Travel inspiration and insider tips

New York at night

4 years, 9 months ago

What locals are doing in New York this summer

An insider’s guide to New York and summer secrets the city doesn’t share

New Yorkers like to keep visitors in their place. Because when the tourists are doing tourist stuff, it leaves the rest of the city free for them. Not that they don’t welcome your presence everywhere else. They just make it easier for you to find Central Park Lake than a city swimming pool. But, if you do manage to track down the locals and the places they’re playing this summer, you’ll be very welcome  New York loves a bit of moxie (we’ll take any chance we get to use that expression).

So here’s a quick look at what’s really going on in New York while the tourists are tucking into hot dogs and scaling Lady Liberty.

lady relaxing in a pool

Free and fantastic public pools

Average NYC temperatures in July and August hit the high 80s and city humidity doesn’t let up. Most locals don’t escape to Hampton beach houses for the season (that’s just TV). Instead they’re lovers of a public swimming pool and pretty precious about the good ones – understandably. McCarren Park Pool in North Brooklyn gets cool credentials on location alone. But it’s very family friendly and great for kids. Open from 11am to 7pm,  it’s completely free and if you’ve got little ones who don’t swim, McCarren has free swimming lessons all summer too. Olympic size and with a stunning view of RFK Triborough Bridge, Astoria Pool in Queens lets you sneak a bit of sight-seeing in with the swimming and it’s another New York freebie.

Governer Island daytime

Governors Island

You have to visit Central Park, it’s a New York rule. But once you’ve ticked that box, catch a ferry to Governors Island. 172 acres of green space floating between Manhattan and Brooklyn this is the alternative park most visitors miss and New Yorkers love. Hang out and relax in a hammock or hire a bike. It’s the city at it’s child-friendly finest with everything from summer workshops and class to play parks, sport, exhibitions and pretty much endless places to eat. There are events all summer long including a very glittery 4th July celebration. Locals throw parties here for all sorts of occasions. And if you want to keep your tourist topped up, Governors Island has one of the best panoramic, crowd-free, free of charge, city views too.

Spa towels and herbs

The Lunchtime Facial

Pampering isn’t a treat in New York, it’s a right. And it better be good and most of all, fast. This is where the Lunchtime Facial was invented and you can’t visit without trying this glamorous city essential at least once. Great Jones Spa is one of New York’s revered and discretely counts several celebrity clients. Their signature lunchtime facial, ‘Radiance’, puts you within half-an-hour of glowy, groomed, New York skin – much more effective than eating a sandwich, so we’re told.

Light bulb at a flea market

Brooklyn Flea

Ranked as one of the best flea markets in the US by Fodors and called ‘an essential NY pick-up spot’ by Time Out, Brooklyn Flea is what you do here at the weekend. 100s of stalls gather in Fort Greene and Williamsburg every Saturday and Sunday from April to October. They’re covered with stuff you want from vintage tailoring to antique jewellery, contemporary art and local design, furniture and collectables. Even if you aren’t buying, watching New Yorkers in pursuit of a bargain (or a date) is some of the finest sport you’ll ever spectate. While you’re here, try Smorgasburg too. It’s the food side of Brooklyn Flea just a short walk away at Brooklyn Bridge Park and now jostling with established greats to be the city’s finest artisan food market.

People at a flea market

Hester Street Fair

Hester Street on the Lower East Side was the site of New York’s biggest pushcart market in the late 19th century. It’s a bit slicker these days, but you’ll find the trading spirit still going strong at Hester Street Fair. From April to October every year this mix of shopping and madly good food is one of the liveliest places to spend a summer Saturday. It’s always busy and you won’t find a ‘quiet corner’. Think long tables and benches, lots of chat and children, easy going atmosphere and lots of innovative cooking to try before it gets snapped up and starry in the mainstream – you’ll love it.


The oldest contemporary non-profit art institute in the US, MoMA PS1 on Long Island isn’t just an astonishing space, it’s art as it happens. There are no permanent collections here. The exhibitions are fluid and constantly changing. Because new talent, theatre, art, music, dance and performance is MoMA PS1’s life blood. There is nowhere else quite like this, even in New York. You have to visit MoMA in Manhattan, it’s incredible, but don’t miss what’s happening on Long Island too.

Grand Banks Oyster Schooner

Escape New York for the afternoon and sail the Hudson aboard Sherman Zwicker, the largest wooden sailing vessel in NYC and the last saltbank fishing schooner in the world. Go for the views and Sherman Zwicker’s romantic story, but don’t expect a ‘sail round the bay’. Cocktails and native Atlantic oysters are served and the aesthetic is relaxed, understated but very cool. And with International restaurateurs, Mark Firth and Adrian Gallo, at the Grand Banks’ helm, expect party atmosphere but definitely not ‘party cruise’. Last year alone, Grand Banks Oyster Schooner contributed $50,000 to maritime conservation. All the more reason to pitch up for a voyage at Tribeca’s Pier 25.

We’re not suggesting you give the big ticket attractions a miss. Just cut them with some lesser known city stuff. It’s the route to a well-rounded NYC holiday, and easier than you think.

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