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Recommendations for a New York City Summer

There’s something magical about New York City in the summer. Sunshine pours over the skyline, illuminating parks teeming with picnickers, sunbathers, and children chasing bubbles. With so much to see and do, having someone with all the knowledge, insight, and experience to lead summer in the right direction can make all the difference.

That’s where Richard Branch, Chef Concierge at The Fifth Avenue Hotel, comes into the picture. With his wealth of experience and insider knowledge, Richard is exceptionally tuned into his guests’ needs and well-versed in offering the city’s best recommendations. 

Eight years ago, Richard moved from the Los Angeles area to New York City and effortlessly eased into the city’s lifestyle. He says, “I’ve really gained my wings here.” 

Always busy and eager to learn, Richard believes in the importance of networking and making connections as a concierge. Because the hotel often receives diverse requests from guests, he says, “It’s important to be out in the streets and stay active. I delve into experiences that some have never done or ever thought about doing. I’m able to gain the knowledge needed to provide exceptional service.” 

As a native Californian, Richard had never experienced the dramatic changing of seasons like those in New York City. He notes the shift in New Yorkers’ energy and lifestyle when summer arrives. “I embrace the seasons, and many New Yorkers also do the same. They shed their stylish coat layers and want to come outdoors for all the activities and installations.” 
Tried and true recommendations for memorable summer-specific spots come directly from Richard’s dedication to knowing the best that New York has to offer.

Park in the Shade: Madison Square Park 
With Manhattan’s numerous parks and green spaces, finding a spot to unwind and observe the world becomes a pursuit of tranquility. Located at E. 23rd between Fifth Avenue & Madison Avenue in the Flatiron District, Madison Square Park is Richard’s favorite place for a mix of summer activities and relaxation. 

With a history dating back to the 19th century, Madison Square Park is more than just a haven from the busy streets; it’s a vibrant hub where the essence of New York unfolds. “You’ll always find people painting, playing music, or holding yoga classes in the grass. There are also plenty of activities for kids, with a playground nearby,” Richard explains. 

For those with an eye for the creative, the art installation on display this summer is “Seed” by artist Rose B. Simpson, celebrating the Madison Square Park Conservancy’s 20th anniversary. Simpson’s work, known for exploring identity and resilience, brings a thought-provoking and visually stunning element to the park.

When wandering Madison Square Park in true flâneur style, Richard recommends visiting the original Shake Shack, located within the park. “It started as a simple hot dog cart and became a global phenomenon,” he says. Enjoying a ShackBurger and crinkle-cut fries under the park’s lush trees is a summer highlight. For more culinary options, Eataly offers an array of Italian delicacies on the park’s perimeter, in the building that once hosted the original Fifth Avenue Hotel, and the renowned three-star Michelin restaurant, Eleven Madison Park, is just a short stroll away.

Pro Tip: Richard tells us that Madison Square Park is a particularly great place for people-watching. His favorite spot? One of the park benches overlooking the Madison Square Fountain—with a central location ideal for taking in the ambiance and a direct view of the iconic Flatiron Building.

A Refreshing Dose of Culture: Morgan Library & Museum 
Richard also suggests a visit to the Morgan Library & Museum at 225 Madison Avenue. This independent research library and museum is one of New York’s major exhibition venues for fine art, literature, and music. 

The library boasts an extraordinary collection of rare materials. Visitors can marvel at original manuscripts from literary giants like Charles Dickens and Mark Twain, view ancient Mesopotamian clay tablets inscribed with some of the earliest forms of writing, and explore Renaissance masterpieces such as Michelangelo’s drawings. 

Pro Tip: Richard highlights The Morgan Library’s garden—open seasonally—as an ideal spot for a coffee and mid-day rest. The sunlit garden, adorned with lush greenery and Roman antiquities, provides a tranquil retreat from the city’s pace.

The Scoop on Summer Treats: Anita Gelato 
Nothing quite hits the spot on a hot summer’s day like a delicious scoop (or two) of some of New York’s best ice cream and gelato. Knowing there is always room for a frozen treat, Richard goes “as often as he can” to Anita Gelato on 26th and Broadway for its unique, seasonal flavors. 

Founded in 2002 in Israel and expanding globally since, Anita Gelato is renowned for its artisan approach and creative flavors, which often change with the seasons. Each scoop is crafted with high-quality ingredients, making it a standout choice for those looking to savor an indulgent treat that can be enjoyed on the go. 

Pro Tip: For those looking for a personal flavor recommendation, Richard’s recent favorites include the refreshing strawberry gelato, bursting with the sweetness of ripe berries, and the exotic tropical yogurt, a delightful blend of tangy and sweet flavors. 

The Art of Aperitivo: The Portrait Bar 
Synonymous with la bella vita, aperitivo is a time to slow down before indulging in dinner. Bypassing summer outdoor dining crowds and into the cozy wooden-paneled retreat of The Portrait Bar—inside The Fifth Avenue Hotel—for a drink is a star pick for Richard. 

While aperitivo is often enjoyed under the sun, Richard notes, “You don’t have to be outdoors in the summer for aperitivo; it’s about going where magic is created.”

Richard’s summer drink of choice at The Portrait Bar is the Aperol Spritz. This vibrant, icy orange cocktail first gained popularity in Italy in 1919, thanks to brothers Luigi and Silvio Barbieri. “The Aperol Spritz perfectly embodies the essence of summer,” Richard says. With its bittersweet flavor and refreshing effervescence, it’s the ideal prelude to an evening of enjoyment.

Pro Tip: Should aperitivo turn into a full meal, Richard highly recommends ordering The Portrait Bar’s burger. He tells us, “I’m a self-professed burger connoisseur, and it’s the juiciest burger I’ve ever had.” 

Insider’s Summer
Having a concierge like Richard Branch can transform a New York City adventure, as he tailors unique experiences to specific preferences while simultaneously saving valuable time. “We have all the insider knowledge that websites or TikTok reels can’t tell you,” he explains.

Whether discovering off-menu items, accessing back entrances, or connecting with key contacts, Richard emphasizes that “The Fifth’s concierge team ensures that every visit is a memory worth holding onto.” As he aptly puts it, “If you leave New York without a story, you haven’t experienced New York.”

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