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 the much-anticipated opening of the Harry Potter: A History of Magic exhibit, a brand-new show inspired by the music of Laurie Berkner, plus a concert by the rocker herself.
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 Bay Ridge's costume-filled Ragamuffin Parade—plus the return of Pumpkin Point on Governors Island.
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 — The Bronx
Saturdays and Sundays in October, also Monday, October 8
This year's offerings at the Bronx Zoo's month-long Halloween bash include a pirate-themed 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.
Gumshoe — Lower East Side
Saturday, September 29 through Sunday, October 7
In this immersive adventure set in the historic Henry Street Settlement, families explore the space as they try to solve a mystery—but first you have to figure out who's your friend and who's your foe, and whether they're feeding you facts or fiction. This site-specific show was developed with the help of teenage performers and writers, who star alongside grown-up actors.
Harry Potter: A History of Magic — Upper West Side
Friday, October 5 through January 2019
The hottest ticket in town for Potterheads and history lovers alike, this new exhibit dives deep into the folklore that inspired J.K. Rowling's magical wizarding world. The New-York Historical Society unveils rare books, manuscripts, and magical objects from its collections, with a special audio tour, original papers by Rowling, and original drawings by Harry Potter illustrators Mary GrandPré and Jim Kay. Word to the wise (wizard): Timed-admission tickets are already selling out fast for opening month.
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 7
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
Bus Festival — Dumbo, Brooklyn
Sunday, October 7
More than a dozen vintage buses from the New York Transit Museum's collection will be rolled out for kids to explore, climb, and (pretend to) drive. There are crafts and hands-on activities, plus the opportunity to meet and shake hands with some real NYC bus drivers. When little travelers get hungry, hit the street fair for some great grub. FREE
New York City Children's Theater's Pillowland — Tribeca
Select Sundays, October 7 through January 2019
The hit song "Pillowland" by preschool rock goddess Laurie Berkner is the inspiration for this brand-new interactive show opening at the New York City Children's Theater this month. The story follows a young hero to the Kingdom of Pillowland, where he sets off on an amazing journey with his pals—and you! Kids remove their shoes and sit on the floor to participate in this adventure from the company that produced last year's hit Please Bring Balloons.
RELATED: Ultimate Halloween Guide for NYC Kids
Register to be part of the action (the parade, in this case). Photo courtesy of the Ragamuffin Parade
Ragamuffin Parade — Bay Ridge, Brooklyn
Saturday, October 13
Put on those Halloween getups a few weeks early for this colorful Brooklyn procession, which celebrates its 52nd anniversary this year. Costumed kids parade down Third Avenue between 76th and 92nd Streets in Bay Ridge alongside bands, cheerleaders, and modest floats. All participants who make it to the end snag a complimentary gift, and prizes are given to the children with the most creative costumes. If you live in the neighborhood, registration forms allowing kids to march are distributed in local schools and day cares, but you can also download one from the organizer's site or fill one out the day of. FREE but registration required.
Open House New York — Citywide
Friday, October 12–Sunday, October 14
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
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 14
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
The Laurie Berkner Band's Monster Boogie Halloween Concert — Upper West Side
Saturday, October 20
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.
Pumpkins with a view, plus hayrides and treats take pace for two weekends in October at Pumpkin Point on Governors Island. Photo by Sara Marentette
Pumpkin Point – Governors Island
Saturday, October 20–Sunday, October 21 and Saturday, October 27–Sunday, October 28
Head to Governors Island for a Halloween celebration in New York Harbor the last two weekends of October. Pumpkin Point, one of NYC's only pumpkin patches, crops up among the shady trees in Nolan Park this year, ripe for photo-ops and jack o'lantern hunting. Seasonal treats will be served up at a fall beer garden, plus there's trick-or-treating at the historic houses in Nolan Park on Saturday, October 27, from 1-3pm. FREE
Little Orchestra Society — Upper East Side
Saturday, October 20-Sunday, October 21
Little Orchestra Society opens its 71st season with a concert series that introduces little ones to the works of Scott Joplin and Duke Ellington, throwing a spotlight on the wonders of jazz and improvisation. Get ready to get down.
Trolls: The Experience — Midtown West
Monday, October 22
Bring a pair of sunglasses: The sparkly world of Dreamworks' Trolls opens this month in Midtown. Kids can explore the elaborate world of everybody's favorite wild-haired wee folks, try on troll hair, dance to troll-y tunes, and have their faces painted. Tickets for the timed-entry, story-driven, immersive experience are on sale through January 6, 2019, while special preview pricing is in effect through November 14. Nab yours so you can join Poppy's Best Day Ever Party!
Day of the Dead Festival — East Village
Friday, October 26–Sunday, October 28
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 three-day fest includes live performances, a traditional dance procession, and a communal altar where you can place photos and other remembrances of loved ones. FREE
The Brooklyn Botanic Garden hosts the annual favorite Ghouls and Gourds. Photo by Julie Markes for BBG
Ghouls and Gourds – Prospect Heights, Brooklyn
Saturday, October 27
The Brooklyn Botanic Garden's annual bash boasts giant puppets, stilt dancers, plenty of craft and activity stations, and a freewheeling costume parade where kids can join in and strut their stuff. FREE for kids under 12.
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 28
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 — 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 will be updated over the next few weeks, so don't be scared. We've 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 through Halloween weekend with a pumpkin patch, dance contests, a dog costume parade, and more. On the Saturday before Halloween (the 27th, but who's counting) join the fun at the annual, FREE Coney Island Children's Halloween Parade.
If you haven't made it to the Instagram-worthy candy-themed pop-up Candytopia yet, you should go (and bring your sweet tooth). Its limited engagement in NYC ends November 15.
There's always a good reason to visit the American Museum of Natural History, and on Saturday, October 6, it's the annual reopening of the much-loved Tropical Butterflies exhibit.
It's a great month for family-friendly theater: The FringeNYC festival returns this year, with a month's worth of shows especially for kids, including Super! The Musical October 6-11, and The Odyssey (yep, that one...but scaled back for younger audiences) October 6-10.
The members-only Sunnyside Gardens Park opens its gates to the public for its annual Oktoberfest and Pumpkin Patch Saturday, October 6. Enjoy live music, crafts, pumpkin picking and decorating, an artisan market, and classic German-style food and beverages served in the park’s woodlands. FREE admission, but there are fees for activities.
Feeling a little pumpkin-ed out? At the annual Pickle Day festival on Sunday, October 14, you can taste a selection of pickles, plus enjoy face painting, dancing, and games. Think you've got pickling prowess? Enter the fair's first pickling contest. FREE
Head to Brooklyn Bridge Park for its Harvest Festival on Pier 6 Saturday, October 20. 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
Marvel at massive gourds at the New York Botanical Garden's Giant Pumpkin Weekend on Saturday, October 20 and Sunday, October 21.
Run off and see the Big Apple Circus, which begins performances at Lincoln Center on Saturday, October 20 with a new ringmaster, Stephanie Monseu of the Bindlestiff Family Cirkus, plus lots of female-driven acts.
Celebrate fall super-old-school style at Historic Richmond Town's annual Great American Harvest Fest on Sunday, October 21.