Get your calendars ready. Here are the top 14 things to do with kids in New York City this October, five of which are FREE.
Halloween may generate the hoopla, but there are plenty of other must-do activities this month. The fall culture season kicks into high gear with amazing live entertainment, including a page-to-stage adaptation of Mr. Popper's Penguins at the New Victory Theater, a multimedia Gustafer Yellowgold concert, and a kid-friendly tribute to the late, great David Bowie.
Looking for more interactive fun? Have your pets blessed in Morningside Heights, get creative at the New York Hall of Science's Maker Faire New York, and cheer on the competitors in the annual Great North River Tugboat Race & Competition.
If an event piques your interest, click through to our listing for all the details, including addresses, times, and prices. Keep in mind the really cool (and free) kids stuff in NYC books up quickly, so buy your tickets ASAP or, in the case of FREE events, arrive early to beat the crowds.
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Ragamuffin Parade — Bay Ridge, Brooklyn
Saturday, October 1
Put on those Halloween getups a month early for this colorful Brooklyn procession, which celebrates its 50th anniversary this year. Costumed kids parade down Third Avenue between 76th and 92nd Streets in Bay Ridge alongside bands, cheerleaders, and makeshift 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, consent forms allowing kids to march are distributed in local schools and day cares, but you can also download one from the organizer's site. FREE but registration required.
It's hard to top last year's fire breathing robot, but the Maker Faire is bound to be an exciting event. Photo by Andrew Kelly/courtesy of the faire.
Maker Faire New York — Corona, Queens
Saturday, October 1-Sunday, October 2
As you can probably tell from how often we write about it, Maker Faire is a true Mommy Poppins favorite. Originating in California, Maker Faire debuted in NYC in 2010 and my family and I have attended ever since. The grounds of the New York Hall of Science explode with all kinds of inventions and creations—from knitting to robotics, circus to interactive sculptures, computers to crafts. The Young Makers area is particularly inspiring, with local students showing off their innovative projects. And the crowd is always awed by the flying Drone Zone. (Sadly, the life-size working replica of the Mouse Trap board game isn't returning this year.) Check out our highlight reel from the debut fest, and then be sure to buy tickets for this year's edition. While there are a range of ticket prices, the best bargain is the Sunday Family Pass, which snags you five tickets for $125. The deal is available online only and you must enter the grounds on Sunday between 10am and 1pm (though you can stay until closing).
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 the author.
Blessing of the Animals and Feast of St. Francis — Morningside Heights
Sunday, October 2
A celebration for animal lovers of all faiths. Bring your four- (or two- or no-) legged friends to the Cathedral Church of St. John the Divine in honor of the feast of St. Francis. Watch a procession of exotic animals, including alpacas, tortoises, bees, and a camel, head into the church around noon. Then hit the Pulpit Green to have your pets blessed starting at 1pm. There will also be a fair with dancing, face painting, vegetarian food and, new this year, a family main stage with kid-friendly performances. Note: Advance passes for the 11am liturgy are already gone, but a few will be distributed that morning on a first-come, first-served basis. But it's fun and less stressful to just hang outside and watch the animal parade. FREE
Watch as tugboats race down the Hudson at this annual competition. Photo courtesy of the event.
Great North River Tugboat Race & Competition – Midtown West
Sunday, October 9
Rescheduled from September due to inclement weather. Watch 15 tugboats race from Pier 1 in Riverside Park South down to Pier 84 in Hudson River Park, where there will be knot-tying and spinach-eating contests, live music, and other nautical-themed fun. The race and competitions take place in the Hudson River and can be viewed at no cost between West 44th and West 70th Streets on the waterfront. Pier 84 is where most of the action is, however. For an up-close view, families can buy tickets for the Circle Line spectator boat that follows the tugs. FREE from the shore.
Mr. Popper's Penguins — Midtown West
Friday, October 14-Sunday, October 30
Forget that middling Jim Carrey movie. This stage adaptation hews more closely to Richard and Florence Atwater's beloved 1938 book about a small-town family that is unexpectedly inundated with adorable but pesky penguins. With a vaudeville vibe, old-time tunes, and wonderful penguin puppets, this one-hour show is a great way to get your kid's flippers...er, feet ,wet when it comes to live entertainment.
Kids Fest — Flatiron
Saturday, October 15
Hit Madison Square Park for one of the biggest family fests this fall. Catch a variety of family-friendly performances on three stages, including a concert by the Grammy-winning kindie band Tim and the Space Cadets; silly sketches from clowns Sammie and Tudie; folk tales from Story Laurie; a puppet show from the director of the Czechoslovak-American Marionette Theatre; comedic tricks by the Amazing Max, drumming from OMNY Taiko; and much more. Kids also can enjoy face painting, lawn games, hula-hooping, instrument making with the Little Orchestra Society, and puppet crafting with the New Victory Theater. Food trucks will be on hand in case you need sustenance. FREE
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Learn all about recycling with a visit to the Sunset Park Material Recovery Facility. Photo by Ben Helmer/courtesy of Open House New York.
Open House New York — Citywide
Saturday, October 15-Sunday, October 16
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 as cemeteries and artist studios, open their doors to the public as part of OHNY. The complete list of sites will be posted on the website on Wednesday, October 5. Sites that require advance registration and a small fee will start taking online reservations on Thursday, October 6 at 11am. 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. Be sure to check the schedule when it goes up. The popular tours book up super-fast. Mostly FREE
Gustafer Yellowgold Family Concert — Upper East Side
Sunday, October 16
Singer, songwriter, artist, dad, and Grammy nominee Morgan Taylor hits the Jewish Museum along with his band and Gustafer, his little yellow animated alter ego from the sun. We've been raving about his shows for years: They're equal parts concert and cartoon, as Gustafer's animated adventures are accompanied by groovy, Beatles-like tunes. It's perfect for preschoolers.
Harvest Fest & Pumpkin Patch — Flushing, Queens
Sunday, October 16
Seems as if every school, day care, and community garden is hosting a fall fest this year, but Queens Botanical Garden's annual fete promises seasonal fun for kiddos and parents. Tykes can pick out the perfect pumpkin in the patch, get up close and personal with animals at the petting zoo, get their sillies out in the bouncy house, play a variety of outdoor games, and groove to live music. Meanwhile, moms and dads can take peaceful nature walks, peruse the artisan market, and drink up in the beer tent (just be sure to leave a designated grown-up to watch the brood). Note that in addition to the admission price, some activities require an extra fee.
This World Made Itself — Lincoln Square
Saturday, October 22-Sunday, October 23
The new, cutting-edge season of LC Kids brings audiences G-rated performance art. Miwa Matreyek blends shadow play and projections in this mesmerizing offering, a wordless but wonder-filled journey through the history of our universe. It's a one-of-a-kind experience at Lincoln Center's intimate Clark Studio Theater that's better seen than described.
The Ugly Duckling & The Tortoise and the Hare at Symphony Space’s Just Kidding series. Photo courtesy of Lightwire Theater.
The Ugly Duckling — Upper West Side
Saturday, October 29
Hans Christian Andersen's classic tale is brought to life in cutting-edge 21st-century style. Lightwire Theater is behind this high-tech production, which features glow-in-the-dark 3D puppets and props that seem to float across the stage without assistance. If you're an America's Got Talent fan, you probably saw the company compete on the show a few seasons back. The eye-popping troupe made it to the semifinals. See its illuminating work in action at Symphony Space.
Rock & Roll For Kids: David Bowie Tribute for Kids — Williamsburg, Brooklyn
Sunday, October 30
Even though the Thin White Duke died in January, his passing still feels raw. This family tribute at Brooklyn Bowl, part of the weekly Rock and Roll Playhouse concert series, is a great way to introduce your brood to Bowie. Mike Messer (lead singer of The Dirty Sock Funtime Band) and Mark Frankel lead an interactive and educational concert of some of his greatest hits. Plus, there will be face painting and a costume parade. And no one will stop you if you sing along.
Children's Fall Festival — Glen Oaks, Queens
Sunday, October 30
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. We'll be updating our annual posts about Halloween parades, no-cost Halloween events, and the top Halloween celebrations for NYC kids over the next few weeks so don't be scared. We've got you covered.
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.
Pick the perfect jack-o'-lantern at a nearby pumpkin patch.
Sample a variety of spicy sauces and chocolates, and enjoy live music at the Brooklyn Botanic Garden's annual Chile Pepper Festival.
Enjoy a taste of honey plus crafts and storytime at Wave Hill's annual Honey Weekend on Saturday, October 1 and Sunday, October 2.
Enjoy readings by some of Ireland's top kiddie authors at the Rí Rá Children's Festival of Literature on Sunday, October 2.
Watch dozens of ships cruise up the Hudson River during the Waterfront Alliance's Parade of Boats on Wednesday, October 5. FREE
Catch out-of-this-world Muppet clips such as Pigs in Space at the Museum of the Moving Image's special The Muppets’s Heroic Sci-Fi/Fantasy Spectacular screening on Monday, October 10 when schools are out.
Donate your gently used books to the Brooklyn Public Library's Great American Book Drive or pick up new-to-you titles for just a buck on Saturday, October 15. FREE
Celebrate fall super-old-school style at Historic Richmond Town's annual Great American Harvest Fest on Sunday, October 23.
Let the whole family shake their booties at the Halloween-themed CirKiz Dance Party on Sunday, October 23.
Make like Danny, Sandy, and the whole Rydell High gang when Flushing Town Hall screens a Grease Sing-Along on Monday, October 31.