farm and Rockaway Beach Club host a sweet party on the boardwalk at Queens' Rockaway Beach. Festivities include beekeeping and honey extraction demos, and tastings from local honey makers and food purveyors. Kids can also work on a giant, collaborative, bee-themed mural.
Autumn Moon Cultural Festival and Children Lantern Parade – Chinatown
Sunday, September 8 noon-5pm
Sara D. Roosevelt Park, Grand and Forsyth Streets
There are a number of Chinese Mid-Autumn Moon fests throughout the city this month, but this shindig, hosted by the Better Chinatown Society, sounds like one of the best. Families can enjoy cultural performances, arts and crafts, food vendors, and a children's lantern exhibit and parade in honor of the Chinese harvest season.
Ferragosto – the Bronx
Sunday, September 8 noon-6pm
Arthur Avenue between Crescent Avenue and 187th Street
Head to NYC's original Little Italy in the Belmont section of the Bronx for a taste of old-world culture with commedia dell'arte-style street performers, lots of live music (including tunes from Sopranos star Dominic Chianese), and special surprise guests. There will also be kids' activities, shopping and the delicious food Arthur Avenue is famous for.
West Side County Fair – Upper West Side
Sunday, September 8 1-6pm
Pier 1, Riverside Park South, enter at 70th Street
Can't make it to a county fair outside of NYC? Then check out this Upper West Side favorite, which is the closest thing Manhattan has to one. Most of the activities are best for young children including square dancing, carnival games and rides, sideshow performers and a petting zoo. There's also the Green Acre environmental corner with hands-on eco-activities. Warning: When the weather's nice, this fair gets mobbed and the lines for the rides are especially long, so try to arrive on the early side.
Feast of San Gennaro – Little Italy
Thursday, September 12-Sunday, September 22. Hours vary. Visit the website for details.
Mulberry Street between Canal and Houston Streets, and Grand and Hester Streets between Mott and Baxter Streets
Free admission but certain attractions cost extra
This legendary 11-day fest is officially a religious celebration with masses, processions and other liturgical events, but for most visitors the main draws are the food and carnival atmosphere. Thirty-five of Little Italy’s restaurants dish out amazing sausage sandwiches, fried Oreos, Italian pastries and more right on the street. Plus there is live music, games and rides, including a Ferris wheel. At night, it becomes quite the party scene, so be sure to go early in the day to try to avoid rowdy crowds.
Brooklyn Kite Festival – Brooklyn Heights
Saturday, September 14 10am-1pm
Brooklyn Bridge Park, Pier 1's Harbor View Lawn
B.Y.O.K. (bring your own kite) and then let it soar in front of the glorious Manhattan skyline. If you don't have a kite, they will be available for purchase in the park. Afterward, explore everything Brooklyn Bridge Park has to offer, including a historic carousel and awesome playgrounds.
92nd Street Y Streetfest – Upper East Side
Sunday, September 15 noon-5pm
Lexington Avenue between 79th and 94th Streets
The venerable Upper East Side institution sponsors this 15-block street fair. Check out the Y's fall programming and classes, and enjoy family performances, arts and crafts, sports and games, and lots of vendors. Be sure to hit the Kid Central zone on 84th and 85th Streets featuring performances, art projects like snacklaces, braid lanyards and an American Girl-themed craft, demos by the 92Y Gymstars Gymnastics Team, a Tiny Tumblers Toddler Obstacle Course and more. FREE
Nickelodeon Worldwide Day of Play – Prospect Park
Saturday, September 21 10am-4pm
The Nethermead in Prospect Park
FREE but tickets are required
Update: Tickets are now sold out. For its tenth annual celebration of play, Nickelodeon is going all out with a giant fest in Prospect Park featuring a wide array of sports, games and fitness activities, plus a concert by small-screen pop stars Big Time Rush. Tickets are FREE but hard to get. A bunch were snapped up in late August and ticketing is currently closed. We hear the rest will be distributed online first-come, first-served the week of September 9 but the best way to vie for a ticket is to sign up for the email list. That way you'll be notified when tickets become available.
WilliFest Blockbuster Block Party – Williamsburg
Saturday, September 21 10am-6pm
Grand Street between Roebling Street and Driggs Avenue
WilliFest, the four-day Brooklyn arts fest, wraps up with an alfresco street party with appearances by players from the Brooklyn Nets, plus vendors, games and other kid-friendly fun.
Breukelen Country Fair – Canarsie
Saturday, September 21 1-5pm
Wyckoff Farmhouse Museum, 5816 Clarendon Road near East 58th Street
$5 for adults,$3 for children ages 2-9
Celebrate Brooklyn's farming history at this historic institution dedicated to early life in NYC. Enjoy live music, pony rides, food cooked in a fire pit, cider pressing, and old-time crafts and games.
Queens County Fair – Floral Park
Saturday, September 21-Sunday, September 22 11am-6pm
Queens County Farm Museum, 73-50 Little Neck Parkway
$8 for adults, $5 for children under 13, additional fees for rides and other attractions
NYC's only historic working farm, the Queens County Farm Museum, hosts this annual fair with blue ribbon competitions in livestock, produce, home crafts, arts and crafts, and more. Other old-fashioned fun includes pie-eating and corn-husking contests, pig races, hayrides, a petting zoo, carnival rides and a midway. For an additional fee, you can also get lost in the Amazing Maize Maze.
Word Maker Faire New York 2013 – Corona
Saturday, September 21 10am-7pm and Sunday, September 22 10am-6pm
New York Hall of Science, 47-01 111th Street
Tickets range from $14 to $55 and buying in advance is recommended. See all the admission packages on the website.
As you can probably tell from how often we write about it, Maker Faire is a true Mommy Poppins favorite. Founded in California, Maker Faire debuted in NYC in 2010, and my family and I have attended ever since (and we will again this year). The grounds of the New York Hall of Science explode with all kinds of inventions and creations, everything from knitting to robotics, circus to interactive sculptures, computers to crafts. Kids should find the Young Makers area particularly inspiring, with local students showing off their cutting-edge projects. And of course everyone's awed by the life-size working replica of the Mouse Trap board game. Check out our highlight reel from the debut fest, and then be sure to buy tickets for this year's edition.
Brooklyn Book Festival – Brooklyn Heights
Sunday, September 22 10am-6pm
Brooklyn Borough Hall and Plaza, 209 Joralemon Street between Court and Adams Streets
Attention bookworms: Meet more than 200 local authors at this annual lit fest. Kids will want to head to the Target Children's Area in the plaza for readings by awesome local kids' authors like David Ezra Stein (of Interrupting Chicken fame), Doreen Cronin and Betsy Lewin (the duo behind the Click, Clack, Moo series) and New York Times bestseller Peter Brown. Meanwhile tweens and teens can hit the Youth Stoop for fun like Comics Quick-Draw!, a cartoon improv competition for pro illustrators, and Survey Says!, a Family Feud-style game featuring hot YA authors.
Westbeth Kids Groove Festival – West Village
Sunday, September 22 11am-5pm
Westbeth Artists Housing, 55 Bethune Street at Washington Street
At the inaugural family day of the annual Westbeth Music Festival, families can enjoy concerts by the P.S. 41 Songbirds and GrooveCats, performances by Penny Jones Puppets & Company and other kids' entertainment.
Kew Gardens Community Arts Day – Kew Gardens
Sunday, September 22 11am-5pm
Kew Gardens Cinema Park, Austin Street off Lefferts Boulevard
This homespun neighborhood arts festival features a diverse array of local artists and community organizations in and around the Kew Gardens green space. Kids can learn how to sew a button, chat with a published comic book creator and get their portraits done at the Kids Kraft Korner. The fun-filled day also includes professional sidewalk chalk artists, an art show, live music and more.
Lantern Floating for Peace – Midtown West
Sunday, September 22 1-5pm
Wollman Rink in Central Park, enter at Central Park South and Sixth Avenue
All are welcome at this first annual NYC fest hosted by Shinnyo-en, an international Buddhist organization. Hear live performances by Taiko drummers, and decorate a lantern with your hopes and dreams for world peace. RSVP required for the closing ceremony, when the lanterns will be illuminated and set out on the water.
Kite Flight – Midtown West
Sunday, September 22 1-4pm
Port Authority Bus Terminal, Eighth Avenue at 40th Street
Hit the roof of the Port Authority Bus Terminal (bet you've never been there before!) for this annual kite-flying fest. Sponsor the Fashion Center goes all out with free snacks, two areas of kite flying (one for pros, the other for amateurs), jugglers, unicyclists and stilt walkers, live music, arts and crafts, and one of the best face painting teams currently working on the kids’ circuit: Agostino Arts. FREE
Dumbo Arts Festival – Dumbo
Friday, September 27-Sunday, September 29 hours vary
Various locations in Dumbo. Visit the website for details.
This massive, multiday festival takes over the funky neighborhood with visual arts, live performances and interactive activities for all ages. The current website doesn't allow you to search specifically for family programming but it's not a huge deal. Almost everything is appropriate for all ages and there are lots of performances and hands-on installations. If you want to plan your visit in advance, you can find the complete list of projects on the website as well as a map. But in our experience, it's almost more fun to go with no info whatsoever and just wander the streets of Dumbo to see what kind of offbeat art you'll stumble across. FREE
Battery Park City Block Party – Battery Park City
Saturday, September 28 11:30am-4pm
Esplanade Plaza Near Liberty Street
This 12th annual community gathering features live music, dancing, sports and a flea market. Kids should enjoy the new hula hooping contest, rides and inflatables plus the returning bubble gum blowing competition. FREE
National Estuaries Day Festival – Douglaston
Saturday, September 28 11am-3pm
Alley Pond Environmental Center, 228-06 Northern Boulevard
Enjoy a canoe or kayak ride, a nature walk or one of the other special activities celebrating Alley Pond's local estuary Little Neck Bay.
Dumpling Festival – Lower East Side
Saturday, September 28 noon-5pm
Sara D. Roosevelt Park, Houston Street between Chrystie and Forsyth Streets
Free admission but dumpling tasting tickets cost $20, cash only
This culinary festival celebrates dumplings from around the world. Try Italian ravioli, Korean mandoo or my favorite, pierogi. Enjoy live international music and cultural performances and check out the main event, the Chef One Dumpling Eating Contest, where competitors will try to beat David "Tiger Wings and Things" Brunelli's record of 74 in two minutes. All proceeds benefit the Food Bank for New York City.
Medieval Festival – Washington Heights
Sunday, September 29 11:30am-6pm
Fort Tryon Park and the Cloisters, Margaret Corbin Circle, 190th Street and Fort Washington Avenue
If you missed the Renaissance Faire in upstate New York, don't fret: You'll find many of the same vendors and performers at this no-cost, one-day fest right here in NYC. Put on your best retro garb (velvet dresses, corsets and armor are favorites) and make like it's 1399 along the Hudson River. Watch knights joust and other pageantry of the era, catch live strolling musicians, dramatic minstrels and juggling jesters, browse the old-school wares, and feast on turkey legs and fried dough.
Atlantic Antic – Brooklyn
Sunday, September 29 noon-6pm
Atlantic Avenue between Hicks Street and Fourth Avenue
The biggest street fair in Brooklyn boasts several stages of live music (R&B, jazz, rock, country, kids' bands, you name it) and literally hundreds of vendors. There's a whole block dedicated to kids' activities like pony rides, inflatables, face painting and balloon sculptures. Grown-ups will appreciate the eclectic selection of international eats, like grilled sardines, pulled pork, baklava and carnival favorites. Plus the nearby New York Transit Museum is holding its annual Bus Festival in conjunction with the fest, where you can check out all kinds of retro rides.
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