How to Make the Most of the End of Summer in NYC

Banish the end-of-summer blues with these red-hot outdoor activities.

TIME HAS A WAY of slipping by unnoticed. Before you know it, Labor Day is here, and with it the unofficial end to summer. This year is particularly painful: The three-day holiday arrives early, falling between Aug. 31 and Sept. 2. Where did summer go? 

But before the season fades into memory, don’t let regrets set in. There’s still plenty of time to do all the outdoor activities on your New York bucket list. And great weather to do them in. Here’s a sampling to get you started. 

The Metropolitan Museum of Art, NYC’s premier encyclopedic museum, is a rich repository of objects from every age and every culture. How many objects? In excess of 2 million (the museum’s curators are always adding more). Most are preserved indoors, with one notable exception: this year’s rooftop commission, Alicja Kwade’s “ParaPivot,” a large-scale minimalist interpretation of the solar system. How apt that the Met should have chosen to spotlight this installation during the 50th-anniversary summer of the Apollo 11 lunar landing. You can walk around and through Kwade’s square steel frames. Within are nine smooth stone spheres—millions of years old and from India, Finland, Italy, China and other countries. Each sphere represents a planet. The big blue “marble” is Earth.

No visit to the Met’s Iris and B. Gerald Cantor Roof Garden would be complete without a little shameless sightseeing. Make that a lot. Even locals marvel at the bird’s-eye views from this perch. To the west, Central Park in all its green glory spreads out acre upon acre. To the south, steel, glass and concrete towers demand attention. Two of the newest needles pushing their way into the skyline are condominium apartment dwellings on what is now called “Billionaire’s Row”—111 W. 57th St. (aka Steinway Tower) and 217 W. 57th St. (aka Central Park Tower). At 1,428 feet, 111 W. 57th St. isn’t NYC’s tallest building (that honor, for now, goes to One World Trade Center in Lower Manhattan), but upon completion it will be the skinniest skyscraper. 

A further incentive to spend time on the Cantor Roof Garden, especially around happy hour, is James Beard Award-winning pastry chef Randy Eastman’s spirit-infused frozen Poptails that he makes in-house in flavors that include strawberry mint mojito, bourbon and white peach, and champagne and passion fruit. For an extra alfresco kick, ask that your Poptail be served in a glass of prosecco.

 

There’s no doubt that New Yorkers get a kick out of the newest neighborhood in Midtown West, Hudson Yards. It’s a prime destination for fashionistas and foodies, while fitness buffs gravitate to its centerpiece, the Vessel, a honeycomb outdoor sculpture rising 16 stories. Its 2,500 steps are meant to be climbed. But don’t be put off. The 154 staircases are interconnected, and there are 80 landings for resting and photo-taking. This is an experience not to be missed. Think of it as a challenge, like climbing Everest—only easier and only in New York.

Thrill seekers in search of an adrenaline rush (while sitting down) might want to book passage on Circle Line’s The Beast. The jet-powered green speedboat zooms around New York Harbor at a gut-churning 45 mph. Of course, not every water activity in New York has to be this intense. Kayaks can be rented for genteel paddles on the Hudson River at Piers 26 and 96 in Hudson River Park up until mid-October. If you want to soar above the Hudson, Trapeze School New York holds classes in the circus art at Pier 40.

There are two essential New York walks at this time of year. The first is in Hudson River Park, the riverfront greenway that extends from West 59th Street to Battery Park at the tip of Manhattan Island. Start at Pier 40, say, and make your leisurely way south, past tennis and basketball courts, a dog run and a skate park, to Brookfield Place shopping and dining center. At Brookfield Place’s North Cove Marina you may want to give shank’s mare a rest and board Classic Harbor Line’s yacht Full Moon for a relaxing sunset cocktail cruise.

The second must-do walk is on The High Line, the 1.45-mile-long elevated public park and promenade that wends its way north from the Meatpacking District (near the Whitney Museum of American Art) through Chelsea before ending up at Hudson Yards. Along the way, there are woodlands, thickets, wild flowers, a lawn, overlooks and a water feature where you can cool off and dip your toes. You can also do a bit of eavesdropping as you stroll: Some of the city’s most prized and luxurious residential real estate flanks The High Line. The late Pritzer Prize-winning architect Zaha Hadid’s only New York building, the curvaceous, space-age, 11-story condominium at 520 W. 28th St., makes a powerful backdrop for Kasmin’s current rooftop display of three large-scale Robert Indiana sculptures. Each is a variation on the Pop artist’s signature “LOVE” series, with each work spelling LOVE in a language that represents the immigrant diversity of New York—English, Spanish (“AMOR”) and Hebrew (“AHAVA”).

This past spring, the final phase of The High Line was completed, 10 years after the park opened to universal acclaim and popular appeal. The focal point of the Spur, as this public space is called, is the High Line Plinth, which is dedicated to new commissions of contemporary art. Outdoor installations there rotate every 18 months, and the first is Hugo Boss Prize winner Simone Leigh’s monumental “Brick House,” a 16-foot tall bronze bust of a black woman whose torso references a skirt and a clay house. The work’s title comes from the term for a strong black woman who is as sturdy and as enduring as a brick house.

Summertime means gardens in full flower, even in the Big Baked Apple, where the landmark New York Botanical Garden in the Bronx—at 250 acres, the largest garden in a United States city—is as much a museum as the Metropolitan Museum of Art, only its collections comprise living plants. This summer, and only until Sept. 29, NYBG hosts its largest-ever botanical exhibition, “Brazilian Modern: The Living Art of Roberto Burle Marx.” Lush hardly does justice to the late landscape architect’s riot of colors and shapes. Many of his equally exuberant paintings, drawings and textiles are also on view. If you find yourself moving to a bossa nova beat along one of his signature curvy and patterned paths that snake through NYBG’s grounds, that’s as it should be. Marx is known as the Picasso of landscaping for good reason.

Not all of New York’s gardens, however, are on such a grand scale. And not all are open to the elements. The brick-walled garden at La Lanterna di Vittorio in Greenwich Village is full of plants, but its roof is glass. Quietly romantic, it’s a place in which to unwind after a day spent outdoors. Here you can lift a cool libation from a list a mile long—like an Orange Creamsicle Martini made with orange and vanilla vodka, fresh orange juice and heavy cream—and toast a brilliant end to summer in New York.

Francis Lewis
About the author

Francis serves as the New York executive editor for Where. G...