New York has a reputation for blistering summers. As the heat and humidity rise, so do the tempers of New Yorkers. It must have something to do with all of those people stuffed into that tiny area, with nothing but concrete all around.
Well, I’m here to dispel the myths about New York summers. The fact is, summer is the best time to visit New York! First off, that heat thing. Sure it gets hot, and it gets humid. But remember, New York City is essentially a group of islands (the Bronx is connected to the mainland, but it’s still a peninsula), surrounded by rivers, oceans and bays. No matter how hot it gets, there’s always a breeze. And you’re never far from water – that’s not to say that you can get into it, but the breezes are nice.
Next, that concrete jungle. Yes, midtown Manhattan is all cement and asphalt. But venture a few blocks north and you’re in Central Park. Down below Wall Street is Battery Park, with great views of Liberty. If it’s still too hot for you, take a ride on the Staten Island Ferry. Stand in the prow for the best views of the statue; once you arrive on Staten Island, you can try out the beaches on the south side. Best of all, the ferry’s free!
Free. That’s a word not often associated with New York. But in summer, there are plenty of options that don’t cost a cent. Top performers in every genre of music perform in New York’s parks. Central Park’s Summerstage has free concerts in June, July and August – this year’s schedule includes Celia Cruz, Steve Earle, Erykah Badu, moe and more. There are also opera and dance performances. At Prospect Park’s Celebrate Brooklyn series you can catch Dr. John, the Machito Orchestra, Mark Morris Dance and the Alloy Orchestra accompanying silent movies. The Brooklyn Academy of Music sponsors R&B concerts in downtown Brooklyn on weekday afternoons – this year, check out Maceo Parker or Wilson Pickett.
Apparently, the World Financial Center will be open in time for the Hudson River Festival where performers will include Randy Newman and Joan Osborne. This year there’s music in Battery Park City as well as the concerts at Castle Clinton. And Lincoln Center Out-of-Doors will once again bring the “Roots of American Music” to New York as well as a diverse lineup of world music, classical and dance in August.
Both the New York Philharmonic and the Metropolitan Opera do mini-tours of the city’s parks, performing at least once in each borough. And if the play’s your thing, don’t miss the New York Shakespeare Festival, with free performances at the Delacorte open-air theater in Central Park. These performances require tickets, which can be picked up the day of the performance at the Delacorte or the Public Theater downtown.
Of course, you could touch down in New York in the middle of a heat wave. A week of 95-degree days is enough to send the most intrepid traveler running for air conditioning. That’s the perfect time to visit the museums. You can spend the whole day in the Metropolitan Museum of Art and never feel the heat.
What if you do find yourself in the midst of the brick oven of midtown? If you really can’t live without bumping into tourists in Times Square, there are a few spots you should “X” on your map.
The city has allowed developers variances to zoning laws on the condition that they provide “public space” in their buildings. What this means is that most new high-rises have to provide an atrium or other public courtyard that is open to you, dear tourist. There’s a lovely waterfall plaza on 49th Street near Sixth Avenue, and an atrium on 53rd Street between Madison and 5th Avenues. Even Trump was forced to succumb, and provided a nice rest stop at his Palace on East 69th Street. Virtual NY provides a good list.
Summer is a great time for exploring the outer boroughs. It’s cooler out there, thanks to those bay breezes and abundant trees. A great summer excursion is a walk across the Brooklyn Bridge. The views are phenomenal, and there’s always a good wind up there. Once in Brooklyn, head to the Heights Promenade. Relax among the sunbathers and strollers for a view of Manhattan. Wander up Montague Street, where you’ll find plenty of spots for food and drink breaks. You’ll end up in front of Brooklyn’s historic borough Hall, where a wealth of subway choices awaits you.
Head back to Manhattan or further into Brooklyn. The Brooklyn Museum of Art is smaller than the Met but also less crowded; ditto for Prospect Park (but the lake is bigger than Central’s). The truly adventurous can visit the Red Hook waterfront, where a couple of low-key parks have recently sprung up, and with any luck you can get a free trolley ride at the Beard Street Pier.
The Bronx is much more than its image of urban blight. In fact, the entire borough has been fixed up and you’d be hard pressed to find a slum. Orchard Beach is a huge park, and on any sunny day it will be filled with picnicking families and Salsa music. Cross a small bridge to City Island, an anomalous New England-style fishing village within the city limits.
From midtown, take the tram east to Roosevelt Island, another Manhattan view spot. Keep going east and you’ll find yourself in Queens, where the old World’s Fairgrounds have been turned into the Flushing Meadows-Corona Park. Queens is also home to the Jamaica Bay Wildlife Refuge, with a great bike trail winding through wetlands that will make you forget you’re in New York. And on a hot, humid day, that might be just the ticket.
Getting there by subway
Summerstage at Rumsey Playfield in Central Park: 6 to 68th Street or 77th Street.
Prospect Park: F to 7th Avenue; 2,3 to Grand Army Plaza.
BAM Rhythm and Blues at Metrotech: 2,3,4,5 to Borough Hall; A, C, F to Jay
Delacorte Theater in Central Park: B,D to 81st Street.
Brooklyn Heights Promenade: 2,3 to Clark Street; 4,5 to Borough Hall, A, C, F to
Brooklyn Museum of Art: 2,3 to Eastern Parkway.
Prospect Park: F to 7th Avenue; 2,3 to Grand Army Plaza.
Red Hook: F, G to Smith/9th Street.
Orchard Beach: 6 to Pelham Bay Park, then BX12 bus to Orchard Beach.
City Island: 6 to Pelham Bay Park, then BX 29 bus to City Island.
Roosevelt Island: Tram from 2nd Avenue and 60th Street.
Flushing Meadows-Corona Park: 7 to 111th Street; E, F to Kew Gardens/Union Turnpike.
Jamaica Bay: A,S to Broad Channel; L to Canarsie/ Rockaway Parkway.
If you want more information about this area you can email the author or check out our North America Insiders page.