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The best sunbathing spots in NYC

From secret gardens to gorgeous poolside hangs, we've rounded up New York's best spots to catch some rays

By Sophie Harris
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When the sun comes out in NYC, you have two options: Go sit indoors with the AC set to freeze, or get outside and take off as many items of clothing as the law permits. On a beautiful day in the greatest city in the world, we’ll go for the latter, thanks! And the really great news is that you don’t have to leave the city to soak up the sun somewhere lovely. Here’s our pick of the best sunbathing spots in NYC this summer, from secret places (hello, Teardrop Park) to fancy hotel pools on NYC rooftops. Let's get out there, New York!

Central Park
Photograph: Edward Yourdon

1. Sheep Meadow at Central Park

Attractions Parks and gardens Central Park

Le classique de sunbathing in New York, Sheep Meadow satisfies all your sunbathing requirements in one picturebook swoop: You’ll feel like you’re starring in the awesome movie of your life as you lounge on that lovely green grass surrounded by iconic skyscrapers. ‘Bathe and dash if you work nearby, otherwise make a day of it and take a perfect premade picnic.

2. McCarren Hotel & Pool

Hotels Boutique hotels Williamsburg

Staycation weekend? Or just decided to take the day off work ‘cause it’s too damn beautiful out? Those committed to lounging in the sun will be thrilled to hear that Williamsburg’s groovy McCarren Hotel is offering an “athleisure staycation” deal all summer long, meaning you can pay $30 (Mon–Thu) or $40 (Fri–Sun) to spend the day catching rays and swimming—a 20 percent discount on usual pool day passes. And yes, there’s free Wi-Fi, too.

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The High Line
Photograph: Shutterstock

3. The High Line

Attractions Parks and gardens Chelsea

Chelsea favorite the High Line is the ultimate lunchbreak sunbathing option for city tanners with one precious hour to spend stretched out in the sun. The key to making the most of the experience? Make sure the following items are in your tote: sunscreen, really great book, iPhone (for Instagramming) and a sweater. Why the sweater? It may be crazy hot, but you can use it to turn your bag into a temporary pillow as you lay out on the High Line bench. Go, go, espresso sunbather!

4. Rockaway Beach

Attractions Beaches Rockaways

Yeah, we know it’s hardly a surprise choice, but c’mon! Golden sand, the ocean, Tacoway Beach, free live music, attractive people in cool swimwear, surfers, and cheap party buses going there and back from the city? We’ll see you there (we’ve pinned our spot on Google Maps). Oh, and if you really need more inspiration, check out our roundup of top things to do in the Rockaways this summer.

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Fort Greene Park
Photograph: Craig Garrrison

5. Fort Greene Park

Attractions Parks and gardens Fort Greene

Central Park and Prospect Park are beautiful and all, but their sheer size and the crowds they attract can be overwhelming. Fort Greene Park, on the other hand, is perfectly proportioned, green and leafy, and full of winding paths and little hills and dales. Bonus No. 1: There’s an outdoor city piano stationed there this summer, in case you get bored of lying in the sun. Bonus No. 2: Last time we were there, we spotted a topless sunbather who, like everyone around her, was being cool as a cucumber about it. (Note: National Go Topless Day is August 25.)

Astoria Park Pool
Photograph: Courtesy Creative Commons/Flickr/Young Sok Yun

6. Astoria Park Pool

Sports and fitness Gyms and fitness centers Astoria

Ah, a pool with a view—in fact, a truly spectacular view, in this case, of the Triborough Bridge. Astoria Park is NYC’s oldest and largest public pool, and even if you don’t want to take a dip you can just enjoy the cheery sounds of fellow bathers splashing (and being admonished by lifeguards). Feeling lively? This park along the East River also has tennis courts, a track, walking trails and basketball courts. Boom!

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820.ft.cooloff82013.jpg
Photograph: Michael Kirby Smith

7. Teardrop Park, Battery Park City

Attractions Parks and gardens Battery Park City

Hudson River Park already crowded with sunbathers? Head to nearby Teardrop Park in Battery Park City, an arty and serene spot designed by Michael Van Valkenburgh Associates, and designed in accordance with Battery Park's Green Guidelines. There are sun spots, shady spots and water features galore, and it’s a great place for kids, too. Happy sigh.

Lincoln Center
Photograph: Shutterstock

8. Illumination Lawn at the Lincoln Center

Things to do Event spaces Upper West Side

What’s that, you say? You work all day and can’t possibly be trying to sunbathe in your lunch hour? If you’re anywhere near the Lincoln Center, you can get your vitamin E top-up via a nice lie-down on the grassy “Illumination Lawn” at the cultural hub’s Green Space. We’re sure you’ll dream the kind of dreams that This American Life would make a podcast about.

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9. Bryant Park

Attractions Parks and gardens Midtown West

This one’s for culture vultures, as the park lawn backs on to the New York Public Library—meaning you can soak up the sunshine, then head into the cool, shady library to soak up some choice literary tomes. (Or just use the bathroom.)

Coney Island
Photograph: Shutterstock

10. Coney Island Beach

Things to do Coney Island

Look, we know it’s not classy at Coney. But besides how darn quick it is to get the train there, Coney is fun! We love the fact that folks gather on the boardwalk every weekend just to dance, and that you’re never more than two minutes away from an ice cream emporium. We recommend riding the Crazy Water log flume (really, not that crazy) at Luna Park before you hit the sand for your well-deserved rest.

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