11 Ways to Enjoy a New York Summer

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One of our great traveling memories was spending Christmas and New Years Eve in New York City back in 2003.

We spent 10 days visiting New York City over this period and had an amazing time. Being in New York at Christmas was a far cry from our typical Aussie summer Christmas, but it was magical and festive and the first time either of us had seen snow.

Ice skating in Central Park, cuddling up in front of the Christmas tree in Rockefeller Plaza, admiring the decorations in the shop windows, and snowball fights are memories we’ll long cherish.

at Rockefeller Plaza in 2003
at Rockefeller Plaza in 2003

Whilst it was pretty and lively and we had a truly memorable stay, being in New York in the middle of winter is challenging. We are not cold weather people and don’t like being cooped up too long – unless it’s in front of a log fire with a bottle of red and our favorite tunes.

I’m sure we commented many times on that visit that we MUST return to New York in the summer.

We like the heat. We like the feel of the sun on our skin, picnics in the park, sidewalk cafes, beer gardens, rooftop bars, being on the water and bike riding around town.

So I’ve created a list of attractions and moments that I’d like to experience in a New York summer.

Things to do in New York in the Summer

1. Brunch in a sunny New York cafe

I remember cafe bumming too keep warm from the icy rain and the snowfalls. Let’s imagine now we are in West Village in a sunny cafe on a Sunday morning, flicking through the newspaper and watching the world go by.

Or how about a takeaway coffee and a blueberry bagel and checking out Washington Square or a wander around the beautiful streets of West Village.

West Village - credit R Anchondo
West Village – credit R Anchondo

2. Central Park New York in the summer

I’ve experienced Central Park under a blanket of white snow, now I’d love to bath on the grass under the sun’s rays. I envision strolling the pathways and admiring the lakes, the pavilions, the monuments and the squirrels at play.

Maybe we’d take a horse-drawn carriage, row around the lake, or bike our way around arguably the most famous city park in the world.

Central Park New York City in the summer
Central Park – credit B Dumas

3. Take a cruise around Manhattan Island

I wonder how it would compare to sailing Sydney Harbour? The backdrop would be different, but I imagine equally as spectacular. Drinks, sailing, a sunset, the Manhattan skyline and the Statue of Liberty – count me in!

Check out Manhattan cruises here. 

There are plenty of New York attractions like this on the New York Sightseeing Pass. Click here to learn more about it. IT will save you money.

4. Walk the Brooklyn Bridge

Walk the Brooklyn Bridge - one of the best things to do in NYC with kids

View of the Brooklyn Bridge shot using our 24-70 lensYou just have to set foot on this famous landmark. In the winter of 2003, we shivered our way across to see the amazing views back to Manhattan. But I’d love to see the sunset, or walk it on a hot summers night with the city lights lit up.

I’ve also read the Brooklyn Bridge Park has become a popular urban playground, a project that transformed a chunk of the Brooklyn waterfront into a nearly 85-acre expanse with unique attractions such as a restored 1920s merry-go-round, and riverside esplanades with gorgeous Manhattan views.

5. Walk the New York City Highline

New York highline NYC attractions

Not yet opened when we first visited New York, the Highline is a 1.45 mile section of a former elevated train track and now known as a thriving urban park in the sky. The New York Highline has plant life and lush lawn and runs from the Meatpacking district to Midtown with great views of the city and the Hudson River.

6. Bike the city of New York

Exploring Central Park by Bike - one of the best things to do in NYC with kids

Biking in New York City might sound daunting I know, but I like biking as a way to explore a city and if I can cycle around Saigon in Vietnam I can do New York.

Citi Bike is New York City’s bike sharing system and I’d like to navigate the streets of NY on two wheels, take on some of the 700 miles of bike paths such as over the Brooklyn Bridge, around Central Park, or the Hudson River Park Bikeway.

You can also hire bikes online here or take a bike tour.

We loved biking around Central Park and is in our list of things to do in New York City with kids.

7. Union Square farmers market

I love a good farmers market for picking up fresh supplies for a picnic in the park, and the world-famous Union Square Greenmarket looks awesome. Open Monday, Wednesday, Friday and Saturday’s in the summer.

Just thinking about the healthy/fresh/organic/delicious treats and the cheese, wine, and fresh produce available makes me hungry. I hear they also sell a lot of sugar-free and vegan baked goods and the prices are very reasonable for NYC.

Farmers Market in the summer New York
Farmers Market – credit Boortz47

8. Top of the Rock, New York

Sunset from Top of The Rock in NYC
Sunset from Top of The Rock

We did the Empire State Building which is a must do once, but I hear going to the Top of the Rock observation deck at Rockefeller Center is a great alternative for 360º views of NYC.

Apparently, it has shorter lines and a better view of Central Park. I’ll see you there for sunset.

The NYC Sightseeing Pass now includes Top of the Rock. Click here to get yours

9. Movie Nights under the stars

We could either check out a free movie under the stars on a summer night at the Bryant Park summer film festival. And the Coney Island Flicks on the beach where a giant 40-foot inflatable screen turns the beach into an outdoor movie theater would be cool.

Bryant Park in the summer New York
Bryant Park – credit NYCphotos

10. Hit the New York Rooftop Bars and Beer Gardens

Summer time for me as an Aussie means beer gardens and sunset drinks, and I hear New York has some pretty cool rooftop bars as well.

Places I want to try are:

  • Met Roof Garden Cafe & Martini Bar – for the panoramic views over Central Park and Manhattan.
  • Gallow Green – an overgrown rooftop with trellises woven with flowers and weathered wooden tables atop a warehouse that operates as the McKittrick Hotel.
  • Le Bain – on top of the Standard Hotel with views of the Hudson River.
  • Ulysses Folk House down by battery park which has an outdoor patio during the summer months.
  • The Frying Pan which is an old boat on the Hudson River seems like a cool place for summer drinks.
  • The Standard Biergarten – sits under the canopy of The High Line and is open air in the summer.

Any more suggestions?

Read more – Best New York City views 

11. Picnic in the park

It wouldn’t be a New York summer without a picnic in a park. I couldn’t think of a better way to escape the concrete jungle and hustle and bustle of NYC than to throw a picnic blanket on the grass, kick off your shoes and enjoy some nibbles and a bottle of wine and breathe in the silence.

We could take in a free summer concert or theater production in Central Park or have a picnic in Sheep Meadow and enjoy the gorgeous Central Park views. Or, we could visit Picnic Point on Governors Island via a free ferry and relax in hammocks with incredible views of the Statue of Liberty and New York Harbor.

There’s also Battery Park, Brooklyn Bridge Park, and the Hudson River Park.

people hanging out in a park in the middle of a city
credit – Ed Yourdon

Read More posts about New York City:

Plan Your Trip to New York City

We’ve been traveling consistently for 17 years and have come to rely on a few trusted websites that save us money and time when booking accommodation, flights and car rental. Below are our preferred partners:

Accommodation in New York

  • Booking.com has over 700 properties in NYC including hotels, apartments, and hostels. You get free cancellation on most rooms and a best price guarantee. Check out our favorite hotel in New York City – The INNSIDE New York Nomad

Flights to New York City

  • Skyscanner is a comparison website that searches millions of flights. Once you find your best deal, book directly through the airline (no extra fees).

Car Rental from New York

  • RentalCars.com is the world’s biggest car rental booking service that compares all the major brands like Hertz, Avis, Alamo, and Europcar.

What’s your favorite thing to do in New York in the summer?

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How to enjoy a New York City summer in 11 ways - food, parks, views, tours, bars and more things to do in New York in the summer.

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