Halloween in New York City is always a blast. Sure, it brings out the crazy in an already less-than-sedate city, but Halloween activities and NYC seem meant for each other. When I lived in New York City as a single gal, I loved the Village Halloween Parade (yes, in Greenwich Village; possibly the most Halloween-ish of NYC neighborhoods all year ’round). When I was a married-with-kids gal in NYC, I loved taking my children to amenable stores for trick-or-treating, hiring a sitter, and then going back down to the Village for the Halloween Parade. The Halloween Parade in Greenwich Village is crazy, festive and hilarious — my favorite Halloween event in New York City. There are a few other Halloween events and activities in NYC’s five boroughs, though. If the Halloween Parade is too intense for you, or if you want to round out your October month with Halloween-themed activities outside of the Village parade, here are some other fun events. These are even child-friendly, unlike late-night aspects of New York’s Village Halloween Parade.
Halloween Activities in New York City
- Kids’ Night on Broadway: Special Halloween Edition — On October 31, children between the ages of 6 and 18 can get free tickets to many Broadways shows (when with an adult). This great Halloween event for children includes trick-or-treating on Broadway and a pre-theater children’s costume party at Madame Tussauds. Having kids see a Broadway show for free is terrific. There are other annual Kids’ Night on Broadway events across the country, but NYC is really the best city in the US to see a Broadway show.
- Boo at the Zoo — Four New York City zoos participate in the Boo at the Zoo every year. The Central Park Zoo (another must-do activity when my kids go to NYC), Prospect Park Zoo, and the Queens Zoo change up the decor on October 30 and 31 each year and fill up the public areas with Halloween themed activities and games for children. The world famous Bronx Zoo really pulls out all the stops, though. Every weekend in October, from 11:00 AM to 5:00 PM, the Bronx Zoo devotes itself to Halloween with magic shows, live music, pumpkin carving, hayrides, hay mazes, and other “spooky” festivities.
- Halloween Hoorah — The New York Botanical Gardens, very close to the Bronx Zoo, also has a little Halloween fun. From October 9 to October 31, the New York Botanical Garden’s Halloween Hoorah features family friendly activities, musical performances and parades. There are also over 500 intricately carved pumpkins throughout; real artistry is evidenced in these pumpkins. There are a few jack-o-lanterns, yes, but also very good representations of Halloween icons like spiders, scarecrows, snakes, witches and more.
- 15th Annual Halloween Celebration — The American Museum of Natural History is one of my kids’ favorite stops on our regular visits to NYC. There’s just so much to see and do there! Only on Halloween itself, the museum hosts kids every year with arts and crafts stations, a few non-frightening costumed characters, and the freedom to search around the dinosaur exhibits for Halloween treats. This NYC Halloween event is especially popular with younger children.
- Steampunk Haunted House — This is at the Abrons Art Center in the Lower East Side. When I was a kid, the Lower east Side was nowhere you’d want to take your kids, but it’s really become a hopping, gentrified, fun place to hang out. The Abrons Art Center is part of the Henry Street Settlement, and always has a great selection of art exhibits and cultural events. The Steampunk Haunted House is actually a tour of the center, remade into a house of mechanical monsters, cyborgs, and science fiction types of machine-creatures. It’s interesting and a little creepy, just like Halloween.
- Halloween Magic Lantern Show — The Mount Vernon Hotel Museum & Garden has two shows, one at 6:30 and the other at 8:00 PM, on October 29th. It feels like something of a throwback to attend this event, though the audience of costumed, excited kids is undeniably modern. Parents tend to like to join in the sing-a-long songs with their children, and the scary stories told are good for all but the youngest of kids too. Images are projected using a “magic lantern,” which is an image projector used in the Victorian era.
- Halloween Haunted Walk & Carnival — Brooklyn is more popular with families now than ever, and Prospect Park’s Halloween Haunted Walk & Carnival gets a boisterous crowd. Even tourists to NYC should consider traveling out to Brooklyn — it’s easy — to check out this Halloween event. On October 30 from 12 noon to 3:00 PM, Prospect park plays host to a coven of witches, headless horsemen and the like, all hiding in plain sight on Lookout Hill. There are treats and games and a carnival on the meadow in the middle of the park as well.
- Halloween at the Ascarium — The New York Aquarium, in Coney Island (Brooklyn), changes its name to the Ascarium every weekend in October. The last two weekends also has live retellings of ghost stories, live music, crafts, treats, and magic shows. From 11:00 AM to 5:00 PM on October 23-24 and 30-31, the Ascarium’s Haunted Sea-Fari (ugh, so many puns, I know) highlight marine life and aquatic animal habitats. And why not? It’s a year-round aquarium, after all.
- Pick Your Own Pumpkin — The Queens County Farm Museum (in Queens, obviously) has a fairly large pumpkin picking field available every weekend in OCtober from 11:00 AM to 4:00 PM. Families can leave with their chosen pumpkins intact, and carve them at home. The Queens County Farm Museum is NYC’s largest remaining tract of farmland; it really doesn’t feel like it’s part of NYC, but it is. The farm animals, herb garden and orchard, and historic farm buildings (circa 1697) make the museum a fun and interesting travel destination in and of itself. On October 30 and 31, there is also a Halloween Haunted House here.
There is no shortage of Halloween activities in New York City. From free Broadway shows for kids to the simple joys of picking pumpkins, there is a Halloween activity for any family living in or traveling to NYC in October. And of course, don’t forget about the super fun Village Halloween Parade! Since I’ll be missing it this year, I’d really love to see photos of it from any of our readers in New York City.