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Things to Do in New York in May

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This post is about things to do in NYC in May, including a top 10 list as well as sections on free, family-friendly and nighttime things to do, updated for 2022.

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TOP 10 EVENTS AND 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. See a Concert

This month you have a diverse range of music to choose from. See a classic rock and roller Billy Joel, R&B singers like Boyz II Men, and hip-hop artists such as Cypress Hill, Ice-T, and T-Pain!

See a full list of May concerts and events here.

Check out who else is performing in NYC in May.


2. 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 in this month here.

Baseball

As of our 2022 update for this article, the MLB lockout has yet to be addressed. We're hopeful they will be able to figure things out in time for some May baseball!

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

Basketball

In May, you can see New York City's WNBA team, the New York Liberty, play at Barclay's Center.

Depending on if they make the finals, you may be able to see:

Soccer

If you're a fan of Major League Soccer, there will be several great opportunities to see NYC's local teams playing this month.

See what other sports events are on in May here.


3. 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 this month.

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. 


4. See 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:

  • Hamlet
  • Turnadot
  • Rigoletto
  • Akhnaten
  • La Boheme
  • Madama Butterfly
  • The Rake's Progress
  • Lucia di Lammermoor

If any of these shows sound interesting, make sure to get your tickets in advance to avoid missing out! Ticket prices start at around $60.

Purchase Metropolitan Opera tickets or learn more.


5. Take a Walking Tour 

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.

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

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 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 of 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% the retail price.   

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Read our post comparing the different tourist discount passes

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 Mozart and Beethoven performed by this fantastic group.

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:

  • Stravinsky Festival
  • A Midsummer Night's Dream
  • Visionary Voices
  • All Robbins

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.

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If you want to skip the meal, there are also hop-on-hop-off ferries which 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.


UNCONFIRMED: 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.

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.


UNCONFIRMED: Annual Ethnic Festival in Harlem  

This day-long celebration takes place in the middle of May, and showcases Harlem's unique culture through music, dance, arts, and ethnic cuisine.

There will also be educational activities making it a great activity for kids.

The date has yet to be announced so stay tuned for updated. You can also check their website for details.

While in Harlem, consider taking our pay-what-you-wish guided walking tour.

You can also try our GPS-enabled audio tour of Harlem to explore the surrounding neighborhood or read our Harlem neighborhood guide to plan your visit.


UNCONFIRMED: Taste of the Nation

During this annual event, you can taste some of NYC's best food while donating to charity at the same time.

Taste of the Nation, a nationwide charity event, invites award-winning chefs from the region to show off their best meals and proceeds go to No Kids Hungry.

If the price range is out of your budget, but you will want to try some of NYC's best foods, try our pay-what-you-wish food tours.


THINGS TO DO AT NIGHT

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

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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 begin.

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).

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.

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.

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

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

There are others throughout this post like taking a free walking tour, attending the Ethnic Festival in Harlem, or walking over the Brooklyn Bridge, so be sure to check out the other sections of this post.

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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 21st, 2022, this is one of the most popular free events every May. Each stretch of the route emphasizes different global music.

The Parade starts at 1 pm and passes through several neighborhoods between 21st Street/Broadway all the way down to the East Village

See their official website for details.


Washington Square Outdoor Art Exhibit

This is a New York perennial favorite event. On Memorial Day Weekend (May 27th - 30th) 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 artworks 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 open by May 1st.

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


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 Saturday, May 14th and Sunday, May 15th, 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.


FAMILY-FRIENDLY ACTIVITIES 

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. 

This video is for things to do with kids any time of year.

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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.


UNCONFIRMED: Kids Food Festival

This free food festival offers an engaging, fun environment that aims to teach kids about making healthier food choices. It’s good for kids of all ages.

It takes place at Brookfield Place near the World Trade Center. Find out more from their website.

Our food tours are very family-friendly so consider joining one if you are traveling with kids.


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 hunt 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: April 22nd, 2022
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