This post lists the top things to do in New York in May, updated for 2023.

Below we list free, nighttime, as well as family-friendly events and activities that can be found in New York City this month.

May is a lovely time of year in New York City. Spring is fully here, and the city is alive with activity.

Layers aren't needed any longer as the weather has finally turned a corner and it's comfortable outside during the day.

Daytime temps tend to be in the mid-60s early in the month, and the low to mid-70s by the end of the month.

May Temperatures in NYC

A jacket would be good for the evenings, which tend to be in the mid to high 40s early in the month, and the mid to high 50s late in the month.

It's not a bad idea to pack a small umbrella in your bag as there are around 11 days when rainfall can be expected.

Read more about the weather in New York in May here.


TOP 12 THINGS TO DO IN MAY

This is our list of the ten best events and things to do in NYC in May. For even more suggestions, see our comprehensive guide to things to do in NYC.  

Several of the items below are already included for free with the purchase of a tourist discount pass.

For tips on the most popular activities in NYC, check out the following posts:


1. Enjoy a Broadway Show

There are too many plays, musicals, and other shows playing to list here. Check out what's playing while you are in NYC.

Here are a few of the more noteworthy musicals to see on Broadway this month:

See what else is playing on Broadway right now.

If you are looking to save money on Broadway tickets, you can try for RUSH tickets, enter a ticket lottery or go to the TKTS booth

Our post on how to get cheap tickets to Broadway shows is a must-read. 


2. Attend a Concert

This month you have a diverse range of music to choose from - from old-school greats like Billy Joel and Janet Jackson to new folks like Phoebe Bridgers and Paramore.

See a full list of May concerts and events here.

Concerts in NY (around a 30-minute drive or less)

Concerts Further Afield

Also in music, Bono of U2 is on a book tour. He'll be in NYC at the Beacon Theatre on May 4th, 7th, and 8th with his "Stories of Surrender."

Check out who else is performing in NYC in May.


3. Attend a Sporting Event 

In May, baseball is in full swing and the New York Liberty, the national women's basketball team comes to town. There are several soccer matches as well.

Going to a sports event is a great way to spend an evening in New York City. It is also a family-friendly activity!

See what sports events are on this month here.

Baseball

Yankee Stadium offers fun and insightful guided tours. Find out more here

Basketball

Soccer

Otro

See what other sports events are on in May here.


4. Attend the Metropolitan Opera

The world-famous Metropolitan Opera will be performing multiple shows throughout the month of May, providing fans of the theater with an excellent opportunity to see some of the best operatic tales of all time.

Here are the operas that you can expect to see during this month:

  • La Boheme
  • Champion
  • Don Giovanni
  • Aida
  • Die Zauberflote
  • Der Fliegende Hollander

If any of these shows sound interesting, make sure to get your tickets in advance to avoid missing out!

Purchase Metropolitan Opera tickets or learn more.


5. Take a Tour a Pie 

May is one of the best months to take a walking tour as the weather is absolutely lovely - both day and night.

Our guided walks are free to join and operate on a pay-what-you-like basis, which means you decide what a tour was worth or what you could afford (even free) when the tour is over.

We also offer self-guided and GPS-enabled audio tours of every neighborhood that you will likely visit as a tourist in NYC.

If you're looking for a guided outing, consider taking a Central Park Pedicab tour!

Check out our homepage or look at our schedule to see what we have available when you are here.


6. Take a Carriage Ride in Central Park

In May, Central Park's trees and flowers are blooming and a carriage ride through the park is an unforgettable way to enjoy the beauty of spring.

Our post on the best Central Park Horse and Carriage tours in NYC can help you find the tour that is right for you.

Central Park is so large that even if you do take a carriage ride, you may want to revisit the park on foot.

We offer a number of pay-what-you-like Central Park Walking tours, as well as a GPS- enabled audio tour of Central Park, which you can take any time you like.

Be sure to check out our guide to things to do in Central Park


7. Get Free Tickets with A Tourist Discount Pass

Though these passes are not cheap, they can save you a lot of money in the end. If you plan well, you will essentially get several tickets to attractions or tours each day for free.

Tourist discount passes work by bundling multiple tickets into one price, usually between 20%-50% of the retail price.   

Read our post comparing the different tourist discount passes

If you already know which pass you'd like, you can purchase one here: All-Inclusive - Go City New York | Explorer - Go City New York | Day Pass - New York Sightseeing | Flex Pass - New York Sightseeing

Several bus tour companies, including hop-on-hop-off buses, also offer discounts and deals. 


8. Experience the New York Philharmonic

If you're more interested in classical music than some of the more modern artists performing concerts this month, you'll be happy to hear that the New York Philharmonic will be in the city this May.

Depending on which show you choose to attend, you can expect to hear the work of master composers such as Shostakovich, Rachmaninoff, and Mahler

There will only be a few opportunities to see them this month, and tickets are selling out fast, so we recommend getting yours as soon as possible.

Purchase New York Philharmonic tickets or learn more.


9. See the New York City Ballet

Believe it or not, the New York City Ballet will be performing a few different shows throughout the month of May.

If you're looking for a more traditional theatrical experience, this is an excellent time of year to see one of the more beloved ballet companies in the world!

Here are some of their more notable shows in May:

  • Balanchine & Robbins
  • Balanchine & Ratmansky
  • 21st Century Choreography
  • Copland Dance Episides

Purchase New York City Ballet tickets or learn more.


10. Mother's Day Brunch Cruise

What mother wouldn't enjoy having brunch while looking out at the beautiful New York City skyline?

There are several nice cruises to choose from and we review them in our post about which New York boat tour or cruise is best.

If you want to skip the meal, there are also hop-on-hop-off ferries that let you enjoy both the sights from the water and on the land. 

For those on a budget, there are also free boat rides and tours, including the Staten Island Ferry.

Be sure to check our definitive list of things to do in NYC at any time of the year.

best time to visit new york

11. Fleet Week at the Intrepid Sea, Air & Space Museum

Fleet Week is a time to celebrate America's men and women of our forces at sea as they arrive in NYC for a week of fun.

In 2023, Fleet Week runs from May 24th - 30th.

During this event, you'll be able to tour all sorts of sea vessels used by the Navy, Marine Corps, and Coast Guard. Find out more information here.

The Intrepid Sea, Air & Space Museum typically hosts several special events like watching a movie on the flight deck or enjoying a night of swing dance.  

The full schedule can be found on their website.

There are many discounts available for tickets to the Intrepid Sea, Air, and Space Museum.

The Intrepid is also included in many tourist discount passes.


12. The 9th Avenue International Food Festival

Every May, since 1973, international food vendors and entertainers have lined 9th Avenue between 42nd and 57th Street in Hell's Kitchen

In 2022, it takes place May 20th - 21st from 10 am to 6 pm. The festival is free to attend, but the food isn't. It is, however, pretty cheap!

Read more here.

For year-round free things to do, see our comprehensive posts on free things to do in NYC as well as free museums and attractions.


Honorable Mention - NYC X Design Festival

Over 250 events celebrating NYC's design talent will be taking place throughout the city from May 18th - 25th, 2023.

These events cover such areas as graphic design, television, film, urban design, architecture, fashion, and so much more.

Visit the NYC X Design Festival website for an up-to-date list of activities.


THINGS TO DO AT NIGHT IN MAY

Several of the activities listed in our top ten and free things to do sections can be enjoyed at night, like seeing a concert, a sports event, or a Broadway show

Below are some more nighttime activities to enjoy. 

For even more ideas, see our post, Top 10 Things to Do in New York City at Night, and our New York Night Tours

For even more ideas, see our master post on things to do in NYC at night year-round and our New York night tours.


See a Free Concert, Movie, or Theater Performance

Towards the end of May, the spirit of summer breaks out in the city and many of the summer-long music, theater, and movie series begins.

In the evenings you can catch a free concert during Central Park at Summerstage, watch a free performance of Shakespeare in the Park, or see a free movie outdoors


Take a Night Tour

Warm and comfortable evenings mean nighttime sightseeing is something to consider.

We offer several night tours, including our Midtown Manhattan Night Tour at least two times every week (Thursdays and Saturdays).

NYC Night Tours
Midtown Manhattan Night Tour with Free Tours by Foot

We also offer a night 9/11 Memorial and Brooklyn Bridge Night Tour, ghost tours, and evening tours of the High Line and Central Park. 

See our full page of night tours in NYC. 


Visit a Rooftop Bar

New York has dozens of rooftop bars of all atmospheres and price ranges. Here are our picks for the best rooftop bars in NYC.

view from St Cloud Bar

If you don't really want a cocktail or beer, you can still get amazing skyline views from locations all over the city. See our post to find the best New York Skyline views.


Take a Sunset Walk Over the Brooklyn Bridge 

You can walk over the bridge any time you want but a sunset stroll is especially beautiful.

The weather in May is quite comfortable for a night stroll on this historic bridge.

Brooklyn Bridge at Night

We offer a night tour of the Brooklyn Bridge and the 9/11 Memorial several evenings each week.  

You could also walk the bridge by yourself, or learn about the bridge's fascinating history with our GPS-enabled audio tour of the bridge.

Find out about more nighttime activities by looking at our post on things to do at night in NYC.


FREE THINGS TO DO IN MAY

Here are a number of free things to do this May.

For year-round free things to do, see our comprehensive posts on free things to do in NYC and free museums and attractions.


Dance Parade

Taking place on May 20th, 2023, this is one of the most popular free events every May. Each stretch of the route emphasizes different global music.

There are 10,000 dancers and over 100 unique styles of dance.

The Parade starts at 1 pm on 6th Avenue & 17th Street. It passes down 6th Avenue and down E 8th Street, ending at Saint Mark's Place and Avenue A.

See their official website for details.


Visit Little Island

There is nothing like this 2.4-acre park that you have ever seen. It is perched atop 132 concrete pillars that protrude from the Hudson River. The stacks resemble "tulip pots" the best.

As high as 62 feet above the Hudson River, some of the "tulip pots" provide breathtaking vistas of New York and New Jersey.

Green lawns, gentle slopes, and twisting paths make up the varied scenery. There are numerous varieties of plants and flowers in the park.

Moreover, there are two performance venues: the smaller Glade and the 700-seat Amphitheater. Free or affordable tickets are available for performances.

Learn about visiting Little Island here.


Washington Square Outdoor Art Exhibit

The Washington Square Outdoor Art Exhibit is a New York perennial favorite event.

On Memorial Day Weekend (May 27th - 29th) the streets surrounding Washington Square Park become mini art galleries of artists and craft artisans from around the world.

It’s a great place to purchase wonderful artwork at very affordable prices.

The event is right smack in the middle of Greenwich Village, so why not take one of our pay-what-you-wish Greenwich Village walking tours?


Go Kayaking 

This may be the least expected activity you pictured yourself doing here. But you will not be disappointed by this free and fun activity.

There are many boat houses that offer free kayaking, usually for short amounts of time. Others offer longer excursions, which are also free. Most are open by May 1st.

Find out more from our post on free boat rides and tours

f you'd prefer something less unusual, see our post comparing the many paid boat tours and cruises in NYC.


Cinco De Mayo

Cinco De Mayo is a traditional annual Mexican celebration always celebrated on May 5th. 

NYC celebrates with a parade that takes place along Central Park West between 97th-106th St.

Before or after the parade, you can head into Central Park and explore the beautiful green spaces.

We offer a few different pay-what-you-like Central Park Tours. You can also use our GPS-enhanced Audio Tour of Central Park at any time.


FAMILY-FRIENDLY ACTIVITIES IN MAY

Here are things to do with your family in May. 

Other sections of this post also offer kid-friendly events like the Dance Parade, going to a sports event or seeing a Broadway show. 

For other family-friendly activities, see our post on things to do with kids in New York City. We also have a 3-day itinerary for families.


Visit Governors Island 

On May 1st, Governors Island, a small, recreational, vehicle-free island just 7 minutes by ferry from Lower Manhattan, opens for the summer season.

You can rent bikes, kayak for free, picnic, visit the various playgrounds, and try out the longest slide in NYC — three stories high and 57 feet long.

This is a very family-friendly place to visit!

Read our post on Governors Island for information on ferry hours, how to get there, and what activities are offered. 


Fleet Week   

Fleet Week is a time to celebrate America's men and women of our forces at sea as they arrive in NYC for a week of free fun!

During this event, you and your family can tour all sorts of sea vessels used by the Navy, Marine Corps, and Coast Guard. 

There will be a Parade of Ships on the Hudson River. You can get the best views from Battery Park.


T. rex: The Ultimate Predator

This exhibit at the American Museum of Natural History (AMNH) should be very engaging for your children.

It will include a virtual reality experience, fossils, life-size models, and interactive elements, life-size models, and fossils.

TIP: To see what discounts and special deals are available, see our post about visiting the American Museum of Natural History.


Take a Hop-on Hop-off Bus Tour

Hop-on-hop-off bus tours are especially good for young children who can tire easily from a day of sightseeing. 

These tours are on double-decker buses with the top-level being open-air - surely something kids will love (and the grown-ups too!).

The weather in May is just right for outdoor seating on a bus tour. You can even enjoy one at night! 

Our post on the best Hop-On, Hop-Off NYC bus tours can help you decide which is best for you and your family. 


Visit The Bronx Zoo

This incredible zoo is the largest city zoo in the United States and houses 4,000 animals of more than 650 different species across 265 acres of land.

The cost of a ticket to all exhibits can add up for a family, so take advantage of either going on free Wednesdays or hunting down some discounts. 

Our post, Bronx Zoo Discounts, Coupons, and Promo Codes can help you find some deals.  

While you are in the Bronx, grab some authentic Italian food on Arthur Avenue using our self-guided tour

Don't forget to look at our list of things to do with kids in New York City for many more activities for you and your family.


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About The Author

Stephen Pickhardt

Stephen is the CEO of Free Tours by Foot and has overseen the transformation of a local walking tour company into a global tour community and traveler’s advice platform. He has personally led thousands of group tours in the US and Europe, and is an expert in trip planning and sightseeing, with a focus on budget travelers. Stephen has been published and featured in dozens of publications including The Wall Street Journal, BBC, Yahoo, Washington.org, and more.
Updated: marzo 17th, 2023
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