When the first inklings of spring arrive after an unbearable winter, New York City is a madhouse. You know it’s happening because all the crazies come out–in the best and worst way possible. The streets are suddenly alive (although it’s possible I feel like that because I’ve finally rejoined the streets after months of hibernation). Whatever it is, I feel like I’ve never seen so many people wandering around. (I swear New Yorkers will stand on random street corners looking up at the sun, eagerly trying to soak it in.)
You also learn, quickly, that any thought you have is unoriginal. In a city of 8 million or so, with a (lot of, but) limited selection of outdoor hangouts, you can expect to see your neighbor, and your neighbor’s mother, and every tourist imaginable at every location that feels like a great idea. Like, that brunch spot near the park. The Brooklyn Bridge. The Brooklyn Botanic Garden. Sheep Meadow in Central Park. Yea, someone else thought of that.
So how do you enjoy the warm weather without being overwhelmed, as a tourist or native? Read on… (and share your own tips, if you dare).
1. Find your own damn cherry blossoms
By the end of April, these beauties are everywhere. Now, I know the Brooklyn Botanic Garden is beautiful, but if you’re like me, the weekends are meant to avoid the crowds and subways. So, wander your own streets to spot these pink flowers and soak up the beginnings of a new season. But be fast! As I write this, the petals are already starting to fall.
2. Find a view
The other day, I was actually feeling sorry for tourists. On a strange whim, I decided to partially walk home by crossing the Brooklyn Bridge. This is one of the top tourist destinations, and it’s really not very pleasant at all. The bridges are filled with angry commuting bikers (which I really don’t understand. Hello?! You knew when you got on this bridge it was a tourist destination, buddy.), slooowwww moving families who don’t pay attention to the sides they should be walking on, and the occasional New Yorker that is wondering why they decided to do this (me). Plus, the views really aren’t that fantastic. It’s hard to pay attention to what’s going on because you’re too busy dodging maniacs and Instagrammers; the sounds of the cars are distracting; everything is a little obstructed and you don’t even get to see one of the most awesome views at all–the bridge itself!
Somehow, the best viewing spot for the Manhattan skyline, the waterfront, and the impressive bridges that surround it, still seems unknown to many. It’s the view from the waterfront between the Brooklyn Bridge and Manhattan Bridge, where you’ll find Jane’s Carousel. I go there often for lunch, and while it’s never very crowded, I never fail to be amazed at what I see.
Another surprising pick? The west side waterfront, near Chelsea Piers. I guess New Jersey isn’t the most glamorous view, but looking out over the water and soaking up rays with a bunch of relatively quiet, easygoing locals (plus easy access to a clean public restroom) is pretty much all you can ask for on a beautiful weekend day. Plus, there’s a breeze! Basically, this spot is the total opposite of the insanity of Central Park.
3. Find a rooftop
Now, this one is tricky, because I don’t mean a rooftop bar. Other people will have thought of this. I mean, call up that one high school friend who you think might live in a building with one, because that’s where you want to be. Preferably a non-doorman building where the roof isn’t, like, the most fancy thing ever. Just a low key, small building gathering spot, like ours.
We live in a relatively small, relatively new building without any crazy amenities, and our roof is tiny, but homey. There’s rickety wooden furniture, some greenery, and amazing views of the Manhattan sunset and Empire State Building. We take up wine and a little platter, and often sit completely alone watching the sun go down.
4. Find a place to eat
If you don’t have your rooftop, you can still enjoy drinks and food outside! But… not with street front seating. For some reason, this took me awhile to figure out–we’re sheep, after all. If we see people sitting on the sidewalk, I start stomping my feet, wondering why I’m not enjoying sparkling rose in the sunshine! What I don’t see is that maybe I can do that next door, behind the restaurant, in their hidden patio. Restaurants with gardens are much more unassuming.
Last summer, we found three places near us with gardens that were always partially filled. I plan to take huge advantage of that for years to come!
5. Get the hell out of town
This might be the most New Yorker move of all. If the weather is nice… escape. I’m not talking about the Long Island / Hamptons escape, though, because believe me… people have thought of that. What they may not have considered is jumping on the Metro-North or Amtrak and hustling “upstate.” Even just a short 40 minute train ride can land you in a place like Hastings-on-Hudson or Irvington where you can set up a totally low-key, serene picnic and bask in suburban sunshine. (For other ideas on escapes, check out my previous getaways.)
Alright, I laid my cards out for you guys. Time to return the favor!