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Five Tips For Attending the San Gennaro Feast in New York City

San Gennaro Feast

Crowds at the San Gennaro Feast in Little Italy

Well, it’s underway again – the Feast of San Gennaro in New York City, one of the world’s largest outdoor religious festivals. The 86th Annual Feast takes place in Little Italy through Sunday, September 23 on the streets of Little Italy in lower Manhattan.

The Figli Di San Gennaro is meant to celebrate the Patron Saint of Naples. A religious procession will take place next Wednesday (September 19th, my birthday!), during which the San Gennaro statue will be carried from its permanent home in the Most Precious Blood Church through the streets.

But let’s not kid ourselves. It’s really about the food.

Are you planning to go? Because we’ve been multiple times, and would like to share five tips for attending the San Gennaro Feast:

1. Don’t Go on a Full Stomach.

Obviously, you’re going there to eat. Last year, our family’s total consumption included:

Six fried ravioli

One rice ball

One slice bruschetta

One sausage and peppers sandwich

One deep-fried Oreo

One corn dog

One order of French fries

One gelato

Three small cannolis

…and six zeppole


Mmmmm…fried dough….

But NO pasta, interestingly enough!

And that’s just from the street vendors lining the sidewalks. They are still more than 35 wonderful restaurants in the neighborhood, open for business with specials, and plenty of al fresco seating. If your kids are picky eaters, you may not find something they like. Unless that something is pizza; then you’re fine!

2. Visit the Italian American Museum

This small but earnest museum offers a look at life for the city’s early Italian immigrants, and specifically at some famous Italian Americans.  It’s located in the former Banca Stabile, a 19th-century bank on Mulberry Street, so the original teller windows are still there (and really cool!) We loved looking into the display cases, and The Girl especially liked the antique wedding gown on display.

Italian American Museum

No Euros in this display case!

Also good to know — the museum is air-conditioned, which may provide you with some relief if you’re there on a hot day like we were! During the San Gennaro Feast, the museum is open from 4:00pm – 8:00pm on weekdays, and 12:00 – 8:00pm on weekends.

3. Prepare to Shop

And I’m not talking about the cheap tschotkes that hundreds of street vendors are hawking from their stalls. (Although, the “Kiss Me, I’m Italian” T-shirts look pretty cute on a baby!) But take a look inside the shops themselves for interesting imported soaps, cookware, and other surprises.

4. Bring Small Bills

By that, I mean stuff your pockets with $5.00 and $10.00 bills, to be ready to pay for food and rides without having to rummage for your wallet. The lines are long, and the people behind you are impatient for their food!

You’ll also need some funds for “entertainment” :

Teacup ride

Ride BEFORE you stuff your face!

5. Leave the Stroller at Home

Unless you get there early in the day before the throngs of people show up, forget about trying to push a stroller through the narrow streets. Consider a sling or backpack baby carrier for this event. And realize that public bathrooms are non-existent, in case you need to change a diaper. The restaurants only allow patrons to use their facilities.

For more information:

The Feast of San Gennaro




  1. Mike said,
    September 14, 2012 @ 2:46 pm

    Cured meats and cheeses…dangerous combo for me.

  2. Elizabeth said,
    September 14, 2012 @ 6:32 pm

    Hi Tracey – great post and perfect timing! I am in NYC *right now* for my birthday weekend and my husband and I have put this on our list as a “MUST.” So excited to get some zeppolli!!

    • Traci Suppa said,
      September 14, 2012 @ 10:56 pm

      YAY! My work here is done. (And happy birthday, fellow Virgo!)

  3. September 17, 2012 @ 12:55 pm

    Good tips! thanks for sharing… it will surely help especially for those first timers.

  4. TheTuscan said,
    September 21, 2012 @ 2:09 pm

    I would defenitely like to attend it, and the same is true for San Gennaro’s day in Naples. I’d really like to see that blood liquefying.
    The picture from the museum shows a summary of Italian monetary history. I recognize banknotes from my infancy which I saw last time decades ago!

  5. Gabriel said,
    September 26, 2012 @ 12:52 pm

    I’ve never been but it sounds like a lot of fun and I do love food so maybe I’ll try and make it next year. Too bad I missed it this year 🙁