New York City may be one of the most densely populated corners of the world, but it’s also surrounded by water—and lots of it. We’re lucky that a trip to the beach is just a MetroCard swipe away, but how to choose where to sprawl in the sand? This year, with NYC beach season extended for the first time through September 13, you’ve got time to try them all! To get you started, we’ve broken down the basics of several of the city’s most popular beaches. And if you’re looking to get out of the city entirely, scroll below for some of our favorite weekend beach getaways in the East.
For our complete 2016 Summer Family Fun Guide, click HERE!
IN THE CITY
The vibe: Next to Coney Island, Brighton Beach is a slightly calmer South Brooklyn beach—with a Russian twist.
Getting there: Public transport takes about an hour from Midtown Manhattan; take the B or the Q to Brighton Beach.
Cool feature: Known as “Little Odessa,” many local shops feature Cyrillic signs and authentic Eastern European food and shopping. Get your fill of “old-world” Russian delights as you stroll the boardwalk.
The vibe: A carnival-type atmosphere, provided by the amusement area filled with 30+ rides, prevails over this historic playland for New Yorkers.
Getting there: Public transport takes about an hour from Midtown Manhattan; take the D, F, N, or Q to Coney Island-Stillwell Avenue.
Cool feature: The Coney Island Amphitheater opens this summer with a lineup that will appeal to the whole family, including a Kidz Bop Kids concert on July 17.
Jacob Riis Park
The vibe: Wide stretches of sandy beach and a famous Art Deco-style bathhouse make Jacob Riis Park a popular getaway among local families.
Getting there: The more secluded feel means slightly trickier public transport logistics. Public transport takes about an hour and 20 minutes: From Manhattan, take the American Princess New York Beach Ferry from Pier 11 at Wall Street and the East River or the 2 train to Flatbush Avenue, followed by the Q35 bus to the beach.
Cool feature: This summer, you’ll be able to rent beach chairs and umbrellas through the Riis Park Beach Bazaar ($10 online, $15 on-site), and order food and drink directly to your chair using a smartphone.
The vibe: Manhattan Beach is known as a great destination for family picnics and barbecues, and is smaller and more low-key than nearby Coney Island and Brighton Beach.
Getting there: Take the B or the Q from 34th Street to Brighton Beach, then the B1 bus to Oriental Boulevard/ Mackenzie Street.
The vibe: A classic NYC seaside spot that’s also popular with local surfers.
Getting there: Public transport takes just over an hour from Midtown Manhattan; take the A train to Broad Channel; transfer to the Shuttle and get off at Beach 116th Street.
Cool feature: The beach features seven playgrounds for children, and the entire boardwalk will be open this summer for the first time since Hurricane Sandy. Not to mention that it’s the largest urban beach in the country!
OUT OF THE CITY
Sandy Hook, NJ
The vibe: This New Jersey beach offers great views of the city and makes for a perfect day-trip that feels like a true seaside escape.
Getting there: The Seastreak Ferry offers the easiest—and most scenic—trip. Board at East 35th Street or Wall Street docks, and once you arrive, the ferry offers complimentary shuttle service that takes you between each beach. (seastreak.com)
Cool feature: The Sandy Hook Lighthouse is one of the oldest working lighthouses in the US.
The vibe: A great destination for active beachgoers who want to take advantage of not only the 6.5 miles of white-sand beach, but also to fish, visit a historic exhibit, and play mini golf, shuffleboard, and basketball.
Getting there: Take the Long Island Railroad to Freeport, and then take the Jones Beach shuttle bus.
Cool feature: Check out a concert at Nikon at Jones Beach Theater—a 15,000-seat outdoor arena.
The Northeast has no shortage of easy, family-friendly beach getaways. Here are some of our favorite spots for a weekend of sun, fun, and family adventure.
Cape May, NJ
The vibe: A family-friendly resort town with award-winning beaches.
Getting there: About a 3.5-4 hour drive from midtown Manhattan, or take New Jersey Transit to Cape May Bus Terminal (about 5.5 hours).
Cool feature: Climb to the top of the Cape May Lighthouse for great views of the shoreline and ocean.
The vibe: Amagansett is known for being a low-key, family friendly Hamptons destination. Indian Wells Beach and Atlantic Avenue Beach, a beloved boogie-boarding spot, are popular with young kids and families.
Getting there: About a 2.5-hour drive from Midtown
Manhattan; or take the LIRR to Amagansett Station (just under 3 hours).
Cool feature: Both beaches provide easy access to food trucks and restaurants.
The vibe: Montauk is beloved for its wide stretches of beach, naturally beautiful bluffs, and free-spirited, surfer feel. Kirk Park Beach is a very popular public beach on the eastern end of Montauk, with a park and picnic area across the street, as well as restaurants and shops within walking distance. Gin Beach is known as a kid-friendly beach that features small waves, warm waters, and clean sand.
Getting there: Montauk is about a three-hour drive from midtown Manhattan; or a 3.25-hour ride on the LIRR to the Montauk stop.
Cool feature: Go whale-watching with Viking Fleet (they offer trips to see porpoises, whales, and other marine life). (vikingfleet.com)
Robert Moses State Park, NY
The vibe: Make the trek out to these Fire Island beaches for more secluded access to clean sand and water. The state park has something to offer everyone—from a swimming beach to a nature trail and tennis courts.
Getting there: A 1.5-hour drive from Midtown Manhattan.
Cool feature: Take a three-quarter mile nature walk on the boardwalk from Field 5 to the Fire Island Lighthouse. If the kids are at least 42” tall, you can climb to the top for beautiful views.
The vibe: Watch Hill beach is beautiful and clean, though parking can be on the expensive side. Misquamicut State Beach offers fun waves for more active swimmers, and is home to Atlantic Beach Park, which offers bumper cars and kids’ rides.
Getting there: About a 3.25-hour drive from Midtown Manhattan.
Cool feature: After a day at the beach, stop by the historic Flying Horse Carousel in Watch Hill, where kids will love trying to score the brass ring. If they’re not successful, homemade ice cream from neighboring St. Clair Annex makes for a good consolation prize.