Things to Do in New York in May

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 2020.

 

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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, the Korean mega-hit boyband BTS, and especially for the kids, JoJoSiwa!

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

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


Basketball

In May, you can see New York City’s women’s basketball team, the New York Liberty, play at Barclay’s Center. Get tickets here.

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


Soccer

This month, the New York City Football Club take on these opponents on their home turf, Yankee Stadium

  • May 13 – Toronto FC
  • May 16 Colorado Rapids 
  • May 31 – New York Red Bulls
  • Get tickets here.

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.

Last month, Plaza Suite, the Neil Simon marriage comedy, started its run. It stars the real-life couple Sarah Jessica Parker (Carrie from Sex and the City) and Matthew Broderick (Ferris Bueller). Get tickets here.

 

 

Another show that started last month that you can still see in May is Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf starring Laurie Metcalf (Rosanne). Get tickets here.

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. 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. 


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. 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.

Between May 22-May 28, 2020 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 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.


8. Annual Ethnic Festival in Harlem  

This day-long celebration takes place on May 16, 2020, 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.

 

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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.


9. Taste of the Nation

On May 9, 2020, from 6:00 pm – 9:00 pm, 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.

 

 
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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.


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.

 


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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


Laugh at British Comedian Ricky Gervais Perform

Ricky Gervais, the British comedian, who was the start of the U.K. version of The Office will be performing at Madison Square Garden’s Hulu Theater on May 14 and 15. Buy tickets here.

If you are on a budget and find that the ticket prices are a bit steep don’t fret! You can find comedy all over NYC for free or almost free.

See our post on where to see free or inexpensive comedy in NYC


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.

 


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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 16, 2020, 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 23-25) 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 5.  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 2020, it takes place Saturday, May 16 and Sunday, May 17, 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.

 


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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!

From May 22 to May 28, 2020, 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.


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 on May 9 and 10, 2020 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 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.