Spring has sprung, and with it comes a raft of festivals to welcome warmer temperatures and picture-perfect days.  Leave your heavy coat at home and bring your gang to celebrate at these family-friendly festivals.

Photo: Julie Markes, courtesy of Brooklyn Botanic Garden.


Sakura Matsuri: Cherry Blossom Festival
Every year at the Brooklyn Botanic Garden, this celebration honors the Japanese tradition of viewing the flowering trees while they briefly bloom.  There are more than 60 cultural events and performances packed into the weekend, including traditional tea ceremonies, manga drawing workshops for kids, music and dance performances, cosplay, martial arts, and much more — plus those cotton-candy-style blossoms. Some tips: Unless you’re a member, advance tickets are now required, so buy yours ASAP.  Also, this popular event gets crowded.  Get there early in the morning or closer to closing, and consider leaving the stroller at home to navigate the throngs.  Remember: bottled water and baby bottles are OK, but outside food is not allowed, and scooters are a no-no.

10 a.m.–6 p.m.
April 29 & 30
Tickets: $30/adults; $25/seniors and students over 12; free/kids 12 & under and members
990 Washington Ave.
Crown Heights
Online: bbg.org

photo: Brian Geltner

Brooklyn Folk Festival
Three days, over 40 bands, readings, film screenings, and the world famous banjo toss contest! This all-ages event features music from all over the globe, and you’re likely to find some fun among events like a harmonica-playing competition, build-your-own instrument workshop, salsa and square dances, songs about history for kids and a puppet show. Check out their jam-packed schedule and grab your tickets before they’re gone.

April 29 & 30
Tickets: $20-35 for individuals; $85 for a 3-day pass; free/children 5 & under
157 Montague St.
Brooklyn Heights
Online: brooklynfolkfest.com

Arbor Weekend at Wave Hill
Celebrate your tall, leafy friends with a guided tree walk, a Junior Arborist Station, a woodsy art workshop, a juniper-inspired cooking demo, a tree-themed Family Art Project, a woodturning demonstration in The Shop and a tree-themed walk in the neighborhood.

April 28–30
Admission: $8/Adults; $4/Students & seniors 65+; $2/Children 6 & up; Free/Members and children under 6
157 Montague St.
Brooklyn Heights
Online: wavehill.org


Tenth Annual National Grid Earth Day Celebration
Pay your respects to Mother Earth while you and your little ones enjoy live music, arts and crafts, street performers, face painting and even children’s yoga!  It’s a free and interactive way to support a sustainable future.

3 p.m.
April 29
2925 Avenue H (in front of the Walt Whitman Theatre)
Online: brooklyncenter.org

Photo: NYC Parks

Tenth Annual Street Games
Olly, olly oxenfree!  Time to get outside and play the kind of games that don’t require a screen or a battery.  NYC Parks has paired with the Walt Disney Company to give your kids a day of old-fashioned diversions like stickball, hula hoops, pogo sticks and even a soapbox derby.  Children can get active throwing a disc with the New York Empire ultimate team, testing their parkour skills or playing wheelchair basketball.  As if that’s not enough, there will also be performances by a yo-yo master, breakdancers and the Dance Theatre of Harlem.  All ages and abilities are welcome, so if grandma wants to teach the youngsters a thing or two about shuffleboard or double-dutch, she’s invited, too.

11 a.m.–3 p.m.
April 29
East Harlem
Thomas Jefferson Park,111th Street and First Avenue
Online: nycgovparks.org

Tribeca Film Festival
The famous festival has no street fair this year, but it is offering more free films for families, including a new Tribeca/ESPN Family Film event with free screenings and sports activities at BMCC on the first weekend of the Festival. On the second weekend, ride your magic carpet to a free screening of “Aladdin” in celebration of the film’s 25th anniversary.

April 19–30
Tribeca/Chelsea/Battery Park
Online: tribecafilm.com

photo: Puppetry Arts

Fifth Avenue Family/Puppetry Arts Festival
Puppetry Arts and the Park Slope Fifth Avenue BID host this unique shindig with live puppet performances, giveaways, games and activities. The first 200 children will receive Fifth Ave BID Gift Bags filled with goodies, and special guests will include Tuffy Tiger and cameos by Star Wars characters.

11 a.m–3 p.m.
April 29
Free, but $3.00 for games, crafts and snacks and $5.00 for the Bouncy Moon Walk
JJ Byrne Park at 5th Ave. and 4th St.
Park Slope
Online: parkslopefifthavenuebid.com

photo: Jess Brey

Queens Botanical Garden Arbor Fest
Make a toast to trees and enjoy a forest-full of things to see and do, including live music, tours, puppet and bubble performances, arts and crafts, a petting zoo, face-painting, food and craft vendors, art exhibits, demonstrations, ceremonial tree plantings, and even a beer tent for the adults to cool off and unwind.

11 a.m–5 p.m.
April 30
$10/Adults & seniors; $8/Children; free/members
43-50 Main St.
Online: queensbotanical.org

The Morgan Library & Museum Spring Family Fair
Feed your family’s love of books with a visit to the library and try out activities inspired by the spring exhibitions “I’m Nobody! Who are you? The Life and Poetry of Emily Dickinson” and “Treasures from the National Museum of Sweden: The Collections of Count Tessin.”  Little literature lovers can dress-up in period costumes for a 19th century photo-shoot, write their own verses on the family poetry wall, create crafts inspired by hand-cut silhouettes, watch a short film and decorate a traditional Swedish Dala horse.

2 p.m–4:30 p.m.
April 30
Tickets: $20/Adults; $13/Seniors and students; free/children 12 & under and members
225 Madison Ave. at 36th St.
Online: themorgan.org

photo: Megan C. via Yelp


Holi Hai
In the tradition of the Hindu spring festival Holi, the NYC Bhangra dance group throws this party for everyone, rich or poor, young or old, free of charge.  Take a ferry out to beautiful Governor’s Island, enjoy performances of Indian dance and music, learn some bhangra moves and yes, get brilliantly messy by coating each other in colors.  There will be a kids’ activity area and food vendors, and you can pick up free non-toxic color powders (or you can pay to pre-order colors — and white t-shirts to show them off — and skip the line.)  Just be sure to register by May 6th!

10 a.m–5 p.m.
May 6
Free; but after 11:30 AM ferry costs $2/Adults; $1/Seniors; free/children under 13 and IDNYC holders
Governors Island
Online: nycholi.com

photo: Central Park Conservancy

Central Park Conservancy Presents Discovery Day
Make like a park ranger and learn more about the ecology and management of Central Park by taking your family to Discovery Day.  Junior park aficionados can see live birds, decorate their own flowerpot, plant a wildflower, design their own park, check out the machines that keep Central Park clean and green and participate in a scavenger hunt while learning Central Park trivia.  The fun is free, but please RSVP.

Noon–3 p.m.
May 13
Arthur Ross Pinetum (Mid-Park between 84th and 86th Streets)
Central Park
Online: www.centralparknyc.org

Celebrate Culture! Los Sueños del Caribe (Dreams of the Caribbean): People, Land, and Place
Commemorate the natural and cultural diversity of the Caribbean at this family-friendly festival. There will be activities and the premiere of a new work of music and poetry co-developed by Grammy-winning Cuban-American jazz legend Paquito D’Rivera and students from the Celia Cruz Bronx High School of Music.

Noon–5 p.m.
May 13
Suggested admission: $22/Adults; /$12.50/Children (2-12); $17/Seniors and students:
Central Park West & 79th St.
Upper West Side
Online: amnh.org

photo: J. Woodford

Dance Parade and Festival
From ballet to breakdancing, see over 80 styles of dance performed in this joyous combination of a parade and festival.  A diverse array of thousands of dancers do their thing while sashaying down the street from the Flatiron District to Tompkins Square Park.  The music will get your toes tapping and the colorful costumes will catch your kiddies’ eyes.  After the parade the festival continues with dance performances for adults and children, workshops, lessons and social dancing.  

Parade 1 p.m.–3 p.m., Festival 3 p.m.–7 p.m.
May 20
Free, or Grandstand seating from $30-$100
Broadway and 21st St. to Tompkins Square Park
Online: danceparade.org

photo: Olivier Kpognon

The 25th Annual Ethnic Festival
The 25th Annual Ethnic Festival is a day-long celebration of East Harlem and its unique cultures. Join thousands of New Yorkers and feast your family’s eyes, ears and stomachs on a large variety of multicultural music, dance, arts and crafts, ethnic cuisine and educational activities for all ages.

11 a.m.–5 p.m.
May 20
104th Street between Second and Third Avenue
East Harlem
Online: unionsettlement.org/ethnicfest

photo: New York African Chorus Ensemble

New York City’s Multicultural Festival
New York is one of the most diverse cities in the world, and this yearly event showcases many of the cultures the city contains.  There are so many different kinds of food, music, dance, and art to sample, they spread it over two days and two locations.  Pamper yourself in the “Love Yourself Pavilion” with free health screenings, massages, acupuncture, meditation and yoga, and stop by the International Children’s Village to entertain the youngsters.  Nonprofit organizations will also be there to provide information on education, jobs, immigration, safety and summer camp, and there will be toys for children and give-aways for adults.

1st Day: 11 a.m.–6 p.m
May 20, 2017
St. Nicholas Avenue between 141st and 145th Streets
Harlem/Hamilton Heights

2nd Day: 11 a.m.–6 p.m
June 3, 2017
Jackie Robinson Park Bandshell
85 Bradhurst Ave.
Online: multiculturalfestival.nyc

photo: Richard Termine

DanceAfrica Festival
It’s the 40th anniversary of the nation’s largest festival of African dance, and BAM brings together performance, art, film, community events, and dance workshops in this four-day party. DanceAfrica’s bazaar is a Brooklyn favorite, featuring more than 150 vendors offering African, Caribbean, and African-American food, crafts, and fashion.  Meanwhile, this year’s dance performances pay tribute to the music and movement of Guinea, and the film festival includes a film called “Le Ballon d’or” about a boy who dreams of being a soccer player that will show your kids what it’s like growing up in West Africa.  There’s an adult dance masterclass for intermediate to advanced dancers, and a family workshop that will teach your tribe about Guinean dance.

Bazaar is free, Films $10/Adults; $7/Children; Free to $7/Members; Dance performances $25-60/Adults; $12.50-$25/Children; 20-50% discount/Members; Masterclass $12; Family Workshop $10/Adults; $5/Children 5-15.
May 26-29
Ashland Pl / Lafayette Ave
Fort Greene
Online: bam.org


152nd Street Cultural Festival
Set in The Bronx, “El Condado de la Salsa,” the 152nd Street Cultural Festival is the kick-off celebration leading up to the The National Puerto Rican Day Parade (on June 11.)  Highlighting Puerto Rican culture, the day features live musical performances, dancing, comedy and celebrity appearances.  Kiosks line the street with vendors selling comida típica (traditional food,) artisans selling their art and free giveaways. Meanwhile, there’s a pavilion just for los niños scheduled with storytelling, face painting, arts & crafts, and other fun surprises.

11 a.m–5 p.m.
May 27
152nd St. and Jackson Ave.
The Bronx
Online: nprdpinc.org

Governors Island Family Fun Day
Warm up for summer on Governors Island!  Family Fun Day sets off the season’s opening early with lots of free activities.  Watch the Story Pirates theater troupe make scenes out of kids’ stories, be amazed by Mario the Magician and his inventions, listen to Grammy-winning Tim Kubart and the Space Cadets and more.  Your family will have a puppet-making, face-painting, game-playing, ice cream-snarfing good time.

11 a.m–5 p.m.
May 28
Free; but after 11:30 AM ferry costs $2/Adults; $1/Seniors; free/children under 13 and IDNYC holders
Governors Island
Online: govisland.com

photo: Ryan John Lee

The 30th Annual Loisaida Festival
Since 1987 this festival has been going strong every year on the Sunday before Memorial Day weekend.   The diverse culture of the neighborhood is celebrated with a parade with marching bands, puppeteers and performers, the Theater Lab, hands-on activities for kids and families from El Museo del Barrio, interactive hands-on storytelling and crafts workshops by Friends of the High Line, and plenty of music, dance and arts and crafts exhibitions that represent diverse ethnic groups and nationalities. You’ll also find important community information distributed by many local and city-wide health and human services organizations.  2017’s theme is Immigration, and recognizing the Im/migrant experience in the Lower East Side, “The Gateway to America,” especially the Latin American Immigrants and their contributions to this community, city and country.

Noon–4 p.m.
May 28
Avenue C from 6th St.–12th St.
Lower East Side
Online: loisaidafest.org


The 10th Annual World Science Fair
This one’s a doozy.  Boasting “Ten Years of Mind-Blowing Moments,” the 2017 World Science Festival will offer events promised to educate, entertain, amaze, and inspire the next generation of leaders.  Share the wonder with your junior scientists via performing arts productions informed by science, lively debates, lectures and discussions about new scientific breakthroughs, and interactive demonstrations for both youth and adults. This year, the Festival will also recognize the achievements of women in science and highlight the work of lauded science teachers. Events take place in multiple locations across the boroughs over the course of the fair, so check out the schedule and get tickets to get your science on.

May 30–June 4
Multiple Locations
Online: worldsciencefestival.com



Nassau County Strawberry Festival
Get ready for some delicious fun at this fest honoring what science calls an “aggregate accessory fruit,” but we’ll call a berry, anyway (so there.)  There will be carnival rides, games, live entertainment, and of course all your favorite strawberry yummies on sale like strawberry shortcake, strawberry cheesecake, chocolate covered strawberries, and strawberry daiquiris (non-alcoholic for the wee ones.)  You don’t have to go far from the city to have a good old-fashioned fair experience.

June 1–June 4
Free admission; charges for rides
Bellmore Boces, 2351 Jerusalem Ave.
Online: nassaucountystrawberryfest.com


13th KidsFilmFest: Saturday June 3, 2017
The Brooklyn Film Festival organizes the kidsfilmfest, an annual event dedicated to kids.  Scheduling is in progress, so check out their line up and email them to reserve tickets.

1 p.m.
June 3
$15/Adult; Free/children 12 & under
30 John St.
Online: kidsfilmfest.org

photo: Anthony Collins   

Figment NYC
FIGMENT is a free, interactive arts event that celebrates creativity by encouraging audience participation in multiple kinds of media.  You’ll find the annual mini-golf course, art installations, performances and workshops to inspire and entertain your kiddos all over Governors Island.  Past FIGMENTs have included projects like a percussive workshop using found materials, a giant domino maze, scavenger hunts and improv comedy.  You’re sure to find surprises that your family will be talking about on the ferry home.

10 a.m.–5 p.m.
June 3 & 4
Free; but after 11:30 AM ferry costs $2/Adults; $1/Seniors; free/children under 13 and IDNYC holders
Governors Island

What festival favorites are on your calendar? Tell us in the comments below!

— Gretchen Kunz