Carefree adventures

Boys, Beaches & Bars: Max Emerson’s Summer In New York City


Max Emerson is a model, YouTuber and Instagrammer

Summer in NYC is a hot, sticky blur of rooftops, nights on the town, and weekend trips to the beach. Sun decks and pools stay packed to capacity with the din of cutting edge music filling the background and boys flirting. As long as you avoid the touristy spots (and I’m here to help you do that), New York Summer is guaranteed to be one of the best you’ve ever had.

On where to hang out…

The trick is to spend real time here, not just a weekend. If you’re only trying to hit the iconic spots, you’re going to miss the forest for the trees. If you’re staying in a hotel, look for something a little left of center. Hell’s Kitchen, Chelsea, Soho and even the East Village or Williamsburg have amazing boutique hotels that are mere steps from some of the best food, entertainment and nightlife in the world.

Either hit up a friend who lives here, or meet one at a bar. There are so many great bars, from dive bars to lounges to corner ‘hood bars, where you can hang out with a friend. In Hell’s Kitchen, check out the Eagle, Post and Boxers HK. In Chelsea, there is of course g Lounge, Gym, if you are looking for a sports bar, and the awesomely casual, neighborhood hole in the wall, Barracuda. But the best restaurants, shows and parties are constantly changing so it’s best to find a native with a finger on the pulse. Everyone knows the top show is Hamilton, but also check out the restaurant Vandal (book way in advance) and the summer party Mister Sunday, a hipster fantasy under the sun. If you’re not looking to stand in line: Decibel is a great secret bar in East Village, Book of Mormon is still the best musical, and the bar Bottom’s Up is a guaranteed good time. (Do all three in one night if you can manage it.)

On celebrity…

The nice thing about Insta-fame is that I can be “famous” in certain neighborhoods, but anonymous just two blocks away when that stops being fun. Everybody gets the joke I’m constantly playing on myself, making fun of myself, and is incredibly supportive of the work I’m doing.


On doing the right thing…

I’ve partnered with Ali Forney Center on my project HOOKED and can’t possibly say enough nice things about both the people and the work they do saving and improving lives. The shelters they run are nicer than my own apartment. The most unexpected thing I’ve learned about them through our relationship is that the group’s influence extends far beyond New York. They actually go around the country to train shelters on how to accommodate the special needs of our youth seeking help. It has an incredible impact and shows massive initiative.

On celebrations…

I’m a twelve-year-old at heart. If it’s my birthday, it’s usually a super-cheesy itinerary like parkour class at Chelsea Piers followed by dinner at Ninja NY (a sushi restaurant that even has a ninja-magician) in TriBeCa. The class is taught by YouTube celebrity gymnasts. But everyone in the class is a total dink like me so it’s impossible to be self conscious.


On carefree moments…

If you are with a friend, the first order of business is to rent Citibikes and ride through every neighborhood. Usually we start at my place in Williamsburg, drive over the Queensborough bridge into Central Park, down through Times Square to Washington Square park, over to the High Line and West Side Highway through to Battery Park and Wall Street. You get to see so much that you don’t even feel the burn of the ride, zig zagging everywhere and trying to people watch at the same time. If in more of a mellow mood, you can’t beat laying out with a cooler and headphones while getting a tan at Chelsea Piers in the midst of amazing scenery. On a nice day you’ll find hungry seagulls pestering thirsty, shirtless boys until the sun sets behind Jersey across the Hudson.

In my book, the three things worth splurging on are food, theatre and cheap massages. You can find authentic food from any culture in this town. The theatre culture here is absolutely unrivaled and speaks for itself, although you have to plan ahead if that’s your thing. The massages are because you’re going to end up walking about ten miles per day if you’re really doing the city right, and your legs and feet are going to be very sore. Foot Heaven on Pell Street is always solid. (I’m talking legitimate massages, of course.)


On the perfect night on the town…

My favorite evenings include hitting Equinox for a quick workout and steam, watching a college friend do their thing in whatever show they’re currently performing in at that moment, grabbing dinner (probably Thai) in Hell’s Kitchen and then wandering the bars depending on where my friends have ended up that night. Chelsea and Hell’s Kitchen are my main gayborhoods these days. Most nights consist of romping up and down bustling 8th and 9th avenues and running into all types of friends. My buddy Tim is a waiter at Riposo 46, so if I’m often over there watching him practice his stand up routine on his poor customers. It’s hard to beat those kind of of spontaneous nights, where anything can happen, and usually does.

On the perfect Sunday afternoon…

Sundays are the best. Pride of course is incredible, as the mass of LGBTQ humanity weaves its way down Fifth Avenue to the Village, where it all started with the Stonewall uprising. There are incredible floats with club music glaring, gogo boys dancing, political activists chanting, politicians leading, and the crowd forms a human wall along the sidewall for dozens of blocks. It’s a way to see the city at its best, charged up, happy, eager for change, and just enjoying the city in the summer with a million people you’ve never seen before in your life. Everyone is suddenly your friend, and your community, no matter how different you might be the rest of the year. And that’s just the start. There’s the dancing on the Piers later in the night, the performers, the people watching. It’s just overwhelming. Be sure to drink lots of water!

For the rest of the year, long and lazy brunches are usually in order (I’ve heard Prune in East Village is the spot right now). I’ll most likely say hi to friends at Mister Sunday, but then sneak out after an hour or so and either go for a run along the West Side Highway or take advantage of the gym being completely empty. The city is great in the summer, people clear out, you have it as your own playground for you and your friends. Then it’s on to dinner in the West Village. My personal favorite is Bespoke Kitchen on Hudson. It’s a small spot with amazing food.

Usually by Sunday evening, after a bite, I’m pretty wiped and I’m heading home.