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NYC events in May 2021

Plan your month with our events calendar highlighting the best NYC events in May 2021 including major holidays

Shaye Weaver
Written by
Shaye Weaver
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Now that spring is in full swing there’s certainly no shortage of outstanding NYC events in May 2021. We encourage you to find things to do outside and take in all the greenery by visiting some of the best NYC parks while the flowers are blooming. As for the month’s major holidays, don’t miss out on all the awesome things to do for Mother’s Day and Memorial Day. There’s also incredible spring festivals showcasing some of the best art and music.

RECOMMENDED: Full NYC events calendar for 2021

Featured events in May 2021

  • Museums
  • Movies and TV
  • Astoria
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Reopening on May 1, the Museum of the Moving Image is one of the city’s most dynamic institutions. Rubbing elbows with Kaufman Astoria Studios, it includes a three-story extension that features a state-of-the-art 267-seat cinema and expanded gallery spaces. Meanwhile, the museum’s “Behind the Screen” exhibit examines every step of the filmmaking process, with artifacts from more than 1,000 different productions, and 14 classic and playable video games, including Asteroids, Ms. Pac-Man and Space Invaders. When it reopens, expect to spend time in the newest exhibit, "Envisioning 2001: Stanley Kubrick’s Space Odyssey" and weekly screenings of 2001: A Space Odyssey; "The Jim Henson Exhibition" and "D'Oh! Animating America’s Funniest Family" among other exhibits. Timed tickets will be required.

RECOMMENDED: A guide to the museum of the Moving Image 

  • Things to do
  • Festivals

The season for things to do outside has arrived along with lush trees and blooming tulips at NYC parks. So what better way to spend an afternoon than by soaking up the sun during the annual celebration of Japan Day? NYC will bring Japan to you at this fun festival from May 1-9, and judging by the lineup of performances, activity tents and other attractions, it’s safe to say that this massive cultural event is certainly one of the best things to do in spring.

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  • Things to do
  • City Life

The lush oasis that is Governors Island will open to the public on May 1, signaling the start of the fun outdoor season in NYC.  New this year, there will be two stops in Brooklyn for weekend service—at Brooklyn Bridge Park and Red Hook—and ferry trips will be free to seniors, public housing residents, children and those with an ID NYC card. Starting May 1, you'll be able to go Glamping with Collective Governors Island and on May 22, you can participate in the NYC Runs Summer Loving 5K & 10K or check out the New York Virtual Volcano Observatory, ArtCrawl Harlem, Swale, Works on Water, or the May Room by Shantell Martin.

  • Things to do
  • Festivals
  • price 2 of 4

Art lovers flock to Frieze for its dreamy display of works from local and international galleries. Head on over to The Shed from May 5-14 and plan to spend some serious time immersing yourself in the imaginative projects from 60 galleries, but this year, some of the art fest’s works are virtually in the Frieze Viewing Room that will have an expanded digital program, connecting galleries and audiences across the globe. 

 

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  • Things to do
  • City Life

Usually heralding the impending arrival of summer, the annual Macy's Flower Show is as defining of New York as bagels and rooftop bars are. Although last year's show was understandably cancelled, we're here to report that 2021's iteration of the event is officially happening. Beginning May 2 through May 16, New Yorkers will get to walk through a plethora of magical flowers at Macy's flagship store in Herald Square. This year's theme is "Give. Love. Bloom." and, according to an official press release announcing the news, the "presentation will feature magnificently landscaped gardens inspired by the feeling of hope for a brighter year ahead." Free to the public, the colorful "exhibit" will be open for browsing during the store's regular hours. Needless to say, visitors should expect a slightly different format than what they're used to seeing. The space will certainly be filled with beautiful blooming florals, but the displays will all be socially distanced, as will the structures (from topiaries to grand bridges and columns) extending from the main floor through the outdoor area surrounding the store. 

  • Art
  • Art

The first thing people tell you to do when you're stressed is to take a deep breath. Now, a futuristic new art installation in Downtown Brooklyn—at The Plaza at 300 Ashland—is reminding viewers to do just that through 20, nine-foot-tall columns that glow and change their brightness to lead them through a calming breathing technique. The installation is called "Breathing Pavilion" and its by artist Ekene Ijeoma. Visitors must step in the middle of the circle to participate in the experience. Ijeoma created the installation during the pandemic and while the U.S. struggled with systemic racial injustice this past year. The work is supposed to offer sanctuary during a time of "intense hardship and loss," and "suggests a paradigm shift towards communion and meditative stillness, and creates an accessible space of reprieve when the act of breathing itself is under siege," according to The Downtown Brooklyn Partnership, a not-for-profit local development corporation that collaborated with the Van Alen Institute to bring the work to this location.

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  • Art
  • Art

As part of the much discussed New York Arts Revival project, the Lincoln Center for the Performing Arts just announced its plans to create a giant outdoor performing arts center that will include ten different performance and rehearsal spaces. Dubbed Restart Stages, the effort was crafted with the help of medical and public health professionals, ensuring that all staff, future audiences and artists will be protected by COVID-19-related safety protocols. New Yorkers can expect a varied programming slate, including a concert and cabaret series by the Lincoln Center Theater, the Chamber Music Society of Lincoln Center's annual summer evening concerts, dance workshops led by the New York City Ballet and film screenings by Film at Lincoln Center. The breadth and scope of the various outdoor spaces is sure to excite you as well: the organization has promised an outdoor reading room created in partnership with the New York Public Library for the Performing Arts, a cabaret-style stage on Hearst Plaza, a slew of rehearsal venues, dedicated family areas with arts activities for the youngsters and even a space for public school graduations. Talk about a memorable life event. Perhaps most nobly, Restart Stages will also look past the arts and direct its attention to community services by offering blood drives, food distributions and serving as a designated primary election polling place.

  • Art
  • Art

A grove of 49 white cedar trees will be planted in Madison Square Garden this summer, and they may give you the willies. Ghost Forest, the installation of spooky trees, is opening May 10 with the hopes of raising awareness about the ill effects of climate change, specifically the dying off of vast tracts of forests, like the New Jersey Pine Barrens where the trees are from. The Pine Barrens in New Jersey is a vulnerable area that has suffered "severe deprivation," according to the Madison Square Park Conservancy. These trees (Atlantic white cedars) were once plentiful on the East Coast but now there are fewer than 50,000 acres of them because of historic forestry practices and threats posed by climate change (like sea-level rise and saltwater infiltration). The trees in this exhibit, which reach as high as 45 feet, were all slated to be cleared as part of regeneration efforts. Visitors to the park will be able to walk through the grove and commune with the ghostly figures. Alongside the Ghost Forest, there will be a soundscape that visitors can listen to when they scan a QR code at the site. The audio will include sounds from extinct and endangered animals that were once native to NYC as well as historic clips of Lenape elders and contemporary voices introducing the name of each animal in Lenape languages are featured.

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  • Things to do
  • City Life

Oh. my. God. The Friends Experience that took NYC by storm in 2019 is back! You know, the one with all the iconic props and recreated scenes from Friends? It opens on March 17 with a whopping 18 rooms, including the orange couch in front of the fountain, Monica’s kitchen, the hilarious 'Pivot!' scene, and the Las Vegas wedding chapel where Ross & Rachel tied the knot. There will even be an actual functioning Central Perk that serves coffee, pastries, and desserts, which will be open to the public daily starting at 7am so you can bring your friends and relive your favorite Central Perk scenes. New props and costumes have been added this time around, including Chandler's bunny suit and Rachel's famous cow jacket, as well as Monica and Rachel's living room and Ugly Naked Guy.

  • Things to do
  • City Life

Cruise uptown to the weekly fete which runs between 4 and 10pm. Every year there's thumping live music, performances, local merchants, and Bronx-based vendors, serving up tamales, soul food, latkes, ice cream, pastries, elotes and vegan creations. This season welcomes new vendors to the mix such as Mao's Baos, Rooster Boys, Wowfulls, Bolivian Llama Party, Fried Lasagna Mama, El Lechon de Negron, Osicala NYC among others. There are also local vendors back by popular demand from last year, like The Bronx Burger Co, The Fried Kitchen, MozzArepa and Chavas Empanadas. Hit the onsite beer garden to loosen up with beer from their rotating list of New York State craft breweries and wait for tunes to start. 

Looking for more things to do?

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  • Health and beauty
  • Spas

It’s no secret that New Yorkers are stressed, but when it comes to unwinding, we’re pretty competitive about that too—that’s where the best spas in NYC come in. The city boasts some of the most luxurious spas in the country, but affordable spa treatments also abound. So get inspired with birthday party ideas in NYC or date night ideas in NYC and book yourself a treatment at one of our favorite New York City spas.

RECOMMENDED: A complete guide to Spa Week in NYC

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  • Travel

With a long winter before us, escaping New York City on a secluded getaway is at the top of our list. We're craving a respite from the busy lives we lead in NYC and are seeking to snowshoe in the Adirondacks, walk solo in Rhode Island, roast marshmallows at an isolated campsite in the Catskills, and more. These spots make for ideal trips during times of global crisis and not. As fun-filled as camping sites, cycling and hiking trails are, there is something about going a bit farther away that makes for more memorable times—especially given the current travel restrictions in placeSo, without further ado, in no particular order, here are the best secluded getaways to take from New York to escape the crowds. 

NOTE: Although our list has been vetted, re-opening guidelines in the New York area are constantly changing. Reach out to specific venues and destinations before planning a trip. 

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