This is my first spring in New York City so, of course, I want to get the most out of it. Now that businesses are reopening, there’s so much to do and see. Because I just moved to the city a few months ago, I went straight to the source. I asked a few New Yorkers what are their favorite things to do as the weather gets warmer. From outdoor theaters to cruises on the water, here are 34 recommendations that will make the most out of your spring and take you back to pre-pandemic days.
P.S. Soon, a lot of businesses will require proof that you got your Covid-19 vaccine(s), or that you can produce a negative test result. Download the vaccine passport app for more information and be sure to check the events website before you purchase tickets or make reservations.
Nowadays (Brooklyn/Queens)—An intimate restaurant and bar that has DJs, dance parties, and outdoor films under the trees lit with string lights. It actually feels more like a summer backyard party than a restaurant (which is a good thing). There’s a vast drink selection with a variety of beer on tap and craft cocktails. For dinner try the vegetarian ramen noodles with a side of french fries.
Public Records NYC (Brooklyn)—This venue, vegan restaurant, cafe and zine shop has a little something for everyone. With its tall ceilings, skylights, and a killer sound system, it’s the type of place where you want to grab something to eat and stay well into the night. You can book reservations here. PS: Public Records launched a streaming series called Public Records TV where you can view their art films, DJ sets, and more all from your home.
A scenic jog
East River Greenway (Midtown to Battery Park and Midtown to East Harlem)—The path along the East River Greenway is 9.68 miles which offers unparalleled views of the Brooklyn and Manhattan skyline. I like going at sunset and I’ll stop from time to time to take a photo. As the sun sets, the colorful skies are a gorgeous backdrop to the cityscape. Billy and I will start at Midtown and run to the Lower East Side and usually walk back. Even though the path is almost 10 miles long, there’s a gap between 41st to 60th street.
Not your typical movie experience
Queens Drive-In (Queens)—Another spot where you can watch films from the safety of your car. The lineup: Willy Wonka & the Chocolate Factory, Batman, Carrie, Jaws, with more added regularly. Tickets are $35 with a maximum of five people per car.
ParkLife (Brooklyn)—Sit under the string lights while eating vegetarian street tacos and loaded queso and watching the Oscars live or the NFL draft. This Mexican restaurant with outdoor seating hosts trivia nights and movie nights on their projector.
Skyline Drive-In (Greenpoint, Brooklyn)—An outdoor movie theater with a stunning view of the Manhattan skyline. Some of the upcoming films to look forward to are Goodfellas, Sixteen Candles, and Zombieland. They have more than one ticket option to choose from; price per person if you don’t have a car, or price per car.
Syndicated (Brooklyn)—A restaurant and bar with an indoor theater and a sidewalk cinema. Syndicated has outdoor movies every evening at 8pm. Seating is first come, first serve, so arrive early. For their indoor films and shorts, purchase tickets in advance.
Fulfill your sweet tooth
Fferins of Brooklyn (Park Slope)—An old-fashioned candy store that has everything from artisanal chocolates to British brand candy to nostalgic goodies. They also carry locally sourced snacks, rare confections, and in the summer months they sell ice cream.
Dylan’s Candy Bar (Midtown)—An upscale store that’s filled with luxury chocolates, sweets4op0 and hard to find candy from previous decades. Their flagship location is in Midtown, but they have locations throughout the U.S. With three floors (the top floor has a cafe, but it’s currently closed due to Covid), you’ll be able to find something to fulfill your sweet tooth!
Ray’s Candy Store (East Village)—Since 1974 this cash only joint with a retro vibe has been selling junk food favorites like fried Oreos, ice cream, beignets, mozzarella sticks, and chilli cheese dogs. No matter what you order, it will satisfy that late night carb craving and they’re open 24/7.
Sugarfina (Midtown)—This is my go-to place when I need to purchase a gift or I’m yearning for something sugary. They have everything from tea-inspired and alcohol infused candy to imported chocolates and colorful gummies. Sugarfina has boutiques worldwide and you can also find their candy in high-end retailers like Bloomingdales and Nordstrom.
Cherry blossoms and a picnic in the park
Brooklyn Botanic Garden (Prospect Park)—The Japanese hill-and-pond garden, cherry blossom trees, and a rose garden are just some of the must see areas. If you’re looking for something to eat while you’re there, stop by the Coffee Bar and grab a soup and sandwich or pastry. Tickets for members are free and non-members can buy tickets ranging from $12 to $18. P.S. If you can’t get there in person, take a virtual trip and view the cherry blossoms from your home.
Flushing Meadows Corona Park (Queens)—Perfect for activities like soccer, baseball, tennis, or swimming. They also have a lake, kayaks to rent, and scenic trails. Grab a danish, cookie, or frozen drink at Martha’s Country Bakery, or Italian Ice at Lemon Ice King of Corona and bring them with you to the park.
Central Park (Upper East Side and Upper West Side)—All four seasons in Central Park are remarkable but there’s something truly special about walking through the greenery and seeing the cherry blossoms right after they bloom (here’s a map on the best places to spot them). Later, rent a rowboat at the Loeb Boathouse and go for a ride in the Central Park Lake. Complete your afternoon by ordering a pre-made picnic basket (they have a ton of options to choose from, like baguette sandwiches, fresh fruit, charcuterie, champagne, and more).
Madison Square Park (NoMad)—A wonderful spot to relax with plenty of trees for shade. There’s a dog run, a playground, free Wi-Fi, and ever changing art installations. The lush green lawn is excellent for a picnic, and there’s an Eataly restaurant and market right across the street. Create your own charcuterie with their vast selection of cheeses and cured meats, or order a panini, pastry, and fine Italian beverage to fill up your own picnic basket.
Hudson River Park (Hudson Yards, Chelsea, West Village)—This park offers stunning views of the Hudson River and the New Jersey coastline. It’s four miles long so you won’t have to worry about it getting overcrowded. There are bike rentals with a bike path along the water, boat rentals, mini golf, skate parks, and even a trapeze. All the areas are covered with trees, gardens, plants, and green grass for relaxing. There are a ton of places along the stretch where you can grab a bite to eat, but if you’re looking for a picnic lunch or dinner, Bubby’s is the way to go.
Explore an area that’s new to you
Industry City (Brooklyn)—A collection of warehouses situated on the water in Sunset Park. Inside you’ll find artisanal coffee, craft cocktails, bakeries, ice cream, and plenty of places to eat. There are also art exhibits, tons of shops and daily and nightly events like live music and DJs, yoga, bead workshops, and a pop-up vintage marketplace.
Where to eat and shop:
- Avocaderia—These healthy and colorful dishes are all made with avocados!
- One Girl Cookies—Serving light breakfast bites, savory sandwiches, and baked goods.
- Colson Patisserie—Homemade artisan pastries inspired by classic Belgium and France bakeries.
- The Frying Pan—A docked Coast Guard lightship that you can drink and dine on.
- ABC Carpet & Home—The place to go when you’re looking to update your home.
- Flavor Paper—A store that creates one-of-a-kind wallpaper prints.
- WantedDesign—Whether you’re searching for the perfect gift or want to purchase something for your home, this one stop shop is filled with unique merchandise.
- Brooklyn Kitchen—They offer classes and private cooking lessons where you can learn how to make dumplings, pasta, seasonal favorites, and more.
- Events—outdoor concerts, workshops, yoga classes and more!
- South Street Seaport (Downtown)—Aside from downtown being filled with financial buildings, there’s also the historic South Street Seaport. You can easily spend a day exploring the area where Fulton Street and East River meet. Filled with little shops and stone-paved roads, the area has some of the oldest architecture in downtown Manhattan.
Where to eat and shop:
- Cobble & Co.—American comfort dishes like mac & cheese, fried chicken, and burgers.
- Titanic Memorial Lighthouse—Located on Fulton and Pearl Street this iconic monument was built to commemorate those who died on the RMS Titanic.
- McNally Jackson Books—An independent bookstore with a cafe.
- The Greens at Pier 17—A rooftop concert venue with a view of Brooklyn and the Financial District.
- Christian Benner—He brings art to life with his studded leather jackets and deconstructed tees.
- Malibu Farm New York—One of my favorite SoCal restaurants that I can’t wait to dine at here in NYC.
- South Street Seaport Museum—Explore the decks and cabins of six historic ships.
- The Black Hound—A contemporary speakeasy that serves up craft cocktails, spirits, beer and light bites like cheese charcuterie, spicy tuna tartare, and parmesan truffle fries.
A day at the beach
Coney Island (Brooklyn)—I keep hearing that when the weather gets warmer, spending a day at Coney Island is a must. From Luna Park’s amusement rides and games, to the beaches and the pier, there’s no shortage of things to do. Starting the last weekend in June and until Labor Day, they have fireworks every Friday night at 9:30pm.
Where to dine:
Food and drinks
230 Fifth Rooftop (Midtown)—NYC’s largest rooftop garden and lounge with food, cocktails, bottle service, and a prepaid platter menu. They have igloos for rent ($75 per person and must be a group of 4 – 10 people). You can hold your own movie viewing party with 15 blockbusters to choose from.
Friend of a Farmer (Gramercy Park)—With a countryside vibe you’ll feel more like you’re in a small rural town than in the city. This rustic eatery has a ton of hearty options like pumpkin pancakes, French toast, omelettes, apple pie, and chicken pot pie. They also host happy hour every Wednesday from 3 – 6pm with wine by the glass being 50% off, $5 beers, and $7 cocktails.
Visit a market
Bronx Night Market (The Bronx)—Every Saturday from April to May the Bronx Night Market celebrates artists, cooks, and merchant vendors. With over 50 vendors representing over 20 cultures and cuisines, it’s the quintessential place for something savory or something sweet.
New York Botanical Garden (Bronx)—Yayoi Kusama’s trippy art installation, Cosmic Nature is on display here. Throughout the 250 acre landscape, you can observe her iconic and colorful polka dot flower sculptures. There are two pass options available for viewing the installations. To view both her indoor and outdoor exhibits, purchase the KUSAMA Garden and Gallery Pass, or if you want to see just her outdoor sculptures, choose the Kusama Garden Pass. For lunch, grab something to go at the Pine Tree Café and eat it at the Clay Family Picnic Pavilions. They have an assortment of artisanal sandwiches, salads, coffee, and tasty treats.
Street art (various locations throughout NYC)—New York City is known for its colorful murals, often created by well-known and emerging artists. If you’re looking for a guide on where to view street art, this one has 35 Instagrammable spots (and a map to go with each). From Banksy’s Hammer Boy, to Keith Haring’s Crack Is Wack, to The Bowery Graffiti Wall you can easily spend a day photographing each.
Afternoon high tea
Alice’s Tea Cup (Upper West Side)—With over 100 teas, fresh scones, crepes, granola, and a three-tiered breakfast tray, there are a ton of tempting items to choose from. They provide three tea options, ranging from $36 to $66 per person. Alice’s Tea Cup also has an Upper East Side location.
Kings Carriage House (Upper East Side)—Sandwiches, scones, and mouth watering sweets served in an outdoor tea garden cafe. There are a few different afternoon tea choices to pick from which range from $29.95 to $49.95 per person (some even come with champagne!)
BG Restaurant (Midtown)—Located inside Bergdorf Goodman, you can enjoy afternoon tea on the seventh floor with a view of Central Park. They have a variety of teas, scones, fruit preserves, devonshire cream, petite sweets, and tea sandwiches. Prices are $49 or $67 per person.
A cruise on the water
New York Premier Lunch Cruise—A two-hour lunchtime excursion inside a glass boat. As you dine, a pianist plays live music in the background. The cruise sails on the Hudson and East River where you’ll get a view of the iconic Statue of Liberty, Ellis Island, the Brooklyn Bridge, and Governors Island. Tickets are $96 dollars per person which includes lunch.
Around Manhattan Brunch Cruise—This cruise takes place on a 1920s style yacht and lasts 2.75 hours long. You’ll get to see the George Washington Bridge, South Street Seaport, the Statue of Liberty, Hudson Yards, and many other landmarks. The brunch is a 3-course pre-fixe menu and costs $124 (for four or more adults), $142 (for 2-3 adults), and $72 per child.
Spirit of New York Dinner Cruise—Set sail on the East River and the Hudson with music, dancing, and a 3-course dinner buffet. There’s an open-air deck that’s perfect for sipping cocktails and taking photos of the Manhattan skyline. They also have a live DJ and offer only outdoor seating. Tickets are $164 per person (which includes dinner) and they’re booking reservations for the beginning of June.
A slice of NY’s best pizza
Joe’s Pizza (Greenwich Village)—Since 1975, this casual Italian restaurant has been serving up full size pies or pizza by the slice to locals and tourists. New York Magazine, GQ, and many others have named it “best authentic slice in NYC,” and Joe’s was even featured in Spider Man II!
Ribalta (Greenwich Village)—Crafting perfect Neapolitan-style pizzas with an old world charm. All of Ribalta’s ingredients are imported directly from Italy. On top of having a vast selection of authentic Italian dishes (pizza, pastas, salads, small plates, and desserts), there are also gluten-free and vegan options.
Fumo Pizzeria (Upper West Side & Harlem)—Famous for their Italian brick oven pizza, marble bar, and candlelight dining, they also serve brunch and have a variety of pastas, burgers, snacks, wine and cocktails.