Photo by Yuka Yoneda
While it doesn’t have the most inviting of names, Red Hook is actually one of the most romantic and charming neighborhoods in Brooklyn. If you’ve been avoiding this nabe because of the perceived difficulty in getting there, the city has made things a lot easier for you by offering a free weekend ferry directly from Pier 11 in downtown Manhattan. Enjoy incredible views on the boatride, and when you get there, take a stroll around Louis Valentino, Jr. Park and Pier and then head to the Brooklyn Waterfront Artists Coalition (weekends only, 1-6pm) for free art showings, activities and, oftentimes, free wine! If you’re feeling peckish, head over to the Red Hook Ballfields’ famous streetfood gathering to find pupusas, plantains and ceviche or stop by Baked for some pumpkin whoopee pies, salty + sweet brownies or blondies. For more of a sit-down meal, Kevin’s has been called one of the top brunch spots in the city, or you can splurge a bit (considering you saved so much on airfare and lodging) by booking a seat at the Brooklyn Fare Chef’s Table, which is Brooklyn’s only three Michelin-starred restaurant. End the day with a competitive game of 18-hole miniature golf or cornhole at Brooklyn Crab, and then relax with a cold brew on their breezy outdoor deck. Souvenirs for your friends can be found at Dry Dock Wine and Spirits (which offers free tastings) or Steve’s Authentic Key Lime Pies.
Photo via Bungalow Bar Facebook
Rockaway Beach made headlines for being one the areas most affected by Hurricane Sandy in NYC, but before that, it was known as a popular vacation retreat for New Yorkers. The best way to get there is to hop on the ferry from Pier 11, take the A train or ride the super-convenient Rockabus from Manhattan or Brooklyn for about $15 roundtrip. Once you’re there, take a quick stroll along the boardwalk and hit the beach. For those looking for exhilaration over relaxation, Rockaway Jet Ski offers a fun experience zooming across the ocean waters. After you’re done, treat yourself to a matcha green tea smoothie at Veggie Island or hit up Motorboat and the Big Banana for tacos, fresh fish burgers, grilled shrimp burgers, lobster rolls, crab rolls, pizza or wings. Then end the day with a yummy cocktail on the waterfront deck at Bungalow Bar.
Photo via statenislandusa.com
SOUTH BEACH AND MIDLAND BEACH
Contrary to popular belief, there’s much more to Staten Island than just landfills and Mob Wives. The Snug Harbor Botanical Garden and Historical Center is just a hop and skip away from the Staten Island Ferry Terminal, and offers a true escape from the hustle and bustle of the city. Or, if you prefer the sand, take the X1 bus down from Manhattan to one of the borough’s beautiful beaches. At South Beach, enjoy a summer walk down the 835-ft-long Ocean Breeze Fishing Pier, and take full advantage of the playground, handball and shuffleboard courts and seasonal concession stands. Then head over to Midland Beach to cool off in Sea Turtle Fountain’s sprinklers, and replenish some of your energy with some freshly baked canolis or pignolis at Royal Crown Bakery or sample one of over 100 flavors of authentic Italian ices at Larocca’s. Then cap off the day with a pizza dinner and drinks at Lee’s Tavern.
Photo via Casino Pier’s website
Looking to venture out of the five boroughs for your staycation? Seaside Heights, NJ is about an hour and a half away from NYC by car, and boasts beaches, boardwalks and more summer activities than you can shake a stick at. After laying on the sand for a bit, head over to Breakwater Beach water park for a fine selection of water slides or check out Casino Pier to ride family favorites like the Tilt-A-Whirl and the Hot Tamales Roller Coaster or venture through the Fun Houses. Don’t forget to try out the many boardwalk delicacies like a cold and creamy Kohr’s Frozen Custard, and end your day at Klee’s Bar and Grill for a hearty meal of pub grub.
SOUTH STREET SEAPORT
While it’s true that South Street Seaport probably won’t be hurting for tourists this summer season, it doesn’t hurt to drop in and lend a hand by spending a few dollars in the area. SmorgasBar, the shipping container beer garden and food court that popped up on Fulton St., is packed with yummy bites and cold beverages, and this summer’s SEE/CHANGE program has a line-up of free movies and concerts right next door. If you still haven’t tried riding a Citi Bike, the Seaport is the perfect place to do it with a dedicated bike lane on Water Street, but be sure to abstain if you’ve had a few too many at Jeremy’s Ale House.
Photo via Luna Park Facebook
Coney Island is one of New York City’s most beloved summer destinations, and this year, the community needs the help of visitors more than ever. The beach and boardwalks are obviously a can’t-miss attraction, and neighboorhood pizza joint Totonno’s has been called “a mandatory pilgrimage for all devotees to the slice.” You also won’t want to skip Luna Park for all of the classic amusements (although we’d call ahead to make sure it’s open in light of some recent structural issues). Show your support for the New York Aquarium, which just re-opened this spring after major Hurricane Sandy damage and make new friends with sea lions, otters and penguins. Before you hop on the subway back home, pick up some souvenirs at the Coney Island Beach Shop.