Runway Rink at TWA Hotel
TWA Hotel’s Roll-a-Rama. Photo courtesy TWA Hotel

Memorial Day is one of the United States’ most sacred holidays, honoring the lives of the country’s fallen soldiers. For decades, the holiday has traditionally been celebrated on the beach with barbecues and fireworks displays to end the night. Over the holiday, New Yorkers can be found attending one of the city’s many parades or even taking part in Fleet Week—an annual celebration of the city’s sea services. However, if you are looking for some more interesting ways to spend the holiday, here are 10 fun activities to do this upcoming Memorial Day weekend.

1. Feel The Rush Of Adrenaline At Deno’s Wonder Wheel Amusement Park

coney island wonder wheel
Deno’s Wonder Wheel

Amusement parks have long played a staple role in New York City’s summer entertainment experience. One hallmark of the city’s premier amusement park Coney Island is Deno’s Wonder Wheel, invented by Charles Hermann and constructed in 1920 by the Eccentric Ferris Wheel Company. At 150 feet tall, the wonder wheel holds 24 cars and has a total rider capacity of 144 people. Designed around the time of the 1918-1920 Spanish Flu pandemic, the wonder wheel’s cars made for the perfect socially distanced ride. Nowadays, in the age of COVID-19, guests can once again ride the wonder wheel and keep a safe distance from those around them. 

This year is the Deno’s Wonder Wheel Amusement Park’s 100th season anniversary. Starting this Memorial Day Weekend, the park will be open seven days a week starting at 11 a.m. Admissions to the park is free but reservations are necessary and can be booked online. A limited standby line for entrance will also be available. Tickets for rides and games can be purchased online in advance or in the park.

2. Picnic With Loved Ones At The New York Marble Cemetery

New York Marble Cemetery
New York Marble Cemetery

If the classic park picnic isn’t cutting it for you this year, head to the New York Marble Cemetery on Sunday May 30th. This cemetery is only open once or twice a year, so jump on this opportunity! Untapped New York will be hosting a special access event for our Insiders where you can hear from the president of the cemetery, Caroline DuBois. Guests can bring their own picnic and enjoy lunch on the grounds or take a self-guided tour.

Established in 1831, the New York Marble Cemetery is one of the oldest public non-sectarian burial grounds in New York City. What makes the site so unique is that it does not contain any headstones like a normal cemetery. Instead engraved marble plaques displaying the deceased family names can be found located around the sites north and south walls. Interestingly, as traditional Earth graves were outlawed by the city due to fear over the spread of yellow fever, the deceased bodies were placed into marble vaults. To access these small-room sized vaults, stone slabs are removed. Become a member of Untapped New York Insiders to visit this unique place!

3. Skate Till You Drop At The TWA Hotel’s Roll-A-Rama

Runway Rink at TWA Hotel
TWA Hotel’s Roll-a-Rama. Photo courtesy TWA Hotel

To get your exercise in while also having fun this Memorial Day weekend, grab a pair of roller skates and head to the TWA Hotel’s Roll-A-Rama. The new outdoor Runway Rink is located around its 1958 Lockheed Constellation “Connie” airplane. Sessions are 50 minutes long and cost $20 per adult and $12 per child. with skate rentals included. The rink is open Fridays from 4:00 p.m. to 8:00 p.m and Saturdays and Sundays from 12:00 p.m. to 8:00 p.m. 

The TWA Hotel is located at JFK Airport at Eero Saarinen’s 1962 TWA Flight Center. Inside the center, ’60s inspired restaurants, bars, and retail outlets have been placed for guest enjoyment. Some highlights include the Connie Cocktail Lounge (located in a vintage plane) and the Sunken Cafe. Here, guests can have retro cocktails and swizzle sticks once enjoyed on flights. As JFK’s only on-airport hotel, guests are given a perfect view of the runways. 

4. Visit NYC’s Newest Park, Little Island

Aerial view of Little Island
Little Island just opened last week

Little Island opened to much fanfare last week, with crowds flocking to the uniquely designed elevated island that rises out of the Hudson River. If you haven’t checked it out yet, Little Island has entry without reservations before noon and after 8 PM. Reservations between 12 PM and 8 PM over this weekend are no longer available.

Designed by Thomas Heatherwick and Signe Nielson of the landscape architecture firm MNLA, is open! Located at 13th Street at the boundary between the Meatpacking District and Chelsea, Little Island is one of the first new parks to open since the pandemic began.

5. Jump Back In Time With Untapped New York’s Tour Of Grand Central Terminal

Grand Central terminal main atrium
Grand Central Terminal

To escape the rain coming ahead, head inside to take part in Untapped New York’s popular Grand Central Terminal Tour. Though Grand Central Terminal may appear to be like any other large mass transit hub, it holds countless secrets, all at the ready to be found. Boasting one of the largest basements in New York City and a secret tennis court, we can all stand to learn something new about the terminal’s history and legacy.

Currently, tours are available for Saturday May 29th and Sunday May 30th at 2.00 p.m. About an hour and a half long, the tour costs around $29.00 to $35.00 per person. Not here this weekend but want to join later? Dates are available for the rest of the year too.

6. Get Out Into The Water With Free Rowing In The Bronx

Bronx River Alliance kayaking
Free rowing opportunities at Hunts Point Riverside Park

Starting May 29th and every Saturday through September 4th, free rowing opportunities will be available at Hunts Point Riverside Park in the Bronx with the organization Rocking the Boat. From 1:00 p.m. to 6:00 p.m. guests will be able to explore the Bronx River aboard student-built wooden row boats.

In addition, accompanying staff will give lessons on the history and ecological significance of the local waterways. Great for friends and family, the activity allows for participants to connect with nature and exercise along the way. Maybe you’ll even see some beavers!

7. Enjoy Live Music At The Lower East Side Festival Of The Arts

Theatre For The New City, Untapped New York
Theater For The New City

The Lower East Side Festival of the Arts is an annual event at the Theater For The New City. The festival offers guests a view into the cultural life and history of the Lower East Side. Last year the festival was held fully virtual, but will take place this year in-person over the course of Memorial Day weekend. The theme will aptly be “LES is home again,” in celebration of the city’s reopening this upcoming summer. For attendees there will be an eclectic range of theatre groups, artists, painters, sculptures, dancers, actors, puppet makers, poets, musical comedy stars, kid performers, and street performers showcasing their work. 

Each day from 6:00 p.m. to 11 p.m. various performances will be held in the Johnson and Cabaret Theatre. Some notable artists in attendance will be jazz musician David Amram, performance artist Penny Arcade, and members of the Rod Rodgers Dance Company. On Saturday May, 29th from 1:00 p.m. to 5:00 p.m. cultural festival events, performances, food, and vendors will be located outside the Theatre for the New City on East 10th Street. In addition, the Community Space Theatre will be hosting poetry readings from 4:00 p.m. to 7 p.m. on Monday, May 31st.

8. Visit An Abandoned Hospital On Ellis Island

Ellis island abandoned hospital
Ellis Island Isolation Hospital

If the spooky entices you and Halloween is too far away check out Untapped New York’s hard hat tour of Ellis Island’s abandoned hospital. The tour takes visitors through the abandoned rooms of the now defunct Ellis Island hospital complex. Sites along the tour include the hospital’s laundry room, contagious disease wards, autopsy rooms, the staff house, and much more, including sites opened exclusively to Untapped New York guests and not accessible on any other tour.

This Memorial Day weekend, tickets are available for Saturday, May 29th. Entrance is $83.00 and includes round trip ferry tickets to Manhattan or New Jersey and access to the Ellis Island National Museum of Immigration. 

9. Head To Brooklyn For A Historic Memorial Day Parade

Memorial Day on navy boat
Brooklyn’s 154th Memorial Day Parade and Veteran Motorcade will start at 11 a.m. on 3rd Ave. and 75th St.

Across the United States, Memorial Day is celebrated with parades to commemorate the lives of our country’s fallen soldiers. One such celebration is the Brooklyn Memorial Day Parade sponsored by the United Military Veterans of Kings County. It is the oldest, continuously running Memorial Day Parades in a large U.S. city, first occurring in 1867. Originally, the parade ran along Eastern Parkway, but in 1985, it moved to Prospect Park West for a few years before arriving at its final and current location in Bay Ridge. The move was made to make the parade closer to the US Army Garrison Fort Hamilton—with this being the only active duty military installation in New York City.

There is a long history associated with Memorial Day parades in the U.S., with their historical roots being traced back to Waterloo, New York. In 1865, druggist Henry C. Welles encouraged his fellow neighbors to decorate the graves of Civil War veterans. After gaining support from then Seneca County Clerk, General John B. Murray, a committee was formed to make wreaths, crosses, and bouquets for each grave. 

From Waterloo, Memorial Day celebrations would go on to spread across the country. The holiday was officially established by General John A. Logan in 1868—though the date would later be moved from May 30th to the last Monday of May. Nowadays, a host of parades take place across the five boroughs and the surrounding areas. 

This year, the Brooklyn’s 154th Memorial Day Parade and Veteran Motorcade will start May 31, at 11:00 a.m. on 3rd Avenue and 75th Street. Vehicles will begin lining up for the motorcade from 9:30 a.m. to 10:30 a.m. The wreath-laying ceremony at the VA Harbor Health Care System on Polly Place will take place later from 11:45 a.m. to 12:15 p.m. Finally, there will be a Memorial Service in John Paul Jones Park at 1 p.m. 

10. Take an Underground Subway Tour 

Abandoned Chambers Street platform
Scenes from the Underground Subway Tour

As one of the oldest train systems in the world, the New York City subway has countless hidden secrets to be discovered. From abandoned stations to extinct routes, simply riding the trains allows for a blast straight into the past. There can be no denying the profound impact and historical legacy of the city’s subway. 

To learn more about the New York City subway, Untapped New York’s Underground Subway Tour offers the perfect opportunity to dive into the system’s history. In addition, the tour allows participants to explore train locations even local New Yorkers know nothing about. Highlights of the tour include visiting City Hall Park—the birthplace of the system—and listening to the story of the route of the mythical “Subway before the Subway” Alfred Ely Beach’s Pneumatic Train System. 

Tickets are currently available for Saturday May 29th at 11:00 a.m and 2:00 p.m. Lasting about 2 hours, the experience costs around $29.00 to $35.00 per person.

Next, check out Untapped’s upcoming tours!