What To Do In NYC on Martin Luther King, Jr. Day 

What to Do in NYC on MLK Day

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Looking for the best events and things to do on Martin Luther King Jr. Day? We’ve got you covered! With the variety of activities and events happening throughout New York City, spending the day in NYC for Martin Luther King, Jr. Day is a great idea. You can honor Dr. King’s legacy at a number of powerful community events, then get out into those communities to do the work that King himself advocated for.

What is Martin Luther King Day?

Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. was one of the most active voices in the Civil Rights Movement in the 1960s. He campaigned against racial segregation and worked to bring about racial equality before he was assassinated on April 4th, 1968. To commemorate his life and legacy, including his iconic “I have a dream” speech, Martin Luther King, Jr. Day was established on the Monday that falls near King’s January 15th birthday.

A tireless advocate for nonviolence and the youngest ever recipient of the Nobel Peace Prize, King’s work lives on through this day. To celebrate Martin Luther King, Jr.’s life and legacy, Martin Luther King, Jr. Day is a federal holiday designated as a national day of service. In New York City, schools and federal buildings are closed, while commemorative events are held all weekend long.

Martin Luther King Day is one of our favorite events in January in New York.

When is Martin Luther King Day 2023?

This Monday, January 16th, 2023 is Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Day. It is a day to commemorate the civil rights leader and activist’s legacy.

The Best Martin Luther King Day Events in NYC

Given that it is a day of service, a natural way to honor King’s legacy would be to follow suit and do an act of service of your own. However you decide to do that, whether it’s cleaning up a park, offering to mentor the youth in your area, lending a helping hand to someone in need, or donating your time in another way, it’s sure to have an impact.

That could also mean participating in an official event like Hunger Free America’s MLK Serve-A-Thon in NYC, which takes place January 15th through January 17th.

Another way to honor King’s legacy would be to visit NYC for MLK Jr. Day to participate in events that keep his work alive. In celebrating his ideals and in joining in with the community, you can help to ensure that legacy continues. With events ranging from the World Famous Harlem Gospel Choir to the family-friendly Brooklyn Children’s Museum celebrating King’s legacy through “interactive performances, protest marches, community art programs, and volunteer projects” – there are meaningful events all throughout the city.

  1. 01

    Annual Celebration of Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. at Apollo Theatre

    Other Attraction in Harlem & Washington Heights
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    Probably the most famous attraction in Harlem is the Apollo Theater 253 W 125th St: it is known worldwide for its jazz, soul and blues concerts. The Apollo Theater is where the careers of many world stars began, including Duke Ellington, Louis Armstrong, Ella Fitzgerald, Sarah Vaughan and Billie Holiday. Later it was also the big stage of numerous Motown artists like Diana Ross, the Jackson 5 and the Supremes.

    On Martin Luther King Day they broadcast a special radio show here: The “Uptown Hall: MLK, Activism, and the Arts Broadcast“.

  2. 02

    Learn more about Harlem at this Gospel Multimedia Walking Tour

    Walking Tour in Harlem & Washington Heights
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    Enjoy the sounds of one of NYC’s famous gospel choirs, learn about the history of gospel and explore beautiful Brooklyn during this unique tour. The tour starts at 104 Malcolm X Blvd in Harlem.

  3. 03

    Celebrate MLK Day at Brooklyn Children's Museum

    Museum in Dumbo
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    The Brooklyn Children’s museum was founded in 1899 and was the first museum developed only for kids. With many permanent exhibitions and attractions, there is always something to see or do here. Overall, it’s a great place for family outings with the young ones.

    Children are encouraged to play and experience numerous activities and exhibitions.

  4. 04

    Annual Brooklyn Tribute to Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

    Other Events in Fort Greene
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    The largest public celebration honoring Martin Luther King is hosted by the Brooklyn Academy of Music. The 36th Annual Brooklyn Tribute to Martin Luther King will be held virtually in 2022 (on January 17, 2022).

  5. 05

    MLK Day of Action at Brooklyn Museum

    Museum in Park Slope
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    The Brooklyn Museum has an annual day of action in honor of Martin Luther King, Jr. Day. For educators, there are a series of virtual professional development workshops that address important topics such as social-emotional learning, racial justice, and arts education. Interested? Check their website here.

  6. 06

    Explore Harlem’s most vibrant neighborhoods with this walking tour

    Walking Tour in Harlem & Washington Heights
    Harlem Walking Tour
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    This insider walking tour will teach you all about Harlem’s diverse cultural and social history. It will take you to the Mount Morris Historic District, which will be introduced to you by a New York guide. You will be surprised how elegant the houses are here and how much history this part of New York City will tell you. Really exciting!

  7. 07

    Enjoy Central Park in Winter during MLK ...

    Park in Midtown Manhattan
    Our Highlight
    Central Park in Winter
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    Central Park should not be missing from any Things to Do in New York in winter! The green lung of the city turns into a true winter wonderland during the cold season. It is therefore also a popular destination for New Yorkers. Stroll through the park under snow-covered trees and let yourself be enchanted by the play of lights on the frozen water surfaces in the evening.

    Walking through Central Park in the cold is magical! If there’s snow, it’s even more amazing.

    If you want to be more adventurous, start in Harlem and walk down Central Park towards Midtown. Too often we catch ourselves starting on Fifth Avenue at the Plaza Hotel in Central Park. There is so much more to explore than just that part of Central Park.

  8. 08

    Activism: Martin Luther King, Jr. and Central Park (Virtual Tour)

    Walking Tour in Midtown Manhattan
    Central Park Conservancy
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    This event on MLK day in NYC is held by the Central Park Conservancy. For more information check out the event page here.


    • Saturday, January 15
    • Monday, January 17


Are restaurants and stores open in NYC on Martin Luther King, Jr. Day?

While government buildings close and official government services will not take place, most stores and restaurants will remain open. 

Because it is a federal holiday – and a national day of service – it’s likely the operating hours will be affected, especially for local or independent businesses. To be sure, you can call ahead.

Is there a parade in New York City for Martin Luther King, Jr. Day?

No. But there is the 29th Annual Martin Luther King Day of Reflection Parade & Ceremony takes place on January 17th, 2022 at 9am at Kennedy Memorial Park, 335 Greenwich Street, Hempstead, NY.

My tip: This is my complete guide to parades in NYC

Going to NYC on MLK, Jr. Day

About the author

I'm a true New York fan! Not only have I visited the city over 20 times but also have I spent several months here at a time. On my blog I show you the best and most beautiful spots of the city, so that you have a really good time! You can also find lots of insider tips in our New York travel guide. Also check out my hotel finder for New York!

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