This post is currently being updated for 2016. Please check back in a few days for the final version.
Get your calendars ready! Here are the top 17 things to do with kids in New York City this September, 13 of which are FREE.
Just because the kids are heading back to school doesn't mean 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, the perfect-for-preschoolers West Side County Fair, the pageantry-filled Medieval Festival at Fort Tryon Park, the loopy NYC Unicycle Festival on Governors Island, and Historic Richmond Town's old-fashioned County Fair. This year there are two new festivals that look particularly cool, the agri-fun farm fest at the South Street Seaport and the three-day Astor Alive Festival that wraps up with a colorful parade created by the creative folks behind the Greenwich Village Halloween Parade.
Other September highlights include the new Revolutionary War exhibit at the New-York Historical Society, immersive new theater for kids at the New Victory Theater and a FREE concert by Dan Zanes.
Plus, tickets are on sale for next month's super popular Maker Faire and the Hudson Valley's best Halloween activity, Blaze. (If you want to see Blaze, it s best to get your tickets now.)
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 as early as possible to beat the crowds.
RELATED: Back-to-School Tips and Meal Ideas
West Indian American Day Junior Carnival Parade – Crown Heights, Brooklyn
Saturday, September 3
The five-day West Indian American Day Carnival culminates on Labor Day with one of NYC’s largest parades. While it's colorful, it's also crowded and noisy. The Junior Carnival Parade on Saturday of the holiday weekend is a better bet for families. Kids of Caribbean descent don elaborate garb as they march through Crown Heights and onto the grounds of the Brooklyn Museum for a costume contest and carnival. The parade is FREE, but there's a $2 fee to enter the museum grounds.
NYC Unicycle Festival – Governors Island
Thursday, September 1-Sunday, September 4
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 some grueling competitions. While on the island, check out other attractions such as the new adventure playground and slide hill. FREE
Richmond County Fair – Staten Island
Saturday, September 3-Monday, September 5
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.
Great North River Tugboat Race & Competition – Midtown West
Sunday, September 4
Watch 15 tugboats race from Pier I in Riverside Park South down to Pier 84 in Hudson River Park, where there will be knot-tying 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.
West Side County Fair – Upper West Side
Sunday, September 4
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
Go Fish, featuring Dan Zanes and Elizabeth Mitchell — Battery Park
Saturday, September 10
The Battery Park Conservancy kicks off its seasonal fishing fun with a performance by the godfather of kindie rock, Dan Zanes. The singer will be joined on stage by his pal and frequent collaborator Elizabeth Mitchell. Along with the complimentary concert, kids can drop a line in the mighty Hudson for catch-and-release fishing. FREE
Astor Alive Festival – East Village
Thursday, September 15-Saturday, September 17
In honor of the completion of the new Astor Place Plazas, the Village Alliance hosts a three-day arts fest on the four new public plazas. For the most family-friendly entertainment, visit on Saturday when there will be a youth stage, mini cube making sessions, and a beat box workshop. On opening day the mosaic street lights will be returned to the area with a parade put together by the talented folks behind the Greenwich Village Halloween Parade. Expect to see colorful, oversize puppets and large paper "Astor Place Cubes" followed by an eclectic procession of musicians, drummers and the Bond Street Theater stilt band as the parade moves down Cooper Square from Ninth to Fourth Streets, across Fourth Street to Lafayette, passes by the Public Theater and makes its way back Astor Place North Plaza. FREE
Feast of San Gennaro – Little Italy
Thursday, September 15-Sunday, September 25
Yes, this 90th annual fest has a reputation for being rowdy. But don't worry, 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 draws 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.
Brooklyn Book Festival Children's Day – Brooklyn Heights
Saturday, September 17
Again this year, organizers are hosting a Children's Day on Saturday before Sunday's main event. It is held in MetroTech Commons and aimed at kids ages 2 to 11. Children's Day features readings by big names in little-kid lit (Nick Bruel, Andrea Davis Pinkney, Soman Chainani, Peter Brown to name a few), plus book signings, STEM workshops, Star Wars trivia, illustrator draw-offs and plenty of children's books for sale. A new addition this year is an "Art Spot" with cartooning, origami and other hands-on workshops for kids. Got teens or can't make it on Saturday? Try hitting the youth stage at Sunday's main event, which hosts young adult readings and author Q&As. Be sure to check out the fest's satellite Bookend Events at locations throughout the five boroughs; several are kid-friendly. FREE
Farm Fresh Festival for Kids – South Street
Saturday, September 17
This new festival transforms the South Street Seaport into an interactive farm for city kids. Taste farm-fresh fare, meet real farmers and get up close with furry friends. There will be farm-themed readings, a "Music Shed" with plenty of entertainment and non-stop farm fun activities. FREE but advance tickets are required.
Morningside Lights – Morningside Heights
Workshops: Saturday, September 17-Friday, September 23; Procession: Saturday, September 24
A weeklong series of no-cost collaborative art sessions that climaxes in an illuminated procession in Morningside Park, 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 Halloween Parade. Raven and her daughter have participated in every edition since its 2012 debut, and they have always had a blast crafting massive lanterns out of wire, papier mâché, cheesecloth and tissue paper, and then showing off their creations during a music-filled parade. Not artsy? You can watch the procession from the sidelines. Signing up online in advance for both the workshops at the Miller Theatre at Columbia University and the parade is a must. Read our post about Morningside Lights for more info and important tips for participating with kids. FREE
Medieval Festival — Washington Heights
Sunday, September 18
Get ready to party like it's 1399. This annual fest in Fort Tryon Park is great fantasy fun, though it does get insanely crowded. Watch knights joust and other pageantry of the era, enjoy live strolling musicians, dramatic minstrels and juggling jesters, and browse period-style wares. Make sure you dress up: Velvet and corsets are almost mandatory. FREE
Queens County Fair – Glen Oaks
Saturday, September 24-Sunday, September 25
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.
RELATED: NYC Family Day Trips for Fall
Battle of Brooklyn Exhibit — Upper West Side
Friday, September 23-Sunday, January, 8 2017
The largest battle of the Revolutionary War comes alive as the New-York Historical Society celebrates the 240th anniversary of the Battle of Brooklyn (also known as the Battle of Long Island). It was a losing engagement for the Continental Army, but an important turning point in the outcome of the war. The new exhibit is packed with historical artifacts and multimedia elements plus a cool model of the Vechte farmhouse (known as the Old Stone House in Park Slope today,) where much of the action took place. See an original copy of the Declaration of Independence along with broad sheets and diaries from the period. Kids will particularly like the soldiers camp, where they can see George Washington's own camp cot and other military artifacts They should also enjoy the immersive area that evokes the future Americans' late-night retreat. While this may not appeal to the younger kids in your family, a visit on Family Day, Saturday, September 24, should interest them, especially meeting Gen. George Washington who will share stories about the battle. Kids can make patriotic crafts and meet other historical figures. Free with paid admission
Little Red Lighthouse Festival – Washington Heights
Saturday, September 24
Explore the interior of Manhattan's only remaining lighthouse, made famous in Hildegarde H. Swift's 1942 children's book The Little Red Lighthouse and the Great Gray Bridge. Take note: Tickets for tours are distributed starting at noon, but the line begins forming hours before; plan ahead. Can't stand waiting around? The fest also features fishing clinics, live performances, food vendors, themed art activities and, of course, readings of Swift's classic. FREE
Atlantic Antic – Boerum Hill
Sunday, September 25
The biggest street fair in Brooklyn boasts 16 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 such as pony rides, face painting and balloon sculptures. This year the block will boast a new petting zoo. Grown-ups will appreciate the eclectic selection of international eats, including pulled pork, baklava and carnival favorites. Plus, the MTA hosts its annual Bus Festival with a dozen vintage buses displayed at nearby Boerum Place. Free admission but there are fees for activities.
Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Sea —Midtown West
Friday September 30-Monday, October 10
Our friends at the New Victory Theater open for the season with a U.S. premiere from Craig Francis of Kidoons and Rick Miller of WYRD Production, inspired by Jules Verne's classic underwater sci-fi novel. This adaptation follows a modern-day Jules as he is swept away into the pages of his favorite book in a high-tech, multimedia production filled with stunning special effects.
NYC has so many incredible things going on, it's difficult to choose. So here are a few more cool events (mostly FREE) that are worth considering for your September calendar. Be sure to sign up for our FREE newsletters so you can get our weekend picks delivered to your inbox every Thursday morning and weekday picks by Sunday evening.
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 and Stomp, for $20 during the annual 20at20 promotion running September 5-25.
Go fly a kite at the annual Brooklyn Kite Festival in Brooklyn Bridge Park on Saturday, September 10. FREE
Catch indie singer and mom of two, Lisa Loeb in concert at the Brooklyn Bowl on Sunday, September 11 to celebrate her new family release "Nursery Rhyme Parade!"
Go for a last dip at one of NYC's FREE outdoor public pools and beaches, which are staying open through Sunday, September 11. FREE
Get a sweet taste of fall at the annual New York City Honey Festival on Rockaway Beach on Saturday, September 17. FREE
Head to the New York Botanical Garden beginning September 17 for its new seasonal display of sweet and spooky pumpkins and animatronic scarecrows. Free with paid admission
Get a sneak peek at the wonderful educational programming and entertainment at the 92nd Street Y at its annual Street Festival on Sunday, September 18. FREE
Visit many of NYC's top museums at no cost courtesy of Smithsonian Magazine Museum Day on Saturday, September 24. FREE
Make one last visit to Governors Island before it closes for the season on Sunday, September 25. FREE
Have a blast at Mommy Poppins and Kumon's Family Fun Day on Sunday, September 25, where families can enjoy chocolate tasting with Voila Chocolat, face painting, complimentary snacks, and treats while also learning about Kumon's educational offerings. FREE but registration suggested.