Top 10 summer highlights in New York City

It's summer in New York! Time to enjoy the sun and discover the never-sleeping city from a new perspective. Sightseeing, tours, and events: follow us to the top 10 summer highlights in New York City!

#1. Rooftop bar

Woman with cocktail in rooftop bar

What could be better than ending your day in a relaxed atmosphere with a spectacular view of New York City? Once the temperatures begin to climb, the city's many fantastic rooftop bars really come to life. You're spoiled for choice because the number of trendy locations is huge!

How about a cocktail in New York's largest rooftop bar, "230 Fifth," from which you have a great view of the Empire State Building and Chrysler Building? Or would you rather have the entire Manhattan skyline in the background? Then head to Dumbo's "1 Hotel Rooftop and Garden Bar!" A tip for those who like it romantic and posh at the same time is "The Gallow Green" on top of the McKittrick Hotel. The shimmering lights, vintage railroad tracks, a vine-covered loggia, and live jazz music give this rooftop bar a very unique charm.

#2. Shakespeare in the Park

Belvedere Castle in Central Park

First-class theater experiences against the picturesque backdrop of Belvedere Castle and Turtle Pond can be enjoyed every year in Central Park when the ensemble of the Delacorte Theater invites you to “Shakespeare in the Park.” New York City's iconic tradition of open-air plays has been attracting hundreds of theater fans to the fresh air from mid-June to mid-September since the 1950s.

From time to time, Central Park even catches a whiff of Hollywood. In the past, the troupe of actors has already been joined by world-famous stars such as Al Pacino, Meryl Streep, Natalie Portman, and Denzel Washington. Tickets for "Shakespeare in the Park" are free of charge, but due to the great popularity of this New York summer highlight, they are not easy to obtain. You can only get them on the day of the performance: either in person in Central Park or Astor Place or by entering an online lottery.

#3. Boat tour

Boat in front of the Statue of Liberty

The skyline of Lower Manhattan, the Empire State Building, the Statue of Liberty at your fingertips: from the water, a whole new perspective opens up on the sights of your favorite city! And with sunshine and pleasantly warm temperatures, a boat trip on the East River and Hudson River is simply twice as beautiful.

There are many ways to explore New York City on a boat tour: with a free Staten Island Ferry, you can get so close to the Statue of Liberty that you are guaranteed a great vacation photo. For a more relaxed experience, take a harbor cruise or dinner cruise around the Big Apple. If you are a fan of nostalgia, you can set out on a sailing trip at sunset.

#4. Bicycle tour

Two people on bikes

Sightseeing and being active – you can have both on a bicycle tour through New York City in the summer! The routes through Central Park, which are extremely popular with US travelers, are a real highlight and take you to the most beautiful attractions of New York's green lung.

You can also go on more extensive tours, for example, to Harlem or through the whole of Manhattan to the Lower East Side. If you have even more endurance, you can also cycle over the famous Brooklyn Bridge to the borough of Brooklyn and back.

The American Dream recommends:

If you love boat and bike tours, you can save big with a New York Pass! The various New York Passes include numerous guided tours, hop-on hop-off buses, and also admission to the most popular sights and museums. Our comprehensive New York Pass comparison will tell you which offer suits your travel plans best.

Check out our detailed New York Pass comparison!

#5. Beach day

Coney Island in New York City

A beach day in New York City? Sure, you can! You won't even be on the road long before you can enjoy some real beach vibes. At the southern tip of Brooklyn stretches the Coney Island peninsula, which offers not only a long sandy beach but also an amusement park with numerous rides.

A few miles away, on Long Island, you will find Fort Tilden Beach, East Atlantic Beach, and Jones Beach, all of which are top locations for a relaxing day at the beach. You can get there with the NYC Ferry, departing from Pier 11 on the East River and taking you all the way to Rockaway on Long Island.

#6. Open air cinema in Bryant Park

A couple at the open air cinema

A picnic on the lawn, a good movie, and the spectacular backdrop of skyscrapers beginning to illuminate all around you as night falls – this is what your Monday night in New York City could look like!

The Summer Movie Nights in Bryant Park are a real highlight in New York City. The free open-air film nights take place on ten Mondays from mid-June to mid-August. You'll get to picnic in the park from 5pm, and then the movie kicks off at 8pm. So grab a blanket and some friends and enjoy the relaxed get-together!

#7. Rooftop workout

Women doing yoga

Sporty morning people can find their zen about 300 m above New York City. Once a week, the city is at your feet on The Edge observation deck during a 45-minute class of “Sky High Yoga.” However, if you would like to practice your asanas at sunrise in the airy heights, you not only have to get out of bed early (The workout already starts as early as 6:30 am!), but you also have to remember to book well in advance, because the classes are very popular and quickly sold out.

A different kind of workout is waiting for you from May to July with the competition on the Top of the Rock observation deck in Rockefeller Center. With an equally breathtaking backdrop overlooking the Empire State Building, you can sweat it out with a high-energy dance and cardio workout at “Summer Fitness at Top of the Rock” every Saturday morning at 8 am.

#8. Governors Island

Governors Island in New York City

Governors Island at the Southern tip of Manhattan is rather an insider tip among New York travelers and is only accessible by ferry in summer. A trip to the mostly park-covered island will be just the right thing if you are looking for a little peace and quiet away from the usual Manhattan hustle and bustle – and a great view of the skyline of Lower Manhattan is also guaranteed!

You can reach Governors Island in just a few minutes by boat. Ferries depart from the Governors Island Ferry Terminal near Battery Park or from the Red Hook's Atlantic Basin in Brooklyn.

#9. Manhattanhenge

Sunset in New York City

Have you heard of Manhattanhenge? This mysterious term refers to a natural phenomenon that you can only observe twice a year. During sunset, the light of the sinking sun shines in a straight line through the rows of the houses. No shadows from the buildings on the left or right fall on the streets.

If you are in New York City on one of the two dates in late May and mid-July, you are sure to get some impressive pictures. The best view of this special New York summer highlight is in Eastern Manhattan.

#10. Jet ski ride

Two people with jet ski

Did you miss a real adrenaline rush so far? Then a jet ski will be the perfect vehicle for your summer exploration of New York. With the little racers, you can reach your favorite places on the water in no time and add a lot of action to your USA trip. Are you traveling in a group? There's room for all of you at once on the BEAST speedboat!

More New York highlights

The never-sleeping city not only has fantastic summer highlights but is simply always worth a trip! Also, visit the ten most popular attractions in New York City and spend some wonderful days in New York during Christmas time!

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