NYC Summer Bucket List [ 11 Things To Do To Feel Like a Real New Yorker]

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One of the best times to visit New York City is in the summer. Travelers should beware that the city can become intensely hot and humid over the summer, thanks to the island effect and it being a concrete jungle.

Even the subway system is not immune from sticky, sweaty moments. Thankfully, passengers can find some relief when the train breezes into a station and they can enter an air-conditioned train car.

Summer is one season that NYC and its denizens come fully alive. It's time to get ready because this bustling, crowded metropolis has plenty of things to do outdoors.

Being a coastal city, summer is the perfect time for a boat ride, to capture a view of Mahattanhenge, eat, drink, and of course, shop. There are various concerts, movies and plays shown outdoors, parades, street eats, and markets.

Despite the crowds of locals and tourists converging together, people do their best to look out for one another and have a good time. After all, NYC apartments don't have a reputation for being spacious, and after spending so much time locked away indoors, summer is the perfect time to make an escape.

Note: The following post is by a transplant turned local living in the middle of it all, Manhattan. However, there is plenty to see and do in all of NYC's colorful and fascinating boroughs.

Staten Island Ferry passing the Statue of Liberty in New York Harbor - NYC Summer Bucket List [ 11 Things To Do To Feel Like a Real New Yorker]

How To Get Around

New York City

First off, we need to talk about how to get around in the Big Apple. If you don't mind splurging and want to avoid the crowds for a while, don't be afraid to hail a cab or use a ride share app to get where you want to go. 

Ultimately, walking is one of the easiest and fastest ways to get around the city. This is especially true if you are visiting several locations within a 10 to 20 block radius.

The next best way to get from place to place is via the MTA. However, if you are visiting NYC on the weekends, be sure to check the website in case there are any detours, reroutes, or construction.

Last but not least, stop by a CitiBike station. They are conveniently located all over the city across its boroughs, and there are lots of bike lanes. However, be cautious as traffic can get hectic and even dangerous in some areas.

Find friendly routes where there are plenty of cyclists for a more enjoyable ride. Bike rentals are inexpensive and a fun way to discover scenic views of the city from two wheels.

Also, while you're out exploring NYC, look out for kiosks where you can charge your phone in case of emergency and learn fun facts about the city. If you need a map, try to scoop one up from an MTA subway station at the booth. Or, you can use your smartphone.

1. Do An Art Walk

The city of New York is a popular destination for art lovers, art collectors, and creative types. Walking around the city, you can easily discover illicit street art, commissioned sculptures, artists selling their wares, and fantastic galleries.

New York City - Art Work

If you are looking to add to your art collection or are getting started, check out Chelsea or SOHO. There are also some gems in the outer boroughs, as well.

2. Get On A Boat

New York City - Staten Island Ferry

Okay, so here's a secret. There's no time to enjoy the sights, sounds, and smells of being on the water. And, if you don't have time to travel to the Statue of Liberty, you can get a glimpse of her for free if you hop on the Staten Island Ferry.

New York City - Staten Island Ferry

As a bonus, you can grab something to eat and enjoy a beer on board if you wish. And there's also a new mall that opened up on Staten Island steps away from the ferry, if you're in the mood for a little retail therapy.

New York City - Staten Island Ferry

3. To Market To Market

There's something magical about buying something on the street from a vendor. And if you head to one of NYC's many markets or street festivals, you're likely to discover unique finds you won't see anywhere else.

New York City - Market - Street Festival

So, if something catches your eye at a market or a street vendor and you really want it, get it before it's gone. If anyone asks where you got it, tell them you went to a boutique with a wink. Have cash on hand or use a handy phone app to pay.

4. Take A Trip To Coney Island

Reach down and get in touch with your inner kid and take a trip down to Coney Island in Brooklyn. For starters, this has been a destination for summer fun serving New Yorkers for decades.

Plus, there are still old school roller coasters like the Cyclone around to give you some old-timey thrills. Make time to see the Mermaid Parade, catch a burlesque show, chow down at Nathan's for hot dogs, or grab a slice of pizza, Brooklyn-style.

5. Spend Some Time In Central Park

New York City - Market - Central Park

There are plenty of wonderful parks to visit in NYC, as there is a main park in every borough. However, the "it" park that you've probably seen in movies and television shows is none other than Central Park. Before you go, make sure you have your walking shoes on and pick a section to visit.

New York City - Central Park

As a lung for the city, this park is really huge. And, there are plenty of places to play, run, bike, read, lounge, eat, and even roller skate.

6. All About The Sea

Personally, we look at summer in NYC as a time to celebrate the sea and sun. There are many historical and architectural wonders in the city, as it has served as a seaport and the state has a rich naval history.

New York City historical and architectural wonders

So, one curious destination to venture to is the Seaport Museum and the surrounding area. Learn more about NYC's history, discover views of the Brooklyn Bridge from the ground, stroll on cobbled streets, and check out tucked away shops.

7. Walk Across The Brooklyn Bridge

If there is one icon for NYC beyond the Empire State Building or the Radio City Music Hall, it's the Brooklyn Bridge. At one point, this bridge was the longest on the planet. It spans 1,595 feet (486.3 meters) and offers pedestrians, cyclists, and drivers stunning views of the city skyline.

New York City - The Brooklyn Bridge

Be prepared, as the bridge can get pretty crowded when you enter and exit. Plenty of vendors set up in the summer hawking their wares or bottles of water for $1.

8. Go To A Yankee's Game

Yes, the city of New York has more than one baseball team. However, you probably heard more mentions of the Yankees in many popular songs, or spotted the famous stadium in films. Sorry, not sorry.

New York City Yankee Stadium

When baseball season is in full swing, there's nothing like heading to Yankee Stadium for the smell of hot dogs, pretzels, and beer in the air while fans excitedly root for their favorite players.

9. Tour Real Neighborhoods with Real New Yorkers

New York City - Neighborhoods and communities

NYC might not seem like it at first glance, but each neighborhood in every borough has its distinct character and vibe. Plan a day to check out some of the city's most well-known neighborhoods and communities, and discover something new about the city that never sleeps.

Consider visiting neighborhoods in NYC like Harlem, Chinatown, or Greenwich Village. You could also visit Long Island City and Astoria in Queens, or Boerum Hill, Williamsburg, and Park Slope in Brooklyn.

Consider visiting neighborhoods in NYC like Harlem, Chinatown, or Greenwich Village. You could also visit Long Island City and Astoria in Queens, or Boerum Hill, Williamsburg, and Park Slope in Brooklyn.

There are many opportunities to do self-guided or guided walking tours of various NYC neighborhoods beyond those we just mentioned. Don't be afraid to get out there and be a New Yorker for a day. You might make a new friend.

10. Find a Nutcracker

If you are feeling brave and think you can handle it, there is one secret about NYC in the summer. (Teetotalers can pass up on this bucket list number.) Only in the summer in NYC, locals sell beverages coined "Nutcrackers."

New York City - nutcrackers

It might take some effort finding a vendor selling this drink, but it's worth it. If you want a taste of the real NYC summer experience, consider getting your hands on a Nutcracker. It's potent and gives established bars a run for their money.

11. Go To Union Square

New York City - Union Square

Last on the bucket list, get a feel for the pulse of NYC and take a trip to Union Square. There is something for everyone here, as it is a park in the middle of three different neighborhoods. Sit down for an impromptu game of chess, check out vendors, see street performers and protestors, or shop and eat at the surrounding venues.

New York City - Union Square

It's a destination that is buzzing with energy and shows a cross-section of NYC life. Plus, many train lines stop here so you can easily make a transfer.

Final Takeaway

New York City - city exploration

Visiting NYC always leaves you with a different or unexpected experience. You can never do it all or see it all, as there is never enough time. However, make the most of your stay in the Big Apple by planning where you want to go or what you want to see ahead of time. The most important thing is to get outside, explore the city, take pictures, eat, drink, shop, and above all, live in the moment.

For more NY travel ideas, check out these posts:

NYC Winter Bucket List

15 Historical Sites In Brooklyn You Should Visit

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