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What to Do in New York City in May 2024

By The Center Magazine StaffApr 22 2024
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The heart and soul of springtime in the city, May is a month to revel in New York at its best. Beach reopenings, rising temperatures, and colorful blooms all signal a bright new chapter ahead. Gone are the short, dark days, and prolonged daylight hours mean more time to soak up everything the five boroughs have to offer. Like the rest of the city, Rockefeller Center comes alive with things to do and see this time of year, including art exhibits, and happy hour deals galore. Here’s an insider tip: Run, don’t walk to 5 Acres for bottomless fries — nothing pairs better with a crisp glass of rosé this time of year.

Yes, May is a glorious month to be in New York, whether you’re singing along at an outdoor concert, pedaling your way through the Five Borough Bike Tour, or watching in awe as talented pups strut their stuff at the Westminster Kennel Club Dog Show. And perhaps best of all, at the end of all the May merrymaking, a spectacular Manhattanhenge sunset awaits — the harbinger of a beautiful summer ahead.

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Photo by Casey Kelbaugh; courtesy of CKA and Frieze
Photo by Casey Kelbaugh; courtesy of CKA and Frieze

1. Frieze New York Art Fair 

May 1-5

A who’s who of the contemporary art scene, Frieze New York showcases works from the best galleries across 25 countries, with more than half of the participants operating at least one art space in New York. The fair is returning to The Shed in Hudson Yards from May 1 to 5 and will include the highly regarded Focus section for young galleries (each showing solo presentations by up-and-coming talent) and collaborative projects with non-profits and creative partners including Rockefeller Center. Don’t miss Sharif Farrag’s Gotham Grinders: Hamster Wheel; the free, interactive exhibit will invite the public to drive customized cars right on The Rink on May 3 and 4. Frieze New York tickets are on sale now.

Courtesy of TD Five Boro Bike Tour
Courtesy of TD Five Boro Bike Tour

2. TD Five Boro Bike Tour

May 5

Wide-open city streets with no cars? On May 5, what sounds like a pipe dream becomes reality. At the TD Five Boro Bike Tour, riders will have full access to 40 miles of open roads and traffic-free bridges as they cycle throughout the five boroughs. Not just a fun activity, the bike tour is primarily a fundraising event and one of the world's largest charitable bike rides. Funds go toward bike education and safety programs, and the event also partners with dozens of nonprofits to raise money for causes that range from cancer research to social services. Standard registration is sold out, but you can still ride for a charity or sign up as a VIP, which comes with all the merch and lounge access. If you’re more cheerleader than cyclist, joining in the sideline revelry is also a great option.

Photo by J. Grassa; courtesy of Westminster Kennel Club
Photo by J. Grassa; courtesy of Westminster Kennel Club

3. Westminster Kennel Club Dog Show

May 11, 13, and 14

While “the second-longest continuously held sporting event in the U.S.” may conjure up thoughts of runs batted in or touchdowns scored, it actually means wagging tails and obedience contests. On May 11, 13, and 14, NYC will host the crème de la crème of the canine world at the USTA Billie Jean King National Tennis Center for the 148th annual Westminster Kennel Club Dog Show. Throughout the week, thousands of champion dogs will put their best paws forward to compete for the coveted “Best in Show.” Grab your tickets here, or watch from the couch with your own four-legged friend in tow. 

4. Citi Concert Series on Today

One of the iconic signs of summer in the city is the return of outdoor concerts hosted by the Today show. The Summer Concert Series brings weekly live performances outside the show’s studios at Rockefeller Center. The concert series begins in May and runs through early September, presenting singers of all stripes to the Midtown plaza. This year’s lineup will be announced here. Better yet? These events are completely free, but be sure to arrive early to secure your spot.

Photo by Andres Orozco; courtesy of NYCxDesign
Photo by Andres Orozco; courtesy of NYCxDesign

5. NYCxDesign Festival

May 16-23

Back for its 12th year, the NYCxDesign Festival will present exhibitions, installations, studio tours, talks, and more from May 16 to 23. Celebrating New York City as a global center of design excellence, the festival spotlights the designers, makers, and manufacturers behind it all. Welcoming thousands of visitors each year for programming throughout all five boroughs, the festival showcases the power of design and its essential role in our city.

Photo by Liz Ligon; courtesy of New York Botanic Garden
Photo by Liz Ligon; courtesy of New York Botanic Garden

6. Weekends in Bloom at Brooklyn Botanic Garden

Through May 12

The Brooklyn Botanic Garden knows that after a long, cold winter, blooming flowers are certainly something to celebrate, and it’s giving New Yorkers the chance to do so every weekend through May 12 with the Weekends in Bloom series. Expect garden tours, music and dance, activities for kids, and lots of colorful and fragrant flora to admire. You could even learn to beatbox, experience forest bathing, see Coney Island sideshow performers, or visit the Discovery Garden for family-friendly, hands-on learning. All programming is included for the price of admission.

Photo by Aditya Chinchure via Unsplash
Photo by Aditya Chinchure via Unsplash

7. Manhattanhenge

May 29-30

It may not be a solar eclipse, but New Yorkers will have another reason to gather in the streets and admire the sky this month. Manhattanhenge is an astronomical phenomenon that occurs when the sun sets in perfect alignment with Manhattan’s rectangular grid, radiating its golden light upon the city’s streets. It only happens twice per year, for two nights at a time, a few weeks before and after the summer solstice. To see it, park yourself on a numbered street that runs east to west and has unhindered views of the Hudson River.

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