New York City Summer | Roundup of the best things to do in New York City in the summer
You know what they say, there’s nothing like summer in the city. Folks flock from all corners of the world to spend summer in New York City, but it’s not hard to see why. There’s so many worthwhile things to do in New York City in the summer, the only challenging if figuring out where to start.
You’ll quickly learn that the sense of community is a big reason why New York City summers are so beloved. There’s a never-ending list of fun activities organized by the city and locals alike.
As a local, I’d love to share my personal list of exciting things do during a summer day in New York City. I tend to be a budget traveler, so most of this suggestions won’t break the bank. So without further ado, let’s jump in!
Tips for visiting New York City in summer
Prepare for hot and humid weather
There’s no need to sugarcoat it, New York City in the summer is hot! Most of the city is concrete and cement, which absorbs heat and creates what scientist call the urban heat island effect. Not to get too nerdy on you, but an urban heat island is a weather effect where an islands temperature is up to 7 degrees higher than the surrounding area. You should always be prepared for high summer temperatures in NYC and make sure you stay properly hydrated!
A hat is non-negotiable
Want to enjoy summer in New York City while looking like a natural New Yorker? I have the solution for you: pick up this little gem! You’ll see them all over NYC for a good reason – they’re classic and provide coverage from the harsh sun. I own three of these hats, but who’s counting.
Comfortable walking shoes are a must
Even if you take the subway you’ll still spend a ridiculous amount of time on your feet. At some point they’ll likely hurt, but you can drastically reduce the pain and prolong the fun you’re having during your summer in New York City by wearing your most comfortable walking shoes. My feet thanked me when I started wearing these!
Linen clothing is an added bonus
Years of enduring the New York City summer has taught me that rather than shedding layers it can be better to cover up with breathable fabric. Linen has become a mainstay in my wardrobe due to its airiness and durability. I always find myself reaching for these whenever I know I’m going to be out all day.
Take it slowly and stop for breaks
This isn’t a novel tip, but in this case it’s very important. The heat and humidity in NYC during the summer has a way of sneaking up on folks. My advice? Take breaks in shady areas often and swing by for indoor activities whenever the opportunity presents itself. Also, leave 15 minutes earlier than you typically would to avoid rushing and getting even sweatier.
Things to Do in New York City in the Summer
Free Summer Activities in NYC
Catch a sunset movie at Bryant Park
Bryant Park is perfectly tucked among towering office buildings that make up the heart of Midtown Manhattan. Located right behind the breathtaking New York Public Library, it’s not uncommon to find all the chairs and benches full during New York City’s summer days.
Clocking in at 9.6-acres, this isn’t the largest park in New York City by any stretch of the imagination, but it often feels the most full.
My favorite season to visit Bryant Park is summer because of all the events being hosted. Most notable, New York City summers welcome the long-awaited free movies on the lawn. The entire field gets filled with cheery folks on picnic blankets, which feels like the epitome of joy.
Address: Corner of 6th Ave & W 42nd St
For more information, including lineups and showtimes, you can read more here.
Picnic in Central Park
Having a picnic in Central Park is one of the most iconic things to do in New York City during summer. In fact, during the summer months the 15-acre green space called Sheep Meadow swells with locals and tourists alike to the tune of 30,000 people (not a typo).
Tucked under the shadow of NYC’s impressive (and looming) skyline, you’ll find plenty of mature trees that offer welcoming shade for those looking for a relaxing New York City summer afternoon.
If you crave Vitamin D, find a sunny patch and sunbathe with what feels like half of New York City. But if action is more your speed, the entire park is at your feet. You’ll find folks throwing frisbees, kids running wild while laughing uncontrollably and folks tossing baseballs around.
All this to say, regardless of your idea of a good time you’re bound to find something to love at Sheep Meadow while spending summer in New York City.
I’ve had this picnic blanket for two years and have been extremely happy with it. Check it out if you’re in the market for one!
Bonus: Shakespeare in the Park
If you’re visiting New York City in the summer make sure you don’t miss Shakespeare in the Park! The Public Theater has been putting on free productions of Shakespeare in the Park for 60 years now.
Hosted at the iconic Delacorte Theater and put on with serious production value, the shows are enjoyable for audiences of all ages and interests. Tickets are distributed day of and are not always easy to get your hands on, however if you’re lucky enough to snag a few you’ll be glad you did.
Info on how to get tickets as well as what to expect can be found here.
Stargaze at the High Line
I was absolutely dumbfounded when I found out you could stargaze, for free, in New York City. We have the helpful folks the Amateur Astronomers Association to thank for that. This is a romantic and attainable New York City summer pastime held every Tuesday from dusk until 9:45pm.
Telescopes are provided and spaced throughout the High Line, a former elevated cargo line turned beloved New York City park. You don’t have to be Neil deGrasse Tyson to enjoy the beauty of our universe thanks this incredible New York City summer activity.
The helpful folks from the association are also there to help and answer any questions, making this a great activity for novice and experienced stargazers alike.
Address: 812 Washington St, New York, NY 10014
Partake in Summer on the Hudson
Summer on the Hudson is an annual festival put on by NYC Parks in collaboration with the Riverside Park Conservancy. There are endless activities all summer long to partake in for both kids and adults alike.
The activities include things like movie showings, musical performances and Tai-Chi lessons. There’s a full PDF schedule available for you to survey the options and choose which you’d like to participate in. The two I’m most looking forward to are the silent disco and the birding walk. The best things to do during your New York City summer are all taking place on the Hudson!
If scheduling isn’t your style and you’re more go with the flow consider following Summer on the Hudson’s social media pages. This way you’ll get consistent reminders as to that day’s activities. Summer in New York City has never been more eventful!
Address: Riverside Park between 59th Street and 153rd Street
If you’re interested in learning about more New York City parks check out 15 ICONIC New York City Parks You Can’t Afford to Miss
Spend the morning at Governor’s Island
Only a 10 minute ferry ride from lower Manhattan, Governor’s Island is a relaxing reprieve from the nonstop pace of New York City in summer.
You will find history dating back to the Revolutionary War at the island making it a great spot for history buffs. You can walk around Fort Jay and Castle Williams which are both run by the National Park Service.
There are also events occurring all the time at Governor’s Island. This summer you’ll find the Jazz Age Lawn Party, FAD Market and a 3 day NYC Pride music festival. Some of these events may require tickets however, info can be found here.
If at the end of the day relaxing is more your style I suggest you bring a book and hang out at Hammock Grove. It’s a dedicated space for an array of hammocks available for visitors to enjoy. You can spend the day on your feet or kicking back because Governor’s Island is a great thing to do in New York City during the summer
Address: Ferry from Manhattan boards at 10 South St, New York, NY 10004
Interested in learning more about New York City’s National Park sites? Read 11 Important National Park Sites in New York City
Explore the New York Public Library
The New York Public Library is well worth the pit-stop during your visit to NYC. Designed in a Beaux-Arts style, this building stands in stark contrast to the glass and iron it surrounds. Neighboring Bryant Park, the library offers a free (air conditioned) break from the New York City summer heat.
When it opened to the public in 1911, the New York Public Library was officially the largest marble building ever built in the country. No small task, considering it took 16 years to construct this monolithic structure (I can’t even imagine working on it during long New York City summer days.) However the wait was worth it — more than 50,000 people showed up on opening day.
One of my favorite things to do during a New York City summer day is to find a nook to plop myself down in and catch up on reading.
Fun fact: The two lions in front of the library are called Patience and Fortitude, here’s why.
Address: 476 5th Ave, New York, NY 10018
Kayak on the East River
Who knew water activities were such a popular thing to do in New York City? I never even considered that they could be an option, I mean the place is called the Concrete Jungle, isn’t it? Thanks to the Brooklyn Bridge Park Boathouse the New York City summer just got a little more wet!
During the summer months you’ll be able to Kayak in the East River for free with a reservation (there is an option to donate funds to keep the program free). There is the ability for kids to kayak with a guardian, as well as Kayak Polo for the more competitive crowd. I can think of few better things to do during the New York City summer.
Address: 10 Montague St, Brooklyn, NY 11201
Partake in Smorgasburg
Attention foodies! Summer in New York City is Smorgasburg season. Smorgasburg is hosted in 3 neighborhoods throughout NYC. Two in Brooklyn (Williamsburg and Prospect Park), as well as one in Manhattan at the World Trade Center. But the most popular one, by a mile, is the Smorgasburg in Williamsburg.
At Smorgasburg you’ll be able to indulge in one of the finest open air dining extravaganzas in the Big Apple. This year there will be more than 20 vendors offering cuisines from all around the world. You can’t afford to miss it if you’re visiting New York City in summer.
I suggest you to bring a friend in order to split meals. This way you’re able to try as wide a variety of food as you can. My wife and I make sure to visit a handful of times during summer in New York City. There will undoubtedly be vendors you find yourself in line for more than once.
Address: Marsha P. Johnson State Park in Williamsburg
Enjoy the NY Philharmonic Concerts in the Parks
Catching a performance by the New York Philharmonic has been considered one of the best things to do during an eventful New York City summer since 1965. Pairing world-class classical music with incredible open air venues would normally cost an arm and a leg, but thankfully these events are completely free.
I encourage everyone to check out a showing. Classical music isn’t to everybody’s taste but seeing it live is entirely different. It’s epic and monumental, and an experience you won’t soon forget. Summer in New York City wouldn’t be the same with out Concerts in the Parks!
Address: Multiple parks around NYC
Information on showtimes and locations can be found here.
Fun Things to Do in New York City in the Summer (Admission Required)
Visit the Metropolitan Museum of Art (+Rooftop Garden)
Founded in 1870, the Metropolitan Museum of Art (The Met) is often considered the best museum in New York City and it’s not hard to see why. In order to take break from the sun during your summer visit to New York City I suggest you visit!
With more than 2 million pieces of art spanning 5,000+ years, the Met is the largest museum in the country and the fifth largest museum in the world. Averaging 6 million visitors per year, it’s also the most visited museum in New York City.
If you only have time to visit one museum this summer in New York City, this is the one. Plus, it’s conveniently located within Central Park, so you don’t have to go far out of your way to visit. One of the best things to do during a New York City summer is visit the Iris and B. Gerald Cantor Roof Garden where you’ll be able to enjoy a refreshing drink! You’ll be able to take in the splendor that is Central Park and the Manhattan skyline on summer day in New York City.
Address: 1000 5th Ave, New York, NY 10028
Bonus Reading: 20 Epic Things to See at the MET in New York City
Grab drinks at Dante (the best bar in the world)
Dante Caffee dates back to 1915. It served as a staple for the community before slowly fading into oblivion before two Australians decided to breathe new life into the historic institution in 2015. Stopping by for their happy hour is one of my favorite things to do during the summer in New York City.
The result was striking, within a few years of reopening, Dante was named the best bar in the world in 2019 and appeared on the list again in 2020. Not only is it among the best bar in the world, it’s one of the best ways to spend a fun summer evening in New York City.
The menu is well curated with small fare and the drinks are perfectly executed. The hardest part about this New York City summer experience is getting reservations. After visiting Dante for dates in NYC on a handful of occasions, I can confirm that their drinks are some of the best I’ve ever had. The dirty martini is particularly memorable.
Dante now has two locations — Dante West Village and Caffe Dante, the two bars are located a few blocks apart. I haven’t had luck getting into Caffe Dante without a reservation, so I suggest booking in advance. Try to book Friday evening because they usually have a pleasant live jazz band that makes for a romantic New York City summer date.
Happy Hour: Both Dante locations have generous happy hour between 3pm and 5pm. Dante West Village offers martinis for $10 and Caffe Dante offers negronis for $10. The price/quality ratio can’t be beat!
Address: 79-81 MacDougal St, New York, NY 10012 for Caffe Dante & 551 Hudson St, New York, NY 10014 for Dante West Village
Catch a Broadway Show
Yes, Broadway Shows are expensive, but the experience is unforgettable and so romantic. I would suggest budgeting at least one show during your summer visit to New York City.
Something I wish I knew earlier is that certain Broadway Shows have a lottery system where you can apply to win free tickets in advance. Seems like a long shot, but one of my coworkers won two tickets to Hamilton! Maybe you can get lucky too.
Another way to save money on tickets is to purchase “solo” tickets if you’re okay not sitting next to your friends. I did this last time and paid $99 for a $200 seat. It’s a great way to rest your feet after a long day of exploring New York City in the summer.
There are 41 official Broadway theaters in NYC so there’s bound to be a showing of something during your summer trip to New York City. After the prolonged intermission caused by COVID safety protocols Broadway is back and crowds are as engaged as ever. This makes it one of the best things to do this summer in NYC.
Enjoy the city views from the rooftop at Time Out Market
We’ve all been there. Hangrily trudging along during a trip through the unknown, not knowing when we’ll be able to rest our aching feet. The New York City summer heat is exhausting. Finding a place to eat sometimes feels impossible and everyone is growing crabbier by the minute.
Then, like a light at the end of the tunnel, you come across the Time Out Market. This place has single-handedly made the heat during summer in New York City a lot more bearable.
Located in picturesque DUMBO with stellar views of the East River you’ll find few places more scenic to spend your day in New York City during the summer. Timeout Market is a collection of some of the best restaurants in New York City. By bringing 21 unique dining experiences together under one roof, Timeout has made choosing a place to eat so much easier.
During a NYC summer day the 5th floor rooftop bustles with guests from all over the world. The views of Manhattan are hard to beat when you have a drink in hand and a full belly. I’d plan to show up during the evening since the sunsets are immaculate and the city lights make the night that much more romantic.
Address: 55 Water St, Brooklyn, NY 11201
Seek out the best ice cream in NYC
As mentioned earlier, New York City summers are hot. Aside from the boring (but necessary) ways of cooling down like staying hydrated, there is another way to escape the heat for a brief moment. A flavorsome reprieve that some might go so far as to call a heavenly experience.
That’s right, I’m talking ice cream. One of the most delicious ways to wrap up a New York City summer night.
Ice cream shops are found all over the city. Some are on wheels, located in malls and markets and others are good old-fashioned brick and mortar stores. Regardless of where you’re at, you’re bound to have something close by.
Enjoy the Rooftop Cinema Club
Prepare yourself for a movie viewing experience unlike anything you could imagine. Thanks to the Rooftop Cinema Club, you can watch some of the most timeless classics under the open New York City summer.
On the roof of the Embassy Suites in Midtown you will find lounge chairs and personal headphones to maximize comfort during your movie. The hotel provides a full bar and restaurant, and you’ll also find a concessions stand with the typical movie snacks. This fun New York City summer pastime is hard to replicate elsewhere.
Arriving early and with your full party is paramount since the seats are first come first serve. Doors open an hour before the showing so there’s ample time for drinks and any other preparations. The summer in New York City is never boring thanks to the Rooftop Cinema Club.
Address: 60 W 37th St, New York, NY 10018
Catch a Yankees Game
Grab your ball caps boys (and gals, or course!), we’re about to embark on a New York City summer activity locals can’t live without. With a record 27 World Series wins, the New York Yankees are always an exciting watch.
Located in the Bronx, Yankee Stadium is accessible by subway and tickets can be found for as little as $10 depending on the game. With a whopping 162 games played every season, there’s a plethora of both weekday and weekend games to choose from. There’s no excuse for not checking out a game this summer in New York City.
Whether you love them or hate them, the New York Yankees are icons of both American sports as well as NYC. Making it to one of their games should be high on your list of things to do during your New York City summer.
This year the Yankees are one of the best teams in Major League Baseball, meaning every team they play against is hoping to bring them down. The intensity of every game will have the crowd fully engaged making this one of the best things you can do this summer in New York City.
Address: 1 E 161 St, Bronx, NY 10451
Explore Coney Island
Coney Island’s famed amusement parks and beaches are hot commodities during New York City’s summer months. I’ve spent entire days here with friends enjoying rides and eating great food and been left itching for more.
This vibrant neighborhood holds a lot of history and has fun things to do for all ages. Peruse the boardwalk and see if you can win a prize playing a carnival game or ride the nearly 100 year old wooden roller coaster named the Cyclone. You’re never short of fun summer activities in this New York City neighborhood.
If you ever run into me here I guarantee I’ll either be holding an ice cream or snow cone. Make sure to stop by Coney Cones and get a frozen treat to beat the heat. Coney Island during the summer in New York City becomes like a second home to me!
Bonus: Nathan’s Famous Hot Dog Eating Contest
I bet you weren’t expecting to see competitive eating on your list of best things to do in New York City during the summer. However If you happen to find yourself in Coney Island for 4th of July you can’t miss Nathan’s Famous Hot Dog Eating Contest. The sport has grown in popularity in recent years largely due to Joey Chestnut.
Currently ranked #1 by Major League Eating, Chestnut set the world record with 76 hot dogs in 10 minutes during 2021’s competition.
Attend the U.S. Open
Even casual sports fans have heard of the US Open. It’s the final tennis Grand Slam tournament of the year and has been hosted at the USTA Billie Jean King National Tennis Center in New York since the 1970’s.
Last year the sum of all the prize money awarded was over $57 million, making it the largest pot in the Open’s history.
Tickets can be purchased through Ticketmaster.com and go live on June 6th. From the 34th St-Penn Station terminal you can take the LIRR for 25 minutes to the Tennis Center and enjoy the competition from June 16th to the 19th.
Few sporting events are as epic as the US Open, making it a great thing to do in New York City during the summer.
Address: Flushing Meadow – Corona Park, Flushing, NY 11368
Popular New York City Summer Festivals
Tribeca Film Festival (June 8th-19th, 2022)
Few names resonate with the casual movie lover more than the Tribeca film festival. Up-and-coming filmmakers get their opportunity to be showcased along with their established counterparts. This year will be the 20th anniversary of this beloved New York City summer festival and I anticipate it’ll be a good one.
For the opportunity to see the newest and greatest films passes can be purchased here.
Museum Mile Festival (Tuesday June 14th, 2022)
New York City has designated 5th Ave from 82nd to 105th Streets the museum mile. During the event the streets are closed to vehicular traffic and the doors of the museums along the stretch are opened to the public free of charge.
The street gets lively with vendors and musicians among the crowd adding to the ambience. The event takes place from 6 PM to 9 PM regardless of weather, so don’t forget to add this to your list of things to do this summer in New York City.
Further info about this free summer activity in New York City can be found here.
Pride Month (March on June 26th, 2022)
New York City goes all out for pride month. Throughout the whole month of June there is activity that take place where you can show your support and ally-ship. Some of those events include a rally on June 24th and a family movie night on June 15th, both taking place at the Battery (formerly Battery Park). The biggest event however is the March on June 26th which starts at 25th St and 5th Avenue.
A lot of the Pride events require RSVPs. Click here if you’re interested in reading more about Pride and how to participate this summer in New York City.
Macy’s 4th of July Fireworks (July)
The firework show along the East River has been hosted by Macy’s since 1976. A riveting display of fireworks set to music within the greatest city in the world is a can’t miss event if you’re visiting New York City in the summer. The show starts about an hour after sunset.
Further information about the Macy’s firework show can be found here.
Summer Streets (3 Saturdays in August, 2022)
A car-free New York City summer seems like an unimaginable dream, but guess what? For three summer weekends in NYC New Yorkers get a glimpse into what that utopia might be like. There’s more than enough fun for everyone on the 135 streets that will be open this year.
The exact dates haven’t been released yet, however we will be updating this post as soon we get more info. Continued reading here.
SummerStage (June-October 2022)
SummerStage is a festival that takes over New York City during the summer. The flagship venue for their concerts is at Rumsey Playfield in Central Park but they also put on shows at other parks in all 5 boroughs. The free shows require no RSVP and are first come first serve, however they also put on benefit concerts that require a ticket.
SummerStage’s music varies in genre, but note there is a jazz specific mini festival called the Charlie Parker Jazz Festival that falls under SummerStage’s umbrella. From August 26 to August 28 you will find the greatest names in Jazz performing across parks in New York City. The event gets lively with people of all different generations and backgrounds. It’s a great way to spend a summer New York City day.
Here is the brochure for SummerStage 2022 where you will find showtimes and locations.
Average summer temperatures in NYC
I’m not one for generalization, but in this case it applies. Summer in New York City is hot and humid and the temperatures are unrelenting, especially in August. In terms of average summer temperatures in New York City, here’s the breakdown.
- Average June temperatures in New York City: 80° / 64°
- Average July temperatures in New York City: 84° / 69°
- Average August temperatures in New York City: 84° / 69°
- Average September temperatures in New York City: 76° / 61°
Summer in New York City (Post Summary)
In sum, here’s the best things to do in New York City in the summer.
- Catch a sunset movie at Bryant Park
- Picnic in Central Park
- Bonus: Shakespeare in the Park
- NY Philharmonic Concerts in the Parks
- Star Gaze at the High Line
- Partake in Summer on the Hudson
- Spend the morning at Governor’s Island
- Explore the New York Public Library
- Kayak on the East River
- Partake in Smorgasburg
- Visit the Metropolitan Museum of Art
- Grab drinks at Dante (the best bar in the world)
- Catch a Broadway Show
- Enjoy the city views from the rooftop at Time Out Market
- Hunt down the best ice cream in NYC
- Enjoy the Rooftop Cinema Club
- Catch a Yankees Game
- Explore Coney Island
- Bonus: Nathan’s Famous Hot Dog Eating Contest
- Attend the U.S. Open
Map of New York City Summer Activities