Monday was the first official day of summer, but let’s face it — I’ve been in summer mode since the first warm day back in May. As I’ve written here before, this is absolutely my favorite season. The days are longer, my energy levels are higher and New York City becomes my playground. It’s the one time of year that I’m not dying to get on a plane out of here.
Here are my favorite summer activities in New York City, for locals and tourists alike. Go ahead, add them to your summer bucket list.
1. Grab a drink at the Met Roof Garden Bar.
This still feels like a bit of a secret, but heading up to the roof of the Met after a couple of hours checking out the exhibits is now a must-do summer activity for me. Finding your way up there can be a bit of an adventure, but the pay off is in the gorgeous views of Central Park and Upper Manhattan. At about $13 for a glass of wine, the prices aren’t cheap, but then again what rooftop bar is? Plus, it makes me feel better about never paying the full suggested price of admission to the museum.
2. Sample awesome food at Smorgasburg.
In a city that’s all about food festivals and street fairs, Smorgasburg is the best catch because it brings so many great vendors together. You can find almost anything there – from lobster rolls, to jerk chicken, to doughnuts and beer. Alex and I generally go to the one in Williamsburg, but it seemed extra crowded this summer. Good thing there are also additional pop-up locations in Prospect Park, South Street Seaport and Central Park.
3. Do a tasting and tour.
One of the few good parts of the hipster takeover in Brooklyn is the rise of local, craft beer and liquor establishments that offer affordable tours and tastings. For $15 or less, you can sample beers and tour the facilities at Brooklyn Brewery or try whiskey and learn about New York’s scandalous bootlegging history at Kings County Distillery. Or head to a wine tasting in Long Island.
Kings County Distillery in Brooklyn
4. Have brunch and drinks on Stone Street.
I personally have only been to a couple of restaurants here, but this little European-inspired cobblestone street screams summer to me. Stone Street which is said to be one of the first streets paved in Manhattan is now home to a collection of bars and restaurants that is a day drinker’s dream. The street is closed off to traffic and there are picnic tables for outdoor dining that get filled up pretty quickly.
5. Brunch literally anywhere.
I’m an absolute brunch enthusiast. It’s the perfect solution for my tendency to wake up late on weekends and my love of indulgent breakfast food. Stay tuned for a post on my favorite brunch spots in Manhattan — but one I’ve always loved is Cantine Parisienne in Soho, especially when I can grab a 2-for-1 bottomless brunch Pulsd deal.
Brunch at Bagatelle in the Meatpacking District
6. Chill in Central Park.
I could dedicate an entire article to all the reasons I love Central Park, but my top summer activities are:
- Picnic on the Lawn – Central Park and picnic are pretty synonymous in my head and Alex and I definitely make sure to this at least once every summer. Pack some snacks, a blanket and claim a spot in the shade of a tree. Click here for ideas on what to pack.
- Rowing on the Lake – For me, this never gets old. It’s one of the quickest ways to forget about the crowded city and just relax. You can rent a boat for up to four people at the Loeb Boathouse.
7. Go kayaking on the Hudson River.
I’ve never personally done this — mainly because I’m scared of what’s in the Hudson water — but I know people who have and they recommend it!
8. Go to the beach
What’s summer without the beach? My top picks are Brighton Beach and Rockaway Beach. While the commute there can be up to 2 hours long depending on where you’re coming from, I’m always so starved for some ocean breeze and sun that I’m willing to make the trip at least once every year.
Midsummer Night Swing (Photo: Diana Robinson)
9. Dance at Midsummer Night Swing at Lincoln Center
A friend and I once accidentally stumbled upon this dance party behind Lincoln Center one summer, and it was actually really fun. You can pay to get dance lessons from guest instructors and dance to live bands.. or you can do what we and a bunch of other people did and just dance right outside the barricades for free.
10. An outdoor movie.
The city has so many outdoor movie options now from rooftops to parks. Bryant Park is a popular option, but I really like Brooklyn Bridge Park or Long Island City for nice views while you watch. They’re the perfect place to lay out on a blanket with picnic fare and maybe a very discreet bottle of wine, if you’re brave enough.
Movies with a View at Brooklyn Bridge Park (Photo: Dan Nguyen)
11. Shakespeare in the Park
This is another Central Park summer activity. If you’re willing to get up super early and brave the lines to get the free lottery tickets, then I totally recommend this. I recently saw Taming of the Shrew, which has an amazing all-female cast. Luckily, I didn’t have to wait in line for the tickets, but Jane, who woke up at 5am to wait in line, says that’s half the fun.
12. Fireworks at Coney Island.
I don’t like the beach at Coney Island, but people-watching on the Boardwalk is always fun. They also have a fireworks show every Friday at 9:30pm, starting the last weekend in June and going through August. You could actually watch them here on July 4th, along with the Annual Hot Dog Eating Contest, instead of braving the even bigger crowds at the Macy’s show in Manhattan.
13. Try to spot Manhattanhenge.
Twice a year, the sun aligns perfectly with the city’s grid as it sets, creating amazing Instagram opportunities that thousands flood the streets for each year. Your next chance to see the epic sunset is on July 12 and you can get the best views from 14th, 23rd, 34th, 42nd and 57th Streets on the East Side. Watch Neil deGrasse Tyson explain the phenomenon here.
14. Along the Brooklyn Bridge.
This is such a touristy activity, but it’s actually pretty fun to walk or bike across the Brooklyn Bridge. And if you go from Manhattan to Brooklyn, you can get off and explore Brooklyn Bridge Park, which is another great place to watch the sunset.
View of the Manhattan Bridge from DUMBO.
Speaking of Brooklyn Bridge Park, I love walking around neighboring DUMBO, which stands for “Down Under the Manhattan Bridge Overpass.” Dubbed one of the most Instagrammable places in NYC for its stunning views of the Empire State Building framed by the bridge, it’s become quite a hotspot. I love just strolling through the little streets, browsing books at Powerhouse Arena and having lunch in the garden at Gran Electrica.
16. Stroll through Battery Park.
For gorgeous waterfront views, definitely head down to Battery Park, where you can catch the Staten Island Ferry for a free tour that includes views of the Statue of Liberty. Make sure to walk the entire length of the pier for cool hidden spots.
17. Stroll the High Line.
This is another tourist fave, and it can get crowded, but I love leisurely walking the High Line on a summer evening. If you walk from one end on 34th Street to the other on Gansevoort Street (near 14th), you’ll get a great workout that lands you smack in the middle of the trendy Meatpacking District. The key for me is to never make it my destination, but rather the thing I do before dinner or something else
I’d love to know – what’s your favorite thing to do in NYC in the summer?