New York City skyline

Summer in New York: 33 Things To Do in NYC in Summer

I’m a summer girl. While I enjoy NYC at Christmas, once the holiday decorations come down I’d just like to fast forward the bitterly cold months of January to March and skip to my favorite season; summer.

Summer in New York is amazing. Just like summer in London, people shed their winter coats and head straight to the parks. Except, unlike London, the weather in NYC is much more reliable with hot, sunny and humid days. 

Summertime is the best time to hit the city’s rooftops, explore the city’s attractions and dine al fresco. Plus, if you need to cool off, there are plenty of great beaches within an hour or two of Manhattan.

I’ve been living in NYC since 2018 and so I’ve had years to discover the best summertime activities in New York. If you’re planning a visit, here are my recommendations:

Things to do in NYC in Summer

Drink cocktails on the water at Grand Banks

At the top of my list is Grand Banks. If any of my friends come to visit New York in summer I immediately take them to Grand Banks. With its yellow and white striped awning and chic oyster bar, this sailboat-turned-bar is the perfect place for after-work cocktails. Docked at Pier 25 on the west side of Manhattan, this floating bar makes you feel like you could be in the Caribbean, not sitting on the Hudson River. 

Explore NYC’s rooftops

View from The Crown rooftop NYC

NYC has tons of rooftops where you can sip on cocktails and soak up the views of Manhattan’s skyscrapers. The view of NYC from above is always breathtaking and one of my favorite places to take photos is from ART Nomad at the Arlo Nomad Hotel. What I love about this rooftop is that it has 360 degree views and there’s nothing really obstructing the view. 

Another great rooftop for summer drinks is The Crown, which can be found on the 21st floor of the Hotel 50 Bowery in the Lower East Side. The rooftop boasts an indoor lounge and two outdoor terraces with comfy sofas and sweeping views of Manhattan.

Le Bain Rooftop NYC

For a different view, head to Le Bain at The Standard Hotel, which overlooks the Hudson River and Little Island. This rooftop features a grassy lawn, colorful seating and see-through barriers ensuring the view is unobstructed. 

Other rooftop options include: 

  • Mr Purple
  • Refinery Rooftop
  • Gallow Green 
  • Elsie Rooftop
  • The Roof at PUBLIC hotel
  • Jimmy at The James
  • PHD Rooftop at Dream Downtown
  • Monarch Rooftop & Lounge
  • 230 Fifth

Eat delicious foods at Smorgasburg

Smorgasburg is a summer event that takes place every weekend from April to October in Williamsburg, Jersey City and Manhattan’s Financial District. It’s the largest weekly food market in the U.S and attracts thousands of people, so don’t be surprised if you have to line up to order. You’ll find vendors selling all sorts of foods from around the world, including bao buns, philly cheesesteaks, tacos, barbecue, dumplings, lobster rolls and more.  

Visit Little Island 

Little Island, NYC

One of New York’s newest attractions, Little Island at Pier 55 is an artificial island with nearly 2.5 acres of park space. The park was designed by UK-based architecture firm Heatherwick Studio in collaboration with landscape architect Signe Nielsen and was built to revitalize part of the Hudson River Park that was damaged by Hurricane Sandy. Little Island’s botanic gardens contain 35 species of trees, 65 species of shrubs, and 270 varieties of grasses, perennials, vines, and bulbs, many of which were selected for their attractiveness to birds and pollinators. 

Walk around Central Park

Row boats on the lake in summer in Central Park

Manhattan’s most famous park is the perfect place to sunbathe or enjoy a picnic with friends. Top attractions in Central Park include Sheep’s Meadow, The Mall, Bethesda Terrace, Bow Bridge, Strawberry Fields and Belvedere Castle. 

Spend your afternoon strolling or cycling along Central Park’s pathways then take a stop to lay down and tan. In the summer months you can also rent a rowboat or paddle boat from the Loeb Boathouse and paddle on the lake. 

Bike Governor’s Island

Governor's Island, New York City
Photo credit: Kate Glicksberg / NYC & Company

Governor’s Island is a 172 acre island that lies a few hundred meters from Brooklyn in New York Harbor. For a fun day out, rent a bike and enjoy 7 miles of car free bike paths. You can either bring your own bike, rent a bike from Blazing Saddles on the island, or rent a Citi Bike at the ferry landings. Exhibitions and events take place on Governors Island throughout the year and there are numerous public art works to discover.

Listen to EDM at Electric Zoo Festival

Like techno music? Electric Zoo takes place annually every Labor Day weekend on Randall’s Island. New York’s premier electronic music festival features multiple stages and attracts famous DJs including Steve Aoki, Kaskade, Alesso and Claptone. 

Take the ferry to Fire Island 

Fire Island is the perfect place to get away from it all and enjoy a relaxing weekend by the beach. I try to go there at least once every summer!

This long, narrow island lies off the south coast of Long Island and is accessible by public transportation from NYC. There are no cars on the island and people usually use carts to transport their groceries.  

The island’s most popular LBTQ area is Cherry Grove, which is located between Sailors Haven and Fire Island Pines. When your ferry arrives in Cherry Grove the first place you’ll come across is The Ice Palace Resort, which has a large swimming pool and a nightclub that’s been a staple on the island since the 1950s. The club hosts the world famous Miss Fire Island pageant as well as regular parties, comedy shows and drag shows. 

I also really like Ocean Beach, which is popular with families and has an adorable promenade with shops, bars and restaurants. 

The beaches are clean and pristine and you’d hardly believe this exists in New York! When you’re there you really do feel like you’re worlds away from the chaos of Manhattan. 

Getting to Cherry Grove: Take the LIRR train to Sayville, then catch the Sayville ferry.

Getting to Ocean Beach: Catch the LIRR train from Penn Station to Bay Shore, then catch the ferry to Ocean Beach.

Tip: Purchase a Beach Getaway Package at one of the ticket machines at Penn Station. This all-in-one package includes your train ticket, shuttle to the ferry terminal and ferry ticket. 

Spend a weekend in Montauk

Montauk is a pricey place to visit during summer but if you split accommodation between a group of people then you can make it more affordable.  Situated at the very end of Long Island in the Hamptons, Montauk has some great beaches, bars and restaurants.

The Hamptons is known for being a popular vacation spot for wealthy New Yorkers but Montauk has more of a laid-back surf town vibe. Make sure you try the beer at Montauk Brewing Company and pay a visit to The Surf Lodge to watch sunset.

If you don’t have a car, the easiest way to get to Montauk is by taking the train, or you can take the Hamptons Jitney, although beware it sometimes gets stuck in traffic. Journey time is approximately 3 hours.

Sunbathe on Rockaway Beach

NYC summer just isn’t complete without a trip to the beach. My favorite beach in New York has to be Rockaway Beach. It’s easily accessible from New York by ferry or subway and there’s always a fun vibe on the boardwalk, with live music in summer and lots going on. The beach is long but I usually like to sit near Rockaway Beach Club, which has a food court with a bar and numerous food options. 

For the most scenic way to get to Rockaway, take the ferry from Pier 11 Wall Street, which costs about $2.75 each way. 

Watch rooftop movies

For a memorable experience, catch a movie under the stars on one of NYC’s rooftops. Rooftop Cinema Club puts on movies every summer at Skylawn Embassy Suites on West 37th Street. Bottomless popcorn, candy and snacks are available for purchase at the Box Office and there’s also a full bar and food menu if you’re feeling hungry during the movie. Check out their website to see what’s on. 

Another company called Rooftop Films brings the big screen to New York’s parks and public spaces but instead of being at one venue, the movies are screened at different venues. Venues include Brooklyn Army Terminal, Central Park, Citi Field, Coney Island, Fort Greene Park, Industry City, Hudson River Park and many more. 

See the Statue of Liberty

Summertime is the perfect time to visit the Statue of Liberty. Boats are run by Statue Cruises and depart from Battery Park, taking visitors to Liberty and Ellis Islands. The Statue of Liberty is one of the most famous landmarks in the world and is considered a symbol of freedom, inspiration and hope. The statue was a gift from France to the people of the United States and arrived in New York Harbor in June, 1885. 

Walk The High Line

The High Line is a 1.45-mile-long elevated park in Chelsea that was created as part of a project to repurpose a former New York Central Railroad spur.

In the 1930s The High Line was used for transporting meat, dairy, and produce but by the 1980s, train use had dwindled due to the rise in trucking. The track eventually lay unused and there were plans for it to be demolished but some New Yorkers noticed that it had been taken over by wild plants.

Joshua David and Robert Hammond founded Friends of the High Line, a non-profit conservancy, to advocate for its preservation and reuse as a public space. An ideas competition was held to generate ideas for the use of the space and the result is the park that you see today.

On a summer’s day you’ll see lots of people walking along The High Line and enjoying their lunches on the lounge chairs along the way. At 17th Street there’s also a viewing platform with a window that allows you to see onto the street below.

Take a dip in a pool

When the weather gets hot, cool off in one of New York’s hotel swimming pools. One of the best pools in NYC is the pool at The Williamsburg Hotel in Brooklyn. Their stylish rooftop pool is beautifully furnished with striped lounge chairs and comfy daybeds. Best of all there aren’t any buildings around to cast a shadow and you’ll enjoy panoramic views of the Manhattan skyline.

Other Brooklyn hotels with pools include The William Vale, 1 Hotel Brooklyn Bridge, and McCarren Hotel and Pool. 

Over in Manhattanthe hotel pools tend to be a bit smaller due to lack of space but there are several to choose from including, Royalton Park Avenue, Dream Downtown, Selina Chelsea, Gansevoort Meatpacking, Ravel Hotel, SIXTY LES and Soho House New York.

Grab drinks at the Frying Pan

Life’s more fun on a boat, so for a unique NYC experience, head to Pier 66 Maritime on the West side of Manhattan, where you can grab food and drinks on the Historic Lightship Frying Pan. The vessel was built in 1929 and was in service for over 30 years before it was relieved of its duty. It was brought to NYC in 1989 and was designated a historic site in 1991. The boat is open daily May through October and boasts a full service bar & grill plus plenty of seating. 

Eat as many lobster rolls as you can

I don’t know about you but I love a good lobster roll in summertime. There are tons of places to eat lobster rolls in Manhattan, including Luke’s Lobster, Grand Banks, Catch, Seamore’s and Cull & Pistol.

If you’re willing to go a bit further afield, I highly recommend going to Surf City in Jersey City. I know it’s not technically in New York but it’s close enough and their lobster rolls are amazing. Plus it’s located right on the marina, so you can watch the boats pass by with a beer in hand. 

Over on the Brooklyn side you have Brooklyn Crab and Red Hook Lobster Pound in Redhook, while on Long Island there are tons of seafood restaurants to choose from.

Jetski on the Hudson with Sea the City

If you’re feeling adventurous, you can actually go jet skiing on the Hudson River with Sea the City. Their guided jet ski tours last about an hour and take you to see the Statue of Liberty, Ellis Island, The Brooklyn and Manhattan Bridges, One World Trade Center and more. 

I did this once on my birthday and I have to say, I’m a complete chicken! The water was really choppy that day but in order to cut through the waves you have to go quite fast and I just couldn’t bring myself to pick up speed. I ended up with so much Hudson River water in my face! If you’re more confident at operating a jet ski though you’ll probably enjoy this. 

Ride the NYC Ferry

Manhattan is surrounded by water and there are numerous ferry routes that operate on the Hudson River, as well as the East River. Where possible I like to ride the ferry as opposed to taking the subway because you can sit on the top deck and enjoy the fresh air and views of Manhattan’s skyscrapers. 

A popular ferry route is the East River ferry route from Pier 11 to Hunters Point, stopping at DUMBO, South Williamsburg, North Williamsburg, Greenpoint and East 34th Street. You could spend an afternoon exploring DUMBO and the Time Out market, then hop on the ferry to North Williamsburg and spend your afternoon relaxing in Domino Park or McCarren Park. There’s lots to do there – check out my list of things to do in Williamsburg for inspiration. 

Dance on a boat

Summertime in NYC means boat parties. There are tons of boat parties that will take you out to see the Statue of Liberty and back while listening to good music – have a look on Eventbrite to see what’s going on. Some play EDM, some play Hip Hop and some play Latin…choose whichever suits your music tastes. My favorite boat party has to be the Day Zero party – follow them on Instagram for event updates. 

Soak up the views from an Observation Deck

NYC has five observation decks where you can enjoy panoramic views of the city. 

The latest addition is SUMMIT, a breathtaking viewing experience at One Vanderbilt. With floor-to-ceiling glass windows and mirrored floors, this dazzling observation deck makes for some incredible photos. Your ticket includes timed entry to see all four floors, plus access to Après, an exclusive food and cocktail concept. You’ll also get to experience an interactive art experience designed by Kenzo Digital and step into transparent skyboxes over 1,000 feet above Midtown. 

Other observation decks include: 

Catch the 4th July Fireworks

Macys 4th of July Fireworks in New York
Photo credit: Julienne Schaer/NYC & Company

Every year New York celebrates Independence Day with the annual Macy’s 4th of July Fireworks®. In the last few years the barges have been positioned on the East River in Midtown and one of the best places to catch sight of them is from across the water in Williamsburg. However, the fireworks have been launched in numerous places over the decades so it’s best to wait for the Macy’s announcement to find out exactly where they are. 

If you want to avoid the crowds and have a guaranteed viewing spot, you could also book a July 4th Fireworks cruise. There are numerous NYC boat cruises you can book in advance, or you could charter your own boat through a company like GetMyBoat or Sailo

Bike along the Brooklyn Waterfront Greenway 

When the sun comes out it’s the perfect time to enjoy a bike ride. The Brooklyn Waterfront Greenway is a 26-mile cycle route that runs along the waterfront through Greenpoint, Williamsburg and Brooklyn. I’d recommend renting a Citibike at Kent & N7th in Williamsburg then biking to DUMBO where you can pick up a slice of pizza from the famous Italian restaurant, Grimaldi’s. This is a nice route and doesn’t take too long. 

Watch the Pride Parade

Crowds of people with rainbow flags at NYC Pride March
Photo credit: Walter Wlodarczyk/NYC & Company

NYC’s Pride Parade is one of the largest pride marches in the world. It takes place in June each year to commemorate the first gay rights march, which was held in NYC on June 28th 1970 to celebrate the first anniversary of the Stonewall Uprising. It attracts tens of thousands of participants and spectators who come to celebrate the LGBTQ+ community. Expect lots of rainbow flags, colorful outfits, parties and extravagant floats. 

See a concert at Brooklyn Mirage (Avant Gardner)

Brooklyn Mirage Williamsburg

Avant Gardner is Brooklyn’s most famous music venue and attracts famous DJs from around the world. We’re talking about the likes of Rufus du Sol, Maceo Plex, Black Coffee, Nora en Pure, David Guetta, Carl Cox, Meduza, Deadmau5, Lane 8 and many more. 

This massive 80,000 square foot event space features multiple spaces and stages, including The Brooklyn Mirage, The Great Hall, The King’s Hall and The Lost Circus. 

The Brooklyn Mirage is an open-air amphitheater-like space with an inner courtyard towering walls. You can even walk along the walls to capture epic photos of the crowd and look out over the city skyline. 

Visit wineries & orchards

Whitecliff Vineyard New York

Long Island has numerous wineries where you can sample wines and enjoy the vineyard views. Most of them are concentrated along the North Fork of Long Island, also known as Long Island wine country. 

Popular Long Island wineries include: 

You could also drive upstate to the Hudson Valley, which is home to lots of wineries and orchards serving cider. 

Book an Airbnb in Gardiner and pay a visit to Whitecliff Vineyard & Winery, which has one of the region’s biggest vineyards growing over 20 varieties of grapes. The tasting room is open daily from June through October and wine flights cost around $13-$15. 

After the winery, head on over to Kettleborough Cider House – a family run orchard that has begun planting nearly extinct varieties of apples in order to produce the best hard cider. The Dressel Family has been growing apples for over 90 years and they harvest 150,000 bushels of apples off of 450+ acres every fall. Visit their tasting room to try a cider tasting flight then sit back and enjoy the views. 

Go on the rides at Coney Island

Coney Island New York
Photo credit: Julienne Schaer/NYC & Company

Like rides? Coney Island is NYC’s famous amusement park, located in the southwestern part of Brooklyn. This entertainment area features a number of rides, shops, food stalls and arcade games. 

The most iconic (and scariest) ride is the Coney Island Cyclone, which features a steep plunge of 85 feet at an angle of almost 60 degrees. It’s the second steepest wooden roller coaster in the world! The Cyclone has been in operation since 1927 and has been featured in countless films – it’s even listed in the National Register of Historic Places. 

Watch Shakespeare in the Park

Every summer New Yorkers and visitors can enjoy free Shakespeare in the Park. Shows take place at the open-air Delacorte Theater in Central Park and feature large scale productions of famous Shakespearean plays.

Queens Night Market

This large open-air night market in Queens features up to 100 vendors selling foods, art and crafts. It’s a family-friendly affair and there are musicians and performers to keep visitors entertained.

The Feast of San Gennaro

This Italian-American festival celebrates the life of San Gennaro of Naples who was Bishop of Benevento, Italy. It was first celebrated in NYC by immigrants from Naples who gathered together in Little Italy to celebrate.

The festival grew in popularity and is now an annual street fair that takes place every September. For 11 days Mulberry Street is closed to traffic and decorated in red, green and white decorations. There’s a cannoli eating contest, live music and of course, you’ll find lots of Italian food stalls.

Jazz Age Lawn Party

Jazz Age Lawn Party will transport you back in time to the New York’s Prohibition era, the Roaring Twenties. What started out as a small gathering of friends on Governor’s Island, has now turned into one of the biggest gatherings of the summer – it’s not to be missed!

Don your best flapper gear and relive one of the most colorful eras in American history as you listen and dance to jazz music played by Michael Arenella & His Dreamland Orchestra. You’ll also be able to take part in dance lessons, enter contests, play croquet and enjoy cocktails and picnics on the lawn.

Midsummer Night Swing

Taking place in Lincoln Center’s Damrosch Park, Midsummer Night Swing is an annual open-air dance party where New Yorkers can dance to the world’s finest bands. Put on your dancing shoes and move to the rhythm of swing, salsa, R&B, disco, tango and more.

Watch the US Open

Like tennis? The US Open Grand Slam tournament is held annually in Flushing Meadows, Queens, New York. It usually starts on the last Monday of August and continues for two weeks. Buy a ticket and watch some of the world’s greatest tennis players fight it out to be crowned champion of the hardcourt.

SummerStage in Central Park

Summerstage Central Park
Photo credit: Will Steacy/NYC & Company

Taking place from June to October, SummerStage presents free and benefit performances in locations throughout NYC, including Rumsey Playfield in Central Park, Marcus Garvey Park in Harlem, Flushing Meadows-Corona Park in Queens, and The Coney Island Amphitheater. SummerStage welcomes a wide variety of music genres including hip-hop, Latin, indie rock, contemporary dance, jazz, and global music.

FAQs about New York in summer

What are the summer months in New York?

Summer in New York runs from around May to September, or specifically from Memorial Day (last Monday of May) to Labor Day (first Monday in September). It’s sometimes warm enough to be laying on the beach on Memorial Weekend and then after Labor Day weekend, the weather starts cooling off.  

Is New York nice in summer?

New York is lovely in summer! In summer it’s nice and warm, you don’t need a jacket and you can walk everywhere. As you can see from the above list, there are so many things to do in New York in summer. You can walk around the parks, drink cocktails on rooftops, visit beaches, wineries…it’s a great time to visit! 

Is New York too hot in summer? 

New York can get pretty hot and humid, with temperatures often in the mid to high 80s. However, I only experience a few days per summer where I find it too hot. 

Before I moved to New York I’d never experienced summer here and I’d only ever seen episodes of Sex and the City where Carrie and the girls would be complaining about the heat and the garbage smells. Thankfully I don’t find it much of an issue. 

On the hottest days it’s best to go to the beach or find a hotel pool where you can cool off. Manhattan can get fairly hot because it’s so built up, but if you get out on the water then you’ll experience more of a breeze. 

A final word…

I love a good New York summer. When the weather’s warm, there’s no place I’d rather be. But I’m biased, I live here!

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