New York City Adventures to Try This Summer

Home for the summer? Check out these five activities around the city for an exciting adventure with friends.


While leaving New York City for the summer can be exciting, there are so many opportunities for adventure in this great city that we call home! (Photo Credit: Fred Hsu on en.wikipedia, CC BY-SA 4.0 , via Wikimedia Commons)

Phineas Flynn of the classic 2000s Disney animated series Phineas and Ferb once said, “There’s a hundred and four days of summer vacation, ’til school comes along just to end it, so the annual problem for our generation is finding a good way to spend it, like maybe…”

1. Visiting the New York City Smorgasburgs 

New York City is one of the premiere food cities in the world, and a great place to try trendy and delicious food from a variety of vendors is the Smorgasburg (pronounced smaw-guhs-bawd). The term Smorgasburg is the combination of the Swedish word “Smörgåsbord,” which is a buffet style meal, and Williamsburg, Brooklyn, where the food market originated. The Smorgasburg, also known as the “Woodstock of eating,” was founded in 2011 by Brooklyn Flea Market creators Jonathan Butler and Eric Demby

This year, there are three Smorgasburg locations that will be open through October. Smorgasburg World Trade Center (185 Greenwich Street, New York, NY 10006) is open on Fridays from 11 a.m. to 7  p.m. The Williamsburg Smorgasburg (Marsha P. Johnson State Park, 90 Kent Avenue, Brooklyn, NY, 11211) is open on Saturdays from 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. The Sunday Smorgasburg takes place in Prospect Park (Prospect Park, Breeze Hill, Brooklyn, NY 11225) from 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. 

All three New York City Smorgasburgs offer a wide variety of cuisines, and one of the best parts of visiting is exploring the different vendors and walking around the festival, preferably with a cool flavored lemonade from Vermont Maple Lemonade at the Brooklyn venues. There are a total of 80 vendors across the three locations.

While all the vendors provide delicious food, I especially recommend a few. First, go to Mao’s Bao for fresh, steaming hot buns in an array of colors and flavors at all three locations. Second, also at all three venues, go to Red Hook Lobster Pound which serves classic, buttery lobster rolls from Maine. Third, for fans of Levain Bakery, check out Bang Cookies at the World Trade Center and Prospect Park Smorgasburg’s. They sell large, soft baked cookies in classic flavors like Walnut Chocolate Chip and more unique ones such as s’mores and white chocolate cookies filled with lemon buttercream.  

The Smorgasburg can often have long lines, so if you are interested in skipping them, download the ChowNow App to order on your phone and pick up your food. Moreover, getting several food items at the Smorgasburg can be quite pricey. It is recommended to bring around $20 and a friend to share your food with so you can try as much as possible.

2. Watching a Free Movie in the Park

Here is a 2022 showing of the cult classic film Ghostbusters in Prospect Park. (Acadia Bost)

There are free, outdoor movie nights throughout the city in parks all summer up to early September! They are mostly hosted from 8 p.m. to 11 p.m. in Central Park but there are also movies in Flushing Meadows Corona Park, Juniper Valley Park, and Riverside Park as well as many other locations. A variety of movie genres are shown like kids, romance, action, and comedy. A recommended showing is The Dark Knight Rises at Sidney Hillman Playground in Manhattan on July 26th, 2023. View the full schedule of summer outdoor movies here.

To attend one of these outdoor events, you must create an account with the City of New York, here. Once you have an account, register for the event by clicking on the registration link on the New York Parks website that can be found by clicking on the event. If it is a free movie, there should be absolutely no charges and you will be emailed a confirmation of your ticket. You should bring movie snacks, drinks, a few lawn chairs, or a picnic blanket as no materials are provided by the Parks. Happy movie watching!

3. Going to Ellis Island 

Here is a historical photograph of the packed Great Hall at Ellis Island. Images like this one are displayed in the museum for visitors to learn about the history of immigration in America. (Photo Credit: The New York Public Library / Unsplash).

As you may have learned in U.S. history, from 1892 to 1924, Ellis Island processed twelve million immigrants, mostly from Southern and Eastern Europe. Ellis Island was restored in the 1980s and later reopened as a museum. Since 2001, visitors have been able to search through the passenger manifests for Ellis Island from 1820 to 1954 to find their relatives and discover their ancestry. It is estimated that 40% of American citizens can trace their lineage back to Ellis Island. 

Within the museum there are free forty minute long guided walking tours. A must visit at the museum is the Great Hall which every Ellis Island immigrant went through. At times, the grand room would be packed with 5,000 immigrants awaiting screening. Also at the museum, the thirty minute award winning film “Island of Hope, Island of Tears” plays every half hour. The movie includes the history of Ellis Island as told by experts, interspersed with historical footage. There are abandoned buildings and hospitals on the island that can be explored on foot or by the Hard Hat Tour. To access Ellis Island, there is a twenty five minute ferry from Battery Park in Manhattan.

4. Attending Shakespeare in the Park 

Here is the 2021 Shakespeare in the Park set for Merry Wives of Windsor, an adaptation of the play The Merry Wives of Windsor.
(Photo Credit: Rhododendrites, CC BY-SA 4.0 <>, via Wikimedia Commons)

Since 1962, every summer, the Public Theater puts on two Shakespearean classics at the Delacorte Theater for free. The Delacorte Theater is located in Central Park near the Great Lawn. This year, the company will be performing Hamlet from June 8th to August 6th, Monday through Saturday, with a few exceptions, at 8 p.m. ThereThe Tony Award winning Kenny Leon is directing the production, which will star Tony nominated actor Ato Blankson-Wood. 

Shakespeare in the Park is an important part of New York City’s art and culture scene. Famous actors from Meryl Streep to Al Pacino have starred in plays at the Delacorte. The Delacorte Theater is significant within itself. Oskar Eustis, the Artistic Director of The Public Theater, said, “The Delacorte has always been a palace for the people, where the greatest plays, produced and performed by brilliant American artists are offered up free of charge. The Delacorte embodies the idea that culture belongs to everyone.” The Delacorte has been in the process of a 41 million dollar renovation to revitalize the space. Backstage space for actors, lighting, and access to the theater for disabled people are all being improved. Park goers and thespians alike are excited about the theater’s upgrades.

Since Shakespeare in the Park is popular among New Yorkers, getting tickets can be difficult. A full guide on how to acquire these free tickets can be found here

5. Trying Some Famous Food 

As real New Yorkers, it can be fun to try foods that tourists are told are “the best in New York.” First, try the pork buns from Mei Lai Wah. The small bakery restaurant has been serving delicious goods on the go since the 1960s. They’re open every day from 8:30 a.m. to 7:30 p.m. and serve baked buns as well as dim sum, steamed buns, and mains. With each bun being priced at about two dollars, I recommend trying several, especially the baked roast pork bun and the pineapple bun with roast pork. Expect to wait in a very long yet worthwhile line.

Here is a view of the long line at Katz’s Delicatessen. Luckily, the wait is worth it for one of their delicious sandwiches. (Photo Credit: ajay_suresh, CC BY 2.0 <>, via Wikimedia Commons)

Second, head to Katz’s Delicatessen, for some iconic Jewish food. Katz’s was first established in 1888 and was an institution of the Lower East Side. It rose to greater fame when it was featured in the classic movie When Harry Met Sally (1989).The deli serves around 15,000 pounds of pastrami each week, and visiting is quite the experience. When you enter the store you receive a ticket which you take to a cutter who cuts the meat you order and makes your sandwich. There are several cutters and each will likely have a long line, so move farther into the store to get on the shorter one. The ticket is for the cutter to mark so that you can pay on the way out, so don’t lose your ticket. 

While everything Katz’s serves is a classic, it is recommended that a first timer tries pastrami on rye with mustard. Their blintzes, matzo ball soup, pickles, knishes, and lox bagels are also delicious. These sandwiches are large and expensive, clocking in at about three pounds and twenty five dollars. Bring several friends to share with and to hang out in line. 

No matter what you choose to do this summer, enjoy every second because it all goes by in a flash. Here’s to an amazing one! 

Oskar Eustis, the Artistic Director of The Public Theater, said, “The Delacorte has always been a palace for the people, where the greatest plays, produced and performed by brilliant American artists are offered up free of charge. The Delacorte embodies the idea that culture belongs to everyone.”