A member of the Coast Guard participates in last year’s Memorial Day events. Photo courtesy of  USCG News. 

Who doesn’t love Memorial Day weekend? The sun is (usually) shining, the weather is just rounding the corner of hot and hotter, and the city air is thick with the smell of rooftop barbecues. Street fairs and parades clog almost all of the main avenues, and the sidewalks swarm with sweaty tourists. (If you’re not a fan of bumbling tourists, you’ll really want to avoid the Midtown West area–the popular neighborhood heads up the the list of the top 50 Memorial Day destinations in the U.S., according to a recent Priceline.com analysis).

So perhaps not always the seasoned New Yorker’s favorite holiday. Still, there’s a lot of fun to be had, if you know where to look. Here is our round-up of this year’s top ten places to celebrate the national Memorial Day holiday in NYC.

1. Green-Wood Cemetery’s Annual Memorial Day Concert. Shrug off the grave undertones of the holiday by listening to the mellow ISO Symphonic Band as you lounge in the shadows of the lush trees in this beloved Brooklyn hang-out.

2. Free Top Gun screening on the U.S.S. Intrepid. Feeling patriotic? Nothing says “Yeah America!” like hanging out on a retired battleship as the sun sets over the Hudson, watching the latent homosexual tension unfold between Tom Cruise and Val Kilmer as they compete for the elusive title of Top Gun. Plus, it’s free.

3. Opening of the “Civil War and American Art” exhibition at the Met. If you’re a art or history buff, or even if you just want to go someplace where you can beat the heat on Memorial Day, why not check out the Met’s new exhibition of paintings and photographs exploring the country’s reaction to our most fraught domestic conflict.

4. Down some new brews at the Eatalian Beer Festival. If you’re just looking for an excuse to drink, you might check out the Eatalian Beer Festival, at Eataly restaurant in midtown. Though technically Monday is the last day of this weekend-long Italian craft beer tasting extravaganza, it might be worth your while to wait until Memorial Day, if only to avoid the onslaught of day drinkers elsewhere.

5. Free NY Philharmonic concert at the Church of St. John the Divine. If you’re interested in partaking in some high culture this Memorial Day, but you don’t feel like stretching out in a graveyard, the NY Philharmonic Orchestra is hosting a free concert in the massive cathedral. Tickets will be handed out on a first-come-first-served basis starting at 6 PM.

6. Laugh out loud at Upright Citizen’s Brigade’s Summer Blockbuster Spectacular. The famed NY improv institute will be spending this Memorial Day cracking jokes about all the summer movies we’re looking forward to (and the ones we’re dreading).  Tickets are $5.00 at the door, and the show starts at 9:30 PM.

7. Check out some new music at the Red Bull Music Festival events. A must for all EDM (electronic dance music) fans, the Red Bull Music Academy offers two events this Memorial Day–first, an exclusive talk with LCD Soundsystem’s James Murphy, and then a special concert at the Sullivan called “Deviation,” featuring artists like Benji B, Dorian Concept, and FaltyDL. Hurry, though–tickets for these events are going fast.

8. Experience the performance poetry of Rudy Francisco and the award-winning Joshua Bennett. If you’re looking for a more intellectual evening, chill out in the smooth, sophisticated belly of (Le) Poisson Rouge as you listen to these two celebrated poets present “A Gentleman and a Scholar,” their joint poetry reading. Tickets start at $15, and doors open at 7 PM.

9. Try out a foreign film screening. If all the patriotism has got you down, you can find an escape by attending the screening of the acclaimed Egyptian film, Microphone, at BAM’s Rose Theater, or by checking out the Chinese films, San Yuan Li and Disorder, included in MoMA’s film series, Chinese Realities/Documentary Visions. Prices and showing times vary.

10. Join NYC’s dining elite at an Underground Eats event. If you’re looking to make new friends this Memorial Day, why not request an invite to NYC’s semi-exclusive foodie social club? On Memorial Day itself, Underground Eats is hosting a meatless Peruvian supper club event, but if you’re feeling more daring, you might check out Saturday’s craft beer tasting and sailboat adventure. The only catch? You have to be approved for membership before you can sign up for the events. May the odds be ever in your favor.

Get in touch with the author @kellitrapnell.

Leave a Comment