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Things to do in New York City in the Summer

New York is a wonderful city in the summer. It may be boiling hot in the middle of the day, but during the rest of the day you can walk around the city and enjoy activities only available during this season

Isabel Catalán

Isabel Catalán

14 min read

Things to do in New York City in the Summer

Resting under the Brooklyn Bridge in summer | ©Hellotickets

Summer in the Big Apple is boiling hot but don't let the heat wave get you down. During this time of the year, the city livens up with many events and outdoor activities to cool off and have fun in the sun. Check out these 10 ideas of things to do in New York in summer!

1. Take a trip to Coney Island

The Coney Island Amusement Park | ©Hellotickets
The Coney Island Amusement Park | ©Hellotickets

If you're traveling to New York in the summer, whether as a couple, with friends or with kids, one of the best things to do in Brooklyn is to go to Coney Island, the neighborhood where New Yorkers flock to enjoy the beach in good weather and relax outdoors.

Visit the boardwalk

Walking along its boardwalk feeling the Atlantic breeze on your face and the scent of the ocean is one of the things I love most about Coney Island - it's an amazing feeling! The other is Luna Park, a mix between an amusement park and an old fair that retains that special vintage charm and many of its original attractions such as the Cyclone roller coaster or the Wonder Wheel.

Get your mind blown by the rides at Coney Island.

Nearby there is a show that attracts a lot of attention from visitors, it is a freak show that in the '20s and '30s became very popular by presenting the public with amazing demonstrations or exhibiting oddities of nature.

The spectacle of this freak show is different every season and, although some tricks are a bit old, you will have the sensation of reliving times gone by among giants, bearded women, dwarfs, and other typical characters.

Another fun attraction to see at Coney Island, especially with the family, is the New York Aquarium, New York's only aquarium located on the boardwalk. Its goal is to show the public the importance of preserving aquatic ecosystems.

Here you can see sharks, penguins, and sea otters, among many other species. When you enter the New York Aquarium check the feeding schedule and don't miss it if it coincides with your visit - the kids will love it!

Isabel's Traveller Tip

Combine a stroll on the boardwalk, a visit to the New York Aquarium, and the Luna Park Fair at Coney Island with one of Nathan's Famous hot dogs. You'll want to come back!

2. Go headlong into New York's swimming pools!

The Astoria Pool | ©NY Times
The Astoria Pool | ©NY Times

The best way to combat the high summer temperatures in New York is to cool off by taking a dip in cold water in one of the public pools scattered throughout the city. Cool idea, right?

From late June through September, New York's public pools open their doors for New Yorkers and tourists alike to spend a great summer day soaking up the sun, relaxing, and splashing in the water without paying a dime.

Mark your calendar for these three public pools because you won't want to miss this summer experience:

  • Pop-Up Pool: Located in Brooklyn Bridge Park, this pool has heart-stopping views of Manhattan. It also has a man-made beach for tanning. On the way out you can take a stroll through Brooklyn Bridge Park, one of the most beautiful gardens in the city. It is at 150 Furman St.

  • Astoria Pool: Located in Queens, it is the largest pool in New York. It has beautiful views of Triborough Bridge, Hell Gate Bridge, and Manhattan. It also has sports facilities for playing tennis and a restaurant area. It is located at 19th Street & 23rd Drive.

  • Lasker Pool: Located in the middle of Central Park, this pool is a great place to take a quick dip if it gets too hot during your stroll through the park. If you don't know how to swim, there are free lessons for both children and adults. As a curiosity, in winter it turns into an ice rink. You'll find it in the Mid-Park between 106th and 108th streets.

Other ways to cool off in New York City

If you're left with more of a hankering for a dip after leaving the pool, you can also visit some of the beaches in Queens, Staten Island, Brooklyn, or The Bronx. You can even ride a jet ski along the New York waterfront and cruise the Hudson River out of New Jersey.

3. Kayak the Hudson River

Navigating the Hudson by kayak
Navigating the Hudson by kayak

In the summer the heat in New York can be sweltering but fortunately, there are plenty of activities to cool off outdoors, one of my favorites is kayaking the Hudson River!

If you want to do something different during your summer trip to New York, from late May to October you can kayak and enjoy the Manhattan skyline aboard one of these boats without spending a penny. You read right! The company offering this free activity is Manhattan Community Boathouse.

How do you get your spot on a kayak?

Participating in this activity is very simple. There is no reservation required, just come to Pier 96 on the Hudson River near the Intrepid Air and Space Museum where the company operates and sign a waiver stating that you know how to swim. After storing your belongings in a locker, all you have to do is wait for a kayak and paddle to be assigned to you before you can dive into the water and start paddling.

Don't worry if it's your first time doing this activity because at each dock there are monitors who will teach you how to get in and paddle. In addition, you will be given a life jacket for your safety.

The kayak tours on the Hudson River last 20 minutes but you will enjoy them very much because you will end up soaked and very cool. The area where you can kayak is delimited by buoys and you are not allowed to leave the area.

Isabel's Traveller Tip

Wear summer clothes, even a swimsuit if you have one. Swimming is not allowed but during the kayak ride you will end up soaking wet. If you want to bring a change of clothes, there are usually changing rooms in the area.

4. Visit Governors Island in the summertime

Governors Island | ©Lonely Planet
Governors Island | ©Lonely Planet

Manhattan is an island full of awesome things to see and great tourist attractions for travelers. It's hard to get away from the epicenter of New York to explore its small satellite islands, which are a hive of activity during the summer and an oasis of tranquility away from the asphalt jungle.

What to do on this island?

One of the best known is Governors Island, which opens only in summer with a great gastronomic offer and an interesting catalog of festivals. It also has a new attraction called The Hills, an elevated park that offers a new perspective of the Statue of Liberty, the Manhattan skyline, Brooklyn, and Jersey City.

Another attraction to visit Governors Islands is to have the opportunity to spend a quiet day in nature taking advantage of the good weather to hike or bike trails. These can be rented at the Blazing Saddles stand in the Colonels Row area. However, thanks to Bike and Roll on Fridays in the summer you can ride a bike for free for an hour to visit the island.

Free kayaking is also available here from June through mid-September. The Downtown Boathouse organizes kayaking sessions for both adults and kids, a plan that is sure to thrill them. Head to Pier 101, strap on your life jacket, and get paddling!

Speaking of kids, if you go to Governors Island with your family, you have to take them to see Slide Hill, the largest slide in New York on a large hill with a length of 55 feet. They will be amazed!

Culturally, there is also plenty to do on Governors Island. You can find workshops as well as festivals and concerts. For example, the famous Jazz Age Lawn Party inspired by the 1920s during Prohibition where you can sip cocktails and dance the Charleston in a very original evening.

5. Explore other New York Islands in the summertime

The Roosevelt Island Cable Car | ©Unsplash
The Roosevelt Island Cable Car | ©Unsplash

Many are easily reached by subway, ferry, or cable car and are a true oasis in a city of skyscrapers.

  • City Island: Less known than Governors Island, this is a place with a taste of the sea with dozens of restaurants specializing in seafood, ideal for a good meal and a pleasant stroll.

  • Randall's Island: Located in the East River, during the summer months major outdoor music and film festivals are held here. In addition, there are waterfront trails for biking and walking as well as several sports centers for golf, tennis and more.

  • Roosevelt Island: A very quiet island to go for a walk to disconnect from the hustle and bustle of Manhattan. Here there are several parks and viewpoints along the water perfect for taking some nice pictures of the trip and to let the kids play outdoors for a while. It can be reached by cable car. In my article How to ride the Roosevelt Island cable car I tell you more about this excursion.

  • Liberty Island and Ellis Island: Make the most of the summer to take a ferry tour to both islands and learn about the history behind the Statue of Liberty, along with the Liberty Island Museum and a guided tour of the Liberty Island grounds.

6. Enjoy the best summer movies in New York!

Summer movie theater in Bryant Park | ©Wikimedia
Summer movie theater in Bryant Park | ©Wikimedia

As soon as the warm weather arrives, you want to spend more time outside doing outdoor activities. When the summer temperatures get hotter, the city's parks and gardens become a haven for New Yorkers to beat the intense heat.

What better plan than to relax under the shade of the lush trees and enjoy a summer movie night? It's one of the experiences I had the most fun with during my stay in New York.

If you love movies, you're in for a great time because there are several film festivals in the Big Apple every week during the summer and you'll have plenty to choose from. Here are some of the highlights:

  • Bryant Park Film Festival: This is held on Monday nights and features classic films. You can take some snacks with you for a picnic although if you arrive early around 5 PM you can get a free popcorn cone. The curtain opens at 8 PM.

  • Central Park Film Festival: Takes place one week in August and is held near Sheep Meadow on the esplanade between the meadow and 72nd Street. Gates open at 6:30 PM and there is a DJ playing tunes until the film starts at 8 PM.

  • Movies with a View: Held in Brooklyn Bridge Park on Thursdays in the park under the Brooklyn Bridge. Classic and modern movies are shown on a giant screen with the Brooklyn Bridge in the background. In addition, there are food and drink stands.

  • Roosevelt Island Outdoor Summer Movie Series: South of the cable car is a movie screen in Southpoint Park where you can watch the movies after watching the sunset. Accessible starting at 7 PM.

  • Hudson Riverflicks: At Pier 63 in Chelsea, at 23rd Street along the Hudson River, every Wednesday during the summer, this festival is organized where recent blockbusters are screened. The screening starts around 8:30 PM and free popcorn is handed out to attendees.

7. Experience the passion for baseball in New York City

Yankee Stadium | ©Hellotickets
Yankee Stadium | ©Hellotickets

One of the most exciting experiences you can have in New York in the summer is going to an MLB game. Either because you love baseball or because you want to enjoy the atmosphere that this sport awakens in the city. Also, MLB is a very family-friendly show, so it's common to see parents bringing their kids to the games.

If you want to include a baseball game during your summer vacation, the regular season runs from April to early October and during those months you can watch the New York Yankees or the New York Mets play in their respective stadiums.

How to buy MLB tickets in New York?

MLB has a lot of games, in fact, teams play every few days and even every day for a few weeks. So baseball tickets are usually easy to get, especially when compared to NBA tickets.

To buy baseball tickets you have two options: at the stadium box office or through the internet. In my experience, I recommend you get your tickets online before traveling.

The demand to go to a baseball game in New York is high so it is normal for tickets to sell out quickly. The key is to buy them the sooner the better to get the best seat at the cheapest price. In my opinion, this is the easiest, safest and fastest option.

If you want to know more about this sport, in my article How to catch a baseball game in New York I tell you everything you need to know to get your baseball tickets at the best price, which place to choose in the stadium, how the league works and much more. Don't miss it!

8. Visit the best museums in New York City

The MET | ©Hellotickets
The MET | ©Hellotickets

During the summer, the heat in New York can be oppressive at times. To escape the heat wave, a good idea is to take refuge in places where there is air conditioning.

For example, in the museums of the Big Apple where there is also a lot of culture to soak up. There are many different museums: history, art, photography, espionage, wax figures...

New York is a city that has become one of the great cultural centers of the planet thanks to its museums, many of which have great international relevance. Here are some of the most outstanding:

  • Natural History Museum: An enjoyable and exciting tour to discover the origins of the universe, the Earth, and the human being. Its collection is considered the largest on the planet with more than 35 million pieces of all kinds and is a must-see in New York.

  • MoMA: It is the most important museum of modern and contemporary art in the world. Its popularity lies not only in the value of its collections but also in offering a complete experience suitable for all ages.

  • MET: Its collection brings together works of art with more than 5,000 years of history from all over the world. The MET is like a temple for Indiana Jones fans!

  • Guggenheim Museum: Well worth a visit not only for its magnificent collection of modern art but also for its spectacular architecture designed by Frank Lloyd Wright. An icon of the 20th century.

  • Brooklyn Museum: one of the largest museums in the country that houses an interesting collection of antiques and American art of great value.

  • Fotografiska New York: It is not a museum but a mixture of photography, art, music, and nightlife. A living art space in a constant change where each collection is unique. Fotografiska New York also organizes events with live music and special exhibitions.

  • Madame Tussauds: If you feel like having some fun, go to Madame Tussauds to see their hyper-realistic wax figures, they are amazing! Without a doubt, one of the best museums in New York to visit with the family because the kids will have a blast.

If you want to know more about the museums of New York, do not miss the article The 10 best museums in New York where I explain why they are the best and I tell you in detail everything you can see in them.

9. Be amazed by the immensity of the Niagara Falls

Niagara Falls | ©Tim Gouw
Niagara Falls | ©Tim Gouw

While planning the agenda for your trip to New York at first you may not have thought of adding an excursion outside the city to see other parts of the United States, as there is so much to see and do in the Big Apple.

However, dedicating one day of your vacation to a trip to Niagara Falls is a great idea in my opinion, because you will have the opportunity to see this natural wonder and feel the mist of the falls on your face, which is a very refreshing experience in the intense summer heat.

In addition, during this season temperatures rarely exceed 86ºF and do not usually drop below 68ºF so the weather is ideal to go hiking and enjoy all the attractions.

How is the Niagara Falls day trip?

The great thing about this organized Niagara Falls tour is that it gets you to and from downtown New York in the same day, so you won't have to worry about how to get there, something that can be an odyssey considering summer is the peak season to see these falls.

Once at the falls, you'll be sure not to miss a single detail with a professional bilingual guide. Seeing the beautiful rainbow and hearing the roar of the water is an unforgettable experience - I was speechless! Plus, since this tour explores the New York side of the falls, no visa is required.

Get up close to the Niagara Wine Festival

On the other hand, at the end of June is Niagara's New Vintage Festival, where winemakers present the season's new wines and showcase the area's wineries as well as tastings of their wines. If you like the world of wine, make a note of this event on your agenda.

10. Feel the magic of Broadway!

The musical Aladdin | ©Broadway
The musical Aladdin | ©Broadway

From my experience, I know that summer is also a good time to attend a Broadway musical, the famous theater-lined boulevard that runs through downtown Manhattan including Times Square.

Escape the scorching sun and immerse yourself for a few hours in the magic of Broadway. Make yourself comfortable in the seats and get ready for a unique experience you won't find anywhere else. Its musical numbers are legendary and its majestic staging and the talent of its actors transport you to a dream world where anything is possible.

With hundreds of annual performances, Broadway is the mecca of New York theater. Here you can see plays of great prestige and popularity such as The Lion King, Moulin Rouge, Wicked , The Phantom of the Opera, Chicago, Aladdin or Frozen, among many others.

Dare to let your imagination fly into a world of fantasy and daydream about Broadway musicals!

How to get your Broadway tickets?

Broadway musicals are one of the most demanded shows by the public in New York, so tickets are sold out very quickly.

If you want to know how to buy tickets for a Broadway musical, I recommend you to read the article The 10 best Broadway musicals in New York where I tell you how to get your tickets and which are the best musicals that are playing this season.

What other cultural events are there in New York in the summer?

If you're left wanting more cultural plans in the Big Apple during your stay, take a look at these proposals!:

  • Shakespeare in the Park: Every summer night in Central Park, Shakespeare plays are performed for free at the Delacorte Theater. It's a New York tradition. More information at Shakespeare in the Park's website.

  • Lincoln Center Out of Doors: Dance, music, and theatrical performances are held in Damrosch Park at Lincoln Center. No ticket is required, just arrive early to get a seat. In addition, food stands are set up for snacks. More information at Lincoln Center Out of Doors' website.

  • SummerStage: This famous festival organizes a multitude of concerts throughout the summer in Central Park, most of which are free. There are bleachers for seating, food stands, and a great atmosphere. More information is available at SummerStage's website.