Free and Fun Things to Do this Weekend for NYC Kids: Maker Faire, Little Red Lighthouse, Brooklyn Book Festival September 17-18

Best Weekend Events and Activities for New York City Families

We hope you're ready to make some tough decisions: This weekend is jam-packed with fantastic and, in many cases, free things to do all over New York City. My head is seriously spinning!

Your choices include amazing annual favorites like the 29th Annual Queens County Fair, the funky Kite Flight fest atop the Port Authority Bus Terminal, The Little Red Lighthouse Festival in Washington Heights, the Brooklyn Book Festival and the awesome World Maker Faire in Queens.

And that's just a sampling 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 and our Fall Fun Guide, where we've rounded up the season's top activities, including the best concerts, museum exhibits and theater shows for kids this season.

All Weekend

World Maker Faire New York – Corona
The New York Hall of Science hosts this inventive festival featuring more than 500 makers, crafters, tinkerers, hackers, thinkers and artisans. We went last year and absolutely loved it. Some of our favorite attractions were the life-size recreation of the popular board game Mouse Trap and the incredible Coke Zero & Mentos Fountains, both of which are back this year. Check out Mommy Poppins' video of highlights from the 2010 edition, and then go see for yourself how cool it is. In advance: $25 for adults, $10 for children ages 2-17, free for kids under 2. A few dollars more at the door.

Queens County Fair – Floral Park
This is a great weekend to visit the Queens County Farm Museum. In addition to hosting its 29th annual fair, featuring hay rides, a petting zoo, carnival rides, pie-eating, arm wrestling and corn-husking contests, home crafts and other old-fashioned fun, the homestead also debuts its massive baseball-themed Amazing Maize Maze. Admission is $8 for adults, $5 for children under 13, but there are additional fees for most activities.

Bryant Park Fall Festival – Midtown West
The midtown green space is hosting a variety of free outdoor performances this week, with special programming for kids this weekend. On Saturday afternoon, catch the marionette show Bessie’s Big Shot. Come back on Sunday when Vital Children's Theatre presents numbers from its kids' shows, including songs from its long-running hit musical Pinkalicious.

The Feast of San Gennaro – Little Italy
While this annual festival is technically a religious celebration, most revelers come for the delicious food, Cannoli-eating contest, live music, games and rides, including a Ferris wheel. Families should visit during the day. At night it's a real party scene. FREE admission but there are additional fees for certain activities.

Jane's Carousel Opens – Dumbo
Unlike other NYC merry-go-rounds, this vintage carousel didn't offer rides while it was on stationary display in a gallery at 56 Water Street. But starting this Friday, Jane's Carousel will be turning year-round in its new home in Brooklyn Bridge Park. $2 per ride.

20at20 – Manhattan
If you've been meaning to see The Ohmies, Traces, The Berenstain Bears Live or another kid-friendly Off Broadway show, now's the time to go. Through Sunday, September 18, select productions are selling $20 tickets 20 minutes before each performance. Of course there is some fine print: Tickets are 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

Family Workshop: Puppet-Making with Noel MacNeal – Astoria
In conjunction with the Museum of the Moving Image's Jim Henson's Fantastic World exhibit, professional pupeteer Noel MacNeal will show off some of his felt friends from Jim Henson's Creature Shop. Afterward, kids can learn how to make paper puppets. Ages 8 and up. $10 fee for materials in addition to museum admission: $12 for adults, $6 for children ages 3-18.

Saturday, September 17

The Little Red Lighthouse Festival – Washington Heights
This annual shindig in Fort Washington Park features food, fishing, hay rides, tours of the landmark and a reading of the famous children's book The Little Red Lighthouse and the Great Gray Bridge. Warning: If you want to take the lighthouse tour, arrive early! The free tickets are given out on a first-come, first-served basis and they go fast. FREE

The Kitchen Block Party – Chelsea
The iconic Chelsea art space throws its annual block party, where families can enjoy live music and dance performances, and lots of things to do for kids, like face-painting, puppet- and mask-making, temporary tattoos, hula-hooping and drumming workshops, cookie decorating and more. FREE

Battle of Harlem Heights Remembered – Harlem
The Morris-Jumel Mansion marks the anniversary of the Battle of Harlem Heights with a day of family activities, including old-fashioned games and activities, and a colonial dress-up station. Ages 7 and up. FREE

Dumpling Festival – Lower East Side
This culinary festival celebrates dumplings from around the world. Try Mediterranean-style ravioli, Korean mandoo or my favorite, pierogi. The main event is the Chef One Dumpling Eating Contest, when competitors will try to outdo "Gentleman" Joe Menchetti’s record of 66 in two minutes. FREE admission but dumpling tasting tickets cost $20.

Big Movies For Little Kids: Student Film Festival – Governors Island
It's your second to last weekend to visit Governors Island this season! Today, catch a program of kid-directed shorts, including the Children’s Museum of the Arts' award-winning Diamond of the Pig. Kids can also participate in video and art projects led by CMA staff. FREE

Battery Park City Block Party – Battery Park City
This 10th annual community gathering features live music, dancing, sports and a flea market. The kids will love the new bubble gum contest, and the rides and inflatables. FREE

Hands on History: The Constitution – Jamaica
The King Manor Museum hosts old-fashioned fun for families, like writing with a quill and ink, retro arts and crafts, and tales about our country's great Constitution. FREE.

Fall Equinox Festival – Midtown West
The interactive play space on Pier 84 welcomes the new season with live bluegrass and jazz performances, face painting, fishing, and arts and crafts. FREE

Sci-Tech Workshop: Smurfs Animation – Midtown East
Did your kids love the reboot of The Smurfs? Well in this Sony Wonder Technology Lab workshop, they can create their own Smurfy characters using digital animation. Advance reservations recommended. Ages 8 and up. $5.

Go Fish! Featuring Hub Hollow – Battery Park
Wagner Park hosts a day of catch-and-release fishing, birding, arts and crafts, and live bluegrass music by Hub Hollow. FREE

See all Saturday events.

Sunday, September 18

NYC Apple Day – Lower East Side
You don't have to leave town to appreciate our city's signature fruit. Head downtown to Orchard Street (of course) for countless varieties of apples, apple dishes from local eateries, live music and activities sponsored by neighborhood culture spots like Dixon Place, the Henry Street Settlement, the New Museum and Scribble Town. FREE

JCC 10th Anniversary — Upper West Side
The JCC celebrates its birthday with a slew of free activities for families. Kids can hit the awesome rooftop playground, grab ice cream treats and marvel at flash mob dancers. Parents will appreciate the complimentary massages and wine tastings. FREE

Brooklyn Book Festival – Brooklyn Heights
Celebrate literature at this festival featuring more than 200 authors, tons of vendors, and readings and special events. Although it's not specifically for families, there are plenty of offerings for kids. Youngsters can hit the Target Youth Area for a dinosaur draw-off and readings by Mo Willems, David Ezra Stein, Peter Brown and other children's book authors. The Youth Stoop is aimed at tweens and teens. FREE

14th Street Y Open House – East Village
The culture spot hosts an afternoon of eco-themed family fun, including live music by Rock-a-Baby, Tim Kubart of Tim and the Space Cadets and Meredith Wright of SweetBeatz, a cool rooftop playground, an urban garden, and green arts and crafts. FREE

Kite Flight – Midtown West
We love flying kites, and this annual flying festival atop the roof of the Port Authority Bus Terminal is a lot of fun. Watch the pros fly their kites, and make and launch your own. Plus, enjoy free food (usually hot dogs), live music, face painting and roaming circus performers. FREE

The First Annual China Day in New York – Lower East Side
Although the Mid-Autumn Moon Festival has been celebrated in Sara D. Roosevelt Park for years, new sponsor The Better Chinatown Society is dubbing this a brand-new fest, with cultural performances, arts and crafts, food vendors, and a children's lantern parade. FREE.

See all Sunday events.

Outside NYC

Apple-picking season has arrived!

Just across the New Jersey border is Warwick, NY, a juicy hot spot of apple farms.

On Long Island, you'll find many pick-your-own farms in Suffolk County. My personal favorite is Wickham's Fruit Farm in Cutchogue.

In Connecticut, families flock to the orchards of Fairfield County.

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

Planning an event? Submit it to our calendar.

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