It’s summer in New York City and you know what that means: stifling subway rides, the scent of leaky, roasting garbage, and spending too much money on icy beverages. But summer also means beach days, where you get to lazily lay in the sunshine and nap, read or listen to music for hours without feeling like maybe you should be doing something more productive. You’re getting Vitamin D, possibly being educated by a podcast (I love listening to This American Life and Slate’s The XX Factor while I soak up rays), and getting your exercise in thanks to beach volleyball. Maybe you’re being productive after all. But no matter what your beach hobby of choice is, you have a lot of options for your summer beach days in the City – and the Hamptons are not on this list.
My boyfriend, Chris, and I have decided to take the City beach tour. Since I am still recovering from surgery and we have a car, trekking to a new sandy destination each weekend proves easy and relaxing (minus the occasional traffic).
Here are your top 5 beaches in New York City and what they have to offer:
1) Your Swimming/ Sunning Beach: Long Beach, Nassau County, NY (cost: $24 for two, one-day beach passes)
This beach, just an hour drive from Bushwick, is smaller than many of the City beaches we have been to. The ocean isn’t a far walk from the boardwalk, so you can park a blanket in between both spots and watch the surf crash into the shore while still being close enough to the boardwalk to wander down to “Shoregasboard” for a snack. The beach was quiet and much less crowded than the lot containing Shoregasboard, vendors selling their wares and small carnival rides. For dinner, we ate at Brixx and Barley, a restaurant with indoor and outdoor seating not far from the beach that features chilled duck tacos and an extensive craft beer list. It was a relaxing day that was a bit pricier than we would have preferred, but if you get a season pass to cut the cost, it is well worth it.
2) Your Hipster Beach: Rockaway Beach, Queens, NY (FREE, plus a subway ride or a tank of gas)
I grew up going to Rockaway Beach, and the current state of the beach only loosely resembles the one I recall visiting as a child. The expansive beach area boarders a cement boardwalk that boasts a food court to whet any appetite. We sprung for three lobster sliders for $12, which were well worth the cost, and some home made mint iced tea (minus the ice, which they ran out of on that sweltering Saturday). The lobster rolls shared the menu with tacos, waffle ice cream sundaes and unique, chilled beverages. The beach itself was crowded – but not in a claustrophobic way – with 20 and 30 somethings ducking under a limbo stick, going on beer runs and jumping in the then-icy water. The crowd also included families, but there was definitely more of a lively, party atmosphere here. We loved that we didn’t have to pay for parking, although it was a bit hard to find, and there is no charge to use the beach. We ventured to Sayra’s Wine Bar for dinner and while I was enamored with their charming backyard space and tapas style menu, we were both very disappointed by the service and the mediocre food. But there are plenty of beachside restaurants dotted throughout Rockaway Beach to try to cap off your beach day.
3) Your Tourist Beach (read: the one to go to off season): Coney Island, Brooklyn, NY (FREE, plus a subway ride or a tank of gas)
We ventured to this beach last year when we lived in Jackson Heights, Queens. We took the subway and it ended up being a terribly long ride during which we were surrounded by gaggles of kids. By the time we got to the beach, it was well past lunch time and we were determined to hop on line and wait for a good old Nathan’s hot dog along with another 120 or so beach goers. We waited for close to an hour before sinking our teeth into the dogs and fries. It felt like a sweeping victory when my taste buds touched the tangy ketchup. We sat on the beach for about a half hour before we realized that it was nearly dinnertime and we had a long subway ride home. The beach itself was just dotted with people on that late summer day, but the boardwalk was very crowded (as in people bumping into one another while walking along the boardwalk crowded) and not worth the effort to trek to during the summer in my opinion, unless you are jonesing for some old fashioned amusement park rides. But I have been there off season and on stormy days when few head to the beach; that’s when I feel the same magic I felt as a child when I saw the Cyclone and Wonder Wheel rise in front of me.
4) Your True New York Beach: Brighton Beach, Brooklyn, NY (FREE, as I recall, plus a subway ride or a tank of gas)
I haven’t been to Brighton Beach in several years, but it made the list because I have wonderful childhood memories of this beach. I spent less time soaking up sun here as a kid than I did walking from restaurant to food stand in Little Odessa, a neighborhood with endless Russian food that boarders that beach. These jaunts were led by my father, Rich, a self-described foodie who cooks some of the most inventive and delicious food that I have ever tasted. He now runs the website Ethnojunkie, which has a goal of “turning people on to ethnic food, one story at a time.” This beach is seldom crowded and offers local culture and flavor that many frequently flocked to beaches don’t have. I dubbed this a true New York beach because one of my favorite things about this city is that the people who live here hail from too many places to count. I think it’s important to be exposed to cultures that you aren’t saturated in daily and try new cuisines that broaden your palette (I drew the line when my dad ordered rabbit, but Little Odessa has something for everyone).
5) Your Day Tripping Beach: Jones Beach, Nassau County, NY ($10 per car to enter, plus a tank of gas)
This beach took quite a long time to drive to, navigate the parking situation and actually get to the beach, so leave early if you want to make a full day of it (and if you live in Brooklyn). This beach is swaddled in a state park that is nearly 10 miles long. It is very well-kept and boasts actual restrooms, an outdoor picnic seating area and Smorgasburg. When we arrived, we made a beeline for the food tent, which offered snacks at your usual City prices. A bottle of water and a paper cone of large, crispy fries drowning in honey mustard helped us kick off our beach day. The beach itself wasn’t too crowded and was peppered with families, creating a pretty laid back atmosphere. A mini golf course and some other classic beachside games like shuffleboard lined the boardwalk, but they weren’t impressive enough to make us stick around as dusk fell. We headed to The Good Life for dinner, which hit the spot with an extensive craft beer list that could chill any sunburn and a drool-worthy Tabasco chicken pot pie. This was a great day trip to a new corner of the world and a nice summer adventure, but it’s a bit of a haul for your average beach day.
What is your favorite New York City beach? Comment below or tell me on Twitter @asanders88.