Get your calendars ready: Here are the top things to do with kids in New York City this October, many of which are FREE. Halloween may generate the hoopla, but there are plenty of other must-do activities this month, including a huge pumpkin display on Governors Island, the world's largest Lego art exhibit at the New York Hall of Science, and a tuneful celebration of Sesame Street's 50th anniversary.
The fall culture season kicks into high gear with amazing events and theater. Many annual seasonal favorites also take place in October, including the Cathedral Church of St. John the Divine's blessing of the animals and the Little Red Lighthouse Festival—plus the return of Open House New York, which offers a peek inside buildings and sites citywide that are normally closed to the public.
If an event piques your interest, click through to our listing for all the details, including address, time, and price. Keep in mind that the really cool (and free) kid activities in NYC book up quickly, so buy your tickets ASAP or, in the case of FREE events, arrive early to beat the crowds.
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Embrace the spirit of the season while celebrating wildlife and conservation at the Bronx Zoo's Boo at the Zoo. Photo by Julie Larsen Maher for the Wildlife Conservation Society
Boo at the Zoo — Bronx Park, the Bronx
Weekends from Saturday, September 28 through Sunday, November 3, also Monday, October 14
This year's offerings at the Bronx Zoo's month-long Halloween bash include a haunted hayride, pumpkin carving, a candy trail, and Bootoberfest, which will host live performances, food trucks, and lawn games. Meet live animals such as vultures, owls, and ravens, visit the "Extinct Species Graveyard," and, on select dates this month, enjoy a pizza dinner and an after-hours tour of the zoo by night with a ticket to one of the zoo's Spooktacular Night Walks.
Come see a 20-foot tall T. rex along with many other works of art at The Art of the Brick. Photo courtesy of the event
The Art of the Brick — Corona, Queens
Opening Saturday, September 28 and on display through January, 2020
A 20-foot tall T. rex dinosaur made of Lego bricks, in addition to Lego versions of famous artworks like the Mona Lisa and The Scream, headline a new exhibit at the New York Hall of Science. Nine different activity centers let kids get elbow-deep in bricks, designing and building race cars, bridges, mazes, and music boxes, among other Lego creations.
Little Red Lighthouse Festival — Washington Heights
Saturday, October 5
Hear a reading of the classic children's book The Little Red Lighthouse and The Great Gray Bridge and get an up-close, inside view of its inspiration with Urban Ranger-led tours of the lighthouse. Other shoreline fun includes fishing clinics, live entertainment, and on-site food vendors. FREE, but tickets for the tours go fast, so arrive early!
RELATED: Fall Fun Guide for Families: Festivals, Theater, Halloween
Enjoy the blessing of the animals at the Cathedral Church of St. John the Divine. Photo by Raven Snook
Blessing of the Animals and Feast of St. Francis — Morningside Heights
Sunday, October 6
A celebration for animal lovers of all faiths. Bring your pet to the Cathedral Church of St. John the Divine in honor of the feast of St. Francis for a procession of exotic animals—including alpacas, tortoises, bees, and a camel—at noon, then hit the Pulpit Green to have your pets blessed at a fair with food trucks and kid-friendly performances that runs from 1-4pm. While day-of passes for the service itself are distributed in the morning on a first come, first served basis, it's fun and less stressful to just hang outside and watch the animal parade. FREE
RELATED: Ultimate Halloween Guide for NYC Kids
Randall's Island Park Alliance celebrates the bounty of the earth at the Harvest Festival. Photo courtesy of the park alliance
Harvest Festival – Randall's Island
Sunday, October 6
Live musical performances, pumpkin decorating, face painting, kite flying—if it can be crammed into a fall afternoon, it's happening here. Hit the Urban Farm for pumpkin hunting, face painting, fresh apple cider tasting, and tours of the crops. Afterward, explore the attraction-packed isle. FREE
Bindlestiff Cavalcade of Youth — Coney Island, Brooklyn
Sunday, October 13
Kids can run away and join the circus (or just watch) at this youth variety show at Coney Island. All of the performers in this one-day-only showcase are younger than age 21 and perform a variety of feats, including juggling, hula hooping, tumbling, clowning, plate spinning, and even snake charming.
Nooma — Midtown West
Monday, October 14–Friday, October 15
Carnegie Hall presents a brand-new, interactive opera especially for babies and toddlers up to age 2, featuring beautifully flowing parachutes that little ones get to touch and play with as music and performers co-create a story with the tiny audience. FREE
The family-friendly Night of the 1,000 Jack O'Lanterns features jack o'lanterns on display that are carved by professional artists using REAL pumpkins. Photo by Mike Pollock
Night of 1,000 Jack O'Lanterns — Governors Island
Thursday, October 17–Sunday, October 27
More than 1,000 artist-carved, illuminated pumpkins line a festive Halloween walk on Governors Island's historic Colonel's Row, with eerie music and live pumpkin carving demonstrations. If you can never remember to get tickets for the Great Jack O'Lantern Blaze up in Westchester before they sell out every year, this is a pretty cool (and way more local) alternative.
Open House New York — Citywide
Friday, October 19–Sunday, October 20
For one weekend every October, hundreds of New York City's historic buildings and architectural marvels—including private residences, cultural institutions, and offbeat spots such cemeteries and artist studios—open their doors to the public as part of OHNY. The complete list of participating sites can be seen on the official Open House New York website. While most sites are open access, some do require advance registration and a small fee. Based on years past, we anticipate that several dozen spots will offer FREE family activities during the two-day event, including many drop-in activities. Fair warning: The popular tours book up super-fast. Mostly FREE
Little Orchestra Society — Upper East Side
Saturday, October 19–Sunday, October 20
Little Orchestra Society opens its 72nd season with a performance and talk that introduces little ones to the works of Mozart. Later concerts in the series include exciting programs introducing kids to Stravinsky and Ravel, as well as the great Rodgers and Hammerstein musicals The Sound of Music and Oklahoma!
Harvest Homecoming Festival – Prospect Heights, Brooklyn
Sunday, October 20
This fall foliage fest at the Brooklyn Botanic Garden (replacing the annual Ghouls and Gourds event) boasts hay rides, lawn games and a costume parade where kids can join in and strut their stuff.
Dan Zanes and Claudia Eliaza in Concert — Upper East Side
Sunday, October 20
Grammy Award-winner Dan Zanes and Haitian-American jazz vocalist Claudia Eliaza perform Zanes’ greatest hits, along with folk and blues classics, in a special Sunday morning family concert at the Jewish Museum.
A Swingin’ Sesame Street Celebration: 50 Years and Counting —Lincoln Center
Friday, October 25–Saturday, October 26
Jazz at Lincoln Center celebrates the 50th anniversary of the beloved, award-winning children's show. Elmo, Abby, Big Bird, Grover, the Grouch, and other Sesame Street friends will sing classic Sesame Street songs alongside the world-renowned Jazz at Lincoln Center orchestra with Wynton Marsalis. This joyful show should appeal to all ages.
The Laurie Berkner Band's Monster Boogie Halloween Concert. Photo by Jayme Thornton
The Laurie Berkner Band's Monster Boogie Halloween Concert — Upper West Side
Saturday, October 26
Catch preschool rock icon Laurie Berkner and her band as they play a Manhattan Halloween concert at the New York Society for Ethical Culture. In addition to performing timeless hits such as as "We Are The Dinosaurs," "Victor Vito," and "Pig On Her Head," the songstress will also croon seasonal tunes that are more kooky than creepy. Tots are encouraged to bring their favorite loveys to boogie with.
Day of the Dead Festival — East Village
Saturday, October 26–Sunday, October 27
Mexican culture organization Mano a Mano throws one of the best Day of the Dead events in NYC at St. Mark's Church in the East Village. The weekend-long fest includes live performances, a traditional dance procession, and a communal altar where you can place photos and other remembrances of loved ones. FREE
RELATED: Best Apple and Pumpkin Picking Near NYC
All sorts of characters meet at the Queens County Farm Museum's Children's Fall Festival. Photo courtesy of QCFM
Children's Fall Festival — Floral Park, Queens
Sunday, October 27
Celebrate the season at the Queens County Farm Museum's massive bash, featuring traditional amusements such as sack races and pig races, live music, bouncy houses, a haunted house, pony rides, and a petting zoo. Families are encouraged to attend in costume, and this is the last day to hit the farm's Amazing Maize Maze and pumpkin patch.
Halloween Parade and Pumpkin Flotilla — Central Park
Wednesday, October 30
Bring your jack o' lantern to the Dana Discovery Center in Central Park and then watch it sail away at dusk on the Harlem Meer. Crafts, spooky stories, live music, and a costume parade around the northeastern edge of the park are also on tap. FREE
Halloween — Citywide
We can't curate a list of the best things to do with kids in October without mentioning Halloween! But there are so many parades, parties, and celebrations around town it's impossible to pick just one. That's why we have an entire Halloween Guide. Our annual posts about Halloween parades, FREE Halloween events, and the top Halloween celebrations for NYC kids have got you covered like a sheet on a ghost.
NYC always has so many incredible things going on, it's difficult to choose. So here are 10 additional cool events that are worth considering for your October calendar.
Luna Park's annual Halloween Harvest Festival runs all month long through Saturday, October 27 with a pumpkin patch, tractor races, dance contests, a dog costume parade, and more. Plus, get out your costumes a few days early to join the fun at the FREE annual Coney Island Children's Halloween Parade on Saturday, October 26.
Feeling a little pumpkin-ed out? At the annual Pickle Day festival on Sunday, October 6, you can taste a selection of pickles, plus enjoy face painting, dancing, and games. FREE
There's always a good reason to visit the American Museum of Natural History, and on Saturday, October 12, it's the annual reopening of the much-loved Tropical Butterflies exhibit.
Catch the exciting return of our hometown's homegrown circus when Big Apple Circus kicks off its 42nd season at Lincoln Center on Saturday, October 12 with a brand-new female ringmistress, plus America's Got Talent finalists the Savitsky Cats.
Swim over to see The Pout-Pout Fish, a new musical based on the bestselling children's books by Deborah Diesen, playing at the New Victory Theater weekend for two weekends October 12 through October 20, and also on Monday, October 14.
Head to Brooklyn Bridge Park for its Harvest Festival on Pier 6 Saturday, October 19. The usual seasonal thrills await, including a pumpkin patch, arts and crafts, face painting, music, and games, all with that jaw-dropping view of Lower Manhattan. FREE
Celebrate fall super-old-school style at NYC's only living history museum, Historic Richmond Town, with the return of Old Home Day on Sunday, October 20.
Amaze your littlest family member at Nest, a multisensory experience created specifically for babies up to 14 months featuring music, movement, puppetry, and play, at Lincoln Center from Wednesday, October 23-Sunday, October 27.
Celebrate the many spirits of Halloween at a unique Halloween Harvest Festival at Socrates Sculpture Garden inspired by the Haitian Festival of the Ancestors, with drum and music performances, face painting, costume making, and even a pet costume contest with a blessing of the animals, on Saturday, October 26. FREE
Marvel at massive gourds at the New York Botanical Garden's Giant Pumpkin Weekend on Saturday, October 26 and Sunday, October 27.