I recently spent the night on Governors Island for the first time, and as I watched the sunset from one of the island’s highest hills, I was stunned by how beautiful the city looked from a slightly different angle from what I was used to.
As shameful as it sounds, I sometimes take New York’s beauty for granted. It’s often easier to harp on daily inconveniences than it is to maintain a sense of awe or excitement. Yet some parts of the city are still so breathtaking that they can snap things back into perspective.
Most of us already know about the popular lookout points in Manhattan, which include Top of the Rock, the Empire State Building, One World Observatory and the most recent addition, Edge at 30 Hudson Yards. But for those of us who prefer less touristy locations, there are plenty of options.
Although the Brooklyn Bridge is routinely crowded (I sometimes opt to watch the sunrise there, when it’s far more empty), many of New York’s other bridges offer great views. The Manhattan and Williamsburg Bridges can be lovely places to walk or loiter, but the Ed Koch Queensboro Bridge (which has never been a part of my daily commute) always seems to catch me off guard.
When my newsletter co-pilot, Michael Gold, wants to get away from some of the crowds, he likes to visit the Elevated Acre, a quiet parklet in the Financial District that feels like it’s floating above Lower Manhattan. When I’ve got a similar desire for solitude, I’ll usually head to the fountain at Grand Army Plaza, where the water almost blocks out the sounds of the surrounding traffic circle.
If you want a little more sitting than walking, the Brooklyn Bridge Park Conservancy’s Movies With a View series kicks off on July 7 with a showing of “Before Sunrise,” which you can watch against the backdrop of the park’s Harbor View Lawn — a romantic pairing if there ever were one. Williamsburg’s Skyline Drive-In and Rooftop Films also have pretty remarkable views of the sunset before screenings.
And I know we’ve told you about them before, but I’ll do it again: New York City’s many ferries, which run from Manhattan to Brooklyn, Queens, Staten Island and Governors Island among many other routes, offer beautiful views.
In terms of more timely evening activities, if you’re planning to catch the fireworks on July 4, Macy’s has already released its guide to official viewing points on either side of the East River. As always, it’s worthwhile to arrive early on the Fourth, since many of these spots get pretty packed by sundown.
Vistas and Victuals
Two of the best ways to see New York City for how massive it is, pulsing with headlights and brake lights, people and buildings, are to look at it from above or get out of it. Whether it’s from up high or nearby, here are some of my favorite places to have a drink and a bite and take the skyline in.
Panorama Room on Roosevelt Island (take the F train or the tram) could be written off as a hotel bar, but that would be unfair since it has a seriously delicious cocktail and raw-bar menu. Located on the 18th floor of Graduate Roosevelt Island, it’s the best place to watch a Manhattan sunset over an aperitif.
A mortadella sandwich (or any of the daily specials), an Italian soda and pastry from Jersey City’s Bread and Salt make for an excellent easy picnic at nearby Riverview Fisk Park, which has a great view of the New York skyline. But make sure to place your order while en route because Rick Easton’s fantastic breads and pizza often sell out.
Even if Bar Blondeau in Williamsburg, Brooklyn, didn’t have a stunning view, I would head there for its small plates, especially the boquerones and crisp, salty french fries.
My favorite place to have a fancy cocktail and enjoy a nighttime view of Manhattan (and Brooklyn and New Jersey and beyond) is Overstory, a luxe cocktail bar on the 64th floor of 70 Pine Street, an Art Deco landmark near Wall Street. The outdoor terrace provides a great perch to play “find the famous landmark” with your companions.
Honorable mention: Midnight Market’s 4th of July Fireworks Food Festival. This festival in downtown Jersey City offers a roster of food trucks serving all kinds of cuisines, a beer garden and a day of set from local D.J.s, including Funkmaster Flex, culminating in a 9:30 fireworks show. Registration isn’t required and entry is free, but get there early for a good spot along the Hudson River. And don’t miss La Coqueta food truck and its birria tacos.
Korsha Wilson and Patrick Hays contributed reporting.