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The Best Things to Do in New York City in May

April showers are gone, and May in New York City is the time for outdoor markets, a massive bike festival and the arrival of Shakespeare in the Park.
Free concerts return to city parks this month, starting with SummerStage.
Free concerts return to city parks this month, starting with SummerStage.

April showers are gone, and May in New York City is the time for outdoor markets, a massive bike festival and the arrival of Shakespeare in the Park. It’s finally time to pack away winter and fill your calendar with the best events coming up this May.

 

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Welcome back to Governors Island

Feel like you’re in New England on Governors Island, which reopens for the year on May 1. They’ve been building up their festival and food scenes in addition to all the history and culture, plus it’s still the best place to lounge in a hammock and ride a bike on its car-free lanes. 

Go on an art field trip

If you go to only one art show a year, make it Frieze New York. The annual foray into all that’s hot now in the world of contemporary art beckons visitors to Randall’s Island for a weekend of transformative works. Yes, there’s destination food too, plus performers doing things like picking your pocket in the name of art. May 2-6

 

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Discover the joys of bike riding

It’s National Bike Month, and the MTA hasn’t come up with a proper alternative to the L train shutdown yet. All of which is to say it’s time to learn about biking in the city (it’s not just for thrillseekers) at Bike Expo New York, the East Coast’s largest bike show coming to Pier 12 in Red Hook. You’ll find over 100 vendors, bike event organizers, tourism groups and transit advocates to answer all your questions, plus a beer garden, food trucks and panels for newbies and series bikers. May 4-5

Catch two comedy legends together

We’re not sure the Beacon Theatre can handle having both Steve Martin and Martin Short on the same stage, but that’s the incredible double bill coming up on May 4-5. It promises to be A Night You Will Forget — unlikely, unless they’ve learned some mentalist tricks, too.

A convention for cat people

Because it’s not enough to own the internet, the cat people of New York City are coming to Greenpoint to hear Jackson Galaxy and friends talk about all things feline friends at the second annual Cat Camp. There will be hundreds of adoptable kitties, panels with experts in all things cat at the Penn Plaza Pavilion, plus a marketplace (cat wine!), live watercolor painting of your cat, meet-and-greets with famous kitties like Lil Bub and tons more. May 5-6, catcampnyc.com

 

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Outdoor markets come into season

Smorgasburg is always the first outdoor food hall to pop up, a brave move when you’re sitting on the banks of the East River. This month, you can finally ditch the down-filled coats for bites at Urbanspace’s seasonal month-long markets: Broadway Bites opens May 2 at Greeley Square, followed by Mad. Sq. Eats on May 5. urbanspacenyc.com

 

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March for marijuana

The fight to legalize marijuana, both medicinal and recreational, has been going on for over four decades. The momentum is in its favor, so keep it going at the annual NYC Cannabis Parade starting on Broadway at 31st Street and end in Union Square Park for a day-long rally (with live music and speakers) to call for action and justice. May 5, cannabisparade.org

 

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Cinco de Derby

When a drinking holiday and a race with its own cocktail share a Saturday, you know what happens. If you like mint juleps, find a Kentucky Derby party; for the margarita crowd, Cinco de Mayo means drink specials all over the city. Just don’t try wear the same outfit to both parties. May 5

 

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Mother’s Day

Friendly reminder to make a brunch reservation, buy some chocolate or even just get a card, you’ve only got one mom and she really will appreciate you remembering that. May 13

Watch poetry in motion

The American Ballet Theater’s spring season starts May 14 with Giselle, known as the “epitome of a Romantic ballet,” followed by Igor Stravinsky’s tale of two lovers who defy a sorcerer Firebird, plus Don Quixote, a Christmas-in-June presentation of The Nutcracker and ending on the iridescent Whipped Cream. May 14-July 7, abt.org

Taste your way across Harlem

The food scene above 96th Street is only getting hotter, and Marcus Samuelsson’s fourth annual Harlem EatUp! is your chance to see its best kitchens in action — and catch some celebrity chefs cooking in them — or just come for the weekend-long outdoor food festival. May 15-20, harlemeatup.com

Dancing in the street

Summer may not be here yet but this month is the return of Dance Parade, when more than 10,000 dancers showcasing every way to move your body from all five boroughs of the city come together with DJs and live bands for the city’s liveliest parade of the year, starting from Broadway and 21st Street down to Tompkins Square Park. May 19, danceparade.org

Into the mind of David Lynch

David Lynch is a singular talent, sometimes inscrutably so. With the first-ever Festival of Disruption, he’ll give us a glimpse into his creative process and showcase artists like Angel Olsen and Hudson Mohawke. May 19-20, festivalofdisruption.com

 

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The coolest film series is back

Rooftop Films has the coolest indie movies in the best locations. You won’t find the movies here in mainstream theaters — these offbeat features and shorts are the best of the year’s new crop from around the world. This year, the Rooftop crew is taking things further with new locations like Green-Wood Cemetery and Brooklyn Army Terminal and curated live performances by the film’s stars including the Arkansas drag queens of The Gospel of Eureka. Not to mention live music before the show and a sponsored bar afterparty. May 19-Aug. 25

Hawaii comes to the New York Botanic Garden

Wander among the flora and fauna that inspired painter Georgia O’Keeffe at the New York Botanical Garden’s Visions of Hawaii. The lush tropical atmosphere that so inspired her on a trip in 1939 will be recreated in the Enid A. Haupt Conservatory, accompanied by 20 of these lesser-known paintings. May 19-Oct. 28

Take the pulse of pop culture

From podcasts to TV, movies and stage, if it’s hot in pop culture right now it’s coming to Vulture Festival, a weekend of panels, screenings, performances and live recordings with guests like Maggie Gyllenhaal, Ava Duvernay and the cast of Queen Sugar, the cast of Netflix’s Glow and the comedians of Las Culturistas. May 19-20, vulturefestival.com

 

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Ahoy, sailors!

Whether you want to meet a sailor or tour one of the Navy’s active ships, Fleet Week is your chance to get nautical. May 23-29

The Lando Calrissian movie

Whoops, we mean Han Solo of course, though Donald Glover has already done enough to warrant Lando getting his own movie. “Solo” takes us back into the life of the scruffy-looking nerf herder before he left behind the space pirate life for a rebel princess, the first in a new series of Star Wars prequel films. We all remember how that went last time, but Kathleen Kennedy and Disney have the franchise well in hand now. May 25

 

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Music comes outdoors

Because it’s not spring until SummerStage arrives, head outdoors for the (mostly) free concert series in New York parks starting May 16, while the Coney Island Amphitheater starts rocking on May 26. Good Morning America’s Summer Concert Series on Fridays in Central Park and the Today show’s Rockefeller Plaza series also kick off mid-month.

 

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Head to the beach

Lifeguards are back on duty as of May 26, so grab your blankets and head for the sand on the city’s public beaches. Inland swimmers, alas, will have to wait until June 27 for public pools to open. nycgovparks.org

 

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Spring is Shakespeare season

Forget music festivals — after last year’s Caesar-as-Trump triumph, the hottest ticket of the season is the Public Theatre’s Free Shakespeare in the Park. The action returns to Central Park’s Delacorte Theater with Othello (May 29-June 24), followed by the Twelfth Night (July 17-Aug. 19). publictheater.org