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Free things to do with kids this Labor Day in NYC

These 25 free, family-friendly things to do with kids will let you have a blast with the kids this Labor Day weekend without dropping a dime!

With all the back-to-school shopping for new backpacks, clothes, supplies and more, spending money is probably the last thing you want to do this Labor Day. Fear not: The Big Apple is offering up plenty of free things to do with kids over the long weekend, including arts and crafts on Governors Island, free outdoor movie screenings and a last chance to take a dip in the Brooklyn Bridge Park pop-up pool. Peruse our list of free things to do with kids to close our the summer with some frugal fun, and don't forget to check out our list of 50 things to do with kids in New York City this summer, too.


RECOMMENDED: See all Labor Day weekend coverage


  • 1. Coney Island Fireworks

    Catch Coney Island fireworks before they're done for the summer. The famed Cyclone roller coaster and Deno's Wonder Wheel sponsor a stunning fireworks display every Friday night, and the Brooklyn Cyclones shoot off their own after select Saturday games. Plus, expect an Independence Day fireworks display to rival that of Macy's at MCU Park's FourthFest. See the website for an updated schedule. All ages.

  • 2. Art Island Outpost on Governor's Island

    Hop on board the ferry to Governors Island, where CMA will be hosting free family art workshops led by in-house teaching artists all summer long. This summer's theme is "Dreamscapes," so activities like film-making, found object art, costume-making and theater games are geared toward the same whimsical motif. Kicking off the summer series is The Flubber Experience over Memorial Day weekend, in which kids will mold Play-Doh and test the limits of CMA's famous "homemade flubber," popular in the WEE Arts studio. Ages 1 to 12.

  • 3. NYC Parks Summer Movie Series: Despicable Me 2

    Bring a comfy blanket or two and some munchies, and cuddle up with the family for a screening of Despicable Me 2. Watch Gru and the minions hunt for an almighty villian and hear your kids giggle for 98 minutes straight. Trust us: You'll enjoy this film as much as—if not more than—the little ones. All ages.

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

  • 4. Reading with the Stars: Captain Underpants

    Come listen to popular children's stories and meet with the famous characters at the Scholastic Store during the month of August. Hang out with Geronimo Stilton (8/2, Ages 6 and up), Clifford the Big Red Dog (8/9, Ages 3 and up), Peppa Pig (8/16, Ages 3 and up), Ricky's Mighty Robot (8/23, Ages 5 and up) and Captain Underpants (8/30, Ages 5 and up). Ages 3 and up.

     

     

  • 5. NYC Unicycle Festival

    This wacky one-wheeled weekend rolls into town with a 13-mile ride from City Hall to Coney Island, where a party at Deno’s Wonder Wheel and fireworks honor Brooklyn Unicycle Day (yep, that exists) with a bang. The Bindlestiff Family Cirkus also invites those more comfortable standing on two legs to Governors Island for two full days of races, competitions and exhibitions, a chance to test your skills in a workshop or cheer for teams competing in one-wheeled basketball, hockey and even sumo wrestling. All ages.

  • 6. West Indian-American Day Carnival

    This Caribbean celebration, known for having lively music and lots of skin, is never short on costumed stilt dancers, floats blaring soca and calypso music, and plenty of flags from countries such as Barbados, Jamaica, and Trinidad and Tobago. Look for vendors stationed along Eastern Parkway selling island eats like jerk chicken, curry goat and oxtail, to name a few dishes. Eastern Pkwy from Schenectady Ave and Flatbush Ave Ext, Crown Heights, Brooklyn. All Ages.

  • 7. Pop-Up Audubon

    Prospect Park Audubon Center staff will lead discussions and explorations of the wildlife in Prospect Park. In August, reel in a big one during summer catch-and-release fishing clinics, plus learn about aquatic ecology and fishing safety (weekends at 1 and 3pm). Availability is first-come, first-served. Meet at White Levy Esplanade. Ages 8 to 15. 

  • 8. Staten Island Beach Fest

    Journey to Staten Island for a festival along the beach on every Saturday and Sunday in August. Dance to live music from the Brothers Entertainment DJs (8/10, 8/23 & 8/31), Squeaky Clean Cowboy (8/16 & 8/30) and Love Bomb Band (8/24). Grab some treats at the Italian Ice trucks (8/9, 8/10, 8/30, & 8/31). Gear up for fun and games inluding a bean bag toss, hula hoops and face painting (8/16). Shop for fruits and vegetables at the Culinary Kids Farmers Market (8/17) and visit a video gaming truck to play with other gamers (8/23 & 8/24). Also, don't forget to buy some cannolis (8/30)! All ages.

  • 9. "Traveling in the World of Tomorrow: The Future of Transportation at New York's World's Fairs"

    Check out the New York Transit Museum’s brand new exhibit, "Traveling in the World of Tomorrow: The Future of Transportation at New York's World's Fairs." Complete with photos, souvenirs, postcards and other transportation-themed displays, the exhibit is opening to honor the 50th and 75th anniversaries of the 1939 and 1964 fairs. Public transportation showed a brighter future for American life, and now you and your family can check it out in action! The free exhibit will be on display at the Transit Museum Gallery Annex in Grand Central. All ages.

     

  • 10. Sweet Spot Festival

    Enjoy authentic Jamaican food, lively music, dance parties, a vintage craft pop-up market, free fitness workshops and art displays in Harlem. This month's Jamaican Indepen-dance bash features DJs including Herbert Holler, DJ MoMA, Rice & Peas, the Soul Summit Music crew and Kervyn Mark. All ages.

  • 11. Big City Fishing

    For this aptly named program, the Hudson River Park Trust runs beginner lessons in multiple locations throughout the summer. Kids can learn the rod-and-reel basics, and get familiar with the types of fish that swim the local waters, with an emphasis on river ecology and education. Equipment for up to 25 participants is provided on a first-come, first-served basis at the drop-in sessions. Ages 5 and up.

  • 12. Pop-Up Pool

    Come cool off and take a dip in the Brooklyn Bridge Park Pop-Up Pool. The pool's size is 30' by 50' feet and 3.5 feet deep, an ideal depth for children. The pool will be open for 45 minute sessions every hour on the hour starting June 27. Guests can relax at the sand beach or get refreshments at the Lizzmonade Brooklyn concession. Starting in July, the park will offer moderately priced swimming lessons during the morning. All ages.

  • 13. KidAround at SEE/CHANGE

    The South Street Seaport hosts KidAround events featuring live music, storytelling, games and more as part of their SEE/CHANGE Summer series. Groove to kid-friendly jams and have a dance party when The Pop Ups (8/10), Lesley and the Flying Foxes (8/17) and Stacey Peasley (8/24) come around; then finish off the summer performances with a pop and rock concert from Hot Peans n' Butter (8/31). All ages. 

     

  • 14. Ponds, Pipes and People: Water in Central Park

    Water has played a big part in the design and maintenance of Central Park. Learn all about the Park's biodiversity and the underground system that allows it to live and grow in this new exhibit. All ages.

  • 15. Tech for Tots: Learning with Colors

    Bring your budding artist to this interactive workshop where he can learn to mix colors and create a colorful picture. Reservations suggested. Ages 2 to 6.

     

     

  • 16. Kids Game Social

    Kids can interact with one another and play classic board games at this weekly session. Some games that will be featured include Candyland, Operation and Old Maid. Ages 5 to 12.

  • 17. Preschool Play

    Toddlers can play with one another on the park’s grassy lawn. Toys, books and game equipment provided. Ages 2 to 4.

  • 18. Greenlight Saturday Storytime 2014

    Kids' authors and illustrators (or staffers from Brooklyn's family-friendly Greenlight Bookstore) sit down with kids and their caregivers to read from their own picture books (or their favorites), be they classics or brand-new creations. In August, kids can join the Big Brothers Big Sisters of NYC and watch as actors bring the adventures of Flat Stanley to life before crafting a flat version of themselves (Aug 23); or head offsite to Fort Greene Park for a special summer literary festival featuring readings from young writers as well as famed authors (Aug 23 at 2pm). The rest of the month, stop it to listen along as Greenlight staff members read their favorite picture books (Aug 9, 16 and 30). Ages 3 to 8.

     

  • 19. Brooklyn Flea

    It’s that time of year! The Brooklyn Flea comes back outside in Fort Greene on Saturdays and Williamsburg on Sundays when the weather warms up. We're still waiting on details for this year's flea, but you'll be able to browse (and eat!) 'til your heart's content. All ages.

  • 20. Hudson River Park Wild!

    Get a naturalist's guide to the west side at one of these weekly wildlife tours. Little explorers will get views of the waterfront and a chance to see some of the 85 species of birds inside the park, plus butterflies, dragonflies and cool insects (maybe even some of this summer's celebrities: cicadas). Meet at the Christopher Street Fountain near Pier 40, wear comfortable shoes and leave any barking creatures at home (they'll scare off the wildlife!). Ages 6 and up.

     

  • 21. Great North American Tugboat Race & Competition

    Line up with your kids and cheer for your favorite tugboat in this exciting annual competition. After the race is over, check out the amateur line toss, spinach-eating contest (think Popeye) and tugboat-related exhibits for families, and see the tugs up close. To get your youngsters an even better view of the action, grab tickets to the spectator boat that follows the race along the Hudson River to the finish line ($25, children $12). All ages.

  • 22. Family Performance Festival

    Throughout the summer, the Central Park Conservancy will present eco-friendly performances for families every Sunday. Discover intriguing tales through storytelling with the Storycrafters (June 15), Jackson Gillman, (June 22), Diane Edgecomb (August 3), and Story Laurie (August 24). Bounce around to musical and dance performances by Billy B, the natural science and dance Man (June 29), Bash the Trash (July 20), Roger Tincknell (August 10), the Youth Company (August 17), and rockin' Uncle Eye (August 31). All Ages.

  • 23. FLOW.14: Art and Music at Randalls Island

    This exhibition brings together art, music and the environment of Randall's island by displaying site-specific installations along the shoreline. Families will get great views of the Bronx, Queens and Manhattan while they peruse the pieces. All ages.

  • 24. "The ABC of It: Why Children's Books Matter"

    The main branch of the NYPL is playing host to an exhibit that celebrates the rich history of children's literature. Curated by scholar Leonard Marcus, the show in Gottesman Hall draws together more than 200 items from the NYPL collection, from medieval European manuscripts and Hans Christian Andersen works to original drawings for The Wizard of Oz, a collage paper sample by Eric Carle and banned children's books from around the world. All Ages.

  • 25. Rachel Feinstein: "Folly"

    We couldn't imagine a more kid-friendly work for Mad. Sq. Art's summer exhibition: Three metal structures—a house overlooking a cliff, a Rococo-era hut and a flying ship all ranging from eight to 26 feet tall—make up Rachel Feinstein's magical, fairytale-like "follies," which she imagined as a theatrical backdrop in which park visitors become the actors. (We know what you're wondering, but no, unfortunately kids can't climb on the scuptures!) All ages.

1. Coney Island Fireworks

Catch Coney Island fireworks before they're done for the summer. The famed Cyclone roller coaster and Deno's Wonder Wheel sponsor a stunning fireworks display every Friday night, and the Brooklyn Cyclones shoot off their own after select Saturday games. Plus, expect an Independence Day fireworks display to rival that of Macy's at MCU Park's FourthFest. See the website for an updated schedule. All ages.


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