Contemplate the water: From a bench at the end of Steeplechase Pier, of course.
Bring your suit!: This is a beach, after all.
When you breathe deeply you get: Salt air, mustard, stale beer, fellow unwashed humans.
Vertigo-inducing adventure: The Cyclone—it’s old, it’s wooden, it rattles, it’s terrifying.
Guilt-inducing snack: Fried clams and butter-drenched corn at the Grill House, corner of Stillwell Ave. and the boardwalk.
End-of-the-day insulin spike: Pistachio or banana soft-serve at Denny’s Delight (1212 Surf Ave.; 718-266-9371).
Stop for a cold one: At the venerable, old-photo-covered Ruby’s Old Tyme Bar and Grill (1213 Boardwalk West; 718-372-9079). Nearby Cha Cha’s is an acceptable alternative; both have fairly cheap domestic beer and priceless people-watching.
BRIGHTON BEACH AND SHEEPSHEAD BAY
Contemplate the water: From the boardwalk, surrounded by Russian men in Speedos.
Guilt-inducing snack: A bag of Russian pastries (about $1), from any of the numerous stands along the street.
The midday pick-me-up: An iced coffee at Starbucks, solely to see the bilingual Cyrillic/English menu (607 Brighton Beach Ave.; 718-934-3211).
Stop for a cold one: At Gambrinus Beer Hall (3100 Ocean Pkwy., nr. N. Shore Pkwy.; 718-265-1009).
Spread the picnic blanket: At Manhattan Beach Park, a secluded mini-beach at the end of the neighborhood (walk down Oriental Boulevard and then make a right through Pat Parlato Playground).
GATEWAY NATIONAL RECREATION AREA
Best place to see the water: From atop the dunes past Plum Beach.
When you breathe deeply, you get: Nothing but sea air.
The kids will go crazy for: The bizarre mix of characters inhabiting Floyd Bennett Field’s former airport. In the northernmost corner are the model-airplane enthusiasts, and the south end is Brooklyn’s largest community garden. The eastern coast is where the NYPD does its helicopter training and retired veterans tinker with colorful World War II fighter planes.
For that truly suburban feeling: Hit a few buckets at the Brooklyn Golf Center (3200 Flatbush Ave.; 718-253-6816), then head to the new Aviator Sports and Recreation (Hangar 5, nr. Flatbush Ave.; 718-758-9800) with its two skating rinks, climbing wall, and soccer fields (home to the Brooklyn Knights).
Stop for a cold one: At this strictly BYOB situation—so prepare in advance with a six-pack and snacks. Go over the causeway and put down your blanket on the beautiful white-sand beach at Jacob Riis Park (it’s technically Queens, but nobody’s checking). Close your eyes, and listen to the waves.