13 Things You GOTTA Do this Summer

Get out on the water for free.

UPDATE: This article was originally published in July 3, 2012, it’s been updated to reflect all time and price changes everything should be up to date as of June 20, 2013, but please let us know in the comments if we missed anything. Here are a few of our favorite hot weather things to do in Brooklyn (though honestly, we’d eat ice cream for dinner anywhere, anytime). Bookmark this list for those Sunday afternoons where you keep texting back and forth with your friends saying, “I don’t know, what do YOU want to do?”

Get on a Boat
Brooklyn is a great place for small boat enthusiasts of all levels, with a plethora of boathouses offering free access to boats, equipment and the open water. There are several organizations that offer free open paddle sessions, which are limited to 20 minutes in order to accommodate high demand. The Brooklyn Bridge Park Boathouse, located just south of Pier 1 in DUMBO, is a popular one, offering free walk-up kayaking sessions from 10am-4pm on Saturdays and from 5:30-7:30pm on some Thursday evenings (check the schedule first). The Red Hook Boaters have free kayaking on Thursday nights from 5:30-7:30pm and Sunday afternoons from 1-5pm. Simply show up at the launch site at the end of Coffey Street in Louis Valentino Jr. Pier Park and you’ll be floating in a protected cove in the New York Harbor in no time.

Canoers who aren’t hung up on pristine waterways can brave the sludge on the Gowanus Canal on Wednesday evenings and Saturday afternoons, when the Gowanus Dredgers Club launches self-guided tours from 2nd Street on the west side of the canal. In Greenpoint, the North Brooklyn Boat Club is running a boathouse, complete with club-owned and donated boats and gear, out of a location on Ash and McGuiness. A $40 annual membership means that you can participate in practice paddling sessions on Wednesday nights and some Saturdays. In Queens, the L.I.C. Community Boathouse offers free walk-up kayaking out of Hallets Cove in Astoria on selected weekend afternoons. --Kate Hooker

Yes, you can pair a spritzer with BBQ.

Embrace the Spritzer
Wine spritzers may sound super ’80s in a Bartles & James peach-flavored wine cooler kinda way, but trust us they are a summer delight that stretches your day-drinking stamina and your wine-buying dollar. Here’s how to spritz: Get a bottle of rosé or white wine that is bright and fruity–nothing oaky. Portuguese wines work well, so do Sauvignon Blancs or Gruner Veltliners. Don’t spend more than $12-15 apiece. Chill them. Chill some seltzer, get some lemons and make some ice–the smaller the cubes the better. Then fill a pint glass with ice. You want lots of ice. Fill the glass halfway up with rosé. Top with seltzer. Take a lemon wedge and run it around the rim of the glass and then squeeze into the drink. Garnish with more lemon if you wish. (If you want to be more delicate and classy use a twist–a long strip of lemon peel instead of a wedge.) Stir and sip. So refreshing. The bottle will last you about six spritzers and at the end you’ll be a little buzzed, fairly well hydrated and wondering why you ever thought you were too cool to spritz. –Annaliese Griffin

Play Hooky and Take the Ferry to Sandy Hook
Save up a vacation day, call in sick, invent an emergency, do whatever it is you need to do to get a day off in the middle of the week to go to Sandy Hook on the ferry and lay on the beach all day. Sandy Hook is a barrier spit off the coast of New Jersey that sits directly south of the channel that separates Brooklyn from Staten Island. There are four public beaches on Sandy Hook (one of them a nude beach) and they’re glorious (though the walk to the water is fairly long). But what’s even more glorious is the way you get there. Take the East River Ferry to Pier 11 in Manhattan, and then board the SeaStreak Ferry to Sandy Hook. During the week it leaves at 9am and 10:50am. Take the 9am ferry so you can sit and watch Financial District types disembark from commuter ferries and feel smug as the sea of blue buttondowns streams toward office buildings. The trip takes about 30-40 minutes and once you arrive you’ll board a school bus, included as part of the ferry ticket, which will drop you at your choice of four beaches and then return later in the afternoon to take you back to the ferry. Make sure to bring plenty of water, sunscreen, snacks and reading material. The round-trip will only cost you $30 with this coupon on Facebook–AG

Hang Out with an Urban Park Ranger
The city parks offer tons of cool nature programming all over the five boroughs in summer (and the three other seasons as well). Learn how to canoe or go birding, try a nature walk or a historical tours–all of which are listed on the Parks Department event page. Oh, and wanna camp out in a city park? The city hosts family campers a few times a week all summer long, in parks all over the city, including Prospect Park. You enter a lottery 10 days before the camp out to join in the fun–registration info and a full list of family camping dates. –AG

Go to Greenport
The North Fork will never be as chic as the Hamptons–thank god–but the waterfront village of Greenport is definitely having a moment, particularly if you like to travel for food and fun bars. Along with stellar standbys like Noah’s and The Frisky Oyster for inventive seafood, and Claudio’s for old-school charm, The North Fork Oyster Company recently opened in town, serving up local Pipes Cove oysters (more sweet and delicate than your run-of-the-mill Blue Points), and fancy seafood fare. A short walk away is the more gastro-pubby First and South, where you can find hand-cut fries with Sriracha mayo, crispy duck tongues and a good ‘ol burger. And if the dining options in Greenport aren’t enough for you, a new passenger ferry to Sag Harbor debuted last week, so you can get a taste of the Hamptons, too. Hotel rooms aren’t exactly cheap in the height of summer, but if you go mid-week you can pay under $200 a night for a queen at a boutique hotel like The Greenporter–less than the Wythe Hotel. –Nicole Davis

Take a Dip in McCarren Pool (Especially if you Have Kids)
The long-awaited McCarren Pool finally opened last summer, and after a visit on opening weekend with two kids in tow, my takeaway was: it is totally worth the long-ass wait and the annoying rules (lock everything up, bring only flip flops, sunscreen, and water in). Of course, if teens keep beating up the lifeguards and cops, I will think twice about going. But hopefully the violence will simmer down, because the architects did a great job with the kids’ pool. It gently slopes from the lip of the concrete down to three and a half feet, so you can lounge in the water as if you were reclining at the edge of the shore, while your little ones splash around you. It’s not exactly peaceful, and there is very little shade, so you should think twice about going on a blazing hot day. But if you enjoy being a part of the throng, there is no better place to feel like you are one with the city (and surreptitiously check out the cute boys). Having brand-new lockers and bathrooms makes the typically skeezy experience of public pools much more enjoyable, too.–ND

Work Poolside
The King & Grove Hotel in Williamsburg has a salt water pool that was free during the week for like, five minutes. Now it costs $45 for non-guests for the day on the weekend, $35 during the week. Here’s the thing, that includes a chaise lounge, water and towel service, and free wifi. A lot of coworking spaces cost $25-35 a day and not a single one has a pool. What could make you more productive than the incentive of a swim break? –AG

Go to a Baseball Game–in Brooklyn
Sure, you can go see the Mets or the Yankees, but what about the Cyclones? Tickets for our favorite minor league team start at $9, you can actually afford a few beers at the park and it’s right on the beach in Coney Island. Sometimes there are even fireworks and there’s usually a promo where the first 3,000 fans in the stadium get a free jersey or another prize. –AG

Eat Ice Cream for Dinner
You know, just skip to the good stuff and forget about cooking in your hot apartment. Brooklyn has a plethora of fancy ice cream and crazy flavors to try out, here are a few current faves. Head to Ample Hills for Bananamon. It’s, “a twist on banana pudding, something for which this Southern girl has a serious weakness,” says BB intern, Julie Strickland. “Made with organic bananas, saigon cinnamon and ‘nilla wafers (as everyone back home calls them), it’s a familiar taste.  The only thing missing is the barbecue to go with it…” Her runner up? Nanatella–banana ice cream with swirls of Nutella.

When we called Blue Marble to ask their favorite flavor the scooper on the phone wasn’t eager to give her name, but she was very clear that their root beer flavor is the jam. “A lot of people who try it for the first time are kind of shocked, tastes just like root beer–sort of a root beer float in ice cream form. But you can also get it as an actual root beer float,” she said.

In terms of bodega ice cream choices, we’re hooked on the new Ben & Jerry’s Greek frozen yogurt, which is definitely not healthier than, well, anything. But the Blueberry-Vanilla-Graham flavor is ridiculously delish. And for all you Californians out there, yearning for the taste of home, head to Rippers on the Rockaway Beach boardwalk–they carry It’s It a cult ice cream sandwich made outside of San Francisco since 1928 that involves two oatmeal cookies, vanilla ice cream and a dark chocolate coating. UPDATE: And, Rippers will be adding homemade soft serve later in the summer of 2013. –AG

Go to Governor’s Island
Yeah, it’s obvious, but truly, it’s magical. Take a picnic and a jug full of boat drinks. Lay in a hammock, scratch a goat behind the ears, ride your bike around (or rent one). It used to be a pain to get there, but now the East River Ferry goes straight there on weekends, so what’s stopping you? –AG

Watch TV Outside
When I was in high school my boyfriend, his brother and I would run an extension cord through their barn and drag a television and VCR outside and then crowd round in lawn chairs to watch movies. It was the best thing ever (though their parents really hated it). If you have a rooftop or a patio or a deck, I highly recommend getting some snacks, making some spritzers and rigging up your own outdoor theater. Failing that, check out one of the very many outdoor movie watching opportunities in and around Brooklyn, from Coney Island all the way to Greenpoint. –AG

Get Hooked on Red Hook
Maybe it’s my New England roots, but every time I go to serene and salty-aired Red Hook I am overcome with a sudden and intense urge to move there. The wide array of standout bars, restaurants, shops, and pupusa trucks in Red Hook has already been exhaustively documented here and elsewhere, but many of the small businesses there are still reeling post-Sandy, and spending your weekend fun–and dollars–there will be much appreciated.

The  Brooklyn Crab Shack is a stellar summer haunt. This well-designed three-level bar/restaurant/theme-park-for-lawn-games offers up the incomparable combo of al fresco seating, crab legs and fried clams, buckets of beer, incredible views of New York Harbor and mini-golf. What more could you ask for? If you say dessert, then I will answer that they serve Steve’s Key Lime tart. Last summer, and already this year, there have been some very long waits for the Crab Shack, but hold on until August when the city magically empties out and those of us left behind reap the spoils of short waits at our favorite restaurants. –KH

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