Best Things to Do with NYC Kids: May 2013 Go List
May is a fantastic month for families in New York City. Starting Memorial Day weekend, you can enjoy summer fun like beaches and amusement parks but without the sweltering heat you get later in the season. Plus there are free festivals, carnivals and street fairs practically everywhere you turn.
With so many great things going on in May, it's tough to figure out which events deserve a spot on your jam-packed schedule. But we do the work for you with our Go List, our carefully curated roundup of the absolute best things to do with kids in NYC throughout the month. Our May edition includes annual favorites my family and I try to attend every year, like Governors Island Opening Weekend Family Festival and Spring Kids Fest in Madison Square Park. Plus there are some brand-new happenings that sound pretty cool, like Grand Central Terminal's Centennial Parade of Trains and the New York Hall of Science's interactive Design Zone.
As always, if an event piques your interest, be sure to click through to our listing for all the details, including address and time. And although we say this every time, we think it bears repeating: In NYC, really cool things to do with kids often get booked up quickly. Last month, three of our April NYC Go List picks sold out weeks in advance. So buy your tickets ASAP or, in the case of FREE events, arrive as early as possible to avoid disappointment.
Now get your calendars ready! Here are the top 13 things to do with kids in New York City this May, nine of which are 100% FREE.
IDEAS CITY StreetFest – Lower East Side
Saturday, May 4
The New Museum's second biennial IDEAS CITY Festival, dedicated to innovative arts and culture in urban areas, culminates in this all ages street fair in and around Sara D. Roosevelt Park. Thought-provoking games, communal arts and crafts like a giant plastic bag mandala, a portable kids' library, live music with instruments made of recycled materials, performances by Rosie’s Theater Kids, a subway-themed puppet show, a parkour showcase and a collaborative mural of the New York City skyline are just some of the offbeat fun on tap. We wrote an entire post about the inaugural fest in 2011 and can't wait to check it out again. Remember, this must-see event won't be back until 2015 so it's worth fitting into your schedule. FREE
It's My Park Day – Citywide
Saturdays, May 4, 11 and 18
Last year, we wrote a post about this awesome volunteering initiative, which is organized by Partnership for Parks every spring and fall. Spring It's My Park Day actually takes place over multiple May weekends, and brings together thousands of NYC volunteers looking to help spruce up their neighborhood green spaces. It's a great way to connect with nature and the perfect opportunity to teach kids about the importance of giving back to their community. After all, these are the parks they play in! There are volunteering events throughout the five boroughs. Chores include cleaning, weeding, raking, gardening and painting. Some opportunities are particularly family-friendly and offer fun like arts and crafts, live performances and athletic activities so be sure to read the descriptions carefully. A handful also require preregistration. Find the complete list on the Park's Department's website. FREE
NYRR Youth Jamboree – East Harlem
Sunday, May 5
Three times a year, New York Road Runners hosts no-cost track and field events for children ages 4 and up. This time, it takes place at the 5,000-seat Icahn Stadium on fun-filled Randall's Island. No experience is necessary, just energy (which most kids have in spades). Children are grouped by grade and gender, and get to run, jump and throw. All participants snag ribbons and T-shirts. The preregistration cutoff date has passed but you can register onsite that day. Just be sure to arrive early as filling out those forms always takes longer than you anticipate. FREE
Super Sonic Kindie Music Festival – Gowanus
Sunday, May 5
If you weren't able to snag a ticket to last month's annual Kindiefest concert before it sold out, here's your chance to redeem yourself to your music-loving tots. The second annual Super Sonic Kindie Music Festival features three great NYC-based bands: Grammy-nominated duo The Pop Ups, who play a wide variety of musical styles (pop, reggae, dance, emo) and also use colorful puppets and props; bilingual band Moona Luna with a Cinco de Mayo celebration; and the sing-along-friendly Karen K & the Jitterbugs. In addition, there will be interactive music workshops with the Brooklyn Conservatory of Music and clarinetist Oran Etkin's Timbalooloo, Les Petits Fairytale book launch, face painting, healthy snacks and goody bags. Go early: The first 50 families receive a free ArtsCetera CD. $15 for adults, $12 for children
Kite Flight – Long Island City
Saturday, May 11
Socrates Sculpture Park is one of our favorite places in Long Island City. The outdoor art installation is FREE to visit year-round, and offers no-cost kids' art workshops every Saturday morning in late spring and throughout summer. The 2013 series kicks off with the annual Kite Flight, which is presented in conjunction with the nearby Noguchi Museum. Under the guidance of teaching artist Miguel Luciano, kids fashion Caribbean-style paper kites out of recycled materials. Participants are encouraged to add text and illustrations that explore the themes of freedom and community. Once it's finished, let your flier soar against the backdrop of the Manhattan skyline. All materials are provided. You can bring your own kite if you prefer, though it kind of defeats the purpose. FREE
Grand Centennial Parade of Trains – Midtown East
Saturday, May 11-Sunday, May 12
Grand Central Terminal's year-long 100th anniversary celebration continues with this super-kid-friendly festival. Sixteen historic trains from the '40s and '50 will chug into the station and families will actually be able to climb on board. There will also be a dozen Metro-North trains to explore, plus the Railroadiana display in Vanderbilt Hall featuring vintage models and collectibles to see and buy. But the main attraction for families is Kid Junction. Radio Disney will be on hand with games and prizes, Chuggington will be greeting his fans, a master builder from Westchester's recently opened Legoland Discovery Center will how off his skills, plus there will be readings, live music and an underground art tour. Check the exact schedule carefully since certain activities take place at specific times. FREE
Kings County Fair – Marine Park
Thursday, May 16-Monday, May 27
If you've been hankering to hit an old-fashioned country fair with a massive Ferris wheel, cool kiddie rides, carnival games, cotton candy and corn dogs, and live entertainment, well, you don't have to leave the city. Brooklyn athletic complex Aviator Sports and Events Center once again hosts the Kings County Fair on its grounds. While there's enough fun to last many days, check out the pricing before you go. The best deal is $25 for unlimited rides but some dates can cost up to $30, and on weekends and holidays there's also a $5 admission fee. So plan wisely.
Spring Kids Fest – Flatiron
Saturday, May 18
Madison Square Park and Time Out Kids' annual seasonal fest always has an impressive lineup of entertainment, activities and attractions, and this year is no exception. Catch kiddie hip-hop artist Secret Agent 23 Skidoo, Brooklyn's own Rolie Polie Guacamole and apple seeds’ Songs for Seeds on the main stage; get up close and personal with a prehistoric creature from Field Station: Dinosaurs; make arts and crafts with the Museum of Mathematics, the Rubin Museum and Taro’s Origami Studio; and enjoy face painting, no-cost treats and more. My daughter and I have been to this fest many times and it is imperative you arrive right when it starts. Otherwise you will wait on long lines for everything. Once it wraps up, grab lunch at one of our favorite kid-friendly restaurants near Madison Square Park. FREE
New York City Dance Parade – Flatiron & the East Village
Saturday, May 18
Once you're done with Spring Kids Fest, walk a few blocks south to catch the start of this annual dance procession, which made our list of the best NYC parades for kids. The New York City Dance Parade kicks off around Madison Square Park and ends in the East Village. Along the way, 10,000 movers and shakers shimmy down Broadway in elaborate costumes doing more than 75 dances, including salsa, tango, waltz, African, Asian, the hula, break dancing and more. If you want to participate, you must register in advance and join a group. Otherwise, go and cheer them on and hit the after-party in Tompkins Square Park for dance workshops and performances. FREE
Sing-along Sound of Music – Flatbush
Sunday, May 19
I've been to and hosted musical movie sing-alongs, so I can vouch for how fun they are, especially if the film is one of your favorites. If your kids love to croon "Do-Re-Mi," "Edelweiss" or the title tune in the shower (or on the subway, the street, in school...) then they'll really enjoying belting them out in a theater full of other Sound of Music fans. Not sure they know all of the words? No worries: All of the lyrics will be projected onscreen. Note: The movie itself is almost three hours and there will also be pre-screening trivia and activities, so at almost four hours, the event may be too much for younger children. $15
Drums Along the Hudson – Inwood
Sunday, May 19
This annual celebration in Inwood Hill Park is a great way to learn about and experience Native American culture. Watch incredible dance and drumming performances by Louis Mofsie and the Thunderbird American Indian Dancers, and Heyna Second Sons and Silver Cloud Drum Group, and try Native American crafts and foods. There will also be traditional ceremonies, like the planting of a Tree of Peace as a tribute to recently deceased community leaders. FREE
Design Zone – Corona
Saturday, May 25-Sunday, September 1
One of our favorite NYC educational spots, the New York Hall of Science, debuts a new interactive installation that's all about design. Learn how video game designers, music producers, roller coaster makers and other engineers use math and science in their creations. As always, there's lots of hands-on fun like laying down tracks on a drum machine, spinning tunes in a deejay booth, learning about scale and pattern through image manipulation, designing a skatepark and testing out virtual roller coasters. You have the entire summer to check it out. Free with admission: $11 for adults, $8 for children ages 2-17
Governors Island Opening Weekend Family Festival – Financial District
Sunday May 26
Governors Island is my absolute favorite place to go in NYC when it's open. Whether I go for a specific festival like Figment or just picnic and chill out on its lush lawns, I've loved every single one of my visits there. The activity-filled isle opens for the season on Memorial Day weekend and as usual there's a big family fest on that first Saturday. Enjoy storytelling, arts and crafts, live performances by the kindie folk bands Astrograss and The Maybelles, a fantastical puppet show by Arm-of-the-Sea Theater, face painting, a bike helmet giveaway and harbor-themed fun. Note: The island's mini-golf course and sculpture garden won't yet be installed but there will still be plenty to do! Try to catch a ferry before noon otherwise you may end up needing to wait at the terminal. FREE
NYC always has so many amazing things going on, it's difficult to choose. So here are a few more cool events worth considering for your May calendar. Be sure to sign up for our FREE newsletters so you can get our weekend picks delivered to your inbox every Thursday morning.
Meet Gustafer Yellowgold in person for FREE on the Upper East Side on Saturday, May 4.
Watch canoes paddle through the Bronx as part of the FREE Amazing Bronx River Flotilla on Saturday, May 11
Go on a Search for the Unicorn in honor of the Cloisters' 75th anniversary beginning on Wednesday, May 15.
Just try to stay in your seat while watching Rennie Harris' street dance spectacle Rhaw at the New Victory Theater from Friday, May 17 to Sunday, May 26.
Central Park's pint-size amusement park Victorian Gardens opens for the season on Friday, May 24.
The New York Aquarium partially reopens on Saturday, May 25 after being ravaged by Hurricane Sandy.
Hit the sand and surf in NYC: Beaches open for the season on Saturday, May 25.
Watch or participate in avant-garde art at Theater for the New City's 18th annual Lower East Side Festival of the Arts outdoor culture day on Saturday, May 25.
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