In my early years in New York, summer for me always started with the seals.
John V. Lindsay East River Park on the Lower East Side for years housed an array of fountains and sprinklers scattered among a number of bronze seal sculptures. Every year, when it was tee time, I would walk along the East River and head downtown to check if the water features were on. If the sprinklers watered my beloved seals, I decided, summer had arrived.
When much of the park closed this year for an intensely debated climate resilience project, my pilgrimages came to an end. And in my search for a new wildlife ritual, I instead considered turning to the actual animals that make the city their home.
New York’s zoos are great attractions to build into a day. The Prospect Park Zoo in Brooklyn does not house seals, but rather sea lions, which can be admired during three daily training sessions. Or grab an early lunch in the Bronx, then head to its zoo to watch the penguins feed daily at 3:30 p.m., and stay in the borough for dinner.
Looking for a no-cost option? The Audubon Society hosts a number of free events throughout the summer to introduce people to the city’s birding community. On Friday night, he will present a family birding walk at Riverside Park in Manhattan. And on Saturday morning, the New York City Department of Parks and Recreation will hold a hawk watch at Flushing Meadows Corona Park in Queens. And the Bronx Zoo offers free admission tickets every Wednesday.
If you’re willing to walk a bit from the Broad Channel tube station, the Jamaica Bay Wildlife Refuge is home to an abundance of bird and sea life you might not realize you’ve shared the city with. You can combine the trip with a visit to Rockaways Beach.
Maybe you need the calming touch of an animal to comfort you amid distressing news, like your newsletter partner’s impending departure for Los Angeles (farewell Julia!). On Sundays, Green Meadows Farm in Brooklyn features alpacas, llamas, sheep and other soft animals ready to be petted, as well as barns designed for selfies, so get your hashtags ready.
If it’s air conditioning you’re looking for, the New York Aquarium on the Coney Island boardwalk is for you. The aquarium has been under reconstruction since it was hit by Hurricane Sandy in 2012, and this month it fully reopened for the first time since the storm.
With the reopening, the “Sea Change” exhibit, which offers an up-close look at underwater creatures, will be open to the public, bringing visitors face-to-face with penguins, otters and – of course – seals.
Appreciating animals in person is a fun pastime for most, but for another group of New Yorkers, enjoying them on the plate is something else entirely. Thankfully, thanks to an abundance of global cuisine offerings and a restaurant shift toward plant-based dishes, vegan food is alive and well in New York City. We have already mentioned Cadences vegan soul food, but here are some of my other favorites for non-meat lunches and dinners.
If you’re craving the Caribbean through an inventive vegan lens, try aunts and uncles in the Little Caribbean neighborhood of Brooklyn. This casual restaurant created by Nicole and Michael Nicholas, a husband and wife team, is perfect for meeting up with friends and sharing plates of vegan patties and lobster rolls.
Thanks to the explosion of the market for vegetable alternatives to meat, it is now possible to have fast food without animal products. One of the best places to visit is Btr Brgr of Jerell, on a busy stretch of 6th Avenue in SoHo. With a respectable vegan burger and waffle fries, Jerell’s is a fun option after a night out — it’s open until 4 a.m. on weekends.
Ethiopian cuisine is also a fantastic choice for a vegan meal, and two excellent options are Abyssinia in Harlem and Bunna Cafe in Williamsburg. The former isn’t strictly vegetarian, but it does have a great $21 vegetable combination plate served on springy injera bread.
The gourmet restaurant dirt candies, led by Chef Amanda Cohen, has been serving creative vegetarian cuisine on the Lower East Side since 2008. During that time, it has won awards and recognition not only for its innovative dishes, but also for Cohen’s commitment for fair wages and speaking out. tough questions in the restaurant industry. The seasonal menu changes frequently, so it’s the kind of place you want to visit again and again to sample the produce and techniques Cohen plays with.
Any list of vegan options in New York would be incomplete without New York Doses, run by the venerable Thiru Kumar since 2001. Head to Washington Square Park at the corner of West Fourth and Sullivan streets, Monday through Saturday, to watch him order after order of dosas filled with potatoes, spices and vegetables with hypnotic effect. The special Pondicherry dosa, with soft potatoes and dried coconut, is my favourite. (Kumar’s Instagram account, @NYDosa, is also a delightful follow.)
Spend Saturday with more than 50 vendors representing cuisines from 20 countries and dozens of local arts and crafts vendors at the Bronx Night Market, held all summer long.
Uncover the secrets of the city’s underworld with the Underground NYC Art and History Subway Tour every Sunday through July.
Escape the city outdoors at the Storm King Art Center, which has 500 outdoor acres and striking sculptures to visit Wednesday through Monday.
With 28 acres of woods, gardens and river views, Wave Hill is packed with activities and exhibits for anyone looking for an oasis in the summer sun.
Patrick Hays contributed reporting.