What to Do In NYC During The Summer

Jul 17, 2014

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Our contributors are scouring the globe in search of the best in summer travel. Today, New York City-based contributor Adee Braun brings you best bets for summer in the city.

Summer is the time when New Yorkers come out to play in their urban jungle—they slow down just enough for happy hours on rooftopss and lounging in parks. With all the outdoor events across the city, it’s a great time to join them. Here are some ways to cool down, drink up, pig out and just relax on your summer trip to New York City.


The Gorbals
An unlikely Williamsburg hideaway on the rooftop of Urban Outfitters

Summer is the best time to take advantage of New York’s resurgent beer garden scene. At Radegast Hall and Biergarten in Williamsburg, mustard covered pretzels are washed down with steins of German beer at picnic tables. If you’re looking for an urban camping vibe with your cocktail, stay in Williamsburg and head to the Urban Outfitters on North 6th Street. On the top floor of the store you’ll find The Gorbals, a new rustic rooftop bar complete with roughly hewn posts and canvas canopies to shade you as you sip a cooling beverage.

It’s easy to forget that Manhattan is an island, but visiting these two waterside spots will certainly remind you. The Frying Pan is a converted lightship that’s docked permanently on the Hudson River in Chelsea. Drinks and food are simple and cheap and the views of the river are unmatched. Further upriver at 79th Street on the Upper West Side, is the Boat Basin Café in Riverside Park. This spot has a backyard BBQ feel with down home drinks to match. But there’s nothing basic about the view of the sun setting across the water as the string lights go on and the party gets going.

Expect Miami vibes at the rooftop 230 Fifth
Expect Miami vibes at the rooftop 230 Fifth

Located on the 20th floor of a nondescript Flatiron’s office building at 230 Fifth Avenue, is a palatial Miami-themed roofdeck lounge with neon spot lighting and plenty of polished chrome. It’s a wonder Don Johnson doesn’t peek out from behind one of the palm trees. The space is flat out impressive and the fact that you can practically lick the Empire State Building from your lounge chair is pretty great too. For some culture with your Corona, the Metropolitan Museum’s roof garden triples as a cafe, bar and exhibition space with views across Central Park. This summer between the ivy hedgerows, you’ll find an interactive glass installation by Dan Graham that plays on the ideas of seeing and being seen.

Wine quaffing heaven at Terroir on The Highline
Wine quaffing heaven at Terroir on The Highline

New this year on The High Line, the elevated park in Chelsea, is an outpost of Terroir wine bar tucked off the main path just north of the 14th Street entrance. After you’ve finished sipping your Riesling, check out the current art installations that include sculptures by Peter Fischli and David Weiss and video installations by experimental filmmaker Robert Breer.


Sure, you can grab a classic hot dog at the one remaining Gray’s Papaya’s on the Upper West Side or trek out to Coney Island for a bite at Nathan’s–or you can get a dog with a twist. Asia Dog in Nolita offers hot dogs with your choice of Asian-inspired toppings, like Chinese BBQ pork belly with pickles and scallions. The place is tiny, so you may need to take your dog for a walk to a nearby bench, like the one by a small park a couple blocks west conveniently located across from Ed’s Lobster Bar. As advertised, Ed (McFarland) offers up lobster at a bar (there are regular tables too). Lobster rolls are the way to go at this New Englandy restaurant. Wash them down with some lemonade and you will be restored to brave the heat once more.

Tuck into the Breslin at the Ace Hotel for gastropub fare
Tuck into the Breslin at the Ace Hotel for gastro pub fare

If you are craving a classic no fuss burger instead, head to Corner Bistro in the leafy West Village. The burgers here are charred to perfection (as is the well-worn interior). For something a little different, The Breslin gastropub in the Ace Hotel serves up juicy lamb burgers topped with tangy feta cheese. Afterwards, take in a cocktail or a hit of Stumptown coffee in the taxidermy-filled, loungy hotel lobby. For a compressed street food experience, Smorgasburg brings together 100 vendors every weekend in the summer at two locations in Brooklyn serving up everything from savory bao sandwiches and tasty tacos to refreshing artisanal soda and slushies.

Some of the tasty fare on sample at Brooklyn's Smorgasburg
Some of the tasty fare on sample at Brooklyn’s Smorgasburg

At Melt on the Lower East Side, decadent ice cream sandwiches do just the opposite—these treats remain perfectly frozen right until you’re done shoving one into your mouth (which actually doesn’t take very long). Fanciful and seasonal flavors keep things interesting and delicious. Over at Eataly, New York’s food shrine to all things Italian, Caffe Lavazza has an impressive menu of iced (and hot) coffee drinks in all shapes and sizes. One large iced cappuccino with a layer of dense sweet foamed milk sprinkled with dark chocolate shavings will set you right (and prepare you for a night at 230 Fifth a couple blocks up). Or, check out the rooftop beer garden for refreshing IPAs and antipasti under a retractable roof.


Nothing says summer in NYC quite like watching a movie outside. You can catch all kinds of movies outdoors on any given weekend evening all over the city. Here’s a listing for free viewings in the city parks. If roofs are more your thing, check out Rooftop Films which runs a summer series across the city.

Who knew kayaking was a thing in NYC?
Who knew kayaking was a thing in NYC?

It wasn’t so long ago that three-eyed fish swam in the Hudson River (or so the urban legend went). These days, the river is clean enough for water sports. You can rent your own kayak for free at several points along both the Hudson and East Rivers for a truly different perspective of the city.

Hammock lounging on Governors Island
Hammock lounging on Governors Island

Kayaking is also offered around Governor’s Island, a former military base turned semi-urban park in New York Harbor. The island has also become the seasonal home of some experimental and large-scale art works. This summer you’ll find sculptures and an installation that imagines a city of dreams made of plastic cups. You can also rent bikes, play mini-golf, check out the farm, have a picnic and take in the views of the Manhattan skyline. The ferry ride is pretty fun too, but anticipate long summer lines.

Historic charm at the Cloisters
Historic charm at the Cloisters

The Metropolitan Museum’s medieval branch, The Cloisters, is a fastidious recreation of a medieval monastery in Upper Manhattan. The crown jewels of the collection are the Unicorn Tapestries, that tell the sorrowful tale of a hunt for the magical creature. Throughout the summer, free tours are offered of the impressive herb and flower gardens and their horticultural and architectural histories. A visit to The Cloisters is really a two-for-one deal as you also get to enjoy Fort Tryon Park, where The Cloisters is located. Wedged into a corner of Manhattan’s upper corner, the park sits on a cliff overlooking the Hudson River with flower-lined footpaths and generous river breezes.


The year-old Hyatt Union Square is an eclectic 178 room hotel conveniently located one block from Union Square. Complimentary bike rentals are great motivation for taking advantage of the city’s 200 miles of bike lanes. As a category 6 hotel, rates start at 25,000 Hyatt Gold Passport Points. Uptown, the iconic JW Marriott Essex House offers a deco experience right on Central Park South. Rooms at this category 9 hotel start at 40,000 Marriott Rewards Points. For an elegant boutique experience on the Upper East Side, The Franklin Hotel is a great option. Across town on the Upper West Side, the NYLO is a respite from the crowds and a short walk to the Natural History Museum. This relaxed and contemporary hotel’s summer special will get you 15% off when you book two nights. Rates start at $212 (non-refundable) and include free WiFi.

What are your favorite NYC summer spots? Please share in the comments below.

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