There is not time to visit New York that’s better than the summertime. After all the years I’ve been living in NY, I am the perfect summer tour guide. Come with me, and you’re set. I’ll take you for a walk on the waterfront in Battery Park City; to free concerts and festivals; for a long bike ride in Central Park; to a free, wonderful Shakespeare performance in Central Park.
If you plan ahead, you can get great deals on flights to New York. For another, with the high exchange rates abroad, the exchange rate has never been better for non-Americans and what a fantastic place to be. Eating out, shopping…it’s all less expensive, and it can be pretty cheap for Americans and native New Yorkers, as well. You can be sure that there is plenty to do that’s free — and fabulous.
It never hurts to plan your trip ahead of time. Knowing what you plan to see and do ahead of time can make your trip all the more smoother, especially when traveling with kids. If you know of the fun that awaits you without breaking the bank, you don’t have to spend money ahead of time on expensive theater tickets or attractions. While you may want to see the Statue of Liberty, you may not want to stand in line in the boiling sun and opt for the Staten Island Ferry, which is breezy and inexpensive and a great way to see the lovely lady from a distance. While you may intend to go on a horse and carriage ride in Central Park at great cost, it might make more sense to go on a boat ride near the boat house or take your kids on the carousel. But there is so much more to see and do in NYC – you just need to know what’s out there.
The following list is I wouldn’t miss if I were coming to NYC for a weekend, week or any amount of time, even a day. There are only 10 of the ultimate NYC summertime experiences, and it’s just the tip of an iceberg:
1. Bryant Park movies
Bryant Park is a public park right in the middle of the city in Times Square. Every summer they have a series sponsored by HBO that features wonderful, classic films for FREE. It has gained much popularity over the years since I first moved here, and you have to get to the park several hours before show time, armed with a blanket and a picnic (or else you may not get a seat). Seating starts at 5pm on the lawn, which is the most desirable place to sit. You’ll love the way they kick the film off with a cartoon and sing-a-long. This year’s festival kicks off on June 20th with the incredible One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest. It will continue every Monday night until August 22nd, finishing with Dirty Harry. For the complete list, visit www.bryantpark.org.
2. Governor’s Island
Everyone wants a bit of serenity when living in or visiting NYC, and Governor’s Island is the perfect haven for anyone. Home to the city’s newest Water Taxi Beach, complete with 20,000 square feet of sand (300 tons), concessions and a live music venue, you can spend a day bike riding, having a picnic or just taking a stroll next to incredible views of the NYC skyline. When there are concerts, the NY Water Taxi runs free rides to and from Governors Island after 7 pm, when the ferry stops running. The Island is open every Friday-Sunday and all Holiday Mondays from May 27 through September 25. Governors Island is hosting a diverse array of arts, cultural and recreational opportunities summer. For the full calendar listing, visit http://www.govisland.com/html/visit/calendar.shtml.
3. Central Park Summerstage
Summerstage has been such an integral part of my NYC experience. I’ve seen Annie Lennox, Elvis Costello, the Alvin Ailey Dance Company, Keane and countless other music, dance and literary performances. Most of the shows are free and on week nights and weekends, but there are some benefits at cost. For the full schedule, visit http://www.summerstage.org.
4. Shakespeare in the Park
Shakespeare in the Park is one of one of New York City’s most beloved summer traditions, and one of my favorites. Launched by one of my favorite NYC theaters, The Public Theater, the series has grown in popularity over the years and the best actors in the world come to present the world’s best plays to a mass audience. I’ve seen Patrick Stewart, Liev Schrieber, Meryl Streep, Kevin Kline, Natalie Portman and so many fantastic actors…all for free. There is a catch: tickets are distributed in Central Park and at Summerstage at 1pm the day of the show and the lines do get busy early. You have to plan to spend several hours waiting in order to secure a pair. But I can honestly say that it is worth every effort. Watching Shakespeare in the round under the stars in Central Park is a one and only experience you can only have in NYC. The schedule for 2011 can be found at http://www.publictheater.org.
5. Midsummer Night Swing at Lincoln Center
If you like to dance, you won’t want to miss Midsummer Night Swing. It’s out outdoor dance party that features 15 nights of various types of dance – from swing to ballroom to tango and salsa. You get a dance lesson and several hours of dance to music by a live band. If you don’t want to pay the $17 for a single ticket (or $90 for a set of 6 lessons), you can stand on the outskirts and watch (where there’s room to dance, too). Information can be found at http://midsummernightswing.org.
6. 4th Of July Fireworks
The fireworks in NYC are spectacular. Fereworks are released from six barges in the Hudson River and they are out of this world, like no other fireworks display you’ve ever seen. This year’s theme is American Harmony taking spectators through the history of American music. The best place to watch them is from high up on the roof of your hotel or at someone’s apartment. But should you need a place to watch them, in my experience, a great place to watch is Brooklyn Heights, where you can have a great meal first on the avenue and head to the display afterward.
7. Brooklyn Heights Promenade
My husband proposed to me on the Promenade, so it has special memories. Running from Orange Street to Remsen Street, the Brooklyn Heights Promenade is described by Time Out New York as “hands-down the most romantic spot to take a date—or, hey, yourself—for a leisurely stroll.” More views and photo opportunities along the one-third-of-a-mile stretch include the Brooklyn Bridge, the East River and South Street Seaport.
8. Restaurant Week
Between July 11th-24th, you can experience the ultimate NYC 3-course meal for a set price of $24.07 for lunch and $35 for dinner (excluding beverages, taxes and gratuities). Go to http://www.nycgo.com/restaurantweek .
9. MOMA (Museum of Modern Art)
Spend a night at the Museum of Modern Art this summer and you’ll experience something special. During MOMA nights, you can get a drink and hang out in the Abby Aldrich Rockefeller sculpture garden, listening to beautiful live music. The MOMA will be extending its hours from July 1 through September 3, keeping the museum open until 8:30 p.m. on Thursday, Friday, and Saturday evenings. These events are free, you just purchase your drinks. For more information, go to http://www.moma.org/visit/calendar/programs/47.
10. Stroll the High Line
Honorary mentions that are not to be missed: Coney Island/Brighton Beach for a day at the beach and rides, and then Russian cuisine on the boardwalk; Celebrate Brooklyn! with Los Lobos, Dan Zanes, Mark Morris Dance Group, the Decembrists and more; NY Philharmonic in the Park (magic, pure magic); Ride the tram to Roosevelt Island for music or a movie; Take ferry to Sandy Hook Beach; Greek food in Astoria; U.S. Open at Arthur Ashe Stadium (August 29th-September 11th); The Cloisters; Wave Hill; Brooklyn Flea; Rooftop Films; the River to River Festival with a tribute to the legendary Bottom Line presents New York on My Mind concert with Vin Scelsa, Dar Williams, Marshall Crenshaw and others; Lincoln Center Out of Doors July 5th-August 14th; Mccarren Park Pool; and concerts at P.S. 1 in Queens.
Another reason to come to NYC in the summertime is that the city empties out considerably. While residents leave in droves to the beaches in the Hamptons and Fire Island, it’s easier to get into restaurants, see the best shows on Broadway and get into popular exhibits at the Met and MOMA. The city is yours, you don’t have to worry about getting in anywhere. NYC is simply out of this world in the summertime.
Disclosure: This is a sponsored post by the folks at http://www.cheapflights.co.uk, but all opinions and expressed thoughts are my own.