Memorial Day Weekend Events

by Staff

While the season might not actually change until June 21, everyone knows that Memorial Day weekend marks the unofficial start of summer. Enjoy warm-weather activities all weekend long, including the opening of New York City's beaches, a family-friendly parade and a performance of Hamlet in Bryant Park.

Memorial Day is on Monday, May 26. Read on for more details.

May 21–27
Fleet Week
Thousands of men and women from the US Marine Corps, Navy and Coast Guard touch down on dry land during Fleet Week, a New York City tradition since 1984 (which resumes this year, after a one-year hiatus in 2013). The public can tour ships docked along Manhattan's Pier 92 and the Homeport Pier in Stapleton, Staten Island; view military demonstrations; see firsthand the current capabilities of the maritime services; and enjoy musical performances from the sailors and marines themselves—with many events held at the Intrepid Sea, Air & Space Museum.

May 22–25
Tracy Morgan at Carolines on Broadway
The sometimes-controversial former star of Saturday Night Live and 30 Rock performs live.

May 23
Shakespeare in the Parking Lot: Hamlet
This summer the Bard turns 450. And what better way to celebrate his birthday than with a free performance? In its first production outside of a parking lot, the Drilling Company stages the quintessential revenge tragedy, Hamlet, at Bryant Park, starring Alessandro Colla as the Danish prince hell-bent on serving up some vengeance piping hot and then some. “If our parking lot is a melting pot of the world, then Bryant Park is one of the meeting spots of the world,” says Hamilton Clancy, artistic director. Some chairs are provided, but bring your own for guaranteed seating.

May 23
Top Gun on the Intrepid Sea, Air & Space Museum
Watch Maverick, Goose and the Iceman battle Soviet MiGs, create disasters of their love lives and attempt to land their F-14A Tomcats on the deck of an aircraft carrier—while you're outdoors on the deck of an aircraft carrier. For more free summer movies, see our roundup.

May 24
Historic New York: The World's Fair
This year Queens celebrates the 50th and 75th anniversaries of the 1939 and 1964 World's Fair expos with a number of activities, exhibitions and events. These events not only showcased the borough for outsiders but also significantly changed the City's landscape. Flushing Meadows Corona Park, the New York Hall of Science and Queens Museum (both part of the iconic New York Pavilion) and, of course, the Unisphere were all built for these special occasions. This walking tour celebrates a history of the park, with a specific focus on the Unisphere and the lasting legacy of the fairs.

May 25
Police Academy
at Habana Outpost
Fort Greene Cuban-Mexican joint Habana Outpost shows a series of free films on their outdoor patio all the way through October. Tonight it's screwball comedy Police Academy, a film that somehow makes training to be an officer of the law seem more enjoyable than a trip to summer camp.

May 26
Memorial Day Concert at the Cathedral of St. John the Divine
The Philharmonic's annual free Memorial Day concert at the Cathedral of St. John the Divine is a favorite in the lead-up to summer. The program this year features Carl Nielsen's Helios Overture and Tchaikovsky's Symphony no. 5. Tickets are given starting at 6pm on a first-come, first-served basis, and they go fast; best to line up early if you want a spot.


May 26
Green-Wood's Annual Memorial Day Concert
The Green-Wood Cemetery has been home to Memorial Day celebrations for the last 15 years. This year's programming includes a concert by the ISO Symphonic Band playing the works of some of Green-Wood's most notable residents: Fred Ebb, Louis Moreau Gottschalk and Leonard Bernstein. A trolley tour will follow the concert.

May 26
Public Beaches Open
Memorial Day weekend marks the official start of beach season in the City, and there are plenty of sunbathing and swimming spots open for public recreation. Head to Brighton Beach and Coney Island to people watch, Rockaway Beach to surf and Orchard Beach to observe its range of wildlife. Starting on May 26, lifeguards are on duty daily from 10am to 6pm. The season ends on Labor Day.

Through June 1
Frank Lloyd Wright and the City: Density vs. Dispersal
Frank Lloyd Wright used the term “Broadacre City” to describe his vision of American urbanization in the 1920s and '30s, which would take the form of low-density development over a vast territory. And he built a 12-foot-by-12-foot model, which traveled the country in the 1930s, to illustrate that vision. MoMA is celebrating its recent acquisition of Wright's archives by exhibiting the model in the context of other projects he worked on at that time, including St. Mark's-in-the-Bouwerie Towers, a proposal for a cluster of all-glass downtown skyscrapers.

Through June 8
Cleopatra's Needle
This exhibition celebrates Central Park's conservation program of the obelisk of Thutmose III, better known as “Cleopatra's Needle.” In addition to exploring the background of this ancient artifact, the program educates viewers about the meaning and use of obelisks in ancient Egypt.

Through June 15
Bill Cunningham: Facades
Long before street-style bloggers, there was Bill Cunningham. The street photographer's impromptu fashion shots graced the pages of the Chicago Tribune and Women's Wear Daily, but he became a regular contributor to The New York Times after a candid shot of Greta Garbo in a well-cut coat caught the eye of Times editor Arthur Gelb. Facades is an exhibition of Cunningham's eight-year-long photo-essay work, which includes photographs of models dressed in period costumes against historic architectural backdrops.

Through June 26
Carrie Mae Weems, The Museum Series
Groundbreaking photographer and multimedia artist Carrie Mae Weems is the subject of a retrospective at the Studio Museum in Harlem. The exhibition presents a set of complex self-portraits taken with some of the world's most prominent art museums as a backdrop—and with the artist's back to the camera.

Through July 26
Motown: The Truth Is a Hit
Founded in 1959 by Berry Gordy, a Detroit boxer turned songwriter, Motown Records became a black-owned soul- and pop-hits factory of legendary proportions, forging its own genre of music, known as the “Motown Sound.” The label launched the careers of artists such as Marvin Gaye, the Supremes and the Jackson 5. This exhibition, named after a saying of Gordy's, traces the history of African-American music and explores the label's pivotal musical contributions to American history via the civil rights movement. Motown provided both narratives and soundtrack for a generation of African-Americans involved in the civil rights movement and protests against the Vietnam War.

Through August 10
Charles James: Beyond Fashion
The Met celebrates the grand reopening of the Costume Institute's galleries with a special exhibition dedicated to America's first couturier, Charles James. The exhibition focuses on James' design-making process, which involved much more than sketching. James constructed garments, using scenes and mathematics to achieve an architectural shape that accentuated the female hipline. His goal was to create a surrealist, weightless and visually stunning garment that appealed to a particular group of daring women. The exhibition features James' ball gowns from the 1930s through 1950s, as well as sketches, pattern swatches and partially completed works from his last studio in the Chelsea Hotel.


Through September 7
Andy Warhol's 13 Most Wanted Men and the 1964 World's Fair
Andy Warhol was an up-and-coming artist in 1964. Invited to contribute a piece to the World's Fair that year, he sparked controversy by plastering prints he made of “most wanted” mug shots on the exterior of the fair's New York State Pavilion. The mural was painted over at the direction of fair officials before the event opened to the public, leaving a large silver square as the singular evidence of the artist's only public-art commission. Warhol used the original screens to produce a series of 20 Most Wanted Men paintings, which forms the core of this exhibition. The show marks the 50th anniversary of the fair and celebrates a Warhol work that rubbed the Empire State establishment (namely Robert Moses, Nelson Rockefeller and Philip Johnson) the wrong way.