Guide to Labor Day Weekend in New York City: Festivals, Events, Things to Do

Street in Downtown Manhattan with One World Trade Center in the center, New York, USA
Alexander Spatari / Getty Images

New York City knows how to celebrate Labor Day. There is something for everybody: art, music, parades, opera, boating, Broadway shows, beer! It's the unofficial end of summer, so everyone is outside enjoying the sunshine before it's time for school and work to heat up. You are sure to have a good time if you're in New York City for Labor Day. Just make sure to plan ahead as it can get extremely busy with tourists taking advantage of the extra day off work.

01 of 11

Float Your Boat

New York City water taxi on the East River, with the skyline of Lower Manhattan in the backgroud
Busà Photography / Getty Images
62 Chelsea Piers, Pier 62, New York, NY 10011, USA
Phone +1 212-627-1825

Let go of your landlubbing ways while the summer sun's still on your side and hit the water. Nothing beats floating a sailboat into the New York Harbor, so head out on one of the sail-powered schooners of Classic Harbor Line at Chelsea Piers.

After you've learned the ropes and built up a sailor's appetite, tuck into some oysters at Tribeca's Grand Banks, a docked schooner boat. If lobster's more your speed, hit up a free mini-cruise with the North River Lobster Company at Pier 81 on 41st Street.

Another great option is to buy tickets to spend the day on the Honorable William Wall, the Manhattan Yacht Club's floating clubhouse in the middle of the Hudson River. You can buy drinks on board, but bring your own food to enjoy. You might see even sailboats racing around you.

02 of 11

Nab 2-for-1 Broadway Tickets

Times Square, New York City

Kevin Poh / Flickr  / CC BY 2.0

All Broadway shows in New York City are canceled through January 3, 2021.

The popular biannual Broadway Week ticket promotion runs for two weeks in September and always begins the week following Labor Day weekend. While most Broadway theaters are dark on Mondays, you can still nab two-for-one ticket deals for Labor Day performances of some of the most popular shows.

03 of 11

Listen to Opera Under the Stars

Crowd in Lincon Center Plaza for outdoor event

The Metropolitan Opera

Lincoln Center Plaza, New York, NY 10023, USA

The Metropolitan Opera's Summer HD Festival is canceled in 2020.

Pull up a chair in Lincoln Center Plaza for the Metropolitan Opera's free ​Summer HD Festival for screenings of opera productions every night from August 23, 2019, through Labor Day. The plaza comes outfitted with more than 3,000 seats, but you'll need to show up early to secure one. Summer HD Festival screenings will go on as scheduled in the case of rain but will be canceled in the event of thunder, lightning, or high wind. Most screenings start at 8 p.m.

04 of 11

Work on Your Tan at Jacob Riis Beach

Jacob Riis Park beach

Padraic / Flickr / CC BY-SA 2.0

Jacob Riis Beach is a hotspot all summer long, but the hip scene truly heats up over Labor Day weekend when there are live musicians and cool crowds. The boardwalk is loaded with vendors selling everything from food to vintage clothing, and there are plenty of picnic tables for hanging out and enjoying the sun and surf. Music kicks off at noon at the Riis Boathouse Pavilion. There are also special events including a lobster sunset bash.

If you're going by car, parking at the beach lot costs $10. The beach is open to the public in 2020 but admittance is limited to 50% capacity. The typical festivities, beach DJs, and karaoke parties for Labor Day won't be taking place, but the Beach Bazaar that Jacob Riis is famous for—with its frozen cocktails, lobster rolls, and other gourmet concessions—is open for business in summer 2020.

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05 of 11

Get Your Art Fix in Washington Square Park

Washington Square Park

TripSavvy / Donghee Eim

One Stuyvesant Oval, New York, NY 10009, USA
Phone +1 212-982-6255

The Washington Square Outdoor Art Exhibit is canceled in 2020 and the fall show for 2021 returns September 4–6 and 11–12.

The Washington Square Outdoor Art Exhibit happens twice every year, and the fall show is during Labor Day Weekend. NYC-area artists and artisans set up shop around the Washington Square Park area to show off their goods and chat with people walking by. Swing by to browse or buy contemporary paintings, ceramics, jewelry, and more.

06 of 11

Attend Carnival in Brooklyn

West Indian American Day Parade In Brooklyn Celebrates Caribbean Carnival

Yana Paskova / Getty Images

The Labor Day Carnival Parade is canceled in 2020. Some to-be-determined events will be held virtually, so check the official West Indian American Day website for the latest updates.

Celebrate Caribbean culture and history at the lively New York Labor Day Carnival Parade, known to locals as the West Indian Parade. This huge event attracts millions of people from all over the world. You'll see dancers in colorful costumes, hear reggae and calypso music, and get to try authentic snacks. The parade takes place on Eastern Parkway in Brooklyn on Labor Day. Festivities begin at 11 a.m. and end around 6 p.m.

07 of 11

Dance at the Electric Zoo

Electric Zoo NYC music festival

Electric Zoo

20 Randalls Island Park, New York, NY 10035, USA
Phone +1 212-830-7722

The Electric Zoo festival is canceled in 2020.

Electric Zoo is an electronic dance music festival that brings top acts and 150,000 fans to Randall’s Island Park Friday through Sunday of Labor Day weekend. This festival first started bringing the island to life with trance, bass, techno, and classic house in 2009 and has hopped around the world to Brazil, Japan, Mexico, and China.

08 of 11

Watch Champions Hit the Tennis Court

National Tennis Center in Flushing

Maxian / Getty Images

The 2020 U.S. Open will be played but without fans on-site. You can view it on television or live stream it from the U.S. Open website.

The U.S. Open is one Labor Day weekend mainstay that draws in both locals and visitors from around the world. It starts every year on the last Monday of August and runs through early September at the USTA Billie Jean King National Tennis Center in Queens' Flushing Meadows­–Corona Park neighborhood, where you can watch the world's best serve up their "A" game.

The 2020 tournament runs from August 31 to September 13. Tickets for individual games or grounds passes are usually available through Ticketmaster or on-site at the National Tennis Center, but the 2020 U.S. Open is exclusively available to watch online or on television.

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09 of 11

Go For a Swim

Astoria Park pool

 Barry Winiker / Getty Images

The city's public pools close for the season on September 7, 2020, making Labor Day weekend a great last opportunity to take a dip. The city has more than 50 outdoor pools, all of which are free and open to the public. The Astoria Park Pool in Queens is among the best, offering fantastic views of the Manhattan skyline from the pool deck. Make sure to bring a lock which is required for lockers and entry. Outdoor pool hours are 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. daily, with a short break from 3–4 p.m. when the pools are closed for cleaning.

Not all pools are open for the 2020 season and special guidelines are in place to keep visitors healthy. Face masks are required when entering the facility, in the locker rooms, and on the pool deck, but not while swimming.

The pools that are open in 2020 are:

  • Open July 24: Bronx: Mullaly Pool; Brooklyn: Kosciuszko Pool, Sunset Pool; Manhattan: Wagner Pool; Queens: Liberty Pool, Fisher Pool; Staten Island: Lyons Pool, Tottenville Pool
  • Open August 1: Bronx: Crotona Pool, Haffen Pool; Brooklyn: Betsy Head Pool; Manhattan: Jackie Robinson Pool, Marcus Garvey Pool; Queens: Astoria Park Pool
10 of 11

Go Kayaking on the Hudson River

New York Telescope Over Hudson River

James D. Morgan / Getty Images

The summer 2020 kayak season is suspended until further notice.

Late summer is a perfect time to take out a kayak on the Hudson River. The free program put on by the Downtown Boathouse usually runs through early October, but with many locals away, Labor Day is a quieter time to try it out. There is free kayaking available in multiple locations across the city including three spots in Hudson River Park (Pier 96, Pier 84, and Pier 26).

11 of 11

Check Out a Quirky Festival

Governors Island

Jerry Trudell the Skys the Limit / Getty Images

New York City hosts one particularly unique festival over Labor Day weekend: a unicycle festival. The event will take place from September 3–6, 2020, and features performers, lessons, unicycle hockey, unicycle basketball, and various workshops. Many events take place on Governors Island, a short ferry ride from lower Manhattan. There are also long-distance races that take place from Battery Park to Central Park and Brooklyn Bridge to Coney Island.

The 11th Annual Unicycle Festival is scheduled to take place in 2020, but with reduced festivities. Many of the signature events that require close contact—such as unicycle hockey and basketball—will not take place. Instead, the focus will be on long-distance unicycle races.

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Guide to Labor Day Weekend in New York City: Festivals, Events, Things to Do