New York City Summer: It Was the Best of Times, It Was the Worst of Times

Summer is literally FLYING by this year, am I right? I got a text from a friend asking me if I wanted to get drinks in early August and I was like wait, AUGUST? That’s so far aw– oh wait, it’s the end of July. It’s the END…of July?! HOW? Cue existential crisis as I realize I’ve only got, like, six weeks left until Starbucks prematurely brings out Pumpkin Spice Lattes! I suppose summer always flies by, but this year especially so – perhaps because we got such a late start at it this year, with the 3 back-to-back winter storms and cold temperatures running through May. But still, my Cancer-baby heart can’t take it.

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Summer in NYC- with its spectacular sunsets and uncharacteristically happy constituency – is probably my favorite season in the city…and also my least favorite. It is truly a tale of two cities, depending on where you are, what you’re doing, and the Russian roulette that is finding a place with AC to congregate.

The Best

  1. Sidewalk dining. I absolutely love eating outside, and in NYC, it’s the quintessential summer-in-the-city experience. Restaurants open up their doors and windows, cover swaths of the sidewalk with brightly colored awnings, and bring out cute wrought-iron tables topped with wine glasses and cutely-checkered cloth napkins and small vases with carnations to entice passersby to brunch. They certainly do know how to make the experience picturesque and appealing, with either views of the city (or interesting people walking by) to complement a delicious meal. With a warm breeze keeping it cool and fresh, and many places allowing our furry, four-legged friends to join in the outdoor party, sidewalk dining in NYC is definitely one of my favorite parts of the summer.
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  2. The BeachWhen you think of summer in NYC, you don’t necessarily think of going to the beach. I didn’t when I first moved here, until a friend introduced me to the beauty that is Rockaway Park Beach, out in a remote, coastal part of Queens. The best part is that you can get there on the subway, taking the A train out to Beach 116th Street. For $5.25 round trip, it’s not a bad deal – especially considering that the beaches are free! My personal favorite is Beach 106, where you can fuel up on Caracas Arepas Bar and frozen sangria prior (or post) swimming.
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    Never heard of arepas? They are a Venezuelan dish, a delicious, semi-sweet lightly fried corn cake stuffed with meats, cheeses, avocado and veggies, and topped with a magical ambrosia of a bright yellow sauce (ingredients unknown). My personal favorite is the “La Pelua” arepa, filled with shredded beef and cheese, and a frozen multi-color sangria.

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    La Pelua arepas with a side of fried green plantains topped with cheese

    After fueling up at this fun, brightly-colored cabana, find your spot on the sand to hole up and enjoy a relaxing swim at a beach that is relatively clean, breezy, and crowd-free.
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  3. Summer FridaysWalk into any given midtown Manhattan office on a Friday in the middle of summer and find that about 75% of the office is gone, out on holiday, heading to the Hamptons, dahling, with their families. With the office dead and the workload light, summer Fridays are a stress-free way to enter into the weekend.
  4. Festival Season. Festival season is in full swing in the summer – whether it be food festivals (like my favorite seasonal haunt, Brooklyn’s famous Smorgasburg), or my absolute favorite music festival of the year, Electric Zoo (read about my experience at last year’s E-Zoo here!), New York’s lawns and parks open up to the masses for parties that last from dusk until dawn. Great music, visually stunning sets, relaxed, happy vibes, and delicious foods abound as you bop from set to set to listen to some of the world’s best artists and DJs.

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    Sofi Tukker, Rooftop @ Sony, September 2016
  5. Iced Lattes. It’s no secret that NYC has some of the best coffee shops in the world. Connoisseurs of the beverage elixir of life can pop in to one of the many amazing cafes offering a fine selection of good, strong espressos, creamy cappuccinos, frothed macchiatos, and refreshing cold brews. As early as May, the city begins to tout its ubiquitous summer drink, the iced latte, found in the hands of of *65% of New Yorkers at any given time in June, July, and August. If done right, there is nothing more satisfying or refreshing on a hot summer day than an iced latte.
  6. Scenic Walks. Going for scenic walks in one of the most picturesque cities in the world is one of the best parts of summer. Cross the Brooklyn Bridge, pack a picnic to Gantry Park, or participate in an outdoor yoga class, where you can take advantage of the later summer hours and evening light. Or, pick any neighborhood on a breezy day, and something as mundane as walking from the subway station to your destination turns into an enjoyable activity. Leisurely stroll from store to store, pick up an ice cream cone from one of the many parked trucks, head over to Tompkins Square Park and watch the it light up as fireflies zig zag their way between the shaded benches and trees at dusk. New York City in the summer is truly a magical setting.
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The Worst

  1. Sidewalk dining. All those unique passersby to entertain you while you dine? Could be a homeless guy who walks by and spits in your food…on your birthday… (you’ll have to ask my boyfriend for that story). Add to that the 90% projected humidity in the breezeless vacuum that is Manhattan and your face will look like the glass of water (ice long-gone) sitting on your table slowly reaching the boiling point.
  2. The Beach.That A train that takes you out to The Rockaways for $5.25? Yeah, you’re lucky if it will get you there in under 2 hours – a small victory if your trip to the beach takes 1 hour 40 mins door-to-sand. You could take an uber for $70-100, but at that point you might as well rent a car (or put down a deposit on your beach house). After you’ve survived the trek wayyyy, way out there to a stretch of the city that is debatably still a part of the city, you can wait in line for an hour (or more) at Caracas to order your arepa, where they will charge you 25 cents for extra yellow sauce and $2 for a straw. Then, after the beach and sticker shock of paying $20 for an arepa and fries wear you out, enjoy fighting fellow beach-goers for a seat on the subway in your wet clothes for that 2-hour journey back home (and don’t even ASK me about the wait time for the Rockaways Beach ferry).
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  3. Summer Fridays. You’re not the boss, so who are you kidding? You’re not going to the Hamptons, and you’re not jetting off to San Francisco or Newport or the Bahamas (unless you use a vacation day) – you’re stuck at your desk, with time slowly crawling by. Fridays become a purgatorial eternity standing in the way between you and the weekend.
  4. Getting off of Randall’s Island. Okay, so this one is sort of related to summer music festivals and the fact that many of them are held out on a remote part of Manhattan, the beautiful oasis nestled between Manhattan, the Bronx, and Queens that is Randall’s Island. Island being the key word, it’s important to note that the only way onto the island is via the pedestrian footbridge (over a mile long), the ferry, or the shuttle bus. Ubers to Astoria really know how to capitalize on the supply/demand ratio as thousands of festival-goers feverishly fight for the few cars circling the island, exhausted after an entire day of partying into the midnight hour. Needless to say, your 20-minute-in-theory commute turns into another one of those ever-pleasant 2-hour epic journeys, complete with bathroom breaks and snack packs.
  5. Iced Lattes. Goodbye, slush fund, you are now going towards buying ALL the coffee! Every day, because let’s face it: sometimes an iced latte is the only thing that makes you feel human on a hot, crowded, broken-AC subway car at 8am on a Monday, the sweat running down your back faster than the crowd running to escape the stench of the homeless man on the train seat in front of you.
  6. Walking Literally Anywhere in the City. It’s not the tourists who seem to take over the city like termites eating a house from the inside out; nor is it the fact that the homeless population seems to double in size in the summer and aggressively try to steal your dog (ask me about it sometime); it’s not even the overwhelming humidity that causes you to wonder, yet again, why you even bothered to curl your forever-limp hair and if you are ever going to feel like you dried off after that morning shower. No, it’s the pervasive stench of garbage that’s been left to rot out on the street, overnight, so that you are pleasantly greeted with the wafting scent of dead bodies steaming trash before you’ve even had your first cup of coffee. Try taking a deep breath on any sidewalk near a trash bin and it’s like getting sucker-punched in the face.

 

New Yorkers are spoiled notorious for simultaneously complaining while also thinking that theirs is the city to which all other cities aspire. I am curious though, does anyone else who lives in New York have similar experiences? What are your favorite parts about summer where you live? What are your least favorite parts? Share with me in the comments! (And Happy Summer Friday, y’all!)

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*Actual percentage may vary.

7 Comments

    1. girlingothamcity

      Thank you so much, Tip and JAM! You guys always speak so positively of your experiences in the city, that it makes me appreciate it in new ways – even when I’m trapped on a sweaty subway car feeling more “hate” than “love” LOL 😉

      Like

  1. Mad Hatters NYC

    I have to agree wholeheartedly with Tip’s comment! We are similarly ambivalent about summers in the city. For me personally, I usually swing towards more hate than love in the summer – the crowds, the heat rising from the concrete and the nauseating smells leave much to be desired. We manage it by starting early or late, and avoiding that dreaded midday window when it’s at its worst.

    And I know this doesn’t really help if you’re not coming from Manhattan, but the NYC Ferry is a more bearable alternative to get to Rockaway Beach when the weather is nice 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    1. girlingothamcity

      I love reading that even you guys – who could potentially be the city’s unofficial spokespersons! – don’t love all aspects of the city. I think you can truly say you love a city when you look at it without the rose colored glasses, can see – and even be annoyed by – its flaws, and STILL want to make it your home.

      I have taken the ferry and agree that it is much nicer than the subway, but it actually ends up being way longer for me coming from Astoria than the train! Especially because the wait times for the ferry – if you don’t get there early enough – can be over 90 minutes. YIKES.

      Liked by 1 person

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