Who says summers mean stayed cooped up in air-conditioned rooms. Step out in the evenings and breathe in some fresh air

It is the best of times. It is the worst of times. Summers in Chennai are almost Dickensian, weather-wise that is. Rows of plump, green water melons on the road mark the beginning of our love-hate relationship with the season. Tangy mangoes suddenly find their way into our menu — dal, rice, pickle. Ice apples (nungu), tender coconut, sugarcane juice, bowls of mixed fruit and ice buttermilk vendors make brisk business. While the notorious noontimes are better spent indoors — whether at work or for the lucky others at home catching up on a siesta , summer evenings are a great time to head out, socialise, read a book in a park, play, work out… and take in the gentle, cool, sea breeze, even as the sky turns a pale pink and the sun prepares to go down. It is also a great excuse to step out of our air-conditioned cocoons and experience a bit of Nature. Here’s a list of places in town you can head to this summer and turn crepuscular.

Al fresco, a la Chennai

Garden cafes are great places to catch up on some breeze and banter. From Amethyst in Gopalapuram to Eco café at Chamiers and the newest hotspot in town L’amandier in R.A. Puram, there are a host of options when it comes to world cuisine. While Amethyst and Eco Café offer plenty of privacy and green cover, L’amandier offers the real ‘street-side café’ feel. Of course, there are also the eternal South Indian favourites, Woodlands outside Narada Gana Sabha, where kaapi, dosas and vadais are served hot alongside some great cultural events and Sangeetha in R.A. Puram, where service is quick and the food, fuss-free. If you are looking to eat out in style, there are also the hotels that have outdoor seating with stunning views of the city from Kefi at the Taj Club House, Minar at Savera, RainTree at Anna Salai and St. Mary’s Road and The Crown at Residency Towers.

Park here

In the heart of the city, where a beloved drive-in restaurant once stood, is a precious lung space, an abode for many trees and birds. The Semmozhi Poonga on Cathedral Road is a great urban feat, and an important asset to the city. Head here for a quiet evening of people-watching and catch the many faces of the metropolis. Children play, grown-ups walk, an artist here and another there paints or writes, someone reads as someone else munches on peanuts. A few snoozers rest here and there while some others with cameras acquaint themselves with the city and the art of photography...

Oh! Marina

If you are looking for a quiet (well, somewhat), romantic, economic and peaceful way to spend your evening, head to the beach. Here, the evenings are a lot cooler and you can watch the sky change colours as the evening progresses, cool your feet in the glistening waves, walk along the shore against the evening wind and sit on the sand, listening to the city buzz with life. If you are hungry, there are plenty of options; whether it is the iconic manga-boiled kadalai combo or bajji or even some fresh seafood, weigh your options and take in a lungful of fresh beach air before you head back.

Prarthana Theatre

It’s been around for so long, most of us have probably forgotten that it’s even there. Yet, if you want to watch a movie in the evening and yet not do it inside a theatre but out in the open, with the wind playing with your hair, try this option. You can just drive in, park your car and treat yourself to a movie in the privacy of your vehicle. The theatre has become rather tech-savvy, offering online ticket bookings as well. It also has a restaurant and an A/C theatre, in case you feel stuffy outside. So drive in on a balmy evening, sit back and enjoy the experience.

Beachside cafes

There are many along the ECR, but a more reasonable destination on a weekday evening would be the cafes along the Besant Nagar promenade. These cafes and restaurants just opposite the sands offer all kinds of food, allowing you to relish your favourite cuisine, sit down with your favourite mug of coffee or even try out some ice cream, with a great view of the bay. The only thing to remember is to choose a seat on the first floor and let your eyes feast.