Summer in New York City is like no other
With the city in winter mode for five months a year, New York comes alive in summer. Get out and explore beyond the obvious attractions and add some of these to your to-do list.
Here is our definitive list of all the hot summer action you’ll find in NYC, whether in Manhattan and Brooklyn, or the Bronx and beyond, let us inspire you with day trips, nights out, free things, and expensive treats.
PARKS AND STREETS
Free HBO presents movies in Bryant Park
With the HBO head office across the road on Sixth Avenue, the cable channel is a major player on the free summer events circuit, with four major screenings at Bryant Park through summer. Though illegal to have open drinks, most bring picnic blankets and disguised bottles to watch twilight movies in the park that usually include classics from the 1950s to the 1980s (we’ve seen Dirty Dancing and Karate Kid there).
Summer Concert Series Central Park
Some are free, some are costly, but the caliber of acts is always high and New York’s Central Park is a hell of a beautiful place to watch a gig. There are also some great food and drinks vendors to grab dinner and watch the performances as the sun goes down.
Slide the city – Summer Streets
Zip lining, mini golf and water slides all make an appearance in the heart of summer when key New York streets are shut down to motorists for fun in the sun. Get in early for a free ride on the coco water slide outside the law courts or just go for a ride without the risk of being cleaned up by a motorist at Summer Streets.
Go to a neighborhood market
Farmers markets are a dime-a-dozen but anytime from May to September you can expect to run into one of the many local markets that pop up. Most have the same vendors, so usually experiencing one is enough to keep you going.
Yoga in Bryant Park
Perform downward dog without the risk of stepping in doggie dookie at midtown escape, Bryant Park. Usually co-sponsored by athletic wear brands, it’s a one-off event but a bit of fun in a place where you wouldn’t normally think of getting mindful in.
FOOD AND DRINKS
Attend a local block party
Crazy block parties like in the movies exist – especially in Brooklyn. The biggest is the Bushwick Collective party, but all over Brooklyn and Queens you’ll find little community events where they’ll shut off the street, hire a sound system and jumping house and fire up the grills. You may even have the opportunity to play in a hydrant.
Play corn hole at Brooklyn Crab
Corn hole is one of those daft games Americans love to play while they drink. You have to toss small cloth bags of corn at an angled wooden platform that has a target painted on it and a hole in the middle of the target. The aim is to get the bag into the hole to score and to knock the opponent’s bag off without them scoring. Brooklyn Crab is an awesome multi-level seafood restaurant and bar at Red Hook, Brooklyn.
Day drink at Nowadays
Bushwick isn’t just full of cheap hipsters bars and brunch places (amidst a massive international melting pot of families and flavors). The extra space means there’s room for actual beer gardens. The best is Nowadays, a dog friendly, family friendly park secreted in an industrial wasteland that is slowly becoming gentrified.
Sample local cider straight from the keg
It’s not called the Big Apple for nothing. The humble apple you taste in New York kicks the butt off anything you’ve had elsewhere – hands down. The same goes for the cider. If it’s not apple picking season, head to the Brooklyn Cider House in Bushwick where if you opt for the full Prix-fixe menu, you can go down with your party and spike the keg and enjoy freshly brewed cider.
Drink on a rooftop
Nothing blows away the memories of snow days and winter blues like a cold drink on a rooftop bar as the sun sets over the Manhattan skyline. The best rooftop bars in New York with a view of the skykline are in Brooklyn. We love Northern Territory and Berry Park. If you’re in Manhattan, 230 Fifth has the best view but douchiest clientele. Try Yotel or Rooftop 93 instead.
Drink on a boat
Hudson River comes alive in summer as cruise ships roll past, joggers line the banks and pretty young things day drink on old ketches like the Frying Pan. Barely seaworthy launches make the perfect place to sip down fresh oysters, intoxicating cocktails and brain freeze inducing craft beers. Even the Staten Island Ferry has a bar!
Go to summer camp
We didn’t grow up with summer camp and our only cultural reference is Meatballs, Long Hot Summer and Heavyweights. Now any adult can experience bunk beds, water activities like canoeing and ziplining by day and open bar and djs by night.
Dine like royalty in the off-season
New York can become a ghost town over summer. The more well to do families leave for their summer houses in Maine, New Hampshire, Jersey Shore or the Hamptons. This means less executive dinners and long lunches are happening at fancy restaurants. To bring the customers in during this slow period, many offer heavily reduced dining packages so you can get all dressed up and enjoy the finer things without upsetting the bank balance or the bougie types. It meant we could dine in places like The Carlyle for cheap.
Drink cocktails matched with cakes
A perfect marriage of baked goods and booze, the ladies at Butter & Scotch at Crown Heights deliver fresh cakes straight out of the oven and cocktails direct from the shaker in this happening Brooklyn local.
Drink on the roof of The Met
Taking in many of the art world’s greatest treasures can work up a thirst. In summer, retire to the hidden rooftop garden for rose, cocktails and Brooklyn Lagers overlooking Central Park. Each year, a major artist creates a sculpture for the season – so you can just tell people you’re out getting cultured, not wasted.
Hitch a ride to Rockaway Beach
If you want a beach you can actually swim at, avoid Coney Island or Brighton and head out to the Rockaways. Here you’ll find decent beaches, good food, live bands and safe places to swim. Walk further west to find a decommissioned fort and a clothing optional beach.
Go tubing on the Delaware
An inflatable inner tube and a floating beer cooler – what more do you need on a stinking hot day? Sourced Adventures offer this weekend day trip out to Delaware including bus, tube hire, lunch and a stop at an upstate New York craft brewery on the way home.
Take a day trip to Beacon
An hour and a half north of Manhattan, easily accessible by train, you’ll find the beautiful Hudson Valley town of Beacon. Formerly a hat mill town, it’s now full of arty boutiques, craft breweries, doughnutteries and the DIA Beacon gallery.
Take a day trip to Philly
The city of brotherly love is surprisingly close to New York City – close enough for a day trip and even better for a weekender. They have a great live music scene, incredible markets and the genuine Philly Cheese Steak.
Escape to the country
Once you’re out of the five boroughs, it’s not far to genuine countryside. Head north to upstate New York or west to Jersey and Pennsylvania where you’ll find forests, farm stays and Amish built log cabins. Bonus points if you happen to know someone with a lake house.
Smoke it up at Woodstock
In 1969, 400,000 people descended on the Bethel Farm in Ulster County for the defining moment in 1960s pop culture, witnessing performances by Hendrix, Richie Havens, Ravi Shankar, Arlo Guthrie, Janis Joplin, Santana, Canned Heat, Joan Baez, The Who, The Grateful Dead, Creedence Clearwater Revival, Blood, Sweat and Tears and so many other greats of the era. Today Woodstock still hosts musical events and earthier locals still partake in a toke of the green stuff from their mellow farms.
Hang out on the Jersey Shore
Pauly and the Situation are now on the wrong side of 30 but the Jersey shore still attracts thousands of young and beautiful college kids ready to party. Our pick is Asbury Park, where it has a great lineup of live gigs from big name bands right across summer.
Go on a pizza crawl in Connecticut
New Haven isn’t just famous for Yale University-it’s pizza consistently rates in the top ten best in America. Visit little Italy on Bleecker, a small Italian-American enclave in a cute heritage part of town. The most renowned places to try are Sally’s and Frank Pepe.
Catch a gig at Jones Beach
Jones Beach at Wantagh, Long Island is home to a Beach, parkland and a 15,000 person amphitheater. Catch some of rock’s best acts as the sun goes down. It’s a trek to get to but a great atmosphere.
Go to Storm King
The Storm King Art Center is an open-air sculpture garden in New Windsor, New York, between Woodbury and Newburgh. The best way to get there is by bus from Port Authority to Salisbury Mills Station and then a cab for the last few miles.
Gamble at Atlantic City
From Boardwalk Empire to Jersey Shore, this former hot spot has seen better days, but it’s still the closest you’ll get to Vegas on the East Coast. Catch a train or Greyhound and make a day and possibly a night of it.
Stay at a B52 member’s place
The B52’s Kate Pierson brings the colorful retro 50s vibe in her music and in her Catskills hotel, Kate’s Lazy Meadow where you can stay in cute, kitschy motel rooms or bungalows that take you back to a time when life was simpler and New York families vacationed in the Catskills, not Europe.
Go wine tasting at New Paltz
Just an hour and a half north of New Paltz, this quaint township is home to craft stores, craft breweries and local vineyards making it the ideal day trip out of town.
UNIQUELY NEW YORK EXPERIENCES
Play $5 mini golf on Pier 25, Tribeca
Manhattan’s supposed to be expensive, yet for the princely sum of $4 for kids and $5 for adults, you can play 18 holes of putt-putt golf with the cool Hudson River breeze cooling you down. Retire to the nearest clubhouse, the City Winery Vineyard.
Visit a zoo
Each borough has its own zoo, usually a small affair in its main park. Central Park zoo is decent for its size, but the best zoo can be found at the Bronx, where you can see the full array of lions, tigers, giraffes, elephants and even vultures.
Spend a day relaxing on Governors island
A field of hammocks, live music, slippery slides and mini golf are just the start. There’s the history, a fortress, a killer view of the Statue of Liberty and an outdoor eatery with a threat range of international flavors and frosty beverages. And then there’s the fact it only costs $2 on the ferry to feel like Manhattan is a world away.
Dance at Warmup at MOMA PS1
Contemporary art visualizations and up and coming artists and DJs create some of the hottest summer dance parties in the courtyard of this Long Island City outpost of the Museum of Modern Art.
Go to a ball game
Whether you root for the Yankees or the Mets, NYCFC or the Red Bulls, there’s nothing like going out and seeing summer sports in New York’s iconic stadiums. Yankees offer special $5 tickets on slower selling games (purchased well in advance) and you’ll usually find Groupons for the soccer teams.
Watch a film on a rooftop
Rooftop films with Manhattan as your backdrop – that’s a great way to spend a night with friends. The most popular place is Yotel which books out ahead of time, or Rooftop Films, who have events on roof tops and in public spaces.
Watch Top Gun on board an aircraft carrier
This would have to be the most ‘merican experience on the list. Every summer, you can catch Top Gun on the big screen on the deck of the USS Intrepid on the Hudson River. What a way to see one of the classics, surrounded by fighter aircraft of the era.
Watch the 4th of July fireworks
Don’t you dare watch them on TV. You have to experience them over the iconic Brooklyn Bridge. Get there early or find a friend with a Williamsburg rooftop who’s having a party. It’s one of those most-do’s.
Watch adults gorge themselves on hotdogs
Nathan’s Hot Dog Eating Competition on the 4th of July each year is the world’s most famous competitive eating championship. Watch it um…go down at Coney Island on the morning before you head to your party of choice.
Try the next big food trend at Smorgasburg
Open air food market Smorgasburg is heaven for breakfast, brunch and lunch on a weekend. Sample food from around the world and the latest and greatest which is soon to be copied in markets all over the globe – like Ramen Burgers.
Roller skate at Prospect Park
When was the last time you went roller-skating? Or dressed as one of the Spice Girls? Hire skates for 1980s prices and tear around the undercover rink by the lake.
Take the Ikea ferry
Every city has an Ikea but how many have a free ferry with ultimate views of the city skyline? Eat your full of Swedish meatballs with the Statue of Liberty in the distance and fill your bright blue bag with 20 things you don’t really need. Before returning, hit up the cute bars and barbecue joints of Red Hook.
Play in a fire hydrant
Just like a Spike Lee movie, kids really play in fire hydrant water (and adults have been known to join in too).
Spend a night in the museum
Channel your inner Ben Stiller or Robin Williams (rip) by spending a night at the natural history museum or Brooklyn museum. These once in a lifetime experiences come with a once in a lifetime price tag but include dinner, entertainment and open bar.
Sunbathe on the Highline
The former elevated rail tracks that once transported cargo between Chelsea warehouses has been converted into garden walkways complete with sun lounges.
Hire a lomo camera and go for a photo walk around the Village
The huge trend for Instagram imagery started with the rebirth of film led by the Lomography shop. Here you can buy plastic and old Russian cameras or just hire one and take it for a walk, getting that awesome flawed, old-school film shot you’ll always treasure.
Go to a water park
You don’t think about waterslides when you think New York but the summer heat justifies more than one. The best is at Six Flags in New Jersey, but Long Island’s Splish Splash is also worthy if you’re out at the Hamptons. Jersey Shore also has a number of parks along the coastline.
Go to an amusement park
Coney Island awakes from its wintery slumber in May bringing to life it’s traditional collection of rides and modern faves like the Thunderbolt. Venture further afield to New Jersey’s Six Flags for the region’s largest and most intense range of rollercoasters and thrill rides. For young families, Pennsylvania’s Hersheyworld or sesame may be more your speed.
Attend a music festival
There’s nothing like seeing great music live in a colorful parkland. New York hosts some huge summer lineups over summer. Governors Island, Vans Warped tour, Panorama, Global Citizen, Afropunk, the Roots Picnic, Four Knots and dance music festivals like butterfly
Kayak on the river
We’d never recommend swimming in the Hudson but at Pier 26 of Hudson River Park, you can kayak for free. Even the lessons are free.
Find an island getaway
Technically Manhattan is an island and you could argue that Long Island is too. Heck, there’s also Staten Island and Governor’s Island and Randall’s in easy reach. A favorite with bachelorette parties and the gay community is Fire Island, off Long Island.
Great post! It ALMOST makes me want to come to New York in the summer. Joking–I am always there at Christmas when it’s oh so cold, I’d love to see NYC being green!
It’s so much nicer in summer (and smellier). You should try it some time 😀