New York City readers, what are you up to today? I am breaking my normally stringent chronological posting order because I feel really strongly that you should spend your hard-earned weekend at Rockaway Beach.
Two weeks ago I took my inaugural trip to Rockaway, a stretch of 170 acres of sand in Queens, New York. In previous years my go-to urban beach fix was Coney Island — who doesn’t love a little decrepit sideshow viewing, a bit of vintage Americana vibe, a dash of annual hot dog eating contests and mermaid parades and a dollop of death-trap roller coasting along with their sunbathing?
But, lured by the siren songs of long-haired surfers, a burgeoning boardwalk food-snob scene and of course the chance to roast ourselves on the beachfront, my Brooklyn besties and I gave Rockaway a try. I wore a watermelon shirt in honor of the summery occasion.
After suffering through the hell that is beach-parking on a sunny Sunday in June, we immediately made our way to the hype-fueled Rockaway Taco. My friends were extremely tickled to spot an actor from the HBO series Girls working at a smoothie shack, meanwhile I squinted at them with the cultural incomprehension of someone reemerging into society after a year abroad. Note to self: Watch Girls, find out if watermelon shirts are still cool.
As eating Mexican food was the thing I most missed in the past year, and sitting on beaches was the highlight of it, you can imagine the ecstasy I felt at combining two of my life’s
It wasn’t the sunny beach day we had anticipated, but I actually enjoyed the moody skies and the colorful people-watching just the way they were.
When a few droplets of rain led to a hysteria-level mass scrambling-of-beach-bags, we decided to explore the boardwalk a bit. I was a fan of the rickety seaside pathway, which was shared amicably by walkers and bikers, by Brooklyn hipsters and wannabe Jersey Shore castmates.
On our ramble we came upon Bells Beach, one of the designated surfing beaches at Rockaway. The freezing water had gotten no more than a suspicious toe-dipping from me, but these brave souls were fully submerged in nothing more than 3mm wetsuits. “Surfing” was the one association I had had with Rockaway prior to this visit, so I was pretty thrilled to see the stereotype come to life.
We worked up quite an appetite watching other peoples’ physical exertion, but lucky for us food is never far on the Boardwalk. As I mentioned earlier, Rockaway is an emerging culinary destination and we enjoyed our second meals of the day at Caracas, a seasonal outpost of the popular Williamsburg restaurant of the same name, and Steve’s Ice Cream, a delicious and sanely priced home-made ice cream joint.
The chain reactions continued and our noshing lead to great thirst, which we were rescued from by the cheekily-named Low Tide Bar.
Low Tide Bar is where the mood shifted from Casual Day on The Sand to Fairly Frantic Rave on The Boardwalk, a shift that lasted long beyond the last lifeguards heading home and the sun sinking below the horizon. It all started with a few beer-fueled spins on the surf simulator and basically went downhill from there, making-a-spectacle-of-ourselves-wise.
It felt like such a luxury to spend a whole day with so many of my closest friends, people I say goodbye to far too often.
Why do I love them so much? Because they are the kind of people who start dance parties in the rain, eliciting the participation of our previously sedate drinking peers and random passerby’s alike.
Even the local police officers showed got in on the fun with a well-timed light and siren show. Love when you see a little humor from the people you least expect.
When it was time to head back to Brooklyn, we kept the party alive by turning our vehicle into a dance party on wheels. Travel tip: If you decide to bike to Rockaway Beach and then spend the day drinking yourself to oblivion, be sure to meet up with a friend who has
tons of room a little bit of room available in her vehicle.
Tacos and techno aside, my favorite part of the day was taking a break from the mayhem and sitting on a boardwalk bench watching the airplanes take off from JFK. The seagulls and airplanes competed for attention in front of the fluffy clouds; a picture-perfect ending to a beautiful day.
Have I convinced you to visit yet? Great! Take the A train to Far Rockaway, transfer at Broad Channel to the S train, and stop at 90th, 98th, 105th or 116th. Get off of the train, walk two blocks up to the boardwalk, and party on.
For a fun map of the boardwalk’s top eateries and attractions, click here.
For a list of Rockaway’s summer events, click here.
Rocking away at Rockaway Beach…. it’s a must-do for summers in New York!