Free & Fun Things to Do for NYC Kids this Weekend: Winter Jam, Inventgenuity Festival, Kids' Concerts & Family Art January 26-27

Best Weekend Events for New York City Kids and Families

Even though we're back to a regular two-day weekend, there are plenty of fun and enriching activities to fill it up. Families can get creative at the Brooklyn Inventgenuity Festival, hit the Brooklyn Botanic Garden for a day of do-it-yourself activities or enjoy a variety of snowy sports at Central Park's Winter Jam. There are lots of arts and culture options, too, like the Whitney Museum's family opening for American Legends, an elephant-themed family day at the Bard Graduate Center's Circus the City exhibit and a performance by the Thunderbird American Indian Dancers at Theater for the New City.

Those are just a few of the great things going on this weekend. Read on for all of our picks and remember, you can find additional options in our Event Calendar.

All Weekend

Beam Center's Inventgenuity Festival – Cobble Hill
My son wasn't old enough for this annual fest when I first wrote about it three years ago. But at eight, he's now the perfect age and we're looking forward to going on Saturday. As in previous years, the 2013 edition promises inventive hands-on activities for children ages 7 and up at the Invisible Dog Art Center. The theme is Digital by Hand and there will be collaborative projects and workshops like making a digital Magic 8-Ball, embroidering emoticons, crafting origami pixel boxes and more, all overseen by professional educators and artists. These workshops always sell out so preregistration is required. Free admission but there is an $8.25 materials fee for each workshop.

10-Foot Cops: The NYPD's Mounted Unit Opening Weekend – Upper West Side
Due to damage sustained during Hurricane Sandy, the New York City Police Museum remains closed. That's why the spot has temporarily moved its exhibit about police officers on horses to the Children's Museum of Manhattan. To celebrate its arrival, CMOM is hosting fun craft activities that tie into the display, like horseshoe decorating and mechanical horse making. Free with admission: $11

Illuminated – Prospect Heights
The Brooklyn Botanic Garden celebrates the frigid days of winter with two consecutive weekends of seasonal merriment. During Saturday's Illumination Celebration, families can craft lanterns to use on an evening walk through the cherry esplanade, relax in the Lite Brite lounge by playing with classic games and toys, and enjoy a dance party. Sunday's fun includes an acrobatic workshop, friendship bracelets and an after-dark flashlight tour of the garden. Stockholm hot cocoa, pepparkakor cookies and other Swedish specialties will be on sale. Free with admission: $10 for adults, free for children under 13

Alice in Wonderland – Fort Greene
The Brooklyn Academy of Music's new family series continues with Théâtre Tout à Trac's award-winning stage adaptation of Lewis Carroll's famous book. The 75-minute show is set inside a fantastical library and uses puppetry, music and dance to make Wonderland come to life. $12

Thunderbird American Indian Dancers Annual Dance Concert and Pow-Wow – East Village
Theater for the New City welcomes back these Native American performers for their 28th annual run. Enjoy dances, stories and traditional music from the Iroquois and Native Peoples of the Northwest Coast, the Southwest, the Plains, and the Arctic regions. At weekend matinees, kids get in for just a buck and are invited to get up on stage during parts of the show. $10 for adults, $1 for children under 12 for matinees

20at20 – Manhattan
If you've been meaning to take your kids to see The Velveteen Rabbit, Fancy Nancy the Musical, The Berenstain Bears LIVE!, or another family-friendly Off Broadway show, now's the time to go. Through Sunday, February 10, select productions are selling $20 tickets 20 minutes before each performance. There is some fine print: Tickets at some theaters may be cash only and if the performance sells out in advance, you're out of luck. But we're guessing most family shows won't have that problem. $20. Hoping to catch a Broadway show? Snag two-for-one tickets to select shows as part of Broadway Week, which runs through Saturday, February 7.

Saturday, January 26

Winter Jam – Upper East Side
Head to Central Park's bandshell to enjoy fresh fake snow and try out cross-country skiing, snowshoeing and snowboarding—there's even a separate snow zone for off-leash dogs. Non-winter-specific activities include Quidditch demos, animal tracking and live entertainment. FREE

Family Day: Carnival of the Elephants at Circus and the City: New York, 1793-2010 – Upper West Side
Raven and her seven-year-old daughter plan to check out the Bard Graduate Center's elephant-themed party in conjunction with the exhibit Circus and the City: New York, 1793-2010. Activities include kid-friendly tours, a pachyderm shadow puppet show, crafts and a visit from a zookeeper. Preregistration suggested. $15 per family

Festival Luna – Upper West Side
Celebrate the upcoming Lunar New Year at the American Museum of Natural History's multicultural moon fest. Experience a meditative reflection on the moon with a Lama from Tibet, learn Native American moon songs, create a Vietnamese painting, see a show by Chinese Theatre Works, dance to Korean music and learn Chinese culinary holiday traditions. While there, be sure to check out the recently refurbished dioramas in the Hall of North American Mammals and the new Theodore Roosevelt Memorial. Free with admission: $19 for adults, $10.50 for children ages 2-12

American Legends Family Opening – Upper East Side
To celebrate the debut of the Whitney's American Legends exhibit, the museum is hosting a party specifically for families with children ages 5 to 10. Enjoy a kid-friendly introduction to works by Alexander Calder, Georgia O’Keeffe and Edward Hopper, an art workshop and complimentary refreshments. Free with admission: $18 for adults, free for children under 19

Winter Carnival – Battery Park City
Let the kids blow off steam at P.S./I.S. 276’s annual indoor fest, featuring a bouncy house, carnival games, karaoke, face painting, arts and crafts, a dance party and an international food court. $3 admission plus additional fees for certain activities.

Mr. Cookie Jar & the Chocolate Chips – Upper West Side
This Los Angeles-based band brings its mash up of hip-hop, reggae, folk and rock to Symphony Space. The group will play tunes off the albums Love Bubble and Ultramagnetic Universal Love Revolution. $25 for adults, $15 for children.

See all Saturday events.

Sunday, January 27

Creature from the Black Lagoon – Greenwich Village
The Film Forum continues its classic movie series for kids with a screening of this 1954 B-movie, which is being shown in old-school pre-Avatar 3-D. James Thurber’s short Unicorn in the Garden precedes the feature. $7

WinterGreen Festival: A Tu B’Shvat Celebration – Lower East Side
Celebrate Tu B’Shvat, basically Jewish Arbor Day, at the Museum at Eldridge Street with planting projects, art activities, genealogy workshops, challah making and a Bash the Trash concert with recycled instruments. $10 for adults, $6 for children ages 5-18

The Little Prince – Flatbush
I raved about Bristol Riverside Theatre's stage adaptation of Antoine de Saint-Exupéry's beloved children’s novella when I saw it at the New Victory in 2011. The show combines modern technology and Japanese-style puppetry to tell the tale of a mysterious, planet-hopping boy who comes to Earth and meets a stranded pilot. $7.

Japan’s New Year’s Day Celebration: Oshogatsu – Midtown East
Celebrate the Japanese New Year at Japan Society with traditional activities like calligraphy, kite making and a funny face game. There will also be a lion dance and live Taiko drumming performances and workshops. $15, free for children under 2

Scavenger Hunt – the Bronx
Join the Urban Park Rangers for a winter wildlife scavenger hunt through Crotona Park. FREE

Mil's Trills 3rd Annual Winter Bash – Gowanus
Amelia Robinson plays folksy tunes on her electric ukulele. Families are encouraged to bring their own shakers and noisemakers to add to the music. In advance: $12 per person, $40 for a family four-pack; at the door: $15, free for children under 4

See all Sunday events.

Outside of NYC

Head to the Grounds for Sculpture in Hamilton, New Jersey for its Chinese New Year celebration featuring the Nai-Ni Chen Dance Company.

More Year of the Snake fun: The Chinese Language School of Connecticut in Stamford throws its annual New Year’s Festival with a buffet, acrobats, traditional dragon and lion dances, and holiday arts and crafts.

Plus you'll find info on the best family skiing, snow boarding, snow tubing and other seasonal sports spots in our Winter Fun Guide.

Don't forget: We have additional activity options in our Event Calendar.