Go to a free outdoor film or concert
The city is always bursting with culture, but in the summer, that culture is outside, full of life, and free of charge. Log out of your Netflix account until next winter: We’ve got a full roundup of the free outdoor movies showing this summer, and you can see every single free concert this summer on the NYC Parks website.
Live it up at the Jazz Age Lawn Party
On August 25 and 26, Governors Island transforms into a massive 1920s-inspired partyscape that has become a much-beloved annual tradition, with performers, live music, local food, unique drinks, and some of the coolest historically inspired costumes this side of the Mississippi. Put on your fringe dresses and bowties and get ready to do the foxtrot with hundreds of other revelers.
Take a beach day
Maybe NYC isn’t known for its beautiful beaches, but we’ve got a bunch of ‘em and they’re full of their own sort of beauty, as well as tons of fun. Set up on the sand, grab lunch from a food truck, dip your hot bod in the ocean, and finish up the day with a Mister Softee cone. You can’t have a New York summer without at least one beach day, and best of all, most of them are only a MetroCard trip away. It’s the cheapest tropical-esque vacation you can get.
Drink on a rooftop
Is there anything more iconic than popping open a cold drink on top of a Brooklyn brownstone or a Manhattan high rise and watching the sun set into rainbow colors as the city lights sparkle? Do it in a rad bar or on your neighbor’s roof, but no matter what, drink on a rooftop at least once. There’s nothing like enjoying the breeze over the city at the end of a hot summer day.
Rock out at a music festival
Worried you missed them all? Well, you didn’t. These massive gatherings celebrate not only music, but also food, style, friendships new and old, and (let’s be honest) Instagram clout. Afropunk, Panorama, Billboard Hot 100 Music Festival, and Electric Zoo all happen at the end of the summer, so get your tickets and remember to stay hydrated.
Hop out of town for a weekend
As much as we love the city, leaving it for a weekend or two is almost a rite of passage for your summer. Whether you rent a car and go all the way out to Montauk, take NJ Transit to somewhere down the shore, or grab a Metro North train out of Grand Central for some rolling green hills and a slightly cooler temperature, take advantage of our East Coast interconnectedness and escape the steamy concrete jungle for a little bit.
Have a picnic or BBQ in a city park
Roasting meats outdoors in the company of friends sounds like a suburban fantasy, but it’s actually one of the greatest joys of an NYC summer, thanks to our hundreds of green spaces. Claim one of the new picnic tables in Brooklyn Bridge Park and light up a grill, or just throw down a blanket for an easy afternoon picnic in Central Park’s Sheep Meadow (just make sure you’re packing it right). A relaxing outdoor meal is one of the best ways to spend a summer evening in NYC.
See some fireworks
Sure, there’s the spectacular Macy’s 4th of July Fireworks every year on the East River, but there are also colorful pyrotechnics after some Mets and Yankees games, and over the boardwalk at Coney Island every Friday in the summer. Nothing is more awe-inspiring than vibrant, sparkling flames shooting off into the humid evening air and raining down over the skyline.
Eat some locally made ice cream
Possible controversial opinion: NYC has some of the best ice cream in the country, and summer is the best time to enjoy it. Order a scoop of sweet Ooey Gooey Butter Cake from Ample Hills Creamery, some Black Coconut Ash from Morgenstern’s, a bright-purple cone of Ube ice cream from Chinatown Ice Cream Factory, or a cocktail-esque flavor from Ice & Vice (like the Breakfast Club with brown butter banana and candied bacon waffles) and wander your favorite neighborhood in the gloriously sticky heat of the season.
Get on a boat
In our landlocked daily lives, it’s easy to forget that almost all of NYC is built on literal islands. Nothing feels more like summer than hopping on a boat and marveling at our beautiful skyline from an entirely new perspective. To start, check out this year’s Rocks Off Concert Cruise roster. From punk rock to retro throwback acts, you might just see one of your favorite bands perform on a boat as the sun sets over the Hudson River. There are tons of after-work happy hour cruises, too, if you wanna get your booze on while cruising the East River. But even just a quick, cheap ride on the water taxi instead of the subway lets you feel the spray of the river against your skin. Why not? After all, it’s summer.