Just because the kids are heading back to school doesn't mean the fun has to stop. In fact, September is one of the best months for FREE outdoor fun. There are a slew of alfresco festivals for families, including Brooklyn's biggest street fair, Atlantic Antic and Bus Festival; the perfect-for-preschoolers West Side County Fair; the loopy NYC Unicycle Festival on Governors Island; and there's NYC farm fun at Historic Richmond Town's old-fashioned County Fair, as well as the Queens County Fair.
Other September highlights include fun on the water with the Great North River Tugboat Race & Competition, Star Wars as you've never heard it before and a pair of creative stage shows debuting at St. John the Divine and the 14th Street Y. And we haven't even mentioned one of our annual favorites: The Maker Faire New York takes over the grounds of the New York Hall of Science on September 23-24.
It's also the last chance to take a dip at one of NYC's FREE outdoor public pools and beaches, many of which are staying open through Sunday, September 10.
Plus, tickets go on sale September 5 for the Hudson Valley's best Halloween activity, the Great Jack O'Lantern Blaze. (If you want to see Blaze, it is best to get your tickets now.) Or score tickets asap to NYC's brand-new Night of 1,000 Jack O'Lanterns coming to Governor's Island this Halloween.
If an event piques your interest, click through to our listing for all the details, including addresses, times, and pricing. Keep in mind that the really cool (and free) kids stuff in NYC books up quickly, so buy your tickets ASAP, or in the case of FREE events arrive early to beat the crowds.
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Learn to ride a unicycle at the Unicycle Festival. Photo courtesy of Bindlestiff Family Cirkus.
NYC Unicycle Festival — Governors Island
Saturday, September 2-Sunday, September 3
Head to Governors Island to give one-wheeling a try. Or stay on two feet and watch unicycle basketball, hockey, sumo wrestling, or single-wheel pros in grueling competitions. While on the island, check out other attractions like the new zip line or old favorites like the adventure playground and slide hill. FREE
Addy & Uno — East Village
Saturday, September 2-Sunday, September 24
The 14th Street Y Theater plays host to this innovative play, which details the struggles Uno, an autistic boy, faces as he tries to join his school's math team. Uno joins forces with his friends, played by a cute bunch of puppets with disabilities ranging from ADHD, to hearing and sight impairments, and paraplegia. The focus of the show is one of uplifting the abilities within each disability and overcoming obstacles, all woven together with unforgettable music and humor.
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Watch as tugboats race down the Hudson at this annual competition. Photo by Mitch Waxman.
Great North River Tugboat Race & Competition — Midtown West
Sunday, September 3
Watch tugboats race from Pier 1 in Riverside Park South down to Pier 84 in Hudson River Park, where there will be line-toss and spinach-eating contests, live music, and other nautical-themed fun. The race and competitions take place in the Hudson River and can be viewed at no cost between West 44th and West 70th Streets on the waterfront. Pier 84 is where most of the action is, however. For an up-close view, families can buy tickets for the Circle Line spectator boat that follows the tugs. FREE from the shore.
Richmond County Fair — Staten Island
Saturday, September 2-Monday, September 4
Step back in time at this old-fashioned carnival at Historic Richmond Town, NYC's only living history museum. The three-day fest has been a Labor Day weekend tradition for decades and features an old-fashioned county fair with multiple performance stages and live rock, country, and acoustic music. Enjoy carnival-style fun such as pig racing, pie- and hot-dog eating contests, classic car displays, arts and crafts, and a midway with rides. The best part? All attractions are free with admission.
Puppets from Before the Sun and Moon. Photo courtesy of Mettawee River Theatre Company.
Mettawee River Theatre Company: Before the Sun and Moon — Morningside Heights
Friday, September 8-Sunday, September 10
The renowned Mettawee River Theatre Company uses the beautiful grounds of St. John the Divine as the backdrop for the debut of this Korean folktale, which illustrates the power of love and adventure in helping a husband and wife overcome unexpected challenges and embark on new adventures. A score by Neal Kirkwood and elaborate visual props, from masks to puppets and more, adds to the theatrics. Adult tickets are $15; $7 for children and seniors.
West Side County Fair — Upper West Side
Sunday, September 10
This is the closest you'll get to a county fair in the middle of Manhattan! Perfect for preschoolers, this annual favorite features small carnival rides and games, live music, sideshow performers, and a smattering of country vendors. It gets crowded fast, so arrive early to avoid lines. Afterward, grab a bite at the Pier I Cafe or head a few blocks north to romp in Elephant Playground. FREE
Feast of San Gennaro — Little Italy
Thursday, September 14-Sunday, September 24
Yes, this annual fest has a reputation for being rowdy. But during daytime hours the Feast of San Gennaro, while still mobbed, is much more kid-friendly. It's officially a Catholic religious celebration with masses, processions, and other liturgical events. Still, the main draw for many families are the food and carnival atmosphere. A slew of Little Italy’s restaurants dish out amazing sausage sandwiches, fried Oreos, and Italian pastries right from the street. Plus, there are live music performances, eating competitions, and games and rides, including a Ferris wheel. FREE admission but there are fees for activities.
Star Wars by the New York Philharmonic — Upper West Side
Friday, September 15-Saturday, October 7
Hear the Star Wars films like you've never heard them before. Head to Lincoln Center's David Geffen Hall to see the famed flicks projected on the big screen and hear the score played by the New York Philharmonic. The action kicks off with A New Hope on September 15 and that film, plus The Empire Strikes Back, Return of the Jedi, and The Force Awakens each play multiple times. Tickets start at $65.
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Drew Daywalt reads from The Day the Crayons Came Home during the Brooklyn Book Festival. Photo by Lisa Hannus.
Brooklyn Book Festival Children's Day — Brooklyn Heights
Saturday, September 16
Organizers of the Brooklyn Book Festival are again hosting a Children's Day the Saturday before Sunday's main event. Held in MetroTech Commons and aimed at kids ages 2 to 11, Children's Day features readings and performances by big names in little-kid lit. Past fests have included book signings, STEM workshops, Star Wars trivia, illustrator draw-offs and plenty of children's books for sale. FREE
Morningside Lights — Morningside Heights
Workshops: Saturday, September 16-Friday, September 22; Procession: Saturday, September 23
This weeklong series of no-cost collaborative art sessions climaxes in an illuminated procession in Morningside Park which celebrates the Secret Gardens of Harlem. Morningside Lights is the brainchild of Alex Kahn and Sophia Michahelles of Processional Arts Workshop, the group behind those incredible giant puppets at the annual Village Halloween Parade. Though geared toward adults, kids ages 10 and older are welcome to attend the workshops where you'll craft massive lanterns out of wire, papier mâché, cheesecloth, and tissue paper. The creations are shown off during a music-filled parade. Not artsy? Watch the procession from the sidelines. Signing up in advance for the workshops at the Miller Theatre at Columbia University, or to march in the procession, is a must. Read our post about Morningside Lights for more info and important tips for participating with kids. FREE
Puppet making togther at the Astor Alive Festival. Photo courtesy of event.
Astor Alive Festival — East Village
Saturday, September 23
Returning for a second year, the Astor Alive Festival celebrates the talent and culture of the East Village. There will be two performance stages featuring entertainment including the Blue Man Group Drum-Off, Joe's Pub at The Public, La MaMa E.T.C., and Bowery Poetry Club among many others. The Festival's focus is on the 50th anniversary of Tony Rosenthal’s iconic Alamo sculpture and, in that vein, celebrates five decades of East Village change. In addition to live performances, expect participatory workshops for festival goers of all ages. FREE
The Maker Faire is always an interactive event. Photo courtesy of the festival.
Maker Faire New York — Corona, Queens
Saturday, September 23-Sunday, September 24
Maker Faire is a true Mommy Poppins favorite. Originating in California, Maker Faire debuted in NYC in 2010. The grounds of the New York Hall of Science explode with all kinds of inventions and creations—from knitting to robotics, circus to interactive sculptures, computers to crafts. The Young Makers area is particularly inspiring, with local students showing off their innovative projects. And the crowd is always awed by the flying Drone Zone. While there are a variety of tickets, the best deal is the Sunday Savings Pass, which grants four people admission for $100. You must purchase these tickets in advance online and enter the grounds Sunday between 10am and 1pm, though you can stay as long as you want. Everyone over age 2 requires a ticket.
Enjoy the maize maze, petting zoo, carnival rides and games, hayrides, and more at the Queens County Fair. Photo by Stephanie Ogozalek for Mommy Poppins.
Queens County Fair — Glen Oaks, Queens
Saturday, September 23-Sunday, September 24
This old-fashioned affair takes place on the grounds of the Queens County Farm Museum, NYC's only historic working farm. Enjoy blue-ribbon competitions in livestock, produce, home crafts, arts and crafts, and more; pie-eating and corn-husking contests; pig races, hayrides, a petting zoo, and a midway with tons of carnival rides. It's the fun of country farm life without having to leave the city. This is also the weekend the farm opens its Amazing Maize Maze, the city's only corn maze.
Kids can climb aboard a number of historical and modern-day NYC vehicles at the Bus Festival. Photo courtesy the NY Transit Museum.
Atlantic Antic — Boerum Hill, Brooklyn
Sunday, September 24
The biggest street fair in Brooklyn boasts more than a dozen 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. Past fun has included pony rides, face painting, balloon sculptures, a petting zoo, and more. Grown-ups will appreciate the eclectic selection of international eats, including pulled pork, baklava, and carnival favorites. Plus, the New York Transit Museum hosts its annual Bus Festival with a dozen vintage buses at nearby Boerum Place, which kids can hop in and out of for FREE. FREE admission to the street fair, but there are fees for some activities.
NYC has so many incredible things going on, it's difficult to choose. So here are a few more cool (mostly FREE) events that are worth considering for your September calendar.
Go apple picking—September is peak season—at one of the tristate area's pick-your-own farms.
Snag a ticket to a popular Off-Broadway show, including kid-friendly faves such as the Gazillion Bubble Show, The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe, and Stomp, for $20 during the annual 20at20 promotion running September 5-24.
Head to the beautiful City Island for the annual Fall Arts & Crafts show where vendors line the streets selling their wares on Saturday, September 9, and Sunday, September 10. While you're there, check out the quaint, seaside town in all its family-friendly wonder. FREE admission, but bring money to shop!
Take a final dip at one of NYC's FREE outdoor public pools and beaches, some of which are staying open through Sunday, September 10. FREE
Take your middle schoolers to the debut of Polkadots: The Cool Kids Musical for relatable themes about fitting in.
Thought you had another month to come up with your kids' Halloween costumes? Think again. Luna Park's annual Halloween Harvest Festival kicks off on September 16, and runs weekends through October 29.
Get a sweet taste of fall at the annual New York City Honey Festival on Rockaway Beach on Saturday, September 23. FREE
Head to the New York Botanical Garden beginning September 23 for its new seasonal display of sweet and spooky pumpkins and animatronic scarecrows. Free with paid admission
Visit many of NYC's top museums at no cost courtesy of Smithsonian Magazine Museum Day on Saturday, September 23. FREE
Head to Wollman Rink for the annual Central Park Horse Show, which hosts its annual family day on Sunday, September 24. Families receive free general admission and can catch dog and horse agility shows, plus take a pony ride, and enjoy more equine-inspired fun. FREE
Enjoy some more national treasures when the National Parks waive their admission on Saturday, September 30. FREE