Summer Fun

Staff Picks: Our Enduring Summer Traditions

The beaches, the ice cream, and the outdoor adventures that we return to every summer—and dream about all winter long.

Photo by Sayaka Ueno

Summer Fridays, outdoor yoga, bare feet in the sand, lemon ices, and…boardwalk herring? (Spoiler alert: Yep, boardwalk herring!) These are a few of our favorite summer things. The What Should We Do team shares the warm-weather rituals that make summer, well, summer for us. What are your dog-day traditions?

Surf, Beer, Pizza

My summers always involve the Rockaways. My husband is an avid surfer, so we chase the waves that often land us in the Beach 30s, where there are usually tons of food vendors set up on the boardwalk selling treats—including a lot of delicious Jamaican food—on the weekends. After surfing and swimming, we skip the long lines at Tacoway Beach and head to Rockaway Brewing Company, where we sit outside drinking craft beers and eating beets with avocado. On our way home, we often stop for a meditative evening walk through the Jamaica Bay Wildlife Center. Even though it’s off the highway, we really feel like we’re a million miles away there. Finally, we head to New Park Pizza (which has a cult following!) in Howard Beach for slices and Italian lemon ice. —Molly Surno, WSWD art expert

Photo courtesy of Rockaway Brewing Company

Empty (or Emptier) Restaurants

My favorite summer tradition is getting into all the great restaurants on the weekends in August when everyone else is out of town. I plan on going to Don Angie, Tokyo Record Bar, and I Sodi all month long! —Molly Borman, social media manager

Ice Cream, Of Course!

I’ve made a summer tradition of a weekly trip out to Ice & Vice, my favorite artisanal ice cream boutique on the Lower East Side. It’s a short walk from Metrograph and makes for a great after-film hangout to discuss a movie while you get your sweet on. Best of all, unlike other upscale options, Ice & Vice’s gourmet treats cost roughly the same as a Mister Softee. My standard flavor of choice is the 9AM, a bracing mix of strong coffee ice cream with airy chunks of doughnut cake blended in. This summer’s seasonal choices are, as ever, a mix of the oddly wonky (purple corn and popcorn bread?) and the tempting (salted caramel sorbet and rum raisin), but I demand that everyone at least try a sample spoon of the ghost pepper in strawberry mole. You won’t forget it. —John Seroff, WSWD music expert

Photo courtesy of Ice & Vice/Facebook

Herring on the Boardwalk

When our kids were very young (and my wife and I were very tired), there were times when we needed the easiest NYC beach experience possible. For us, living in mid-Brooklyn, this meant driving to Brighton Beach, where parking was far more possible than it was closer to Coney Island. Eventually, we realized that it wasn’t just simplicity that kept us going back to that beach and ocean (the occasional floating diaper or beer bottle, be damned). It was also the feeling of having traveled far from home, despite the short drive—we four are non-Russian speakers and, thus, majorly in the minority in Brighton. It was the amazing beachside people-watching: burly men in Speedos and swim caps; well-endowed women smoking thin cigarettes barely longer than their fingernails. It was the herring and smoked salmon and eggplant dip and strong Eastern European lager filling us at Tatiana Grill on the boardwalk, the summer sun fading over the water. Our drives down Ocean Parkway may have been born out of new parent fatigue syndrome, but they’ve endured because it turns out Catherine, our two daughters, and I love our one-day vacations on the southern edge of Brooklyn. —Mac Montandon, editorial director

Photo by Sayaka Ueno

Outdoor Yoga

On Sundays, my roommates and I do the free yoga class in Battery Park (11:30 a.m.–12:30 p.m.), then we stay for a long, leisurely picnic in the park. There are two outdoor cafés where you can buy sandwiches, salads, coffee, and beer. The views are incredible. —Danielle Murphy, editor

Photo courtesy of Battery Park City Parks‎/Facebook

Upstate Theater Festivals

There’s no shortage of theater in the summer, but I like to go up to Bard College’s gorgeous campus in Annandale-on-Hudson once or twice to catch an event at its annual SummerScape festival. (Full disclosure: I’m a Bard alum.) Each year, Bard president Leon Botstein organizes a music festival around a great composer, such as Tchaikovsky or Chopin. There are concerts and operas, but also theater events, movies, and the delightful Spiegeltent just a few steps away from the dazzling Frank Gehry–designed Fisher Center for the Performing Arts. (The current, mind-blowing revival of Oklahoma! started at SummerScape in 2015.) Best of all, depending on when you go, there’s shuttle service from Manhattan to Bard. It costs $40 but takes you straight to the Fisher from Lincoln Center. I can’t think of a nicer way to spend a summer day than strolling around the green, rolling hills of Bard’s campus and hearing a world-class orchestra. —David Cote, WSWD theater expert

Photo courtesy of Fisher Center at Bard/Facebook

A Hike With Your Dog

I go hiking in the Blue Mountain Reservation in Peekskill every summer. I take Metro-North from Grand Central Terminal toward Poughkeepsie in the morning and stare out of the window as the valley becomes progressively more and more beautiful. I hop off at the Peekskill station, and then it’s just a short walk to the reservation. I hike either the Summit Loop (6.3 miles) or Twin Summit (2.5 miles). The entire park is dog friendly and gorgeous. Afterward, I go to Peekskill Brewery for a beer and a burger before heading home. —Sayaka Ueno, photo editor 

Photo by Sayaka Ueno

The Perfect French Fry

My kids and I love the Williamsburg Smorgasburg on Saturdays (the french fries from Home Frite are the best I’ve ever had). We walk through Domino Park afterward to people-watch and play. —Arielle Tepper, founder

Photo courtesy of Smorgasburg

Foodie Adventures

I dedicate as many weekends as possible to food-inspired pilgrimages. Even with the amount of food I try for work and pleasure on a daily basis—spoiler: it’s a lot—there are still some iconic New York spots I haven’t been to yet. I’ve made a bit of a dent in my foodie bucket list over the years, but I still have a long way to go. This season, I’m trying to squeeze in some biggies: a soul food crawl around Harlem, pizza and calzones at Lucali, lunch at Peter Luger’s (because tall tales about its burger have been haunting my dreams for a while now), and somehow scheming my way inside the impossible-to-book Rao’s. Who wants to eat with me and, more important, who can get me into Rao’s? —Jess Bender, senior editor and WSWD dining and drinking expert

Photo courtesy of Rao’s Homemade/Facebook

Swing!

My childhood summers in Hell’s Kitchen always involved walks with my mom to Lincoln Center, where we would get to hear amazing live bands and see people dancing all around Damrosch Park at Midsummer Night Swing. Fast-forward many years later: I’ve become a dance-addicted Lindy Hopper, and Midsummer Night Swing has become even more meaningful for me. Nothing beats seeing Damrosch Park beautifully lit up with great live music and dancing couples, many of whom have been showing up for decades and have the moves to show it. —Joshua Hernandez, experience planner

Photo courtesy of Lincoln Center/Facebook

Brunch, Art, and Wine—Without the Kids

After my wife and I drop our kids off at their sleepaway camp bus (the stop is at Lincoln Center), we spend the day celebrating our freedom. First we walk through Central Park to 90th Street and Fifth Avenue to have brunch outside at Bluestone Lane. Then we go to one of the museums on Museum Mile. So far we’ve visited the Metropolitan Museum of Art, the Guggenheim, and the Jewish Museum. This year, we’re going to try the Cooper Hewitt. Before we head back to Brooklyn, we stop at Kaia Wine Bar to check for the first photos of our kids from camp over glasses of Chenin Blanc. —Patty Onderko, executive editor

Photo by Ben Hider/Courtesy of Bluestone Lane

Welcome to summer! Here’s what else you should be doing this season.