Free & Fun Things to Do this Weekend for NYC Kids: Halloween Celebrations, Harvest Festivals, Day of the Dead October 20-21
There are a scary number of awesome Halloween and harvest festivals this weekend, and the most terrifying part will be deciding what to do! There are seasonal celebrations all over town, including Greenwich Village, Long Island City, Far Rockaway and Brooklyn Bridge Park to name just a few. Plus there are a slew of school fairs and special Halloween events, like the Spooky Nighttime Adventure at the NYBG's Haunted Pumpkin Garden.
If you're already suffering from Halloween and fall fatigue, there are lots of cool non-seasonal events, too. Check out cute cats and dogs at the American Kennel Club's Meet the Breeds, hit the Children's Museum of Manhattan's brand-new Grinch's Holiday Workshop, celebrate our melting pot at the annual Marco Polo Festival or marvel at youth circus performers at Cirkus in Wonderland.
Those are just a few of the great things going on this weekend. All of our best bets are below. You can find additional options in our Event Calendar and our Halloween Fun Guide.
The Grinch's Holiday Workshop – Upper West Side
Celebrate Christmas a little (okay a lot) early at the Children's Museum of Manhattan's interactive installation, which opens this weekend. Little Dr. Seuss fans can explore the town of Whoville—the setting of the classic How the Grinch Stole Christmas—through hands-on stations. There will also be Grinch-themed workshops where kids can create rhyming hats, two-sided masks and Max the "reindog" Christmas ornaments. Plus, in honor of the opening, the big green guy will be there for photo ops! Free with admission: $11
Spooky Nighttime Adventure – the Bronx
Bring your flashlight to explore the New York Botanical Garden's Haunted Pumpkin Garden after dark. After the spooky tour, kids can trick-or-treat and decorate a pumpkin to take home. Advance tickets recommended: $20.
Enchanted Wave Hill Weekend – the Bronx
Hit the Bronx oasis to help create a fancy fairy home. Paint flowers onto silk fabric during this collaborative art project, and then hear storyteller Rama Mandel spin magical yarns about the garden. FREE
AKC Meet the Breeds – Midtown West
Head to the Jacob Javits Center for this massive animal show featuring more than 200 breeds of dogs and cats. Learn what makes each breed special, catch an agility display, get some grooming tips, shop at the vendors or marvel at the tricks of Beefy the skateboarding bulldog. In advance: $15 for adults, $10 for children under 12 years; at the door: $18 and $12 respectively.
Jackie and Me – Chelsea
The Atlantic Theater Company adapted Dan Gutman's book about a Little League player who travels back in time to witness baseball great Jackie Robinson break the color barrier in Major League Baseball. Mommy Poppins contributor Alina saw the show with her kids and says it's a great bite-size introduction to Robinson's historic achievements and the state of post-war race relations in the U.S. For children 8 and up. $20 for adults, $10 for children.
Saturday, October 20
Cirkus in Wonderland – Upper West Side
In conjunction with its exhibit Circus and the City: New York, 1793-2010, the Bard Graduate Center hosts a fun family day with face painting, circus-themed crafts, tightrope walkers, jugglers, stilt walkers and a performance by the Bindlestiff Family Cirkus' Cavalcade of Youth All-Stars. $15 per family.
Family Day at the Center – Greenwich Village
Kids can create lanterns at the Center for Architecture Foundation and explore the concept of light in architecture. Unlike most of the center's family days, this one is free and doesn't require preregistration. FREE
Children's Harvest Festival – Greenwich Village
Not only can kids decorate a mini pumpkin at this annual autumn fest in Jefferson Market Garden, they can also roll around in freshly raked leaves and big piles of hay. FREE
Marco Polo Festival – Chinatown and Little Italy
A celebration of cultural exchange, this fest begins with an over-the-top parade of giant marionette puppets that winds its way through Little Italy and Chinatown toward the Hester Street Stage. Post-procession, catch multicultural entertainment including Italian and Chinese opera, folk dancing and musical performances. FREE
Chess Festival – Lower East Side
Head to Sara D. Roosevelt Park on National Chess Day to celebrate the release of the new film Brooklyn Castle. Players of all skill levels can learn tricks from grandmasters, play with oversize chess pieces, draw on life-size Brooklyn Castles and even challenge the whizkid stars of the film, who all hail from Brooklyn's I.S. 318. FREE
Harvest Festival at Brooklyn Bridge Park – Brooklyn Heights
Head to Pier 6 for pumpkin picking, mask making, leaf rubbing, and live tunes by The Pop Ups and Bilingual Birdies. Kids can also get creative in Beam Camp's Inventgenuity Workshops. FREE.
Halloween Harvest Festival – Long Island City
Socrates Sculpture Park hosts a Wizard of Oz-themed Halloween bash with costume making workshops, a costume swap, live music and seasonal treats. If you've got a pooch, put him in his Halloween best for the canine costume parade. FREE
Central Park East II's Fall Fair – East Harlem
This school fundraiser features a huge bouncy slide, an FDNY truck to climb on, a box maze, face painting, live music, cupcake decorating, art projects, healthy homemade eats, and soccer and yoga clinics. Parents can also peruse a rummage sale and handmade crafts, and buy raffle tickets to win great prizes. Free admission but there are fees for certain activities.
Super Sabado: Dia de los Muertos Celebration – East Harlem
Right next door to CPEII's Fall Fair is El Museo del Barrio's annual Day of the Dead celebration. Kids can contribute to a collaborative altar, groove to live music, hear storytellers, get their faces painted and march in a spooky procession from the nearby Dana Discovery Center to the museum. FREE
Go Fish! Featuring Perry Ground – Battery Park City
My family is planning on going catch-and-release fishing in Wagner Park. The festivities also include arts and crafts, and Native American storytelling by Perry Ground. FREE
Urban Starfest – Upper West Side
Once the sun goes down, head to Central Park to gaze at the stars with the Urban Park Rangers and the Amateur Astronomers Association. Members of the AAA will provide telescopes so kids can check out the night sky. FREE
See all Saturday events.
Sunday, October 21
Fall Youth Jamboree – Washington Heights
The New York Road Runners sponsor this annual athletic shindig for children in grades K through 12. At this low-key non-competitive track and field event, participants can enjoy running, jumping or throwing activities. Online preregistration is highly recommended. FREE
Big Green Extreme Halloween– Upper West Side
P.S. 166's annual fall fest is a terrifically terrifying time. Enjoy rides, a costume contest, a haunted house, pumpkin and cupcake decorating, eco-crafts, a magic show, stilt walkers and food. Free admission but there are fees for certain activities.
Rockaway Fall Festival – Far Rockaway
Celebrate the season at Bayswater Park's annual shindig featuring pumpkins to pick, pony and hayrides, live entertainment and refreshments. FREE
Jazz Standard's Youth Orchestra 10th Anniversary – Gramercy
Families can watch these super-talented kids perform with special musical guests in honor of their anniversary. Come hungry: The eats come from Blue Smoke restaurant upstairs and they are delicious. It is one of my family's favorite ways to spend a Sunday. $5 suggested donation plus cost of meal.
See all Sunday events.
Outside of NYC
Head to Harmony Township, New Jersey to watch the Last Fling Pumpkin Sling. Folks will compete for prizes by launching pumpkins into the air with trebuchets and catapults. There will also be hot-air balloon launches, kids’ mini catapults and pumpkin tossing activities, and archery.
Up in Connecticut, hit the Danbury Rail Museum to hop on its vintage train for a stylish ride to the pumpkin patch. You can check out our Pick-Your-Own Guide for our complete list of pumpkin patches near NYC.
Don't forget: We have additional activity options in our Event Calendar.