Memorial Day Weekend in NYC: Festivals, Beaches, Family Fun Day

NYC Kids and Families: Memorial Day Parades, Coney Island, Fleet Week, Day Trips

Memorial Day weekend, the unofficial start of summer, is here! We know it's been one of the coldest Mays in memory, but that's changing fast. No matter what, New York City's big seasonal attractions open on Saturday, like local beaches, or Victorian Gardens in Central Park. Plus, if it reaches 80 degrees, the city's destination playground sprinklers might be on, too.

While beaches and playgrounds are open all summer, events like Fleet Week ship tours, Governors Island Family Fun Day, Memorial Day in Prospect Park, and a bunch of parades are on tap this weekend only.

Thinking about a last-minute getaway? We've pulled together great family day trips on Long Island, including cool lighthouses, and Westchester and Hudson Valley, as well as our favorite nearby beaches like Fire Island's Ocean Beach and those a bit farther down the Jersey Shore. When you're there, use our Jersey Shore Family Guide. You might also try one of the nearby water parks or amusement parks, many of which open for the season on Saturday. Also, don't forget that many local farms in the greater NYC area are open for strawberry picking with the kids, beginning this weekend. 

Stay local and finally visit the mesmerizing CHIHULY glass sculpture display at New York Botanical Gardens, the FREE Socrates Sculpture Park in Queens, floating food forest Swale in Brooklyn, or the brand-new zip line and 25-foot climbing tower opening on Governors Island this weekend. Our NYC Parks and Playgrounds Guide is always a safe bet for staycations, too, as is our Indoor Play Spaces Guide, including fun places parents and kids can play together in NYC.

Read on for our best bets for Memorial Day weekend events for kids in NYC. Oodles of family fun can also be found in our Event CalendarSpring Fun Guide, and our fresh-out-of-the-oven Summer Fun Guide.

However you spend the three-day holiday weekend, we hope you have a blast! 

Tour some of the huge ships that come in during Fleet Week for FREE. Photo courtesy of U.S. Navy.

All Weekend

Fleet Week New York: Ship Tours — Citywide
One of our May GoList picks! Marines, Navy sailors and Coast Guardsmen cruise into town, bringing festivities throughout the five boroughs. Highlights for families include no-cost ship tours throughout the weekend at Piers 88 and 92, the Intrepid Sea, Air and Space Museum, the Brooklyn Cruise Terminal and Sullivans Pier on Staten Island. Expect super-long lines (often capped by mid-afternoon). FREE

Adventures on Governors Island — Governors Island
​A brand-new high-flying playground for kids and grown-ups opens on Governors Island this weekend (weather dependent): Adventures on Governors Island. Double zip lines, a 25-foot climbing wall, and human maze make up Adventures on Governors Island, run by the NY Carousel people (Seaglass), and opening this weekend for the first time.

Opening Weekend of Victorian Gardens at Wollman Rink  Central Park
Great for young kids, this popular amusement park reopens favorite rides like Bigfoot, the Kite Flyer, and Mini Mouse for the 2017 season. 

Drones: Is the Sky the Limit? — Hell's Kitchen
Head to the Intrepid Sea, Air & Space Museum for a massive exhibit dedicated to all things drones, including proto-drones throughout history, like, well, model airplanes. Pier 86 is big enough for live demonstrations, so expect to see a prototype of a drone designed to deliver online orders, as well at the Volantis, AKA Lady Gaga's flying dress.

Mummies: New Secrets from the Tombs — Upper West Side
If the weather rains on the weekend fun, head indoors to see the ongoing Mummies exhibit. American Museum of Natural History takes a wide angle look at the practice of mummification, from Egypt to Peru, and from royalty to animals. Scientific uses of the latest technologies also play a part, with 3D printed casts and cat scans of unopened coffins. 

Find more art exhibits for families in our Museum Guide.

Meet an owl at The Cloisters: Animal Friends event. Photo courtesy of the museum.

Family Festival at The Cloisters: A Taste of the Middle Ages — Inwood
In the Cloisters, make a medieval goblet or spice-box and then head to the galleries' main hall for a demonstration of period-era cooking methods and ingredients. Saturday and Sunday only. Free with suggested admission.

Lakeside Splash Pad Opens — Prospect Park, Brooklyn
One of our favorite NYC kiddie splash spots opens for the summer season on Saturday, the Splash Pad at LeFrak Center in Brooklyn's Prospect Park. The ice-roller-rink turned splash zone turns on dozens of sprinklers and jets for kids ages 12 and under to splash around in. Dry off and take a spin on the adjacent solo roller skating rink or the nearby carousel.

DanceAfrica Bazaar — Fort Greene, Brooklyn
Part of the Brooklyn Academy of Music's weekend-long DanceAfrica fest, this outdoor bazaar features ethnic vendors and food, plus street performers. (There's also a ticketed DanceAfrica Family Workshop on Monday, May 29). FREE

The brand-new Dynamic H20 at the Children's Museum of Manhattan is sure to please water-happy toddlers and preschoolers. Photo courtesy of the museum.

Dynamic H20  — Upper West Side
Back again for a second summer! The Children's Museum of Manhattan's newly expanded interactive water exhibit! Dynamic H20 replaced the museum's smaller seasonal water feature, City Splash, in 2016 and gives kids a look at NYC's water supply. The exhibit includes a 16-foot-long water table that replicates the 125-mile journey the city's drinking water takes from upstate New York. Kids can explore the role water plays in our lives through interactive, hands-on activities and manipulatives.

Saturday, May 27

Lower East Side Festival of the Arts Cultural Street Fair — East Village
Enjoy an artsy Saturday street fair with live music, poetry, dance, comedy, and food, as the Theater for the New City celebrates its 22nd annual fete. Head indoors for special youth performances as the main fest runs Friday through Sunday. FREE

Enjoy the bounce house at the Memorial Day fair in Sunnyside. Photo courtesy the event organizers.

Memorial Day Fair — Sunnyside
Kids can hit the sandpit, swoosh down the slide or swing in the lovely members-only Sunnyside Gardens Park, which opens its gate to the public for this fair. Other attractions include a bouncy castle, an obstacle course, a kiddie nail salon and more fun. FREE admission, but there are fees for activities.

BRIC Family Day — Fort Greene, Brooklyn
At this May GoList pick, BRIC's huge gallery transforms itself into an art workshop for kids with BRIC artists leading them in all sorts of fun crafts. See the work of Brooklyn school children while you're there, via the 29th Annual Contemporary Art Education Exhibition.

Outdoor Movies – The Bronx, Brooklyn, Staten Island, Upper West Side
Catch a FREE alfresco flick tonight. Choose from Monsters University at Underhill Playground in Brooklyn, Coach Carter on Staten Island; Ice Age, Collision Course on the Upper West Side; or Sing in the Bronx's Concrete Plant Park. All FREE. Or: Should rain return to the evening's forecast, head for either BAM's ticketed showing of Le Balloon D'or, or the Nitehawk Cinema's ticketed screening of E.T. over Saturday brunch

Centennial Saturdays — Central Park West
The New-York Historical Society Museum kicks of this month-and-a-half long 'living history" series with a chance to meeting living historians playing soldiers in the American Expeditionary Forces. Kids can try on a helmet or check out military tools.

See all Saturday events.

Sunday, May 28

Family Fun Day at Governors Island includes art-making, outdoor play and performances. Photo courtesy of organizers.

Governors Island Family Fun Day — Governors Island
More May GoList fun! Governors Island celebrates their first full opening for the entire month of May with their second annual Family Fun Day. The massive green space will be packed with live music from returning acts like Tim Kubart and the Space Cadets, as well as performances by the Story Pirates. Expect puppet-making, creative projects with the Children's Museum of the Arts, composting and birdhouse painting. Bring your bike or rent one there, and don't forget to check out the adventure playground, and if you have bigger kids, the Adventures on Governors Island with zip line and more. Mostly FREE except for applicable ferry fees (kids under 12 are always FREE).

Mamapalooza Festival — Upper West Side
As part of the City Parks' "Summer on the Hudson" series, this music-focused afternoon of five acts including Vered and the Babes also includes family-focused vendors and wellness activities. FREE 

World Turtle Day — Staten Island
Celebrate World Turtle Day at the Staten Island Zoo where there will be turtle races, live presentations of the reptile and more. Read our full review for more information on what else there is to do at the Staten Island Zoo. Free with paid admission.

Movie Nights on Randall's Island — Randall's Island
Travel by footbridge or ferry to this weekly movie night launching on Sunday with Fantastic Beats and Where to Find Them. FREE

30th Annual Loisaida Street Festival — East Village
This perennial street parade and concluding fair is super-family friendly, with theater and dance performances, a carnival parade, and kids workshops by the likes of El Museo Del Barrio. FREE

See all Sunday events.

Monday, May 30

Remember the reason for the day with the moving Memorial Day commemoration at Soldiers' and Sailors' Monument. Photo courtesy of U.S. Navy.

Memorial Day Commemoration — Upper West Side
Teach kids the meaning of the holiday at the Soldiers’ and Sailors’ Monument's solemn remembrance of the brave men and women who died in service to our country. FREE

150th Kings County Memorial Day Parade — Bay Ridge, Brooklyn
Another meaningful way to mark the holiday is to catch one of the many Memorial Day parades around town. Bay Ridge's procession is the oldest in NYC; it turns 150 this year. FREE

Memorial Day in Prospect Park — Prospect Park, Brooklyn
Brooklyn's gorgeous green space is hosting a day full of nature-themed activities for kids. Visit the Audubon Center to mulch trees, get face time with the animal residents, participate in outside play and naturalist-led expeditions. Over at Lefferts Historic House assist in planting the park's potato crop and compete in potato sack races. Activities at the Audubon Center are FREE.

Memorial Day at the Children's Museum of Manhattan (CMOM) — Upper West Side
Make a star-spangled wind chime or a red, white, and blue fruit salad, and then check out Building Wonderlands, where kids can build using Tegu magnetic wooden blocks.

90th Little Neck-Douglaston Memorial Day Parade — Little Neck/Douglaston, Queens
The second-longest running Memorial Day parade in New York City, this one boasts of being recognized as the largest Memorial Day parade in the country; if any NYC borough can host it, it's Queens. FREE

See all Monday events.

Top image: Relax in a hammock on Governors Island during the green space's opening weekend. Photo provided courtesy Governors Island.