On days like these I adore New York City – these balmy afternoons when walking through Greenwich Village feels like I’ve stumbled onto the movie set of every idyllic New York-based film I’ve watched growing up. I am sitting in Washington Square Park on the edge of that center fountain that seems to double as the town’s watering hole where red-faced locals and tourists alike all soak their feet. In front of me hovers the intricately carved arch that looks as though it has been plucked off the Champ de Elysee in Paris and dropped into Manhattan.


6 Off-the-Beaten-Path Things to do in NYC this Summer - Nikki Vargas | travelettes.net

The park seems to be the perfect slice of life, representing people from all walks; I watch languidly as kids splash in the fountain, furrowed brow chess players challenge each other in matches, hipster NYU students play guitar on the fields, tourists fiddle with their selfie sticks and iPads and locals casually thumb the pages of whatever book they’re reading. Three girls run through the center of the fountain, soaking themselves completely to the idle applause of the New Yorkers and tourists, artists and businessmen, students and retirees milling around. In a city where people brush past each other without so much as a second glance, there is something almost magical about all of us being bonded at this moment by that simple, infectious high of a sunny afternoon and the promise of summer ahead.

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As a travel writer and blogger, I am only too eager to look towards my next destination and trip on the horizon. Each time I come back from an assignment abroad, returning to New York (and as a result reality) feels like I’m falling from cloud nine; yet on this particular afternoon I’m not dreaming of my next trip but am simply content with old New York and all the promise the city holds in the summer. Having lived in the Big Apple for almost four years, there are still things I dream of doing or hope to see! Below I share some off-the-beaten path ideas to enjoy in and around New York City this summer!


The Red Hook Ball Fields

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On the corner of Clinton and Bay St. in Brooklyn are the Red Hook Ball fields where the Latin community convenes in the summer for informal soccer matches and family BBQs. What makes the Red Hook Ball fields an NYC bucket list item is the authentic, Latin food that is sold by vendors at the games. Freshly made tacos, generation-old recipes of tamales – families and local vendors convene for an afternoon of authentic, traditional cuisine bonded by nothing more than a love of food and sport.


A Trip to Fire Island

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Every summer, Fire Island seems to allude me as I hear more and more about this destination and always wait too long to book a trip. Fire Island is a small island off the south shore of Long Island and is reached by ferry. Home to beaches, charming villages and (evidently) a car-free zone where you can bike around easily, Fire Island is a local getaway that seems to offer a dramatically different world than that of the hot & sticky New York City summer.


Queens Night Market

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Newly announced is the Queens Night Market, where every Saturday more than 100 vendors come together and sell art, food and merchandise from around the world. The market is a celebration of the rich, multi-cultural fabric that makes up Queens and is a glimpse into the many ethnicities (Greek, Colombian, Nepalese, Indian and more) that call this borough of New York home. One of the greatest things about New York City is the ability to discover new cultures and cuisines with the simple swipe of a subway pass or turn of a corner and the Queens Night Market (which I plan to check out this weekend!) seems a great way to eat your way around the world in one place.


Bike to Randall’s Island

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I recently bought a bike and made this trip from Astoria (in Queens) to Randall’s island and loved it! It was wonderful to bike across the river and explore Randall’s Island, which is lovely and green and home to mini golf, shooting ranges and other family sports.


Whale Watching in Cape May


Although not in New York City, only four hours away in Cape May, New Jersey you can go whale watching in the Atlantic Ocean and spot dolphins, humpback whales and other marine life. Since moving to New York, whale watching has been a bucket list item that for one reason or another I have not gotten around to doing. I am happy to say, I have purchased whale watching tickets (which also offers binocular rentals for $5) to go see my favorite animals in the wild.


The Jazz Age Lawn Festival

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I absolutely adore the Jazz Age as evidenced by my tattered copy of The Great Gatsby, F. Scott Fitzgerald filled bookshelf and love of authors and artists who lived in Paris’ Left Bank in the 20s. Every summer, NYC hosts the Great Jazz Age Lawn Party on Governor’s Island where people gather in their best twenties-inspired outfits for an afternoon of dancing, champagne, ice cream and live shows. If you ever day dreamt about attending one of Jay Gatsby’s lively parties, then that Great Jazz Age Lawn Party is the closest you’ll get to doing the charleston in a flapper dress while surrounded by large homes and flowing St. Germain liqour.


Summer in New York City is full of life and filled with endless events, festivals and happenings to entertain both visitors and locals alike. Whether swaying to music at the Governor’s Ball Music Festival, channeling Fitzgerald at the Jazz Age Lawn Party or trying ethnic eats from around the world; in the city that never sleeps there is never a reason to be bored!


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