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Free and Fun Things to Do This Weekend for NYC Kids: Festivals, Global Gardens, Maker Days, FlyNY, Harlem Day August 20-21

These rainy summer days have been a real drag, especially since the back-to-school countdown is on. As of now, it looks like this weekend won't be a washout (like last Sunday, which was awful). So if the weather holds up, we plan to make the most of this second to last weekend of August.

There's plenty of outdoor fun: Explore international vegetables and herbs at the Global Gardens Harvest Celebration, fly a kite at FlyNY, enjoy the last installment of Summer Streets or party uptown at the annual Harlem Day festival.

And that's just a bit of what's going on. All of our best bets for the weekend are below. You can find additional seasonal fun in our Summer Fun Guide and our Event Calendar.

All Weekend

Global Gardens Summer Harvest Celebration – the Bronx
The New York Botanical Garden's Ruth Rea Howell Family Garden is always a great place for kids to get their hands dirty. This weekend, they can help harvest as part of the Global Gardens celebration. Explore plantings from China, Korea, Ireland, Italy and the Caribbean. FREE with All-Garden Pass: $20 for adults, $8 for children ages 2-12, free for kids under 2.

Maker Days – Corona
Get a preview of the science-minded fun to be had at the New York Hall of Science's awesome World Maker Faire (coming September 17-18) by letting the kids play with Zoob, design with Capsela, repurpose items with RePlayGround and learn about electricity with Collab. Afterward, check out Circus! Science Under The Big Top before it packs up on September 4. FREE with museum admission: $11 for adults, $8 for children ages 2-17, free for kids under 2.

Harlem Week: Children's Festival and Harlem Day – Harlem
Head to 135th Street for tons of family fun this weekend. On Saturday, enjoy Children's Day with live performances, arts and crafts, sports activities and the National Historic Black Colleges Fair. Sunday is Harlem Day, which includes the Upper Manhattan Auto Show, live music and a kids' fashion show. FREE

The Muppets Take Manhattan and Jim Henson’s Fantastic World – Astoria
If you haven't seen the Museum of the Moving Image's Jim Henson exhibit yet (we just loved it), this weekend is a great time to check it out. The institution is screening The Muppets Take Manhattan. FREE with museum admission: $10 for adults, $5 for kids.

FringeJr – Downtown Manhattan
The massive performing arts festival continues this weekend, and you can still catch the four family-friendly FringeJr shows. This weekend, see Goldilocks & The Three Polar Bears, a musical retelling of the classic tale set in Alaska with puppets and live actors and Happy Worst Day Ever, a comedic look at the problems of sixth graders. Advance tickets are $15 for adults, $10 for children ages 5-12.

Traces Union Square
Marvel at this minimalist, circus-style show. We loved the amazing acrobatic feats and evocative atmosphere, as did all NYC reviewers. $49-$79

Saturday, August 20

FlyNY 2011 – Upper West Side
Bring your own kite to fly or make one at this annual festival in Riverside Park South. We went last year and it was small but fun. The kids made and decorated paper flyers with the help of park volunteers and then danced to live music. Afterward, we ate an inexpensive lunch at the Pier I Cafe. FREE

Jam on Dumbo’s Summer Family Musical Festival – Dumbo
Six family acts perform under the Manhattan Bridge, including kooky cabaret outfit The Itty Biddies, Afro-Haitian drummers Bonga!, and rockers Rollie Pollie Guacamole and Erin Lee and the Up Past Bed Time Band. There will also be family yoga sessions, a bilingual show One, Two, Tres by P is for Puppets and a market. FREE

Word for Word Kids: Night of the Butterfly – Midtown West
Catch this charming original kids' musical in Bryant Park. After his family tries to talk him into an arranged marriage, timid Beetle decides to leave home on a quest to find happiness. He's joined by fellow buggy pals Sylvia Beetle, Pill the Caterpillar and Scorpy the Vegetarian Scorpion.  FREE

Summer Streets – Manhattan
It's your last chance to cycle, scooter, skate or stroll the car-free route. Take a break at the rest stops for cycling tips, family-friendly activities and performances, sandboxes and sand sculpting, and giveaways. FREE

Bat Exploration – Upper East Side
Stroll through Central Park at dusk with the Urban Park Rangers, who'll teach families about our nocturnal flying friends.

FamilyDay@theCenter: Exploring Governors Island – Governors Island
Explore the isle's historic forts and period homes with educators from the Center for Architecture and openhousenyc. Afterward, stick around and enjoy all the island has to offer. Pre-registration required. Ages 5-13. $20 per family.

Wash Ave Rocks Street Fair – Prospect Heights
Get ready to party at this Brooklyn street fair, which features the best art, music, eats and fashion in the neighborhood. Local organizations and cultural institutions like the Brooklyn Children’s Museum and the Brooklyn Museum will also be on hand with fun family activities. FREE

Winnie-the-Pooh Birthday Bash – Midtown East
The famous 100-acre wood resident celebrates his 90th birthday at this party hosted by the NYPL Children’s Center at 42nd Street (currently home to the original bear toy bear owned by Christopher Robin Milne). Enjoy face painting, balloon animals, arts and crafts, and photo ops with Pooh himself. FREE

See all Saturday events.

Sunday, August 21

The Encounter of Juan Bobo and Pedro Animal – Staten Island
Giggle at the bilingual high jinks of these comical folk tale characters as they learn about friendship and self-esteem at the Staten Island Children's Museum. FREE with museum admission: $6.

Ice Cream Sunday – Financial District
Ten ice-cream makers bring their locally made best to the New Amsterdam Market. Buy a package of eight mini cones or an early admission pass that comes with ten. All sales benefit the market. Must buy tickets in advance: $25-$35.

Saltwater Fishing – Rockaway
Learn fishing basics from Urban Park Rangers in Jamaica Bay. All supplies are provided. Kids must participate in a basic safety lesson beforehand. Ages 8 and up. FREE

Follow the Line to School Reading – Dumbo
Author and illustrator Laura Ljungkvist reads from her new book Follow the Line to School, and then leads a drawing workshop at powerHouse Arena. Ages 4-8. FREE  

Astoria Park Shore Fest: Kids & Family Fun – Astoria
It's the last installment of traffic-free fun on Shore Boulevard. Stroll down the street and enjoy educational activities, live music, fitness programs and snacks from local eateries. FREE

See all Sunday events.


Outside NYC

Head to Johnson’s Corner Farm in Medford, New Jersey for an amazing day trip. Meet the animals, cool off in the splash pad, pick your own produce, and enjoy hay rides and other kids' activities.

Over in Long Island, play a round or two at the Puff and Putt Family Golf Center in lovely Montauk. Canoeing and kayaking are also offered.

Groton, Connecticut's Submarine Force Museum is just a quick jaunt from the beach and Mystic attractions. The spot's run by the U.S. Navy and chock-full of submarine history and lore. Best of all: admission is FREE.


Don't forget: There's more fun to be found in our Events Calendar.

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