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25 Memorable Things to Do in New York City in May (Local’s Guide)

moving to NYC

You’ll be hard pressed to find a better time to visit New York City than May. The month combines the spring blooms with welcoming weather and there’s no shortage of things to do.

Walking is more comfortable without the scorching sun or blistering cold and the vibrancy of the city extends beyond the plants. Even the locals can’t help but radiate warmth, excited for the first month of 70°F+ weather.

And if you’re in search of the best things to do in New York City in May I’m here to help. My apartment turns into nothing more than a crash pad since I’m always out looking for something to get into during the spring month.

I’ll share with you the best annual events that take place in New York City in May as well as suggestions on where to celebrate holidays, festivals and parades. Without further ado, let’s get to it!


Visiting New York City? If you haven’t decided where to stay (yet) check out our helpful guide on Where to Stay in New York City (10 Best Neighborhoods +3 to Avoid). Don’t have time? Here’s our favorite hotel in NYC, hands down.

Hunter's Point South Park cherry blossoms

Weather in New York City in Map

May averages: high 72°F | low 54°F | rains on average 9 days of the month

If you’re planning the best things to do in New York City in May you’re in luck because the weather is near-perfect. Outdoor dining is readily available to you and rooftop bars are practically begging you to come up for a drink. Not to mention, the comfortable climate opens the door to a plethora of wardrobe options. You won’t be limited by the weather while visiting New York City in May, so pack your best outfits.


Best Things to Do in New York City in May

Table of Contents: May Activities in NYC

Grand Banks waterfront restaurants NYC
Image Courtesy The New York Times

Welcome Back Grand Banks, One of the Best Waterfront Restaurants in NYC

Website: Grand Banks
Neighborhood: Tribeca
Location: Pier 25 Hudson River, New York, NY 10013
Date: Reservations start May 1st

Grand Banks, one of the best waterfront restaurants in NYC, brings back the charm of oyster barges from the 18th and 19th centuries.

During the colder months, New Yorkers say goodbye to the joint and count down the days until Grand Banks has its grand reopening (see what I did there?). So if you find yourself visiting in the spring and are looking for things to do in New York City in May, I suggest making a beeline to this popular dining spot located on Pier 25 in Tribeca.

With its growing popularity, I’d be doing you a disservice if I didn’t let you know dining here is one of the best things to do in New York City in May. Consider this an inside scoop and make reservations now!

Fun Fact: The ship (technically it’s a schooner) is named the Sherman Zwicker and was hand-built in 1942. In fact, it’s the largest wooden vessel in New York City!


Harry Potter Store in the Flatiron District

Cheers with Butterbeer for International Harry Potter Day

Website: Harry Potter New York
Neighborhood: Flatiron District
Location: 935 Broadway, New York, NY 10010
Date: May 2nd

Here’s the thing about Harry Potter, you either love the series or you’ve never read the books. I’m sorry but there is no “I don’t like Harry Potter” slander allowed here. Located in Midtown, fans have access to one of the most intricate, detailed and superb stores in all of the city, the Harry Potter Store. The entire store is a mythical wonderland.

It’s no wonder why folks consider visiting here for International Harry Potter Day one of the best activities in New York City in May. The store spans two exciting floors and has a fun cafe selling butterbeer. Brace yourself for crowds of shrieking children, the joy is hard to hide. 

Visiting the Harry Potter store is one of the best free things to do in New York City in May, if you can get out without splurging on merchandise. In honor of International Harry Potter Day, I suggest you treat yourself to a souvenir though, make sure to grab the tantalizing chocolate frog or a wand! 


Rooftop Cinema Club

Catch a Movie at the Rooftop Cinema Club

Experience outdoor movies in Midtown with Rooftop Cinema Club, offering one of the best May activities in NYC. The roof of the Embassy Suites plays host to lounge chairs and headphones waiting for you, along with a projector and a screen ready to entertain. Imagine a silent disco without the exercise. 

The hotel provides a full bar and restaurant, and you’ll find a concessions stand with all the typical movie fixings. Whether you’re the type of person who sits down for a movie with a full five course dinner or just a bag of popcorn, you’ll be well taken care of.

Keep in mind since the season is just beginning, this will be one of the more popular things to do in New York City in May. Arriving early and with your full party is paramount since the seats are first come first serve. Doors open an hour before the showing so there’s ample time to chit chat before the film starts. 

The screenings are of timeless classics as well as new releases. This year’s movie list hasn’t been released yet, but you can sign up for email updates here.


Participate in Cinco De Mayo Festivities

Date: May 5th

Before I start getting barraged with comments about how Cinco de Mayo is only a minor Mexican holiday I want you to know that I already know that. I understand that most of the folks on the hunt for margaritas and tacos will be young people looking to party. But guess what? I’m a young person looking to party!

Need suggestions on where to celebrate the popular holiday? Here’s where I suggest you drop in for a stiff margarita if you find yourself in New York City in May:

  • Barrio Chino – Lower East Side
  • The Black Ant – East Village
  • Añejo – Tribeca

Love margaritas? Us too! Check out 18 Magnificent Margaritas in New York City (That’ll Satisfy Any Craving).


Cherry blossoms in Hunter's Point South Park

Check Out What’s Left of the Cherry Blossoms

Date: First week of May

Spring season is when I’m in peak physical shape because I run around New York City like a maniac trying to catch all the cherry blossoms before they’re gone. Luckily, if you’re visiting New York City in May you’ll be just in time to catch the Kwanzan cherry blossoms in their full glory!

Not only are the blooms beautiful, but they make for the most magical photo-ops. The inner-influencer in you is bound to find its way to the surface, and it’s near impossible not to look like a stereotypical tourist dad taking photos of every single tree you walk by.

Be sure to read our article on 10+ Breathtaking Spots for Cherry Blossoms in New York City when planning things to do in New York City in May. Don’t have time for the full post? Just make a beeline towards Central Park’s idyllic spring blooms.


Cheer on the Five Boro Bike Tour

Website: New York Five Boro Bike Tour
Date: May 7th

One of the best May activities in NYC is the Five Boro Bike Tour, a cycling event with 30,000 participants and 60,000 wheels. Spanning 40 miles across all five boroughs and five major bridges, the car-free course ensures safety for cyclists.

If biking isn’t your thing, you can still enjoy the event as a spectator, cheering on participants along the route starting in the Financial District, through Central Park, the South Bronx, Queens, Brooklyn, and ending in Staten Island. View the full map here.


Enjoy the Today Show’s Summer Concerts

Website: Today Show’s Summer Concert Series
Date: 2024 Lineup TBD

The Today Show Concert Series is an array of free events that start every May in New York City, where A-list artists perform for free in the Rockefeller Plaza. The only way to get access is by registering online with the Today Show.


Japan Parade
Things to do New York City in May
Image Courtesy Central Park

Catch the Japan Parade

Website: Japan Parade NYC
Date: May 11th

Japan Day is a newcomer to the annual celebrations held in New York City in May, but a welcomed addition nonetheless. Founded in 2007, the festivities have taken place in Central Park and worked to give New Yorkers a deeper understanding of Japanese culture.

The day starts with the Japan Parade, which marches on Central Park West from 81st Street (near the American Museum of Natural History) down to West 67th Street. The opening ceremony takes place at 12:30PM on Central Park West between 70th and 71st Streets and the parade officially begins at 1:00PM.

Afterwards you can keep the festivities going by heading to West 72nd Street between Columbus Avenue and Central Park West. Here you’ll be able to sample Japanese cuisine, little ones can take part in crafts and participate in giveaways!


Pull apart garlic and parmesan bread, Maison Pickle

Take Mom Out For a Memorable Mother’s Day Brunch

Date: May 14th

I don’t know about you guys, but my mom deserves the world (I hope you’re reading this, ma). That’s why one of the best things to do in New York City in May is to treat the woman that brought you into this world on Mother’s Day.

And is there a more quintessential Mother’s Day activity than brunch? I didn’t think so. Whether your mom is a mimosa type of lady or not, the morning meal is a great way to start her day.

If you’re visiting New York City in May and need a brunch suggestion, check out our guide 20 Prime Brunch Spots in New York City Worth the (Inevitable) Wait. And also worth mentioning, we have brunch guides for specific neighborhoods on our site too!


Uptown Night Market
Image Courtesy Uptown Night Market

Eat Your Way Through the New York City Night Markets

Date: Uptown Night Market: TBD | Bronx Night Market Birthday Bash: TBD | Queens Night Market: TBD

Exploring a night market is one of the best things to do in New York City in May. The amount of food, drinks, art and live performances right at your fingertips under the gorgeous spring skies? Amazing! The weather is comfortable and with the sun setting later in the evening, don’t expect to be going home anytime soon. 

Enjoy authentic savory food or chilled sweet treats, catch whatever live performance is happening and soak in the beauty that is night time in New York City.


Cantor Rooftop Garden at the Met

Soak in the Epic Skyline Views From the MET’s Rooftop

Website: Cantor Rooftop Garden
Neighborhood: Upper East Side
Location: 1000 5th Ave, New York, NY 10028
Date: 2024 Date TBD

I’ll be the first to admit that the NYC’s epic city skyline views never get old. One of the best things to do in New York City in May is to sneak away to the Met’s rooftoop for a cocktail. This might sound like a secret hangout for the museum’s executives but on the contrary, the Cantor Rooftop Garden is open to the public. 

Now the rooftop isn’t open year-round, that’s why if you find yourself in needs of things to do in New York City in May you’re part of a small group of folks who is fortunate enough to welcome back the Cantor Rooftop Garden. Beat the summer crowds and find out why this place is so loved.

In simple terms it’s a rooftop bar overlooking Central Park. You have access to it with standard admission and every spring the New York City museum decorates the rooftop with new exhibits. You’ll also be able to purchase snacks or drinks and hang out (my suggestion is to try to visit for sunset). 


High Line in Spring, New York City Parks
Best things to do in New York City in May | Walk the High Line

See the Spring Blooms on the High Line

Date: All month

The High Line, a unique park in NYC born from abandoned railroad tracks, opened in 2009 and spans 1.5 miles. If you’re wondering what makes visiting the High Line one of the few can’t miss things to do in New York City in May I’m going to give you more than 150,000 reasons: plants.

Indeed, more than 150,000 plants adorn the park and in the spring they’re a sight for sore eyes. Just take a gander at the High Line’s website and you’ll learn all about the curated “garden zones” meant to inspire. They didn’t just throw seeds and hoped they’d stick, the park truly made an oasis in the city. 

My favorite of which are the magnolia trees, which bloom in May. You’ll find them in the “Flyover” garden zone, between 25th and 27th Streets (around the middle of the High Line) and the blooms can grow up to 12 inches. They single-handedly draw me to the High Line every New York City spring.


Dance Parade
best things to do in New York City in May
Image Courtesy Dance Parade

Dance your Heart Out at the Dance Parade

Website: Dance Parade NYC
Date: May 18th

Nightclubs don’t do it for me anymore, I love to dance but most nights I want to be home by 9pm. Luckily the Dance Parade is one of the best events in New York City in May. It gives me the opportunity to shake my groove thing and still be home in time for dinner.

And I won’t be the only one busting a move. Over 10,000 dancers showcasing more than 100 different styles of dance make the 1.5 mile parade one of the best events in New York City in May.

You can register to dance in the parade or just groove to the ensemble of different music from the sidewalk. The beloved May New York City parade starts at 11:45AM and marches (or dances) down Sixth Avenue from 17th Street down to 8th Street. From there it hooks a left all the way to Tompkins Square Park.

Can’t make the parade? Don’t worry, there will be more festivities in Tompkins Square Park from 3-7PM. The event is called DanceFest and it’s completely free to attend. You’ll be able to enjoy choreographed performances, aerial dance and even dance lessons across five stages in the park.


Smorgasburg in Marsha P. Johnson State Park in Williamsburg, Brooklyn

Eat Your Weight in Food at Smorgasburg

Date: WTC: Every Friday | Williamsburg: Every Saturday | Prospect Park: Every Sunday

For food enthusiasts, a top May activity in NYC is welcoming the return of Smorgasburg, the largest weekly outdoor food market in the U.S. With over 60 vendors across three locations, including Manhattan and Brooklyn, it offers a diverse range of cuisines. Join the crowds of 20,000–30,000 visitors (weekly), jump from vendor to vendor, and savor the delicious offerings.

Locations: Marsha P. Johnson State Park in Williamsburg, World Trade Center in the Financial District and Prospect Park in Brooklyn


Suprema Provisions burger,New York City best burgers
Suprema Provisions | Greenwich Village

Try Any of New York City’s Top Burger Joints for National Hamburger Day

Date: May 28th

National Hamburger Day is a godsend for folks like me. I mean, I eat them regularly throughout the year but on National Hamburger Day I go berserk, I’m talking breakfast, lunch and dinner. It’s a silly holiday really, nothing more than an excuse to have a week’s worth of calories in a single day but I love celebrating the holiday every May in New York City.

It’s a goldmine out there, there are so many juicy burgers just waiting to be devoured. From the artisanal burger at a hipster restaurant to the greasy, high blood-pressure inducing burgers at a hole in the wall joint, it’s hard to go wrong.

So if you find yourself in New York City in May don’t forget to celebrate! Need suggestions on where to visit? Check out 20 Prime New York City Burgers You Won’t Soon Forget.


Greenpoint Things to Do NYC Bar Blondeau
Bar Blondeau | Greenpoint, Brooklyn

Ring in the Spring Season at a Rooftop Bar

Date: All of May

Although most rooftop bars start dusting off their tables in early spring, the best time to visit isn’t until May. That’s because May in New York City is when the temperature finally averages higher than 70°.

The warm climate makes being at the top of a windy restaurant more manageable. There’s no windchill to worry about. And the dip in temperature after the sun sets is still manageable with a sweater. And speaking of sunset, during the month of May in New York City it takes place right around 8PM. This makes dates and drinks so much more romantic and there’s no need to scram to the rooftop bar right after work.

Need suggestions on which rooftop bars to visit during your trip to New York City in May? We are currently working on a roundup of the best, but until then check out 10 Tasty Lower East Side Rooftop Bars (You Won’t Want to Miss).


9/11 twin tower tribute, New York City Itinerary

Watch the Memorial Day Parade in Brooklyn & Queens

Date: May 27, 2024

It’s important to remember that Memorial Day isn’t just an excuse for a three-day weekend. One of the best things to do in New York City in May is to pay your respects on a day meant to honor our fallen service members. And there’s a plethora of ways to do so.

If you’re looking to observe the holiday you can attend one of the city’s Memorial Day Parades. The Little Neck-Douglaston Memorial Day Parade takes place in Queens. And Brooklyn’s Memorial Day Parade is returning for its 157th year.

If neither of the parades are convenient for you, you can always visit the 9/11 Memorial. Although it’s not necessarily a memorial for military personnel, it provides a place for contemplation and remembrance during your visit to New York City in May.

Need a memorial more catered to our fallen heroes? Here are a few war memorials in New York City.

  • Brooklyn War Memorial: Dedicated to the 300,000+ men and women from Brooklyn that fought in WWII
  • 369th Regiment Memorial: Honors the Harlem Hellfighters of WWI and WWII, a largely African American New York Army National Guard regiment.
  • East Coast Memorial: An Eagle Statue in Battery Park, the memorial is a tribute to service members who died in the Atlantic Ocean in WWII.
  • Korean War Veterans Memorial: A tribute to the service members that passed during the Korean War, located in Kissena Park, Queens.

Manhattanhenge in NYC, moving to NYC

Snap an Epic Photo of Manhattanhenge

Date: May 29th – 30th

Listen up folks, if you are looking for things to do in New York City in May that will blow your mind, look no more. There’s a well-known annual phenomenon in New York City known as Manhattanhenge, which is when the sun aligns perfectly with east-to-west running streets as it sets. 

The mesmerizing sunset is unlike anything you’ve ever seen, I can guarantee it. The streets create a perfect pocket that seemingly catches the sun. Like moths to a flame, every phone, camera and selfie stick in sight fights for the perfect shot of the epic view.

Since this event only takes place twice a year and is one of the most popular things to do in New York City in May, I suggest arriving to your preferred spot early. Hang out to guarantee unobstructed views.

We created a guide covering everything you need to know about Manhattanhenge!


May Festivals in New York City


Taste of Tribeca Festival

Date: May 18th

More than 60 of Tribeca’s best restaurants come together every May in New York City in what I like to call heaven. The hodge-podge of different cuisines showcase the very best of what the Lower Manhattan neighborhood has to offer. All in a convenient and fun setting.

To gain access you’ll purchase a ticket to the festival online, and a general admission ticket comes with six tastings. There are early bird deals too, so book sooner rather than later.

It’s easy to jump from one stand to another sampling bites and stuffing your face. Plus, the proceeds from Taste of Tribeca go to Primary Schools 150 and 234. So try it all because it goes to a good cause! The list of participating restaurants has already been released and includes Michelin rated restaurants as well as a diverse array of food. For the map of all the stalls check out Taste of Tribeca’s website.


Ninth Avenue International Food Festival

Dates: 2024 Dates TBD

The Ninth Avenue International Food Festival is held every May in New York City on (you guessed it) Ninth Avenue from 42nd to 57th Streets in Hell’s Kitchen. The collection of different food vendors showcase the wide array of cuisines available in NYC and do so beautifully. You’ll find Mexican food, bubble tea, baked goods, seafood and more available.

In previous years the festival has had events for kids (like bouncey houses) making this one of the best festivals in New York City in May for families. The event goes on rain or shine, and there are no tickets needed for entry so swing by!


Gawk at the Impressive Ships During Fleet Week

Date: May 23th – 28th

Fleet Week is an annual celebration of our armed forces, specifically those who spend time on the water. The Navy, Marine Corps and Coast Guard all participate, docking ships and bringing their servicemen and women to New York City in the spring. 

Civilians can take a peek behind the curtain and tour active military ships. You’ll also get to attend events meant to showcase the skills of our armed forces (like a martial arts class that took place in Times Square in 2010). 

During the spring festival in New York City military personnel also get to explore the Big Apple. Some for the first time. The city becomes littered by thousands of military members in uniform! Locals take advantage of Fleet Week and stop the servicemen and women in the streets for a photo or to shake their hands. It’s also not uncommon to buy the military members a drink as a show of thanks for their service. 

Visit the Military News website for a rundown of events and where they’re taking place. Most are free and kids are welcome, which makes this one of the best things to do in New York City in May with little ones.


Tips for Visiting NYC in May

  • Wear comfortable shoes: Visiting New York City in May means you’ll be outside exploring majority of your trip. Knowing you’ll be putting miles on your shoes, make sure to READ: 10 Best Shoes for Walking Around New York City (By Season). This is NOT the time to break in new shoes.
  • Wear sunscreen: You know I’m a stickler for sunscreen! Here’s the only sunscreen I recommend. I’ve been using it exclusively for the past 8+ years and can’t recommend it enough.
  • Pack an umbrella: May in New York City is the second-rainiest month of the year. With an average of 9 random rainy days, it’s best to come prepared and pack an umbrella for the unpredictable rainfall.

Perks of visiting New York City in May

  • The mild temperatures are perfect for exploring
  • Late sunsets mean longer days
  • Tons of great outdoor activities (some free & some at night)

Disadvantages of visiting New York City in May

  • More crowded
  • Prices of flights + hotels start to rise
  • Rain in the forecast

Visiting New York City in May (Post Summary)

  1. Gawk at ships during Fleet Week
  2. Attend Ninth Avenue International Food Festival
  3. Peruse the VOLTA Art Fair
  4. Taste of Tribeca Festival 
  5. Snap an epic photo of Manhttanhenge 
  6. Watch the Memorial Day Parade
  7. Welcome back the Spring season with rooftop bars
  8. Eat a juicy burger for National Hamburger Day
  9. Spend the evening eating your weight at Smorgasburg
  10. Dance your heart out at the Dance Parade
  11. Stroll the blooms at the High Line
  12. Have a drink at the Cantor rooftop 
  13. Eat your way through night markets
  14. Take your mom out for a memorable brunch
  15. Sample cocktails at NYC Margarita Rumble
  16. Catch the Japan Parade
  17. Enjoy a live Jonas Brothers Performance 
  18. Challenge your friends to a game of pickleball
  19. Cheer on the Five Boro Bike Tour
  20. Check out what’s left of the cherry blossoms
  21. Celebrate Cinco De Mayo
  22. Catch a movie at the Rooftop Cinema Club
  23. Cheers with butterbeer for international Harry Potter Day
  24. Welcome back Grand Banks

Frequently Asked Questions: May Things to Do in NYC
Is May a good time to visit New York City?

Yes, May is a great time to visit New York City! The weather is close to perfect, the locals are retiring their winter coats and flocking to the nearest park. The city comes alive during the springtime.

What to do in May in New York City?

Gawk at ships during Fleet Week
Attend Ninth Avenue International Food Festival
Peruse the VOLTA Art Fair
Taste of Tribeca Festival 
Snap an epic photo of Manhttanhenge 
Watch the Memorial Day Parade
Welcome back the Spring season with rooftop bars
Eat a juicy burger for National Hamburger Day
Spend the evening eating your weight at Smorgasburg
Dance your heart out at the Dance Parade
Stroll the blooms at the High Line
Have a drink at the Cantor rooftop 
Eat your way through night markets
Take your mom out for a memorable brunch
Sample cocktails at NYC Margarita Rumble
Catch the Japan Parade
Enjoy a live Jonas Brothers Performance 
Challenge your friends to a game of pickleball
Cheer on the Five Boro Bike Tour
Check out what’s left of the cherry blossoms
Celebrate Cinco De Mayo
Catch a movie at the Rooftop Cinema Club
Cheers with butterbeer for international Harry Potter Day
Welcome back Grand Banks

What is May in New York like?

May in New York City is springtime, meaning plants are in full bloom, folks are happy as can be and the city is vibrant and full of life. The Weather is ideal for exploring and outdoor seating areas fill up quickly. Visiting NYC in May is a no-brainer and one of the best months to explore the city.

Is May busy in New York City?

Depending on when you visit, May in New York City is the start of the busy season. Towards the end of May, flight and hotel prices start to rise and the city gets littered with tourists. If you want to avoid crowds, the beginning of the month is your best bet.

Further Reading for Spring in New York City

Best Things to Do in Spring: 30+ Spectacular Things to Do in New York City in Spring
Where to Catch Cherry Blossoms in NYC: 10 Breathtaking Spots to See Cherry Blossoms in New York City
Cherry Blossoms in Central Park: 5 Best Spots to See Cherry Blossoms in Central Park
Things to Do in Central Park: 15 Enjoyable Things to Do in Central Park (Local’s Guide)

Iconic Spots in NYC Everyone Needs to Try

Best Pizza in NYC: 15 Best Pizza Joints in New York City
Iconic Restaurants in NYC: 10 Iconic New York City Restaurants Every Local Needs to Try
Mouthwatering Bagels in NYC: 15 BEST Bagels in New York City
Unbelievable Brunch Spots in NYC: 18 Prime Brunch Spots in New York City Worth the (Inevitable) Wait


Map of New York City May Activities


And there you have it folks, the best things to do when visiting New York City in May!

I hope you found the article useful, cheers.