Island that Manhattan is, some of the city’s most refreshing retreats are on the miles of waterfront acreage. On the Upper West Side, Riverside Park follows the Hudson River for almost 4 miles. You can plant yourself on a shady lawn for a picnic, or find refreshment at the park’s riverside cafes at 70th Street, next to a pier where outdoor films are screened on Wednesday evenings at 8pm; at 79th Street, above the Boat Basin; and at 105th Street. On the Upper East Side, a long pier is a breezy riverside perch at 107th Street, and Eli’s Vinegar Factory (431 E. 91st St, tel: 212-987-0885, off map), supplies prepared meals for a picnic in Carl Shurz Park, on the river at 86th Street.
Manhattan’s YMCA is a lovely red-brick Italianate-style tower on 63rd Street near Central Park West. Swimmers will be delighted to discover two large and stylish pools in the depths of the building, both surrounded by beautiful hand-decorated Italian tiles that create the exotic aura of a Roman nymphaeum (Mon–Fri 5am–10.45pm, Sat–Sun 8am–7.45pm). The longest pool in Manhattan, a full Olympic-length 50 meters, is at Asphalt Green, a large sports complex. Both have well-equipped gyms, as well as saunas and steam rooms. The best place for an outdoor dip is the John Jay Pool (June–early Sept, 11am–7pm) tucked into a patch of greenery next to the East River at the east end of 77th Street. Locker facilities are minimal (bring your own lock), but on a hot summer day all you’ll really care about is diving into the refreshing water.