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50 things to do in New York City with kids: Fall 2012

Our must-read guide to the season's best things to do in New York City with kids—festivals, shows, museum exhibits and more—is here.

  • Photograph: Graham S Haber

    "Beatrix Potter: The Picture Letters" at the Morgan Library and Museum

  • boo at the zoo!

  • Photograph: Courtesy LittleCollector

    Affordable Art Fair (LittleCollector)

  • Photograph: Macys Inc.

    Macy's Thanksgiving Parade opener float

  • Photographer: Jane Kratochvil

    DUMBO Arts Festival

  • Ghouls & Gourds

  • Photograph: Virginia Rollison

    The Little Red Lighthouse and the GWB

  • Photograph: Maria Martinez-Santos

    Brooklyn Children's Book Fair

  • Moona Luna

  • Photograph: Courtesy of the Long Island Children's Museum

    Long Island Children's Museum

Photograph: Graham S Haber

"Beatrix Potter: The Picture Letters" at the Morgan Library and Museum

"Beatrix Potter: The Picture Letters" at the Morgan Library & Museum

View original Peter Rabbit drawings in "Beatrix Potter: The Picture Letters"

The Morgan's latest family-friendly offering sheds considerable light on the creative processes of kid-lit maverick Beatrix Potter with an extensive collection of original drawings, first-edition publications and even spinoff merchandise. Kids will see childhood drawings, from a scarily accurate spider to adorable scenes of ice-skating bunnies; an eight-page illustrated letter containing the tale of Peter Rabbit, the book that launched her career; a nine-foot-long accordian-style manuscript of A Fierce Bad Rabbit; and two examples of tie-in merchandise—a Jemima Puddleduck doll and Peter Rabbit board game—dreamed up by the artist herself, among other child-captivating historical fare. Opens Nov 2. The Morgan Library and Museum.

Boo at the Zoo

Get a head start on Halloween with the Bronx Zoo's Boo at the Zoo

This annual fall celebration takes over the Bronx wildlife spot for five consecutive weekends. Kids can venture through a haunted mansion, hold on tight for a spooky hayride, catch a magic show by David Levitan, watch a showing of Who Put the Trick in Trick or Treat? and check out demonstrations by professional pumpkin carvers. Don't miss the creepy extinct animal graveyard, where you'll learn about endangered and extinct species. Kids under 12 who show up in costume receive free admission and can rock their outfits in a Halloween parade. Sat Sept 29, Oct 6, 13, 20 and 27 and Sun Sept 30, Oct 7, 14, 21, and 28 11am–5pm. Bronx Zoo Wildlife Conservation Society. Free with zoo admission.

Affordable Art Fair

Scope out (or make your own) artwork at the Affordable Art Fair

While parents peruse artwork for sale, little ones can head to the Children's Lounge to get busy making their own masterpieces. Budding art collectors are invited on a tour of the fair led by filmmaker Morgan Spurlock (Oct 6, at 12pm), or they can participate in workshops like City Boogie! (Sat Oct 6 1–3pm) and City Lovin' (Sun Oct 7 1–3pm), where they'll work with local artists to craft street art--inspired creations. Both sessions are presented by contemporary kids' art gallery LittleCollectors. Fri Oct 5 noon–8pm, Sat Oct 6 11am–8pm, Sun Oct 7 11am–6pm. The Tunnel at the Terminal Stores. Advance tickets $12, children under 12 free; workshops $20. Ages 2 to 12.


Bundle up to watch the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade

The 86th annual extravaganza will once again return to New York City's streets, bringing with it a slew of spectators (about 3.5 million!), floats topped with myriad celebrities, horn-tootin' marching bands and giant balloons, including the new Elf on a Shelf. The parade begins at 77th Street and Central Park West and continues south to Macy's Herald Square. You can also head to the Upper West Side on Thanksgiving Eve (Wed Nov 21 at 3pm) to watch the characters transform from piles of wilted fabric into floating giants. Thu Nov 22 at 9am. For the complete route, go to macys.com/parade. Free.

DUMBO Arts Festival

Immerse yourself in the arts at the Dumbo Arts Festival

This annual carnival dedicated to Brooklyn's art scene truly seems to get bigger and better every year. For the first time, downtown's Children's Museum of the Arts is partnering with the festival—virtually decamping to Dumbo for the weekend—to run Kidville, a families-only tent full of signature CMA art activities, including an aptly Dumbo-themed carousel-horse animation project. Music workshops and performances, dance, puppetry and readings are also on tap. Fri Sept 28 6–9pm, Sat Sept 29 noon–9pm, Sun Sept 30 noon–9pm. Locations around Dumbo vary; go to dumboartsfestival.com for details. Free. All ages.

Ghouls and Gourds at BBG

March in a costume parade at Ghouls & Gourds

Little ones flaunt their eye-catching outfits alongside gigantic puppets in this daytime parade and festival at the Brooklyn Botanic Garden. Other entertainment offerings include a variety of Halloween-themed workshops and readings by children's book authors. Last year's event was cut short due to a random October snowstorm, so we're especially excited about this year's festivities. Sat Oct 27 noon–6pm. Brooklyn Botanic Garden. $15, kids under 12 free.

Little Red Lighthouse

Take a day trip to Manhattan's hilliest nabe

Celebrate the last remaining lighthouse in Manhattan, and the subject of the 1942 children's book The Little Red Lighthouse and the Great Gray Bridge, at the 20th anniversary of the Little Red Lighthouse Festival. Kids can take a tour of the lighthouse, engage in craft activities, and take in music and dance performances. Before the festival, stop by Morris-Jummel Mansion—it served as George Washington's headquarters for a time in 1776. Sat Oct 6 noon–4pm. Fort Washington Park. Free.

Brooklyn Children's Book Fair

Meet authors at the Brooklyn Children's Book Fair

The annual fair returns to the Martha A. and Robert S. Rubin Pavilion at the Brooklyn Museum to fete the Borough of Kings with Brooklyn-themed picture books, storybooks, novels and graphic novels. Author and illustrator readings and signings from the likes of David Ezra Stein (Love, Mouserella), Melanie Hope Greenberg (A City Is) and Peter Brown (You Will Be My Friend) are in the mix, as are art-making activities and a family-friendly performance following the event. Happily, snacks are available for purchase on-site. Sat Nov 17 noon–4pm. Brooklyn Museum. Free.

Moona Luna

Jam out at special Bring Your Own Kid concert at 92YTribeca

Don't miss this super-sized edition of BYOK in celebration of the new album Science Fair. The science-themed musical extravaganza features some of the most noteworthy artists who took part in the special charity album, such as Deedle Deedle Dees, Moona Luna and Babe the Blue Ox. Other BYOK concerts this fall include Lunch Money (Sun Sept 23 at 11am), Elska (Sun Sept 30 at 11am), Randy Kaplan (Sun Oct 7 at 11am) and Astrograss (Sun Oct 14 at 11am). Sun Oct 21 at 11am. 92YTribeca. All ages. $15, children under 2 free.

Visitors are invited to explore the culture, history and traditions of Vietnam at Long Island Children's Museum in a traveling exhibit, Dragons & Fairies: Exploring Viet Nam Through Folk Tales.  The exhibit will be at the Museum through January 8, 2012 (f

Enjoy free museum admission

Free weekday museum hours are commonplace, but free hours on a Saturday is something celebrate. Download a voucher from smithsonian.com/museumday to receive two free tickets to one of many New York City museums and cultural centers during Smithsonian Magazine's Museum Day Live! on Saturday, September 29. Options include the American Folk Art Museum, the Brooklyn Museum, El Museo del Barrio and Historic Richmond Town. Looking to take a day trip? Admission to the nearby Long Island Children's Museum is free too. Sat Sept 29. Various museums. Free.

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