May is beloved in NYC for the return of warm weather, alfresco dining options, and family-centric holidays such as Mother's Day and Memorial Day weekend. The latter marks the unofficial start of summer as beaches, water parks, and amusement parks open for the season.
But you don't have to wait until the last weekend of the month to enjoy wonderful family outings. There are fairs and festivals everywhere you turn in May, and our GoList includes the top 13 things to do with kids in New York City this month, a host of which are FREE. Enjoy no-cost annual favorites such as Governors Island Family Fun Day, the New York Dance Parade, and the Children's Museum of the Arts' Kids Fair. There's new spring theater, too, and new art debuting downtown.
For more activity ideas, peruse our Event Calendar and our Spring Fun Guide. It's also a great month to check out our NYC Parks & Playgrounds Guide.
As always, if an event piques your interest, click through to our listing for all the details, including address and time. And keep in mind, in NYC really cool things to do with kids often book up quickly, so buy your tickets ASAP or, in the case of FREE events, arrive as early as possible. Be sure to sign up for our FREE newsletters so you can get our picks delivered to your inbox.
Seedfolks — Midtown West
Friday, May 4–Friday, May 11
From our spring theater picks: A multicultural Cleveland neighborhood comes to life in this solo show based on Paul Fleischman's eponymous book. Sonja Parks channels 14 diverse characters in a tour-de-force performance at the New Victory Theater. As these disparate folks come together to make a garden, a community grows and blossoms.
RELATED: Best NYC Family Festivals and Fairs This May
Learning to ride a bike is just one of the activities at Bike Expo New York. Photo courtesy of the expo
Bike Expo New York — Red Hook, Brooklyn
Friday, May 4–Saturday, May 5
Nearly 100 exhibitors will be on-hand to celebrate everything on two wheels. Kids can learn how to ride a bike or sharpen their skills, see a BMX show, and more. All proceeds from the expo help fund Bike New York's expanding educational programs. FREE
Urban Wildlife Festival – Washington Heights
Saturday, May 5
Head to Fort Tryon Park to visit with owls, hawks, porcupines, tortoises, and other critters at this outdoor festival hosted in part by Urban Park Rangers. Kids will learn about the animals' traits and behaviors from New York state licensed rehabilitators, but will likely also appreciate the other activities like relay races, animal-themed arts and crafts, and live music. FREE
STEM Expo at NYSCI — Corona, Queens
Friday, May 11
For one jam-packed night, New York Hall of Science invites families with kids in middle school, high school, or college to explore summer academic and internship opportunities in STEM—that's science, technology, engineering, and math, but we bet you knew that already. In addition to learning about these fantastic programs, visitors can check out interactive science demos, tour the museum's many exhibits, explore the museum after dark, and enjoy Queens-made eats. FREE but an RSVP is required.
Young visitors are encouraged to participate in the colorful NYC Holi Hai fest on Governors Island.
NYC Holi Hai – Governors Island
Saturday, May 12
Celebrate the coming of spring and the diversity of the city by joining in this colorful fest near the ball fields. A special kids area engages youngsters in the action, which celebrates love and togetherness. There was a bounce house and more games for kids last year when we attended. Wear white to let your colors really show! FREE, but RSVP requested
You've never seen Tetris like this before, onstage at Lincoln Center.
Tetris — Lincoln Square
Saturday, May 19 and Sunday, May 20
From our spring theater picks: As the title implies, this Lincoln Center Kids show features a quartet of dancers engaging in human Tetris. Of course the addictive video game requires players to fit geometric shapes together. People's bodies aren't quite so stackable, but they are more malleable! Don't try this at home, parents.
Annual Children's Festival: Celebrating imagiNATIONS! – Financial District
Saturday, May 19–Sunday, May 20
This not-to-be-missed opening celebration of the new imagiNATIONS Activity Center debuting at the National Museum of the American Indian showcases the ingenuity of the Indigenous cultures of the Americas and includes loads of interactive events. Expect crafts, dancing, and even some STEM action. FREE
RELATED: NYC Spring Fun Guide: Outdoor Fun, Fairs, Day Trip Ideas, and More
It's all dancing in the streets at the annual Dance Parade New York. Photo courtesy of the parade
Dance Parade New York — Flatiron and the East Village
Saturday, May 19
This annual dance procession is deservedly on our list of the best NYC parades for kids. It kicks off near Madison Square Park and ends in Tompkins Square Park. Along the way, more than 10,000 movers and shakers shimmy down Broadway in elaborate costumes doing more than 75 dances, including the salsa, tango, waltz, hula, break dancing and more. To participate, register in advance and join a group. Otherwise, go to cheer them on, and hit the after-party in Tompkins Square Park for complimentary dance workshops and multiple stages of dance performances. FREE
Essex Street Market's Block Party — Lower East Side
Saturday, May 19
Celebrate Essex Street Market's 78th birthday—its last one in its current spot. After almost eight decades, this Lower East Side mainstay is relocating across Delancey Street, but it's moving out in style. Get a taste of all the Essex Street Market has to offer at this old-fashioned neighborhood bash featuring eclectic homemade eats, live music, and kid activities such as face painting and balloon animals. Local faves like Ice & Vice, The Bao Shoppe, and Petee's Pies will be on hand selling their dishes. The fest is FREE, but bring moola for grub.
You can't beat an afternoon of making art with your kids at the CMA Kids Fair.
CMA Kids Fair — Hudson Square
Sunday, May 20
In tandem with the Children's Museum of the Arts' annual family benefit—a worthy afternoon of art-making activities that raises money for programs offered to kids in need—the creative spot is throwing its second annual Kids Fair right outside the building, FREE and open to all. Enjoy a variety of hands-on projects for all ages, from flubber to fort building, plus old-school games such as ring toss, skee ball, and jump rope, and an artisanal market filled with products and services from local vendors. FREE
Note: Only those with tickets to the benefit are allowed inside the museum, but it is a worthy event to support, raising funds for the museum's free programs, including visits for Title 1 Schools, art classes for children living in transitional housing and children with disabilities, and free after-school programs.
Fleet Week — Various locations
Wednesday, May 23–Monday, May 28
Each year during Fleet Week, those in New York and the surrounding area are given an opportunity to meet those who serve at sea, as well as witness firsthand the latest capabilities of today's maritime services. Events kick off on May 23 with the Parade of Ships and continue on with various vessel and vehicle viewings, musicals and movies, and even a bubble garden. Some events are FREE.
Coney Island Beach is a family favorite. Photo by Julienne Schaer for NYCgo
Opening Weekend for City Beaches — Citywide
Opening Saturday, May 26
Memorial Day weekend is considered the unofficial start of summer because beaches in NYC (and the tristate area) open the Saturday before the Monday holiday. While day trips to nearby shores in New Jersey and Long Island are lovely if you have a car and don't mind waiting in traffic, you can access beaches in four boroughs with just a swipe of your MetroCard. Only Manhattan does not have a beach, though ironically, Brooklyn has a Manhattan Beach. Coney Island is, of course, a family favorite since it boasts amusement parks, the New York Aquarium, and other kid-friendly attractions. However, don't count out Brooklyn's more subdued Brighton Beach, the Bronx's "Riviera," Orchard Beach, or surfing central Rockaway in Queens. They all have their attributes. As of now, beaches are set to stay open through Labor Day, but we're hopeful for an extension into mid-September as there has been the past two years. FREE
Welcome in summer at the Governors Island Family Fun Day. Photo courtesy of the Friends of Governors Island.
Governors Island Family Fun Day — Governors Island
Sunday, May 27
Yes, Governors Island opens almost a month earlier this year, on Tuesday, May 1. But its big season kickoff for families still takes place on the Sunday of Memorial Day weekend. In addition to perennial island favorites such as biking, picnicking, and strolling through the bucolic landscape, kids can enjoy live music, theatrical performances, storytelling, arts and crafts, educational workshops, ice cream, a build-your-own playground, and make mini masterpieces with the Children's Museum of the Arts. FREE except for cost of ferry
Imagination, ingenuity, and inventiveness are the themes for World Science Festival NYC.
World Science Festival NYC – Citywide
Tuesday, May 29–Sunday, June 3
The 11th annual World Science Festival promises a week jam-packed with more than 70 events across the boroughs including discussions and debates, theatrical performances, films, town hall gatherings, fireside chats, hands-on experiments, and outdoor explorations. The schedule includes both FREE and ticketed events.
Strawberry Picking — Tristate area
Although you can do almost everything in NYC, there are a handful of activities that are only accessible outside the five boroughs. Strawberry picking is one of them (unless you count grabbing them off the aisle at Fairway). Nothing beats the taste of strawberries plucked straight from the vine when they're in season (as in late May and early June). Happily, there are a number of pick-your-own patches not too far from the city, many of which open for picking Memorial Day weekend.
NYC has so many amazing things going on, it's often difficult to for us to choose our GoList picks each month. So here are a few more cool events worth considering for your May calendar.
Snag a FREE comic book at participating shops on Saturday, May 5. FREE
Floating food forest Swale is finding a opening for the summer at the Brooklyn Army Terminal on Saturday, May 5. FREE
Summer on the Hudson kicks off with a magic show on Saturday, May 12. FREE
Hit up midway rides and games, favorite fair food and old-time sideshow acts under the big top at the Queens Spring Fair, Thursday, May 10-Sunday, May 20. Admission and shows are FREE
Attend a monthly tea in the gorgeous city rooftop garden of Gallow Green with a favorite stuffed animal or teddy bear at the Children's Potions and Plantings Tea Party on Saturday, May 12.
Long Island City hosts its fourth annual LIC Springs Block Party with performances, art making, games, and loads of local vendors on Saturday, May 12. FREE
Climb aboard an ambulance, tow truck, and other cool vehicles at the Touch-a-Truck fest on Saturday, May 12 in South Slope.
There's sheep shearing and a spring festival at the Queens County Farm Museum, Saturday, May 12.
Spend Mother's Day weekend at the gorgeous New York Botanical Garden's fete for all moms, Saturday, May 12-Sunday, May 13.
Check out a unique combo: GlassBarge, a floating barge with free glassblowing classes/demos beginning Thursday, May 17. FREE
Laugh along at Show Up, Kids, an hourlong comedy kicking off Saturday, May 19.
Join the bucket brigade at Riverside Park when volunteers, including kids, help refill the sandboxes on Saturday, May 19.
Bring your preschooler to see Peppa Pig's latest live show, opening Saturday, May 19-Sunday, May 20.
Watch the sheep shearing at the 24th Annual Fleece Festival: Wild and Wooly Weekend at Prospect Park Zoo, Saturday, May 19-Sunday, May 20.
Get crafty at ColorLab, a new art space at the Brooklyn Children's Museum, which officially opens Thursday, May 24.
Shop more than 150 vendors from around the world offering African, Caribbean, and African-American food, crafts, and fashion at the DanceAfrica Bazaar beginning Saturday, May 26.
Sail the New York Harbor aboard the historic 1885 schooner, The Pioneer beginning Saturday, May 26.
Catch the final weeks of the seasonal Butterfly Conservancy at the American Museum of Natural History before it closes for the summer on Monday, May 28.
Photos courtesy of the venues unless otherwise noted.