With summer temperatures reaching up into the mid-90s and humidity keeping the air yucky and your hair even yuckier, summer travel to the Big Apple is not without some sweat and toil. While nearly every moment spent in New York far outweighs any travel difficulties, breaks from the heat that don't cost an arm and a leg (or anything at all) can be found all over the city.
First of all, there's the subway (www.mta.info/nyct/subway). Before you think we're kidding, think again. New York's underground train system provides an air-conditioned comfortable break from the hot concrete above. While the official site for the MTA (Metropolitan Transportation Association) offers fare information ($2 per ride) construction information and maps and rules of conduct while riding, www.nycsubway.org is a non-profit that gives you in-depth news, tidbits, and fun information regarding New York's underground. It also takes you into historical Subway stations, the historical development of the Subway, and into the fleet of Subway cars commissioned by the MTA. Subway stations are not air-conditioned but almost all New York City Subway cars are. This means taking long rides to sites all-around towns can provide great breaks from the summer heat. Wall Street, Harlem, the Bronx Zoo, DUMBO in Brooklyn, and Coney Island are all easily accessible via Subway.
The New York City Water Taxis (tel. 212/742-1969; www.nywatertaxi.com) is another transportation system that gives great breaks from the heat and allows you to see New York from a very different angle. Taking advantage of the great rivers that surround Manhattan -- the Hudson and East Rivers -- the MTA's water taxis are a fun way to get around and get some wind in your hair as the small bright yellow boats with roof seating as well as indoor seats cruise around the New York waterways. While it's not free, rides cost around $4 dollars and up depending on how far along the rivers you're traveling, the Water Taxi makes stops at convenient, crowded, and business-related areas along the shores. Stops include the West Village stop at Christopher Street, Wall Street and Battery Park, South Street Seaport and Williamsburg Brooklyn. Water Taxis run from around 6:30am till 10pm. See www.nywatertaxi.com for information on sightseeing tours. A "Gateway to America" one-hour tour hits such sites as the Statue of Liberty, Ellis Island, and the Brooklyn Bridge. If you don't recognize the voice of certain pre-recorded sections of the tour, it's Kathleen Turner. Other portions are narrated live by park rangers. (Another way to see NYC from the water is the free Staten Island Ferry that we review at www.frommers.com/destinations/newyorkcity/A23957.html.)
One of the great new indoor sites of the city and completely free for tourists and New Yorkers alike is New York's newest shopping mall and cultural center, The Time Warner Center (www.timewarner.com/corp/aboutus/twcenter), on Columbus Circle at the southwestern corner of Central Park. While to many the Time Warner Center is just an upscale mall, to others it is a public space where nannies and business people come to sit inside and lounge about on public seating while enjoying the cold air of the completely renovated (and luxurious) site. The best places to sit is on the second floor by the Borders book store or the third floor in front of Samsung, an outlet of the electronics manufacturer that promotes interactivity with the products and where nothing is for sale. If you get hungry try the Home Foods gourmet grocery store complete with a large cafeteria located in the Center's basement. (For some factual information on the Time Warner Center, go to www.emporis.com/en/wm/cx/?id=100025). The views from the glass-enclosed 35th floor lobby of the Mandarin Hotel (tel. 212/805-8800; www.mandarinoriental.com) located in one of the Center's two towers is beautiful. The price of a soda can get up to $6, a small price when compared to the incredible views of Central Park and the New York skyline. Sunrises from this particular location are the best in the city.
Last but not least, certain walking tours take you into some of New York's greater buildings, like the air-conditioned St. Patrick's Cathedral, the GE building with its art deco mural-covered walls and grand Central Stations, one of the city's more comfortable resting, relaxing and people watching locales. While most walking tours can get costly, Big Apple Greeters (tel. 212/669-8159; www.bigapplegreeter.org) is free. A non-profit organization that pairs knowledgeable volunteers with tourists interested in seeing New York up close personal, Big Apple Greeters lets you choose the neighborhood and the time you want to see it before selecting the appropriate guide. A tour of New York's great lobbies for example, would provide you with many breaks from the hot air. Normal tours last anywhere from two to four hours with tours available in any of the five boroughs. You get a free two-ride Metro Card for public transportation as well.