Spring Break for NYC Kids: Best Things to Do During Easter and Passover Recess in March 2013
It's almost here! Monday, March 25 to Tuesday, April 2, New York City public school students are on spring break. You know what that means: Time to start planning memorable and enriching adventures for the whole family (unless of course you're sending the kids to a spring break camp).
If you're thinking of heading out of town for a last-minute vacation, you can find great nearby getaways in our NYC Family Day Trips Guide and more far-flung destinations and spring break deals on our Travel Site. But if a staycation is what you're after, there's plenty to keep you busy here in NYC. The American Museum of Natural History, the New York Hall of Science and the Brooklyn Children's Museum all have new interactive exhibits for kids, the New York International Auto Show is rolling into town and many family spots are hosting special programming during spring break. Plus, there's a ton of FREE fun, too, like Urban Park Rangers' nature activities, Splash Week swim time at citywide YMCAs, egg hunts and the annual Easter Parade, Macy's Flower Show and Nick Cave's awesome sounding Heard NY art performance in Grand Central Terminal.
And so much more! Read on for our favorite FREE or affordable family activities going on in New York City over spring break and remember to check our Event Calendar for additional options.
Free Spring Break Events
Macy's Flower Show: The Painted Garden – Midtown West
Herald Square, 34th Street and Sixth Avenue
Sunday, March 24-Sunday, April 7 10am-9pm except Easter Sunday noon-5pm
Every year, Macy's glorious installation of blossoms officially ushers in spring in the city. In 2012, it was all about Brazilian blooms. This year, the focus is on India, so expect lavish formal gardens featuring thousands of jewel-toned and spice-hued flowers displayed alongside iconic cultural images, like the show's centerpiece: a 10-foot elephant fashioned entirely from beautiful buds. Bonus: Macy's always hosts FREE events in conjunction with the Flower Show. Most of the kid-friendly activities are on opening day, including readings, live music. terrarium making, balloon twisters, cookie decorating, glitter tattoos and a visit from the Very Hungry Caterpillar. Find the full schedule on Macy's website.
Nick Cave: Heard NY – Midtown East
Grand Central Terminal, Vanderbilt Hall, 42nd Street and Park Avenue
Monday, March 25-Sunday, March 31, crossings at 11am and 2pm
Here's something that's sure to get commuters to slow down during rush hour in Grand Central Terminal: 30 flamboyant, life-size "horses" roaming Vanderbilt Hall. This interactive installation is the brainchild of artist Nick Cave and the horses are actually pairs of dancers from the Ailey School wearing his soundsuits created from found objects, recycled items and discarded materials. When not quietly grazing, the steeds will burst into choreographed movements accompanied by two harpists twice a day.
Splash Week at the YMCA – Citywide
Monday, March 25-Friday, March 29, times and locations vary
Most local Ys are hosting this free spring break program, when children and adults can learn basic swimming skills and water safety practices. Advance registration is required. Check with your local branch for details and to sign up.
Kids' Week – Citywide
Monday, March 25-Friday, March 29, times and locations vary
The Urban Park Rangers host nature and animal-themed activities for children ages 12 and under in multiple city parks throughout the break. You can find the complete list of events on the NYC Parks Department website.
Blooming Naturalists – Prospect Lefferts Gardens
Audubon Center, enter Prospect Park at Lincoln Road/Ocean Avenue
Monday, March 25-Tuesday, April 2 1-4pm
Drop in to create nature journals to record your encounters in the wild—a.k.a. Prospect Park.
Easter Bonnet Parade – Midtown East
Fifth Avenue between 49th and 57th Streets
Sunday, March 31 10am-3pm
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. Since pictures speak louder than words, check out our Easter Parade 2012 slide show.
Topsy-Turvy: A Camera Obscura Installation – Flatiron
Daily through Friday, April 5 10am-5pm
Madison Square Park, 23rd Street and Fifth Avenue
Madison Square Park has hosted some of our favorite public art displays over the past year. (See Leo Villareal's BUCKYBALL and Charles Long's Pet Sounds.) And the green space's new interactive offering is just as cool. Visitors can actually step inside Sandra Gibson and Luis Recoder's old-school pinhole-style camera and watch it snap photos of the surrounding area and then project them upside down.
Special Museum Family Programs
Make it Grand – Brooklyn Heights
New York Transit Museum, Boerum Place and Schermerhorn Street
Tuesday, March 26-Friday March 29 and Tuesday, April 2 at 11am, 1 and 2:30pm; Saturdays, March 23 and 30, and Sunday, March 24 at noon, 1:30 and 3pm
Free with admission: $7 for adults, $5 for children ages 2-17
Go underground to catch this new musical, which celebrates the 100th anniversary of Grand Central Terminal. While at the Transit Museum, be sure to check out the cool interactive exhibit ElectriCity Live.
BubbleMania: Science, Art & Comedy – Corona
New York Hall of Science, 47-01 111th Street between 47th and 48th Avenues
Monday, March 25-Saturday March 30 at 1 and 2pm
$8 plus regular admission: $11 for adults, $8 for children ages 3-17
Master bubble maker Casey Carle shows off his soapy skills in this unique show. Afterward, check out the museum's hands-on Tony Hawk | Rad Science exhibit, or hit the zoo and carousel in nearby Flushing Meadows Corona Park.
Spring Recess at the Museum of the Moving Image – Astoria
36-01 35 Avenue between 36th and 37th Streets
Saturday, March 23-Tuesday, April 12, times vary
Screenings are free with admission: $12 for adults, $6 for children ages 3-17. Game workshops are an additional $5.
Creative kids ages 8 and up can learn how to make their own board games in The Game-Making Game workshops while all ages can enjoy daily screenings of Disney's animated smash Wreck-It Ralph.
Spring Break at the Children's Museum of Manhattan – Upper West Side
212 West 83rd Street between Broadway and Amsterdam Avenue
Saturday, March 23-Monday, April 1 times vary
Free with admission: $11
CMOM hosts a number of special events over school recess including concerts by Jeremy Plays Guitar and Mr. G, cooking demos with James Beard Award winning chefs and a visit from the NYPD's Canine Unit. The highlight is on Tuesday, March 26, when the star of Broadway's Annie, Lilla Crawford, sings "Tomorrow" and answers questions from her young fans. While at the museum, be sure to check out the exhibits Eat Sleep Play and 10-Foot Cops.
Spring Break at Wave Hill – Riverdale
West 249th Street and Independence Avenue
Tuesday, March 26-Friday, March 29, times vary
Workshops are $23 per adult-child pair, $10 for siblings
Wednesday through Friday, the garden is offering a variety of craft workshops for children ages 5 to 10, including making paper from pulp or recycled materials, and creating 3D sculptures. More into nature than art? Visit on Tuesday and look for signs of spring for FREE.
Spring Sprouts – Prospect Lefferts Gardens
Lefferts Historic House, Children’s Corner of Prospect Park, Willink entrance
Monday, March 25-Friday, March 29 1-3pm
$3 for adults, free for children under 17
See how the house's kitchen garden is growing and plant a pot of herbs to take home.
Spring Break Discovery Week: The Art of Nesting – Prospect Heights
Brooklyn Botanic Garden, 900 Washington Avenue at Crown Street
Tuesday, March 26-Friday, March 29 and Tuesday, April 2 11am-1pm
Free with admission: $10 for adults, free for children under 12
Watch artist Roderick Romero—known for his fantastical nature structures—as he works on the garden's soon-to-open tree house exhibit made from oaks that fell during Hurricane Sandy. Other activities include studying animals that live in trees, crafting nesting bags and weaving natural materials. Tip: Save money by visiting on Tuesday when garden admission is FREE.
March School Vacation Week – Upper West Side
New York Historical Society, 170 Central Park West between 76th and 77th Streets
Tuesday, March 26-Sunday, March 31, times vary
Free with admission: $15 for adults, $10 for students, $5 for children ages 5-13
At the DiMenna Children's History Museum, kids can go on a Woman's History Month-themed scavenger hunt, sketch birds and flora in the Audubon’s Aviary exhibit and compete in a WWII aircraft family bingo game inspired by WWII & NYC.
Spring Break Crafts & Games – Upper East Side
Mount Vernon Hotel Museum & Garden, 421 East 61st Street between York and First Avenues
Tuesday, March 26-Sunday, March 31 11am-4pm
Free with admission: $8 for adults, free for children under 12
Try your hand at old-fashioned fun like crafting dolls out of yarn and playing with Colonial-style wooden toys in the museum's beautiful garden.
Spring Break Programming – Crown Heights
Brooklyn Children’s Museum, 145 Brooklyn Avenue at St. Marks Avenue
Monday, March 25-Tuesday, April 2 9:30am-5pm
Free with admission: $9
There's always something cool going on at this tot hot spot. In honor of spring, enjoy eco-friendly arts and crafts, composting lessons, gardening projects, and a meet and greet with a live chicken. Want to burn off some energy? Hit the brand-new exhibit Big Adventure where kids can ride a scooter, scale a wall, walk a balance beam and more.
Terrariums: Little Landscapes – the Bronx
New York Botanical Garden, 2900 Southern Boulevard
Saturday, March 23-Sunday, March 31 and Tuesday, April 2, times vary.
Free with All Garden Pass: $25 for adults, $10 for children ages 2-12 on weekends; $20 for adults, $8 for children ages 2-12 on weekdays
Hit the Everett Children’s Adventure Garden to learn about terrariums and make one of your own. It's also a great time to check out the NYBG's gorgeous Orchid Show.
More Spring Break Staycation Ideas
Head to the New York International Auto Show at the Jacob Javits Center, which is in town Friday, March 29 to Sunday, April 7. While the event isn't specifically aimed at kids, there are definitely lots of things young car lovers will enjoy like interactive experiences, off-roading simulators and countless photo ops.
See a circus! There are five circus extravaganzas playing NYC over spring break: Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey's Built to Amaze at Brooklyn's Barclays Center, Bello Mania at the New Victory Theater, UniverSoul Circus in the Bronx, Popovich Pet Circus at the Tribeca Performing Arts Center and Cirque du Soleil's Totem at Citi Field in Queens.
Get out your baskets! There are two dozen or so Easter egg hunts over spring break on the weekends.
Never been to the Staten Island Children's Museum? You can visit on Monday, April 1 and Tuesday, April 2 for FREE.
Hit the American Museum of Natural History to see its brand-new exhibit Whales: Giants of the Deep., which opens on Friday, March 23.
Take a day trip to Yonkers to explore the brand-new interactive Legoland Discovery Center. Opening day, Wednesday, March 27, is already sold out so you'll definitely want to buy your tickets in advance before you head there.
Although the beach won't open until Memorial Day, many of Coney Island's other attractions are up and running. Luna Park and Deno's Wonder Wheel Amusement Park both open for the season on Sunday, March 24. Bonus: Deno's is offering FREE rides on its massive Ferris wheel on opening day. Sadly, the New York Aquarium is still closed due to Hurricane Sandy.
There are a bunch of cool kids' shows playing over break. Best bets include Bunnicula:The Musical, and two brand-new productions: Vital Children's Theatre's A (Tooth) Fairy Tale and The Stinky Cheese Man and Other Fairly Stupid Tales at Atlantic for Kids.
Spring break is also a great time to cross something off your NYC bucket list. Print out a copy of our 100 Things to Do with Kids in NYC and get going! Or perhaps you want to go on an adventure in your own city. We have in-depth family guides to Tribeca, Fort Greene, Brooklyn, Forest Hills, Queens and many other areas, so you can explore a new-to-you neighborhood. Find all of our neighborhood guides on the right-hand rail of our site.
And if Mother Nature cooperates you can always hit one of our city's fabulous playgrounds and parks.
But wait, there's more! We have additional options in our jam-packed Event Calendar.