More than a month before Bastille Day, Brooklyn gets Frenchy with the Tour de Brooklyn, a 23-mile bike ride that starts and ends at Coney Island. The tour promises views of picturesque spots like Greenwood Cemetery and Sunset and Prospect parks. The somewhat newer Tour de Queens and Tour de Bronx will take place later on in the summer, and they are equally free (but possibly less French). June 7, Surf Ave. & W. 19th St., Brooklyn, www.tourdebrooklyn.org; 8 a.m., FREE
Rollerblading in Central Park
With the young kids rocking ‘90s fashion again, there is no shame in dusting off your elbow pads and joining Thursday Evening Skate. This free group, run by certified Central Park state patrollers, meets Thursdays at 7 p.m. The route around the traffic-free, 6.1-mile loop (the 5.2-mile version without “Heartbreak Hill” is available as well) is for moderately experienced skaters, and helmets and wrist guards are required. Afterward the group eats dinner—at its own expense—at the Amsterdam Ale House. Thursdays, Columbus Circle entrance to Central Park, www.skatecity.com; 7 p.m., FREE
Dodgeball is played all over town, but it is especially popular in leagues and drop-in games. Once a week, usually Wednesday or Thursday, the folks at the NYC Social Sports Club host a drop-in game. You can pre-register online, but it is not required. So go hit your best friend in the face with a ball; the only penalty is sitting out for the rest of the game. Totally worth it. Wednesdays or Thursdays at the St. Patrick Youth Center, 270 Mulberry St., betw. Houston and Prince Sts., www.nycssc.com; 6 p.m., $15
Inner Tube Water Polo
One of the oldest continuous Olympic sports, water polo is like an aqueous mix of soccer and handball. Adding inner tubes to the game is an extra resistance challenge, an effective form of exercise and a great equalizer: it saves the aqua-impaired from the embarrassment of wearing water wings to the next match. This league’s deadline for individual or team registration is June 26, so butter up your friends or come and make new ones! Sundays, July 12 to Aug. 23 (playoffs), Lower East Side locations TBA, www.nycssc.com; 8, $100
Come kick it like you used to during 5th grade recess. Plus, players get special deals on drinks after the game (maybe a little different from the elementary school playground, but whatever). Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Thursdays, Lower East Side locations TBA, www.meetup.com/nykickball; 6 p.m., $100 for the season
As the New York Times pointed out in late April, Ultimate is no longer associated with dirty hippies and collegians. Whether or not your response time is limited by smoking the happy lettuce, Ultimate can be an intensely challenging sport—just ask the folks in the international recognized competitions. A summer league is open through NYC Social Sports Club, but pickup games can be found all over the city, including Central and Prospect parks. Fridays from May 29 to July 10, Location TBA, meetup.com/NYCUltimate; 6 p.m., $100 or FREE for pickup games
Wii Parties at the Creek
While admittedly not really outdoors, how could anyone resist the chance to show off those sporty video games skills? No shame is involved in these free Wii sports competitions along with games of Super Smash Brothers, Mario Kart and more mindless fun. Second and fourth Mondays, 10-93 Jackson Ave., at 11th St., Queens, thecreekandthecave.com; 7 p.m., FREE
The quintessentially New York (and American) sport is fantastic outdoor exercise, and the Parks Department offers numerous opportunities to play, from working on your jump shot to finding a drop-in game in more than 500 locations all over Manhattan—or you can join a league at Zog Sports. Saturdays, various locations, www.zogsports.org
We just can’t get enough of the Hudson this season, and if boat rides are too pedestrian for the urban explorer, Downtown Boathouse offers 20-minute long lessons, giving “first hand” exploration of New York’s historic aquatic highway. Best of all, it is free to the public; just dress to get wet. For able swimmers only.
June 3 to Sept. 23, Piers 40 (West Houston St.), 96 (W. 56th St.) and Riverside park at W. 72nd St., www.downtownboathouse.org; times vary, FREE
A staple of the Summer on the Hudson festival, Let’s Dance! is the best way to take the ballroom out of dancing and get down in a park. With professional lessons from the Piel Canela Dance and Music school, adventurous romantics can spend the night learning salsa, cha-cha or the bachata—a Dominican dance style similar to meringue. Sundays, Pier 1 at Riverside Park, betw. 65th & 72nd Sts., www.riversideparkfund.org; 6 p.m., FREE
Midsummer Night Swing
For those looking to tear up the concrete with a pre-surgery Jennifer Grey look-alike, there is nowhere classier than Lincoln Center’s Damrosch Park. Offering rockabilly, tango, soul, salsa, swing and more, talented acts like Big Bad Voodoo Daddy and the Harlem Renaissance Orchestra provide foot-stomping sounds all through July. Dance lessons are offered at 6:30 p.m. with live music firing up about an hour later. Tuesdays through Saturdays, July 7 to 25, W. 62nd St. betw. Columbus and Amsterdam Aves., www.midsummernightswing.org; $15
Bastille Day Celebrations
Observed on July 14, French Independence Day celebrates the storming of Paris’ infamous political prison. In New York, Bastille Day is an excuse to play pétanque, eat crepes and get drunk in the sun on fancy wine. Although the French Institute Alliance Français hosts an annual Bastille day on E. 60th St. (betw. 5th & Madison Aves.), the real deal is in Carroll Gardens and Boerum Hill, where sponsors like Ricard, the sizeable French expat population and Smith Street bistros hold the Gallic-themed street fests. July 14, Smith St. betw. Pacific and Degraw Sts., www.bartabacny.com and www.provenceenboite.com; noon, FREE
Beach Volleyball Competition
Claiming to be the “largest free amateur beach volleyball” competition on the East Coast, 150 teams compete for free elimination rounds starting in July. The best ballers win great cash prizes and superlative Brooklyn respect, which is recognized practically everywhere the sun shines. The NYC Parks Department hosts, and details will be released in June. www.nycgovparks.org
Coney Island Hot Dog Eating Contest
An important holiday for New Yorkers, July 4 is when we celebrate a quintessential American experience: stuffing our faces with hot dogs until our hearts pump sodium. This annual Independence Day competition has become its own spectator sport, attracting international competitors and some 30,000 people to view the contest—not to mention the million-plus that watch it on ESPN. July 4, Coney Island Boardwalk, www.coneyisland.com; time TBA, FREE
Beach Fireworks at Coney Island
Friday night fireworks, which begin at 9:30 p.m. starting June 19, are accompanied by karaoke and are best viewed from the top of Deno’s Wonderwheel. Fridays, June 19 to Aug. 18, Coney Island Boardwalk at W. 12th St., www.wonderwheel.com; 9:30 p.m., FREE
Twilight Tours in Prospect Park
An evening boat ride on Prospect Park Lake is romantic. Throw some wine and cheese in the mix, and it’s practically a honeymoon. You’ll know it’s marriage, however, when you finish up with a guided night tour of the park’s mysterious bat population. For most Thursdays this summer, you’ll be offered a chance to glimpse into the amazing—and slightly creepy—nocturnal creatures that call Brooklyn home. Thursdays, Prospect Park Audubon Center, www.prospectpark.org; 6:30 p.m., $30
By Nick Broad
SeaStreak not only offers rides out to the Mets and Yankees games, but it is also the only ferry service that transports people to the beaches of Sandy Hook during the summer. One of them, Gunnison Beach, is among the largest clothing-optional beaches in the United States, making it quite apropos that a company called SeaStreak should transport patrons there. We spoke to Captain Donald J. Babbitt about the trip. The following transcript has been edited.
How did you become a captain? I was a mate on a fishing boat. Some of my friends that were mates also left to go and work for the ferry service. After a few years of them urging me to come and work with them, I did, and I’ve been with SeaStreak since April 2003.
Tickets are sold on a first come, first served basis from the city. Are there trips that are sold out? What’s the best way of making sure you get a ride? We only sell out or max our capacity in the summertime weekends. Don’t show up at 10 a.m. for a 10 a.m. departure! Arrive at least 10 minutes before the boat departs, and that should give you a better chance of getting on board.
What’s the strangest thing you’ve ever seen floating in the water? Any wildlife—seals, whales? I once saw a roof of a house or shed floating down the East River. We do on occasion see whales and dolphins. My favorite is seeing the seals sun themselves on top of the ice floes in the winter.
Do you have any good stories about odd things that have occurred on a ferry ride? One summer, while taking passengers to a Mets game, I noticed two small Coast Guard boats riding alongside of us. They often provide us with an escort, so I didn’t think anything of it. Later that day I found out that there were a couple of female passengers on the sun deck exposing themselves to the Coast Guardsmen. That explains why they all had smiles on their faces!
SeaStreak picks up passengers in Manhattan from Pier 11 (on the East River at Wall Street) and East 35th Street and the East River. The company operates this service from May 23 until Labor Day weekend. Tickets cost $40 for a round trip, plus $5 for a bicycle. There is a shuttle bus in Sandy Hook to take people to the various beaches. For a complete schedule and other details, visit www.seastreak.com.
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