How to spend every single moment of the day — and night — outdoors on the cheap this summer

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Show the sun how much you truly appreciate it by never leaving it. Via Flickr user gigiwannaflickr.

This is it, the moment we’ve all been waiting for: The first day of summer. That magical time of year when all pants end at the knee, all drinks include coconut and you finally get to spend some time outside. All winter you’ve been staying inside for your movies, music and alcohol like a rube! Well not anymore — summer means barbecues, lawn games, outdoor concerts, long bike rides and of course these strict guidelines for fun. Now normally people just do one of those, maybe two if they’re a true innovator and then retreat indoors, but why? If you’re like me that’s just not enough to quench that summer thirst, summer’s short, your AC isn’t strong enough and you need to spend as much time outside as humanly possible before the next snowstorm.

Well, we’ve laid out the ultimate guide to making the most of your summer, soaking up the optimum sun and staying outside for fun all day long, and all night long too. That’s right, you’re an adult now, nobody can scare you with threats of sun damage and if you want to stay outdoors for maximum summer without breaking the bank, here’s how: 


Outdoor brunch — Whenever you wake up

It wouldn’t be summer if you didn’t find an excuse to start drinking with your friends bright and early, and you wouldn’t be a caricature of yourself if you didn’t go to brunch. If you’re on a budget (which, c’mon, what are you doing, you should be on a budget) you’re probably better off fixing your own meal and eating it in the park like a true god of summer and hey, we’ve got you covered with this guide to the perfect picnic basket on any budget.

If you’re feeling too lazy to prep a basket, our fair borough also has a disgustingly large array of outdoor food venues to choose from so you can roll out of bed, head to one of these spots and start soaking up the sun/bacon/bloody Marys. Plus, you’re now legally allowed to drink alcohol at brunch before noon on Sundays (I know you probably did,  but you weren’t supposed to) so you can start seizing the day bright and early!


Doing “work” — morning

If you’ve “got” a “job,” every one of these parks has wifi — including Fort Greene, Herbert von King, parts of Prospect, Bensonhurst and many more — so you can check in with your boss periodically to cover your ass.

Or for slightly more reliable wifi and better booze service, try one of these bars with wifi that also have outdoor areas: Lucky Dog, Mission Dolores, the Brazen Head, Brooklyn Ice House, Black Swan, Abilene, Soda Bar and The West are among the spots that will fulfill your beer + wifi + outdoor needs.


Via Flickr user photohenning.
Via Flickr user photohenning.

Get on a boat — Late morning

Nothing says summer relaxation like a boat ride and New York’s waters, despite everything else about them being garbage, are perfect for them, especially if you want to stay outside and not in the hot tunnel of anger known as the summer subway. The East River Ferry is only $4 during the week and it’s a million times more fun than the subway (although still slightly less fun than the Roosevelt Island Tramway, the true apex of the MTA’s sense of whimsy).

The free Staten Island Ferry has long been the poor person’s way of checking out the Statue of Liberty without looking like you actually care about seeing the Statue of Liberty. The Ikea Water Taxi is free on weekends if you just make up a Swedish word for an inefficient cabinet you’re trying to buy (it’s $5 during the week).

Plus, the new Brooklyn Barge bar has free sailing and kayaking lessons, and it’s even a great date spot for those looking for someone to rub aloe vera on their backs.


Bicycle meandering — Early afternoon

Now that you’ve got some fuel, it’s time for a little exercise. Or, probably more accurately, coasting a lot and biking pretty slowly around Brooklyn looking at stuff. You can spend the rest of the week bragging about how sore your calves are, you’ll get a great tan and it’s both the most fun and death-defying form of transportation (besides murder-boarding, a thing I just made up). Here’s our reminder that biking in NYC is safer — and more fun — than you might think.

You could head to the ferry at Brooklyn Bridge Park and spend the day cruising Governor’s Island, or you could make your way on down to the epicenter of all summer fun…


It's a high time at Low Tide Bar in Rockaway. Via Facebook.
It’s a high time at Low Tide Bar in Rockaway. Via Facebook.

The beach! — Mid-afternoon

Let your bike meandering carry you over to that ultimate summer spot — the beach. You can keep it simple and head for Coney Island to check out the new beer garden, the huge concert venue or, I don’t know, some good, old-fashioned, probably not deadly American roller coasters.

Or you could take advantage of your non-subway freedom and easily navigate the far reaches of the Rockaways. Jacob Riis Park has the return of the Beach Bazaar this year, which is open all week and it’s got a killer lineup this year.

Plus, as we all know, beach food is the best food, and not all the options are crazy expensive, so depending on where you end up you can devour some Nathan’s hot dogs for $4 at the Coney stand, a bag of Tacoway tostilocos for $8, ideally, 100 Rippers burgers for $6 a pop. And while you’re at it, the Low Tide Bar at Beach 96th Street has $4 Lions Head beers and $7 drafts, and you can turn any of them into a Chelada for $3 to minimize fucks given. Oh, and also there are showers at the beach and you’ve been riding your bike for hours, you animal.


Celebrate Brooklyn's lineup includes Alvvays, Sharon Jones, the Violent Femmes and more. Photo by David Andrako.
Celebrate Brooklyn’s lineup includes Alvvays, Sharon Jones, the Violent Femmes and more. Photo by David Andrako.

Free outdoor concerts — Early evening

You’re a little burnt, you’ve realized no person can eat 100 burgers, you’re ready to take in some culture and your friends have all already heard your killer summer mixtape. There’s outdoor concerts all over the borough this year (if you wound up at Coney you can even stay put), but the mecca is and has always been the Prospect Park Bandshell. Bike back over that way, grab a mat and set up camp right outside.

Here’s the full list of this year’s shows at Celebrate Brooklyn in Prospect Park, plus a list of all the free shows coming to Brooklyn parks this summer. And again, you’ll find free wifi in some parts of Prospect Park if your boss is starting to ask too many questions.


It's like a drive-in without all the dumpy cars. Via FB.
It’s like a drive-in without all the dumpy cars. Via FB.

Outdoor movies — Night

The show’s over, you’re starting to get worried about Zika and the friends you dragged to the show are trying to go inside — but not you, you’re on a mission! And, thankfully, if you leave the show right away you can make it for at least part of an outdoor film. There’s tons and tons of venues for free outdoor movies this summer, they mostly start at sundown, which means the closer to the solstice the better.

Here’s a round-up of all the free outdoor movies in Brooklyn this summer, including the movies at Brooklyn Bridge Park, McCarren Park and much more. And again, they’re free, so nobody can judge you for watching Goonies for the fourth straight year. Forewarning: At least one of these films is Purple Rain so be ready for some group crying.


Pete's Candy Store's backyard is perfect for keeping your outdoor streak going into the night. Via Facebook.
Pete’s Candy Store’s backyard is perfect for keeping your outdoor streak going into the night. Via Facebook.

Backyard bars — Late night

The movie’s done, you cried way too much at Space Jam and now you’re ready for probably the best part of summer: bars with backyards. We’ve got some of the finest backyard bars in the whole city and you’ve got options in pretty much any neighborhood.

Here’s our comprehensive guide to nearly 200 outdoor bars in Brooklyn. Some of them close earlier than others so you might not get the full 4am experience but you can still log a few solid hours drinking cheap beer or preferably beach-themed cocktails at any of these spots.


This is Floyd Bennett Field, right here in Brooklyn! Photo by Matt Septimus
This is Floyd Bennett Field, right here in Brooklyn! Photo by Matt Septimus

Camping — Late late night

You’re so close! All you have to do to finish this thing off right is find a place to lay your weary head without going inside. Well, surprisingly it’s not as difficult as you might expect to camp in Brooklyn, in fact you don’t even need a car to find some of the best camping spots in and around NYC. 

As our crack team discovered last summer, you can grab a campground for six people and two tents for the night at Floyd Bennett Field, not far from Rockaway for $30. And once you inevitably wake up covered in dew at dawn you can get a head start on the day, even if you still don’t make it in time to beat the Shakespeare in the Park line.

And so you’ve done it: You’ve had the ultimate cheap outdoor Brooklyn summer day. Great work. Now rinse, lather and repeat until autumn.

Follow Sam and offer him some sunscreen: @Samhweiss.

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  1. I’m going to be “that guy” and note that the Roosevelt Island Tram is run not by the MTA, but by the Roosevelt Island Operating Corporation. (Between the tram and that crazy pneumatic trash collection system they have, RIOC is way more fun/whimsical than the MTA.)

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