July 1, 2010
Hot time, Summer in the City! With a heatwave descending on New York City, things are getting sticky. As we’re all aware, urban summers can be the most uncomfortable kind but luckily the Big Apple is more than well equipped for cooling outdoor activity, or non-activity if you prefer.
If you’re hitting NYC this season, at some point you’ll want to swap skyscrapers for (actual) sky and shops for shade of a more natural kind. Here’s a little rundown of our favourite open-air spots.
It’s big, it’s obvious, it’s probably the world’s most famous and in the height of summer it’s going to be permanently packed, but Central Park, in its exquisitely landscaped glory, really is an amazing urban sanctuary and isn’t without hidden charms.
Entering as many do from the southern end, it’s easy to miss out on some of Central Park’s uptown treats. If you’re with kids especially, it’s worth a trip to the very tip to check out the shady haven that is Harlem Meer and maybe even indulge in some catch-and-release fishing. If it’s more of a romantic rendezvous you’re after, The Pool is perfect for picnics and passion by the weeping willows.
Back down the way around 79th St, just West of the (admittedly beautiful and worthwhile) tourist trap Belvedere Castle, lies Shakespeare Garden, whose flora consists only of plants mentioned in the bard’s plays. Again perfect for romance or solitary reading, if you’re after seclusion. Across the way, behind the Metropolitan Museum of Art the area around the impressive Egyptian Obelisk (Cleopatra’s Needle) which dates from 1450 BC is a good stop for history lovers and anyone looking for quiet contemplation.
The Loeb Boathouse on the eastern edge of the Lake is popular and its waterfront restaurant is perfect for al fresco evening dining. If you’re a casual daytime stroller though, this might seem a little fancy for a passing bite. If so, head round the side to the Loeb’s Express Café for great salads, burgers and chilli dishes you can enjoy on the go if you’re not stopping for a relaxing gondola ride.
Even the shortest NY trip should take in a stop in the city’s hippest borough, Brooklyn now home to Brooklyn Bridge Park. Still under construction, its two newly opened sections, Piers 1 and 6 are already proving popular waterfront hangouts for the cosmopolitan crowd.
BK’s premier open-air attraction though, is Brooklyn Botanic Garden, which celebrates its centenary this year. 52 acres of gorgeous gardens within gardens, this is one you might want to make a day of during the heatwave. Though the magnificent cherry tree esplanade will be past its spring bloom state, the park’s Japanese Hill-and-Pond Garden (America’s first) has plenty of calming capability with its zen-like bridges and winding walkways. For a different, more western vibe, we love the Cranford Rose Garden, but BBG’s delights are almost endless.
Unique and quintessentially New York, The High Line on Manhattan’s Lower West Side brings new meaning to the idea of the urban park. A former elevated railway, whose future was uncertain for many years, the first section of what will be a mile-and-a-half long recreation area opened in 2009. This singular city space is where nature meets the old NY; currently running through the Meatpacking District up to 20th St, the park takes in modern landscape architecture, greenery and art installations along the way, with plenty of seating to watch the world go by from up high.
You might have seen its iconic space-age Unisphere in photos or films, but Flushing Meadows Corona Park isn’t always on the must-see list for many sightseers. It’s a shame, as Queens’ pride – previously site of two World’s Fairs, home to the US Open tennis tournament and the New York Mets baseball team – is even bigger than Central Park and has tons of playgrounds and playing fields spread over its 1,255 acres.
For the summer visitor, a row round Meadow Lake is one of the best ways to while away the afternoon hours. If you’re a little more passive and happen to hit the lake in early August, you might catch the Hong Kong Dragon Boat Festival. As the park is home to the Queens Museum of Art and New York Hall of Science, there’s stuff to do inside if the sun does get too much.
If you want to get right out of the city and have a day to head all the way uptown and across, the Bronx’s Pelham Bay is New York’s largest public park and even has a beach. There’s a beach in The Bronx? Oh yes, and it’s a nice one, but it will be busy in a heatwave. However with 2,766 acres of islands, walking trails and cycling paths, playgrounds, wetlands, a horseriding centre and wildlife sanctuaries, it would be hard not to enjoy something at Pelham Bay Park.
…and the best way to get to New York, Virgin Atlantic of course. Click here for flight info and to book online. Photos by sneakerdog, doortoriver, edenpictures, annulla, SpecialKRB, David Berkowitz, Joe Shlabotnik and WalkingGeek from Flickr Creative Commons.
Visiting New York City or been there recently? Got any tips or favourite outdoor summers spots to share? Let us know in the comments below.