This fall preschoolers are being showered with great events, festivals, and theater in NYC. There are oh so many fall fairs with petting zoos, music, and performances, plus hands-on art making, great toddler and preschooler shows—and plenty of FREE options. We have rounded up more than two dozen of the best the city has to offer this fall, so get ready to add some activities to your calendar.
Don't forget to check out our September GoList and Best NYC Fall Festivals for even more great fall events, and our just released Fall Fun Guide. Looking for a special day trip? Preschoolers are old enough to pick their own apples this September or even the perfect pumpkin as the season rolls on.
For information about the locations and pricing of these programs, click through to the listing. And remember: Great programs in NYC sell out quickly, so be sure to register in advance when possible.
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8th Annual NYC Unicycle Festival — Governors Island
Thursday, August 31-Sunday, September 3
The Bindlestiff Family Cirkus hosts this festival dedicated to that exciting one-wheeled contraption, the Unicycle. August 31 and September 1, NYC will see smaller events take place in Battery Park and Brooklyn. The big main event on Sept. 3rd will be held on Governors Island. There will be races, competitions, games, exhibitions, music and other performances. FREE
The Wizard of Oz at the Harlem Rep — Harlem
Saturday, September 2-Saturday, December 9
Come join the Harlem Repertory Theatre as it performs the classic and unforgettable The Wizard of Oz. Your little ones will love watching Dorothy, Toto, the Scarecrow, the Tin Man, the Cowardly Lion and the Wicked Witch come alive. This fast, preschooler-friendly version will only take one hour but favorites will still be in place like "Over the Rainbow" and "If I Only Had a Brain." Keep in mind that more timid little ones might still find the witches and overall theme a touch scary! You know your kid best.
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Watch tugboats go for the gold at the Great North River Tugboat Race & Competition. Photo by Mitch Waxman
Great North River Tugboat Race & Competition — Midtown West
Sunday, September 3
Preschoolers will be thrilled to watch more than a dozen tugboats race from Pier I in Riverside Park South down to Pier 84 in Hudson River Park, where there will be live music and other nautical-themed fun. FREE to watch.
Dream Big, Princess — citywide
Saturday, September 16-Thursday, October 19 (dates vary)
Bring your growing big kid to the big screen for one of five classic Disney princess flicks starring a tough heroine who saves the day! Disney and AMC Theatres teamed up to bring favorites like Beauty & the Beast (1991), Mulan (1998), Brave (2012), and more back to the theaters for special dates in September and October. The movies will play at select AMCs across the city.
Brooklyn Book Festival Children's Day — Brooklyn Heights
Saturday, September 16
The Brooklyn Book Festival brings beloved children's authors to MetroTech Commons for a day of reading, performances, workshops, and other events tailored to kids 2-11. Children's book authors include Alexandra Bracken, Maira Kalman, Eric Morse, George O’Connor, Jacqueline Woodson, Laurie Berkner, Angela Dominguez, Sharon Draper, Javaka Steptoe, Gene Luen Yang and many more in a festive event celebrating the joy of reading. FREE
Astor Alive! Festival — Greenwich Village
Saturday, September 23
Presented by the Village Alliance, this year’s festival presents some of the finest talent and creativity from the leading cultural powerhouses residing in Astor Place and the East Village, including the Blue Man Group Drum-Off and live performances from Joe's Pub at The Public, La MaMa E.T.C., and Bowery Poetry Club among many others. The Astor Alive! Festival takes place on the northern and southern plazas of Astor Place with sections of Fourth Avenue and Cooper Square closed to traffic, making way for workshops, activities, and pop-up public space. FREE
RELATED: 25 Things to Do with NYC Preschoolers Before Kindergarten
Preschool is a great age to introduce them to NYC's only corn maze at the Queens County Farm Museum.
The Amazing Maize Maze — Glen Oaks, Queens
Saturday, September 23-Sunday, October 29
Get lost at the Queens County Farm Museum's three-acre corn maze. Children are encouraged to find clues scattered throughout the maze, solve puzzles, and make their way (with parents in tow) through the maze. It opens the weekend of the farm's annual County Fair, another must for NYC preschoolers with animals, carnival rides, stilt walkers, fair food, and more.
The 35th Annual Queens County Fair — Glen Oaks, Queens
Saturday, September 23-Sunday, September 24
Don't miss this traditional county fair with blue ribbon competitions in livestock, produce, home crafts, arts & crafts, and more at one of NYC's favorite farms. The fair features pie-eating and corn-husking contests, pig races, hayrides, carnival rides, midway games, and top-notch children's entertainment.
Chinatown favorite, The Mid-Autumn Moon Festival, provides fun for the whole family, including tons of food, games and entertainment.
Mid-Autumn Moon Festival & Parade — Chinatown
Sunday, September 24
Head over to Chinatown for a festival celebrating autumn but also prosperity and harmony. Delicious food, fun entertainment like dragon dances and lantern painting, and much more await children. These festivals get crowded, so be sure your little ones are okay with lots of people and loud noises. FREE
All children love to get behind the wheel of these authentic and antique vehicles at the annual Bus Festival.
Bus Festival — Brooklyn Heights
Sunday, September 24
As part of the Atlantic Antic street fair, the NY Transit Museum brings out vintage vehicles for everyone to explore. More than a dozen buses are on display and kids can take part in crafts and other hands-on activities. When the little travelers get hungry, simply visit the main street fair for some great grub. FREE
See old favorites and new stories at this year's The Very Hungry Caterpillar Show. Photo by Carol Rosseg
The Very Hungry Caterpillar Show — Union Square
Thursday, September 28-Sunday, February 4
This beautiful live performance will entrance the entire family. It returns to New York, featuring 75 magical puppets and telling two new Eric Carle stories: 10 Little Ducks and Brown Bear. We caught the show when it debuted last year; it kept all the tots, preschoolers, and all in the audience mesmerized.
Eloise's Rawther Fancy Party — Upper West Side
Saturday, September 30-Sunday, October 1
It's all things Eloise at the New-York Historical Society. This famous little New Yorker will get to shine through her words, art, crafts and an appearance from Nanny herself! Children will have a chance to make their own pair of rawther fancy sunglasses to wear, just like Eloise. And what is Eloise without storytime, sharing in her Plaza adventures. All of this is part of the Eloise at the Museum exhibit, which will close October 9.
92Y Street Festival — Upper East Side
Sunday, October 1
Little ones will love watching the big kids take the stage at this annual fall fest. Performances include ballet, tap, jazz, and musical theater by the Junior Performance Team. There will also be arts and crafts for all ages, including drop-in-drawing. Watch demos by the 92Y Gymstars Gymnastics Team; and take a turn in the Tiny Tumblers Toddler Obstacle Course.The event features age-appropriate activities and there is a special space for kids 5 and younger. FREE
Medieval Festival — Inwood
Sunday, October 1
The annual festivities at Fort Tryon Park feature events for all ages. Take a trip back in time with knights, jousting displays, birds of prey, and delicious food and drink, including the festival's iconic pickle vendors. Preschoolers will feel like they just stepped into a cool costume parade. FREE
Just Kidding — Upper West Side
Saturday, October 7-Saturday, December 16
Beginning in October, Symphony Space's Just Kidding presents a star-studded lineup every Saturday. Puppets, live music, and even pirates bring a range of children's performances to the stage. Children learn through music, dance, and other unique performances. Find a description of each in our Event Calendar.
Dig! Plant! Grow: Scarecrow Weekend — Bronx
Saturday, October 7-Sunday, October 8
Ever make a scarecrow before? No? Then head over to the New York Botanical Garden where families can help dress and fill America's favorite autumn icons. There will also be planting and preparing for fall and, of course, plenty to see in NYC's largest botanical garden
PJ Masks Live! Time to Be a Hero — Madison Square Garden
Saturday, October 14-Sunday, October 15
Top-rated animated series, PJ Masks, comes to life onstage in this brand-new, fully immersive musical production. Your kiddos' favorites, Catboy, Owlette, Gekko, and the Baddies, will be setting the stage in a performance the entire family will enjoy.
RELATED: 10 Perfect Fall Weekend Getaways for NYC Families
Enjoy free performances and more at the Halloween Harvest Festival in Socrates Sculpture Park.
Halloween Harvest Festival — Long Island City, Queens
Saturday, October 28
Socrates Sculpture Park will be hosting a Día de los Muertos/Day of the Dead themed Halloween celebration. There will be authentic Mexican music performances, spooky costumes, crafts, face painting, and more! Even your furry friends are welcome, as there will be a Canine Costume Contest. FREE
Children's Fall Festival — Glen Oaks, Queens
Sunday, October 29
Pick a pumpkin, catch the farm's Amazing Maize Maze, and celebrate the season at the Queens County Farm Museum's massive fall bash with live music, bouncy houses, a haunted house, pony rides, and a petting zoo. Families are encouraged to attend in costume!
Canstruction Competition — Financial District
Thursday, November 2-Wednesday, November 15
Kids will marvel at sculptures made entirely from unopened cans of food at the 25th Annual Canstruction Competition at Brookfield Place. The competition brings architects, designers, and others together to create some spectacular structures that are put on display for families to enjoy. All cans are donated to City Harvest after the competition's end, presenting a fantastic opportunity to teach young children about giving back to those in need. FREE
American Girl Store Opening — Midtown
Saturday, November 11-Sunday, November 12 (opening weekend)
The American Girl Store, one of our favorite spots for tea or playing princess, is set to move from its spot on Fifth Avenue down to Rockefeller Plaza. The new location is expected to be a concept store, meaning even more interactive for the kids! While some events here are reserved for ages 8 and up, there is plenty for the 3-plus set, too, including hair styling, manicures, brunch, and more—all of which can be done with your doll in tow!
The Holiday Train Show at New York Botanical Garden is filled with amazing choo-choo displays.
Holiday Train Show at NYBG — Bronx
Wednesday, November 22-Monday, January 15
The New York Botanical Garden’s Holiday Train Show is celebrates its 26th season, and expect it to be just as magical in 2017. Enchanting model trains zip through a display of 150 landmarks, such as the Brooklyn Bridge, Statue of Liberty, Rockefeller Center, the Empire State Building and the Chrysler Building. Each is recreated with bark, leaves, and other natural material to make this a most magical train show.
Top photo: Climb aboard NYC buses and construction vehicles, both vintage and new, at the annual Bus Festival. Photos courtesy of the events/venues