“In New York…Concrete jungle where dreams are made of…there’s nothin’ you can’t do!”
Ah, New York. I love it so. I’ve lived here for over seven years now, and I am SO EXCITED to share with you my personal summer guide to life in Gotham.
And let me just tell you — spring and summer is THE BEST time in New York City.
One of the most reoccurring questions I get asked, is suggestions or itineraries for trips or long weekends in NYC.
Clearly, there’s a lot to see and do in this giant metropolis, so it’s always helpful to have an insider’s opinion.
First things first. I’m going to be letting you in on local’s New York. So, with this privileged information – you’ve got to act like a local. So that means two things:
Number One: Absolutely no photos on your iPad. Whatsoever. Phones — yes. Ipads — no way, buddy.
Number Two: leave your flip flops at home. I know — as a native Ohioan, flip flops were my go-to. But nothing screams “tourist” more than flip flops, or really, any sandal for that matter. Because true New Yorkers know, there’s nothing more disgusting than the streets of New York. So do yourself a favor, and wear a pair of comfortable flats.
Alright!! ONTO THE FUN!
An afternoon of golf and drinks at Chelsea Piers!
Chelsea Piers is home to so many fun and sporty activities — from bowling to rock climbing. But the most fun is the driving range! It overlooks the Hudson River, and you’re literally hitting golf balls into a yacht marina.
So hit some balls, and then hit up The Frying Pan next door for a cocktail. It’s within walking distance and it’s a super fun spot for a bevvy — you’re on a big boat – and you’ve got the water on one side and the Empire State Building on the other. It doesn’t get more iconic than that.
Get gussied up and splurge on dinner
So typically, I wouldn’t advocate for an over-the-top dinner, but sometimes, a splurge is okay! Heck, you’re on vacation! And you’re in the dining capital of the world. So why not just treat yourself!!
Le CouCou is a newer restaurant in the East Village that is phenomenal. It’s Restoration Hardware meets French trendy hot spot. I went there on a date, and to say it was a dining experience would be an understatement. Get ready to feel like royalty. Don’t miss the oysters, or any of the fresh fish.
Or the Gramercy Tavern is another incredible restaurant. Don’t let the “Tavern” name fool you — it is a special treat. You can either dine in their beautiful bar cafe, or be seated in their white table cloth dining roof for the full five-course shebang.
OOH! Or The Wren is another great one in the East Village. I rang in the New Year here one year. Simply divine.
Live Music – The Hidden Gems of True New York
Sure, Broadway is amazing, but you can find some of the most talented individuals playing at underground live music spots in the city. Hit up these spots, and take note — one day you’ll be saying…”I heard them before they were famous!“
Rockwood Music Hall is hands down, my all time favorite place in NYC. In fact, if you go, there’s an 80% chance you’ll bump into me.
The other great place to catch incredible music is The Bar Next Door — which is next door to La Lanterna — which is such a cute restaurant. Get a flatbread pizza and eat in their covered garden in the back. And then head next door to catch some phenomenal live music.
Visit the Museum of Jewish Heritage
Down on the most southern tip of Manhattan, lies this important museum. This summer, they have a powerful exhibit on Auschwitz. I would highly suggest adding this to your itinerary.
Rent a City Bike and bike the Hudson River
Biking can be straight up scary in New York, but along the Hudson River, there’s a beautiful park with a dedicated bike path that literally goes along the entire West Side of Manhattan. You’ll see some incredible views, including the Statue of Liberty, and the One World Trade building. (Itinerary tip: rent a bike in the West Village, and bike down to the Museum of Jewish Heritage, or the 9/11 Memorial).
Brunch like a boss
Brunch is a way of life in Manhattan. Truly. It is a culture. And if you’re going to be in New York on a Saturday or Sunday, you just need to experience it. My personal itinerary recommendation: hit up Mass at St. Patrick’s Cathedral – (a MUST experience, especially now that it’s been renovated!), and then make your way to one of these hot spots.
Balthazar in Soho is the gold standard when it comes to brunch. Enjoy their homemade breads and then hit the shops. It’s quite the experience.
Or Valerie is another great option — you’ll feel like you’e in The Great Gatsby.
Rooftops are where it’s at
You simply cannot come to New York during the summer, and not have a beverage on a rooftop. Honestly. The sweeping views of the skyline are simply breathtaking. So do yourself a favor and take it all in. Preferably at sunset.
Mr. Purple is a fun spot on the Lower East Side — although definitely more on the “club” side of things. So only go if you’re willing to bump into some twenty something hedge fund babies, vying for the perfect “Skyline Selfie.”
Cool off with a cone, and take a walk
One of my favorite things to do in the summer is to grab my camera and just get lost. Explore the city on foot. And what better way to do it than with an ice cream cone in hand.
Van Leeuwen is an amazing homemade scoop shop. They even have a couple vegan flavors too! But they have a few shops throughout the city, so grab a scoop — with their organic homemade sprinkles — and the explore the neighborhood.
Or if you’re more of a dairy-free ice cream fan, try Pressed Juicery! They have healthy soft serve that’s a real treat!
Watch a movie under the stars
During the summer, New York offers outdoor movies! It’s free – they play the classics. Bring a blanket, some bug spray, and your favorite movie snacks! You can check out the schedule here.
Bust out the boat shoes
I have a secret favorite spot if you’re looking for an interesting and beautiful spot for a cocktail or meal: Grand Banks. It’s an adorable yellow and white striped boat on a pier in Tribeca, that is in the shadow of One World Trade. The view of the Statue of Liberty is absolutely breath taking. Plus, it’s a really romantic place to talk a walk with a loved one afterwards. Not to be missed.
Visit the 9/11 Memorial
I cannot recommend this one enough. The 9/11 memorial is incredibly powerful, and so well done. It’s always good to remember what this country has been through, and pay our respects to the lives lost, that terrible day.
Nothing beats a sidewalk cafe. The people watching. The open air. It’s the perfect excuse to linger a little longer over dessert.
Rosemary’s in the West Village is the perfect spot for just that, overlooking the historic Greenwich Village library.
Or, Barbuto, also in the West Village, is that perfect mix of urban cool. Part garage, part cafe — word on the street is that this is where the celebs like to grub.
Walk the High Line, Explore the Whitney, and Wash it Down at the Standard Biergarten
I just planned your perfect Saturday afternoon. The High Line is this beautiful elevated park that runs along the west side of Manhattan. It used to be a railroad that they’ve since converted to an urban garden/walking path, that conveniently ends at the brand new Whitney art museum. Take in some art, and then go next door to the Standard Biergarten for a drink and a ginormous, homemade hot pretzel. Clearly, it’s a German spot, so trust me, they know how to make a mean pretzel. And spoiler alert — it’s larger than your entire head.
Shop 5th Ave and Catch a Delicious Breakfast
Fifth Avenue is a one-in-a-million shopping experience. But all that walking and trying on the latest fashions can leave one ravenous.
Thankfully, the City Bakery is right there on 18th street. They have a delicious gourmet-casual lunch buffet filled with southern favorites (think fried chicken, okra, and green beans with bacon). But let’s be real: you go there for their famous (and award winning) chocolate chip cookie. A close second: their hot chocolate with homemade marshmallow.
Catch an improv show at the People’s Improv Theater
Lastly, this is my favorite thing to do. Period. For less than ten bucks, you can catch a hilarious improv show every night of the week. Disclaimer — some of the humor can be…a little off color…but if you enjoy Saturday Night Live, then you’ll love this experience. Plus — this is where SNL scouts a lot of their new talent. And sometimes, if you’re lucky, a celeb will swing by and do a show for fun. Last time I was there, Ellie Kemper (Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt, The Office) popped in to perform.
So there you go!
My official guide to summer in NYC!
Some last minute practical tips: don’t be afraid of the subway! Sure Uber is convenient, but you’ll be spending a fortune. Plus – traffic can be a real nightmare. So save time and money and take the subway. Google maps will tell you exactly which trains to take to get you where you need to go.
Plan for some “decompression” time every day. In NYC, it’s really easy to just go, go, go. Build in at least a 20 minute cat nap before dinner each day. I promise, it’ll make the culture shock much more manageable.
Hydrate. Sure, finding public bathrooms can be…annoying. But it’s hot, and you will be sweating, so stay hydrated.
And on that note, whenever you do come across a bathroom — use it. Even if you don’t need to. Because they’re hard to come across. Trust me.
On that note, I hope this helps inspire you to plan a trip to this amazing city! Let me know in the comments if YOU have any favorite spots in the city I may have missed!
“This is what the Lord says to these bones: I will make breath enter you, and you will come to life.” Ez 37:5
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