It’s been more than a decade since I’ve spent an entire summer, straight through, in New York City. It’s a brutal prospect, what with the steaming pavements and bone-wilting humidity, but if it has to be done, it should be done right. So this summer, armed with my girlfriend and my Metrocard, I set out to design the perfect balance of work, play and sunshine. Herewith I give you my staycation story, a real New Yorker’s guide to not losing your mind between May Day and Labor Day weekend. 


Coney Island is a classic. This was where my low-income mom would bring me for a special treat when I was a kid. The last stop on the F train brought us Nathan’s hot dogs, cotton candy and the freak shows both behind the curtain and on the street. 

Recently, Coney’s old-school attractions have been invaded (some might call it revamped) by a bunch of new rides under the umbrella “Scream Zone” including the “Soarin’ Eagle” — a roller coaster on steroids, in which riders clamped into a horizontal position in a cage are hurtled, face first, through a steel maze of adrenaline and, yes, screaming.

But not to be missed is the Cyclone, the old-fashioned wooden roller coaster. The fainthearted will stoke your fears with tales of people being ejected from their seats, and cars flying off the rails, but I say bah humbug — the Cyclone will never die

Hit the boardwalk for a fashion show of authentic New York crazies and an endless smorgasbord of sugar-based snacks from cotton candy, to ice cream, to funnel cake. 

If you’re lucky, like we were, you might even stumble into a massive dance party under the beating sun that had a throng moving to ’90s house music for several straight hours. 

But don’t go to Coney for a swim — the beach is literally covered in trash. Instead, venture a hundred yards up the boardwalk past the Aquarium (also worth a visit), where a string of authentic Russian restaurants on the Little Odessa beachfront serve up Kvas, Chicken Tabak and vodka by the gram.


The Red Hook pool has become my personal oasis. I’m not one to be bothered by the curiosity that are real Brooklynites, and some terrorizing children — the water is clean, and the pool so vast that you can always find a corner to float alone in. However, don’t arrive expecting anything less than tons of locals on their own daycations. 

The pool is watched over by a fleet of lifeguards, all of whom looked like buff high school students on summer break.

We tested their boundaries by play wrestling and were swiftly wrist slapped by a hail of shrill whistle blasts and informed, over a loudspeaker no less, that there is “no person-to-person contact, man to woman, woman to woman, or man to man.”

The Red Hook Recreational Area, as the park surrounding the pool is known, is just a short walk from the Carroll stop on the F line.

A lock is a must — and fortunately can be procured one at the 99 cent stores on nearby Lorraine Street, between Columbia and Hicks. Bring a towel, and some flip-flops to wade through the shower area before you get outside, as the bathrooms are an unfortunate sight. Dotting Bay street on the way into the pool, you will find several Latin food trucks serving homemade tacos, tamales, empanadas, fresh fruit juices, and shakes. 

I recommend the Vaqueros truck, on the corner of Clinton and Bay, with its mind-bending hibiscus tea, perfect for a pre- and post-swim refresher.

© Copyright, iO Tillett Wright 2012

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