|Lynn Marie Hulsman, showing off her Harper Impulse Tshirt!|
When most people think summer vacation, they think beach or mountains. Maybe you’ve even heard the old adage, “Everyone gets out of the city in the summertime.” I may be a rebel, but I think that possibly barring Christmastime, summer is the very best season to spend time in New York. For one thing, you don’t have to don layers of clothing or trudge in foot-swaddling boots when you go sightseeing. For tourists, this means you’re free to pack lightly.
Another bonus is that crowds are light. Insider tip: Many NYC offices have “summer hours,” meaning people flee their cubicles and head to the Hamptons and Fire Island at 3 p.m. on a Friday, not to return until 8 p.m. on a Sunday. It’s blissful to walk the sidewalks on the weekend without getting bumped five times per block.
Finally, countless summer events are free in New York City. If you plan ahead, you can catch a cheap flight. Save even more money by doing a home exchange or booking through Airbnb.com. If nothing else, bid for a hotel on Priceline.com and accept the cheapest thing you’re given. Believe me, you’ll only be in your room to sleep. Save your splurge money for shopping or for a meal at a legendary restaurant such as Jean Georges, Keen’s Steakhouse, or La Grenouille. Then, save on your splurge by going at lunchtime. If there are no tables, ask to eat at the bar. Bartenders are often generous when customers are polite and chatty; you might get a free drink or comped dessert along with a chance to chat up a real New Yorker.
So, if you’re planning a visit to NYC this summer, here are my top picks for ways to spend your time.
1. Free Fun at Bryant Park. Hands down the best place for free summer activities in the whole city. Monday nights, catch a free outdoor movie on the lawn at dusk. Schedules are announced mid-May and offerings have included Meet Me in Saint Louis, The Shining, and The Mark of Zorro. Gather at 4 p.m., get ready to swarm the lawn at 5 p.m., and bring a picnic (grab it at Pain Quotidien on 41st and 6th), and wine to entertain yourself until nightfall (around 8:30 p.m.). Other attractions include free table tennis, pétanque, Kubb (a Scandinavian bowling game), an outdoor reading room sponsored by the NYC Public Library, and a Games Center, at which you can “check out” chess boards, Uno cards, backgammon sets, Bananagrams, and more. Best part: The spectacularly clean public restrooms, complete with fresh flowers daily.
|Bryant Park restrooms|
2. Shakespeare in the Park. It’s hard to believe tickets are free for some of the best theater you’ll ever see, starring people you’ve seen on TV and the big screen (Meryl Streep, Gregory Hines, Kevin Kline, Natalie Portman), along with brilliantly talented people whose names you haven’t heard. The fun starts in the early afternoon, when you’ll join the line in NYC’s world-famous Central Park, right near the duck pond, and right below the castle you’ve seen in more movies than you can count. Tickets are distributed every day that there’s a performance starting at noon, and everyone over age 5 may receive two complimentary passes. That means arriving at 8 a.m. or 9 a.m. to line up. Waiting is half the fun! Bring a blanket or lawn chairs, a thermos of coffee and a bag of croissants, and plan to people watch (on steroids). Sure, you have to wait, but who ever complained about spending a gorgeous summer morning relaxing in Central Park?
|Lynn Marie's daughter, in the green, enjoying Central Park ice cream|
|Lynn Marie's son having fun at Central Park|
3. Walk the High Line. If you haven’t heard of The High Line Park, you’re in for a treat. Formerly an abandoned elevated train track from circa 1934, the High Line has been transformed into a combination green space, art installation, restaurant destination, shopping center, and exercise center. Check out the innovative water features, talking art exhibits, sounds sculptures and lovingly cared-for gardens as you move your blood while taking in a bird’s-eye view of the Chelsea. Sit in the bleachers and sunbathe, or grab a paleta (Mexican ice pop), while you stroll the tracks. You didn’t hear it from me, but there’s beer and wine on sale for those who like a naughty afternoon tipple!
4. Picnic Point on Governor’s Island. Take the free Water Taxi ferry to Governer’s Island, the home of New York’s brand-new Water Taxi Beach, complete with 20,000 square feet of sand (300 tons!), food and drink concessions, plus a live music venue. Pass a sunny summer’s day bike riding, picnicking, or just lolling around and looking at NYC’s stunning skyline. The Island is in full operation every Friday through Sunday, and all Holiday Mondays from May 27 to September 25.It’s like going to the country, while staying in the city.
5. Maybe you’re way downtown after a visit to the 9/11 Museum, or Trinity Church, or Fraunces Tavern. Great! You’re steps away from feeling like you’re in one of your favorite films. Walk across the Brooklyn Bridge. One of New York’s most iconic walks, the trek across the B’lyn Bridge offers not only an up-close view of an engineering marvel, you get to witness breathtaking views of Manhattan, and you can tell all your friends you’ve actually BEEN to Brooklyn. Mount the bridge at City Hall in Lower Manhattan, right along Centre Street. Plan to spend about an hour crossing the bridge (that leaves plenty of time to take photos). Once you get there, it’s a short staircase down to DUMBO and Brooklyn Heights. Shop or sight-see. There’s a new Shake Shack, or grab a slice at the famous Grimaldi’s Pizza. If you’re feeling rich, and aren’t too sweaty, dine at the legendary River Café.
|Lynn Marie on the Amtrak train|
No matter how you choose to spend your time, a trip to New York City in the summertime will leave you with memories that’ll last a lifetime. Grab an evening drink at a rooftop bar, climb to the top of the Statue of Liberty, take a train to Coney Island and scream your face off on the Cyclone (postpone your Nathan’s hot dog until afterward), or enjoy the Sunday Gospel Brunch at Harlem’s Cotton Club. Or take one of my suggestions. There’s something for everyone when the Big Apple’s at its hottest.
It’s my firm opinion that you cannot make a wrong choice when there’s so much magic on offer.
You can find out more about Lynn Marie and purchase her books at her Amazon author page (and yes, the recipe books are hers- this talented lady is also a chef!)
You can also follow her on twitter @lynnmariesays.
Lynn Marie Hulsman's most recent release is Summer at Castle Stone, a perfect holiday read, published by Harper Impulse.