Best NYC Spring Festivals, Fairs & Carnivals April 2014
New York City's spring outdoor festival season kicks off this April with 12 fun and mostly FREE fairs, fests and carnivals. We already spotlighted five of our big annual favorites in our April Go List: the Tribeca Film Festival Family Street Fair, the Brooklyn Botanic Garden's Cherry Blossom Festival, the Queens County Farm Museum's Children's Carnival, Staten Island's St. George's Day celebration and Street Games in East Harlem. But there are a bunch of smaller festivals worth putting on your radar where you can entertain your family for just a few bucks—sometimes even for FREE.
These events aren't just fun, they foster community by bringing folks together to support a school, playground, cultural institution or common cause. And the many attractions include old-fashioned games, Earth Day eco-activities, homemade treats, and live performances by kiddie bands, puppet troupes and even Broadway shows.
Festival season starts this coming weekend so it's time to get planning. Here are a dozen awesome NYC fairs, carnivals and festivals for families this April.
Children’s Carnival – Glen Oaks
Saturday, April 5-Sunday April 6 and Saturday April 12-Sunday April 13 11am-6pm
Queens County Farm Museum, 73-50 Little Neck Parkway
If you've never visited the Queens County Farm Museum, this is the time to go. This historic working farm is a hit with kids year-round, but on these two consecutive April weekends it hosts a huge, old-time carnival complete with a midway, a magic show and lots of kiddie rides. Bonus: Unlike most carnivals, all rides are included with the admission price (although some of the other activities cost extra).
The National Grid Earth Day Celebration – Flatbush
Sunday April 6 at 3pm
Great Artists Plaza outside the Walt Whitman Theatre at the Brooklyn Center for the Performing Arts, Campus Road and Hillel Place
Celebrate Earth Day a little early at this seventh annual fest featuring interactive storytelling, yoga workshops, puppet shows, live music and a slew of eco-activities. Bonus: Come an hour early and you can also catch a live stage adaptation of the popular PBS Kids series Sid the Science Kid inside the theater. FREE for festival, $10 for the show
Prospect Heights Craft Fair – Prospect Heights
Saturday, April 12 11am-6pm
PS 9, 80 Underhill Avenue at St. Marks Avenue
Free admission but there are fees for activities and wares
Peruse handcrafted clothing, kids' gear, jewelry and other wares made by independent artists at this artisan market. Children aren't into shopping? No problem. For $5, kids can participate in a bunch of fun activities like arts and crafts, science experiments, storytime with local authors and yoga so you can browse and buy in peace. Proceeds support the hardworking students at PS 9.
Earth Day New York 2014 – Union Square & Midtown East
Tuesday, April 22 in Union Square Park 11am-7pm
Wednesday April 23-Thursday, April 24 11am-7pm outside Grand Central Terminal on Vanderbilt Avenue and 43rd Street
One of NYC's biggest Earth Day celebrations takes place over three days in two locations. Union Square is where the real action is, as the park is transformed into a giant eco-fair with live music, green goods and educational activities on Earth Day proper (which also happens to be the last day of spring break). Grand Central Terminal will also host two days of educational displays from eco-friendly companies outside the train station.
Tribeca Family Festival Street Fair & Tribeca/ESPN Sports Day – Tribeca
Saturday, April 26 10am-6pm
Greenwich Street between Chambers and Hubert Streets
One of the most popular festivals in town, this amazing (but very crowded!) family favorite features block after block of fun, including bouncy houses, games, face painting, arts and crafts, contests, a soft play area at Duane Street specifically for toddlers and much more. There's also tons of entertainment, like performances by Broadway shows such as Wicked, Rock of Ages and After Midnight, stilt walkers, magicians and popular kiddie bands. At North Moore Street, you'll find one block set aside for ESPN Sports Day featuring games, demos, and appearances by pro athletes and sports teams. New this year: a G4C Arcade featuring popular video games, live-action games run by the folks behind the annual Come Out & Play Festival, and other strategic fun. No other street fair quite compares to this one!
Street Games – East Harlem
Saturday, April 26 11am-3pm
Thomas Jefferson Park, 114th Street and First Avenue
We're big fans of this annual fest dedicated to the kinds of analog amusements we grew up with back in the '60s and '70s. Leave your iPads and iPhones at home and encourage the kids to try out classics like pogo sticks, hula hoops, yo-yos, hippity hops and Double Dutch jump rope. In addition, there will be an old-fashioned soap box derby race, a Radio Disney deejay, performances by the Dance Theater of Harlem and clinics with major league soccer's Red Bulls.
Park Slope Family Festival – Park Slope
Saturday, April 26 11am-3pm
J.J. Byrne Park, 4th Street and Fifth Avenue
Free admission but there are fees for certain activities
This annual neighborhood favorite is organized by the creative folks at Puppetry Arts. Enjoy live family bands, bike spin art, carnival games, bouncy houses and other kid-centric fun. The first 200 children to arrive snag free goody bags.
Prospect Park Fair – Park Slope
Saturday, April 26 11am-4pm
Prospect Park Bandshell, enter at 9th Street and Prospect Park West
Just a few blocks away from the Park Slope Family Festival you'll find this Prospect Park shindig, which means you can probably hit both! Enjoy all kinds of homegrown Brooklyn fun at this second annual fest. Fun on tap includes a performance by Uncle Majic a.k.a. the Hip-Hop Magician, tunes and music games by DJ Steve Papa, pop-up nature activities by the Audubon Center, 19th-century lawn games courtesy of the Lefferts Historic House and tennis skills with the Prospect Park Tennis Center. Plus there will be top food trucks and giveaways from local vendors.
Jack and Jill School Spring Fair – Gramercy
Saturday, April 26 noon-4pm
209 East 16th Street between Third Avenue and Rutherford Place
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.
St. George Day 2014 – Staten Island
Saturday, April 26 noon-7pm
Tompkinsville Park, Bay Street and Victory Boulevard
There are a ton of things going on at this annual community festival celebrating the arts and the Earth. Local artists sell their wares and run workshops; and live performances include a huge variety of music and dance, storytelling, poetry and prose. The Earth Day Zone is full of eco info, herbs for sale, composting demos and more. There's also 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 interactive 35-foot puppet dragon parade. Best of all, this shindig is an quick walk from Staten Island's St. George Ferry Terminal so it's an easy commute from lower Manhattan.
Sakura Matsuri 2014/Cherry Blossom Festival– Crown Heights
Saturday, April 26-Sunday, April 27 10am-6pm
Brooklyn Botanic Garden, 990 Washington Avenue at President Street
$25 for adults, free for children under age 12
This fantastic, extremely popular two-day festival gives visitors a chance to immerse themselves in all aspects of Japanese culture alongside the BBG's blooming cherry trees. In addition to the stunning flowers, there are a bunch of activities on tap, including Taiko drumming performances, Japanese pop bands, art and flower arranging workshops, Samurai sword play, martial arts, tea ceremonies, cooking demos, manga drawing, origami, crafts, magic and drumming workshops for kids. Plus lots of revelers come dressed in their best anime-inspired outfits and show them off in a cosplay fashion show. It's no wonder Sakura Matsuri is No. 51 on our list of 100 things to do with kids in NYC.
Arbor Festival – Flushing
Sunday, April 27 11am-6pm
Queens Botanical Garden, 43-50 Main Street between Dahlia and Elder Avenues
Free with admission: $4 for adults, $2 for children ages 3-12
In honor of Arbor Day, kids can enjoy all kinds of nature fun including a petting zoo, pony rides, games and crafts, face painting, composting workshops, garden tours and live music. Bonus for grown-ups: a beer-tasting tent!