List of the Top 5 Things to do in New York City in The Summer

Most New Yorkers live for New York City in the summer, when they can shed layers of clothes and overdose on the Vitamin D their body’s have been deprived of all winter. I however am of a small population of people who’s always on the fence about it. I do love that in New York there is always a new season to look forward to, I just kind of prefer winter.

Summer is the time most residents of the city take off to the Hamptons on the weekend or flock to the rest of the northeast in search of a place with a cool ocean breeze and where there’s no garbage baking on the side of the street. New Yorker’s will do almost anything to beat the heat. So much so that the city can practically empty out during July and August.

I am not one of those people who has the luxury of escaping the city when the weather gets unbearable. So I’ve had to search for the best ways to enjoy New York in the summer without wishing I were somewhere else.

When you find yourself in the city dripping sweat with serious abandonment issues, you’ll need some tips on enjoying the season. There are a number of ways to work on your tan or sip on a fruity cocktail that will make you feel like you’re on an island somewhere. Manhattan IS an island after all.

Planning a trip to New York City? Check out these helpful links:

  • Get the perfect 3 day itinerary for your first visit to New York City here.
  • Read my list of the best bars in Midtown Manhattan right near Times Square here.
  • If you’re looking for a more local experience read my neighborhood guides for Astoria and Prospect Park (coming soon).
beach towel and book on sand
Grab your biggest towel and your favorite book and get back some of that Vitamin D you lost, it’s good for you.

1. Spend a day at one of New York City’s beaches

The best way to feel like you’re on a beach somewhere sipping an ice cold beer and reading a book is to actually sit on a beach somewhere. Bring the largest towel you own, a good book, and just try to flag down the Corona man so you don’t actually have to leave your little spot of New York paradise.

If you didn’t already know it, yes New York City has beaches – plenty that are close enough for a day trip. While most New Yorkers take off to the Hamptons, drive up to Cape Cod, or head to Maine when the weather gets hot, you can enjoy a staycation and still make it to work on Monday.

If you’re stuck in the city, there are lots of beaches worthy of a visit. Although we don’t have beaches in New York worthy of a plane ride, we do have plenty that are worthy of a $2.75 train fare. So if you find yourself in the middle of Manhattan when it’s 90 degrees with 1,000 percent humidity, there are worse places to spend a day than one of New York City’s beaches.

Woman on boardwalk in Coney Island
Coney Island is just a big carnival on the beach – get some cotton candy and in touch with your inner child.

Coney Island

My favorite beach to go to hands down is Coney Island. I’ve always been more of a beach vibe and not so much a get-sand-in-my-underwear kind of person. I prefer sipping a frozen drink with the ocean as a back drop. I like the atmosphere of the ocean without actually having to get in the water. My favorite beach in Southern California is Venice and I think Coney Island is a better version of it.

There are so many reasons to spend a day in Coney Island: have a hot dog at Nathan’s, ride the Cyclone, and enjoy endless rides and games at Luna Park. Oh, and I never, repeat never, go to Coney Island without a stop at Margarita Island.

Beach boardwalk and amusement park in Coney Island
A little advice: get the hot dog after you ride the Cyclone, not before.
holding beer bottle with beach in background
Who goes to Coney Island and doesn’t have the Coney Island Mermaid Pilsner? I think they may kick you out for that.
Margarita Island in Coney Island
With various flavors of frozen margaritas and live music/DJs during the summer, you shouldn’t skip Margarita Island

Rockaway Beach

For a true beach day experience, Rockaway in Queens is your best option. I finally made it out there last summer for an art installation and was so bummed I hadn’t gone earlier. Rockaway is deep in Queens and won’t make you feel like you’re even close to a big city like New York.

This is the beach to visit if you actually want to get in the water and layout in the sun. It’s the beach for beach people. Unless you want to trek out to Long Island and pay to get on the beach, it’s also your best bet for surfing.

My favorite place in Rockaway is Rippers, a great beach shack right on the boardwalk with yummy burgers and the best Michelada I’ve ever had. There are plenty of places to grab a bite and it’s a great spot to rent a bike and check out the surrounding area.

Stay tuned for my complete guide to New York City beaches.

Rockaway beach in Queens
If you can go during the week instead of a weekend it’s likely to be less crowded!
drinks on picnic table next to beach
Try one of the best Michelada’s in the city at Rippers
top down photo of burgers, fries, and drinks
Not too shabby for a beach burger shack.

2. Hang Out in the Park

Enjoying some of New York City’s incredible parks is one of my favorite things to do when the weather’s nice. Mostly because no matter where you are in the city, you are never far from a great park. In fact, I had a conversation with a friend awhile back about her reservations on moving to New York and how she had to be close to nature.

There is a common misconception that living in New York means you’re at the constant mercy of a concrete jungle. But have you seen an aerial view of Manhattan? Have you seen the size of Central Park? And that’s just one park. There are countless other great parks in the city to escape to.

Of course there are even more options for serious hikers just a short MetroNorth train ride away. Packing a picnic, running through nature trails, or biking the 6 mile loop of Central Park is an easy way to get in touch with nature and the best way to enjoy New York City in the summer. Especially since you know it won’t be long until you’re cuddled inside with blankets and Netflix binge sessions.

Check out some of my favorite parks below:

woman in Row boat in central park during the summer
Don’t forget to designate who’s going to row the boat before you get in with your friends.

Central Park

I know that this goes without saying. Central Park is the biggest park in the city with people constantly flocking to popular spots like The Mall, Bethesda Fountain, and Strawberry Fields. But it’s not hard to carve out a small piece of real estate with a blanket and whatever you need to pass the time.

You can waste an entire day in Central Park without even realizing you’re in a big city. It’s always cooler in the midst of trees and there’s even places like Tavern on the Green or Loeb’s Boathouse Cafe to have a bite if you forgot to pack a picnic. Now that I live so close to Central Park, it’s become my favorite place to go for a run, walk my dog Chewy or even just walk through on my way to work.

You can find a calendar of events for Central Park on their official site.

Central park reservoir in New York City
The Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis Reservoir is my favorite place to go running in the city. It also boasts some great views, just remember when you’re getting your photos to watch out for joggers!
Dog laying on grass in Central Park
BYO Dog to Central Park because you’ll get puppy envy from everyone else, trust me.
Picnic spread in Central Park
Always be the hero who packs the best picnics.

High Line

This abandoned train track turned public park is still a very popular spot for New Yorkers, even though you’ll find tons of tourists here too. It’s one of New York City’s newest parks with the recent addition of Hudson Yards and the Vessel (the pine cone shaped tower that had social media buzzing for a minute not too long ago).

The High Line has no shortage of secluded nooks with benches and lookout points that allow you to really appreciate New York City from a slightly elevated perspective. You will find a small area with vendors selling snacks or you can easily pop down to Chelsea Market midway for one of the best food courts in the city.

Even if you’re not in the mood for a park day, it’s one of the best and most scenic walks from midtown down to the Meatpacking District if you just happen to be going that way.

The High Line park in New York City
A unique park that lets you enjoy the balance of nature and the big city.
View of Manhattan from the High Line
Some of the most incredible viewpoints can be found at the High Line
arch and buildings seen from the High Line1
Views like this one…

Washington Square Park

That famous arch that pops up in a bunch of movies and more F.R.I.E.N.D.S episodes than I can count is my favorite park in the city. If I could afford to live in the West Village I swear I would drink my coffee here every morning, even if it were 10 degrees outside. Washington Square Park isn’t big by any means, but it is by far the prettiest park in the city.

Because it’s small and tucked away in part of the village with little other hot attractions nearby, you won’t find tourist settling here for too long. That gives it a very specific New York vibe that can be lost in other parts of the city. You’ll often find street performers and artists hanging out near the large fountain, so just find a bench and soak it all in.

Also, be on the lookout for my in-depth guide to New York City parks.

fountain and arch at Washington Square Park
Washington Square Park
Feels like a perfect New York City day to me.

3. Get out on the water

I’ve always told people visiting the city that the best way to appreciate it is by getting out or up. When you are immersed in the streets and lost in crowds of people, you don’t get to appreciate New York for what it is. The best and only way to do that is to get as high up as you can or as far out as you can go and seeing Manhattan from the outside.

I double down on this during the summer in New York City. I constantly tell people to get out on the water anyway they can. Not only do you get to appreciate the best views but you’ll get to soak up the cool breeze coming off the river. There are plenty of spots for free kayaking, paid river tours, and cheap ferry rides.

Lobster Boat

The North River Lobster Co is one of my favorite nice day activities. For just $10 you’re on board the boat along with endless amounts of delicious seafood and cold beer (for purchase). This is my favorite way to enjoy the water because once you’re on you can truly relax for as many hours as you want.

The boat runs up and down the Hudson River for short trips. It docks regularly just long enough to let people off and let more people on. Your day pass allows you to be on the boat as long as you want. Just be warned that bar tab can add up pretty quickly! Once you carve out a good spot, there’s no reason not to keep the buckets of beer coming and enjoying the beautiful backdrop of Manhattan with friends.

woman on boat with new york skyline
You may already know this about me, but I don’t go anywhere without a koozie.
New York City summer skyline
The perfect backdrop for a day out on the Hudson.
North River Lobster Co boat on Hudson River
North River Lobster Co for the win.

Ferry Rides

The cheapest way to get out on the water is New York City ferry rides. While the ferry rides in New York are used as a mode of transportation for city residents, they can still be a fun and cheap way to spend a summer day.

The East River ferry will get you from Dumbo to Williamsburg to Downtown Manhattan (all for the affordable price of just $2.75). This is absolutely one of my favorite ways to enjoy nice weather and something I love doing with friends visiting the city. I love spending time in Dumbo and Williamsburg and when I can make a day out of it it’s even better.

If you’re looking for a completely free boat ride, the Staten Island Ferry runs regularly and will give you some spectacular views of lower Manhattan and the Financial District. The downside to cheap ferry rides though is that they are short and don’t offer much in the form of relaxation. NYC ferry’s do however have refreshment stands in them offering snacks and beverages and most even serve beer.

For a complete list of Ferry maps, pricing, and schedules click here.

sign for east river ferry
Dumbo has probably the best view of Manhattan in the entire city.
NYC ferry boat on east river
NYC Ferry’s offer quick and cheap trips from Brooklyn to Queens to Manhattan
Brooklyn Bridge from ferry boat
It doesn’t matter which ferry route you take, you’re guaranteed some great photo ops
Downtown Manhattan from Staten Island Ferry
View from the Staten Island Ferry I rode for free

4. Rooftop and Patio Bars

In a social city like New York, you can count on an endless supply of rooftop bars and patios. New York also has a drinking culture unlike anything I’ve seen in other cities around the world. I suppose it could be easy to look for a problem with the drinking habits of New Yorkers, but the truth is we aren’t driving anywhere and our apartments are just too damn small to entertain. So we flock to our neighborhood bars to catch up with friends and let the rush hour train traffic die out.

This social mentality comes in handy in the summer when a refreshing cocktail and a couple patio umbrellas are all you need to take the edge off a hot day. Whether it’s my local Hell’s Kitchen backyard or a destination rooftop bar like Lemon’s in Williamsburg, I am a sucker for outdoor day drinking.

Stay tuned for my list of favorite rooftop and patio bars coming soon.

couple kissing at rooftop bar
It’s not often you catch us being adorable but I guess the rooftop bar at the Wythe Hotel brings it out in us
view of manhattan from rooftop bar
Rooftop bars on the edge of Brooklyn offer some of the best views of the New York skyline
backyard patio at bar in NYC
When I’m looking for something just a little more low key, patios are the way to go
polynesian rooftop bar
You can even find your secluded rooftop escape right in Times Square

5. Bike Ride

I just recently started using my bike as a mode of transportation, but before that it spent most of the year locked up. Riding a bike in the city can be intimidating and slightly scary. Bike lanes are flooded with seasoned bikers and delivery boys ready and willing to run through red lights and merge in and out of traffic like they have the protective layer of steel and aluminum around them. I however advocate for a more leisurely and cautious approach to bike riding.

I will say that any fears about riding a bike in Manhattan are not without merit. It can be dangerous but when I finally started riding my bike to work, I was sad I hadn’t started sooner. If you aren’t afraid of a little sweat, biking can be a really fun way to explore New York in the summer.

It is important though to follow basic biking rules like: riding with traffic not against it, using streets with paved bike lanes and wearing the correct biking attire. It may seem like common sense but I don’t see every biker wearing a helmet or approaching intersections with caution.

New York is filled with bike lanes and a Citi Bike station every few blocks. There’s really no reason to think it’s not a biking friendly city. There are plenty of scenic paths along the river or in parks for whatever your biking style is. The outside of Manhattan has large paved bike paths that will take you around most of the island and through some beautiful sites.

Get a full bike map and more info here.

bikes on rockaway beach
Biking on the beach gets me in touch with my inner SoCal girl
bike path at riverside park in manhattan
Bike path at Riverside Park that hugs the outside of the Manhattan

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