Summer in the Big Apple: Top 5 Things to Do in New York City

Although New York is a city for all seasons, summer provides perhaps the best opportunities for exploring some of its popular outdoor attractions and activities. From sprawling parks and gardens to pristine beaches and lush islands rich in history and culture, the Big Apple offers you a chance to build your own New York City vacation and experience summer on a truly grand scale. To make your experience unforgettable, consider adding the following attractions to your New York itinerary.

1. Coney Island

Coney Island by acidpolly (CC)

Located on a Brooklyn peninsula packed with museums, arcades, and sideshow-type establishments, Coney Island started as a working-class resort at the turn of the 20th century. The area drew big summer crowds as early as the mid-1800s, when factory workers began using this area to escape their hot and sweaty city tenements. Today you can still scream your head off on the famous “Cyclone” roller coaster, originally opened in 1927. Native New Yorkers flock here on warm days to grab a few hot dogs and wander along the boardwalk, while foreign tourists visit to soak up some of that air of nostalgia preserved by the old rides and beachfront shops and cafes.

2. Rockaway Beach

Rockaway Beach by Garrett Ziegler (CC)

New Yorkers once called Rockaway Beach the “Irish Riviera” because of a large immigrant population living in this part of Queens. One of the longest urban beaches in the United States, Rockaway now counts among the city’s favorite seaside destinations. Ideal for mini vacations and long weekends away from the city noise and traffic, the beach offers sun and sand without the fuss or the prices of the more famous Hamptons. Include the beach in your New York trip planner to experience the local surf culture and catch some of the best waves on the Atlantic shores. For a taste of some popular beach foods, explore the lively boardwalk eateries.

3. Governors Island

Lower Manhattan & Governors Island 2 Images Panorama II
by Nestor Rivera Jr (CC)

Made for summer picnics, Governors Island offers unbeatable views of the Statue of Liberty and New York Harbor. Listed on the National Register of Historic Places, the island remains a major green space near the heart of the city. Situated just 700 m (2,300 ft) from the southern tip of Manhattan, the island includes about 70 hectares (170 acres) of landscaped parklands and public spaces providing a verdant playground for residents and visitors seeking a quiet respite from the urban hustle and bustle. The island includes a star-shaped fortification from the American Revolution and a circular castle from the turn of the 19th century, both designated as national monuments.

4. High Line

High Line park NYC – Manhattan – New York City
by David Berkowitz (CC)

A breath of fresh air in the middle of one of the world’s biggest cities, High Line is a linear park built on a short section of an abandoned railway that once ran along Manhattan’s lower west side. Redesigned and planted as an aerial greenway in 2009, the elevated park features a series of lush gardens that provide panoramic views of the city and the Hudson River. Buy an ice cream treat and enjoy a leisurely summer stroll from the Meatpacking District all the way to Chelsea. As you walk through this world of wildflowers and tall grasses, look for mirror sculptures designed to reflect the surrounding greenery.

5. New York Botanical Garden

DSC_9479 by Mary Petersen (CC)

A perfect escape from skyscrapers and traffic-congested streets, New York Botanical Garden features 50 different gardens and thousands of plant species spread over more than 100 hectares (250 acres). Established in 1891, the vast garden offers city dwellers a window into a plant kingdom filled with many varieties of roses, azaleas, herbs, daffodils, lilies, peonies, lilacs, orchids, and magnolias. If you’re looking for some educational and outdoorsy things to do in New York, explore this Bronx attraction’s 20 hectares (50 acres) of old-growth forest–the largest remaining tract of the original woods which covered the area before the arrival of European settlers.

A Warm-Weather Paradise

Although there’s no wrong time to plan a trip to New York City, summer provides perhaps the best opportunities for exploring some of its popular outdoor attractions and activities. From sprawling parks and gardens to pristine beaches and lush islands soaked in history and culture, the city offers you a chance to build your own dream vacation and experience summer on a truly grand scale.


Educated in Chicago and based in Serbia, Tamara travels with passion and believes that one written word can be worth at least a thousand pictures. When she's not conquering the world one blog post at a time, she likes to eat pizza and take long naps--preferably at the same time.