12 Best Things to Do for Labor Day Weekend in New York City

Summer in the city is chockfull of activities over Labor Day weekend. There's a little bit of everything to suit the tastes of many: arts, music, parades, beer, opera, boating, and Broadway shows. Just make sure to plan ahead as it can get extremely busy with tourists taking advantage of the extra day off work.

01 of 12

Float Your Boat

Statue of Liberty

Classic Harbor Line/Pim Van Hemmen

62 Chelsea Piers Pier 62, New York, NY 10011, USA
+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.

You can check out the Great North River Tugboat Race Competition that begins with a tug parade and ends in contests and awards at Pier 84, near 44th Street and the Hudson River. The event is free to watch from Pier 84, or you can buy tickets to board the Circle Line spectator boat leaving Pier 83 at 9:30 a.m. that follows the racing boats.

02 of 12

Nab 2-for-1 Broadway Tickets

NYC Broadway Week

NYC & Company

The popular biannual Broadway Week ticket promotion runs for two weeks in September, kicking off on Labor Day. 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. Tickets go on sale on August 18.

03 of 12

Listen to Opera Under the Stars

the Met Opera

Metropolitan Opera/Richard Termine

Lincoln Center Plaza, New York, NY 10023, USA

Pull up a chair in Lincoln Center Plaza for the Metropolitan Opera's free ​Summer HD Festival for screenings of opera productions every night beginning 10 days before the lead up to 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 12

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.

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05 of 12

Get Your Art Fix in Washington Square Park

Washington Square Park
Christopher Postlewaite / NYC & Company
One Stuyvesant Oval, New York, NY 10009, USA
+1 212-982-6255

The twice-a-year Washington Square Outdoor Art Exhibit happens every Labor Day weekend (and Memorial Day weekend), showcasing works by NYC-area artists and artisans around the Washington Square Park area. Swing by to browse or buy contemporary paintings, ceramics, jewelry, and more.

06 of 12

Attend Carnival in Brooklyn

West Indian American Day Parade In Brooklyn Celebrates Caribbean Carnival

Getty Images/Yana Paskova 

Celebrate Caribbean culture and history at the lively New York Caribbean Carnival Parade, which has dancers in colorful costumes, reggae, and calypso music on Eastern Parkway in Brooklyn with Caribbean food and craft vendors on Labor Day from 11 a.m. to 6 p.m.

07 of 12

Dance at the Electric Zoo

Electric Zoo nyc music festival

Electric Zoo

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

Electric Zoo is an electronic dance music festival that brings top acts and 150,000 fans to Randall’s Island Park each 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 12

Watch Champions Hit the Tennis Court

National Tennis Center

Maxian/Getty Images

The U.S. Open is one Labor Day weekend mainstay that draws in both locals and visitors from around the world. If you're at all interested in tennis, head to the National Tennis Center in Queens' Flushing Meadows­–Corona Park neighborhood, where you can watch the world's best serve up their "A" game. The tournament usually runs from the end of August through the second week of September. Tickets are available through Ticketmaster or on-site at the USTA Billie Jean King National Tennis Center in Flushing Meadows.

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09 of 12

Hang Out in a Brooklyn Backyard

Bushwick Street Art

E. Freudenheim

Bushwick hotspot Nowadays hosts an annual Labor Day barbecue from noon until midnight. The event is free to enter, with food and drinks for purchase. Nowadays usually partners with local breweries, making this a great way to try new beers. You can also play bocce or listen to live music.

10 of 12

Go For a Swim

Astoria Park pool

Barry Winiker/Getty Images

The city's public pools close for the season on September 9, making Labor Day weekend a great last opportunity to take a dip. The city has more 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's skyline from the pool deck. Make sure to bring a lock which is required for lockers and entry.

11 of 12

Go Kayaking on the Hudson River

New York Telescope Over Hudson River

James D. Morgan/Getty Images

Late summer is a perfect time to take out a kayak on the Hudson River. The free program usually runs through early October and is part of a partnership with the Downtown Boathouse. You can take a kayak out on the water for 20 minutes between 9 a.m. and 4:30 p.m.

12 of 12

Check out a Quirky Festival

Governors Island

Jerry Trudell the Skys the Limit/Getty Images

Entering its 10th year in 2019, New York City hosts one particularly unique festival over Labor Day weekend: a unicycle festival. The event features performers, lessons, unicycle hockey and basketball, and various workshops. Most events take place on Governors Island, a short ferry ride from lower Manhattan.

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12 Fun Things to Do for Labor Day Weekend in New York City