As the first full month of spring, April is a fantastic time to explore the diverse sights and festivals that make New York City a must-go travel destination. With holidays to celebrate and famous festivals to attend, this guide will help you narrow down the best things to do and see in NYC this April.
New York Tartan Day Parade
The annual New York Tartan Day Parade on April 6 comes amid Tartan Week in the Big Apple—a celebration of all things Scottish. Although the parade has been around for years, the event has grown more popular since Outlander introduced Scotland and its history, speech, kilts and foods to a growing fan base. The parade, which will be led this year by Scottish comedian and icon Billy Connolly, starts at 2:00 p.m. at 44th Street and Sixth Avenue. Expect lots of bagpipes and drums, along with kilts in a wide array of tartans. Look for other events on the days leading up to the parade, along with post-parade parties sponsored by the likes of the New York Caledonian Club and the American-Scottish Foundation.
NYC Pillow Fight Day
There are many quirky things to do in NYC in any given year, and the annual NYC Pillow Fight Day is surely one of them. Head to Washington Square Park on April 6 at 3 p.m. with a soft pillow in your hand and be prepared to use it. Pillow Fight Day is sponsored by Mattress Firm, a national mattress chain. Visit their display in the park for a special branded Pillow Fight pillowcase, while supplies last. Basic rules include removing your glasses, not using down pillows, swing lightly, and only swing at other pillow fight participants.
Earth Day Initiative
Begun in 1970, Earth Day has become part of our culture, and a large number of groups and individuals take part in “green” activities on and around April 22 every year. In New York City, this year’s Earth Day celebration includes a Grand Bazaar on April 21 at 100 West 77th Street. The market features items crafted from recycled materials, such as art, jewelry, furniture, and clothing. Harlem Grown, a nonprofit urban farming initiative in Harlem, hosts its Earth Day celebration on April 20. Activities include using solar-powered ovens to make homemade pizzas, planting in recycled containers, and tie-dying with natural dyes (bring your own T-shirt). Up in the Bronx on April 21, you can join the Urban Park Rangers for an Earth Day hike in Riverdale Park. Look out for other Earth Day events at parks and even businesses throughout the city.
Easter Parade and Easter Bonnet Festival
April 21 is also the day of the annual Easter Parade and Easter Bonnet Festival, which takes place from 10 a.m. until about 4 p.m. on Fifth Avenue between 49th and 57th streets (the area around St. Patrick’s Cathedral). The event, which has taken place in one form or the other since the 1870s, is carefree and whimsical. If you’ve got a hat, feel free to join in—the sillier, the better!
Tribeca Film Festival
Founded not long after the 9/11 attacks as a way to bring commerce dollars back to the hard-hit Tribeca neighborhood of New York, the Tribeca Film Festival is now in its 18th year. The famous festival spans from April 24 through May 5, offering an overflowing schedule of just-released independent and feature films, as well as anniversary screenings and talks with directors, actors, and more. Screenings occur at various theaters and tickets can be purchased individually and in packages.
Sakura Matsuri Cherry Blossom Festival
For some people the first robin marks the advent of spring—for others, it’s not spring until the cherry trees start to bloom. While perhaps not as famous as the cherry blossoms in Washington, D.C., the Sakura Matsuri Cherry Blossom Festival in the Brooklyn Botanic Garden is something to behold in its own right. The event takes place the weekend of April 27-28 and offers a full schedule of events on both days, including many different types of dances and musical performances. There are also tea ceremonies and classes on origami, bonsai, and Shogi chess to participate in. Visit the Japanese marketplace for a unique memento of the day.