Old-school summer fun

Summer is officially here---and what better way to celebrate than by indulging in some iconic seasonal activities?

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  • Photograph: Amanda McCreary

  • Photograph: Tracy Collins

  • Photograph: Yahoo! Buzz Marketing

Photograph: Amanda McCreary

Open a fire hydrant


What to do: Few images of city summers are as quintessential as those of kids frolicking in the stream of a fire hydrant. Though the toadstool-like sidewalk fixtures may be the bane of drivers in search of parking, in the summer they can provide cool relief on hot and steamy days. To pop one open, head to the nearest fire station and ask for a free spray cap. "[The cap] reduces the water pressure from 1,000 gallons of water per minute to about 20 gallons per minute," says FDNY spokesman Paul Iannizzotto. Requesting permission is important: Not only will the firefighters help you install the cap, you'll also avoid getting slapped with a $1,000 fine. No advance planning is necessary; simply show a form of ID proving you're over 18, and you'll be set with your outdoor shower for the rest of the day. (Just remember to bring it back to the firehouse once you've finished splashing around.)

Crash a block party


What to do: Okay, it might be a little weird if you show up to a random street party and try to commandeer a bouncy castle. But if you want to mingle with locals, stroll through one of the city's Weekend Walks (nyc.gov), an offshoot of the ever-popular Summer Streets program (which will return for three Sundays in August). At these smaller events, one to four blocks in a particular neighborhood are closed to traffic, making room for concerts, classes and games. This weekend, the Pitkin Avenue Business Improvement District will host a healthcentric fair (Pitkin Ave between Boyland and Strauss Sts, Brownsville, Brooklyn; Sun 10 noon--5pm; free) that includes healthy-cooking demonstrations and fitness classes.

Host an outdoor BBQ


What to do: We're about to harsh your summer buzz: It is, in fact, illegal to grill burgers on a fire escape or stoop. (Bringing a Coleman on your roof is also against the law—plus, losing all your stuff in a fiery inferno is a hefty price to pay for a charred wiener.) That said, New York City's parks offer plenty of grilling spots—visit nycgovparks.org/facilities/barbecue to find a list. (We're guessing the leafy meadows of Prospect or Fort Greene Park are better than your smelly sidewalk anyway.) If you're planning a big shindig, Flushing Meadows--Corona Park has grills in two locations; you can also BYO grill to some green spaces, including Riverside Park above 145th Street. If your party is 20 or more, you should file for a $25 permit, which can take three to four weeks to process, so plan ahead.

Play stickball


What to do: Try your hand at this vintage game that essentially turns any city street into a baseball diamond. All you need is an old mop handle and a rubber ball, affectionately known as a spaldeen. Learn the rules by visiting the Stickball Hall of Fame virtual museum (streetplay.com/stickball); the institution was founded in 1977 to promote the pastime. Legends of the game will gather at the Museum of the City of New York (1220 Fifth Ave at 103rd St; mcny.org; Fri 8 at 6pm; free) for the 2011 Stickball Hall of Fame induction ceremony, but if you want to see those practiced bats in action, hit the annual 111th Street Old Timers Stickball Reunion (E 111th St at Fifth Ave; Sun 10 at 7:30am; free). Players will start signing up around 7:30am, with games throughout the day—plus, city pols such as comptroller John Liu and Bronx borough president Ruben Diaz Jr. will participate in a game at 9am.

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