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35 ways to have the best summer in NYC

Soak up the sun as well as our list of recommendations for the best things to do during summer in New York

Shaye Weaver
Written by
Shaye Weaver
&
Krista Diamond
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This summer in NYC promises to be an unforgettable one now that our city is back up. The city has a boundless energy once the heat cranks up, and doubly so this year, so it's time to start checking off our sensational list of things to do in summer in NYC. Some of the most popular New York attractions provide an endless list of things to do outside from rooftop movies and free dance parties to can’t-miss music festivals and more. Here’s how to make the absolute most of these steamy summer nights.

Tip: You may want to request off for a few staycation days too so you can spend some time relaxing at a few rooftop pools during the week when they’re less crowded.

Best things to do this summer in NYC

  • Things to do
  • City Life

Time Out Market New York just reopened its doors on Thursday, May 27. The stunning waterfront destination is located in the historic Empire Stores building with sweeping views of both the Manhattan and Brooklyn bridges and the city skyline. It brings together some of New York’s top culinary talent, all curated by our editorial team. The opening day lineup includes 10 eateries, with more kitchens debuting later this summer. New this year, guests can indulge in delicious ice cream from Sugar Hill Creamery, expertly crafted pizza from Fornino and homestyle Thai food from Wayla. (Check out our complete guide to our eateries and get excited.) Additional vendors, including Tiki Chick and Mr. Taka Ramen, will be opening later this summer. To wash down all of those delicious eats, we’ve got three fully stocked bars serving up craft cocktails, beer, wine and non-alcoholic beverages. We’re especially excited about a brand-new seasonal cocktail menu just unveiled for summer with must-try drinks like the Salty Thyme Margarita with Herradura Silver Tequila, Thyme, Blood Orange Juice, Lime, Sea Salt and Combier D’Orange and the Smokin’ Cherry Mule with Agave De Cortez Blanco Mezcal, Amaro, Rapa Cherry Liqueur, Lemon Juice and Ginger Beer. To celebrate the surrounding borough, a brand-new Love Local Brews Bar on the fifth floor will be serving an enviable collection of beers from local Kings Country breweries. We’ll drink to that!

  • Movies
  • Movies

New York City will be home to the first major North American festival to be held in person since COVID-19 first hit the world as the Tribeca Film Festival is officially coming back this summer with in-person screenings held outdoors all over town. Also celebrating its 20th anniversary, the iconic 12-day film celebration will kick off on June 9 and run through June 20 (yes, that's about two months after the events are usually held) and screenings and talks will be hosted all over the five boroughs, including the MetroTech Commons in Brooklyn, Empire Outlets in Staten Island, plus Brookfield Place New York, The Battery, Pier 57 Rooftop and Hudson Yards in Manhattan, among others. The organizers also announced that this year, the festival will commemorate Juneteenth, which falls on closing night, and a slew of community screenings will take over 40-foot state-of-the-art LED cinemas in all New York City boroughs.

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  • Restaurants

 

Smorgasburg is the food bazaar spectacular that unofficially announces summer in New York City every year. Founded by Brooklyn Flea’s Eric Demby and Jonathan Butler, the culinary extravaganza typically spotlights about 100 vendors across its locations. Smorgasburg World Trade Center opened on Friday, May 21 and operates every Friday from 11am to 7pm all summer with Mao’s Bao, Carlitos Barbecue Taqueria, Bona Bona Ice Cream, Wood Fired Edibles and Rooster Boy. See Jersey City’s vendors here.

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  • Things to do
  • City Life

After a year-long hiatus and a multimillion-dollar renovation, Irving Plaza announced that it'll reopen on Tuesday, August 17 with Ashley McBryde as the first of more than 40 concerts this summer. This year, it'll welcome names like Ben Folds, Noah Cyrus, Jesse McCartney, Princess Nokia and Ripe. When audiences return to Irving Plaza, it'll be a new experience because in 2019, the venue closed for a massive renovation that included the addition of an upscale VIP Lounge with a private bar and balcony level boxes, two fully renovated balcony level artist dressing rooms that feature direct stage access, an adjacent green room with a private bathroom, and an expanded lobby and bar area. 

  • Things to do
  • City Life

The insanely '60s-chic TWA Hotel is bringing the joy of roller skating to the tarmac this summer with Roll-A-Rama. The Runway Rink, which is a 44-by-56-foot outdoor rink around the hotel's 1958 Lockheed Constellation "Connie" airplane, will be open every weekend (weather permitting) for skaters ready to celebrate the city's reopening. One 50-minute skate session is just $20 per adult and $16 per child (under 12) with skate rentals included. Head over on Fridays from 4-8pm or on Saturday or Sunday from noon to 8pm to get your roll on. Since capacity is limited, tickets will be available on a first-come, first-served basis and can only be purchased with a credit card.

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  • Things to do
  • City Life

After transforming into an almost exclusively virtual event last year, some elements of an in-person Pride March are set to return to NYC this year. One of the elements that will connect his year’s festivities to past year’s is the inclusion of Grand Marshals. Earlier today, the 2021 Grand Marshals were officially announced: the actor Wilson Cruz, the performer and activist Ceyenne Doroshow, the lawyers and advocates Menaka Guruswamy and Arundhati Katju, the HIV prevention pioneer Dr. Demetre Daskalakis and the model Aaron Rose Philip. 

  • Things to do
  • City Life

At 6am on Friday morning, the public was allowed into Little Island, the "floating" greenspace within the Hudson River Park—you know, the one set on massive pylons that stick up out of the water? You can't miss it. For years, during its planning and construction, it's been a subject of controversy and mystery, as it is primarily funded by The Diller – von Furstenberg Family Foundation, but now it's all out in the open, and it's glorious. Across two acres, lies an entirely new ecosystem of gorgeous plantings and prime space for live music and performances. It's amazing to think that this entire oasis, with its beautiful and thoughtful greenery, is now a place we can call ours.

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  • Restaurants
  • Eating

Refreshing agave-based spirits and tasty tacos are now being served onboard a three-story boat in the Hudson River. La Barca Cantina, the only Mexican restaurant on a boat in NYC, reopened to the public with a summer street food-inspired menu that'll get the party started for you and your friends. Based at Pier 81, next to its sister-restaurant North River Lobster Company, La Barca spans three levels with an expansive outdoor top deck with a bar and table seating, a bi-level interior space with two bars, table seating and booth-like tables—perfect for large groups. Even better, it takes short cruises multiple times per day, five days a week, offering up sweeping views of the NYC skyline. (It's a must to reserve a table for cocktails at sunset.)

  • Things to do
  • City Life

As much as we love the hustle and bustle of NYC, sometimes it’s nice to be able to get out and spend a little time in nature. Even better? Being able to spend time in nature without having to leave the city at all. (Have you seen car rental prices these days?) Enter: Camp RockawayThe waterfront glamping destination in—you guessed it, the Rockaways—has announced that they’ll be returning for another season of fun in the sun, sleeping on the beach in an enjoyable-not-castaway way and upscale accommodations, beginning on June 11. This summer, the rustic escape will be setting up camp at Fort Tilden, just steps from the beach. You’ll be able to either lodge in safari-style canvas tents or bring your own tent. 

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  • Things to do
  • City Life

NYC’s most easily accessible glamping site (You don’t even have to leave the city to get there!) is now officially taking reservations for the summer. Collective Governors Island is a luxury glamping retreat on the west side of the island with sweeping views of Lower Manhattan and the Statue of Liberty. The six-acre retreat, which is reachable via private water taxi for guests, has added a slew of new offerings for the 2021 season to complement the yoga and pilates offered last year. Two new culinary experiences will be available to guests looking to get up-close-and-personal with some seafood. “The Art of Oyster Shucking” will teach participants how to select, shuck and serve oysters while “Mastering Poaching Lobsters” will show you the ins and outs of preparing, poaching and serving whole lobsters. Both experiences are $60. Other new offerings include classes on how to saber a champagne bottle, a custom rosé tasting and a live sound meditation. 

  • Restaurants
  • Eating

Lovers of ethnic foods, rejoice: New York's renowned Queens Night Market is officially coming back on June 19, running every Saturday through October 30. As usual, vendors of all sorts will take over Flushing Meadows Corona Park, serving everything from Indian tandoori kebabs to Bengali fuska, Hong Kongese soy sauce noodles and Puerto Rican papas rellenos. There will still be a $5-$6 price cap on food orders, to make sure you get to eat all that's available without breaking your wallet, plus beer and wine on offer for purchase. In terms of music, you can expect live gigs to capture your attention as well. 

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  • Art
  • Art

The highly-anticipated "Immersive Van Gogh" exhibit that digitally places visitors inside Vincent van Gogh's paintings is opening in NYC this June at Pier 36 on the East River. The space will allow the NYC exhibit to be three times as big as it was in Toronto—the biggest one yet. It'll be an experience New Yorkers will want to see when it does open. Animations of van Gogh's work—The Potato Eaters, Starry Night, Sunflowers, The Bedroom and more—will be projected on the walls and floor of the exhibit, covering 500,000 cubic feet, bringing van Gogh's work to life. It'll all be set to a score by Luca Longobardi that was created just for this exhibit. 

  • Things to do
  • City Life

The Greens at Pier 17 is once again transforming into one of the best places to see a movie this summer. Starting on Memorial Day, the Seaport Cinema is back with screenings every Monday night. Not only do viewers get incredible sweeping views of the Lower Manhattan skyline and the Brooklyn Bridge, but they'll get a free bucket of Bubbly seltzers and popcorn with their reservation, which begins at 8pm for an 8:30pm showing.

May 31 - The Parent Trap
June 7 - The Birdcage
June 14 - Dirty Dancing
June 21 Kids Night - Moana
July 28 - Moonlight
July 12 - Dazed and Confused
July 19 Kids Night - Toy Story
July 26 - Miracle
August 2 - Remember the Titans
August 9 - School of Rock

Reservations are released on Monday at 10am for the following week on Tock, which you can make for $20—a portion of which will be donated to a local charity.

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  • Music

Never take for granted how lucky we are to be in a city where a free show in the park has become a quintessential summer experience (even when you're stuck in the interminable line for said free show). For New York's largest free performing-arts festival, various parks around the city offer gratis programming, with Central Park's Mainstage at the center of the action. 

  • Restaurants
  • Ice cream parlors
  • Prospect Heights

Twenty-four rotating flavors—made with Battenkill Valley Creamery milk, organic cane sugar and cage-free eggs—are on offer at this sunny artisanal ice cream parlor. Take a seat at the L-shaped marble counter, or watch the creamy treats being made through the production-room window. Flavors range from simple and seasonal, such as strawberry and pumpkin, to more baroque creations like The Munchies: pretzel-infused ice cream with Ritz crackers, potato chips, pretzels and mini M&Ms.

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  • Things to do

If you need another reason to get excited for summer, NYC street fairs take over various blocks in all five boroughs when the weather gets warmer. While frolicking through these vehicle-free roads, snack on sensational eats from the best restaurants and score stellar throwback wares and antiques as you would find at our city’s finest vintage clothing stores. 

  • Things to do

When the pavement starts to emit more heat than your apartment's radiator and the mass of shiny, reflective skyscrapers offers no escape, it's time to book it to the closest swimming hole. That would be any of the city's outdoor pools, opening sometime in June. 

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  • Things to do

Can’t afford a tropical vacation? Hitch a ferry to New York’s car-free island, and once you’re there, get a tan as you chill in one of its hammocks. But it’s not all about taking a load off here. After launching the appropriately named 10-acre park the Hills, GI continues to expand with exciting openings of attractions like a Collective Retreats camp site, so you can sleep under the stars on the island.

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  • Attractions
  • Theme parks
  • Coney Island

In a sure sign that summer's on its way, NYC's largest amusement park is back for another season of rollicking good times. The Coney Island institution boasts more than 50 attractions, including the iconic Cyclone, the high-flying Air Race and the Endeavor. Try your luck at dozens of carnival games, or refuel with a burger at Cyclone Cafe. Keep an eye out for the Summer Series, which brings parties, concerts and performances to the park starting weekends in July.

Experience Luna Park and other NYC attractions with a Go New York Explorer Pass.

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  • Things to do

Every Tuesday, this dreamy affair gives you an astronautworthy view of the stars from the high-powered telescopes of the Amateur Astronomers Association. And here we all thought we couldn't gaze at constellations in New York City! Just in case you're worried you'll have no idea what you are looking at, the AAA leads the star-spotting expeditions, pointing out celestial bodies above the park. Follow the High Line’s Twitter feed (@highlinenyc) for updates in the event of inclement weather.

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  • Things to do

Midsummer Night Swing brings together the best of music, dance and things to do outside, but we have a few tips to help you make the most of the two-week festival. Lovely Damrosch Park at Lincoln Center can get crowded, so be sure to book in advance, get there when the dance floor opens at 6pm and remember that purses and backpacks must be left at the bag check—ladies, you’ll need a dancing frock with pockets.

  • Things to do

During Summer Streets, seven miles of Gotham turf along Lafayette Street and Park Avenue is completely cleared of vehicles in order to create a pedestrian paradise. Hundreds and thousands of revelers descend upon the asphalt for invigorating sight-filled tours, plus free activities including a rock climbing wall, a zipline, outdoor art installations, misting stations and a water slide.

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  • Things to do
  • Festivals

In case you didn’t know, the U.S. Open—New York’s most-attended sporting event—is one of the most exciting this to do in Queens. For two weeks, Flushing Meadows­–Corona Park will be the tennis capital of the world during the legendary tournament. New Yorkers bring the party to the National Tennis Center with a celebrity-studded crowd (past famous attendees include Oprah, Alec Baldwin and Jimmy Fallon), while local food trucks bring the yummies, and live musicians performing on the grounds. Oh, and you can also check out the top pros in tennis.

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  • Things to do

One of the best things to do in summer is pack a picnic basket and partake in some outdoor dining at one of the best picnic spots NYC has to offer. There are plenty of NYC parks, at which you can sprawl out and enjoy an alfresco feast. However, we've chosen a few of our favorite grassy refuges from all corners of Gotham, as well as the best places for grabbing snacks nearby, to help you decide the best spot to pick.

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