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 special story hour, a FREE bash at BAM in Fort Greene, Brooklyn, and various museum events.
Martin Luther King Jr. Day (Monday, January 21, 2019) 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 31st 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 The Brooklyn Interdenominational Choir. 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. 2019's keynote address will be delivered by activist and policy maker Tarana Burke. 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 (which hosts a day-long celebration of MLK's life and legacy on Sunday, January 20).
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
The New-York Historical Society Museum hosts a storytime for kids 8 and up, featuring legendary author and Coretta Scott King Award-winner Sharon Draper. Included with admission.
MLK, Jr. I Have a Dream Celebration – Crown Heights, Brooklyn
The Brooklyn Children's Museum hosts an MLK Day celebration with interactive activities that explore peace, empathy and togetherness, including a reading, arts and crafts, and a neighborhood march. 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 will honor the memory of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. through its annual Martin’s Mosaic program—a community art installation. 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.
St. Luke's Theater presents The Snowy Day Play (and Other Stories by Ezra Jack Keats). Photo by Adam Smith Jr.
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's Big Words – Staten Island
The Staten Island Children’s Museum hosts storytime with the book “Martin’s Big Words” and kids are invited to make a sign with their dreams for the world. Admission is FREE on MLK day.
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 pack 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 painting classrooms at a school in East Harlem or bringing your teen to help serve meals to a local community.
Partnership for Parks MLK Day of Service – Citywide
Recreation centers in different boroughs host park-related volunteer projects.
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.
This post first published in January 2009 but is updated annually. Katie Nave Freeman contributed additional reporting.