Greetings from NYC: Beach Town, USA!
June 29, 2014

All the kids’ suburban cousins and friends have been out of school for ages, it seems, and many are already wrapping up their beach holidays for the season (before the house rentals and hotel rates go through the roof in July!).  But here in New York, school’s in session through the last Thursday in June.  It is always with a small measure of pity that people ask when—or whether—we’ll manage to get to the beach then, and we’re delighted to tell them that we already have!

As we’ve mentioned in previous posts, one of the best-kept secrets about the Big Apple is that it’s got great beaches.  People come from the world over to visit our grand parks, stroll down our legendary avenues, and cruise (and lately, kayak!) around our waterways but the beach?  People—including close family and friends—are still incredulous.
 
As summer in the city officially underway, here is our quick list of pros and the very few cons about the city’s beaches.  
 
Orchard Beach (Bronx):
  • Pros: Situated on the scenic Long Island Sound, the water here is warmer and stays shallow—about knee high for an adult—for a long stretch.  The gentle waves are perfect for wading with young children and those who are just learning to swim. When the tide ebbs, sandbars emerge and create wide pools of water all around.  These are really great for toddlers and babies.  The paved promenade is easy to navigate with strollers and young children, and the beach crowds thin out toward the north. The nature center, open only during summer, is also excellent.  
  • Cons: Be aware that horseshoe crabs ply these waters, and Orchard Beach is a bit of a trek by public transportation.  Take the 6 to Pelham Bay and switch to the Bx12 bus.

Far Rockaways (Queens):
  • Pros: Located in a largely residential area, the Far Rockaways has a real "beach town" feel and great surf, including a designated surfing area. The beaches are popular, but there’s still there’s plenty of room between neighboring blankets.  Whenever we’ve visited, the surf is literally alive with tiny crabs whose air holes bubble up as soon as a wave ebbs away.  
  • Cons: Located in a largely residential area, there are few facilities and places to eat.
Jacob Riis (Queens):
  • Pros: The waves here are relatively gentle and the beach, uncrowded. There is no boardwalk or commercial street nearby, but food trucks know when it’s time for lunch and ice cream and line up near the parking lot!  There is also a playground near the funky art-deco bath house.
  • Cons: A longish (20 minute) bus ride on the Q35, from the Flatbush Avenue stop on the 2 train.  
Coney Island (Brooklyn):
  • Pros: How can you argue with the granddaddy of all boardwalks?  This wide and well-maintained promenade boats a veritable smorgasbord of food and drink: from Nathan’s Famous hotdogs, to fried clams and every summertime dessert you can imagine.  Behind that, the world-famous Wonder Wheel, Cyclone, and other iconic rides.  The waves are great, and there are always plenty of kids around to pitch in on sandcastle creations.  
  • Cons: The beach can be crowded, and with our kids at least, it’s nearly impossible to do “just the beach” without the rides. 
Brighton Beach (Brooklyn):
  • Pros: Situated in an incredible Russian neighborhood, the boardwalk at Brighton Beach is a little quieter than in Coney Island and is home to a small strip of very authentic Russian restaurants. Where else in the world could you find that? The beach itself is popular, but you can always find a spot.  Both here and in Coney Island, the modern bath facilities are well-maintained.  
  • Cons: The rides at Coney Island are visible in the distance, and once they know, the kids will ask!
We have yet to explore the reportedly beautiful and diverse beaches on Staten Island, but (stay tuned!) we plan to this summer and we would love to hear anyone's insights on which beach to go to and why!
 
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