NYC summer bucket list: What to do before it's too late
Remember all those big summer plans you made while hiding from yet another polar vortex inside your dark, frigid apartment a few months ago?
Well, you may feel like the sun has just begun to shine (we sure do), but believe it or not, August is already here.
There's still time to enjoy the season, but let's face it: The pressure is on to get through your summer bucket list. We're here to help you prioritize.
1. Ride the Thunderbolt
We know you've been meaning to get to Coney Island, and if the beach, boardwalk, people-watching, classic summer eats (hot dogs, funnel cakes, Italian ices!), Brooklyn Cyclones baseball and the aquarium aren't enough motivation, riding the new Thunderbolt roller coaster in its inaugural season is a must. Don't believe us? Check out those loops. (Credit: Jeremy Bales)
2. Conduct an ice cream taste test
There's no shortage of ice cream in NYC, but some shops are truly a scoop above the rest. Whether it's an old-fashioned egg creme in Brooklyn or an exotic lychee-flavored cone in Chinatown that wins your vote, you need to narrow down your go-to spot before the prime frozen treat-eating months are through. Start with some of our favorites. (Credit: FLICKR/ Robyn Lee)
3. Get out on the river (for free!)
What's more adventurous than floating out on the Hudson River? There are plenty of opportunities to explore New York's waterways on kayaks for free, so there's really no excuse to miss out.
4. Walk the Brooklyn Bridge at midnight
Ah, summer romance. Looking for a date that's seriously rom-com worthy? Go for a late-night stroll on the Brooklyn Bridge. You'll beat the heat and crowds of tourists that kill the experience during the day, and you may even find you're not as jaded by city life as you thought as you gaze in awe at the skyline lit up in all its glory. (And yes, there will be enough people around that you'll feel safe doing it.) Want to really impress? Set the mood with a pre-walk dinner at one of these picturesque restaurants. (Credit: Flickr/Luke Hayter)
5. Buy something unique at a flea market/street fair
Fifth Avenue stores are glam and SoHo boutiques are trendy, but there's nothing cooler than spending a summer day browsing booths for one-of-a-kind purchases, and just happening to stumble upon the perfect piece of antique jewelry or wacky apartment decor.
The Antiques Garage in Chelsea is no more (sigh), but from Williamsburg's Brooklyn Flea to the Lower East Side's Hester Street Fair, there's still plenty going on. And if it's your stomach you prefer to shop for, we all know Smorgasburg can't be beat. (Credit: Getty Images)
6. Eat lobster on City Island
A true hidden gem of the Bronx, City Island is only about a mile and a half long. But what this quaint summer spot lacks in size, it makes up for in fresh seafood-- especially lobster.
Come hungry, because you'll have your fair share of restaurants to choose from. (Just cruise City Island Avenue, and you'll see what we mean.)
Afterwards, walk it off along the waterfront, browse the local shops for antiques or learn more about this intriguing place at the City Island Nautical Museum. There's no better way to escape the city on a summer day without leaving the five boroughs.
Get directions (Credit: Flickr/justjosef)
7. Roller skate your heart out
Take a trip down memory lane... on wheels. Roller skating is making a comeback in the city this summer, thanks to two new outdoor rinks. For a dose of nostalgia with your exercise, this retro activity can't be beat. Here's where to get your skate on. (Credit: iStock)
8. Pose in the park
Getting your zen on is easy (and free!) all summer long, thanks to yoga programs taking place all over the city, from Union Square to Brooklyn Bridge Park to Rockaway Beach. To take part in one of the most popular yogi events of the summer, join Athleta every Tuesday at 10 a.m. and Thursday at 6 p.m. for poses in Bryant Park.
Yoga not your thing? Try one of these outdoor workouts, instead. (Credit: Summer in the Square)
9. Take a daycation on Governors Island
Yes, we also hate the word "daycation." But that doesn't mean you shouldn't take one.
One of our favorite in-city destinations is Governors Island. Call in sick, hop on the ferry and find yourself in the newly-completed park, featuring mini golf, ball fields, bikes, hammocks, beer, food and a spectacular view.
Check govisland.com for special events and exhibits.(Credit: Flickr/istolethetv)
10. Set sail, matey!
There's no better place to celebrate summer with breathtaking views of the city than on the water.
Hop aboard a boat with the Classic Harbor Line or Manhattan by Sail and prepare to feel a rush of calm come over you as you watch the mainland fade away in the distance, a salty breeze blowing through your hair.
See seven cruises not to miss, from a burlesque sail and a champagne brunch to a lobster and craft beer tour.(Credit: Manhattan By Sail)
11. Get drunk (responsibly) on a rooftop
OK, maybe you've accomplished this one already. In fact, maybe you've done it more than once. (You overachiever, you.)
But the truth remains that there are so many amazing rooftops in this city, you could spend every weekend at a different one and still not see them all. Every rooftop's vibe, view and cocktail menu is different, but they all come with that natural high caused by fresh air, city lights and the unbeatable feeling that you're on top of the world. See some of our favorites. (Credit: Loren Wohl)
12. Join the Bleacher Creatures
True Yankees fans know that Bleacher Creature status isn't simply bought, it's earned. But even if you can't devote yourself to every game (or become the next Bald Vinny), you can join in on a classic Bronx experience. Now's the time to do it, as captain Derek Jeter embarks on his final summer in pinstripes.
Pro tip: Section 203 is where it's at. Start practicing the roll call... and check the promotional schedule if you want to take home a free souvenir, including a Jeter figurine or commemorative key ring. (Credit: Flickr/Jen Gallardo)
13. Watch a movie outdoors
Cushy theater seats are sooo overrated. From piers to parks to rooftops, there's nothing like grabbing a blanket and watching a movie under the stars. There are still plenty of free flicks to catch all over town, from "Ghostbusters" to "Jaws." Here are 11 places to see one. (Credit: Warner Bros. Film)
14. Visit your non-human friends
From the Bronx to Staten Island, NYC is full of amazing wildlife, and now is the time to visit the zoo nearest you, because winter hibernation will kick in before you know it (and we're not just talking about the animals).
Spend a summer day checking out the zoos' newest residents, including giant tortoises at the Bronx Zoo, baby otters at the Prospect Park Zoo, and many, many more.
Here are 20 animals not to miss. (Credit: Julie Larsen Maher © Wildlife Conservation Society)
15. Go ziplining
It's not your typical NYC activity, but that's what makes ziplining in Queens even more thrilling.
Save yourself a trip to the Poconos and head over to the Alley Pond Park Adventure Course, where you can strap on a harness and soar 100 yards through the sky and over a green, open field.
Like the sound of that? Here are eight more outdoorsy adventures to try. (Credit: nyc.gov/parks)
16. Play a team sport
OK, you may not have time for an entire season of weekday softball games. That doesn't mean you have to miss out! Zog Sports is hosting a softball tournament on August 9.
If you're looking for something even more casual, check meetup.com for like-minded athletes.
Or you can go old school and play some pickup basketball on one of the city's public courts and pretend you're Julius Erving.(Credit: Paul Brophy)
17. Rock out at SummerStage
For music lovers across genres, free concerts in Central Park are a summertime tradition. There are still three more shows planned for July, featuring Neon Trees, Beck and more.
See the full schedule, here.
Looking for more low key entertainment? There's always Shakespeare in the Park for you literary types. But first, read up on how to survive the line. (Credit: Flickr / Matt J. Carbone)
18. Go for a historical swim
The Parks Department's 55 outdoor pools are free -- and many are great pieces of NYC history. Eleven Olympic-size pools opened in the 1930s under Commissioner Robert Moses. And many are designated landmarks.
19. Go tanning, topless
What? This is a bucket list ... live a little.
Fort Tilden Beach in Queens, known for its, um, lax environment, finally reopened this summer after superstorm Sandy put it out of commission for the 2013 season, so chances are you could use the vitamin D. Plus, there's no better way to explore your inner hipster this season. (Credit: Flickr / Nev Brown)