Memorial Day in New York City marks the beginning of summer with rooftop barbeques and cornerstore beers sitting in a cooler of ice. People often forget the historical and cultural significance of this federal holiday. But if you want to break away from the norm, here are 10 unconventional ways to enjoy your three day weekend in NYC.

1. Manhattanhenge

NYC-Manhattanhenge Dates-42nd Street-34th Street-Chrysler Building-NYC

Also known as the “Manhattan Solstice,” the term Manhattanhenge was coined by renowned physicist, Neil deGrasse Tyson and refers to the time before and after the summer solstice when the sun aligns precisely with streets that run east to west in Manhattan. Starting on Sunday, May 29th through Monday May 30th at 8:12 pm, the best places to see this phenomenon are on 14th Street Union Square and 5th Avenue on 23rd, 34th, 42nd and 57th streets – though any cross street works. If you aren’t in New York City this weekend, you’ll have another chance later this summer.

2. Explore the City’s Former Military Forts + Reopening of Governors Island

Military history is alive and well amidst us in New York City. Here’s a list of 18 former military forts to go discover, including Fort Tilden (once a nuclear armed installation on the Queens waterfront), Fort Tryon and Castle Williams on Governors Island, which will reopen again on May 28th.

3. See a Famous Art Piece on the High Line Before It Comes Down Forever

Spencer Finch, The River That Flows Both Ways on the High Line. Photo via the High Line

Most people assume that the glass art piece, The River That Flows Both Ways, on the High Line’s Chelsea Market passage is permanent since it has been in place since the High Line first opened. Sadly, it’s coming down in June so head over this weekend to see check out this piece in person and see how the colors change with the time of day.

4. Duke Riley’s Fly by Night at the Brooklyn Navy Yard

On May 27th and 28th, Duke Riley’s Fly by Night installation, produced with Creative Time, will continue at the Brooklyn Navy Yard. About 1,800 pigeons are released into the air in a coordinated dance with LED lights attached to their feet, like the carrier pigeons of old. You can sign up for the waitlist or become a member of Creative Time to get two complimentary tickets.

You can also catch a more distant view of this performance on June 4th and June 19th by joining our tour and wine tasting at Rooftop Reds in the Brooklyn Navy Yard, the world’s first rooftop vineyard, and staying until dusk:

5. Learn How Donald Trump’s Father Demolished Coney Island’s Steeplechase Park in a New Exhibit

Postcard from Boston Public Library

The Coney Island History Project will launch the timely exhibit “50th Anniversary of Fred Trump’s Demolition of Steeplechase Pavilion” this Friday, May 28th. The story, full of underhanded deals, scantily clad women, bullying and more will seem familiar to us today. There will also be some great historical ephemera including an 1823 Toll house sign, referred to as Coney Island’s “first admission ticket” that once denoted the 5 cent toll for a horse and rider to enter the island, an original Steeplechase horse, and “Skully,” the giant skull from Coney Island’s Spookhouse and Spook-A-Rama.

6. Living History: Memorial Day Weekend and Memorial Day at the New York Historical Society

If you’ve got history rather than burger on your mind, check out Living History: Memorial Day Weekend, an event sponsored by the New York Historical Society. On Saturday May 28 and Sunday May 29 from 11 am to 4 pm, the museum will be commemorating soldiers from the American Revolution. This event is free with museum admission, and will include historical reenactments, replicas of uniforms and weapons and a military drill tutorial. On Memorial Day, historians from the Second Continental Light Dragoons will be available to discuss how soldiers fought on horseback.

7. Coney Island Art Walls

On Friday, May 27th, the Coney Island Art Walls returns for a second year. Last year, visitors could see murals by street artists like Lady Pink, Crash, Daze, Futura, Kenny Scharf, Shepard Fairey, Maya Hayuk and How and Nosm.  The exhibition, presented by Thor Equities, also contained Coney Smorgasburg last year, a food court of sorts featuring 12 food vendors operating throughout the day.

8. Great Indie Films Playing at BAM

Catch some great new indie films playing at BAM, including the critically-acclaimed A Bigger Splash (with Tilda Swinton, Ralph Fiennes, Matthias Schoenarts, and Dakota Johnson), Love and Friendship (a new Jane Austen production starring Kate Beckinsale on the lesser known, unpublished snarky novel, Lady Susan). There’s also Rupert Everett in the play Judas Kiss, DanceAfrica troupe, and the FilmAfrica series.

9. Washington Square Outdoor Art Exhibit

The Washington Square Outdoor Exhibit is a twice-a-year art exhibit that showcases works from New York artists, purported to have started with Jackson Pollock and Willem DeKooning in the 1930s. The 2016 Spring Show kicks off on May 28-30th and June 4 and 5 from 12 to 6 pm. Cash prizes are offered to artists in different categories including fine art, photography, crafts and sculpture. In addition to viewing the artwork, visitors can purchase works from artists.

10. Military Ship Tours for Fleet Week

It’s also Fleet Week and among the highlights are tours of numerous military ships, going beyond the Intrepid. In Manhattan, there’s the USS Bataan on Pier 88S; the HMCS Athabaskan, HMCS Kingston, HMCS Moncton all on Pier 92S,  and the Intrepid on Pier 86N (which will also have a screening of Top Gun on the 27th). At the Brooklyn Cruise Terminal, the USS Farragut, USS Bainbridge and USCGC Forward; and on Staten Island’s Homeport Pier, USS Fort McHenry (LSD 43), USS Shamal (PC 13)

You can also check out Military Day at Battery Park, which takes place on Saturday May 28. This free, all ages event runs from 7:30 am to 5 pm, and activities include boot camp-style exercise, a military band performances and displays of military equipment.

Free Concerts: Smorgasburg at South Street Seaport

Six bands will be performing free Memorial Day Weekend concerts at Smorgasburg at South Street Seaport from 3-5 pm. Here is the full lineup of bands playing:

May 28 – Flower Girls and RIPS
May 29 – Sheer Agony and Heavy Birds
May 30 – Katie Von Schleichter and Patrick Freeman

While listening to the live music, enjoy the six food vendors that Smorgasburg has to offer: Red Hook Lobster Pound, Wowfuls, Cemitas El Tigre, Home Frite, Laudhaus and Lumpia Shack.

Schedule of Memorial Day Parades in the Boroughs

In the New York City boroughs (minus Manhattan) there’s a Memorial Day Parade for every New Yorker to come and enjoy. Here is a list of parades happening on May 30.

The Bronx – The City Island Memorial Day Parade happens at 2:30 pm on May 30.
Queens – The Little Neck-Douglaston Memorial Day Parade is in its 89th year. The Queens parade is recognized as the largest parade in the nation. The parade starts at 9:30 on Memorial Day.
Brooklyn – The Kings County Memorial Day Parade in Bay Ridge is the oldest and most iconic in New York City. The parade kicks off its 149th year starting at 11 am.
Staten Island – The Forest Avenue Memorial Day parade starts at 11:30 am.

Next, read about 10 of NYC Floating Bars and Barges. Keep up with the author @jen_bagcal

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