New York City is normally jam packed with exciting things to do in the summer, from endless outdoor shows, concerts, and festivals, to rooftop bars, dance parties, and street fairs with every type of food you can think of. In a city with never-ending energy and locals and tourists alike ready to take advantage of the steamy summer days and nights, unfortunately, this summer with the on-going pandemic, looks a bit different.
Nonetheless, despite being a hotspot back in March, New York state is now one of the safest places in the US, thanks to Governor Cuomo’s leadership and all the New Yorkers who rigorously practiced social distancing and followed all the COVID protocol to stop the cases from rising.
I felt pretty safe in NYC even during the start of the pandemic, and ever since we’ve started our stages of reopening back in late May, it’s exciting seeing the enthusiasm whenever I’m out, with New Yorkers always finding a way to (safely) have fun despite the circumstances.
While there’s a lot less things to do this summer, there’s never a shortage of fun in the Big Apple. As Cuomo often says, New Yorkers are resourceful.
Here’s my top fun things to do in NYC this summer!
1. Dine outdoors
While indoor dining is still considered dangerous, outdoor dining has been allowed since the beginning of June. While there was some hesitation in the beginning about how well it would work out, New Yorkers have since embraced it full force.
Restaurants have also gotten clever with setting up their tables, and there’s actually a lot of pretty set ups that rivals any sidewalk restaurant you would find in Paris. Most restaurants have been great with spacing out tables so they’re 6-feet apart and/or putting up glass or wooden partitions to give restaurant goers an extra level of safety. Bonus points for scoring seats at restaurants that normally have crazy waitlists!
The food scene in NYC is out-of-this-world, and by dining out (and/or ordering takeout), it’s a great opportunity to keep supporting restaurants during this tough time. Chinatown, for example, has really stepped up its outdoor dining game; this article has a great list of restaurants there to check out.
Going one step further, dining outdoors is twice as fun when you do it on a boat. With a bunch of restaurants currently open such as The Frying Pan, Grand Banks and Pilot, there’s nothing better than some great food and panoramic views.
2. Soak in the City from up high
With one of the best skylines in the world, it would be a waste to be in NYC without soaking in the views from the plentiful rooftops that the city has to offer. Luckily my apartment has an awesome rooftop with views similar to Press Lounge, so its been my go-to spot for having friends over for drinks, or simply lounge with a book.
For those without access to an apartment rooftop, several awesome options that are open right now include: Press Lounge, Westlight, Magic Hour at the Moxy Hotel, Azul at hotel Hugo, 230 Fifth Rooftop, PHD Rooftop Lounge, and The Crown.
For the ultimate NYC view, both the Empire State Building and Rockefeller Center is now open! You can reserve online here and here.
3. Explore the city by bike
I’ve always been scared of biking in NYC because of all the cars, so at least this pandemic has allowed me to rekindle my love of biking in the city. I used to love biking in Europe but when I moved to the US, I quickly learned that it’s definitely not a bike-friendly place, especially compared to countries like the Netherlands, where biking tends to be the most common form of transportation.
I never realized how much dedicated bike paths there are in NYC until I biked from Central Park to Dumbo (when you do something for the first time, you gotta go big) and was amazed how easy it was! It’s a great way to explore the city while getting some exercise. These days, I bike all the way downtown once every other weekend to eat in East Village or Chinatown, and to stroll around SoHo.
For an extra calorie-burning workout, try biking around Central Park! The hills are killer but I guarantee that you’ll develop quadriceps of steel if you do that twice a week (anyone up for a challenge?)
4. Bike, walk or run across The Brooklyn Bridge
Brooklyn Bridge, one of NYC’s most iconic landmarks, and also often packed full of people. I’ve always wanted to bike across the Brooklyn Bridge but was always put off by the crowds of people on the bridge at any given time. That of course changed since the pandemic, and I was finally able to check that off my list.
With more people out and about during the summer, I recommend coming here early in the morning. Bike, walk or run, you can’t go wrong with this photogenic bridge!
5. Run a 10km in Central Park
Sadly, the one thing that’s still closed for the unforeseeable future are gyms. It was tough in the beginning since I have a pretty strict gym routine but I managed to embraced my love/hate relationship with outdoor running.
Even at the height of the pandemic, I would go running about 4-5 times a week, which not only feels great but probably also the one thing that has kept me sane throughout the pandemic. Living walking distance to Central Park has been great for my running goals, and while I normally run 5km at a time, I do like to challenge myself with a 10km once a month.
For those up for the challenge, and want bragging rights on Strava, I highly recommend running a 10km in Central Park, because that equals to exactly one full lap around the park — how cool is that!
6. Picnic in the Park
For those looking for more of a relaxing time in Central park, or any of the many other parks the city has to offer, there’s several great options. For one, there’s so much space in Central Park that it’s not hard to find a nice patch of grass to have a picnic, while still easily social distancing.
In Central Park, there’s also self guided audio tours you can do around the park narrated by celebrities such as Scarlet Johansson, pop-up comedy shows (register online here), or even birding (made popular and acceptably cool thanks to Christian Cooper). Check out a list of upcoming events in the park here!
Domino Park in Williamsburg has even gone one step further to draw instagram-worthy social distancing circles on the grass to give follow park-goers an extra level of safety while enjoying the sun.
7. Get Competitive in the Gaming Lawns at the Greens
For a fun but safe way to hang out with friends, the Gaming Lawns on the rooftop of Pier 17 offers lots of games such as corn hole, giant jenga and bocce ball that you can rent out with groups of up to 8 people. You can also grab food, drinks and enjoy the great views all around. For more information and to reserve a spot, check it out here.
8. Practice your photography skills
With the city emptier than it would be in normal times, it’s a great time to practice your photography skills with one of the most epic cities in the world as your backdrop. The city has definitely come alive since things started reopening back in May, but nonetheless, here’s your chance to take some incredible photos of iconic spots like Times Square, the Flatiron building, Central Park, the Brooklyn Bridge, and more, without all the crazy crowds.
9. Go to a drive-in movie
I’ve always found drive-in movies to be one of the most American things ever. While it’s more popular in the suburbs and more car-focused cities like LA, the pandemic has New Yorkers venturing into new territory, and as a result, there are more drive-in options than ever in the city! Some options include: The Tribeca Drive-In (The Bronx), Bel-Air Diner (Queens), The Parking Lot Social (Brooklyn) and the Skyline Drive-in (Brooklyn).
10. Cool down with some tasty ice cream
There’s no shortage of good ice cream shops in NYC, and the lack of huge crowds means trying out some of the popular ice cream spots, without the long wait. Some of my favourite places that are currently open include: the taro soft serve at Soft Swerve, the cereal milk with corn flakes at Milk Bar, the flower shaped cone at Amorino Gelato, and the matcha soft serve from Cha Cha Matcha.
11. Walk the High Line
Walking around the High Line is one of my favourite things things to do in NYC, and usually it’s always super packed during the summers. While they had closed the High Line at the start of the pandemic, it has now officially reopened! You’ll have to reserve online but the limited capacity means you’ll have a lot of room to yourself.
12. Practice your golfing skills with a view
The Chelsea Piers Golf Driving Range is offering a socially distanced golfing experience that’s great for practicing your skills while soaking in the awesome views of the Hudson River. Reservations are required on their website.
13. Unwind to some outdoor music
For those in need of some live music, there’s several outdoor jazz events around the city. Check out the events page here for a list of performances!
For those who have some free time in the afternoons on Mondays, Tuesdays and Thursdays from 12:30-2:30pm, Piano in Bryant Park is an outdoor event with NYC’s finest ragtime, stride and jazz pianists. Check out the schedule here.
14. Soak in the sun at a beach
All beaches are open and there’s quite a few to choose from! In NYC, there’s Brighton Beach (Brooklyn), Orchard Beach (Bronx), Jacobs Riis Park (Queens) and Franklin Delano Roosevelt Boardwalk & Beach (Staten Island).
For those with a car, doing a road trip out to the Hamptons is well worth it for a fun day or weekend trip out of the city.
While there’s a lot fun things to do in the city despite the pandemic, remember to use caution when you’re around others and to practice social distancing. Masks are mandatory indoors in NYC and many places such as restaurants will require you to wear them until you’re seated. With many things such as museums scheduled to open in the fall, let’s keep doing our part to keep cases down so we can all continue to enjoy all the fun things that make New York so special.