The first dedicated Earth Day was back in 1970, and as we close in on its 50th anniversary, environmental awareness feels less celebration, more urgent education. But it’s good to remember that small changes can have a big impact and there are plenty of ways to make learning about ecosystems and our environment a thing of wonder. This Earth Day there are lots of ways for New York families to celebrate with everything from family-friendly movie screenings to craft activities and hikes. Added bonus: most of it’s free!

photo credit: Earth Day Initiative via Flickr

Manhattan

Tuesday, April 18
Get prepped for Earth Day with a festival of live performances, face painting, crafts using recycled materials and an entire school bus of hands-on science activities.  The fun starts at noon in Union Square and goes on until 7 p. m. with dozens of exhibition stands including green vehicles from Toyota and local and global initiatives aimed at fostering sustainability.

The festival is hosted by the Earth Day Initiative. For school kids there’s a toolkit for understanding the difference between clean and dirty energy and staff will be encouraging visitors to switch their homes and offices over to renewables as part of the countdown to the 50th anniversary of Earth Day in 2020.

Noon  to 7 p. m.
Tickets: Free
Union Square, North Plaza
Online: earthdayinitiative.org

Saturday, April 22
Get the little ones to pick out their very own tree this Earth Day. The New York Restoration Project is partnering with organizations across the city in a free tree giveaway. There are nine native species up for grabs including Tulip Poplar, Serviceberry and Black Tupelo. For the Manhattan giveaway, sign up here to snag one of over a hundred trees and head to Riverbank State Park to pick it up. Be sure you can promise to plant the tree in your yard or community garden rather than the street or city park — but most importantly you need to promise to take good care of it!

9 a.m. – 11 a.m.
Riverbank State Park,
W. 145th Street at Riverside Drive
Online: nyrp.org

Photo credit: SCA

Saturday, April 22
A handful of soil, a bit of clay, some seeds and a dash of water and you have the recipe for happy kids, messy hands and seed balls. Help paint some park benches and get a morning full of fun (and breakfast!) thanks to The Student Conservation Association. Enjoy a photo booth with outdoorsy props, family games, music and seed ball fun aimed to spread wildflowers throughout the city. Bring your recycled toilet paper tubes and and you’ll learn how to make seed starters and take away tips on repurposing other bathroom items.

8.30 a. m. – 1.30 p. m.
Tickets: Free (with volunteer work)
Riverbank State Park,
W. 145th Street at Riverside Dr.
Upper Manhattan
Online: thesca.org/conserve

photo credit: Battery Park City Authority

Saturday, April 22
Listen to stories of the earth with Perry Ground, a traditional storyteller from the Onondaga, Turtle Clan. With Haudenosaunee — better known as Iroquois — heritage, Ground weaves Native American stories into an engaging journey of discovery for the whole family. Visitors to this Earth Day event should meet at 6 River Terrace and if the weather permits the event will move to Teardrop Park South right behind the building.
Hours: 11 a. m. – 1 p. m.
Tickets: Free
6 River Terrace
Battery Park City
Online: bpcparks.org

There’s a special Earth Day story time at Macy’s this year, with a guest appearance from VIP, Peppa Pig.  Take a seat at the Reading Circle for stories about Peppa and her friends. She will be sharing tips on just how easy it is to go green.  There’s also a photo op for those squealing at the chance of getting up close to their pink and porky friend.  Snacks will be supplied by Earth’s Best Organic.

1 p.m.
Tickets: Free
Macy’s Herald Square
Kids Department, 7th Fl.
151 West 34th Street
Herald Square
Online: macys.com
Hours: 1 p. m.

photo: Joan Garvin Courtesy Friends of the High Line

The High Line perfectly symbolizes the reawakening of nature in the city, and this year the park’s spring celebrations coincide with Earth Day. Families can build their own city using the Children’s Workyard Kit, a collection of planks, pulleys, wheels and wingbolts that inevitably sparks ideas and gets little ones solving problems creatively. There’s also live music from Natalia Paruz who uses carpentry tools in a whole new way as well as tunes from the Brazilian Folk Trio, Forró Da Terra.

High Line
10th Avenue and 23rd Street
New York, NY
Online: thehighline.org
Hours: 1 p. m. – 6 p. m.
Cost: Free

There are free workshops and family-friendly activities at the 134th Street Farm in honor of Earth Day. Organized by urban farm Harlem Grown, volunteers are encouraged to join in the fun to prepare the farm for a new growing season.

Hours: 10 a. m. – 4 p. m.
Tickets: Free
134 Street Farm.
118 West 134th St.
East Harlem
Online: facebook.com

photo: Joshua Bright courtesy of Wave Hill

Bronx

Saturday, April 22
Celebrate the humble honey bee this Earth Day while recycling plastic bags into art. Inspired by the artwork of Borinquen Gallo, visitors to Wave Hill, a 28-acre public garden overlooking the Hudson River, will get to weave a nest or hive-like structure for a plant. When the weaving’s done, either take it home or leave it as an addition to Gallo’s installation, Be(e) Sanctuary, an imaginary hive interior in black and yellow, made from caution tape, now on display at Wave Hill. This activity is designed to raise awareness of bees, not only as a symbol of community and collaboration, but as essential pollinators affected by pesticides in our environment.

Hours: 10 a. m. – 1 p. m.
Cost: Free. Admission to the grounds is free until noon.
Wave Hill
West 249th St. at Independence Avenue
Riverdale
Online: wavehill.org

photo: Joshua Bright courtesy of Wave Hill

Sunday, April 23
Wave Hill is running a second day of art activities on Sunday (see entry above) as well as hosting an insect exploration where kids ages eight and up are invited to get up-close and personal with insects and other critters that creep, crawl and cruise around the Hudson River Valley in springtime. Your bug lover can check out live and preserved insects on display, then explore Wave Hill with eco-educator and entomologist, Lawrence Forcella, to hunt for native creatures in their garden habitats.

1 p.m.
Tickets: Free with admission to the grounds.
Wave Hill
West 249th Street at Independence Avenue
Riverdale
Online: wavehill.org

photo: Joshua Bright courtesy of Wave Hill

Noon – 2 pm
Tickets: Free
Witchhazel, Serviceberry and Black Gum are some of the trees up for grabs for Bronx residents thanks to The New York Restoration Project’s free giveaway in Crotona Park on Sunday, April 23rd. Sign up here once you can commit to planting the tree in your yard or community garden (rather than the street or city park) and promise to keep it fed and watered.

Crotona Park Amphitheater
1700 Crotona Ave.
Crotona Park
Online: nyrp.org

photo: Colin Miller courtesy of Rooftop Films 

Brooklyn

Saturday, April 22
You don’t have to be green fingered or get your hands dirty to enjoy the company of enviro-bot WALL-E. Sit back and enjoy this ideal Earth Day movie at Industry City. Kids will love the story of WALL-E, who for hundreds of lonely years has been picking through plastic and metal on Earth only to find something much more precious: something living. WALL-E learns the value of his treasure with the help of sleek search robot, EVE. Brought to Brooklyn thanks to the partnership between Rooftop Films and Sunset Park Cinema Club for Kids, you can RSVP here.  Doors Open at 10 a. m. with the screening kicking off an hour later. Seating is on a first come, first served basis.

10 a. m. – 2 p. m.
Tickets: Free
Industry City
274 36th St.
Sunset Park
Online: rooftopfilms.com

photo: Jonathan Goley

Brooklyn’s Prospect Park Audubon Center has a packed schedule for its annual Earth Day celebrations. Sign up to try some catch-and-release fishing on the lake; park staff will be on hand to help teach newbies how to tie a knot, attach bait and cast a line. All weekend long staff are giving away special ready-to-go kits filled with nature activities for families and offering the opportunity to do some bird watching with tips on how to use binoculars and identify sightings with field guides. For those who want a faster pace register for NYCRUNS 5k + 10k with a loop of the park (Saturday only) and awards for the fastest runners in each category including under nine years old.

Noon–2 p.m.
Cost: All activities are free except the race which has registration fees between $35 – $50
Prospect Park Audubon Center
89 Prospect Park W.
Prospect Park
Online: prospectpark.org with registration at eventbrite.com


photo: via Big Reuse Facebook page 

You could say that every day is Earth Day at Big Reuse, where literally tons of furniture, housewares and more are saved from landfills and sold at deep discounts. (They’re also big into compost.) Stop by its Earth Day celebration on Saturday and eat, drink, dance and shop. Special drumming performance by Batala will keep the party grooving.

5 – 8 p.m.
69 9th St.
Gowanus
(718) 725-8925
Online: bigreuse.org

photo: Virginia Freire

Sunday, April 23rd

Regardless of the intensity level, hiking is a great way to get outdoors, appreciate nature and stay fit. A light hike at Marine Park, Brooklyn has been arranged by Urban Park Rangers who will guide a leisurely stroll on mostly paved paths.  The perfect fit for families with young kids, guides will introduce visitors to some of the park’s hidden gems.

Noon – 1.30 pm
Cost: Free
Marine Park
Avenue U and East 33rd Street
Online: nycgovparks.org

Saturday, 4/29

Come mark a big anniversary at the 10th annual National Grid Earth Day Celebration. The event will feature live music, arts and crafts, and street performers, as well as interactive family activities highlighting the need for creating a more sustainable future and caring for the earth. Activities will include an instrument building workshop using recycled and reused materials by educational performance group Bash the Trash, puppeteer Ronny Wasserstrom’s Playdate Puppets, martial arts demonstrations, children’s yoga with Third Root Yoga, arts and crafts with Skraptacular, face painting, and more!

3 p.m.
Tickets: Free
Great Artists Plaza
2925 Avenue H
Flatbush
(718) 951-4500
Online: brooklyncenter.org

Staten Island

Saturday, April 22

Combining the feast of St. George, the famous dragon slayer, and Earth Day in Staten Island is now a tradition in its 11th year. Artists and families come together in Tompkinsville Park prepared for giant dragon puppets, a kid zone, music, dance and storytelling. There’s also a craft zone, art lab, chalk wall, face painting and photo booth. The eco-aspect brings together community members to offer lessons in composting and bike repair.

11 a. m.  – 3 p. m.
Tickets: Free
Tompkinsville Park
Victory Blvd and Bay Street
Staten Island, NY
Online: stgeorgedaysi.com

Photo credit: Earth Day Initiative via Flickr

Queens

Saturday, 22nd April and Sunday 23rd April

In Queens, the New York Restoration Project is partnering with Eastern Queen’s Alliance and Home Depot for their tree giveaway. Pick from nine native species and be sure you can promise to plant it in your own community space (your yard or community garden) rather than the street or city park and most importantly be prepared to take good care of it!

Sat., April 22, Noon – 2 p. m.
Tickets: Free
Environmental Science Learning Center
Idlewild Park Preserve
149-20 Springfield Ln.
Springfield Gardens
Online: www.nyrp.org

Sun., April 23, 10 p. m. – Noon
Tickets: Free
Home Depot
75-09 Woodheaven Blvd,
Glendale
Online: nyrp.org

How do you and your family plan to celebrate Earth Day? Let us know in the comments below.

— Emily Myers