At the beginning of every summer, I get slightly anxious when I realize how fleeting the warmer months actually are. You can see it in the desperate faces of New Yorkers clamoring for outdoor tables near construction sites and congregating at “rooftop bars” atop two-story buildings. Granted, summer here is not as short as summer, in say, Barrow, Alaska, but often, the really nice temps don’t roll in until June and only stick around until September. It makes me feel as though I have to get the absolute most out of the season. And each year, I make a list to make sure I do.
Behold, the 2013 list:
Randazzo’s Clam Bar and a Brooklyn Cyclones Game
I’ve never been to Randazzo’s, the famous rib-sticking seafood joint, but have always wanted to try it. A few summers ago, we paired an outdoor crab lunch at Clemente’s Maryland Crabhouse in Sheepshead Bay with a Cyclones game, and it was a such great day. Seafood, baseball by the water and post-game fireworks– everything the summer’s meant to be.
View of the parachute drop from MCU Park
Suburban Pool Day
This requires surveying your circle for friends from either Westchester, Long Island or North Jersey and then finding the ones whose parents still belong to their neighborhood pool. My husband and I spent a glorious day at Tarry Crest Swimming & Tennis Club on a grassy knoll, reading magazines, eating homemade oatmeal cookies and enjoying adult swim for perhaps the first time ever. (Sorry, kid-me, adult swim is awesome.)
Picnic in Prospect Park
We live right near Prospect Park, and though we use it for exercise, we often forget to use it for leisure. There’s nothing better than bringing a picnic lunch (here a few great places nearby that offer sandwiches and accoutrements: Bierkraft, BKLYN Larder and Zito’s Sandwich Shoppe), a good book and relaxing on a blanket under a tree on the Long Meadow. There are a TON of kids here ALL OF THE TIME, so if you want a truly quiet spot, you’ll have to search pretty hard on a really nice weekend day. People watching is half the fun, though! And those kids can be adorable. A few weekends ago, we observed as a toddler ran up to a tree, knocked on its bark, politely asked for two ice creams, then handed over some fake cash.
Prospect Park on a recent weekend
This one has been on the list for many years. My husband and I like to go on a Friday night after work (the museum is open until 9 p.m. on Fridays and Saturdays), get a drink and enjoy the view. Afterward, we roam the Impressionist galleries, which are often blissfully empty that late in the evening. For dinner, make a reservation at Flex Mussels, try Jones Wood Foundry or the very-un-Upper-East-Side Meatball Shop once it opens later this summer.
Tomás Saraceno’s Cloud City atop the Met last summer
A Hike in Cold Spring, NY
This hike, known as the Breakneck Ridge Loop (don’t let the name scare you off!) is strenuous, but the views are spectacular. We don’t usually do the full loop, and instead hike up to the second or third clearing, then hike back down. Be warned: there is a very steep rock climb further up, which we have not done. There is a Metro-North Hudson Line train station right in the center of town, and you need to walk about a mile north on 9D for the trail head. A refreshing beer at a bar on Main Street, after you’ve hydrated, of course, is a just reward. There are also cute cafés and antique shopping if you have the energy.
View from the Breakneck Ridge Loop
(Image via ScubaBear68, Flickr.com; made available under Creative Commons license)
New Jersey Slider Tour
My husband and I have been wanting to do this slider tour since Serious Eats first posted an article about New Jersey’s many sliders back in 2009. We’ve been to the White Manna in Hackensack on our way elsewhere, but would love to try a few others on the list. Plus, the joints have an iconic 1950s aesthetic. I’ve always loved Jersey’s diner tradition. It’s the perfect daytime activity with a few friends and a Zipcar.
White Manna in Hackensack, New Jersey
(Image via Liz West, Flickr.com; made available under Creative Commons license)
Red Hook Day
A day in Red Hook, Brooklyn feels like a mini-vacation. We’ve spent many a full day here with friends, including my birthday two years ago. Here are a few ideas culled from recent visits: You can start with a good brunch, maybe at stellar neighborhood restaurant Fort Defiance. Or, a casual lunch of Latin American specialties at the Red Hook Ball Fields, featuring nearly a dozen food trucks surrounding an area soccer field. Follow that up with a relaxing few hours on a blanket at Louis Valentino Jr. Park and Pier. Then a coffee and a pastry or three at the famed Baked bakery. And now that it’s well into the afternoon, you can start drinking (responsibly, obvs). How about a pitcher at the blessedly low-key rooftop patio of dive bar and restaurant Rocky Sullivan’s or outside the large glass-plated doors at cocktail den Botanica, or even with a wine tasting at Red Hook Winery. Finish at Rocky’s with a well-priced dinner of all-American specialties, with upscale eclectic cuisine at The Good Fork or with miniature golf and seafood at the sprawling Brooklyn Crab.
A mural in Red Hook, Brooklyn
We’ve been doing a day in the Hamptons for eight summers. Tiana Beach near Hampton Bays (technically part of Southampton) is great because A) It’s closer than driving all the way out to the shmancy part of the Hamptons. B) It’s public. C) It’s pretty. D) There are facilities. Be sure to get there before 2 p.m. on weekends to secure your $20 non-resident parking spot. Bring a picnic lunch and finish the day with dinner at a nearby seafood restaurant like TR Restaurant and Bar or Cowfish.
Oyster Happy Hour
Ah, oysters, the most divisive of all shellfish. People who haven’t tried them often don’t want to because they look, well, like snot. Their texture, if they’re fresh and good, is more slick than slimy and they taste of the ocean: salty, briny, earthy, incredible. An oyster happy hour is one of my favorite indulgences and it seems most apropos to take part in during the summer months. New York magazine did a recent round-up and I’ve been dying to settle into a platter in the lush backyard of Maison Premiere. Here are a few happy hours I’ve enjoyed in the past: The Ten Bells, The Mermaid Inn, Lure Fish Bar, Upstate, Prima.
Oysters on the half-shell
(Image via julesjulesjules m, Flickr.com; made available under Creative Commons license)
Bike up Hudson to Dinosaur BBQ
Though an outpost of this beloved Syracuse-based BBQ purveyor is opening tomorrow in my neighborhood, nothing beats grabbing a bike (you can either rent one at Pier 84 on W. 44th St. or use a Citi Bike) and pedaling up scenic Hudson River and Riverside Parks, with their pockets of manicured green, art installations and scenic across-river views, to the Harlem, 125th Street location. Grab some hot wings, fried green tomatoes and a sweet tea, and settle in for the afternoon.
Grilling at Brooklyn Bridge Park
My husband and I recently discovered the newly installed picnic tables and charcoal Hibachi-style grills near Pier 5 at this constantly evolving park. Labeled the “Picnic Peninsula,” these tables, made from salvaged wood and topped with aquamarine umbrellas, would be a perfect place to spend a mild weekend afternoon, perhaps celebrating a friend’s birthday with fresh-grilled burgers and franks. There is a long, snaking line of picnic tables with enough space for many large parties.
Picnic Peninsula at Brooklyn Bridge Park
(Image via ceonyc, Flickr.com; made available under Creative Commons license)
High Line at Night
As I’ve often said, the High Line is one of my favorite places in New York. Until now, though, I’ve only ever visited in the daytime. I recently saw a photo of a couple strolling the elevated park at night, illuminated by ground-level lighting and the glitter of the surrounding city. I knew I had to make a point to get up there after 9 p.m. The park closes at 11 p.m.–plenty of time to get in some nighttime wandering.
High Line in the evening
(Image via Susan NYC, Flickr.com; made available under Creative Commons license)
Prospect Park Concert
The Celebrate Brooklyn! series at the Prospect Park Bandshell is one of the mainstays of summer in the city. At most performances, a $3 donation is suggested, but a few are full-on benefit concerts with a $35 and up admissions charge. I don’t love fighting for a small portion of blanket space and getting angry when people block my view, so my friends and I like to sit outside the bandshell and bring a picnic dinner and a few drinks (technically illegal, but shh, don’t tell anyone). There’s a small hill south of the 11th street entrance from which you can see and hear relatively well. Take note: Belle & Sebastian are playing July 11th. I’ll see you there!
A baseball game is probably on the summer bucket list of nearly everyone in America, and for good reason. Though I could never kill three hours paying attention to a game in the comfort of my own home, there’s just something about being outdoors, surrounded by people, cheering on your favorite, or favorite-for-the day, team. Since the game is long, there is plenty of time for food and drink breaks, and with the up-market concessions now available at both Yankee Stadium and Citi Field, plenty of choices outside of a Nathan’s and a Budweiser, though both are, of course, classics.
Game night at Yankee Stadium
L&B Spumoni Gardens
Summer isn’t complete without a slice of Sicilian pizza and a cup of spumoni at the picnic tables outside this venerable institution. These pizza squares are more pillowy bread than pizza, with a heaping serving of sweet tomato sauce and small clumps of gooey, melty cheese. There’s usually a line, but instead of grabbing the older slices on offer by the cash register, tell them you’re going to wait for the slices coming straight out of the oven. For dessert, try the namesake tri-flavored spumoni, a classic Italian layered dessert which, in this case, features a combination of vanilla, chocolate and pistachio ice creams.
A large square pie at L&B Spumoni Gardens
(Image via TheGirlsNY, Flickr.com; made available under Creative Commons license)
Sundae at Brooklyn Farmacy & Soda Fountain
I adore the sundaes at this throwback ice cream parlor in Brooklyn’s throwback Carroll Gardens neighborhood. A rotating list of massive, not-for-the-calorie-conscious concoctions can be had at the long counter or at one of their cute café tables. The straightforwardly delicious chocolate brownie sundae, with a warm brownie, vanilla ice cream, hot fudge and whipped cream, tastes like childhood, but the Potato Head Sundae (vanilla ice cream, peanut butter, potato chips) I tried a few summers ago is indelibly entrenched as one of my favorites sundaes ever.
New Catch Holland Herring Sandwich at Russ & Daughters
Ah, June, the month of fresh herring. Celebrate the freshest catch from Holland (where this herring merits a nationwide celebration) at Russ & Daughters, either with their annual all-you-can-eat herring festival or by stopping by the shop between June 19th and mid-to-late July for one of my favorite sandwiches ever: a tail-on herring filet topped with chopped onions and pickles in between a potato hot dog bun. Alternatively, visit midtown restaurant Aquavit for a herring smorgasbord.
Me and my husband at last year’s herring pairing