This is another one of those weekends when we wish we had the ability to clone ourselves: Three of our favorite FREE annual festivals are all happening at once. There's the super-interactive Dumbo Arts Festival, Brooklyn's largest street fair Atlantic Antic and Fort Tryon Park's Medieval Festival—and those are just our top picks.
Other FREE highlights include sneak peeks at Staten Island's in-progress Freshkills Park and Governors Island's redesigned parkland. Plus: no-cost admission to a host of NYC cultural institutions courtesy of Smithsonian Magazine's annual Museum Day and a big community block party in Battery Park City.
These 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 Fall Fun Guide.
Dumbo Arts Festival – Dumbo
This massive, multiday celebration takes over the funky Brooklyn neighborhood with visual arts, live performances and interactive activities for all ages. We spotlighted some best bets for families in our September NYC Go List, and you can certainly plan out your visit in advance by perusing the complete list of projects. But in my experience, it's more fun to go with no info whatsoever and just wander the streets of Dumbo to see what kind of offbeat art you'll stumble across. Once you've had your fill, hit nearby Brooklyn Bridge Park for Jane's Carousel and other amusements. FREE
Closing Weekend – Governors Island
The activity-filled isle shutters for the season on Sunday. Enjoy one last spin on the vintage rides at Fête Paradiso, picnic on the grassy lawns and take a special peek at the redesigned parkland set to open next summer. Note: the Interactive Sculpture Garden and Figment mini-golf course have already closed. FREE
Honey Weekend – the Bronx
Celebrate the sticky sweet stuff at Wave Hill. Kids can taste honey straight from the hive, collect pollen, make their own bee costumes and grab a kazoo to buzz around the grounds. Free with admission: $8 for adults, $2 for children ages 6 and up, free to all until noon on Saturday.
Meet the Breeds – Midtown West
Attention animal lovers: Get up close and personal with more than 200 breeds of dogs and cats at this annual pet show. Learn what makes each breed special, get grooming tips, watch a cat fashion show and see the critters in action. Jeopardy-style games and other fun kids' activities will go on throughout the weekend. In advance: $15 for adults, $10 for children under age 13; at the door: $20 for adults, $12 for children under age 13
Tweet Opening Weekend – Hudson Square
Explore the Children's Museum of Arts' brand-new exhibit, which is all about our fine feathered friends. Check out bird-themed art in large- and small-scale works, bird mosaics made from MetroCards, an interactive installation where kids can change the flight of virtual migrating birds and themed art workshops. Free with admission: $11
Saturday, September 28
Smithsonian Magazine's Museum Day – Citywide
Enjoy no-cost admission to a bunch of local culture spots thanks to Smithsonian Magazine. We have a comprehensive list of venues in our post, but best bets for families include the New York City Fire Museum, the Children's Museum of Manhattan and the Skyscraper Museum. Make sure you find out how to print out your free tickets before you go. FREE
Flicks in the Garden – Sunnyside
The members-only Sunnyside Gardens Park opens its gates to the public for its third annual family film night. Enjoy screenings of vintage cartoons, preshow ballet lessons, dance performances, and arts and crafts. Suggested donation: $10 for adults, free for children
Battery Park City Block Party – Battery Park City
Enjoy live music, dancing, sports and a flea market at this 12th annual community favorite. Best for kids: the new hula hooping contest, rides, inflatables and a bubble gum blowing competition. FREE
Hopper Drawing: Family Day – Upper East Side
It's the perfect day to check out the Whitney Museum's Hopper Drawing exhibit before it closes next weekend. Enjoy kid-friendly tours, a huge collaborative art project and other creative activities. Bonus: Families get the museum to themselves from 10 to 11am. Free with admission: $20 for adults, free for children under 19
National Estuaries Day Festival – Douglaston
Try a canoe or kayak ride, a nature walk or one of the other special activities that highlight Alley Pond Environmental Center's local estuary Little Neck Bay. FREE
Family Art Workshop: Boulder Bash – Flatiron
Celebrate Madison Square Park's soon-to-be unveiled public art exhibit, Giuseppe Penone's giant bronze trees known as Ideas of Stone, by creating faux boulders to decorate the park's community tree.
See all Saturday events.
Sunday, September 29
Medieval Festival – Washington Heights
Get ready to party like it's 1399 in Fort Tryon Park. Watch knights joust and other pageantry of the era, enjoy live strolling musicians, dramatic minstrels and juggling jesters, and browse old-school wares. Make sure you dress up! Velvet and corsets should be mandatory. If you missed the annual New York Renaissance Faire in Sterling Forest, this is the next best thing. You'll see some of the same booths and performers, plus it's FREE.
Atlantic Antic – Boerum Hill
The biggest street fair in Brooklyn boasts several stages of live music (R&B, jazz, rock, country, kids' bands, you name it) and literally hundreds of vendors. There's a whole block dedicated to kids' activities like pony rides, inflatables, face painting and balloon sculptures. Grown-ups will appreciate the eclectic selection of international eats, like grilled sardines, pulled pork, baklava and carnival favorites. Bonus: In conjunction with the fest, the nearby New York Transit Museum holds its annual Bus Festival, where you can check out all kinds of retro rides. Free admission but there are fees for certain activities.
Clearing in the Forest: Tales and Tunes for a Sunday Afternoon – Upper West Side
Catch master storyteller and banjo player Bill Gordh in Central Park as he shares songs and folktales about urban wildlife. FREE
Sneak Peek Festival at Freshkills Park – Staten Island
Staten Island's 2,200-acre landfill is shaping up to be one of NYC’s best green spaces. While it's nowhere near finished (the build out is expected to take three decades!), you can get a look at what's to come at this fest, and also enjoy kayaking or walking tours, bird-watching, kite making and flying, pony riding and more. FREE
Songs for Unusual Creatures – East Village
Head to the 14th Street Y to catch Michael Hearst and his band as they sing about the world's strangest critters like the Magnapinna squid and the Blue-footed Booby. $30 per family
See all Sunday events.
Apple-picking season is quickly giving way to pumpkin picking! We rounded up pumpkin patches less than an hour away from Manhattan by car.
Celebrate the season at Watchung Reservation's harvest festival in Mountainside, New Jersey. The fun includes storytelling, live entertainment, scarecrow building, pony rides, games and a petting zoo.
On Long Island, head to Archangel Michael Church for its annual Greek Festival on the Harbor in North Hempstead Beach Park. Enjoy ethnic food and wine, traditional music and dancing, games, rides, a market and a fireworks display.
Bring your binoculars to Greenwich, Connecticut's Quaker Ridge Audubon Sanctuary to scour the skies at the annual Hawk Watch Festival and Green Bazaar. Live animal shows, guided hikes, nature-themed games and environmental exhibits round out the day.
Don't forget: There's even more fun in our Event Calendar.