With several exciting new festivals debuting and iconic Burgh celebrations returning in person, May is the invitation and motivation you need to get out there and take in all the city has to offer. Whether you’re on team 26.2 or are more of a seasoned spectator, don’t miss our go-to guide to the top 11 events happening in May. Be sure to visit each organization’s website and social media for Covid safety protocols.
1. Dick’s Sporting Goods Pittsburgh Marathon: May 1
Summer is still 55 days away (yes, we’re counting!), but marathon weekend ushers in the outdoor event season. There are many ways to get moving — the full marathon, half-marathon, relay, 5K, kids marathon, toddler trot and pet walk. Everyone from pros to rookies to families can find a race — and a pace — that’s perfect for them. Lace up to achieve a personal goal or support your favorite charity as you join 32,000 participants from 50 states and 11 countries. New this year are Health & Fitness Expo classes, a zero-waste partnership and a collaborative collage. Spectators can check out the course maps and encourage runners in a cheer group, partake in musical entertainment along the course and join the finishing line festivities in Point State Park. Register here.
2. May Market and Monet in Bloom at Phipps: May 6 & 7
You have two quintessential ways to welcome May at Phipps. For green thumbers following the golden rule of “Don’t plant until Mother’s Day!” this is the garden mecca you’ve been waiting for. The Phipps lawn will be transformed into a one-stop shop: native and tropical plants, succulents, lawn decor, organic herbs, seedlings, seasonal favorites, landscaping materials, garden accessories, botanical art and more. And expert horticulturists will be on hand to share advice. The 68th annual May Market is open Friday, May 6, from 9 a.m. to 7 p.m. and Saturday, May 7, from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. For more blooms, stick around on May 7 for the opening of the Summer Flower Show. If you love the breathtaking art of Claude Monet, you won’t believe your senses when you step into 3-D versions of his Impressionist masterpieces. Be immersed in arbor vines, billowing hanging baskets, striking sunflowers, striped topiary, dreamlike designs, gigantic picture frames and more. It’s a one-of-a-kind experience you’ll want to witness during the day and at night. Buy tickets.
3. Mother of All Pottery Sales at Union Project: May 7
Get that spring cleaning done and clear out those shelves so you can make room for all the cool pieces you’ll find when Pittsburgh’s biggest ceramics extravaganza returns. The aptly monikered marketplace is your go-to spot for meeting prolific potters, learning artisan techniques and purchasing beautiful and functional work directly from local artists. Among the 36 regional makers featured from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. will be Jowdy Studio, Emmanuelle Ceramics, Cloonanware, Robyn’s Nest Pottery and many others. A wide range of objects and techniques will be represented – from dishware to jewelry to décor — with prices ranging from $10 to $200. In addition to peddling their pottery, ceramicists will demonstrate wheel throwing and Raku firing techniques. New this year is The Spotlight Gallery showcasing Union Project’s clay artists.
4. Jazz Poetry Month at Alphabet City: May 8-25
For the first time in 18 years, City of Asylum’s esteemed Jazz Poetry Month is moving to May. The unprecedented free exchange of music, language and ideas is more relevant than ever, as the fest will host musicians and writers from Ukraine, a dissident Russian poet and artists from Eastern Europe. Transcending genre, style and language, the celebration features 30 artists from 15 countries presenting eight concerts that use creative collaboration to fight oppression and uplift human rights. It all kicks off with the Uri Gurvich Quartet — musicians from Israel, Argentina, and Bulgaria — performing in Pittsburgh for the first time. Additional highlights include readings from exiled writers-in-residence, including Jorge Olivera Castillo (Cuba), Tuhin Das (Bangladesh) and Dmitry Bykov (Russia), and a collaboration between jazz legends Oliver Lake and Claudio Cojaniz. On May 25, the James Brandon Lewis trio closes out the festival with its gritty, funky and explosive mix of jazz, hip-hop and punk rock. View a schedule and register for free.
5. Neighborhood Flea at The Stacks at 3 Crossings: May 8
Shop your way into the flea market season. There are even more deals to score and treasures to cherish this year. Expanding its footprint, The Neighborhood Flea is moving down one block to a bigger home at The Stacks at 3 Crossings. Showcasing 100 sellers, the pop-up market is open from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. the second Sunday of the month through October. It’s the perfect place to take mom on her special day for some quality haggling and brunching together. Shoppers can peruse a curated selection of goods from local sellers, makers, boutiques, collectors and small businesses — from funky finds to original art to vintage decor. The Mother’s Day edition will also feature music, painting and hands-on workshops. Food trucks will serve up everything from healthy smoothie bowls to authentic Greek fare to sweet baked goods — plus plenty of java to fuel your day. On-site parking is $5 at The Hive.
6. Greater Pittsburgh Festival of Books in East Liberty: May 14
Pittsburgh has a venerable literary history with illustrious writers who have grown up, lived or worked here — from August Wilson, Annie Dillard, Thomas Bell and Willa Cather, to Michael Chabon, Gertrude Stein, Nellie Bly and Sam Hazo. Add to this roster award-winning contemporary writers such as Damon Young, Deesha Philyaw, Yona Harvey, Brian Broome and Terrance Hayes — and it’s easy to see why this festival is launching here. It’s the first free event celebrating a love of reading and highlighting the region’s outstanding literary heritage and talent. Don’t miss Emmy, Tony and Grammy-winning, star and Pittsburgh native Billy Porter who will discuss his memoir. He will join 75 nationally renowned authors with Pittsburgh ties who will share their work at six East Liberty venues. There are countless ways to dive in — readings, discussions, Q&As, signings, storytimes, activities, performances, exhibitors and a closing night jazz event.
7. Golden Age Lager Fest at THIS IS RED: May 14
Calling all lager heads to Munhall where the golden libation will flow within a Mon Valley landmark. Celebrating all things lager, the first-of-its-kind festival will transform the former St. Michael Church into a temple honoring the world’s most widely consumed and commercially available style of beer. Inside the breathtaking 100-year-old Slovakian Art Nouveau space, you’ll savor tastings from 20 brewers all striving to craft the perfect clean and crisp lager. Featured local breweries include 11th Hour, Allegheny City, Cinderlands, Dancing Gnome, East End, Grist House, Necromancer, Trace, and more. Guest breweries from Pennsylvania, Illinois and Connecticut will round out the luscious lineup. For day drinkers, the afternoon session from 1 to 4 p.m. will feature live music by Sierra Sellers and Buffalo Rose, while Natural Rat and The National Reserve will rock the evening session from 6 to 9 p.m. In a perfect pairing with lager, the event will keep patrons nourished with pierogies and sausages. Buy tickets.