What to Do in New York City This Summer

For fans of New York City, it’s happening: Twenty-four hour subway service resumed May 17. Restaurants in New York opened at full capacity—even indoors—on May 19. Bar seating is back. Double-decker tour buses are cruising down Broadway. The sidewalks have a tad less space thanks to the Open Streets program, but most New Yorkers are on board with that. Yes, just in time for summer New York City is getting back to business.

Everything happening this summer may not make up for the months spent inside (or for out-of-towners, the year spent delaying a visit), but the food, art, and other things we love most about the city may be as good as ever. Below, a selection of this summer’s best things to do in NYC that we’re most excited about.

Click the link to read our complete New York City travel guide.

Where to eat

There’s always something interesting happening at Pioneer Works, the art and performance space housed in a former Red Hook industrial iron factory. This summer, they’re running a chef dinner series, which kicked off May 4 and will run for four months, held outdoors with limited seating. Look for improvisational, dynamic Mediterranean by Loren Abramovitch and Daniel Soskolne (LEV) on June 29; a local, seasonal summer session by Woldy Reyes (Woldy Kusina) on July 20; creative homestyle Japanese by Emily Yuen and Maiko Kyogoku (Bessou) on August 17; and Michelin-starred Scandinavian by Fredrik Berselius (Aska) on September 21.

Meanwhile, if you’re on the hunt for Sorrento lemons twice the size of your fist, white asparagus, purple artichokes, raisins on the vine, green strawberries, candied orange peels, or conica morel mushrooms that look just like honeycomb, head straight to the whimsical stock at the Italian food shop Alimentari Flâneur. It started as a pop-up and recently joined Essex Market permanently.

The Baja-California-inspired Seeyamañana is a festive NoMad newcomer. Dishes, such as a stuffed poblano taco with apples, raisins, and banana, and an ensalada de posole with multiple types of radish, make inventive use of produce. A non-vegan dish, the ceviche, features pole-caught fish. Botanical highballs stand out on the drinks list, and of course, everyone loves something frozen this time of year. Frozen margarita or frozen mezcal penicillin—your pick.

What to see

Whether it’s May and cherry blossom petals are blowing everywhere or Christmastime and model trains are clicking along their tracks at the annual Holiday Train Show, the New York Botanical Garden in the Bronx is always a good idea. Now through October 31, Kusama: Cosmic Nature will light up the NYBG after a one-year COVID-19 delay with its pumpkin sculptures both enormous (see above) and small; its polka dot-cased tree trunks; and its pink flower stickers. We recommend the Narcissus Garden, where mirrored metal balls shimmy and clink through a flowing stream. This work of art debuted in 1966 at the Venice Biennale, where Yayoi Kusama stood by with a sign that said, “Your Narcissism for Sale.” Don’t let lines deter you from the galleries, where early work and sketches give insight into the mind of the artist.

The first museum retrospective of artist Alice Neel (1900–1984) in two decades is showing at the Met. Alice Neel: People Come First focuses on portraits of residents in Spanish Harlem, her erotic watercolors and pastels, and her paintings of nude figures, which, radically for the ‘60s and ‘70s, include pregnant women. Neel, a New Yorker for decades, encapsulated the city with her work. “For me,” she said, “people come first. I have tried to assert the dignity and eternal importance of the human being.” The exhibition runs until August 1.

Jackson Pollock’s largest painting, Mural, is on view until August 30 at the Guggenheim. Peggy Guggenheim commissioned the painting for her townhouse at 155 East 61st Street in New York City, and until recently it had been held at the University of Iowa Museum of Art since 1951. The painting signifies a pivotal moment in Pollock’s artistry, in which he moved from surrealism to gesture and action.

What to do

Broadway! While theaters won’t actually welcome back audiences until September, they’ll be operating at 100 percent capacity when they do (possibly with a proof-of-vaccination requirement). While you wait, get your tickets before they start selling out. Currently available shows include: Ain’t Too Proud—the Life and Times of the Temptations, Chicago, Come From Away, Company, Diana: A True Musical Story, Mrs. Doubtfire, The Phantom of the Opera, Wicked, and Six.

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