There’s no denying that New York in August can be a hot, sticky mess. Indeed, the month’s usually unpleasant weather sends New Yorkers scampering off to the Catskills, the Hamptons or to otherwise idyllic locations while the city belches heat and humidity and time seems to slow indefinitely. If you can’t leave the city — and you’re up for leaving the house — New York is ripe for exploring in August, precisely because there’s less competition for its restaurants, hotels and events. Whether it’s to embark on an air conditioned-fueled indoor cultural adventure or to squeeze into hot spots abandoned by the well-to-do, there are plenty of things to do and advantages to be had by staying around for the month. After all, New York is the city that never sleeps — and that includes the drowsy days of summer.
Eat at the best restaurants
August is one of the slowest times of year for restaurants, which means you’re more likely to land a last-minute seat at some of the hottest restaurants in town, like Danny Meyer’s Gramercy Tavern for one. “It’s slower, and definitely easier to get a reservation, and [has] shorter wait times in the tavern,” says Gramery Tavern bartender Corine Horeth. Even places that stay busy all the time like Michael White’s Marea catch a little lull. Our insider there says that the restaurant can usually accommodate a few walk-ins during August, as opposed to no walk-ins in other months. Still, she adds, it doesn’t hurt to make a reservation.
Another way to eat out in August is by booking a table during NYC Restaurant Week, which runs from July 22 to Aug. 16. Choose from dozens of top-notch eateries including Bar Boulud, Craftbar, Nobu, Gotham Bar & Grill and more (venues can be found at nycgo.com) and get a three-course lunch for $25 or dinner for $38. Some restaurants, like Ilili, go above and beyond for Restaurant Week. The Flatiron Lebanese eatery is treating its diners to a complimentary tasting of rosé (dinner only) to go with its menu of hummus, whipped chankleesh (lunch only), lamb burgers and strawberry-rhubarb cheesecake.
See an outdoor movie
There’s not a more quintessential summer experience than seeing a movie. And when you get to watch one outdoors, on a blanket, nibbling some tasty food and sipping some covert white wine, it feels like the gourmet version of a drive-in. This year there are so many free outdoor movies playing in New York City, it’s hard to decide which to see, but the award for most unique screening goes to Prospect Park’s Aug. 8 showing of Beasts of the Southern Wild, which is paired with a live score. Other notable movies to catch before the summer ends include Saturday Night Fever at Mad46 rooftop lounge on Aug. 13, Fame on the beach in Coney Island on Aug. 12, E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial at Bryant Park on Aug. 19, and Hitchcock’s Vertigo at Brooklyn Bridge Park on Aug. 22.
Take a hotel staycation
Just because you didn’t leave the city doesn’t mean you can’t go on a vacation. Book a room in a hotel in the neighborhood you’ve always wanted to live in, or claim one of the special deals hotels are offering during the dog days of summer. Micro hotels Pod 51 and Pod 39 in Midtown are both giving guests free access to walking tours run by Streetwise New York (streetwisenewyork.com/tours.html) on Tuesdays, Thursdays and Fridays. The tours are a $75 value – so given the hotel’s already low prices (rooms can cost as little as $65.63), it’s a big savings. To make it even better, Pod 39 has a picturesque rooftop bar with skyscraper views; it’s the perfect lounging spot, especially if you’ve got a spicy margarita and a plate of tacos in hand from Salvation Taco, award-winning chef April Bloomfield’s restaurant below.
On the higher end of the scale, there’s the Standard hotel in the trendy Meatpacking District. Stay there and get access to Le Bain, its rooftop swimming pool and bar, which hosts nightlife events that draw a very hip downtown crowd – longtime party scenestress Susanne Bartsch throws a weekly party on Tuesday nights, and the city’s top DJs rotate through often. As you calmly splash about in the pool, you’ll be grateful that most of the models and fashionistas are too busy looking fabulous in the Hamptons to upstage you in the city.
Escape to the museum
True, the museums in the city aren’t less crowded in August due to the influx of visitors. They’re still a great way to escape one of those hot and sticky days for which the month is known. One of the late summer’s most anticipated shows, American Modern, opens at the Museum of Modern Art Aug. 17. It explores pieces by famed American Modernists, such as Edward Hooper and Georgia O’Keeffe. If you get hungry, you don’t have to leave the climate controlled environment; just head to the museum’s restaurant The Modern for a martini and Maine lobster gnocchi. After that, catch one of the museum’s three, daily-changing flicks. Sun, what sun?
Take in live music
While your boss hangs out by a pool in Montauk, you can soothe your ruffled feathers with the sounds of awesome free music. On Aug. 2, soul singer by way of electronica Jamie Lidell, absurdist composer Dan Deacon, and psychedelic band The Stepkids play at the Prospect Park Bandshell. You can catch perennial favorites and Brooklyn-based They Might Be Giants there, too, on Aug. 10. Head uptown to Lincoln Center to see the energetic and dance-a-licious Hungry March Band, playing on Aug. 9. Another way to enjoy live music is by dancing: How about on a pier, under the light of the moon? Yes, we are talking about Hudson River Park’s Moondance; on Aug. 4 it’s to a live swing band, and Aug. 11 it’s to tango.
Stretch out on the streets
From 7am to 1pm for three consecutive August Saturdays (3, 10 and 17) the city opens up about seven miles of street space for people to eat lunch, lounge about, play cards — whatever you want, except driving a car. There’s art along the way, so even if you don’t want to sit, you can enjoy walking down Park Avenue from East 72nd Street by Central Park all the way to the Brooklyn Bridge. Along the path, each of the six rest stops offers something to do, from rock climbing to dancing to sampling wholesome picnic food. Make sure you head to the Park Avenue Tunnel, which will be open to pedestrians for the first time in the event’s history and showcasing Rafael Lozano-hemmer’s sound and light installation, Voice Tunnel.
See something on the Fringe
Get more theater bang for your buck at the 17th annual New York International Fringe Festival, a series of plays from all over the world that coalesce in spaces across the city from Aug. 9 through the 25. The shows cover a range, including comedy, drama, musical and even some documentary-like performances, such as Ndebele Funeral, which delves into the healthcare system in Africa. Shows to look forward to on the lighter side include Married Sex, a comedic look at the bedroom and The Dead Hooker Play, also about the bedroom and what to do when something unsavory turns up. Shakespeare buffs will appreciate the numerous takes on the Bard of Avon, from a Dracula-Elizabethan combo to a riff on Hamlet to a day in the life of ol’ William himself. Tickets are $15 in advance, $18 at the door, but you can save money with a package deal, such as five tickets for $70.