Martin Luther King Jr. Day is peaceful for New York City kids, but it sure isn't boring, with music and storytelling and volunteer activities all focused on celebrating Dr. King's life and teachings with kids. Enjoy interactive peace marches, a historic walking tour of Harlem, a FREE bash at BAM in Fort Greene, Brooklyn, and various museum events.
Martin Luther King Jr. Day (Monday, January 15, 2018) is also a National Day of Service, when citizens are encouraged to help out in their communities. So we've included a list of family volunteering opportunities that are wonderful ways to honor King's work. You can find even more things to do on MLK Day in our Event Calendar.
Martin Luther King Day Celebrations
Click through to our listings for all the details, including addresses, times and recommended ages.
Martin Luther King, Jr. Commemorative March – Harlem to the Upper East Side
For the 30th consecutive year, eighth-graders from Manhattan Country School (MCS) will lead a peace-minded march through the Upper East Side, Harlem, Morningside Heights and the Upper West Side. Marchers sing civil rights songs and read their own speeches. Follow this link for details on the route and planned stops along the way. FREE
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BAM's free tribute to Martin Luther King Jr. features keynote speaker Jelani Cobb. Photo courtesy of BAM
Brooklyn Tribute to Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. – Fort Greene, Brooklyn
For the 32nd year, BAM hosts New York City’s largest public celebration of the great civil rights leader. 2018's keynote address will be delivered by New Yorker staff writer and Columbia School of Journalism professor Jelani Cobb. Tickets are distributed on a first-come, first-served basis. FREE
Martin Luther King Jr. Day in Historic Harlem – Harlem
During this two-hour Big Onion walking tour, you'll learn about the civil rights movement in Harlem and see historic homes, streets, churches and theaters, including the Abyssinian Baptist Church, the Apollo Theater and sites associated with Marcus Garvey and Malcolm X. Reservations are not required. Afterward, explore more of the neighborhood, including the Sugar Hill Children's Museum of Art and Storytelling.
Martin Luther King Day in Prospect Park – Prospect Park, Brooklyn
The Prospect Park Alliance rolls out a slew of free activities, including the return of storyteller Tammy Hall, who again shares multicultural stories and activist songs from around the world at Lefferts Historic House. FREE ($3 suggested donation for Tammy Hall.)
Special Martin Luther King Jr. Day Storytime – Upper West Side
Dr. King was instrumental in protesting against the Vietnam War. The New-York Historical Society Museum hosts a storytime for kids 8 and up, reading Walter Dean Meyer's Patrol: An American Soldier in Vietnam. Included with admission.
MLK, Jr. I Have Dream Celebration – Crown Heights, Brooklyn
The Brooklyn Children's Museum concludes its three-day MLK weekend celebration with interactive activities that explore peace, empathy and togetherness—as well as a live animal adventure. Included with admission.
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Head to the Children's Museum of Manhattan (CMOM) for games and art activities focused on Martin Luther King Jr. Photo courtesy of CMOM
The Martin Luther King, Jr. Day Celebration – Upper West Side
The Children's Museum of Manhattan wraps up its three-day celebration with the Museum of Impact's Upstanders Fest, which offers immersive art activities and games all centered around social justice and activism. Included with admission.
Honoring Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. – East Harlem
Explore the Museum of the City of New York's King in New York exhibit and hear about Dr. King's New York Visit, then learn about the civil rights movement in the Big Apple via the exhibit Activist New York and leaf through books about Martin Luther King Jr. Afterward, kids make their own protest posters. Included with admission.
The Snowy Day Play (and Other Stories by Ezra Jack Keats) – Midtown West
St. Luke's Theatre presents a live stage adaptation of the Caldecott-winning picture book set in Harlem on a wintry day, published by Keats in 1962, when few children's books featured an African American child as the central character.
Families Celebrate Africa: An MLK Jr. Day Event – Park Slope, Brooklyn
The Brooklyn Society for Ethical Culture hosts a day of music, dance, and fun activities like face painting and crafts. Jaque DuPree and Barry Kornhauser (and guests) will perform songs about MLK’s life and Simba Yangala and the dancers from JungleDom will guide children through a relaxed African dance lesson.
Martin Luther King Jr. Day Volunteer Opportunities for Families
The Food Bank for New York – Citywide
Find a food bank near you in any of the five boroughs and register in advance.
Families packing meals with Muslims Against Hunger to distribute to neighborhoods where hunger is a real issue. Photo courtesy of Repair the World
Repair the World – Brooklyn
This organization offers a variety of family-friendly volunteer activities, many on MLK day, like a basketball tournament to benefit homeless youth, or bring your teen to help pack meals with Muslims Against Hunger.
Partnership for Parks MLK Day of Service – Citywide
Recreation centers in different boroughs host park-related volunteer projects for ages 14 and older.
Also of note: The mayor's office has a database of volunteer projects and the Martin Luther King Day of Service website allows you to search for projects in your area. Enter your zip code and you'll get a list of opportunities along with registration information. Confirm that children are welcome before signing up.
Top photo: St. Luke's Theater presents The Snowy Day Play (and Other Stories by Ezra Jack Keats). Photo by Adam Smith Jr.
This post first published in January 2009 but is updated annually.