Memorial Day in NYC

Rockefeller Center with American Flags on Memorial Day

Memorial Day is observed on the last weekend in May every year to honor those who gave the ultimate sacrifice of their lives while serving in the US Armed Forces. It is more than just a holiday weekend, and it is so important to remember that while all gave some, some gave all to protect the freedom we take for granted.  I love Memorial Day in NYC with all its grand celebrations and events all weekend, where people from all over the city come together to pay their respects and honor our fallen heroes.

Memorial Day is also the unofficial start of summer, and New York City’s beaches open during Memorial Day weekend, which is a real  treat given the 14 miles of beaches, including Rockaway Beach, Coney Island and Brighton Beach that are maintained by NYC Parks.

Origins of Memorial Day

Memorial Day, which was originally known as Decoration Day, is a national holiday in America to honor military personnel who died while serving in the U.S. Armed Forces. Originally first observed on May 30, 1868, when flowers were placed on the graves of Union and Confederate soldiers at Arlington National Cemetery, Memorial Day was declared a day of remeberance by General John A. Logan, the national commander of the Grand Army of the Republic.

Over time, Memorial Day has evolved to include all military personnel who have died while serving in the U.S. Armed Forces. Over a century later, Memorial Day became a federal holiday in 1971 and is now observed on the last Monday in May every year.

Memorial Day NYC

Memorial Day is a day to remember and honor the brave men and women who have given their lives while serving in the United States Armed Forces, and NYC has a weekend full of events and activities including iconic Memorial Day Parades which feature military units, marching bands, and floats, including Brooklyn’s Memorial Day Parade which is 156 years old.

One of my favorite Memorial Day events in New York City is Fleet Week, which coincides with the long weekend. Fleet Week is a week-long celebration of the U.S. Navy, Marine Corps, and Coast Guard, and there are navy personnel in uniform to be found all over NYC, and events featuring ship tours, musical performances, silent platoons, water tanks where you can interact with underwater divers etc.

Memorial Day is also observed by visiting cemeteries and memorials to honor fallen soldiers, and the Intrepid Sea, Air & Space Museum Complex hosts a special commemoration on Pier 86 by unfurling a large American flag, the playing of taps, ceremonial wreath-laying, and a rifle salute.

Overall, Memorial Day is an important holiday in New York City that honors the sacrifices made by military personnel who have died while serving their country.

Memorial Day in NYC Events

New York City has a long history of honoring Memorial Day with various events and activities throughout the city. Some of the events that happen in NYC every year are:


New York City has multiple parades on Memorial Day weekend to honor the men and women who died while serving in the United States military. The Little Neck-Douglaston parade in Queens is one of the largest and most well-known Memorial Day parades in the city and other notable parades include the Brooklyn Memorial Day Parade, the Staten Island Memorial Day Parade, and the Bronx Veterans Day Parade.

Memorial Services

Memorial Day is a time for reflection and remembrance, and there are several memorial services taking place around the city. The Soldiers’ and Sailors’ Memorial Monument in Riverside Park hosts an annual Memorial Day ceremony, which includes a wreath-laying ceremony and a reading of the Gettysburg Address. The Vietnam Veterans Plaza in Lower Manhattan also hosts a Memorial Day ceremony, which includes a reading of the names of the New Yorkers who lost their lives in the Vietnam War.

Fleet Week

Fleet Week is an annual event that takes place in New York City to honor the US Navy, Marine Corps, and Coast Guard. Fleet Week includes various events held throughout the city, and there are ship tours, military demonstrations, and performances by military bands. The highlight of Fleet Week is the Parade of Ships, which takes place on the Hudson River and features ships from the US Navy, Marine Corps, and Coast Guard.

Concerts and Performances

There are several concerts and performances that take place around the city to honor Memorial Day. The New York Philharmonic performs a free concert at the Cathedral Church of St. John the Divine, the Intrepid Sea, Air & Space Museum hosts a Memorial Day ceremony featuring a musical performance, and there are several performances on the ships and in Times Square as part of Fleet Week in NYC.

New York all dressed up in Red, White and Blue

On Memorial Day, New York gets all dressed up in Red, White and Blue to honor Memorial Day. Here are some of my favorites.

Rockefeller Center

Rockefeller Center has a tradition of changing flags to match the occassion, and this weekend they are all changed to American Flags.

Times Square

Times Square always has the American Flag on the 42nd Street end at One Times Square, flanked with other billboards honoring Memorial Day

Empire State Building

Empire State Building can be seen far and wide whether you are in or outside Manhattan, and it always shines in Red, White and Blue on Memorial Day.

Madison Square Garden

MSG is positioned between Empire State Building and Hudson Yards, and its lights are a great complement both sides as you can see in the pictures above and below.

Hudson Yards

The lights of Hudson Yards rise high on the west side of Manhattan, and here they are on Memorial Day.

Penn Station

Penn Station is just emerging from a major renovation, and it’s ceiling is all dressed up for Memorial Day.

Closing Thoughts on Memorial Day in NYC

Memorial Day is a time to honor and remember those who fought and made the ultimate sacrifice of their lives for their country, and New York offers a range of events and activities to commemorate the holiday. The activities kick off with Fleet Week, and continue into the weekend leading up to Memorial Day, where the City offers numerous opportunities to reflect on the sacrifices made by those who served their country, ending with New York all dressed up in red, white and blue to remember and honor on Memorial Day.

Memorial Day is also the unofficial start to the summer, and the opening of public beaches on Memorial Day Weekend is definitely something to look forward to.

Never Forget.

Hanit GyaniAuthor posts

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Hi, I'm Hanit Gyani, a full time professional by day and a blogger by night and weekend. Welcome to my blog, aka my passion project, Gotta Love New York.

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