Best Events This Fall for NYC Preschoolers

All aboard the Transit Museum's vintage buses at October's Bus Festival. Photo courtesy of the museum
Best Fall 2018 Fairs, Festivals, Shows in NYC for Preschoolers and Toddlers

Let the fall fun begin! This fall there are tons of events, festivals, and shows in NYC just right for the preschool crowd. From fall fairs with petting zoos to music performances to great toddler and preschooler activities, here are 30+ fall events for NYC preschoolers—and best of all, many events and activities are FREE.

Don't forget to check out our September GoList and Best NYC Fall Festivals for even more great fall events, not to mention 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 find the perfect pumpkin.

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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September Events

Room for Tea Pop-Up — Tribeca
Tuesday, August 29 through Saturday, September 22
Take a trip inspired by tea culture around the world, focusing on the five main senses. Proceeds support Trees for the Future, so you can do good while exploring the wonderful world of boba tea and tea ceremonies.

9th Annual NYC Unicycle Festival — Governors Island
Thursday, August 30 through Sunday, September 2
The Bindlestiff Family Cirkus hosts this festival, dedicated to that exciting and bewildering one-wheeled contraption, the unicycle. Group rides spin through Manhattan (August 30) and Brooklyn (August 31), and then the big main event on Governors Island September 1 and 2 features games, giveaways, performances, and learn-to-ride opportunities. FREE

RELATED: Best Apple Picking Within One Hour of NYC

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 9
Vehicle-loving 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 live music and other nautical-themed fun awaits. FREE to watch, or pony up for a ride on the Circle Line spectator boat.

West Side County Fair —Upper West Side
Sunday, September 9
A full day of county fair magic, right in Manhattan! While preschoolers might not make the height requirement for all of the rides, they can revel in musical performances, aerialists, and fair food.

Brooklyn Book Festival Children's Day — Brooklyn Heights, Brooklyn
Saturday, September 15
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 The Story Pirates, Rowboat Watkins, David Ezra Stein, Kheryn Callender, and many more in a festive event celebrating the joy of reading. FREE

Kids Fest: Stages in the Square — Flatiron
Saturday, September 15
Madison Square Park's fabulous fall fest is a terrific salute to the changing season and features tons of great music, lawn games, and food vendors. The lineup is a veritable who's who of NYC kid faves, including WonderSpark puppets, the Amazing Max, and Teatro SEA. Tiny Box Theater is even hosting an interactive station for little ones. FREE

NYC Honey Fest — Rockaway, Queens
Saturday, September 15
What's the buzz? Arts and crafts, food, music, and a sweet marketplace on the Rockaway boardwalk in celebration of our fuzzy, striped, winged buddies, the bees.

Disney Jr. Dance Party — Upper West Side
Saturday, September 15 and Sunday, September 16
Celebrate with all the Disney characters, from Mickey to Doc McStuffins, when they set up camp at the Beacon Theater for two days of adorable mayhem. The show features 20 songs from a variety of Disney Jr. series, and unveils two brand new tunes created just for this tour.

Adoptapalooza — Union Square
Sunday, September 16
Go for the cuddles, but forewarned is forearmed: the cuteness may overwhelm and a new family member might march into your hearts. Close to 300 dogs, cats, and rabbits are available for adoption, all spayed, neutered, and ready to go...

Sesame Street Live! Let's Party! — Fort Greene, Brooklyn
Friday, September 21 through Sunday, September 23
Elmo, Abby and Big Bird are on board for a brand-new live extravaganza. At select performances, you can opt in for a unique pre-show experience and tour the stage before the Sesame Street gang arrives.

Submerge: NYC Marine Science Fest — Tribeca
Saturday, September 22
Creating future scientists means sparking interest in science, engineering, and biology. So make a beeline for Hudson River Park's annual Submerge festival, where marine science fun includes catch-and-release fishing, science demos, and hands-on activities. FREE

The Chinatown favorite Mid-Autumn Moon Festival is fun for the whole family, with tons of food, games, and entertainment.

Mid-Autumn Moon Festival and Parade — Chinatown
Saturday, September 22
Head over to Chinatown for a festival celebrating autumn as well as 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

Astor Alive! Festival — Greenwich Village
Saturday, September 22
Presented by the Village Alliance, this year’s festival presents live talent from Astor Place and the East Village, including the Blue Man Group and 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

World Maker Faire — Corona, Queens
Saturday, September 22 and Sunday, September 23
The East Coast's biggest celebration of invention, creativity, and hands-on learning provides excellent inspiration for little scientists-in-training. With more than 800 projects to explore (including the ever-popular Coke Zero/Mentos demonstration), this event is a must-do. Pick up discounted tickets online, in advance.

The 36th Annual Queens County Fair — Floral Park, Queens
Saturday, September 22 and Sunday, September 23
Don't miss this traditional county fair with blue ribbon competitions in livestock, produce, home crafts, arts and 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. 

RELATED: 25 Things to Do with NYC Preschoolers Before Kindergarten

Preschool is a great age to try out NYC's only corn maze at the Queens County Farm Museum. 

The Amazing Maize Maze — Floral Park, Queens
Saturday, September 22 through Saturday, October 27
Get lost in 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 Wizard of Oz at the Harlem Rep — Harlem
Saturday, September 22 through Saturday, December 15
The Harlem Repertory Theatre's version of The Wizard of Oz incorporates special effects, dazzling projections, and that spectacular score, all in a fast, preschooler-friendly version that runs a doable one hour. Keep in mind that more timid little ones might still find the witches and overall theme a touch scary. You know your kid best.

44th Annual Atlantic Antic — Brooklyn Heights to Fort Greene, Brooklyn
Sunday, September 23
The mile-long Antic spans four neighborhoods and plays host to over 500 merchants and ten musical stages. But preschoolers will have their eyes on the pony rides, storytelling, and face painting.

The Little Red Lighthouse Festival — Inwood
Saturday, September 29
Celebrate Manhattan's last lighthouse with tours, readings of the famous book, The Little Red Lighthouse and the Great Gray Bridge, fishing fun, music, and more. FREE

Chile Pepper Fest — Prospect Heights, Brooklyn
Saturday, September 29
Fall's hottest ticket sets the Brooklyn Botanic Gardens' thermostat to 100, with plenty of tastings (bring water!), hands-on activities, bands from around the world, and more.

92Y Street Festival — Upper East Side
Sunday, September 30
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. 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, such as drawing and crafts, and there is a special space for kids 5 and younger. FREE

Medieval Festival — Inwood
Sunday, September 30
The annual medieval festivities at Fort Tryon Park feature activities 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

October Events

Charlotte's Web — Tribeca
Saturday, October 6
Theatreworks's version of the beloved E.B. White tale introduces little ones to the magical friendship between a little gray spider and a trusting pet pig.

Lincoln Center Kids: Jazzy Ash and the Leaping Lizards — Midtown West
Saturday, October 6
Lincoln Center's free atrium shows for little ones kick off with a swinging tour of the music of New Orleans. Other free fall atrium shows include Elena Moon Park on November 3. FREE

Angelina Ballerina: The Musical — Upper West Side
Saturday, October 6 through Sunday, November 18
Vital Theatre Company brings that lovely dancing mouse back to the stage with music by Ben Morss and the choreographic stylings of Sam Viverito.

Just Kidding — Upper West Side
Saturday, October 6 through Saturday, March 30
Beginning in October, Symphony Space's Just Kidding series presents a star-studded lineup every Saturday., with puppets, live music, and even pirates. This year's series starts with Michael and the Rockness Monsters and includes the popular Justin Roberts on November 3 and the Frogtown Mountain Puppeteers on November 11.

All children love to get behind the wheel of the authentic antique vehicles at the annual Bus Festival.

Bus Festival — Dumbo
Sunday, October 7
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

52nd Annual Ragamuffin Parade — Bay Ridge, Brooklyn
Saturday, October 13
Give those Halloween costumes a trial run at this parade for the 10 and under set. The costume contest should add some incentive for creativity, but every child who marches gets a little gift. Register in advance. The parade happens rain or shine! FREE

Tinga Tinga Tales: The Musical — Midtown West
Saturday, October 13 through Saturday, October 20
New Victory Theater hosts a fun show for little ones based on the popular international cartoon series.

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, you're likely to find it here! Preschoolers with dreams of urban farming can even exchange a cluck or two with real live chickens. FREE

The Rainbow Fish — Upper West Side
Saturday, October 20
Nova Scotia's Mermaid Theatre returns to NYC with its gorgeous blacklit, glow-in-the-dark version of Marcus Pfister's blockbuster picture book, with its timely message about the joys of sharing.

Giant Pumpkin Weekend — Bronx
Saturday, October 20 and Sunday, October 21
Giant gourds loom large at the New York Botanical Gardens, where kids can meet the growers, learn about the growing process, and pose with the pumpkins. Stop by the Everett Children's Garden so little ones can check out the spooky Halloween makeover, including bats and more than 100 larger-than-life scarecrows.

Little Orchestra Society — Upper East Side
Saturday, October 20 and Sunday, October 21
Celebrating its 71st season, Little Orchestra Society introduces little ones to Scott Joplin and Duke Ellington, throwing a spotlight on the wonders of jazz and improvisation.

The Not-So-Spooky Ghost — Upper East Side
Saturday, October 20 through Sunday, October 28
A shy spook, his skeleton dad, and a strange scarecrow garner giggles in a puppet show designed to make preschoolers feel more fun than fright.

Big Apple Circus — Midtown West
Saturday, October 20 through Sunday, January 27
The 41st edition of the little Big Top promises amazing feats of horizontal juggling, flying trapeze acts, and more.

Trolls: The Experience — Midtown West
Monday, October 22 through Wednesday, November 14
Bring a pair of sunglasses to the exceptionally sparkly world of Dreamworks' Trolls, where kids can feel right at home among the wee folks, try on troll hair, dance to troll-y tunes, and have their faces painted.

Coney Island Children's Halloween Parade — Coney Island, Brooklyn
Saturday, October 27
Face painting, a costume contest, and trick or treating are all on the menu, and the first 1,500 registered kids get a two-hour Luna Park wristband, too. FREE

BK Block Party: Halloween Edition — Downtown Brooklyn
Saturday, October 27
Haunt the Albee Square farmer's market and scare up some balloon ghouls, monster tunes, a paintable pumpkin patch, and a photo booth. FREE

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 27
Socrates Sculpture Park hosts a Día de los Muertos themed Halloween celebration with authentic Mexican music performances, spooky costumes, crafts, face painting, and more! Furry friends are welcome to vie for top spot in a Canine Costume Contest. FREE

Children's Fall Festival — Floral Park, Queens
Sunday, October 28
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!

November Events

Canstruction Competition — Financial District
Thursday, November 1 through Wednesday, November 14
Kids will marvel at sculptures made entirely from unopened cans of food at the 26th Annual Canstruction Competition at Brookfield Place. The competition brings architects, designers, and builders 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

Fox Fables — Gramercy
Saturday, November 3 and Sunday, November 4
WonderSpark Puppets perform a puppet adaptation of Aesop's classic fable revealing a compelling truth: that being yourself is always the best option.

Raffi! Live and in Concert — Midtown West
Sunday, November 4
Baby Beluga is back and better than ever as one of kid music's earliest masters returns to NYC for a pair of performances. Schedule pre- or post-naptime!

The Holiday Train Show at the New York Botanical Garden is filled with amazing choo-choo displays.

Holiday Train Show at NYBG — Bronx
Saturday, November 17 through Monday, January 21
The New York Botanical Garden’s Holiday Train Show celebrates its 27th season, and expect it to be just as magical in 2018. 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. Advance reservations are strongly recommended.

Unless otherwise noted, photos courtesy of the venues/events

A version of this story was published in September 2017; it is updated annually. Sydney Ng contributed additional reporting.