Celebrating Memorial Day Weekend in Brooklyn

Five Ways to Celebrate Memorial Day

••• View of Manhattan from Red Hook Warehouse. Photo by Ellen Freudenheim

Memorial Day, officially the beginning of summer, is a wonderful long weekend holiday to spend in the city — and, specifically, in Brooklyn. This holiday falls on the final Monday of May, and, while it's a great time for barbeques and picnics, it actually commemorates those Americans who have lost their lives in military service. Here are a few unusual Memorial Day events that you can do or see only in Brooklyn!

 Top 10 Memorial Day Weekend Events

Annual Memorial Day Parades, including a 21 Gun Salute (Bay Ridge)

Brooklyn’s Memorial Day Parade started back in 1867, just two years after the end of the Civil War, in which many Brooklyn residents (it was then an independent city) fought and died. Its organizers claim that this is the oldest continuously Memorial Day parade. For years the route was along Eastern Parkway and Prospect Park West. Since 1992 it has been routed through Bay Ridge. In 2011, the Bay Ridge Memorial Day Parade was threatened by severe government budget cuts, but the community raised funds to continue the tradition. 

For those near to South Brooklyn neighborhoods, the Bay Ridge Memorial Day Parade generally starts at 1 p.m. at 91st Street and Third Avenue, runs to Marine Avenue, then to John Paul Jones Park for a ceremony and 21-gun salute. Head to the parade on May 28th, 2018.

Greenwood Cemetery Annual Memorial Day Concert

Green-Wood Cemetery doubles as a tourist attraction, event venue, and of course, a very decorative, architecture-and-history-rich graveyard.

Some of Brooklyn’s many historic notables are interred here. So are numerous soldiers. That’s why on Memorial Day Weekend you can join in a fairly jolly group of folks for the annual concert. Sit on the grass under the sun and it’s almost — almost! — Tanglewood ... Brooklyn-style, that is.

Started in 1997, when Brooklyn’s gentrification was more or less first in full swing, Green-Wood Cemetery initiated an unusually cheery musical event that today attracts thousands of happy Brooklynites.

While the mood may be at odds with the setting, there’s no lack of mordant humor and bad puns.

As for the program, at least some of it is based on the works of such committed Green-wood “residents” as Fred Ebb, Louis Moreau Gottschalk, Leonard Bernstein and many audience-pleasing standards. Annual Memorial Day Concert in, of all places, a cemetery. Get information from the Green-Wood Cemetery site. To get in the mood, pick up a copy of Final Camping Ground: Civil War Veterans at Brooklyn’s Green-Wood Cemetery, In Their Own Words, a book by Green-Woods own resident historian, Jeff Richman.

Memorial Day Weekend: DanceAfrica FESTIVAL at BAM

A Brooklyn tradition, Dance Africa, organized by the Brooklyn Academy of Music , is one of New York’s most unique multi-media performance events.

The multi-day festival always combines great dance programs with films, art and lectures. In addition, outdoor African-style bazaar draws thousands to many stalls featuring clothing, food, instruments, cultural artifacts and more. It’s a party!

As part of the fun, there's a big, three-day, outdoor DanceAfrica Bazaar. Learn more.

ART FEST! BWAC Spring Pier Art Show (Red Hook)

The BWAC Spring Pier Art Show in Red Hook is a friendly, low-key, community based art show.

In ambiance, it’s about as far from a stuffy Tribeca art gallery as it is close, physically, to New York Harbor and the Statue of Liberty. Come and peruse a two story exhibit space that, itself, is worth the trek: the art show is held in one of Red Hook’s historic warehouses on the waterfront. There’s usually live music. It is located near the Fairway supermarket, and not far from IKEA in Brooklyn so you can make a day of it. See

BBQs in the Parks

Last but not least, join the throngs and have a BBQ in a Brooklyn park. You can reserve a spot but get there early! Check the NYC Park Department regulations on BBQs. Barbequing is allowed in designated areas only. Where can you have a BBQ in a Brooklyn Park?

Edited by Alison Lowenstein