5 Free Things to Do Memorial Day Weekend in NYC

Aircraft carrier Intrepid Air and Space Museum

Mario Tama / Getty Images News

 If you are in New York City for the unofficial kick-off to summer, you can have fun during the long three-day Memorial Day weekend with several free events. 

Whether you want to pay homage to our servicemen and women, enjoy some music, run wild on Governor's Island, or peruse some art, New York City has something for everyone.

  • 01 of 05

    Fleet Week at the Intrepid

    Fleetweek Intrepid Air and Space Museum
    Mario Tama / Getty Images News

    Go beyond the barbecue and beaches to get to the real meaning of Memorial Day, thanks to Fleet Week, anchored on events unfolding at the Intrepid Museum.

    Fleet Week at the Intrepid is a free annual event that serves to honor U.S. military service men and women, with a jam-packed lineup of presentations, activities, and more. You can enjoy a week of festivities when the ships come in, including the popular Battle of the Big Bands on the flight deck.

    During Fleet Week in New York City,  an active military ship (or two) recently deployed in overseas operations docks for one week. Once the ships dock, the crews visit the city. Sometimes, the public can take a guided tour of the ships.

    In the past, there have been opportunities to meet NASA astronauts as well as a patriotic Memorial Day commemoration ceremony that includes the unfurling of a 100-foot American flag, the playing of Taps, a ceremonial wreath laying, and a 3-volley rifle salute. All events are free.

  • 02 of 05

    New York Philharmonic Memorial Day Concert

    NY Philharmonic
    Hiroyuki Ito / Hulton Archive / Getty Images

    Snag a seat (tickets are distributed on a first-come, first served basis) for this free annual concert at the Cathedral Church of St. John the Divine. Tickets for the hour-long concert by the New York Philharmonic orchestra will be distributed starting at 6 pm on the day of the performance. If you cannot get a seat, do not to fret. You can listen to the audio broadcast simulcast on the adjacent Pulpit Green.

  • 03 of 05

    Governor's Island Events

    Governor's Island
    Ben Hider / Getty Images Entertainment

    Governors Island is a great place to spend a day. It is open May through October with a 43-acre public park that was completed in 2016. The island often hosts free arts and cultural events, and recreational activities.

    The island is accessed by ferries from Brooklyn and Manhattan. Visitors to the island can opt to ride bikes, take in arts and cultural exhibits, play mini-golf, enjoy other recreational activities such as run around in the playground and fountains, relax in the hammock zone, explore the castle and fort, and much more all season long.

    The island has found different ways to observe Memorial Day throughout the years with music festivals and a family fun day.

  • 04 of 05

    Washington Square Outdoor Art Exhibit

    Washington Square Outdoor Art Exhibit
    Rebecca MB. Pearson / CC BY-NC-ND 3.0

    The Washington Square Outdoor Art Exhibit is a sidewalk show that showcases the works of artisans from around the New York metropolitan area, the U.S., and across the globe. This twice-a-year event happens every Memorial Day weekend (and the weekend following it). Swing by to check out contemporary paintings, ceramics, jewelry, and more, either to browse or to buy. It's located on University Place from 13th Street to Washington Square Park.

    Continue to 5 of 5 below.
  • 05 of 05

    Lower East Side Festival of the Arts

    Theater for the New City
    Courtesy of Theater for the New City

    The Theater for the New City presents a free lineup of theater, music, dance, comedy, film, and art for three days during the Memorial Day weekend. The Lower East Side Festival of the Arts pays tributes to the artists of the Lower East Side and East Village, both past and present, with live performances, poetry readings, cabaret, and more.

    Saturday, there is a street fair is held on East 10th Street, which includes foods and goods sold by local merchants and performances by poets, musicians, and performance artists. Inside, there is a children's program performed by students from local schools, and a film festival all afternoon and evening. Sunday, the theater hosts a poetry reading.