Parks are fantastic–especially if you organize a picnic with friends. And, well, as a Frisbee player, wide open grassy areas are prime locations for some relaxing fun. But make sure that you read up on the park’s policy for grilling or fires. I recommend simpler fare to make the entire experience easier on yourself. Fruits and veggies and dips are easy and require little silverware or dishware (unless you disdain double dipping…). Cool beverages are a must at any picnic but think about how you’re going to bring them. And if you go the individually bottled or plastic cup route, don’t litter! Remember that empty cups, bottles, plates and bags tend to fly so be sure to weigh them down or collect them in a trash bag before they have a chance to run away. It’s a great way to relax with friends and enjoy the sunshine. And if you do it right, sometimes you forget that you’re in the middle of a world of concrete and metal so it can become a very mini vacation.
Taste of Times Square, on the other hand, is not grassy and you definitely won’t find any wide open areas there. Still, it is one of my favorite parts of my summer experience so far. It’s a collection of some of the top Times Square restaurants in an outdoor food festival. Each restaurant provides samples of some of their top dishes in miniature form. The samples can cost anywhere between 1-5 tickets–each ticket costing a dollar. My friend and I are major foodies but realistically frugal college students so we limited ourselves to 10 tickets each and started stalking the pavement.
The festival begins at 5pm and continues until 9 but I wouldn’t recommend waiting as some restaurants quickly run out of food. We started our adventure at 6pm when the festival was most crowded but the people serving had gotten well into the groove of serving such a large crowd. This past year multiple restaurants had cheesecake and variations of pulled pork sandwiches. Don’t feel the need to grab the first sampling you see; be smart about spreading out your tickets! And if you see someone walk by with something you’ve just gotta have, don’t be shy — ask them where they got it. The festival will be packed and you won’t always be able to see what each restaurant is offering, so definitely ask if you see something you’d like. My friend and I also took the time to document each dish and where we got it from. In the future, we’ll now be able to avoid the so-so places and see if the restaurants we liked will be able to satisfy us again.
And what goes better with food than music? Check out free festivals all across the city as it tumbles outside and takes full advantage of the gorgeous weather (and humidity…). Celebrate Brooklyn has plenty of awesome shows in Prospect Park (some of which are free). And Shakespeare in the Park is free, outdoors at the Delacorte Theater in Central Park. As someone who has lived backstage for quite some time, my focus for festivals bends towards the free theatrical performances all over the city. But if you’re willing to shell out some money to see something fancier, the Lincoln Center Festival is worthy of a look-see.
There are a ton of festivals all over the city so don’t be afraid to simply type “NYC summer festivals” into Google. Even if you’re only visiting for a short period of time, these festivals are definitely worth some research. And don’t limit yourself to one location, if you expand the search to all the boroughs it only gives you an excuse to see more of the city!