If you’re anything like me, all you want to do this time of year is escape to somewhere quiet with a cool breeze and access to a body of water. If you’re a lot like me, however, you can’t afford to rent a beach house or book a long weekend at a country spa. Luckily, you can easily create your own little getaway without leaving the five boroughs. Read on to find out how you can make your staycation feel like a real vacation.
Have a tropical drink
There are plenty of bars in New York where you can get the kind of cocktail that’ll make you feel like you’re in the Caribbean while sitting in a bar in Brooklyn. Go to Broken Land in Greenpoint for their famous piña coladas or stop by Otto’s Shrunken Head in the East Village, which specializes in tropical drinks and provides a unique atmosphere. The last time I was there I saw a supermodel taking pictures in the photo booth alone, which was a little on the nose but exciting nonetheless!
If the idea of walking through the heat to spend $10-$15 on a cocktail is unappealing, make your own tropical drink at home. Throw a frozen mango in your blender, add some almond milk, lime juice and vodka and enjoy! Once you’ve enjoyed a couple of those, break out the rosé. It may not be tropical, but it’s the ultimate summer drink no matter where you are.
Head to the beach
Who needs the Hamptons when you can take the train to Coney Island? (I’ve never been to the Hamptons. I’m sure it’s very nice, but do they have hot dogs there? Didn’t think so!) New York City has some nice accessible beaches — you can take the subway to Brighton Beach and the Rockaways or the bus to Jacob Riis and Fort Tilden. My favorite way to get to the beach is to bike there and back, which takes a long time but makes you feel like you really earned a few hours of relaxation in the sand and sun.
One perk of NYC’s beaches is how different they all are. If you prefer carnival rides and kitsch, there’s Coney Island. If you like beachside restaurants and bars, go to the Rockways. If you want to feel like you’re truly getting away from the city, head to Fort Tilden. If you crave vodka and pirogies after swimming, go to Brighton Beach. There’s a beach for every New Yorker!
My favorite part of going to the beach is lying down and reading for a few hours. If you’re looking for a good book, I recommend Jennifer Egan’s Manhattan Beach, which just came out in paperback (what kind of psycho would bring a hardcover book to the beach!?) and The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo by Taylor Jenkins Reid. If you haven’t read Kevin Kwan’s Crazy Rich Asians, do it now before you see the movie. One book I intend to read before summer’s end is Eleanor Oliphant Is Completely Fine by Gail Honeyman.
Hang out in a park
NYC has plenty of big, beautiful parks. Make a little picnic and go to Prospect Park with friends, rent a boat in Central Park and grab a snack at a local vendor afterward, sit on a bench in Tompkins Square or Washington Square Park and people watch, or plop down a blanket in McCarren Park and crack open one of the books I mentioned above. If you go deep enough into certain parks, you may even feel like you’re in the country…until a group of teenagers wanders through and disturbs your peace.
Volunteer to petsit for a friend
Well-off New Yorkers get out of town for at least part of August. If you happen to know one of these privileged people and they happen to have a pet, volunteer to watch their animal while they’re out of town. Even if it’s just a few days, the change of scenery may make you feel like you’re one of the many French tourists who has asked me how to get to Williamsburg recently. Lean into it: get a croissant and a bottle of wine and watch a foreign film on your friend’s giant TV while petting their dog or cat (or bunny or lizard — I don’t know your friends!).
If you don’t have any wealthy friends with pets, sign up for Rover, where you’ll be sure to find a dog sitting gig that actually compensates you. Voilà — now you’ve booked a paid vacation!
Travel to another borough
Perhaps the best way to feel like you’re getting away is to explore a borough you haven’t spent much time in. Venture to the Bronx to check out the Botanical Garden or take the ferry over to a Staten Island Yankees game. Nothing screams summer like being on a boat, watching a baseball game, and eating nachos with bright orange cheese that may or may not contain plastic.
There are probably even parts of your own borough you’ve never explored. If you’re looking for something to do with your Saturday, head uptown to Inwood, bike to Flushing to eat in Chinatown, or wander to Red Hook and enjoy the views. This city is huge, you probably haven’t spent much time in most of it, and the majority of it is accessible for $5.50, plus whatever psychological damage you incur on the subway.
Pretend the subway platform is a sauna
Speaking of the subway, it’s hot down there. Like, really hot. Waiting for your train can be miserable…unless you pretend you’re in a sauna at a fancy resort spa! Sure, most spas don’t allow groups of screaming children or men who catcall you, but if you put on your headphones, close your eyes and imagine you’re sitting in a wood-paneled sauna with a towel wrapped around you instead of standing on a subway platform in your damp work clothes, you’ll feel transported. Maybe. I don’t know if this will work, but at least you can remind yourself that you’re sweating out toxins — just as Gwyneth Paltrow would want you to.
Go to a museum
One thing a lot of people like to do on vacation is go to museums and guess what — New York has a whole lot of those! Spend an afternoon wandering through the Metropolitan Museum of Art, check out a Second Saturdays event at the Queens Museum or finally visit the Brooklyn Museum. There’s also MoMA, The Whitney, The New Museum, The Frick Gallery, The Cloisters and so many more places to see art in this city. Many of them are free or discounted on certain days. The best part? They’re air conditioned.
Blast your AC and eat smoked fish
Speaking of air conditioning, it’s essential this time of year. If you, like me, get *very *sick of the heat by mid-August and start daydreaming about the arctic, here’s how you can create a winter vacation in the privacy of your own apartment:
Step one: Blast your AC. Turn it down to 60 or lower.
Step two: Play Bjork, ABBA, Robyn or your favorite Scandinavian pop star.
Step three: Sit directly in front of the air conditioner. Stay there until you’re so cold you need to put on a thick sweater.
Step four: Eat smoked fish. Herring, salmon, whatever
you can get your hands on. Put it on a nice dense rye toast and gobble it down.
Step five: Tell everyone you went to Scandinavia. Don’t be any more specific than that. When someone asks how it was, stare off into the distance and say, “Truly indescribable.”
Now everyone will be wondering about the mysterious adventure that capped off your incredible summer and was undoubtedly more interesting than their two weeks upstate. Well done!