Get Your Cool On

From free cookouts to urban beaches, the best in New York's summer scenes

Summer works a strange magic on New Yorkers. Warm temperatures convince us that a flimsy flip-flop is enough of a barrier between our feet and a grimy sidewalk, that our sweat stains really aren't that noticeable, and that having a snow cone for breakfast is perfectly acceptable. Under the spell of June, July, and August, La Quinta Inns become treasured spots for their rooftop decks, bars are compelled to feed patrons free barbecue, empty pools become prime real estate for concert venues, and beaches—fake or real, clean or unclean—are hallowed ground. Here is a roundup of bars, parties, music venues, and beaches that are destinations in and of themselves. Pick the scene that suits you and enjoy.

ROOFTOP BARS
While rooftop bars like Hotel Gansevoort's Plunge offer great views of the city, they often come with less desirable close-ups of the cheesy and bottle-serviced. Skyline-savvy New Yorkers make do around town, however, seeking out penthouse-worthy views with a cheap-beer atmosphere. Me Bar on the 14th floor of a Koreatown La Quinta Inn (17 West 32nd Street, 212-290-2460), is favored by a low-key after-work clientele for its view of the Empire State Building, $4 beers and smoker-friendly setup. Down on the Lower East Side, The Delancey's (168 Delancey Street) rooftop looks onto the imposing metal beams of the Williamsburg Bridge. The bar hasn't escaped the neighborhood's morph from home for dirty hipsters to a somewhat more yuppie crowd, but the rooftop's jungle-like atmosphere—with tropical plants, fish pond, and picnic tables—offers a relatively quiet respite from the packed dance floor downstairs. Across the East River, Mexican restaurant Alma (187 Columbia Street, 718-643-5400) has rooftop tables with a spectacular panoramic view of lower Manhattan, a bevy of Caroll Gardens locals exclaiming over the guacamole, and all the strong margaritas you can handle. If you only order drinks, though, you'll be shooed from your table as soon as there's a wait (usually not until 7 on weeknights). Nearby, the rooftop deck at Red Hook's Liberty Heights (36 Van Dyke Street, 718-246-8050) is a favorite spot for locals to sip a Sixpoint Ale—from the brewery next door—under the stars.

BARS WITH FREE BBQ
Many a Brooklyn bar takes advantage of roomier digs and shady backyards with free weekend barbecues, luring even the pastiest of hipsters from the shadowy watering holes they've been hibernating in all winter. Beginning Memorial Day weekend, gay bar Metropolitan in Brooklyn (559 Lorimer Street, 718-599-4444) kicks off its popular Sunday barbecue, where gays and straights partake in cheap pitchers, burgers, and hot dogs (veggie versions available). Down the street at Pete's Candy Store (709 Lorimer Street), the situation's a bit less cramped under the vintage Christmas lights in the backyard, where the bar's Sunday BBQ started the first weekend of May. Saturday barbecues at nearby dive–metal bar Duff's (8 North 3rd Street) haven't started up yet, but past shindigs have drawn an amusing combination of death-metal dudes and people who wish they were death-metal dudes. Over in Boerum Hill, Hank's Saloon (46 Third Avenue and Atlantic Avenue, 718-625-8003) grills for a rockabilly clientele on Sunday nights, for their Kuntry Karaoke fans on Monday nights, and pretty much whenever else they see fit (such as for Willie Nelson's birthday a couple of weeks ago).

JELLYNYC'S POOL PARTIES AT MCCARREN PARK POOL
McCarren Park POol's reinvention as an outdoor concert venue looks to be depressingly short-lived, but JellyNYC's POol Parties concert series deserves to live on elsewhere (got any suggestions for locations, Mayor Bloomberg?). Last summer, music nerds, neighborhood families, and hipsters who had clearly been drinking in the sun filled the long-emptied swimming spot for these free Sunday shows. Lineups included mainstays like Les Savy Fav, Deerhoof, and the Walkmen, alongside comers like Beirut and Elvis Perkins. There was a giant Slip 'n Slide, lots of people bitching about the wait for beer, and enthrallingly competitive dodgeball leagues competing on a full court for the "Dick Cheney Golden Dodger Trophy." But chin up: This summer's parties, starting June 24, are sure to be just as good. Confirmed acts include Blonde Redhead, Man Man, The Thermals, and Ted Leo, with a full list of performers (and what a list it is) and dates to be announced soon at thepoolparties.com. McCarren Park Pool is located in Greenpoint on Lorimer Street between Driggs and Bayard Avenues.

WARM UP AT P.S.1

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photo: Ira McCrudden
Half the draw of Warm Up, P.S.1's summer dance party series, is its impeccably curated DJ lineups. The Juan MacLean and the legendary utopian party Body & SOUL had sets last year, and although this year's lineup has yet to be released, organizers are planning to incoporate more experimental music and live bands. The other half is people-watching. Artsy parents and their young, electronic music fans, flirty singles, and girls—inexplicably wearing high heels—all dance their hearts out in the museum's courtyard. The space is designed anew each year by the winner of P.S.1's Young Architects program, a competition of emerging architects. The Los Angeles–based firm Ball-Nogues won this year. In its winning plan, Ball-Nogues incorporated "drench towers," automatically filled water buckets that tip from perches overhead on to bystanders, which sounds nerve wrackingly refreshing. It does get ridiculously hot here, the effects of which can be witnessed in bathroom-line squabbles and people pocketing and reusing beer tickets on the sly. The $10 admission price includes entry to the museum, which is probably the best place to cool off and recharge for a bit. Parties run every Saturday, June 30–September 1 at P.S.1 Contemporary Art Center (22-25 Jackson Avenue, Long Island City, 718-784-2084).

BRIGHTON BEACH AND CONEY ISLAND
New Yorkers looking for a true beach getaway head to the Russian community of Brighton Beach, or Little Odessa, in Brooklyn, where the chances of hearing much English in the shops, knisheries, and restaurants throughout the neighborhood are thrillingly slim. Have a beer at Tatyana Cafe (3145 Brighton 4th Street) on the Reigelmann Boardwalk and consider what constitutes "clean" at New York City beaches. It's a relative term, but Brighton has the spiffy sands and debris-free water to make it one of the most swimmable. Beachgoers are an eclectic mix of rotund Slavic men in tiny bathing suits, sprawling families, and savvy sunbathers looking to escape the crowds. Although Coney Island is within walking distance, the impending demolition of Astroland amusement park warrants a separate day trip. Have a Nathan's hot dog, take in one last freak show, and try not to think about the soulless Six Flags the place is about to become.

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