New York City has 14 miles of beaches, from beauties in the Bronx to the historical sands of Brooklyn to surfing in Queens. They’re all open from Memorial Day to Labor Day, and they’re all free. (Note: due to restoration efforts as a result of Hurricane Sandy, some areas might be closed. Check the construction schedule before you go.) What follows are five of our favorites, fun for sunbathing, great for swimming, and perfect for a lazy summer day. By Jessica Allen.
Coney Island Beach
Everybody’s heard of Coney Island. The most famous beach in New York trills and thrums with energy, even during winter. Here you can lay out, swim, ride a roller coaster, cheer the Brooklyn Cyclones, eat a hotdog at Nathan’s Famous, visit the city’s main aquarium, go to a concert, or simply watch the parade of people moving up and down the boardwalk, seeing and being seen, as they’ve done for decade after decade.
All the beaches in New York have sun, sand, and waves, but only Rockaway Beach, in Queens, has surfing. When you tire of hanging ten, follow the smells along the boardwalk to what just might be the city’s best concession stands, including Ripper’s and Rockaway Taco. (Many stands suffered significant damage during Hurricane Sandy, and may not reopen for another year.) You can get there via subway, via the Rockabus, departing from the Lower East Side, Williamsburg, or Grand Army Plaza, or via ferry.
We have Robert Moses to thank for this one. As Parks Commissioner, he widened several city beaches, and had Orchard Beach more or less built, using sand from beaches in Queens and New Jersey, a project that cost $8 million. Upon opening in 1936, it was nicknamed the “Riviera of New York,” and 50,000 people arrived the first weekend. Many improvements in the late 1990s and 2000s, including new playgrounds and facilities, have restored this beach to its former glory.
Aside from being the only beach on this list to have partially inspired a Neil Simon play, Brighton Beach will make you think you’ve left Brooklyn and landed in Ukraine. Known as “Little Odessa,” Brighton Beach has restaurants and stores specializing in vodka, black bread, plump dumplings, and jams, among other delicacies. Unlike its next-door neighbor Coney Island, Brighton Beach tends to be quieter and to attract more locals. Say “privet” (“hello” in Russian) and don’t be shy about making yourself at home.
Franklin D. Roosevelt Boardwalk and Beach
Franklin D. Roosevelt Boardwalk and Beach might be named for an important 20th-century figure, but the beach itself has been around for a long while. The Dutch hung out here in the 1660s, and in the late 1880s the area became a popular resort, complete with music halls and shooting galleries. FDR’s Work Progress Administration gave it still another boost in the 1930s. In addition to playgrounds, bocce courts, and playing fields, today the beach has launching sites for canoes and kayaks, and 2.5 or so miles of pure sand.