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A sandy beach. There are lots of people on the beach, and a colorful beach umbrella.
Orchard Beach in the Bronx.
Max Touhey

Best things to do in NYC over Labor Day weekend

From beach days to big parades, here’s how to spend the weekend—if you’re staying in town, that is

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Orchard Beach in the Bronx.
| Max Touhey

Many New Yorkers will be getting out of town this weekend—taking day trips, or finding quaint little hotels upstate for a quick getaway—but for those who are planning to stay in the five boroughs, there will be plenty of things to do.

Don’t believe us? Check out the list below, which is full of terrific ways to spend the holiday weekend. To wit: Now’s the time to take advantage of outdoor activities, since beaches and outdoor pools will close soon. Governors Island, one of New York’s best seasonal destinations, will be open late this Friday; there are fireworks happening at Coney Island; and the list goes on.

So don’t get jealous of your friends Instagramming their adventures upstate; instead, have your own fun-filled weekend in NYC.

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1. Hang out on Governors Island

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Governors Island
New York, NY 11231

Expect a jam-packed weekend on Governors Island: It’ll have extended hours on Friday (with the last ferry back to Manhattan leaving at 10 p.m.), and the NYC Unicycle Festival—yes, a celebration of unicycles—taking the island over on Saturday and Sunday. It’s also open on Labor Day, if you’re looking for a place to have a picnic with friends.

An island with historic buildings and trees sits in the middle of a large body of water. A sailboat with white sails can be seen in front of it.
Governors Island.
Max Touhey

2. Learn about New York City’s labor history

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Washington Square N
New York, NY 10012
(212) 639-9675
Visit Website

Big Onion Walking Tours will lead its semi-regular journey through Lower Manhattan, tracing the origins of the labor movement in New York City—it is the reason for the holiday, after all. Though the full itinerary is kept under wraps, locations that may come up include NYU’s Brown Building—the site of the devastating Triangle Shirtwaist Fire—and Cooper Union’s iconic Great Hall. The tour happens on Monday, September 2 at 1 p.m.

A historic brick building in the middle of a city. There are trees in front of the building, and cars driving on a road past it.
Cooper Union’s Great Hall.
Max Touhey

3. Celebrate Manhattan’s “Little Brazil”

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Little Brazil
New York, NY 10036

Manhattan’s 46th Street between Sixth and Seventh avenues is known as “Little Brazil,” thanks to the abundance of Brazilian businesses—restaurants, salons, mom-and-pop shops, and more—that once clustered on that block. While most of the businesses are gone, the identity remains; and on Sunday, September 1, the block is the epicenter of Brazilian Day, an annual festival to celebrate that country’s Independence Day. Expect live performances, dancing, and plenty of food.

4. Take a dip in one of NYC’s pools

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Tiffany St
The Bronx, NY 10474
(718) 430-4601
Visit Website

Take advantage of NYC’s free outdoor pools while you can; they’ll close up for the season on September 8. There are dozens throughout the five boroughs, but the Floating Pool Lady in the Bronx is a perennial fave, thanks to its quirky design—it’s the only city pool perched atop a floating barge.

5. Get in a workout at Socrates Sculpture Park

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32-01 Vernon Blvd
Long Island City, NY 11106
(718) 956-1819
Visit Website

This weekend is a busy one at the Queens sculpture park: On Saturday, there’s a a farmer’s market, a performance by Circus Amok, and free yoga lessons. On Sunday, you can try tai chi or yoga, or go kayaking in Hallett’s Cove. Whatever you decide to do, don’t forget to check out School Studio’s installation Objects In Mirror Are Closer Than They Appear beforehand.

6. Dance inside of an urban jungle at MoMA PS1

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22-25 Jackson Ave
Long Island City, NY 11101
(718) 784-2084
Visit Website

MoMA PS1’s Young Architects Program exhibition wraps up on September 2—after that, the hammocks and urban jungle created by Hórama Rama by Pedro & Juana will come down. See them for yourself during the museum’s final Warm Up party of the summer, with Annie Mac, FLOORPLAN, and Inner Wave among the mixmasters who’ll be spinning that afternoon.

7. Hitch a ride to Rockaway Beach

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Rockaway Beach
Queens, NY

Or any New York City beach, really; they’re only open for another week. The Rockaways are always a good bet, thanks to its abundance of sand—the whole thing finally reopened this year—and the abundance of food options on the Boardwalk. Or head to Jacob Riis Park, which is gaining on its neighbor in popularity; the Riis Park Beach Bazaar will have events happening all weekend.

In the foreground is a sandy beach. There are people laying and standing on the sand. Shutterstock

8. Go for a long walk

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Montague St &, Pierrepont Pl
Brooklyn, NY 11201
(212) 639-9675
Visit Website

The weather this weekend is supposed to be quite nice, with highs in the upper 70s and sunny skies. Take advantage by going for a long walk—the sort that’s only possible when it’s mild enough outside that you don’t need to wear anything more than a light jacket (if even that). We like the Brooklyn Heights Promenade, which connects you to Dumbo at its northern end, or Brooklyn Bridge Park at other points. From there, you can stroll the waterfront down to Red Hook.

9. Bring the kids to Prospect Park

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(718) 965-8951
Visit Website

There are a bunch of kid-friendly activities happening on Labor Day proper, including nature programs at the Audubon Center, carousel rides, and a Caribbean-themed storytelling event at the Lefferts Historic House. Once you’re done with that, check out some of the park’s lesser-known corners.

A historic building with arched windows, a white facade, and a red roof sits beside a lake. There are trees around the lake and a blue sky with clouds overhead.
The Boathouse and Audubon Center at Prospect Park.
Shutterstock

10. Join the festivities at the West Indian American Day Carnival

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Eastern Pkwy
Brooklyn, NY

New York City’s annual West Indian American Day Carnival, held on Labor Day, will head to Crown Heights in Brooklyn once again for a day of festivities that celebrates the history, culture, music, food, and people from myriad Caribbean countries. Each year, the parade attracts more than a million people, making it one of the, if not the largest Caribbean celebrations in the country. Find everything you need to know about the event here.

Brooklyn celebrates the 49th West Indian American Day... Photo by Corazon Aguirre/Pacific Press/LightRocket via Getty Images

11. See the fireworks over Coney Island

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3059 W 12th St
Brooklyn, NY 11224
(718) 372-2592
Visit Website

The last hurrah for Coney Island’s summer-long fireworks displays is this Friday, so make a day of it: Grab a hot dog at Nathan’s, saunter the boardwalk, and after a couple of rides on the Wonder Wheel, stare up in awe as the pyrotechnics go off over the beach. (Can’t make it on Friday? The Coney Island Museum is open from noon to 6 p.m. on Saturday, and from 2 p.m. to 6 p.m. on Sunday.)

An amusement park with a carousel, Ferris wheel, and other rides, with fireworks going off overhead.
Fireworks over Coney Island.
Shutterstock

12. Head to a quaint county fair

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441 Clarke Ave
Staten Island, NY 10306
(718) 351-1611
Visit Website

Every year, Historic Richmond Town on Staten Island hosts the Richmond County Fair, an end-of-summer celebration with live music, carnival games, amusement rides, and more. This year’s festivities, which happen from Saturday to Monday, include a beer garden serving local brews and an art crawl featuring a barn raising (yes, really).

1. Hang out on Governors Island

Governors Island, New York, NY 11231
An island with historic buildings and trees sits in the middle of a large body of water. A sailboat with white sails can be seen in front of it.
Governors Island.
Max Touhey

Expect a jam-packed weekend on Governors Island: It’ll have extended hours on Friday (with the last ferry back to Manhattan leaving at 10 p.m.), and the NYC Unicycle Festival—yes, a celebration of unicycles—taking the island over on Saturday and Sunday. It’s also open on Labor Day, if you’re looking for a place to have a picnic with friends.

Governors Island
New York, NY 11231

2. Learn about New York City’s labor history

Washington Square N, New York, NY 10012
A historic brick building in the middle of a city. There are trees in front of the building, and cars driving on a road past it.
Cooper Union’s Great Hall.
Max Touhey

Big Onion Walking Tours will lead its semi-regular journey through Lower Manhattan, tracing the origins of the labor movement in New York City—it is the reason for the holiday, after all. Though the full itinerary is kept under wraps, locations that may come up include NYU’s Brown Building—the site of the devastating Triangle Shirtwaist Fire—and Cooper Union’s iconic Great Hall. The tour happens on Monday, September 2 at 1 p.m.

Washington Square N
New York, NY 10012

3. Celebrate Manhattan’s “Little Brazil”

Little Brazil, New York, NY 10036

Manhattan’s 46th Street between Sixth and Seventh avenues is known as “Little Brazil,” thanks to the abundance of Brazilian businesses—restaurants, salons, mom-and-pop shops, and more—that once clustered on that block. While most of the businesses are gone, the identity remains; and on Sunday, September 1, the block is the epicenter of Brazilian Day, an annual festival to celebrate that country’s Independence Day. Expect live performances, dancing, and plenty of food.

Little Brazil
New York, NY 10036

4. Take a dip in one of NYC’s pools

Tiffany St, The Bronx, NY 10474

Take advantage of NYC’s free outdoor pools while you can; they’ll close up for the season on September 8. There are dozens throughout the five boroughs, but the Floating Pool Lady in the Bronx is a perennial fave, thanks to its quirky design—it’s the only city pool perched atop a floating barge.

Tiffany St
The Bronx, NY 10474

5. Get in a workout at Socrates Sculpture Park

32-01 Vernon Blvd, Long Island City, NY 11106

This weekend is a busy one at the Queens sculpture park: On Saturday, there’s a a farmer’s market, a performance by Circus Amok, and free yoga lessons. On Sunday, you can try tai chi or yoga, or go kayaking in Hallett’s Cove. Whatever you decide to do, don’t forget to check out School Studio’s installation Objects In Mirror Are Closer Than They Appear beforehand.

32-01 Vernon Blvd
Long Island City, NY 11106

6. Dance inside of an urban jungle at MoMA PS1

22-25 Jackson Ave, Long Island City, NY 11101

MoMA PS1’s Young Architects Program exhibition wraps up on September 2—after that, the hammocks and urban jungle created by Hórama Rama by Pedro & Juana will come down. See them for yourself during the museum’s final Warm Up party of the summer, with Annie Mac, FLOORPLAN, and Inner Wave among the mixmasters who’ll be spinning that afternoon.

22-25 Jackson Ave
Long Island City, NY 11101

7. Hitch a ride to Rockaway Beach

Rockaway Beach, Queens, NY
In the foreground is a sandy beach. There are people laying and standing on the sand. Shutterstock

Or any New York City beach, really; they’re only open for another week. The Rockaways are always a good bet, thanks to its abundance of sand—the whole thing finally reopened this year—and the abundance of food options on the Boardwalk. Or head to Jacob Riis Park, which is gaining on its neighbor in popularity; the Riis Park Beach Bazaar will have events happening all weekend.

Rockaway Beach
Queens, NY

8. Go for a long walk

Montague St &, Pierrepont Pl, Brooklyn, NY 11201

The weather this weekend is supposed to be quite nice, with highs in the upper 70s and sunny skies. Take advantage by going for a long walk—the sort that’s only possible when it’s mild enough outside that you don’t need to wear anything more than a light jacket (if even that). We like the Brooklyn Heights Promenade, which connects you to Dumbo at its northern end, or Brooklyn Bridge Park at other points. From there, you can stroll the waterfront down to Red Hook.

Montague St &, Pierrepont Pl
Brooklyn, NY 11201

9. Bring the kids to Prospect Park

Brooklyn, NY 11225
A historic building with arched windows, a white facade, and a red roof sits beside a lake. There are trees around the lake and a blue sky with clouds overhead.
The Boathouse and Audubon Center at Prospect Park.
Shutterstock

There are a bunch of kid-friendly activities happening on Labor Day proper, including nature programs at the Audubon Center, carousel rides, and a Caribbean-themed storytelling event at the Lefferts Historic House. Once you’re done with that, check out some of the park’s lesser-known corners.

10. Join the festivities at the West Indian American Day Carnival

Eastern Pkwy, Brooklyn, NY
Brooklyn celebrates the 49th West Indian American Day... Photo by Corazon Aguirre/Pacific Press/LightRocket via Getty Images

New York City’s annual West Indian American Day Carnival, held on Labor Day, will head to Crown Heights in Brooklyn once again for a day of festivities that celebrates the history, culture, music, food, and people from myriad Caribbean countries. Each year, the parade attracts more than a million people, making it one of the, if not the largest Caribbean celebrations in the country. Find everything you need to know about the event here.

Eastern Pkwy
Brooklyn, NY

11. See the fireworks over Coney Island

3059 W 12th St, Brooklyn, NY 11224
An amusement park with a carousel, Ferris wheel, and other rides, with fireworks going off overhead.
Fireworks over Coney Island.
Shutterstock

The last hurrah for Coney Island’s summer-long fireworks displays is this Friday, so make a day of it: Grab a hot dog at Nathan’s, saunter the boardwalk, and after a couple of rides on the Wonder Wheel, stare up in awe as the pyrotechnics go off over the beach. (Can’t make it on Friday? The Coney Island Museum is open from noon to 6 p.m. on Saturday, and from 2 p.m. to 6 p.m. on Sunday.)

3059 W 12th St
Brooklyn, NY 11224

12. Head to a quaint county fair

441 Clarke Ave, Staten Island, NY 10306

Every year, Historic Richmond Town on Staten Island hosts the Richmond County Fair, an end-of-summer celebration with live music, carnival games, amusement rides, and more. This year’s festivities, which happen from Saturday to Monday, include a beer garden serving local brews and an art crawl featuring a barn raising (yes, really).

441 Clarke Ave
Staten Island, NY 10306