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The 5 Best Beaches In New York City

May 21, 2014 6:00 AM

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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, swimming, and a lazy summer day. By Jessica Allen.

More: NYC’s 5 Best Public Pools

Coney Island Beach

West 37th Street to Ocean Parkway
Brooklyn, NY
(718) 946-1350

More: Getaway Guide To Coney Island

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.

(credit: Garrett Ziegler)

(credit: Garrett Ziegler)

Rockaway Beach

Beach 3 Street to Beach 153 Street and Boardwalk
Queens, NY
(212) NEW YORK

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. You can get there via subway, the Rockabus — departing from the Lower East Side, Williamsburg, or Grand Army Plaza — or by ferry.

(credit: Garrett Ziegler)

(credit: Garrett Ziegler)

Orchard Beach

Pelham Bay Park
Park Drive
Bronx, NY
(718) 885-2275

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.

(credit: Garrett Ziegler)

(credit: Garrett Ziegler)

Brighton Beach

Ocean Parkway and Brighton 14th Street
Brooklyn, NY
(718) 946-1350

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.

(credit: Garrett Ziegler)

(credit: Garrett Ziegler)

Franklin D. Roosevelt Boardwalk and Beach

Fort Wadsworth to Miller Field
Staten Island, NY
(212) NEW YORK

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.

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