9 best free things to do in NYC area this weekend, from Native American celebration to Diwali in NJ

9 best free things to do in NYC area this weekend, from Native American celebration to Diwali in NJ

If last weekend’s rain left you longing for dry days, you’re in luck. This weekend’s forecast is mostly sunny and cool, with highs in the 50s and low 60s across the five boroughs.

And for many folks in New York City, it’s a holiday weekend.

But what, exactly, is that holiday? Last year, the federal government and the state of New York proclaimed the second Monday of October Indigenous Peoples’ Day. Federal employees get the day off for Columbus Day.

Public school children in New York City are home Monday to mark “Italian Heritage Day/Indigenous Peoples’ Day” – the education department nixed Columbus Day last year. The TL;DR: cities and states across the country are handling this day differently.

Here’s a guide to help you plan your weekend, with fun activities indoors and out.

Honor Indigenous Peoples’ Day at Randall’s Island

The eighth annual Indigenous Peoples’ Day New York City celebration will take place on Randall’s Island. It’s a two-day event, featuring music, speakers, storytellers, and a sunrise ceremony by the East River.

“Despite Columbus and colonization and genocide, Indigenous people are still here, and that’s really what the message of the day is,” said co-founder Cliff Matias, cultural director at Redhawk Indigenous Arts Council.

The event is free and open to the public, and you can learn more and register to camp overnight here. It runs Sunday, Oct. 9, from 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. and Monday, Oct. 10, from sunrise to 2 p.m.

Get artsy at Artmaggedon

This year’s Artmaggedon will unite more than 100 Brooklyn-based artists and musicians in locations across Ditmas Park. It’s sponsored by Beautiful Brooklyn, a nonprofit organization dedicated to the arts and “ecological restoration” in Brooklyn. Tickets are free; RSVPs and donations are encouraged. It starts Sunday, Oct. 9 at noon, with a closing concert by NYAVI from 6 to 8 p.m.

Learn about a lost New York neighborhood at Lincoln Center

On Saturday, Lincoln Center will reopen its flagship auditorium, David Geffen Hall, with a pair of concerts that pay tribute to a historic Black and Latin American neighborhood that was displaced and demolished to make way for the construction of Lincoln Center itself. San Juan Hill was the name of the neighborhood, and “San Juan Hall: A New York Story” is a big new piece the Trinidad-born trumpeter and composer Etienne Charles wrote for his band, Creole Soul, to perform with the New York Philharmonic. The composition includes recorded interviews with former residents of San Juan Hill and their families. There will be two performances on Saturday, Oct. 8, at 2 and 8 p.m.. And, in an effort to make these concerts available to everyone, tickets are available on a choose-what-you-pay basis, starting at $5 per ticket, and a handful of free tickets will be distributed at the David Geffen Hall welcome center starting at 10:00 a.m. Saturday morning.

FAO Schwarz is celebrating its 160th birthday with free magic shows, activities, and more.

Photo by FAO Schwarz

Check out magic shows and performances at FAO Schwarz

The legendary toy store commemorates its 160th birthday with free performances from magicians, ballerinas, and balloonists, plus crafting activities. Events will take place in the store and outside at Rockefeller Plaza on Saturday, Oct. 8 from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m.

Discover the history of a trailblazing New York gallery

One of the season’s most promising new museum exhibitions is set to open Sunday at the Museum of Modern Art. “Just Above Midtown: Changing Spaces” doesn’t focus on a single artist or historical style, but rather on a pioneering art space called Just Above Midtown, which was opened at 50 West 57th Street in 1974 by a then 25-year-old arts educator named Linda Goode Bryant. It was meant to provide a venue for Black artists to show at a level of visibility readily available to their white peers, and allowed them to pursue work in whatever medium and mode suited them, including abstraction, conceptual and performance art, and video. Future art stars like David Hammons, Howardena Pindell and Lorraine O’Grady were among the artists who got a boost at Just Above Midtown, and they’re all represented in a show that Goode Bryant helped to assemble. It opens Sunday, Oct. 9, and runs through February. Tickets are $25 for adults, with discounts for students, seniors, and visitors with disabilities. Admission is free for children 16 and under, current CUNY faculty and staff., and some government employees. NYC residents can reserve free tickets for Friday, Oct. 7 here.

The 78th Annual Columbus Day Parade is this Sunday.

Photo by Eric Vitale / Columbus Citizens Foundation

Honor Italian and Italian-American culture

Evviva! The 78th annual Columbus Day Parade bills itself as the “world’s largest celebration of Italian-American culture.” This year’s event will feature performances from “American Idol” contestant Christian Guardino, jazz singer Vanessa Racci, and NYPD soloist Detective Lauren Leggio. Plus you’ll see 20 marching bands, 18 floats, and dozens of other performance groups. This year’s route will traverse Fifth Avenue, starting at 44th Street and continuing up to 72nd Street. The Grand Marshal is Tom Golisano, founder of Paychex. It begins Monday, Oct. 10 at 11:30 a.m., and runs until 3 p.m. You can find more info here.

Celebrate Diwali in New Jersey

The Saraswati Cultural Association of New Jersey is hosting a Diwali festival on Sunday, Oct. 9. Founder Anita Chadha says they’ll have cultural performances, opportunities for children to learn about Diwali, plus Dandiya Raas and Bhangra dancing with live singers. The lighting will start at 6 p.m. The event will take place Sunday Oct. 9 from 12 p.m. to 6 p.m. at Exchange Place 9/11 Memorial in Jersey City.

See more film festival darlings – in all five boroughs

Choreographer Jo Kreiter, who grounds her work in lived experience, developed this performance with five men currently incarcerated at Sing Sing.

Photo by Bethany Arts Community

Discover a dance performance about mass incarceration

This small, aerial dance troupe has big ambitions. “Apparatus” is the final installment of “the Decarceration Trilogy: Dismantling the Prison Industrial Complex One Dance at a Time.” Choreographer Jo Kreiter, who grounds her work in lived experience, developed this performance with five men currently incarcerated at Sing Sing. The 45-minute show takes place Saturday, Oct. 8 at 7:30 p.m at Bethany Arts Center in Ossining. It’s free, outside, and registration is encouraged. You can find more information here. In the off-chance of rain, the performance will be canceled.

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