TOP FIVE: best things to do on Columbus Day Weekend in New York City

By Camila Viegas-Lee

I love holidays in the city. The stressed-out New Yorkers tend to travel upstate and the streets become calmer and joyful. Even the cab drivers seem to be in a better mood and drive slower. The fall brings a romantic, invigorating chill in the air. Here are my five recommendations for a playful, off the beaten track holiday in the city:

Park Avenue Armory Carnival

The Park Avenue Armory hosts a fantastic carnival anchored by an impressive 50-foot ferris wheel. Go for rides, performances in a specially-designed theater, magicians from the Bindlestiff Family Cirkus (no typo—that’s how the Germans spell it), stilt-walkers, jugglers and contortionists, traditional carnival concessions and a lesson in the "circus arts" (feel like twisting yourself into a pretzel?). Park Avenue Armory, 643 Park Ave. Through Monday Oct. 11, from 11:00 AM - 7:00 PM. General Admission is $5 for adults (14 and up) and free for kids. Rides and games are $1.25 per ticket (each ride or game requires 3-5 tickets). $20 unlimited ride wristband also available.


This is one of my favorite activities in the city—you get to walk through buildings and structures all over New York City that are normally closed or hidden to the public. Many of these are real hidden treasures. This is the largest architecture and design event in the US and it includes talks, tours, performances and workshops - all free of charge! Check their website for a full listing of places, but here is just a tantalizing sample:

Central Park's Arsenal, the Federal Hall National Memorial, the Residences at 36 Gramercy Park East (the apartment building with the knights in shining armor stationed in front), the Mount Vernon Hotel Museum & Garden, Marble Cemetery, the 69th Regiment Armory, the Salmagundi Club, Frederick P. Rose Hall, the Center for Architecture, the Islamic Cultural Center, and the American Irish Historical Society. Some workshops and tours require advance registration, so do check the official website for details.

Randall's Island Golf & Sports Center Fall Festival

The Fall Festival, held only one weekend every year, is worth a day trip to Randall's Island. If you think you’re too grown up for a pumpkin patch, pony rides, hay rides, haunted mini golf, batting cages, gags, a pumpkin and craft station, carnival games, Halloween puppet shows, at least you can eat from carnival food concessions selling popcorn, pretzels, cookies, cupcakes, caramel apples, jelly apples, a variety of old fashioned pies, apple cider, hot chocolate, pizza, chicken fingers, hamburgers, and hot dogs… I have a thing for carnival as you can tell. Randall's Island Golf Center. Take a shuttle bus ($11 round trip) departing from various stops along 3rd Avenue or take the M35 bus from 125th St. & Lexington Ave. Through Sunday, October 10, 10:00 AM - 5:00 PM. $9 per person.

Boo at the Zoo

The Bronx Zoo organizes "spooktacular" activities inspired by Halloween every weekend until the end of the month. There are hay mazes, hayrides, pumpkin carving demonstrations, puppet shows, animal-themed magic shows and live music. Don’t miss the six tiger mountain cubs that were just born – three from Malayan tiger family and three from the Siberian tiger branch. Bronx Zoo, 2300 Southern Blvd. The best ride from Manhattan is via the BxM11 express bus, which makes stops along Madison Avenue between 26th and 99th Streets. Through Sunday, October 10, from 10:00 AM - 5:30 PM.

New York Comic Con

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