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Photograph: Courtesy David Cova

The best things to do on Labor Day in NYC

Make the most of your three-day weekend by checking out the best things to do on Labor Day and other Labor Day events

By Tolly Wright, David Goldberg and Helen Dugan

<Don’t know how to spend the upcoming three-day weekend? We have the best things to do on Labor day and other related Labor Day events right here. Go day-glo crazy at a summer music festival, celebrate Caribbean culture at the annual West Indian American Day Carnival, cheer hard at the U.S. Open and make your day extra sandy by hitting our favorite New York beaches. Whether you’re an indoor type or looking for things to do outside, we have the perfect itinerary for Labor Day weekend.

RECOMMENDED: Full guide to Labor Day in NYC

Best things to do on Labor Day

Above & Beyond
Photograph: Bennett Sell-Kline

1. Electric Zoo Festival


New York’s biggest electronic music festival turns the urban jungle into a party animal’s playground. Experience the EDM madness as headliners Marshmello, Mar+in Garrix, Tiësto and more perform amid epic stage effects and art. 

2. Dirty Dancing + Watermelon Margarita

Things to do Film events

Relive one of the greatest summer love stories of all time at this delightful screening event for “dance people.” Sing along to “Hungry Eyes,” let Patrick Swayze teach you how to dance (and how to love), and live your best Catskills fantasy with a delicious margarita in hand. 


3. Dope BBQ

Things to do

Want to go hard this Labor Day weekend? It's worth it to stay in the city for this summer holiday party staple from POC-centric event crew the General Public. Count on an always-game crowd getting down with barbecue bites and dirty dancing in the sun. For the Labor Day edition, the summer rager takes over the massive Knockdown Center, bringing together producers Patrice “LeDon” Laquinte and Lenworth “Lenny J” James. On deck to keep you moving all day in the heat are DJs Proper Edakit, Trueblends, L Squared and Steph Cakes. Show up in your best day party getup and prepare to get your hands sticky digging into a complimentary plate of grilled goodies. Be warned: This is a stunt, so come correct if you want to rule Instagram for the holiday! 

Riis Park Beach Bazaar
Photograph: Dylan Johnson

4. Labor Day at Riis Park Beach Bazaar

Things to do

Riis Beach’s summer-long shindig is all about laying back with ice cold drinks and getting down to chill music, and for those of us who aren’t in the restaurant or service industry, a chance to be horizontal on the sand on a Monday is too good to pass up. Good food and tunes await at the Riis Bathhouse Pavilion starting at noon on Labor Day. 

Christina McHale seen playing in the US Open
Photograph: Matthew Stockman

5. The U.S. Open

Things to do Festivals

While you may not remember what you did on Labor Day Weekends past, take a swing and make this year memorable by seeing the champions slay it on the tennis court. Added bonus: You’ll be the Instagram winner of Tuesday morning.

West Indian-American Day Carnival 2013
Photograph: Filip Wolak

6. West Indian Day Parade

Things to do Festivals

For some, Labor Day is just another Monday off, but the costumed gods and goddesses of this wild parade spend the whole year hot-gluing feathers and stones to their magnificent outfits. Party all the way down Eastern Parkway and enjoy technicolor floats representing countries like Barbados, Jamaica, and Trinidad and Tobego while you indulge in jerk chicken and other delicacies.


7. NYC Unicycle Festival

Things to do Festivals

Forgive the analogy, but unicycles are the 4 Non Blondes of the cycling world: misunderstood by many but cherished by a select few who love them more than anything else. Enjoy four days of locomotive activities which include a ride from Battery Park to Central Park on August 30, a Coney Island adventure on August 31 and a full weekend of single-wheeled shenanigans on Governors Island (keep an eye out for unicycle basketball and sumo wrestling).    

Photograph: Courtesy Rebecca MB. Pearson

8. Washington Square Outdoor Art Exhibit

Things to do Festivals

This city tradition feels fresh every spring when artists following in the footsteps of Jackson Pollock and Willem de Kooning set up shop in the park. Hundreds of exhibitors, from NYU students to artists who remember the Village as a creative enclave, display their paintings, sculptures, photography, jewelry and woodcraft. The show takes place on University Place starting at E 13th St. 

House of Yes
Photograph: Courtesy Erica Camille

9. Werk: Labor Day White Party

Things to do

Dance to the musical stylings of New York staple Eli Escobar, eat barbecue fare from Guacuco, sip tropical cocktails, marvel at circus arts performers and frolic in a rooftop hot tub at this daylong Labor Day soiree at House of Yes. Bleach those whites beforehand and hit the dance floor looking crisp—never mind what shape your outfit will be in twelve hours later.

An Inconvenient Talk Show
Photograph: Courtesy Carly Hoogendyk

10. An Inconvenient Talk Show


Rollie Williams invites you beyond the same old sets of your average comedy show at this bizarro political show. The gonzo comedian plays a rode-hard Al Gore interviewing comedians and real scientists about climate change, with Eric André style shenanigans abounding. For the September edition, he's joined by Eudora Peterson, Jeremy Bent and Karen Chee, along with NASA's own Dr. Gavin Schmidt. 

Downton Abbey
Fabian Leow

11. “Downton Abbey: The Exhibition”

Things to do Exhibitions

FYI: Labor Day is your last chance to immerse yourself in the world of this post-Edwardian TV phenomenon. Check out more than 50 original costumes, along with Downton Abbey sets and gawk at the table settings, authentic artifacts and more at this comprehensive exhibition.

Need a break from the city?


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