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14 Unique Ways To Enjoy A New York City Summer!

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New York in the summer can be incredible hot and humid, plus it’s considered the high season so you can expect higher prices and large crowds.

If you’re planning a New York summer, then you’re going to want to go in prepared, otherwise you’ll find yourself standing in long queues, exhausted by the heat, and frustrated by all the people.

Don’t fret though, as you can still have an enjoyable trip!

Summer also brings with it dry weather and some of the cities most vibrant and popular festivals, from NYC Pride, Tribeca Film Festival, Shakespeare In The Park, and closing the summer with Electric Zoo Festival.

If you’re not a cold weather person and like the feel of the sun on your skin, picnics in the park, sidewalk cafes, beer gardens, rooftop bars, and bike riding around town, then keep reading for some unique ways to spend summer in NYC.

Ways To Enjoy New York City in the Summer

1. Enjoy a New York cafe with a garden

Bryant park cafe

I remember cafe bumming to keep warm from the icy rain and the snowfalls in the winter, but in the summer it’s the place to be to cool down.

Imagine sitting in a spacious cafe with a shaded garden, flicking through the morning newspaper or indulging in a book, and watching the world go by under the shade of the trees.

Some of my favorite cafes with outdoor seating and a garden are Bryant Park Café, The Oasis Cafe in Flushing, and Book Club in East Village.

If the heat doesn’t bother you, grab a takeaway coffee and a blueberry bagel and check out Washington Square or a wander around the beautiful streets of West Village.

2. Enjoy Shakespeare in the Park, Central Park

people walking through avenue of trees in Central Park in NYC
Central Park in NYC

Central Park is one of the most iconic destinations in NYC and no trip would be complete without wandering around this expansive urban park.

During summer time, one of the most unique things you can do in Central Park is watch a Shakespeare in the Park performance at the Delacorte Theater.

Every summer, the theater has been putting on productions for more than 45 years, and have even seen some world famous actors and actresses perform.

James Earl Jones was once said to have starred in Othello, and Meryl Streep took part in The Taming of the Shrew. 

shakespeare statue central park

In 2024, the theater will be closed due to renovation, but will resume in 2025, but that doesn’t mean the Shakespeare will stop! You can watch FREE performances of The Comedy of Errors at Hudson Yards and in front of The New York Public Library’s Stephen A. Schwarzman Building.

You can read more about free productions taking place in summer 2024 here.

As well as watch Shakespeare in the park, you can do the usual Central Park activities such as stroll along the pathways and admire the lakes, rest in the pavilions, and watch the squirrels at play.

Maybe take a horse-drawn carriage ride, row around the lake, or bike your way around arguably the most famous city park in the world.

3. Take a Circle Line Cruise around Manhattan Island

Circle Line Sightseeing Cruise on the Hudson River in New York City.

A great way to see the Manhattan cityscape is on a cruise around Manhattan Island.

The Circle Line cruises take just 2.5 hours and passes by several of the city’s most iconic monuments, such as The Statue of Liberty, Ellis Island, and Brooklyn Bridge.

On a hot summer’s day, it’s nearly unbarably hot using the subway in New York, and getting from A to B to see all these attractions with crowds of people is so stressful anyone would just give up and go home.

The cruise not only allows you to tick off seeing many of the city’s top attractions, but it’s also air conditioned on the inside, and has an open top deck where you can cool off in the sea breeze.

Sit back and relax and take in the scenic views of Little Island, Hudson Yards, One World Trade Center, downtown Brooklyn, Yankee Stadium, and the George Washington Bridge.

Drinks, sailing, a sunset, the Manhattan skyline and the Statue of Liberty – count me in!

Check out Manhattan cruises here. If you just want to see the Statue of Liberty, you can also take the Staten Island Ferry.

4. Walk across the Brooklyn Bridge

family posing on the Brooklyn Bridge
Brooklyn Bridge, NYC

You just have to set foot on this famous landmark, no matter what time of year you visit.

In the day time, it will be hot and lacking of shade, but in late afternoon it’s the most divine sight as it’s lit up in the soft balm of the setting sun. At night, the city lights illuminate the bridge, creating a spectacle unlike anything else.

Brooklyn Bridge Park is also a great place to go for views of the bridge. It has also become a popular urban playground after a project transformed a chunk of the Brooklyn waterfront into a nearly 85-acre expanse.

It now features unique attractions such as a restored 1920s merry-go-round and riverside esplanades with gorgeous Manhattan views.

5. Walk the New York City High Line

spring blooms on the highline

The Highline is a 1.45 mile section of a former elevated train track and now known as a thriving urban park in the sky.

The New York High Line has lots of plant life and lush lawns to relax on.

It runs from the Meatpacking District to Midtown and has great views of the city and the Hudson River.

6. Bike the city of New York

woman riding bike through central park in the fall

Biking in New York City might sound daunting, I know, but I like biking as a way to explore a city and if I can cycle around Saigon in Vietnam, I can do it in New York.

Citi Bike is New York City’s bike sharing system and I’d like to navigate the streets of NYC on two wheels, take on some of the 700 miles of bike paths such as over the Brooklyn Bridge, around Central Park, the Coney Island boardwalk, or the Hudson River Park Bikeway.

You can also hire bikes online here or take a bike tour of Central Park.

7. Check Out Union Square Farmers Market

markets at union square farmers markets
Farmers Market

I love a good farmers market for picking up fresh supplies for a picnic in the park, and the world-famous Union Square Greenmarket is awesome. It’s open Monday, Wednesday, Friday and Saturday’s in the summer.

Just thinking about the healthy/fresh/organic/delicious treats and the cheese, wine, and fresh produce available makes me hungry.

I hear they also sell a lot of sugar-free and vegan baked goods and the prices are very reasonable for NYC.

8. Admire Views from Top of the Rock, New York

Sunset from Top of The Rock in NYC
Sunset from Top of The Rock

Ok, so Top of The Rock isn’t the most unique thing to do but it’s possibly our favorite view of NYC from the observation deck, so I can’t not mention it in this guide.

We went to the observation deck at the Empire State Building, which is also a must do once in your life, but going to the Top of the Rock observation deck at Rockefeller Center offers 360º views of NYC.

It also has shorter lines and a better view of Central Park. I’ll see you there for sunset.

9. Enjoy movie nights under the stars

NEW YORK,USA - AUGUST 22,2016 : Newyorkers and tourists enjoying the Bryant Park Summer Film Festival
Bryant Park Film Festival

If Shakespeare in the Park sounds too high brow for you, then another great outdoor entertainment option is Movie in the Park.

Each summer, Bryant Park holds its summer film festival, and has free movies under the stars in its outdoor cinemas in the evenings.

You can watch cult classics like Forest Gump, Gladiator and Titanic, or you can watch a classic 50s flick such as Funny Face.

You can also watch movies at the Luna Park amusement park at the Coney Island Flicks on the Beach, where a giant 40-foot inflatable screen turns the beach into an outdoor movie theater.

10. Hit the New York Rooftop Bars and Beer Gardens

view of empire state building at night from 250 fifth
250 Fifth rooftop

When night falls and the temperature cools, head to a rooftop bar for incredible views and breezes from the balcony.

Some of the most popular rooftop bars in NYC are Met Roof Garden Cafe & Martini Bar, which is known for its panoramic views over Central Park and Manhattan.

Ulysses Folk House down by Battery Park has an outdoor patio that’s open during the summer months, and a more unique place to drink is The Frying Pan, which is an old boat on the Hudson River.

Check out more spectacular bars in New York.

11. Picnic in the park

picnickers in central park

It wouldn’t be a New York summer without a picnic in a park. This is pretty much how most locals spend their free times when the weather gets hot!

I couldn’t think of a better way to escape the concrete jungle and hustle and bustle of NYC than to throw a picnic blanket on the grass, kick off your shoes and enjoy some nibbles and a bottle of wine and breathe in the silence.

Of course most people would think of Central Park, and I would suggest to have a picnic in Sheep Meadow if you’re looking for a picnic spot there.

But I would also recommend a visit to Picnic Point on Governors Island via a free ferry and relax in hammocks with incredible views of the Statue of Liberty and New York Harbor.

There’s also Battery Park, Brooklyn Bridge Park, and the Hudson River Park, which have lovely lawns for a picnic.

12. Watch one of NYC’s free concerts

As well as free cinema in the park events, you can also enjoy some free music festivals and events throughout the summer.

Again, they are usually held in parks because they have the space, and nearly every park has something happening.

Watch an opera, jazz bands and picnic performances at Bryant Park Stage, an orchestra in Conference House Park, or catch local and indie artists performing at Rumsey Playfield in Central Park.

You can view free music events in NYC here.

13. Watch a New York Yankee’s Game

NYC Yankee Stadium

We love watching a sporting match whenever we visit a city, and if you fancy an evening of baseball games, go and cheer on the New York Yankees!

The energy of a Yankee’s game is unmatched, and games usually start around 7pm at night to the temperatures are a bit cooler.

Check out the full NYC Yankee’s calendar here!

14. Check out Summer for the City at Lincoln Center

Throughout the summer months, you can take part in free or “pay what you can” dances, classes and workshops at Lincoln Center.

In the evening, join hundreds of people as they dance under the iconic 10 foot disco ball, or reserve your place at one of the dance classes. See the full events calendar here.

They also have dance with a story classes for kids.

When is summertime in New York City?

monument at Washington Square New York

You might be wondering when summer time in NYC actually starts and finishes. Summer begins in June and extends until the end of August, but expect warm weather to continue into September.

The hottest month in NYC is July, which can reach highs of 84.2°F (29°C), but because of the high rise buildings offering a mirror-like effect, and trapping air flow on the streets, it can often feel much hotter.

Often, temperatures in NYC summers can be too hot to explore outside in the heat of the day, so people prefer to cool off at indoor attractions such as New York Public Library, The Metropolitan Museum of Art, the NYC Aquarium, and the malls and shopping centers.

Final Thoughts

So there you have it, those are some unique ways to soak up a summer in the Big Apple!

Whether you’re looking for sporting events, picnic spots, places to escape the heat, or just something different to do, we hope this guide gave you some inspiration for things to do in NYC in summer.

More New York City Travel Guides

Need more inspiration for a trip to NYC? These other guides may help!

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How to enjoy a New York City summer in 11 ways - food, parks, views, tours, bars and more things to do in New York in the summer.

What’s your favorite thing to do in New York in the summer? Let us know in the comments.

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