May is bursting with springtime fun. It's the perfect month to fly a kite, celebrate moms, and check out the gazillion fairs and festivals happening across the state. You can celebrate New Jersey's amazing shore at Ocean Fun Days, or travel back in time to the Renaissance and the Wild West. When the weather's not cooperating, head indoors to see one of the many performances on NJ stages this month, including Alice in Wonderland, Annie, and Pete the Cat. It all culminates in Memorial Day weekend, which marks the start of summer fun with the opening of many water parks and amusement parks, including the tot-friendly Land of Make Believe.
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Read on to see our top picks for the merry month of May. For even more things to do, be sure to check out our Event Calendar, with new activities and events added daily, as well as our Spring Fun Guide for New Jersey Kids. Have a great May, NJ!
Renaissance Faire at Historic Smithville – Smithville
Put on your puffy shirt and head to Historic Smithville for a weekend of Renaissance revelry. There will be sword fighting, singing, dancing, knights, and jesters, as well as wares for sale from local vendors and traveling merchants. Attractions for little lords and ladies include train rides, a carousel, and paddle boats. FREE
Kite Days at Terhune Orchards – Princeton
Go fly a kite at Terhune Orchards! Bring your own, buy one in the shop, or make and decorate one on site. There will be live music and tons of food to purchase, as well as barnyard games and tractor-drawn wagon rides. Come Sunday for the sheep-shearing demonstration, and take home a piece of fleece on a sheep-shaped card.
WBGO Kids Jazz Concert Series – Newark
Introduce the kids to jazz at this excellent series that brings world-renowned jazz artists to venues throughout Essex County. This month's performance features acclaimed jazz vocalist Melissa Walker and the Montclair-based Jazz House Kids. The series wraps up next month, so catch it while you can. Recommended for ages 7–11. FREE
Happily Ever After – South Orange
LOL at silly renditions of famous fairy tales, including Rumpelstiltskin, Little Red Riding Hood, and Rapunzel, in this performance at SOPAC presented by Bright Star Touring Theatre. The show runs about 45 minutes and is geared toward kids 4–10.
Wild West City reopens for the season on May 6.
Wild West City Opening Day – Stanhope
Wild West City celebrates the start of its 61st season this weekend, so mosey on over to experience life in a frontier town circa 1880. Attractions include live-action shows (22 per day!); stagecoach, pony, and train rides; mini golf; and a barnyard zoo.
Alice in Wonderland – Millburn
Follow Alice down the rabbit hole in this production of Lewis Carroll's classic tale at Papermill Playhouse. The Mad Hatter, Cheshire Cat, White Rabbit, and the rest of Carroll's madcap characters make an appearance in the show, which is recommended for ages 5–10.
Catch Annie at State Theatre New Jersey on May 7.
Annie – New Brunswick
The eternally optimistic orphan comes to State Theatre New Jersey for two performances of the beloved musical, featuring such favorites as "Tomorrow" and "It's the Hard-Knock Life." Recommended for ages 8+.
GuGu Drum Group from Shanghai – Morristown
Billed as a "theatrical drum drama," this performance by Shanghai's award-winning drum group features instruments and techniques that date back to the dynasties of ancient China. The high-energy show puts a contemporary spin on Chinese proverbs, fables, and fairytales. Recommended for ages 5+.
Lake Hopatcong Block Party – Landing
Celebrate New Jersey's largest lake with an action-packed day filled with boat rides, music, food trucks, a children's area, family train ride, a park-wide scavenger hunt, and more. FREE
New Jersey State History Fair – Manalapan
Dive into New Jersey's rich history at this fair held at Monmouth Battlefield State Park, the site of one of the largest battles of the Revolutionary War. Highlights include living history demonstrations, military re-enactors, tours, exhibits, hands-on activities, and period music and dance. Look for special appearances by Harriet Tubman, Teddy Roosevelt, Walt Whitman, George Washington, and other important figures in American history. FREE
The Children's Festival in Historic Smithville features inflatables, a traveling zoo, face painting, and more.
Children's Festival – Smithville
A festival especially for kids? Don't mind if we do. This popular fair in Historic Smithville features the Cape May Zoo's traveling zoo, along with face painting, inflatables, balloon animals, and games. While you're there, check out Smithville's carousel, train ride, arcade, and paddle boats. Free admission; some activities have a small fee.
Mother's Day Weekend – Various locations
May 14 is Mother's Day (in case anyone in your family needs reminding), and there are lots of special events happening around NJ this weekend. Just a few include: Mother's Day at Morey's Piers, where all moms ride free from noon – 5 p.m.; a Mother's Day Tea Party at Paws Discovery Farm; and Mother's Day hikes at Tenafly Nature Center and Cora Hartshorn Arboretum. We've also got the scoop on the best brunch spots in Northern NJ and the Jersey Shore.
Beautiful Birds, Butterflies, and Cinco de Mayo Festival – Camden
There's a lot to celebrate at Camden Children's Garden this weekend. Kids will learn all about the garden's inhabitants, including the residents of the butterfly house, and mark the return of the monarch butterflies from Mexico with a Cinco de Mayo celebration. On Sunday, moms ride free on the carousel, train, and other amusement rides.
Pete the Cat – Englewood
The groovy blue cat comes to BergenPAC in a stage adaptation of the popular children's book series. In the show, Pete is sent to live with the proper Biddle family to learn good manners, and he and the family's straitlaced second-grader must figure out a way to get along.
Touch-A-Truck – Scotch Plains
Emergency, construction, utility vehicles and more will be available for exploration at the JCC of Central NJ. In addition to trucks, the fun will include a bounce house, games, music, and food. There will be a "Hold the Horn" hour for kids with special needs or sound sensitivities. FREE
Ocean Fun Days – Island Beach State Park and Sandy Hook
This two-day festival celebrates the ocean and coastal environment with exhibits, classes, nature tours, and kids' activities. The fun includes fishing clinics for kids, touch tanks, fiddler crab races, a scavenger hunt, and more. FREE
Land of Make Believe celebrates its season reopening on May 27.
Land of Make Believe Opening Day – Hope
The popular amusement park for little ones reopens for the season this weekend. Splash around in the water park if the weather's warm, or stay dry on rides like Jump Around Frog and T-Rex. The park will be open on weekends only through the third weekend in June, after which it will be open daily through Labor Day.
Water Parks Open for the Season – Various Locations
Speaking of water fun, Memorial Day weekend marks the opening of most water parks in NJ! Get your swimsuits ready, and check websites for more info.
Originally published 2013; updated for 2017.
Photos courtesy of the events/venues.