A little less NYC and a little more Cape Cod, City Island is a quaint island in the Bronx full of old Victorian homes, squawking seagulls, fresh salt water, a marina full of boats, and enough lobster to stuff your face for days. While it feels far away from the cacophony of Midtown at lunchtime, the quaint community is less than an hour and a half on the subway, which means it’s the perfect day trip for when you’re burned out on brunch, museums, and dance parties. Just take the 6 train to the last stop (Pelham Bay Park), then take a 10-minute bus ride on Bx29 to City Island (or, if you’re in a car, it’s just a it’s 40-60 minute drive from Midtown Manhattan). From seafood to sailing, here are 10 reasons to escape to City Island this summer.
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The seafood is fresh off the boat
Seafood is one of City Island’s main lures, with places like Johnny’s Reef, The Lobster Box, Seafood City, and Original Crab Shanty all offering that quintessential low-key, surf-shack experience you just can’t get in Manhattan. Johnny’s in particular can’t be missed -- located right on the water, it’s sort of reminiscent of a high school cafeteria (minus the bullies), with food served on trays and lots of long blue benches. Everything from lobster tails and scallops to clams and oysters can be ordered either fried or steamed, and there are frozen cocktails aplenty. Also don't miss Lobster House, Sea Shore Restaurant & Marina (where you need to get the clam chowder), and Sammy’s Shrimp Box -- or if you're looking something a little more upscale, The Black Whale.
You can spend a day out on the water
In addition to serving up that New England seafood experience without having to deal with Amtrak, City Island provides plenty of ways to get out on a boat for the day. Local shop Jack’s Bait & Tackle offers four-person fiberglass boats for rent on a first-come-first-served basis ($69.99 weekdays, $99.99 weekends & holidays), which aren't fancy by any means, but still a great time (so long as the thought of Long Island Sound water splashing on you doesn’t freak you out). If you're looking to spend a little bit more and flex those summer camp skills, you can also go sailing (or at least learn how to) with The New York Sailing Center ($395-$795 depending on the course). Just please, don’t make anyone refer to you as “The Captain.”
... and catch some fish
As the name suggests, Jack’s Bait & Tackle also sells bait. In fact, it's been providing locals with bait since 1945, and its staff will happily guide you to the best areas to catch porgy, flounder, bass, and bluefish (and you thought the waters of New York were only full of syringes!). For a fancier experience, you can also charter a boat with Jack’s or Island Current.
You can party like an '80s pop star
Got some cash to burn? Take in the views of Manhattan while cruising Duran Duran-style on your very own yacht. Island Current offers private party boat rentals on boats triple the size of your studio apartment -- ranging from 42-76ft long -- that come equipped with a stereo, a galley, and a radar to find fish, depending on which vessel you choose. If you're looking to spend a day hanging out with friends on the water, popping Champagne, and blasting to Rio on repeat all day (colorful suits suggested), this is the move.
There's plenty of history to explore
If your idea of a good time is less hedonistic and more intellectual (or you just burn really easily), there's still something for you here. Stop by the totally free City Island Nautical Museum to learn all about City Island’s shipbuilding history and to see wooden boat displays and photographs of City Island life from years gone by. It’s open only by appointment, so make sure you call ahead.
Old-school ice cream shops reign supreme
No fishing town experience would be complete without some ice cream. After you’ve stuffed your face with seafood and spent some time out on the water, head over to Lickety Split for a scoop of red velvet or Birthday Bash. Housed in an old cottage, Lickety Split is the perfect antidote to all the fancy multi-ingredient ice cream you've been spending far too much of your paycheck on. It's the kind of place that brings to mind lazy summers, when you didn’t have a care in the world, and didn’t know what artisanal meant.
Even a simple stroll around town isn't boring
Since City Island is known for it’s insanely beautiful Victorian architecture, you’d be remiss not to wander around the quiet, picturesque streets and take it all in. Streets and avenues like King, William, Belden, Horton, and Minnieford are ideal for architectural eye candy that's sure to inspire (and also depress you greatly, once you return to your apartment). Make sure you check out the Schofield House (65 Schofield St) -- built in 1840, it's the oldest home on the island and a recent NYC landmark. Another gem is the Samuel Pell house, located at 586 City Island Ave (Pell was a captain and descendant of the Pell family that once owned the land. Talk about legit.)
There are lots of great local merchants
Stroll down City Island Ave, the town’s main street, to visit some of the local shops and art galleries unique to the island. Starving Artist Cafe is a gallery and coffee shop rolled into one, selling cool art books and handmade jewelry. If it’s antiques you’re looking for, Early Ruth Art & Antiques has enough bric-a-brac to fill that large country home you don’t have. Jewelry lovers can head to Calico Juno Designs which specializes in gemstone and wire designs.
Local theater prices beat Broadway every time
Since you’re not getting into Hamilton any time soon, enjoy a play by the City Island Theater Group. They’ve put on everything from Evita to The Glass Menagerie to Steel Magnolias. Tickets are normally $20, the theater is small, and best of all you’ll feel like you’re catching a small town play right in NYC.
And, of course, there's plenty to drink
Like everything else in City Island, drinking here is more reminiscent of a small town experience than any overcrowded, overpriced bar in Manhattan or Brooklyn. City Island bars are truly where everybody knows your name, and friendly locals and cheap drinks make for a welcome respite for denizens of the other boroughs. You can’t go wrong with The Snug, a popular, no-frills Irish pub that’s a favorite among locals for its talkative bartenders (seriously, sit at the bar and just listen to their stories). Fella’s is another great option -- a local dive bar with good bar food, lots of cheap beer, and a staff that's been there for ages. For a (slightly) fancier option, head to Alehouse City Island, a gastropub known for its craft beer selection and trivia night.
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1. Johnny's Reef2 City Island Ave, Bronx
2. Lobster Box34 City Island Ave, Bronx
3. Seafood City459 City Island Ave, Bronx
4. Original Crab Shanty361 City Island Ave, Bronx
5. Lobster House691 Bridge St, Bronx
6. Seashore Restaurant and Marina591 City Island Ave, Bronx
7. Sammy's Shrimp Box64 City Island Ave, Bronx
8. Black Whale279 City Island Ave, Bronx
9. City Island Nautical Museum190 Fordham St, Bronx
10. Lickety Split Ice Cream295 City Island Avenue, City Island
11. Starving Artist Cafe & Gallery249 City Island Ave, Bronx
12. The Snug302 City Island Ave, Bronx
13. Fella's522 City Island Ave, Bronx
14. Alehouse City Island288 City Island Ave, Bronx
This counter-service seafood shack has been serving steamed and fried seafood on City Island since the 1950s. Bring cash and pray for sunny skies, so you can take your food out to one of many waterfront picnic tables on the patio.
Lobster Box on City Island has been serving up lobster and other seafood since 1946. Take in views of Long Island Sound from one of three nautical-themed dining rooms. This place is loved by locals and celebrities alike, including the late Frank Sinatra and Andy Garcia. Cocktails, beer and wine are available and reservations are welcome.
This spacious, family-friendly spot in City Island offers fresh seafood dishes in a colorful, cafeteria-style space. Food is served on paper plates and handed out on trays, and kids can keep busy with rides and arcade games along the walls. There's patio seating as well, which you should take advantage of given the spot's waterfront location.
Crab Shanty on City Island is a neighborhood go-to for overflowing seafood plates and Italian fare. They've got raw bar options, endless crab variations and plenty of combos for when you can't decide between lobster or shrimp. The space is very casual, with a nautical theme and comfy booths where you can don your lobster bib in peace.
This City Island spot right off Long Island Sound delivers fresh, local seafood year round. The decor is simple, the ambiance is casual, and you can opt to sit either indoors or outdoors (though you may be waiting longer for the latter). They always have several "catch of the day" options that are happily prepared according to your specifications. The place gets very busy in the summer, so try to arrive early!
This spot has been a City Island classic since 1929, serving guests both on a patio right on the water and in an elegant dining room. Classic seafood dishes are served alongside sushi and sashimi, all pairing beautifully with picks from their wine list and cocktail menu. Be seated for sunset if you want particularly stunning dinner views.
This City Island spot is the place Manhattanites should be trekking for fresh, quality seafood. It's open year round, serving up everything from lobster to calamari alongside signature frozen cocktails. In the summer months they have a late-night menu and remain open until 2am. With patio seating outside and cozy, comfy booths inside, there's plenty of space to settle in for a seafood feast.
A brick-tiled garden complete with weeping willows, potted florals, and dangling windchimes is one major draw of this City Island spot. The other is the reliably tasty American menu featuring everything from seafood to sandwiches in addition to decadent desserts. Around for ten years, The Black Whale is a revival of a place of the same name from the 60s and displays plenty of old photographs to evoke the nostalgia. Stop by on Sundays for the beloved brunch buffet.
City Island Nautical Museum, open only on weekends and by appointment, encompasses all facets of City Island life, both past and present. You’ll learn all about City Island’s ship building history and see wooden boat displays and photographs of City Island life from years gone by. And the best part? Admission is completely free.
Housed in what looks like an old cottage, this ice cream shop has a 1950s vibe and a solid amount of outdoor seating for those hot days when ice cream is almost necessary. They serve sorbet, hard ice cream, gelato and frozen yogurt, offering a few homemade flavors in addition to known ice cream brands. The servers are notoriously over-generous with portion sizes, so be sure to stock up on napkins.
This artsy City Island hangout is part store, part music venue and part coffeeshop. Handmade jewelry and other crafty wares are sold alongside strong espresso drinks and cafe menu items. Beer and wine is available at night when musicians come to play life. It's a great place to get out of the sun for a while and tap into your artistic side.
The Snug, a no-frills Irish pub, is a favorite among locals of City Island. It's small, has a friendly and welcoming staff, and serves food from the diner next door. There are a few TVs to watch games, but most people come here to talk to their neighbors and have a few drinks. There's occasional live music, but the place never gets too crowded to be comfortable.
This dive bar is where all the local workers come to drink after their restaurant shifts on City Island. It's got reliably cheap drinks, a pool table and a fun, diverse crowd. The bartenders are very friendly, often willing to pour you a free drink after you've paid for a couple yourself. There's nothing fancy or incredibly unique about this place: it's just a good, solidly consistent watering hole.
This informal brewpub on City Island offers six taps and over 100 bottled beers to thirsty locals and tourists alike. They serve pub food and have occasional live music along with ample patio seating. The vibe is low-key and the prices are reasonable, two great characteristics of a classic neighborhood bar.