May in New York City means warmer days, which translates to more people outside, enjoying the sunshine and the city’s many parks. Although summer doesn’t officially start until June 21, May marks the beginning of an assortment of concert and production series that last all summer long. In addition to these — as well as the wide range of shows, exhibits and events that occur throughout NYC on any given week — May plays host to a handful of other annual traditions. If you’re looking for something to do in New York this May, you’ve got plenty of choices.
The 2018 season of SummerStage kicks off May 16th with a concert in Central Park featuring Liam Gallagher (formerly of Oasis) and Richard Ashcroft (formerly of The Verve). Produced by the City Parks Foundation, SummerStage performances take place throughout the summer at 19 different park locations in New York City’s five boroughs. Performances include rock, jazz and classical music, as well as dance, poetry and children’s plays.
Shakespeare in the Park
May 29th sees the start of this season’s Shakespeare in the Park, which features two month-long productions of a Shakespeare play at the Delacorte Theater in Central Park, put in by The Public Theater. “Othello” runs from May 29 through June 24, and you can get free tickets at Central Park on the day of each show, pending availability.
Free Summer Movies
The New York City Department of Parks & Recreation shows free movies every summer “under the stars,” and most of them are kid-friendly. Check the schedule to see what’s playing and where. The movies begin playing on May 11, with “Sing” showing in the Cedar Grove Beach Parking Lot at Great Kills Park in Staten Island, and “Ferdinand” on the Carl Schurz Main Lawn in Carl Schurz Park, Manhattan. Both begin at 7:30 p.m. Other movies will be playing at various NYC locations until September.
The Marines, Coast Guard and Navy descend on the city annually during Fleet Week, running from May 22-29 this year. Events happen in and around the Intrepid Sea, Air & Space Museum at Pier 86 in Manhattan, as well as many other locations throughout the boroughs. New York Harbor hosts a Parade of Ships on May 23 that is always awe-inspiring. Other events include band concerts, drills, demonstrations, ship tours and a short 1.7-mile “Freedom Run” that ends at the 9/11 Memorial Plaza.
Governors Island, a 172-acre piece of land that sits south of Manhattan, west of Brooklyn and east of the Statue of Liberty, opens to the public at the start of May and remains open through the end of October. Visitors can reach it by taking a ferry from either Pier 6 in Brooklyn Bridge Park or the Battery Maritime Building on 10th Street (Manhattan). Bring a bicycle for some biking with a view, or stroll along the many pathways. A former military base, Governors Island is now a destination for locals and tourists alike, complete with playgrounds, hammocks, picnic areas, festivals, art exhibits, hands-on learning workshops and more. The island is also the site of both a fort and castle.
Visitors to New York have two chances to view “Manhattanhenge” each year, and one of those occurs in 2018 at the end of May. Manhattanhenge — which is affectionately named after Stonehenge, the site in southeast England where some ancient civilization built a stone formation that lines up with the sun during the solstices — refers to the sun lining up perfectly along the east-west streets on Manhattan’s grid as it sets. If you stand on 14th, 23rd, 34th, 42nd or 57th streets and look west (toward New Jersey), you’ll see the “half sun” along the grid on May 29th and the “full sun” on May 30th. Both occur between 8:10 p.m. and 8:15 p.m.
Puerto Rican Festival
If you’re a fan of Puerto Rican food and fun, head up to 152nd Street for the 24th annual Puerto Rican Festival on May 26. The day is a celebration of Puerto Rican culture, featuring art, dancing, storytelling, comedy and, of course, plenty of mofongo and arroz con everything. The festival is the kick-off to the Puerto Rican parade, which takes place on Fifth Avenue on June 10.
Washington Square Art Festival
New York City is an art lover’s delight, and May sees a plethora of art being displayed outside of museum walls. Head over to Washington Square for the biannual (spring and fall) Washington Square Art Festival from May 26-28 (and June 2-3), where artists exhibit and sell a wide range of creations, including fine art, sculpture, photography and crafts. Take home a memento of your time in the Big Apple that’s truly unique.
America’s Favorite Pastime
Finally, no visit to New York City is truly complete without taking in a home game with one of the city’s two major league teams: the Yankees and the Mets. Take a ride to Yankee Stadium in the Bronx to see one of the many home games in May, including a series against the Los Angeles Angels and the Houston Astros. Or head out to Citi Field in Flushing, NY, to see the Mets take on the Toronto Blue Jays, the Arizona Diamondbacks or the Miami Marlins.
No matter what the day, week or month, you’ll always find plenty of things to do and see in New York City. Events, festivals, exhibits and programs in May guarantee you fun outside in the fresh, spring air.