It's no secret that New Yorkers love their sunshine. Once the weather starts to warm, we are out in droves, blanketing the grass anywhere that even resembles a park. We're also hiding in plain sight, doing awesome things to celebrate summer that you kind of have to be a local to know about. So, it's time you become an honorary local and get in on the action. From art and views to food and booze, here are a dozen loved-by-locals things to do in NYC this summer.
Got any other local tips? Spread the love in the comments!
1. Indulge in a bottomless brunch.
Like residents of the rest of the country, New Yorkers love to brunch — and drink, especially Bloody Marys. Though it’s been a point of back and forth legal contention, all-you-can-drink bottomless brunches can be found all across the city and throughout its boroughs. The best AYCD brunches will usually get you a brunch entree, coffee or orange juice, and unlimited mimosas or Bloody Marys — though some may have additional options like bellinis or sangria — for under $30. We know, it’s a steal — and we love it. Some favorite spots are Pardon My French in the East Village, DiWine in Queens, Miti Miti in Brooklyn, and Cuba in Greenwich Village.
2. Sip cocktails and soak up the views at Anable Basin.
While summertime rooftop joints and parks are particularly popular (and somewhat obvious) spots to imbibe in the sun, locals know that grabbing a waterside seat can be a downright beautiful thing, too. Located along the East River in Long Island City, Anable Basin Sailing Bar and Grill is a small, unpretentious, and breezy dockside bar that serves up drinks, hot dogs, burgers, and spectacular Midtown Manhattan views. Take the G or 7 train to Court Square and walk four blocks towards the water.
3. Walk among the dead in Green Wood Cemetery.
While this may seem macabre to some, locals know that walking through Brooklyn’s Green Wood Cemetery is actually quite beautiful. Opened in 1838 and given New York City landmark status in 1966, the cemetery is now also a National Historic Landmark and listed in the National Register of Historic Places. We love the Gothic revival-style entrance gate; elaborate gravestones, memorials, and mausoleums (see if you can spot the pyramid); and reflecting at the cemetery’s central koi pond. Plus, the hilltop views across the city aren’t bad either.
4. Hit the beaches.
Not usually considered a beach town, New York is flush with beach lovers, and come summertime, you’ll see subway riders clutching beach balls and surfboards under their arms. However, it’s not 1950 anymore — so skip the boardwalk on Coney Island and head to Orchard Beach, Brighton Beach, or Rockaway Beach. Hint: If you go to the latter, be sure to check out the hip Riis Park Beach Bazaar, where you’ll find a fun assortment of vendors, eats, drinks, and music events.
5. Find a hidden bar.
You may find yourself stumbling over a bar every few steps in NYC, but we locals know about a handful more that are purposefully hidden away. Speakeasies have been around since prohibition, but these days, it’s more about who’s-in-the-know than anyone breaking the law. We loved discovering PDT (Please Don’t Tell) — a secret bar inside a hot dog joint where you have to step inside a phone booth, push a buzzer, and get approved before a secret door will (hopefully) slide open — just as much as we love walking through the dryer at Greenpoint’s Sunshine Laundry to reach a hidden pinball-themed back bar. Think of it as a scavenger hunt — and let us know what you can dig up.
6. Spend a night with the Russian mafia drinking vodka.
We know you came to New York to be in New York, but going to one of the city’s Russian vodka rooms will transport you to Russia as soon as you walk through the door. Samovar, located at 52nd Street and 8th Avenue in Manhattan, was opened in 1986 and considers itself to be “Classic Russia in the heart of New York.” Here you’ll find a long listed of housemade infused vodkas, live piano music, traditional Russia eats, and locals who want to mingle with long-time Russian immigrants (though the mutuality of this feeling is questionable).
7. See a free show any day of the week at Sidewalk Cafe.
Like we mentioned before, New Yorkers love free things, but we also love being entertained — so it’s great when the two are combined. Thankfully, there are tons of spots that offer free comedy shows, concerts, or performances. One of our favorites is the East Village staple Sidewalk Cafe where you can find a freebie show every night of the week. Fun fact: Sidewalk Cafe is particularly known for its roots in the underground music scene, and is where the country’s anti-folk music movement was born. Artists that got their start here include the likes of Regina Spektor, Jeffery Lewis, Lana del Ray, and the Moldy Peaches.
8. Try out an Off-Broadway show.
New York is so associated with its famous Broadway shows that people tend to overlook the fact that the city is teeming with fantastic (and star-studded) Off-Broadway shows. Previous shows have featured Clive Owen, James Earl Jones, Keira Knightley, and George Takei. Locals know that seeing an Off-Broadway show is also a lot easier on the wallet, and we like to think going the more “indie” route gives us a little bit of cultural street cred.
9. Skip Chinatown and head to Flushing for dim sum.
It may seem intuitive to head to Chinatown for authentic Chinese food, but we will save you a trip and let you in on a local secret: head to Queens. With a larger Asian population than Chinatown — particularly in areas off the Flushing/Main Street stop on the 7 — Flushing has an incredibly diverse group of foreign-born residents, and mouth-watering traditional Asian cuisine, including Mongolian hot pot, hand-pulled noodle shops, dim sum restaurants, and barbecue. It’s also your one-stop shop for herbal remedies, baked goods, and hard-to-find or obscure products.
10. Treat yourself to a massage without breaking the bank.
We know you’ve been walking around like us locals trying to squeeze every last local drop you can out of the Big Apple — and now it’s time to treat yourself. Lucky for you, we’ve got just what the doctor ordered. This city if full of bargain massage and beauty spots where you can get hour-long foot rubs, hot stone treatments, manicures, and body work for under $40. Window shop a whole row of competitors along 8th Street at 6th Avenue, but be sure to pick a spot that treats their employees fairly.
11. Seek out spots with the best views of the city.
Trust us, we live here. The best views of the city are not actually from anywhere in the city. You have to step back to gain some perspective — and score some seriously awesome pics. An easy way to grab a new vantage point is to hop on either the East River ferry or the (free) ferry to Governor’s Island. If you want to keep your feet on solid ground, though, head over to the Prospect Heights Promenade to snap some panoramic views of lower Manhattan, and even Lady Liberty, while Midtown’s best views can be seen from the western side of Roosevelt Island — take the cable car instead of the F train for an extra adventure and some great aerial views of the East River.
12. Pull up a seat or blanket and watch an outdoor movie.
A New York local favorite in summer are the free outdoor summer movie series. Popping up all over the city and Brooklyn, there are several spots where you can show up with a picnic and blanket or at a local bar and watch classic films out in the warm summer nights. Brooklyn Bridge Park, Habana Outpost in Brooklyn, and the NYC public parks are some of the go-to spots for locals.
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