It’s a busy weekend in the boroughs! Festivals, fairs, and more festivals are happening all over town – and many of them are free.
From the Medieval Festival in Washington Heights, to the Book Festival in Brooklyn, there’s almost too much to choose from. If the past two years of the pandemic have dulled your love of the Big Apple, this weekend just might rekindle it.
Here’s a compilation of IRL events to help you plan your weekend. And if you do venture out, grab your raincoat – it’s likely to rain Saturday and Sunday.
Go medieval in Washington Heights
Grab your daggers, tunics, wimples – whatever makes you party like it’s 1499 – and head to Fort Tryon Park for the Medieval Festival, an annual tradition dating back to 1982. It took a two-year pandemic hiatus, but it’s back with gusto. This year’s programming includes jugglers, jesters, and live music. Don’t miss the live joust between knights on horseback. (You read that right: a live joust in the middle of New York City.) It’s free to attend and costumed performers will sell food, drinks, and crafts. One tip: Come with cash, because the park doesn’t have any ATMs. Stop by Sunday, Oct. 2, from 11:30 a.m. to 6:00 p.m. If you’re driving, note that the Henry Hudson Parkway Fort Tryon Park exit will be closed during the festival. Organizers say the event will occur rain or shine, unless there’s thunder and lightning.
See film festival darlings at Lincoln Center
The New York Film Festival opens Friday at Lincoln Center, and there’s a lot to take in this year, including a handful of screenings at the Museum of the Moving Image in Astoria. Admittedly, there’s a low chance of scoring some of the festival’s hottest tickets – good luck getting into Noah Baumbach’s adaptation of Don DeLillo’s “White Noise,” for example. But you’ll still have plenty of opportunities to catch wildly diverse films as Claire Denis’s “Stars at Noon,” or Jafar Panahi’s “No Bears.” And, as of this writing, tickets are still available for this weekend’s world premiere of “Till,” Chinonye Chukwu’s film biography of Emmett Till and his mother, Mamie Till-Mobley. The festival runs through Oct. 16; find out about free talks and tickets here.
Get lit at the Brooklyn Book Festival
Do you love books, book readings, or book talks? If so, this is your jam. “Festival Day” is packed with panels and readings for every kind of fan. A New York Times bestselling author leads a panel explaining why TikTok drives book sales. WNYC’s Alison Stewart will interview Gary Shteyngart about his “pandemic privilege” novel "Our Country Friends" and discuss whether or not it’s “too soon to laugh.” Programming starts Sunday, Oct. 2, at 10 a.m. and lasts throughout the day, with most events taking place in Downtown Brooklyn. You can find the lineup, full calendar, and more here.
Head to an art party at the Queens Museum
If you like art that poses provocative questions, then the Queens Museum in Flushing Meadows-Corona Park has the show for you: “Crisis Makes a Book Club.” The exhibition features work by Xaviera Simmons, a native New Yorker who employs photography, video, painting, sound art, and more to confront heated issues like white supremacy and wealth stratification. There’s an opening reception for this show and another new opening, featuring art by Charisse Pearlina Weston, this Sunday from 1 p.m. to 5 p.m., including family art-making workshops and food vendors from the Queens Night Market. Book your free ticket to the museum here.
Learn to tap dance on Governors Island
If you love tap dancing, or have always wanted to try, you’re in luck. Professional dancers Megan Huangs and Toes Tiranoff will host two tap dancing classes in Nolan Park on Governors Island. Organizers say you don’t need shoes or skills to partake. They invite you to come and “make some noise” while tapping, clapping, and stepping to music honoring the late saxophonist Pharoah Sanders. The event starts Sunday, Oct. 2 at 12:30 p.m. (Don’t forget to check the ferry schedule before you go.)
Pick a pumpkin – or chuck it – in Staten Island
Ok, this one costs money – but you do get to take home a gourd. Head to historic Decker Farm in Staten Island, an 11-acre sprawl of fields that’s also a working farm. Come for the pumpkins, stay for the hayride and the Instagram photo ops. Tickets are $9 for adults, $4 for kids ages 6-11, if you buy online in advance. (You’ll pay more at the door.) Pumpkins cost extra and they’re sold by weight. If you want to toss your pumpkin, it’s an extra $5 for chucks. It all happens rain or shine, Saturday and Sunday, from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m.
Get lost in a corn maze in Queens
The Queens County Farm Museum invites you to maze your way through this living labyrinth, aka the Amazing Maize Maze. Start your journey with a “stalk talk,” where you’ll get tips and clues on how to get out. It’s open Saturday and Sunday from 11 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Tickets are $12 for adults, and $8 for kids ages 4-11. Children 3 and under can attend for free.
Check out a kids’ version of "Twelfth Night"
In this retelling of Shakespeare’s classic comedy of mistaken identity, Violet is a lioness separated from her twin brother at sea. She has to make her way among a world of peacocks, giraffes, and aardvarks. It’s called “Lions in Illyria'' – and it’s showing at the Staten Island Museum at Snug Harbor on Saturday, Oct. 1 at 11 a.m. The play is approximately an hour long and is designed to be sensory-friendly. Tickets are free, and donations are welcome.
Go birding – even if you have no idea where to start
Saturday at 10 a.m., the Prospect Park Audubon Center in Brooklyn offers an introductory bird-watching outing. You’ll take a walk in the park and learn the basics of spotting local birds. Who knows what can happen? Maybe you’ll spot a mallard or a tufted titmouse! Bring binoculars if you have them and comfy walking shoes – you could walk up to 2 miles. Kids under 12 are welcome, and must be accompanied by an adult.
Celebrate International Raccoon Appreciation Day
Did you know that raccoons can make over 50 noises, or that they don’t have life partners? If you do, then you surely know that Saturday, Oct. 1 is International Raccoon Appreciation Day. To mark the occasion, urban park rangers at Travers Park in Queens will discuss “all things raccoon” at this free event on Saturday, starting at 10 a.m. Little ones can make a racoon-themed craft.
Say buongiorno to bocce
Hop to the courts – or rather, the "campi" – and enjoy some bocce at the NYC Parks Bocce Citywide Championship Tournament on Sunday. Winners of September’s borough tournaments will compete to see who’s the best in the city. The competition takes place at Midland Beach Splash Plaza in Franklin D. Roosevelt Boardwalk and Beach in Staten Island from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.