13 Not-So-Scary Halloween Events in NYC for the Preschool Set

NYU and Manhattan Community Board 2 host an annual Children's Halloween Parade that's one of the city's biggest free Halloween events for kids. Photo courtesy of NYU
Halloween Parades, Parties, Trick-or-Treating and More Not-too-Scary Kid Fun in NYC

When my son was a baby, I wondered if he'd ever know the joy of trick-or-treating door to door like his suburban counterparts. But over the years, I've learned that NYC really knows how to celebrate Halloween. There are tons of FREE Halloween celebrations, kid-friendly costume parades, and close-knit communities that dole out copious amounts of candy to trick-or-treaters.

For little New Yorkers, Halloween can sometimes seem more scary than sweet—and a lot of it takes place after bedtime. So we've put together a list of 13 Halloween events perfect for the preschool set, many of them FREE. Enjoy the gentle spirit of these Halloween events while you can—your kids will be celebrating at the Village Halloween Parade before you know it.

For more Halloween happenings, check out our Halloween Guide and our events calendar, which is continually updated with new, fun events as we find out about them.

Click through to our listings for all the details, including addresses and times. And sign up for our newsletters to get more posts like this delivered to your inbox.

Spooky Pumpkin Garden — Bronx Park, the Bronx
Saturday, September 22 through Wednesday, October 31
While away a crisp fall day in the NYBG's Everett Children's Adventure Garden where festive fall photo ops abound. More than 100 oversized scarecrows decorate the space along with plenty of gourds and pumpkins. Weekends mean arts and crafts, plus pumpkin carving demos, and more fall-themed fun.

RELATED: Best Fall Events for NYC Preschoolers

Boo at the Zoo in the Bronx is the perfect way to enjoy the season with preschooler fun like daily costume parades and hay mazes. 

Boo at the Zoo — Bronx Park, the Bronx
Weekends, September 29 through October 28, plus Columbus Day
Head to the Bronx Zoo for its annual fright fest. Kids can make Halloween-inspired crafts, collect treats, watch pumpkin-carving demos, musical performances, magic shows, and enjoy storytime. Come in costume to participate in the twice-daily parades. See plenty of zoo animals, many of whom are given pumpkins full of treats to chow down on. Want more Boo at the Zoo fun? The Prospect Park Zoo and Queens Zoo also celebrate with smaller fests. Most Boo at the Zoo festivities are included in admission, which varies by location.

Harvest Festival — Upper East Side
Saturday, October 13
Head to Carl Schurz Park for a small pumpkin patch, hay rides, a rocking dance party with Mr. Corbitt, and a puppet show. Rain date: Sunday, October 14. FREE

The Laurie Berkner Band's Monster Boogie Halloween Concert — Upper West Side
Saturday, October 20
Celebrate Halloween with bestselling children's recording artist Laurie Berkner and her band of crazy sidekicks. Parents and children alike are encouraged to attend in costume, with stuffed animals to boot—a nod to her hit, Pig on Her Head—and be ready to boogie. Dancing in the aisles is encouraged! Tickets start at $39, and are getting snapped up.

Sensory Fun in the Sun Halloween Spooktacular Adventure — Fresh Meadows, Queens
Saturday, October 20
Embark on a sensory-filled Halloween adventure. Licensed occupational therapists lead attendees on a obstacle course filled with experiences meant to test their five senses, plus vestibular and proprioceptive senses (yeah, we had to look those terms up, too). Children are welcome to wear their Halloween best.

Halloween Harbor  — Snug Harbor, Staten Island
Saturday, October 27
The Staten Island Children's Museum joins forces with neighboring cultural institutions the Snug Harbor Cultural Center & Botanic Garden and Staten Island Museum for a day of ghoulish fun. Enjoy tricks, treats, arts, and more throughout the grounds.

Halloween Celebration at AMNH — Upper West Side
Saturday, October 27
It's practically a rite of passage for Upper West Side tots to hit this big shindig at the American Museum of Natural History. There are crowds aplenty, but also tons of room to roam in the museum's vast halls. Preschoolers delight not only in the free treats, but also in the friendly costumed characters—think preschool pleasers such as Curious George and Clifford the Big Red Dog. There are live musical performances and plenty of arts and crafts to enjoy, too.

RELATED: October GoList: The Best Things to Do with Kids This Month

The magical Halloween Parade and Pumpkin Flotilla is the perfect way to ease your little one into Halloween.  Photo courtesy of Central Park Conservancy

Halloween Parade and Pumpkin Flotilla — Harlem
Sunday, October 28
Head to the Harlem Meer on the northern edge of Central Park for this annual favorite. There are arts and crafts, pumpkin-carving demonstrations, and spooky stories are read aloud. The event ends with a leisurely costume parade around the Meer, with treats to collect along the way. As the sun sets, illuminated jack-o-lanterns take to the water for a magical photo-op. You can even set yours asail, but visit our event listing for details on drop-off times and size restrictions. If you have any downtime, there's a spectacular playground nearby. FREE

RELATED: Free Costume Parades for NYC Kids

Washington Market Park's Halloween Parade and Party is an entire day of fun in the park. 

Halloween Parade and Party — Tribeca
Sunday, October 28
Washington Market Park's popular annual party kicks off with a costume parade from CitiGroup Plaza to the green space. Once inside, a dozen free activities await including penny-in-a-haystack, a bone dig in the sandbox, a hay circle on the lawn, and other classics. Strollers will not be allowed in the garden but a stroller check is available nearby at Duane and Greenwich streets. FREE

Hippo Playground Halloween Parade — Upper West Side
Wednesday, October 31
The Hippo Playground Halloween Parade draws tiny trick-or-treaters from miles around. Children line up at the Soldiers and Sailors Monument and parade into the playground for treats, games, and plenty of playtime before that sugar crash hits. This year, singer/songwriter Esther Crow will perform. While this one can be crowded and overwhelming, some kids revel in the excitement. FREE

The Children's Halloween Parade in Greenwich Village is much mellower than the other famed parade in this nabe. Photo courtesy of NYU

Children's Halloween Parade — Greenwich Village
Wednesday, October 31
Before the big parade steps off, NYU and Community Board 2 sponsor this much more kid-friendly celebration in and around Washington Square Park. Children will parade around the park, pick up free goodie bags, and enjoy rides and games following the event. FREE

BAMboo! — Fort Greene, Brooklyn
Wednesday, October 31
This annual fete from BAM has all the trappings of a preschooler party, from the bounce house to arts and crafts. Of course there's a too-cool kids' DJ, costume contest, and candy, too. The late-afternoon start time is just right for those with earlier bedtimes. Brooklyn families with toddlers and preschoolers can hit this outdoor party and call it a night. FREE

Inwood Pumpkin Pageant — Inwood
Thursday, November 1
If you didn't stay out too late on the big holiday, consider a visit to Inwood Hill Park for this spectacular sight. Locals donate their carved pumpkins for the occasion and the results are breathtaking. The Park's paths are lined with lit jack-o-lanterns for an ultra-cool, unique community-centered event. Don't forget your camera for some cool photo ops. Kids get to vote for their favorite designs. FREE

Unless noted, photos courtesy of the events/venues

A version of this article was first published in 2016; it is updated yearly.