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The best NYC events in August 2020

Plan your month with the best NYC events in August 2020 including rooftop openings, outdoor tours and public art exhibits

By Time Out editors
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Get ready to use our NYC events in August calendar as your guide for ending the summer with a bang! Now that we’re stuck at home a lot while NYC slowly reopens, now’s the time to take advantage of New York beaches and pools before they close for swimming next month. There are many more things to do outside this month, like enjoying incredible rooftops, going to the botanical garden and trying out fun social distanced mini-lawns, too. And use August as your last change to take advantage of all the outdoor movies at Parklife and more. This is the last full-month of summer—make it count!

RECOMMENDED: Full NYC events calendar

Featured NYC events in August 2019

U.S. Open Roger Federer
Photograph: Shutterstock

1. Watch the U.S. Open

Things to do Festivals

The U.S. Open—New York’s exhilarating summer sports event—is one of the most exciting things to do in Queens. But this year, things are going to be much different. While the games will go on, the U.S. Tennis Association said that fans will not be allowed in because of state health and safety protocols surrounding large gatherings. That's a huge change that means Flushing won't be buzzing with activity like it does each year when the tennis stars come to play. To that end, the Billie Jean King Tennis Center is holding both the 2020 U.S. Open and 2020 Western & Southern Open will be held at Flushing's NTC. By doing this, it allows the USTA to keep the events in one centralized location, mitigating risk and allowing for one cohesive safety plan but it'll also amp up excitement for the summer's biggest tennis events. Still, some tennis players have decided not to participate to protect themselves and their families from getting ill.

pool
Photograph: Max Touhey

2. Swim in Roosevelt Island's gorgeous multicolor pool

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While New Yorkers can’t see art in museums and galleries at the moment, they can head to Roosevelt Island to see—and swim alongside—a pool that’s a literal work of art. Every year on Roosevelt Island, the pool deck at the Manhattan Park waterfront complex, gets a colorful makeover by an artist, per a tradition that began in 2015 by Citi Habitats New Developments and design firm K&Co and Pliskin Architecture.

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The Baylander Steel Beach
Photograph: Courtesy of The Baylander Steel Beach

3. Eat at a new Harlem restaurant on a small aircraft carrier

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Restaurants and bars are popping up everywhere these days, from greenhouses to closed off streets to hidden backyards. Now New York can add a restaurant aboard what was once the world’s smallest aircraft carrier to the list. The Baylander Steel Beach, a Navy ship used during the Vietnam War, is now stationed at the West Harlem Piers in Upper Manhattan off 125th Street. There’s a 4,000-square-foot outdoor deck where you can order lobster rolls, burgers and drinks. A lower level part of the restaurant is still closed while indoor dining is prohibited in New York. While it’s not as massive as the Intrepid—at 125 feet long, it’s nowhere near the 820 feet or so of the more iconic ship—the Baylander was used to train helicopter pilots who needed to learn how to land on a boat. According to the ship’s website, it moved around after the Vietnam War and the Trenk Family Foundation purchased it in 2012.

The Flag Project Rockefeller Center
Photograph: Courtesy Tishman Speyer

4. View 193 artist-designed flags at Rockefeller Center

News Art

Usually, all of the flags at Rockefeller Center are the same—like American flags on the Fourth of July, rainbow flags during Pride and silver-and-gold flags during the holiday season—but now, each one is different. For its new "Flag Project," Tishman Speyer tagged Jeff Koons, Marina Abramović, Christian Siriano, KAWS and a handful of big artists and New Yorkers to design 193 flags for Rockefeller Center. The flags will be up through August 16. The breezy works of art, which are free to view, were each designed to showcase and celebrate NYC's diversity, vibrant energy, strength and resiliency.  

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Serra Fiorita by Birreria
Photograph: Courtesy of Eataly

5. Get lunch at Eataly’s new summer rooftop restaurant

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Americans may not be able to travel to Italy anytime soon, but on August 7th, Eataly Flatiron’s popular seasonal rooftop restaurant will offer guests a taste of an Italian summer. Serra Fiorita by Birreria will be decked out in florals with a gin cart and even a special, biweekly flower dinner. The restaurant’s last concept was set to debut in mid March, but that’s when New York went on lockdown. This time around, however, the expansive rooftop space (Serra means “greenhouse”) on the 14th floor will have its capacity reduced by 50%, and they’ll implement a host of safety measures, from hand sanitizing stations to encouraging customers to choose cashless payment. Reservations, via Open Table, are available.  The menu will focus on seasonal ingredients from the local Greenmarket as well as Italian producers.

nowadays, outdoors, new york, queens
Photograph: Courtesy Nowadays

6. Hang out at Nowadays' massive backyard

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As entertainment has yet to be given the green light to reopen, there are many nightlife staples New Yorkers miss. But one beloved and inclusive venue, Nowadays, is abiding by the current standards and bringing back its sprawling backyard to the public. For the uninitiated, Nowadays is like a massive backyard barbecue. It’s tough to beat hanging out in the 16,000-square-foot space with string lights, picnic tables, and massive birch and honey locus trees above (the most shade you’ll find for miles in industrial Ridgewood). This summer, while its live music programming is halted, you and your friends can still head to the summery haven by reservation and a $5 cover (groups up to 10 and families with kids are welcome). At the all-outdoor urban oasis bar you’ll find craft beer, cocktails, natural wine, and non-alcoholic drinks like mate and kombucha. And as for food, its backyard food truck run by Diner by Izakaya will be open with bites including wagyu hamburgers, pork katsu sandwiches, fish & chips, and snacks for a bevy of diets, like a vegan tempeh and lotus root sandwich (with gluten-free buns available), shishito peppers, an edamame and cucumber salad. On Fridays and Saturdays, you’ll also be able to foot-tap to tunes playing all night by Nowadays' community of selectors on their audiophile-approved custom sound system, just no dance floor jiving yet as you’re highly encouraged to stay put at your tables.

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Brooklyn Botanic Garden
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7. Return to the Brooklyn Botanic Garden

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NYC sure has a lot of concrete, which is why its few parks and urban gardens are prized destinations for New Yorkers to escape to lush, verdant landscape.  Brooklyn Botanic Garden, the borough's stunning 52-acre green space, officially announced it's opening back up to the public on August 7. It's been closed under the state's PAUSE plan, as it technically fall under sites for large gatherings, unlike parks.   The sprawling estate is preparing for the public to explore the grounds again, made up of over 15 gardens with flowers, herbs, annuals, perennials, shrubs, trees, and even fruits and veggies.  Botanical gardens are among the outdoor attractions allowed to welcome back New Yorkers during Phase 4 of reopening, along with zoos.

The Greens at Pier 17
Photograph: Relevent on behalf of The Howard Hughes Corporation

8. Reserve a “backyard” on the waterfront at Pier 17

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If it hasn't felt like summer because you've been inside so much this year, The Rooftop at Pier 17 wants to give you a taste of the great outdoors at The Greens. The popular Seaport District rooftop has set up 28, 14-foot-by-14-foot mini lawns with cabana-style lounge chairs, umbrellas, Yeti Coolers, USB ports and more that you can reserve this summer. Each mini lawn is like having your own little slice of suburbia with room to stretch out without worrying about being too close to others and lawn games you can rent out at a larger gaming court like bocce ball, cornhole and giant Jenga.  The difference? There will be a 32 feet wide LED screen to watch sports and movies on and incredible food and drink options by R17 that you can get delivered right to your mini-lawn.

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New York, Gowanus Canal, canoe, Untapped New York, The Gowanus Dredgers, EPA
Photograph: Courtesy www.gowanuscanal.org

9. Take a canoe tour of the Gowanus Canal

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Have you ever considered boating down the Gowanus Canal? Yeah, that Gowanus Canal. Famed for its “black mayonnaise,” the waterway nicknamed lavender lake seems like an unlikely destination for such an expedition, and admittedly, the idea sounds as crazy as swimming there, but people have done it. (In fact, they’ve have done both.) If you’re so inclined, however, we’ve got good news: Untapped New York is now offering canoe tours of the canal. Sponsored in concert with The Gowanus Dredgers, a volunteer group dedicated to providing access to and education about the canal since 1999, the excursion is described as a “a secret, one of a kind, personal sunset cruise,” which will set sail for two excursions on August 13 and August 18 at 7pm. You’ll be outfitted with life vests that have been sanitized and isolated for at least 72 hours before use, and wearing masks and other social distancing measures will be required. A tour guide will narrate your journey, offering tidbits on Gowanus history and landmarks of interest. With the federal EPA now it the midst of a massive clean-up of the canal, it’s only a matter of time before its gritty industrial charms fade from memory. So, if you want to catch the Gowanus in all of its toxic glory, a canoe is waiting for you. Tickets are $35 for the one-and-a-half hour tour, and you can book them here. 

Top of the Rock Observation Deck
Photograph: Courtesy Tishman Speyer

10. See NYC from the Top of the Rock Observation Deck

News City Life

The Top of the Rock Observation Deck reopened on August 6 with timed-tickets and new health and safety protocols in place.

The 9,500-square-foot observation deck has an unobstructed, 360-degree panoramic view, which is more space than any other observation deck in New York City, Tishman Speyer says. The observation deck will be open daily, from 1 to 9pm to the public who must purchase tickets ($38 for adults, $36 for seniors, and kids under 12 are free through Labor Day) beforehand. Tickets will be timed so that wait times are minimized and groups don't gather at the box office. This will also limit the number of folks allowed up at the top, which will help with social distancing. 

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New York Botanical Garden
Photograph: Courtesy Robert Benson Photography/New York Botanical Garden

11. Go to the New York Botanical Garden

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The verdant oasis that is the New York Botanical Garden reopened on Tuesday, July 28, for the first time since the pandemic hit New York City. Visitors are now allowed back in to see its heavenly collection of roses, daylilies, hydrangeas, water lilies, and lotuses, among its one million plants, walk its paths and trails that cross the garden, see its outdoor collections and bask in natural features like its Native Plant Garden and the Bronx River, which runs through the 50-acre Thain Family Forest. Its Pine Tree Café has a limited menu and outdoor seating, and its other food commissaries as well as the Clay Family Picnic Pavilions are also open.

While the 250-acre site is open to nature-deprived New Yorkers for the first time in four months, there are some changes. Tram Tours, public programs, and group tours are suspended temporarily and The Enid A. Haupt Conservatory, LuEsther T. Mertz Library, Edible Academy, Everett Children’s Adventure Garden, and Hudson Garden Grill will remain closed. 

Socrates Sculpture Park
Photograph: Courtesy Jeffrey Gibson/Scott Lynch/Sikkema Jenkins & Co./Kavi Gupta/Roberts Projects

12. See what's at Astoria's Socrates Sculpture Park this summer

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Socrates Sculpture Park is making up for lost time with a new exhibition series, under the rubric, "Monuments Now," that will take place over the summer and fall. It kicks of with a trio of artists—Jeffrey Gibson, Paul Ramírez Jonas and Xaviera Simmons—presenting large-scale objects that take the premise literally. Gibson's piece, for example, consists of 40ft x 40ft plywood ziggurat inspired by the pre-Columbian earthen mounds created by indigenous people in the Mississippi Valley during the 13th century. It will be covered in a skein of brightly-colored geometric patterns.   Jeffrey Gibson, 'Because Once You Enter My House It Becomes Our House'Photograph: Courtesy Jeffrey Gibson/Socrates Sculpture Park/Scott Lynch   Ramírez Jonas, meanwhile, is creating a functional community grill in the form of towering obelisk. 

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pool in nyc
Courtesy NYC Parks/Daniel Avila

13. Go swimming at NYC's outdoor pools

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New York is already rising to steamy temperatures in the high 80s and low 90s—but luckily, NYC pools are opening up in a few weeks for New Yorkers to cool off with a swim. Mayor Bill de Blasio officially announced that 15 NYC public pools will reopen across the five boroughs by August 1.

The ope pools include: Bronx: Crotona Park, Mullaly Park, Haffen Park Brooklyn: Sunset, Betsy Head Park, Kosciuszko Manhattan: Hamilton Fish Park, Jackie Robinson Park, Wagner, Marcus Garvey Park Queens: Astoria Park, Liberty, Fisher Staten Island and more.

outside dining
Photograph: Teddy Wolff

14. Get tropical at this Brooklyn music venue turned eatery

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Tucked inside an industrial corner of Bushwick, sits 99 Scott, a popular music and events space that’s housed everything from weddings and dumpling workshops by day to late-night techno parties by night. Today, as spaces across New York are rethinking how they do business to withstand the times, 99 Scott has transformed its sprawling courtyard into a restaurant with nightly entertainment. Outerspace, the new seasonal restaurant by 99 Scott founders Molly McIver and Wells Stellberger, looks like a tropical plant-filled oasis, equipped for times of social distancing. The 6,500-square-foot, outdoor-only destination seats 126 diners throughout its scattered picnic tables with individual rattan booths, surrounded by tall potted palms for safe division and privacy. This might be the most comfortable restaurant in the city to safely dine out right now without worrying about throngs of crowds or close-quarter sidewalk dining. Chefs Conner Updegrave and Luis Herrera at Outerspace, who previously worked the kitchens at popular restaurants Blanca and Cosme, respectively, are turning out a menu guided by hyper-seasonal and locally-sourced produce, set to change week-to-week based on what produce is available at the Union Square Farmers Market and from tri-state farmers. 

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Smorgasburg
Photograph: Scott Lynch

16. Get take out from Smorgasburg

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Smorgasburg is out, but New Yorkers will now have Smorg To Go. Starting on Monday, July 20th, Smorg To Go will be a takeout-only version of the popular open-air market. A rotating cast of vendors—10 different ones are slated for the first and second weeks—will be open every day between 11:30am-8pm on the Williamsburg waterfront. It will be located at 51 North Sixth Street (at Kent Avenue), which is less than a block away from Smorgasburg’s flagship location. The biggest difference? All orders will be placed online (the website smorgtogo.com goes live on opening day). “This is a bridge to 2021,” says Eric Demby, co-founder of Smorgasburg. “I don't think there's going to be a Smorgasburg in 2020. The hope is that this cool little thing chugs along.” 

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Jacob Riis Park; beach bazaar; NYC; new york; people
Photograph: Courtesy Riis Park Beach Bazaar/Dylan Johnson

18. Head to Jacob Riis Beach Bazaar

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There’s always good reason to hit the beach—but there’s even more to rave about when your beachside destination has stellar food, cocktails and views in one. The ever-popular summer favorite, Riis Park Beach Bazaar, is back in action this season with a roster of sweet concessions. While there won’t be beachfront karaoke parties and DJs this summer, there will still be loads of eats to look forward to. The waterfront locale has brought back some crowd favorites including The Dropout, which serves up burgers, hot dogs and chicken fingers; and Rockaway Clam Bar, with their famous lobster rolls and other seafood picks. Meanwhile, Bazaar Bay 9 East Beer Garden and Bathhouse West Beer Garden are both open and serving up a full slate of booze and frozen beverages to cool off as temps stay high. You and your group can head to either Bay 9 East, which has expanded their beer garden to bring more space for socially distanced dining and drinking or Bathhouse West which has an even larger expansion of its beer garden, allowing for additional distanced seating and table service. Food is available for both table service and at dedicated take-out only locations at Bay 9 and the Bathhouse. During these times, diners must check in with a host and order from a server. There are no to-go booze options. Cuisine by Claudette also has a grab-and-go only window, and a number of food truck vendors will be added throughout the summer.

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