Hang out at these outdoor summer spots in New York

Pack a picnic—or your bathing suit—and spend an afternoon at these outdoor summer spots before the season ends.

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  • Photograph: Virginia Rollison

    Jazz Age Lawn Party at Governors Island

  • Central Park's Sheep Meadow

  • Photograph: Virginia Rollison

    Rockaway Taco at Rockaway Beach

  • Prospect Park's Long Meadow

  • Photograph: Jena Cumbo

    Brooklyn Bridge Park's pool at Pier 2

  • Photograph: Charles Denson

    Coney Island Cyclone

  • Photograph: Marielle Solan

    McCarren Park Pool

  • Photograph: David Rosenzweig

    Pelham Bay Park

  • Photograph: Karen Blumberg

    Stargazing on the High Line

  • Photograph: Stefano Giovannini

    Dja-Rara, who performed at a previous Target Passport Friday

  • Photograph: Paul Wagtouicz

    FLOW.12 at Randalls Island

  • Photograph: Michael Kirby

    Brooklyn Promenade

  • Photograph: Jolie Ruben

    Night of Joy

  • Photograph: Bianca Buchanan

    City Island

Photograph: Virginia Rollison

Jazz Age Lawn Party at Governors Island

Fall will be here before you know it. Before the season ends, check out our favorite outdoor summer spots, including Coney Island, Rockaway Beach, Governors Island and more.


RECOMMENDED: Guide to the end of summer in NYC


Governors Island

  • Critics choice
  • Free

New Yorkers, as we all know, need a sense of purpose. Sometimes, hopping a gratis ferry merely to laze around on a car-free oasis just won’t cut it. Consider, then, penciling one of these activities into your planner. The annual 1920s-themed shindig the Jazz Age Lawn Party (Aug 18, 19 11am–5pm; $15) will find flappers cutting a rug beside vintage cars on Colonels Row. You can still rent cycles from Bike and Roll for a ride around the island every weekend (bikeandroll.com; $15–$45; through Sept 30), but if you’d rather watch the pros on a single wheel, check out the third annual Unicycle Fest (Sept 1, 2; free). And don’t forget to stop by Figment’s sculpture garden (newyork.figmentproject.org; free; through Sept 23) before the chill sets in. (212-440-2202, govisland.com). Sat, Sun 10am–7pm. Free ferries run from the Battery Maritime Building, and Pier 6 in Brooklyn Bridge Park; see website for details.

  1. Governors Island
More info

Central Park’s Sheep Meadow

  • Free

We’re hard-pressed to think of a better spot in Manhattan to ogle scantily clad hotties than the Sheep Meadow, the bucolic 15-acre field located along the southwestern edge of the park. Thousands of locals take over the area on warm-weather weekends, so to secure a shaded spot, we suggest arriving at 11am, when the field opens. Before heading home, cool off in the shadows on the lower level of Bethesda Terrace, which features the park’s iconic sculptural fountain. • Bethesda Terrace, midpark at 72nd St • 212-310-6600, centralparknyc.org

  1. Enter at Central Park West and 66th St
More info

Rockaway Beach

  • Free

An afternoon of sunning, swimming, checking out beach honeys and knocking down the sand castles you painstakingly built will likely leave you looking for some sustenance. Make a beeline for Rockaway Beach Club, the row of foodie concessions that includes returning vendors like Motorboat and the Big Banana (try the chocolate-dipped namesake fruit). New-to-the-beach outposts of NYC eateries include Steve’s Ice Cream, Pelican Jungle and Lobster Joint. Or brave the line at Rockaway Taco’s modest shack, located a couple of blocks from the beach. It serves amazing tacos (tofu, fish, carne, chorizo; $3–$4), watermelon juice ($3) and a plantain quesadilla ($4) that somehow encapsulates the joy of summer in each sweet bite. You should be able to locate it by following the loud music and faint smell of heaven. And once a month, find Tiki Disco (tikidisco.tumblr.com) throwing one of its free alfresco dance parties on the boardwalk at Beach 86th Street. • (rockawaybeachclub.com)

  1. Boardwalk, (between Beach 9th and Beach 149th Sts)
More info

Prospect Park’s Long Meadow

  • Free

Fun fact: This one-mile patch of grass is one of the longest uninterrupted stretches in any park in the country. So even on the busiest days, there are plenty of spots to settle in for a picnic, a game of Frisbee or to just catch some rays. We like the less-crowded areas closer to the southern end of the park (near the ball fields), where you can usually find some shade. There are also three grilling areas spread across the green space; arrive early to snag a spot just north of the Picnic House, which features four grills and 12 tables. • Enter at Grand Army Plaza, Prospect Park West at Union St; or Prospect Park West at 3rd St or 9th St, Park Slope, Brooklyn (718-965-8951, prospectpark.org)

  1. 9th St, (at Prospect Park West)
More info

Brooklyn Bridge Park

  • Critics choice
  • Free

Perennial favorite Brooklyn Bridge Park just keeps getting better: This summer, the park’s conservancy inaugurated a new 1,500-square-foot, 3.5-foot-deep pool in July on the greenway adjacent to Pier 2 and holds Books Beneath the Bridge in July. You can also learn to paddle a kayak in the shadow of the Brooklyn Bridge, courtesy the Brooklyn Bridge Park Boathouse, which has added extra after-work dates on select Thursdays. • Pier 2, Furman St at Old Fulton St, Brooklyn Heights (brooklynbridgepark.org). Daily 6am–1am. • Brooklyn Bridge Park Boathouse, between Piers 1 and 2, Furman St at Old Fulton St, Brooklyn Heights (bbpboathouse.org). Thu 5:30–7:30pm, Sat 10:30am–3:30pm; free.

  1. Main St, (at Fulton Ferry Landing)
More info

Coney Island

  • Free

This classic beachfront has been a sunny staple in the city for more than a century, and there’s plenty to keep you occupied here beyond the usual surf and sand: Take a ride on the Cyclone at Luna Park—the park’s oldest wooden coaster turned 85 in June, and it has 2,640 feet of terrifying twists, turns and loops that will make you regret downing that Nathan’s Famous hot dog too quickly. Once you’ve settled your nerves, shake ’em up again at Scream Zone, where you can take a ride on the Soarin’ Eagle, a coaster that suspends you under the rail and shoots you through the air à la Superman. • Cyclone: 1205 Boardwalk East at Coney Island Ave, Coney Island, Brooklyn (718-373-5862, lunaparknyc.com). Daily noon–after dark; $8. Through September. • Scream Zone: Boardwalk between 12th and 15th Sts, Coney Island, Brooklyn (718-373-5862, lunaparknyc.com). Open daily, visit website for hours. Admission free, rides from $3; Mon–Fri, unlimited rides $26; Sat, Sun $30.

  1. Surf Ave, (between Ocean Pkwy and W 37th St)
More info
McCarren Park Pool

NYC pools

With this going down as one of the city’s hottest summers on record, you’ll probably want to get in at least one free dip in a New York City pool before they shut down for the season: We favor the teensy Brooklyn Bridge Park pop-up pool for wading; McCarren Park Pool for been-there, done-that cred; Astoria Pool for gorgeous views; and the Tony Dapolito Recreation Center Pool for laps. Just remember to pack a lock, leave your electronics at home and prepare to patiently queue up for a while. Visit nycgovparks.org/facilities/pools for full list of pools and rules. Free.

  1. Through Monday, September 3, 2012

Pelham Bay Park

  • Free

Scope out some lush greenery in the gardens hugging the landmarked Bartow-Pell Mansion—the Greek Revival estate, once used as summer office space by NYC Mayor Fiorello La Guardia, will host a First Friday event on Labor Day weekend. Catch a musical performance by singing-songwriting team Hannah and Maggie, and take a free trip to City Island on the Bronx Seaside Trolley. Before you go, stroll around the lush Pelham Bay Park grounds—it’s more than three times the size of Central Park, and ideal for hours of exploring. • (718-885-1461, bpmm.org). First Friday: Sept 7 5:30–8:30pm; $8, seniors and students $5, members free.

  1. 895 Shore Rd at Pelham Bay Park, Bronx
More info

The High Line

  • Critics choice
  • Free

There’s no shortage of activities atop NYC’s favorite elevated park as summer winds down: Ogle the Big Dipper at a Tuesday stargazing session (aaa.org), watch a performance by Latin group Nu D’Lux (Aug 22 at 7pm) or sample a unique mango-chili–flavored frozen treat ($4) from the La Newyorkina ice-pop stand at West 22nd Street (lanewyorkina.com). And if you’re looking to permanently capture some of your summer High Line memories (and have cash to burn), sign up for a New York City Photo Safari tour. You’ll spend two and a half hours learning the basics of outdoor photography and portraiture, and will hopefully come away with some great shots of the city from your perch. • (212-206-9922, thehighline.org). Daily 7am–11pm. • NYC Photo Safari: Times vary, visit newyorkcityphotosafari.com for details; $100. Through Sept 29.

  1. Washington St, (at Gansevoort St)
More info

Target Passport Fridays

  • Critics choice
  • Free

This free weekly program, sponsored by the Queens Museum of Art, celebrates the borough’s diversity with an alfresco selection of films, concerts and dance performances held on the Flushing Meadows–Corona Park lawn. Friday 10’s Taiwan-themed event features four pieces from the Nai-Ni Chen Dance Company; the August 17 edition includes a set from folk-music group Irka Mateo and the Women of Fire, ringing in the Dominican Republic’s Restoration Day. Be sure to check out the museum’s Puerto Rican–centric grand finale (Aug 24), with performances by the Bombazo Dance Company and the Brooklyn-based Orquesta Rovira. • (718-592-9700, queensmuseum.org). Fri 6:30–10pm; free.

  1. Queens Museum of Art Flushing Meadows–Corona Park, near 111th St and 49th Ave entrance
  2. Until Fri Aug 24
More info

Randalls Island

  • Free

Take a trip to Randalls Island and scope some eco-friendly public art: This year’s FLOW.12 installation, a two-part exhibit featuring environmentalist site-specific works, includes pieces by Argentine artist Gabriela Bertiller and American artists Michael Clyde Johnson and Nathan Gwynne. Once you’ve taken in the surreal picnic tables and aluminum-celebrity cutouts, don some neon and dance-friendly footwear for the Electric Zoo festival, an annual weekend of dubstep and electronica featuring four different stages that host famous spinners like David Guetta, Tiësto and Skrillex. • FLOW.12: Randalls Island Park (flow12.org). Through Oct; free. • Electric Zoo: Lawn behind Icahn Stadium at Randalls Island (madeevent.org/electriczoo). Aug 31–Sept 2; $115–$299.

  1. Robert F. Kennedy Bridge, (at Randalls Island)
More info
Brooklyn Promenade

The Brooklyn Bridge and the Brooklyn Promenade

One of the thrills of living in New York City is staring at the iconic skyline—obviously the world’s best—every once in a while. You’ll find no better vantage point than the middle of the Brooklyn Bridge. Stroll across the legendary structure and take in the view; sunset is an ideal time to start the trek. If you look to the south, you’ll see Governors Island and the Statue of Liberty. Once you’ve crossed the East River, head into Brooklyn Heights and stroll along the Promenade, overlooking lower Manhattan. Brooklyn Bridge, enter at Centre St and Park Row (nyc.gov) • Brooklyn Promenade, Columbia Heights between Middagh and Montague Sts, Brooklyn Heights, Brooklyn

Night of Joy’s rooftop bar

  • Price band: 2/4
  • Critics choice

There are many fancier rooftops in Manhattan, but we love the scene at this low-key, bi-level Brooklyn drinks den for its cocktails and cozy rooftop patio, featuring a few tables and chairs, weathered rugs and strung-up Christmas lights. A makeshift bar slings generous frozen margaritas ($9) and bottled suds like Sol and Brooklyn Lager ($$5-$6). Once you’ve had your alfresco fill, wander downstairs to try the well-priced summery quaffs like orange-blossom rum lemonade ($9) or jalapeño tequila with black currant and lime juice ($9). • (718-388-8693, nightofjoybar.com). Daily 5pm–4am.

  1. 667 Lorimer St, (at Meeker Ave)
More info
City Island (Photograph: Bianca Buchanan)

City Island

Spend the day in a sleepy seaside destination without leaving NYC: The Bronx’s City Island is just a public-transit trek away (take the 6 train to the end of the line and then hop on the Bx29 bus to City Island) and offers fresh seafood and a salty breeze. Stroll along City Island Avenue, the mile-and-a-half-long main drag, stopping to check out the quirky antique shops en route. You’ll find the Lobster Box, a family-owned restaurant with Long Island Sound views, near the southern tip. Sit at the clam bar and sample seafood-shack fare like a lobster roll ($16) or a crab-cake sandwich ($16). If you have room for dessert, head up the street and partake of a few scoops from Lickety Split. Don’t leave without perusing the City Island Nautical Museum and, if you’re a movie buff, asking locals to point you to the beautiful old home known as the Queen Anne, which was seen in both The Royal Tenenbaums and Long Day’s Journey Into Night. • Lobster Box, 34 City Island Ave at Belden St, Bronx (718-885-1952, lobsterboxrestaurant.com) • Lickety Split, 295 City Island Ave between Fordham and Hawkins Sts, Bronx (718-885-9654, licketyspliticecream.biz) • City Island Nautical Museum, 190 Fordham St at King Ave, Bronx (718-885-0008, cityislandmuseum.org). Sat, Sun 1–5pm or by appointment; donation suggested.


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