Labor Day Weekend NYC: Carnivals, Unicycles, Final Summer Fun

Labor Day Weekend 2016 NYC Events & Activities Families, September 3-5, 2015

With NYC kids heading back to school soon, the Labor Day weekend is always a little bittersweet. Families can make the most of these last few carefree days as there is a ton of fun to be had over the three-day weekend in the city. Head to Governors Island to give one-wheeling a try at NYC's annual two-day unicycle fest; participate in the Jr. West Indian American Carnival Parade; enjoy old-fashioned fun at the Richmond County Fair; or hit the perfect-for-preschoolers West Side County Fair

Labor Day weekend also means the almost-end of the outdoor beach, pool and sprinkler season, so you may want to make one last trip to enjoy one of those while you still can. (NOTE: NYC is closing all public beaches on Sunday, September 4 and Monday, September 5 due to the possible weather and rip currents brought on by an expected tropical storm. Pools and beaches may be impacted on Monday, Labor Day, too.)

Speaking of trips, our Family Travel Guide offers plenty of family getaway ideas for places like Boston, PhiladelphiaNiagara Falls, the Adirondacks, Hershey, and of course the Jersey Shore and Long Island's East End, along with other great destinations for this and upcoming holiday weekends. Want to stay closer? We've also got a number of day trip ideas to museums, nature spots, and great towns, plus even some local camping options. Or cross off one final item from your NYC summer bucket list, from interactive art to outdoor roller skating.

If you haven't checked out our just-released 100 Things to Do in New York State with Kids roundup, now's a good time, too. (Those October school holidays will be here before you know it.)

Read on for all of our Labor Day weekend picks. You'll find additional suggestions in our Event Calendar and September GoList. Wishing you a fabulous end of summer!

All Weekend

Richmond County Fair – Staten Island
A September GoList pick: A real old-fashioned county fair takes over Historic Richmond Town for the three-day weekend, featuring multiple performance stages with live rock, country, and acoustic music, and carnival-style fun such as pig races, pie- and hot-dog eating contests, classic car displays, arts and crafts, and a midway with rides. The best part is that all the activities are free with admission.

Try out a one-wheeled ride at the annual NYC Unicycle on Governors Island. Photo by Keith Nelson/courtesy Bindlestiff Family Cirkus.

NYC Unicycle Festival – Governors Island
Another September GoList pick: Head to Governors Island to give one-wheeling a try, or stay on two feet and watch unicycle basketball, hockey games, and pros in competition. Afterward, check out all of the other cool attractions on the isle. (Happening Thursday, Sept. 1-Sunday, Sept. 4). FREE

Children's Museum of Manhattan's Back-to-School Special – Upper West Side
Craft your own school supplies, including a monster-inspired pencil case, listen in to several interactive storytimes, and jam out during the back-to-school fun happening all long-weekend at this favorite Upper West Side museum. Free with admission

Go Apple Picking – varies
Apple picking season in the area unofficially kicks off this weekend, and we've rounded up a dozen orchards within an hour's drive of Midtown. Some you can even reach via public transportation. Call the individual farm ahead of time before making the trek, but most will be offering early apple varieties for the picking now. Local favorite Alstede Farms even kicks off its fall farm fun entertainment Saturday with wagon and pony rides, bouncy houses, and more.

Picnic at a New-to-You Park – citywide
Long weekends are a great time to explore a new area of the city, or gasp, another borough! We recently rounded up some of our favorite, but lesser-known, NYC parks that are great for kids. Some offer great playgrounds, while others offer plenty of room for roaming, ball playing, and nature hikes. 

Take a Ride at a NYC Amusement Park – citywide
After Labor Day, the opening hours begin to shrink at many of the local amusement parks, and some will close up for the season, so catch a ride this weekend while all amenities are still in full effect. Who knows—maybe someone will finally brave the coaster this time!

Kayak on the Hudson — citywide
Many of the FREE boating begins to wind down by the end of this month, so grab one last paddle with the kids at an NYC dock, from Brooklyn Bridge Park to Midtown. FREE

Do Something for Free – citywide
Peruse the "anytime" section of our 100 Free Things to Do this Summer list for the final freebies of the season, from no-cost art workshops to fishing tutorials. FREE

Happy Birthday Herry Monster – Hudson Square
The Children's Museum of the Arts leads kids in a puppet-making workshop inspired by Sesame Street's Herry Monster. (Offered on Saturday and Sunday; museum is closed on Labor Day.) Free with admission

One Last Water Slide – varies
Some area water parks remain open on a limited basis into September and beyond, but it's the final weekend for one of our favorites, SplashDown Beach in Hudson Valley. So lounge in the wave pool, float down the lazy river, and give the kids one last water slide before they hit the books next week.

Saturday, September 3

West Indian American Day Carnival and Children’s Parade – Crown Heights
And another September GoList pick: The five-day West Indian American Day Carnival culminates in one of NYC’s largest parades on Labor Day, and while it's a colorful affair, it's also crowded and noisy. The Children’s Parade on Saturday is a better bet for families. Kids of Caribbean descent don elaborate garb as they travel through Crown Heights and onto the grounds of the Brooklyn Museum for a costume contest and carnival. FREE for the parade, $2 to enter the museum grounds

Brunch Outdoors – citywide
Enjoy a leisurely and stress-free family brunch outdoors at one of these kid-friendly restaurants in Manhattan, Brooklyn, or Queens. All have cool outdoor spaces, from yards to spacious patios.

See all Saturday events.

Sunday, September 4

Watch live performers, see animals, and more at the West Side County Fair. Photo courtesy Summer on the Hudson.

West Side County Fair – Upper West Side
Yup, another September GoList pick: Perfect for preschoolers, this annual favorite features small carnival rides and games, live music, sideshow performers, live animal shows, and a smattering of country vendors. It gets crowded fast, so arrive early to try to avoid lines. Afterward, grab a bite at the Pier I Cafe or head a few blocks north to romp in Elephant Playground. FREE

The tugboat race was rescheduled to Sunday, October 9, due to the bad weather predicted for Sunday.
RESCHEDULED: Great North River Tugboat Race & Competition
— Midtown West
Our final September GoList pick for the weekend: Watch 15 tugboats race from Pier I in Riverside Park South down to Pier 84, where there will be knot-tying and spinach-eating contests, live music, and other nautical-themed fun. The races and competitions take place in the Hudson River and can be viewed for free, but for the best vantage point, splurge on tickets for the Circle Line spectator boat that follows the tugs. FREE from the shore

Family Performance Festival: What Do We Know About H20? — Central Park
The seasonal family performance series by the Central Park Conservancy wraps up for another year with an interactive water-themed performance by Mad Science. FREE

Brazilian Day – Midtown West
Celebrate the culture of Brazil at this annual fest featuring live performances and food stands in NYC's own Little Brazil. FREE

See all Sunday events.

Monday, September 5

Enjoy potato sack races and more farmyard fun at the Lefferts Historic House. Photo by Elizabeth Keegin Colley/courtesy the house.

Race Around the Farmyard – Prospect Park
Bring your competitive spirit to Lefferts Historic House for friendly potato sack and spoon races, stilt-walking, and other old-fashioned fun. FREE

Habana Outpost Back-to-School Bash – Fort Greene
Get ready to go back to school at the restaurant's annual celebration featuring activities led by some of NYC's favorite kid-centric businesses, plus complimentary class supplies. FREE

Budding Artists – the Bronx
Head to the New York Botanical Garden for a special family event where kids explore the garden through an artist's lens, creating art projects along the way. Free with admission

Labor Day is the last day, possibly forever, to swim at the Brooklyn Bridge Park Pop-up Pool. Photo by Etienne Frossard/courtesy BBP.

NOTE: Please check before heading out. NYC might close pools on this day depending on tropical storm results.
Swim at the Brooklyn Bridge Pop-Up Pool –  Brooklyn Heights

Take a dip on the final day for NYC's smallest pools, including the famed Brooklyn Bridge Park Pop-Up Pool, which is also slated for closure after this year, though some efforts are underway to keep it around. Swim sessions at this pool are capped at 60 people, so get there early to avoid a long line or being shut out. Larger NYC pools (and beaches) will be open one more week, through September 11. FREE

See all Monday events

Don't forget: There's more fun to be found in our Event Calendar.

Top photo of the the Habana Outpost Back-to-School Bash courtesy of Habana Works.