Here at ENLIGHTENED we have to admit we’re a pretty lucky bunch. Not only do we get to work with ice cream everyday, but we also happen to live in one of the greatest cities in the world…New York City. Since summer is our favorite season (because National Ice Cream Month is in July, duh) we’re sharing our favorite things to do in NYC from the perspective of locals!
1. Rooftop bars
This is a must. Sure, New York isn’t the only city with rooftop bars, but the view here is nearly impossible to top. Seeing the nation’s tallest skyscrapers alongside buildings budding with New York history are enough to make even the locals stop and appreciate the beauty. Go during golden hour for the best photo ops!
This beloved open-air food market is only open from April-November, so taking advantage during the summer is absolutely crucial. Visitors hoping to experience New York’s renowned food scene have nearly all the city’s best foodie destinations available in one spot. On top of that, patrons can choose between two destinations…Williamsburg (on Saturdays) and Prospect Park (on Sundays). Smorgasburg is a win-win for those in search of good eats who also want to explore the city. Local tip: Head to Williamsburg for a great view of the Manhattan skyline, and Prospect Park for Brooklyn’s version of Central Park.
3. Shakespeare in the Park
Shakespeare in the Park (running May-August) is a local favorite that tourists often overlook, but trust us, this is well worth the visit. Recognizable actors perform two Shakespeare plays each summer in a way that’s far more entertaining than what you remember from high school. The plays are put on in a charming outdoor stage on the edge of Central Park West and BYOB and snacks have the greenlight as long as everything fits under a seat and doesn’t contain glass. So grab a friend and hit up the standby line for the best free date NYC has to offer.
Jay-Z and Alicia Keys weren’t wrong when they said New York is a “concrete jungle” (“Empire State of Mind” is still a banger btw) but trust us, the city’s parks are not to be missed.
For the first-timer: Central Park is NY’s most notable park with 840 acres of beautiful greenery located smack dab in the middle of the city. Rent a boat (only available April-November), pack a picnic, or simply let yourself get lost among the many trails. Other notable stops within the park include Bathsheba Terrace, Sheep’s Meadow, and the John Lennon Memorial, appropriately named Strawberry Fields.
For the Instagrammer: Brooklyn Bridge Park has arguably the best photo ops in all of New York. With sweeping skyline views, a vintage carousel (dubbed Jane’s Carousel), and plenty of sports fields located throughout, this is the best park for active visitors.
For a peaceful day in the park: Beat the heat in New York’s oldest and largest outdoor pool located in Astoria Park, Queens. You’ll encounter less crowds than Central Park and you’ll be able to enjoy the famous skyline view. Added bonus: the park is right next door to Astoria’s bustling food scene.
One of the biggest draws to the city is the sheer number of museums. From art (The Met, Moma, Guggenheim, The Frick, etc), to history (Natural History, Tenement Museum, The Cloisters), and beyond (Brooklyn Museum, New Museum, etc). Spend a particularly hot summer day soaking up the A/C (we mean culture) in one…or two…or three…of New York’s best museums.
6. The High Line
Once operating as an above-ground railway (from 1934-1980), the High Line was saved from demolition to become the public park it’s known as today, cherished by New Yorkers and travelers alike. Covering just under a mile and a half of area in Chelsea, the High Line is extremely walkable with several entry/exit points to curate each experience per individual. After snapping some photos head over to Chelsea Market, a food and shopping hall, to cool off and re-fuel. While there, don’t miss Artists & Fleas, a now-permanent pop-up market featuring designs and other creations by local artists.
7. Free Outdoor Movies
What do you replace the drive-in with when you don’t have a car in the city? Outside movies in the park, of course! You can find movies available in Bryant Park, Coney Island, and a number of smaller neighborhood parks located throughout all the boroughs. Blend in with the locals and enjoy a true NYC summer gem. For the perfect snack, bring a pint of Movie Night along with you!
Ok so technically this one isn’t in NYC, but hear us out. New York’s impressive transportation system is a huge contribution to the city’s reputation as a fast-paced, metropolitan destination. To truly do as the locals do, hop on one of the many train/bus routes available from Grand Central or Penn Station and take a day trip! We recommend Beacon for a blend of art (Dia:Beacon), outdoor activities (kayaking on the Hudson), and food (anywhere along Main Street). It’s less than an hour and a half away and offers views of the water nearly the whole way up!
9. Concert Szn
City living can be a struggle at times, but the sheer number of musical talent that passes through NY is something to be admired. And summer is the perfect season to take advantage! Take your pick from a number of outdoor musical festivals like Governor’s Ball or Panorama, or opt for a more low-key venture, like a visit to Queen’s historical Forest Hills Stadium. Fun fact: The Beatles performed there in the 60’s!
10. Street Fairs
The beauty of New York is that there’s always something to do! It’s not unusual to stumble upon a completely unexpected activity, like a street fair or parade, on your way to a totally separate destination. While these little surprises are always fun, here are some of our favorite events you can plan on attending!
Brooklyn Flea: This outdoor market operates from April to October in picturesque DUMBO, with vendors selling a variety of upcycled clothing, furniture, and quirky oddities that can’t be found anywhere but New York.
Pride: Pride Month takes place in June and the parade is an all-day celebration of color and joy not to be missed!
Various Street Fairs: From 2nd Ave to Seaport, and Madison Square Eats to Times Square, you can find any number of pop-up food/vendor festivals happening all around the city! Just keep your eyes peeled and your bellies hungry.
There you have it. You’re basically a local yourself now! Enjoy the abundance of free activities, all of the rooftop views, and the glorious, buzzing energy that only summer can bring to New York City. We hope you love it as much as we do!
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