The sun is out. You’re finally off work. (Or have managed to get out of bed on a Saturday.) You don’t have a plan but you know you want to be outside. And your group of 10 people can’t seem to come up with anything.
Someone suggested a friend’s rooftop, but you don’t hate the idea of moving beyond your implicit “no new friends” policy. You could go to a park, but hiding drinks whenever you think you see a cop reminds you a little too much of sophomore year in high school. Fortunately, you have other options. Here are 24 places to eat or drink outside, with room for all your friends (and then some).
Look around Island Oyster and it’ll be pretty obvious you aren’t in Manhattan. Not just because this Governor’s Island spot overlooks the entire downtown skyline, but also because there’s more open space here than you’d ever find someplace where real estate is measured in price per square inch. The all-outdoor space feels more like a park than a bar, with benches and courtyards, where you can hang out in between games of corn hole and ping pong. Order drinks at either of the two bars and carry them around with you, or settle in at a table and eat some oysters and lobster rolls.
The problem with asking a bunch of people if they want to day drink by the water is that almost everyone is going to say yes, and most spots where you’d go have lines out front before you even check the weather app while lying in bed. Fortunately, you can suggest Anable Basin. The big, all-outdoor space overlooks Manhattan, and since it’s on a quiet street in Long Island City, you’ll rarely have to wait for one of the picnic tables right on the East River.
When you lose a game of cornhole at Brooklyn Crab, you should avoid the temptation to scream and demand a rematch, because there are lots of other things at this Red Hook spot to keep you entertained. You can get drinks from one of the bars in the multi-floor space, play mini golf in the backyard, or get a table and eat some spicy popcorn shrimp and steam pots of crab and corn on the cob. Then you should demand a rematch.
City Vineyard is an outdoor bar on the water that can fit more than 200 people. That alone would make the roof deck of this spot on the Hudson River in Tribeca special, but it also serves drinks that are a lot better than the watered-down vodka sodas and $11 beers you’d get at other places with similar views. They make their own wines and serve them here on tap, which are great on their own, or paired with a big platter of oysters.
This South Slope bar has as much room as a music festival, and there are so many things going on here that you won’t have to worry about entertaining any second-degree connections. Get some beers from the excellent draft list while watching sports in the covered area of the bar, eat some very good bar food at a table outside, or drink frozen cocktails while heckling your friends as they play bocce on any of the three full-size courts.
Nowadays is a big outdoor space in Ridgewood opened by people who know how to do summer right: the founders of the Mister Sunday (a weekly party where people gather amongst friends and strangers to dance the day away). Most days of the week, Nowadays is an awesome place to just kick back over good food, good drinks, and good music - and on Sundays, the Mister Sunday is held here. So if your crew is looking to dance? On Sundays, Nowadays is your spot.
Even bars with tons of outdoor space can fill up when it’s nice out. After all, you’re not the only friend group with named text chains and a few embarrassing stories that you retell every time you’re together. So to remove any uncertainty about being able to get in or being able to push your way to the bar, make a reservation at Rooftop Reds. Since this rooftop wine bar in the Brooklyn Navy Yard is reservation-only, it never gets overly crowded, and you won’t have much trouble getting on the cornhole court or finding an open hammock overlooking Manhattan.
You’re technically “drinking by the water” at Pig Beach, but since that water is the Gowanus Canal, you should just focus on what’s happening on land here. That won’t be difficult, as this Gowanus spot is nearly the size of a city block, with tons of seating, and multiple bars, both for drinks and for BBQ. If the frozen cocktails aren’t doing the trick to make you stop sweating, spend a few minutes inside, where they have another bar and a bunch of TVs.
Parklife is about a block from Pig Beach in Gowanus, and while it’s not quite as big, there’s still plenty of room for a big group. The space, which feels kind of like a party in a parking lot, has a bunch of picnic tables and patio furniture, as well as a bocce court, where you can bet tequila shots with friends over a game your grandparents gave up on for being too slow. Then head inside and order some tacos on housemade tortillas and nachos that come with fries instead of chips.
If you work in Midtown, The Polynesian is the obvious choice for a summer Friday (or Tuesday) drink with coworkers. But we like this Tiki-themed bar (from the people behind Carbone and The Grill) enough to come to Midtown from elsewhere to drink on the huge wraparound terrace outside. After some excellent cocktails served in mugs shaped like skulls and treasure chests, try the really good bar snacks, like jerk chicken satay and spicy fries with hoisin ketchup.
Rather than going someplace where your friends check their watches every 30 minutes and leave at exactly 5pm to get Tucker from doggy daycare, just go to the Springs. This dog-friendly spot in Greenpoint has a massive backyard, where you can hang out all day and night drinking Aperol spritz slushies on the outdoor couches, while reluctantly giving Tucker bites of food every time he looks at you.
Run by the people behind Cafe Habana in Nolita, Habana Outpost is a land of rainbow umbrellas, string lights, frozen drinks, and Cuban sandwiches in Fort Greene. Suggesting a group of friends meet here to eat grilled corn and frozen mojitos is always a good idea. They also screen classic movies like Mrs. Doubtfire and Cliffhanger on Sunday nights at 8pm.
Union Pool, don’t ever change. We count on you for afternoon outdoor drinking, nighttime outdoor drinking, and tacos all the time. And for that, we are grateful.
Night Of Joy has a grandma’s-house-in-a-good-way feel inside. It also has a big rooftop patio that feels homey, even if it’s not quite as much like your grandma’s house. Unless your grandma’s was always packed with people pregaming group dinners with frozen margaritas. In which case, please introduce us to your grandma.
Even if you’re one of those people who stays in touch with freshman year roommates and the kid who lent you pencils in homeroom, you can bring everyone you know to Bohemian Hall. This beer garden in Astoria is bigger than most NYC parks not named Central, and it’s a great place to spend a summer afternoon drinking steins of Czech beer and eating bratwursts with some friends and 1000 strangers.
All winter, your friend has vaguely talked about inviting a bunch of you to his grandmother’s house in Cape Cod, but you have a feeling the weekend’s never really going to happen. Instead, bring the group to Cape House, an outdoor seafood shack in East Williamsburg/Bushwick. There are picnic tables, cocktails on tap, lots of wine and beer options, and of course, seafood.
Our Wicked Lady is a casual Bushwick rooftop where you can usually find seating during Happy Hour (5-8pm weekdays) and weekend afternoons. Stick around a bit later, and you won’t be able to sit anymore, but you will be able to dance (or stand awkwardly) when there’s live music.
Fornino pretty much checks all the boxes when it comes to being a summer big group hang destination: there’s a lot of space, it’s located in a park (Brooklyn Bridge Park in Brooklyn Heights), there are great views and sunset-watching opportunities, and they have good pizza plus wine, beer, and cocktails. It’s conveniently an order-at-the-bar situation for both pizza and drinks, which keeps things easy if your group is on the bigger side.
Located basically under the Roosevelt Island Tram and featuring a “cocktail lab” run by someone called “The Bearded Alchemist,” The Jeffrey is not the topic of an SNL Stefon skit. Instead, it’s a relaxed bar with a backyard beer garden. This is a good one for people who get excited about beer, or for any time you need to drink with a crew near Midtown East or The Upper East Side.
Finding a spot for you and your closest 30 friends is no easy task, but Harlem Tavern is here to make things easy on you. The huge outdoor space has tons of seating, as well as a great draft beer list, and very good, affordable bar food, like a bacon cheeseburger with truffle aioli.
Sweet & Vicious is a classic, and it’s one of those places you’ll always want to have on hand when 12 of your friends suddenly materialize and want to get drinks somewhere downtown. It’s a straightforward bar right off Bowery in Nolita, with plenty of space out back. Get a “jargarita.” It’s a frozen margarita in a giant mason jar.
When’s the last time you drank outside while looking out at the Statue of Liberty? Exactly. That’s what goes down at Pier A Harbor House, a cruise ship-sized building at the southern tip of Manhattan. The large outdoor area gets busy with after-work crowds during the week and with tourists on summer Saturdays.
Lavender Lake is one of those places you could roll into with 15 people, and it still wouldn’t feel crowded. The outdoor area of this Gowanus bar fees kind of like the communal area in a condo complex and is extremely pleasant, and there’s also a very large inside, should the weather turn. Get an order of brussels sprouts to go around.