Memorial Day is the traditional start of summer in New York City. While winter and spring have seemingly blurred into one another this year, with the school year following an unconventional schedule, we don’t have many markers to tell us what season it is, let alone what day or month it is. Beautiful weather, buds on the trees, and blooming flowers give us a hint. But it’s Memorial Day weekend, etched onto the calendar on May 28-31, that lets us know it’s time to break out our flip flops and our shorts -- summer’s here.
What to Do on this Holiday
Memorial Day weekend is also a time for reflection and honor when we think back over the sacrifices made by our veterans to preserve our country’s freedom and democracy. This year, the holiday takes on even greater significance as we pay tribute to those who have lost their lives through unimaginable tragedies, including the pandemic of the past year and the upcoming 20th anniversary of 9/11.
Brooklyn Memorial Day Parade
New York City’s longest-running Memorial Day parade is scheduled once again in Brooklyn. Brooklyn’s 154th Memorial Day Parade, organized and led by the United Military Veterans of Kings County, will hold their annual commemoration, which also includes a memorial service honoring and remembering those who lost their lives in defense of our country. The parade begins at 11 a.m. with the exact route to be announced. Check the website for further detail. Consider making it a family event and bike along the parade route to show your support.
Run a Virtual Race with Tuesday’s Children
Tuesday’s Children, a nonprofit organization based in New York, serves families and communities impacted by terrorism, military conflict, and mass violence. Marking its 20th year of service this year, in lieu of an IRL race, the organization will host Rise Up and Remember: Memorial Day 5K, a national virtual event, from May 28-31. To register for the 5K, visit https://give.tuesdayschildren.org/MemorialDayVirtual5K.
Plan a Visit to New York City’s Museums and Memorials
As part of your holiday reflection, build your awareness of our nation’s resilience and community with a visit to NYC’s important monuments and museums.
For a cost-effective way to take in many of the city’s important memorials and sights, a New York CityPASS will give you pre-paid admission at a discounted rate. A three-site or six-site package can be purchased, which includes the Empire State Building (which will be lit up in red, white, and blue for the holiday), the ferry access to the Statue of Liberty and Ellis Island; the 9/11 Memorial & Museum; the Intrepid Sea, Air & Space Museum; and the Edge Observation Deck at Hudson Yards (for a striking view over downtown Manhattan, site of 9/11). Importantly, CityPASS has taken the guesswork out of current COVID protocols with their app providing up-to-date information and easy mobile ticketing.
General Grant National Memorial
Known colloquially as Grant’s Tomb, the domed General Grant National Memorial sits in a lovely park in Morningside Heights. The mausoleum is the final resting place of Ulysses S. Grant, 18th President of the United States, and his wife, Julia Grant. Pack a picnic and enjoy the serene area overlooking the Hudson River.
Honor Our Military Heroes with a Toast
Traditionally, New York City celebrates Memorial Day with a schedule of activities honoring the Marines, Coast Guard, and Navy known as Fleet Week. With the program canceled for in-person events this year (a virtual program is being planned), Ainslie in Williamsburg, Brooklyn, has chosen to honor military personnel with 50% off their individual bills on Memorial Day weekend. Even if you’ve never served in the armed forces, you can toast your favorite hero with lunch or dinner at this outstanding Italian restaurant and beer garden.
Bring the Family Together at the Beach
Governor Cuomo has announced the opening of all New York City beaches starting on Memorial Day. Check here for more information on opening times and beach rules. You can hop the subway to Coney Island, Orchard Beach, and the Rockaways with your beach blanket in tow and join the crowds this year with social distancing monitors and regulations. Cool off in a quieter setting with a drink on the pool deck of the new Rockaway Hotel steps from the beach. If you have a car, leave early to grab a parking space at beautiful Jones Beach State Park and Robert Moses State Park on the outskirts of the five boroughs. Take note that parking is reduced at these locations due to COVID, and hours can vary.