Summer is a brilliant time of the year in New York City. For one, since temperatures tend to be on the sultry side, it's the only time of year when no jacket is required, so I can dig out all those adorable sundresses buried deep in my closet. But aside from warm weather and cute clothing, NYC offers myriad entertainment and cultural options specific to summertime, so I always look forward to participating in some of these season-specific activities.
What's more, the city tends to be less crowded in the summer months since many New Yorkers leave and flock to their beach houses in the Hamptons and at the Jersey Shore. Fewer locals mean more restaurant reservations, better seats at Broadway shows, shorter lines at museums, and more elbow room on the streets and subway. Sound good? I thought so. When it's summer in NYC, check out some of the best things to do, as only a local would.
1. Hit New York City beaches
You won't need to sit in traffic for hours to experience sun and sand. New Yorkers take advantage of the beaches right here in the city.
For more amusements and less beach time, I recommend Coney Island. This vintage resort oozes nostalgia, and no other place in NYC can compare for a day trip. Eat one of Nathan's World-Famous hot dogs, ride the Cyclone roller coaster, and save some time for people watching –– you’ll see some sights! The beach itself tends to get packed on the sunniest weekend days, but the boardwalk and attractions are well worth the long trip from Manhattan.
For the more serious beach goer looking for less pomp and circumstance and some quieter time by the sea, I recommend Rockaway Beach in Queens. Known for its soaring waves ideal for surfing, Rockaway offers miles of a clean, peaceful coast, and like Coney Island, it's free.
2. Go to the Jazz Age Lawn Party
Step back in time at the Jazz Age Lawn Party at Governor's Island on June 16 and 17, and August 25 and 26. Fops and flappers pack the blissful parcel, which is just minutes from Manhattan's southern tip by ferry. Sip vintage cocktails and Lindy Hop your way through the afternoon –– the lawn party is ideal for a date or an outing with good friends.
3. Attend the NY Philharmonic concerts in the parks
Since 1965, the New York Philharmonic has brought their classic musical performances to the people of NYC. This iconic summer experience takes place around the city, at one of the many park's stages. New Yorkers come out in droves not only for the free concerts, but the quintessential New York night of food, drink, and nature in the city's beautiful public parks.
4. Get tickets to Shakespeare in the park
New Yorkers set up camp for free tickets to the Public Theater's Shakespeare in the Park every year. Central Park's Delacorte Theater packs in more than 100,000 people each summer–– the Public typically features a few big names to attract crowds. Past headliners have included Al Pacino, Amy Adams, and Meryl Streep, to name a few.
If waiting in a long queue isn't your style, you can try to win tickets through the virtual lottery on the day of the performance you wish to attend, or at one of the specified locations in the five boroughs. If money is no object, purchase tickets through the Public Theater for guaranteed seats.
5. Dance the night away at Midsummer Night’s Swing
For two weeks each summer, dancers and wannabes get their stomping, swinging groove on in Damrosch Park at Lincoln Center. The open-air dance party features lessons, contests, and hours of fun jamming to swing, tango, salsa, and even disco. Non-dancers welcome. This year's swing takes place June 26 – July 14.
6. Check out Celebrate Brooklyn!
Set in the band shell in picturesque Prospect Park, Celebrate Brooklyn! is a favorite among local music lovers. The lineup never disappoints, and this year's festival is filled with tons of talented musicians and performers. Fill your picnic basket and make your way to the park for an unforgettable night of musical entertainment under the stars.