Celebrate Martin Luther King Jr. Day With Kids at These NYC Events
Martin Luther King Jr. Day is peaceful for New York City kids, but it sure isn't boring, with music, storytelling, and volunteer activities all focused on sharing Dr. King's life and teachings with kids. Enjoy interactive peace marches, original musicals, a FREE Martin Luther King Jr. Day bash at BAM, and various museum events.
Martin Luther King Jr. Day, which falls on Monday, January 20, 2020, is also a National Day of Service, and citizens are encouraged to help out in their communities. To that end, we've included a list of family volunteering opportunities that provide wonderful ways to honor Dr. King's work. You can find even more things to do on Martin Luther King Jr. Day in our Event Calendar.
Be sure to click through to our listings for all the details, including addresses, times, and recommended ages.
Martin Luther King Day Celebrations
Martin Luther King Jr. Commemorative March – Harlem to the Upper West Side
For the 32nd consecutive year, eighth-graders from Manhattan Country School lead a peace-minded march through Upper Manhattan. 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
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
BAM hosts New York City’s largest public celebration of the great civil rights leader. In 2020, the keynote address is delivered by investigative journalist Nikole Hannah-Jones, who is known for her coverage of US civil rights. Tickets are distributed on a first-come, first-served basis. FREE
Martin Luther King Jr. Day Storytelling and Music Event – Prospect Lefferts Gardens, Brooklyn
This annual gathering celebrates Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Day by featuring storytimes, musical performances, and arts and crafts for children, along with a complimentary lunch at 12:30pm. 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, Apollo Theater, and sites associated with Marcus Garvey, Malcolm X, and Madame C. J. Walker. Reservations are not required. Afterward, explore more of the neighborhood.
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 shares multicultural stories and activist songs from around the world at Lefferts Historic House. Most activities are FREE, but there is a $3 suggested donation for Tammy Hall.
MLK Jr. I Have a Dream Celebration – Crown Heights, Brooklyn
The Brooklyn Children's Museum hosts a Martin Luther King Jr. Day celebration with interactive activities exploring peace, empathy, and togetherness. Expect storytime, arts and crafts, and a neighborhood march. Included with admission.
Celebrate Black History Month with FunikiJam's City of Hope. Photo courtesy of the production
FunikiJam's City of Hope Family Musical – Hell's Kitchen
This original musical features a live band and lots of audience participation. Captain Jam and the Agents of Jam go on a mission to New Orleans, Paris, and Detroit where they learn how music developed from African roots evolved into a beloved form of artistic expression around the world.
Families Celebrate Africa: An MLK Jr. Day Event – Park Slope
The Brooklyn Society for Ethical Culture hosts this family event to celebrate Martin Luther King Jr with African music, drumming and dance, and face painting. Plus, DuPree and Barry Kornhauser will perform songs about MLK’s life and Simba Yangala and the dancers from JungleDom will guide children through a relaxed African dance lesson and performance.
Honoring Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. – Upper East Side
Learn about King's work as a civil rights leader at this event featuring storytime, art-making, and a scavenger hunt in Museum of the City of New York's exhibition Activist New York.
Martin Luther King Jr. Day Volunteer Opportunities for Families
Always confirm that children are welcome before signing up.
The Food Bank for New York – Citywide
Use the charity's volunteer opportunity search engine to find a food bank near you and devote a few hours to helping the less fortunate.
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 serving meals in your local community.
The 19th Annual MLK Serve- A-Thon – Various locations Citywide
Join this annual event to help serve meals at soup kitchens and food pantries across NYC.
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 to generate a list of opportunities along with registration information.
This post was first published in January 2009 but is updated annually. Katie Nave Freeman contributed additional reporting.