Halloween Weekend for NYC Kids: Free Pumpkin Festival in Central Park, Costume Parades, Pumpkin Sail October 26-27

Halloween may officially fall on October 31 but many of New York City's best celebrations for families take place this weekend—and a bunch of them are FREE. Put on your costumes and head to Central Park's annual Pumpkin Fest, Prospect Park's Haunted Walk and Halloween Carnival, Battery Park City's Screamin' Green Halloween or one of the many kid-friendly Halloween parades taking place throughout NYC. There are also a handful of truly exceptional Halloween events worth paying for like the Brooklyn Botanic Garden's Ghouls & Gourds fete, the ride-filled Children's Fall Festival at the Queens County Farm Museum and a spooky after-dark tour of the New York Botanical Garden's Haunted Pumpkin Garden.

Need a break from all the fearsome fun? There are actually some great non-Halloween events this weekend, too, like Pickle Day on the Lower East Side, a big anniversary celebration for Encyclopedia Brown at the main branch of the New York Public Library, and opening day at Wollman and Lasker Rinks in Central Park.

There's so much going on this Saturday and Sunday that it's easy to feel overwhelmed. (I actually had a couple of panic attacks while writing this post!) That's why we've done the work for you by highlighting the very best things to do with kids this jam-packed weekend, Halloween-themed and otherwise. Now all you need to do is go and enjoy!

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All Weekend

Halloween Parades – Citywide
On Saturday, costumed kids can march through Fort Greene Park, Harlem, Coney Island, Greenpoint, Marcus Garvey Park and Soho with Clifford the Big Red Dog. Sunday's processions include Tribeca's Washington Market Park, Battery Park City and Astoria. See our comprehensive roundup of kid-friendly Halloween parades for even more options.

Cinderella – Upper West Side
There are still a handful of tickets left to the San Francisco Ballet's stunning new take on the classic fairy tale. Set to Sergei Prokofiev's emotional music, this production at Lincoln Center incorporates darker story elements like an animated tree that grows out of Cinderella's mother's grave and four fates who watch over her. $29-$129

The Grinch's Holiday Workshop – Upper West Side
Celebrate Christmas a little (okay a lot) early at the Children's Museum of Manhattan's revival of its holiday installation, which opens for the season this weekend. Young Dr. Seuss fans can explore the town of Whoville—the setting of the classic How the Grinch Stole Christmas—through hands-on stations and do seasonal crafts. This weekend's project: Creating Halloween costumes from recycled materials. In honor of the opening, the big green guy himself will be there for photo ops! Free with admission: $11

Big Apple Circus: Luminocity – Upper West Side
NYC's homegrown circus troupe kicks off its annual run at Lincoln Center's Damrosch Park this weekend. There is never a bad seat in the house—no matter how much you spend, you're always within 50 feet of the stage. This year's lineup includes top-notch acrobats, jugglers, aerial performers, animal acts (only domesticated creatures, no elephants or wild cats), and one of the funniest clowns around: Rob Torres. My son and I are going next week so look for our full review soon. $25-$175

Enchanted Wave Hill Weekend – the Bronx
Create a magic wand or a fanciful toy house from natural elements, catch a performance by folk harpists Fairy Harp Circle and other fantastical fun. Free with admission: $8 for adults, $2 for children 6 and up, free to all Saturday until noon

Puppets on Film – Fort Greene
See puppet masters in action at BAM Rose Cinemas' annual weekend-long film fest. The lineup includes new classics (The Great Muppet Caper, Return to Oz), a pair of world premieres and even a Little Shop of Horrors sing-along. Plus there will be special guests, a shadow puppet workshop and a live puppet show. Check our event listing for the complete schedule. Advance tickets recommended. Screenings are $13 for adults, $9 for children

Saturday, October 26

Halloween Haunted Walk and Halloween Carnival – Prospect Park
Usually Prospect Park's Lookout Hill is a serene setting but not today as zombies, wolf men, headless horsemen, and good and bad witches take over. Although it's all in ghoul fun, the spine-tingling hike might be a bit too much for sensitive tots. Families with very young children can opt to go straight to the Nethermead for a Halloween carnival featuring games, treats and other fun. FREE

Monster Mash – Crown Heights
Get your ghoul on at the Brooklyn Children's Museum's spooktacular bash with a museum-wide scavenger hunt, face time with creepy critters, scary storytimes, "Thriller"-style dance lessons, live holiday-themed entertainment and a dance party. Friday and Saturday. Advance tickets are a must. $12

Spooky Nighttime Adventures at the Haunted Pumpkin Garden – the Bronx
Explore the New York Botanical Garden's annual Halloween installation by flashlight. The 500 or so jack-o'-lanterns elaborately carved into spiders, scarecrows, bats, snakes and other scary sights are even creepier after dark! Afterward, decorate pumpkins to take home. Friday and Saturday. Advance tickets recommended. $20 per person

Ghouls & Gourds – Crown Heights
Head to the Brooklyn Botanic Garden for a seasonal celebration with a wacky bent. March in a costume parade led by giant puppets and kooky stilt-dancers, bang your head to an all-kid heavy metal band, dance with human-size woodland creatures, meet local children's book authors, and romp in a Victorian toy parlor and on the garden's gorgeous grounds. Free with admission: $15 for adults, free for children under 12

Halloween Festival – Fort Greene
Hit Fort Greene Park for its annual fest featuring a costume parade, pumpkin patch, two horse-drawn carriage hayrides, games, face painting and a costume contest for dogs (and their owners). FREE

Central Park Pumpkin Fest – Upper East Side
Head to the band shell for this massive (and always very crowded) fest. Hit the pumpkin patch, enjoy live entertainment by CityParks PuppetMobile, Kidrockers and performers from the Big Apple Circus, decorate pumpkins, make a creepy creature or get crafty with Scribble Town, play Quidditch and other games, wander through a zombie-themed haunted house and a whole lot more. Go early! The lines for everything get incredibly long. FREE

Encyclopedia Brown Day: Celebrating 50 Years – Midtown East
Celebrate this iconic kit-lit character's milestone birthday at the NYPL's Children's Center at 42nd Street with a slew of sleuth-themed activities including a scavenger hunt, finger printing, creating a code wheel and photo ops. Preregistration required and spots are limited! FREE

Haunted High Line Halloween – Chelsea
Trick-or-treat your way through the elevated park's creepy past. Brave the haunted tunnel, pose for a pic with a giant “ghost train” made by local students, craft train cars out of recycled materials and fill up on tasty treats. Afterward, hit nearby Chelsea Market to check out all of the creepy decorations. FREE

Mount Morris Park Community Improvement Association Costume Parade – Harlem
Head to Marcus Garvey Park for a costume contest, arts and crafts, games, a costume swap and a gleefully noisy procession. Be sure to bring your noisemakers, drums, rattles and whistles! FREE

See all Saturday events.  

Sunday, October 27

Halloween Parade & Pumpkin Sail – Harlem
While Central Park's Pumpkin Fest on Saturday is better known, this celebration is a smaller community affair that tends to be less crowded and stressful. (That said, it seems to become more popular every year so be sure to arrive early!) Enjoy seasonal arts and crafts, not-too-scary stories, live music and no-cost treats. At dusk, watch as a fleet of jack-'o-lantern are set afloat on the Harlem Meer and join the joyful costume parade around the northeastern edge of the park. FREE

Screamin' Green Halloween – Battery Park City
At this eco-friendly fete, families can make masks and costumes out of recycled and repurposed household materials, bob for apples, pin the face on the pumpkin, compete in a gourd roll, hear spooky tales and follow wandering puppets and marching bands. There will also be green art projects, photo ops in front of a ghoulish green screen, organic and fair-trade sweets, a costume swap and a climactic parade around the neighborhood. FREE

Children's Fall Festival – Glen Oaks
Celebrate all things autumn at the Queens County Farm Museum's massive bash featuring traditional games like sack races and find the trinkets in the haystack, live music, bouncy houses, a haunted house, pony rides and a petting zoo. Families are encouraged to attend in costume, and this is the perfect day to hit the farm's Amazing Maize Maze and pumpkin patch. $5 admission but there are additional fees for certain activities

Oíche Shamhna – Midtown West
Experience a Celtic Halloween at the Irish Arts Center. Kids can carve turnips instead of pumpkins, learn about púcas and fairies, and gobble up ethnic treats. $5

Kidz Karnival – Tribeca
Formerly located in Greenwich Village, this annual fest moves to Tribeca's Pier 26 this year but the fun remains the same. Expect face painting, mask decorating, cotton candy, small carnival rides and performances by the Story Pirates. Free admission but there are fees for certain activities

Pickle Day – Lower East Side
Hit Orchard Street to taste a wide selection of the LES' signature treat from sweet to dill, from old-school vendors like Guss’ or newcomers like Sour Puss. Other fun for kids includes a Halloween costume contest, live music and games. FREE

See all Sunday events.  

Don't forget: You can find even more seasonal fun in our Event Calendar and our NYC Halloween Guide... if you dare to look!

Sunflower Picking at Happy Day Farm
Happy Day Farm - 8:00 AM Pick
Heritage Square Museum Self Guided Walking Tours
Heritage Square Museum - 11:00 AM Pick
CatCafe Lounge
Catcafe Lounge - 12:00 PM Pick
Marina del Rey WaterBus
various boarding locations, including Burton Chace Park - 1:00 PM Pick
Drive-In Movies in the Park
Kings Point Park - 7:00 PM Pick
Activity Guides