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Brooklyn Botanic Garden New York May 2015 panorama l © King of Hearts
Brooklyn Botanic Garden New York May 2015 panorama l © King of Hearts
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How To Spend Labor Day In New York City

Picture of Dana deLaski
Updated: 3 November 2016
Despite what you may think, Labor Day is actually a great time to be in NYC. No one else will be in town, so it will feel like you have the city to yourself. It’s the perfect opportunity to walk into top restaurants without a reservation, go for a hike or a bike ride, head to a local beach, or enjoy a cocktail in the sun.

Eat

Unsurprisingly, the first thing on our list for what to do in NYC on Labor Day is to eat. New York City is full of great restaurants that oftentimes are impossible to get into (especially if you’ve planned your trip last-minute and haven’t made reservations), so the emptiness of this weekend will finally give you your chance.

For breakfast, try popular brunch spots like Jack’s Wife Freda, Balthazar, or Egg Shop. Places like these have notoriously long waits, but hopefully this weekend they’ll be easier to get into.

For lunch and dinner, we suggest you scope out some of NYC’s toughest tables to score: Gato, Estela, Upland, or Babu Ji.

Or, if you’re looking for special Labor Day deals, there will be plenty. Black Tap will be offering the All-American Special, which consists of their All-American Burger and a Miller High Life for $17, and more deals will surely surface as the weekend approaches.

Things to Do

For electronic music fans, there’s the annual Electric Zoo festival happening on Randall’s Island from September 2nd through September 4th. This is not for the faint of heart; it’s a rave that requires late nights and lots of energy.

For something more low-key, check out the West Indian Day Parade in Crown Heights, Brooklyn – a huge annual event that takes place on Labor Day each year. Expect elaborate costumes and delicious food vendors.

West Indian Day Parade l © Brian Lin
The West Indian Day Parade in Crown Heights, Brooklyn

If you’d rather stay in Manhattan, there’s the Washington Square Outdoor Art Exhibit. It’ll be on all weekend and will showcase artists from around the region.

And if none of these events catch your eye, Labor Day weekend is the perfect time to enjoy other classic NYC activities that you may have been putting off, like walking the High Line, exploring Central Park, checking out the Met or MoMA, or venturing out to the Brooklyn Botanic Gardens, since crowds will be minimal.

Brooklyn Botanic Garden New York May 2015 l © King of Hearts
A sunny day in the Brooklyn Botanic Gardens

Escape NYC While Staying in NYC

If you want to escape for the weekend but for whatever reason can’t quite swing it, there are plenty of ways to find your own oasis within the city.

Take the subway out to Red Hook, Brooklyn, to Brooklyn Crab, a huge seafood shack serving buckets of crabs at picnic tables overlooking the water. And if you stay and play a few rounds of mini golf, cornhole, or bocce ball you can make a whole day out of it.

Or, for a total escape, head to the beach. At Jacob Riis Park Beach Bazaar, it’s a party all summer long. There are some of NYC’s best food and drink vendors (think Ample Hills Creamery, Oaxaca Taqueria, and Fletcher’s Brooklyn Barbecue), music, beach volleyball, paddle-boarding, and, of course, the ocean, and Labor Day weekend is the last chance to enjoy it.