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40 Best Outdoor Activities in NYC from a Local

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At first glance it may seem as though outdoor adventure is hard to come by in a city that is nicknamed the concrete jungle. However, when you’ve lived in the city for 30+ years like me, you quickly learn where to find some of the best outdoor activities in NYC.

Because even though the lightning fast pace of the city is amazing, you sometimes need a momentary break from all that chaos as your experience all of the best outdoor activities in New York City.

So, step away from the generic guidebook and experience a neverending array of stunning parks, insane hiking trails, gorgeous beaches, and awe-inspiring rooftops like a real local with this list of the best outdoor activities New York has to offer.

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If you’re booking a trip right now then I IMPLORE you to get travel insurance – even if it’s not from me. 

After all, this past year has been a wild ride and I don’t want you to lose money because government regulations have changed. 

Truth be told though, I’ve never traveled without travel insurance and don’t think you should either – especially since I think we’ve all had plans drastically change because of the pandemic. 

Therefore, find an insurance agency that covers travel changes related to COVID-19, like my two all-time faves World Nomads and Safety Wing. You can also read more about which policy is right for you in my full review here.

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Where to Stay in NYC

Not sure where to stay as your enjoy some of the best outdoor activtiies in NYC? If so then here are my local picks for some of the best hotels in New York City.

  • Pod 39 (budget) – Located in Murray Hill, this stylish, modern pod hotel has a fantastic array of small rooms that start at $120 per night. it also sits inside a histroic home from 1918 that has been fully renovated with modern queen-size beds, TVs, and bedside shelves.
  • The Duffy Times Square by Kassa (budget) – Centrally located in Hell’s Kitchen, this posh hotel has upscale rooms that start at $159 per night and that include amenities like mini-fridges, flat-screen TVs, and iPod docks.There’s also a working fireplace in the lobby and staff are very friendly and happy to help you with anything you might need.
  • The James New York (mid-range) – Located in the always fabulous SOHO neighborhood, The James New York is known for clean and comforatble rooms that start at under $200 per night. In-room highlights include high ceilings, floor-to-ceiling windows, glassed-off bathrooms, chic toiletries, and plush linens made from all-natural fibers,
  • The Bowery Hotel (luxury) – This oppulent, 4-star establishment is in Nolita and has stunning rooms that start at $300 per night. In-hotel ammenities include free WIFI, compimentary bike rentals, sweeping views, and exquisite service.

Best Outdoor Activities in NYC – Manhattan

1. Central Park

Central Park is home to Tavern on the Green, one of many fun brunch spots in NYC

No list of the best outdoor activities in NYC would be complete without mentioning the one and only, Central Park. After all, it’s easily one of the most famous and best parks in New York City.

And that’s probably because there are an insane number of awesome things to do here, like:

  • Visit the MET
  • Explore the Museum of Natural History
  • Central Park Zoo
  • Belvedere Castle
  • Strawberry Fields (aka the memorial to John Lenon)
  • Sheep Meadow
  • Bethesda Terrace
  • The Mall
  • Alice and Wonderland Statue
  • The Literary Walk
  • Shakespeare in the park
  • The Conservatory Garden
  • The Ramble
  • The Shakespeare Garden (It’s on the west side between 79th and 80th Street)
  • The Boathouse (home to one of the best brunch spots in NYC)

And the list goes on and on. So much so that you could easily spend several days exploring the 843 acres of land here and still not see it all.

Therefore, pace yourself as your make your way through the plethora of meadows, outdoor theaters, European-style gardens, lakes, historic castles, and tree-lined walkways that can be found in a magnificent park that was first designed by architects Frederick Law Olmsted and Calvert Vaux in the 1860s/70s.

Also, to make your life a whole lot easier, you may want to take a guided 2-hour walking tour of this amazing place.

It’s ideal if you’re short on time, are new(ish) to the city, and want to enjoy the park’s major highlights (Great Lawn, Bethesda Fountain, filming locations, etc.) without getting hopelessly lost. This epic, guided tour of Central Park also costs just $24 per person and is kind of a steal. .

Pro Tip: Avoid crowds and visit on a weekday afternoon. You can also explore less touristy sections of the park like the North Meadow and the Harlem Meer.

2. Enjoy Shakespeare in the Park

Ready for a thrilling theatrical experience that is entirely outdoors? If so then mosey on over to the aforementioned Central Park and see what Shakespeare in the Park is really all about.

After all, there’s a reason why it’s been running since ye olde 1962 and why more than five million people have seen these amazing, totally free, Shakespearean productions in Delacorte Theater.

And while tickets are free to all, this is one of the more popular top outdoor activities in New York City on this list.

So, to procure tickets, you’ll need a bit of luck as you queue up early in the AM or participate in a digital lottery.

However, if you can’t seem to get tickets, then you can always try attending Shakespeare in the Park in one of NYC’s other boroughs since they are a bit less popular.

Pro Tip: Technically Central Park opens at 6:00 am. So, get here before sun up and wait for tickets until they are handed out for that day’s show. Shows are also typically held for five days during the second week of July. .

3. The Rooftop of the MET (aka the Metropolitan Museum of Art)

View from the Met during your one day in New York.
Image sourced from Flickr.com.

Want to enjoy one of the more unique and fun outdoor activities in NYC? If so then after admiring iconic art and the enchanting Temple of Dendur, head to the roof of the Metropolitan Museum of Art and take in sweeping views of the Manhattan skyline and nearby Central Park.

It’s here that you’ll find the Cantor Rooftop Garden Bar with its lush rooftop gardens and quirky art installations by Pierre Huyghe.

Also, skip the food and just order a craft cocktail or homemade lemonade instead. Although. truth be told, you don’t actually have to buy anything at all and can just admire the stellar views.

Pro Tip: Be aware that the rooftop is only open mid-April through October due to chilly winter weather. It can also be a real challenge to find so be sure to ask staff for help locating it upon arrival.

4. The Highline

Walking along the highland is one of the best things to do as you solo travel nyc

Another one of the all-time best outdoor activities in NYC, the Highline is a 1.5-mile-long elevated walkway that runs along the west side of Manhattan – from the Javits Center (at Hudson Yards) all the way to the Whitney Museum near Chelsea/The Meatpacking District.

It was originally built in 2009 atop old railway tracks and has quickly become one of the top outdoor activities in New York.

So, stop by to enjoy some of the best views in NYC and admire several amazing public art displays before enjoying local attractions like Chelsea Market, the Vessel, the Whitney, and Artichoke Basille Pizza.

5. Kayaking at Pier 26

Believe it or not, you can actually do a bit of free kayaking at Pier 26 throughout the warm summer months in NYC.

Yup, it’s easily one of the best free things to do in NYC that also doubles as one of the top outdoor activities in NYC for families.

So, swing by on the weekend, between Memorial Day and Labor Day, and marvel at NYC from the Hudson River. Just be sure to bring a change of clothes since you WILL be getting wet.

Also, please note that there is usually a time limit on rentals (around 20-minutes) and that they operate on a first come, first serve basis.

Then, afterward, experience all that Tribeca has to offer, like grabbing a supremely awesome photo op with the Staple Street Sky Bridge.

Pro Tip: This is not only the place in the city that offers free kayaking. In fact, many volunteer-operated boathouses on the East and Hudson Rivers do this, including Pier 96.

6. Bryant Park

Bryant Park
New York City cityscape at Bryant Park in Manhattan.

This small park near Times Square is a great place to hang out and enjoy super snazzy things like European-style food kiosks, a historic French carousel, outdoor ping pong tables, a small lending library, and a stunning fountain.

Therefore, you should 100% grab a loaf of chocolate babka from the Bread’s Bakery Kiosk (or a delish waffle from the Wafels and Dinges) before taking a seat at one of the green, metal, outdoor tables and chairs that proliferate throughout area.

Afterward, take in the majesty of the New York Public Library, which sits on the perimeter of the park, before grabbing a nightcap on the patio of the stunning, Bryant Park Grill.

Pro Tip: Grand Central Terminal, Times Square, and the Morgan Library are all within easy walking distance. You can also enjoy the winter village that routinely pops up here every holiday season.

7. Explore Inwood Hill Park

Go all the way to the very tip of northern Manhattan and you’ll find this 196-acre oasis of greenery waiting for you, right on the border between Manhattan and the Bronx.

It’s one of the best outdoor activities in NYC that also has the distinction of being the only non-landscaped, all-natural park Manhattan.

So, be sure to give this hidden gem a look as you admire stunning cliffs, impressive forests, and the oldest trees in the area from atop a gorgeous hill here.

Pro Tip: Spend around 2 hours inside the park itself and then visit the Dyckman Farmhouse Museum afterward.

8. Go Golfing at Chelsea Piers

View of the Manhattan skyline from Chelsea Piers.

Wanna channel your inner Tiger Woods while experiencing some of the best outdoor activities in NYC? If so then Chelsea Piers is the perfect place for you.

Not only can you practice your game during a private golf lesson at The Gold Club, but you can also use one of 52 semi-covered stalls (spread across four different floors) to perfect your swing at the driving range overlooking the Hudson River.

If you can though, go at an off-peak time since you’ll get 170 balls for just $35, not $50. Also, check out their simulators which will take you on a virtual tour of some of the best golf courses in the world for $45 per hour.

Pro Tip: While here you can also workout at Chelsea Fitness, go ice-skating at the Sky Rink, throw a strike at Bowlmor, or embark on a Hudson River cruise from the Maritime Center. There’s also a nice mini-golf course at Pier 25 at Hudson River Park.

9. Enjoy an Outdoor Movie

Visit NYC in the summer and you can watch a bunch of free movies outside thanks to the always awesome, NYC Parks Department and their Movies Under the Stars program.

Additionally, many other places routinely hold pop-up outdoor movie events when the weather gets warm, including Bryant Park, the Intrepid (on the deck), Brooklyn Bridge Park, the Astoria Waterfront, Queens Botanical Garden, Pier 17’s Rooftop Seaport Cinema, and more.

But if that’s still not enough outdoor movie awesomeness for you, you can always visit The Skyline Drive-In (Greenpoint, Brooklyn), The Brooklyn Drive-in at the Brooklyn Army Terminal, the Queens Drive-In (at Flushing Meadow Park), and Bel Aire Diner’s Drive-in.

10. Lincoln Center

This is an evening view of the the Lincoln Center of Performing Arts in Manhattan

Located on New York’s always posh Upper West Side, Lincoln Center is an iconic place that is known for being the home of the New York Philharmonic, the New York City Ballet, the Metropolitan Opera, The Vivian Beaumont Theater (great place to see a Broadway show since the theater is so small), and various performances associated with the Julliard School of Music.

And, just so you know, many of these Julliard performances are totally free to attend since they are performed by students.

Anyway, it’s also a complex that features an amazing outdoor area with ample seating, lots of walking promenades, and a gorgeous central fountain – that you’ve probably seen showcased on more than one movie.

So, whether you just stroll through the grounds of this 16-acre complex or make time to see a world-class performance, be sure to check one of the best outdoor activities in NYC.

Pro Tip: Grab a meal at local hot spots like P.J. Clarke’s (comfort food and burgers), The Smith, Cafe Fiorello (great pizza bolognese) and Rosa’s Mexicana (get the guac and the queso fundido).

11. Enjoy an Outdoor Food Market (or 10)

Surprising to exactly no one is the fact that NYC is home to a BUNCH of amazing outdoor food markets.

Yup, I guess it pays to live in a city that is considered to be one of the major food capitals of the world. So, if you’re looking to get your outdoor foodie swerve on, here are my top picks.

  • Hester Street Market (Lower East Side) – Get the lobster rolls and macarons. You can also find it at Bryant Patk on Fridays.
  • Queens Night Market (Flushing Meadows Corona Park) – Highlights include international delights like bulgogi bowls and Guatemalan hot dogs
  • Smorgasburg/Brooklyn Flea (Williamsburg/Prospect Park) – If you only go to one outdoor activity in NYC, let this food market be it. Highlights include Mao’s Bao, Bona Bona Ice Cream, and Wood Fired Edibles.
  • LIC Flea and Food (Long Island City) – This outdoor market is also in Queens and has a nice beer garden with craft beers from local microbreweries.
  • Union Square Greenmarket – It’s kind of like a farmer’s market where you can get fresh fruit, breads, and vegetables.
  • Time Out Market (DUMBO, Brooklyn)– Great rooftop bar and try Clinton Street Baking Company, Chote Miya, and FELICE Pasta Bar.

12. Visit Roosevelt Island

View of the Roosevelt Island tram from below, one of the top outdoor activities in NYC

Head to NYC’s super snazzy Upper East Side and enjoy one of the best views in NYC for a mere $4.00 road trip!

Because this, my friends, is one of the best outdoor activities in NYC that requires a ride aboard the always awesome, Roosevelt Island Tram.

So, have your Metrocard at the ready and head to the station at the corner of 59th street and 2nd Avenue. Once here, hop aboard and explore all that this tiny island in the East River has to offer.

If you want, you can even rent a bike and explore the Blackwell house, the North Point Lighthouse, and more – all while sitting just beneath the Queensboro Bridge.

Pro Tip: Avoid the tram like the plague at rush hour since it can get super crowded.

13. Check Out Stone Street

As the name suggests, stone street is a historic, cobblestone street that can be found in New York’s Financial District.

In fact, it’s one of the oldest streets in the entire city and is known for being the first cobblestone street in all of New Amsterdam.

Today though, it is brimming over with a wealth of fun bars and vibrant eateries where you can take advantage of outdoor seating along this charming thoroughfare.

While you’re here be sure to visit The Dubliner (irish pub), The Cauldron (offers Harry Potter themed mixology classes where you make “potions”), Fraunces Tavern (one of the most historic bars in NYC), Harry’s, and Ruben’s Empanadas.

14. Explore South Street Seaport

View of South Street Seaport, one of the best outdoor activities in NYC

Just a hop, skip, and jump away from Stone Street in the Financial Distirct is South Street Seaport.

It’s a quaint little neighborhood between the East River and Two Bridges that ozzes old-world charm with cobblestone streets, historic ships, and dockside museums.

That’s why, a visit to South Street Seaport should be on your list of the best outdoor activities in NYC. This way, you can experience local hot spots like the South Street Seaport Museum, Fulton Market, and Seaport Food Lab.

15. Grab a Drink at the Frying Pan

Oh, The Frying Pan, you saucy minx you. Yeah, I basically spent the majority of my 20’s here since this was THE spot to hang out in NYC back in the day.

Now, over a decade later, some of the bar’s appeal has warn off. However, it’s still a cool place to grab a drink and enjoy one of the best outdoor activites in NYC.

However, just in case you’re not quite sure what the Frying Pan is (besdies a cooking device), it’s basically a floating boat bar near Chelsea Piers that is made out an old “lightship” (aka Lifghthouse Ship) that was once use by the Coast Guard in Maryland.

So, check out this nifty little watering hole at Pier 66 and enjoy a casual night out that includes beer, lobster rolls, and fish and chips – all served to you amidst a fun and light party atmosphere.

Pro Tip: Because this bar is outside it’s only open seasonally between May and October. You should also visit at an off time (aka not on the weekend) since it’s SUPER popular.

16. Experience Times Square

The bright lights of Times Square

Not gonna lie, this is probably one of my LEAST favorite outdoor activities in NYC. Because like most locals, I detest the crowds, the costumed characters, and the overtly touristy vibe that is Times Square.

However, if it’s your first time in the city, then Tines Square is a must and should 100% be on your list of the top outdoor activities in New York City.

So, feel free to grab discount Broadway tickets at the TKTS Booth and enjoy a drink (get the Rose All Day Cocktail) and stellar views from the R Lounge in the Renaissance Times Square Hotel.

Also be sure to take lots of photos and enjoy the overwhelming glitz and glam of the vibrant lights that surround you.

17. Stop by Carrie Bradshaw’s Apartment

Exterior of Carrie Bradshaw's Apartment, one of the best outdoor activities in New York City
Image sourced from Flickr.com.

Are you a fan of Sex and the City? If so then you absolutely must stop by the building that was used as the exterior of Carrie Bradshaw’s home.

See, even though the show says that Carrie lives on the Upper East Side, the famous fashionista’s posh digs can actually be found in Greenwich Village, at 64 Perry Street (first three seasons) and 66 Perry Street (the last three seasons) – right near the Friends apartment building.

And if you do decide to visit, always remember to be respectful since real people actually live here! So, while you can snap photos from the sidewalk, do not go on the stairs since they are private property.

18. Experience the Rooftop at Empire Hotel

View of the sign and rooftop of the Empire Hotel in NYC.

There are many gorgeous rooftops in NYC, but the one on top of the Empire Hotel, on the Upper West Side, is one of the best.

Not only can you enjoy stunning views of nearby Central Park from the 12th floor, but you can get up close and personal with the iconic, red, “Hotel Empire” sign while you’re at it.

Afterward, kick your heels up and enjoy the suave sophistication of this posh outdoor space wile sipping on delicious, artisanal cocktails like the XOXO-Gossip Girl (Vodka, peach puree, and Prosecco. So good)

Because, guess what? This space is large and in charge and includes the West Terrace, the East terrace, two bars, a fireplace, and a retractable roof – easily making this one of the top outdoor activities in NYC.

Pro Tip: Stop in for brunch and order the Empire Benedict with poached eggs, ham, focaccia, and hollandaise sauce.

19. The 9/11 Memorial

The 9/11 Memorial

Pay your respects to all those who lost their lives on that fateful day by visiting the 9/11 Memorial. It’s completely outdoors, is free to visit, and sits where the former buildings once stood.

Plus, as you walk around the perimeter, you;ll notice “Reflecting Absence”, or two enormous, black, reflective pools where water seems to cascade down into a seemingly neverending hole.

A series of bronze plaques also line the exterior and are engraved with the names of the 3,000+ people who died as a result of those terroist attacks.

However, to get a full understanding of these tragic events, be sure to visit to the September 11 Memorial Museum right next door.

20. Washington Square Park

An aerial view of Washington Square Park

This immortal park in Greenwich Village sits right near NYU and is teeming with vibrant college students who want to sit outside and take a break from classes.

So, be one among them as you admire the historic Greek Revival townhouses that line the park and that perfectly complimennt the street performers, skateboarders, and speed chess players that regularly hang out here.

Also check out the Stanford White Arch or the giant, 73-foot tall, white Tuckahoe Marble arch that is modeled after the Arc De Triomphe.

And if you’re hungry after enjoying some of the best outdoor activities in NYC, be sure to visit NY Dosas. It’s an awesome food cart here that serves up some of the best Dosas in the city.

Pro Tip: Stand in front of the Stanford White Arch and point your camera down Fifth Avenue so that you can photograph this arch with the Empire State Building in the background.

21. The Battery

View of the Battery in New York City

Origirnally established in 1823, this small, 12-acre park looks out onto New York Harbor and offers visitors sweeping views of the Statue of Liberty and Ellis Island.

So, hop aboard the Staten Island Ferry, ride the totally unique Seaglass Carousel, and explore Castle Clinton, a historic fort that was built to protect the area from attack during the War of 1812.

Afterward, stroll along the many walkways here and take in the area’s public art displays, well-maintained gardens, the Korean War Memorial, and a statue dedicated to Italian explorer, Giovanni da Verrazzano.

Pro Tip: Visit the National Museum of the American Indian while you’re here since it’s awesome and totally free.

22. Governors Island

An aerial view of Governors island

Want to escape the hustle and bustle of the city? If so then hop aboard the Governors Island Ferry and explore this thin slice of paradise in New York Harbor.

Ferries depart regularly, throughout the summer, from the Battery Meritime Building and tickets are just $3.00 round trip.

And once you’re here, grab a free bike rental and check out local food vendors like Blue Marble Ice Cream and Fauzia’s Heavenly Delights.

You can also attend fun festivals like the NYC Poetry Festival, Governors Ball, the Pinknic rose festival (daily from 12:00 pm to 9:00 pm), and the Jazz Age Lawn Party before enjoying high adrenaline fun at Adventures at Governors Island (they have a climbing wall, maze, and zipline course).

Pro Tip: You can also do a bit of luxury glamping overnight here.

Best Outdoor Activities in NYC – Brooklyn

23. Walk the Brooklyn Bridge

The Brooklyn Bridge

Outdoor activities in NYC don’t really get much more iconic than the 1.1-mile long walk across the Brooklyn Bridge.

So, to get the most of your visit to this immortal suspension bridge from 1869, there are a couple of things you need to do.

  • Arrive early (like at dawn)
  • Walk from Brooklyn to Manhattan (you get the best views of the Manhattan skyline this way)
  • Wear comfy shoes
  • Watch out for bikes and stay out of the bike lane (they will mow you over)

Then afterward, double back to the epic DUMBO neighborhood so that you can grab some pizza at Julianna’s, walk through Brooklyn Bridge park, and admire epic street art along the charming cobblestone streets here.

24. Visit Rooftop Reds

If you want a truly unique wine related experience in Brooklyn’s Navy Yard, then run, don’t walk, to Rooftop Reds.

t’s an insanely awesome rooftop vineyard in Brooklyn where you can take in amazing views of NYC while sipping on some supremely awesome vino.

This rooftop space also has a fun. hipster urban vibe to it that makes you WANT to hang out here.

Just be sure to make a reservation, since they are required, and check out some of their cool events, like yoga sessions, outdoor movie screenings, and decadent wine tastings.

Truth be told though, it’s very much NOT cheap since you have to pay an admission fee + the price of your wine.

However, complimentary chips and boxed water do come with everything you order. Plus, you can grab some fresh pizza from Il Porto while you’re here.

Pro Tip: This is one of the best outdoor activities in NYC that is seasonal and closed throughout the winter. You’ll also want to time your visit for sunset (the views are epic) and order the Alsatian flight.

25. Coney Island Beach

Beach and rides at Coney Island

Nothing screams summer in NYC quite like a walk down the Coney Island boardwalk – at least as long as you have a Nathan’s hot dog in one hand and a giant scoop of ice cream in the other.

And that’s probably because this exquisite beach is only outdone by the amazing amusement park that can be found here, which includes the Cyclone (a wooden roller coaster from 1927) and Luna Park.

You can also visit the Coney Island Museum, attend the iconic Nathan’s Hot Dog Eating Contest on July 4th (in honor of the original Nathan’s hot dog stand that sits here), and see the world-famous Mermaid Parade here in mid-June.

Pro Tip: Be aware that it can take up to two hours to get here via subway. You also 100% should get some Totonno’s pizza since they’ve been around since 1921 and serve the stuff that gastronomic dreams are made of.

26. Brooklyn Botanic Garden

View of the Brooklyn Botanic Garden, one of the best outdoor activities in NYc.

Not to be outdone by its infinitely more famous cousin in the Bronx, the Brooklyn Botanic Garden is a 52-acre garden that was originally opened in 1911.

Since then, it has become one of the best outdoor activities in NYC where you can marvel at a diverse array of plant species, enjoy a large collection of Bonsai Trees, admire the Cherry Blossoms in the spring, and check out a Japanese Shinto Shrine,

Other in-park highlights you might want to check out include the Shakespeare Garden (filled with plants from Shakespeare’s plays), the Rose Garden (complete with waterlilies that sit atop terrace pools), Daffodil Hill, The Desert Pavilion, and the kid-friendly Discovery Garden.

Pro Tip: Stop in late April or earl May to attend their annual Cherry Blossom Festival. Also, enter near the Brooklyn Museum and stop by the eco-visitor’s center, at the Washington Avenue entrance, to see its super cool, “living roof”.

27. Prospect Park

View of prospect park and one of the best outdoor activities in NYC

If you should ever find yourself in the uber-trendy neighborhood of Park Slope then, by golly, stop by Prospect Park and see what this impressive, 585-acre green space is all about.

After all, it was first created in 1867 by the same two architectural geniuses that brought you Central Park and features tons of tree-lined walkways, vast meadows, playgrounds, enchanting bridges, sports fields, Neo-classical arches, and sculptures that everyone and their brother’s sister’s cousin will love.

Heck, there’s even a boathouse where you can rent boats to take out on the lake and a full-on zoo that you and any kiddos in your life will love.

Add in a wealth of free concerts that are held at the bandstand near 9th street and a Saturday farmer’s market at the Grand Army Plaza and you have the perfect place to enjoy outdoor activities in NYC.

Pro Tip: An ice rink also emerges here in the winter and if you’re here on a Sunday afternoon, you’ll be treated to live performances from local musicians in Drummer’s Grove.

Free yoga is also held here at Long Meadow on Thursdays, at 7:00 pm, from June through September, in addition to Smorgasburg and the much beloved, Brooklyn Roots Festival.

28. Check Out Marine Park Salt Marsh

Believe it or not, this 530-acre salt marsh actually doubles as the single largest park in all of Brooklyn.

It’s also a fantastic place to do a bit of birdwatching since more than 325 different species of birds can be found here at any given time.

So, grab your illest pair of binoculars and get up close and personal with warblers, pheasants, sparrows, and various other shore birds.

Plus, added bonus? This is one of the best outdoor activities in NYC that is super accessible since there’s a nifty little, super flat path from which you can take 1.1 mile walk around the preserve and admire Gerritsen Creek and White Island.

Pro Tip: Be sure to enjoy other fun, family-friendly activities like performances from live musicians and storytellers.

Best Outdoor Activities in NYC – Queens

29. Surf at Rockaway Beach

Located in Queens, Rockaway Beach is a beautiful place to go surfing in the summer.

Bet you didn’t know that you could hang ten at Queens very own Rockaway Beach, now did you?

Well, although it may be shocking, it is 110% true since this pristine beach has some pretty sick waves that surf enthusiasts can totally take advantage of.

So, what are you waiting for? Grab some cash, rent a surfboard from Rockaway Surf Club, and hit the waves.

However, if surfing is one of those outdoor activities in New York City that is a bit too intense for you, you can always go to Long Island City Community Boat House and do a bit of free kayaking on the East River instead.

Pro Tip: You can also get your surf on at Long Beach too!

30. The People’s Beach at Jacob Riis Park

Home to one of the less popular beaches in NYC, Jacob Riis Park was first opened in 1912 and is an amazing place to visit that is also easily accessible from Manhattan by either bus or subway.

Just be sure to grab some concessions from the Beach Bazaar before you set up your towel as far away from the Boardwalk as possible – at least if you want to avoid the crowds.

Also be sure to check out other local highlights like a mini-golf course, a fully restored art deco-style bathhouse from 1932, basketball courts, and scenic boardwalks.

Pro Tip: Feel free to bring the kids and go for a dip since lifeguards and regularly on duty here during the summer.

31. Explore Flushing Meadows Corona Park

The iconic, 12-story, steel globe and classic, UFO shaped towers that you'll find in Queens' Flushing Meadow Corona Park.
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It should could as no surprise that this famous, 900-acre park in Flushing, Queens makes it on this list of the best outdoor activities in NYC.

After all, this iconic place is home to both Citified (the Mets stadium) and the US Open Tennis Championship and was originally built for the 1939 World’s Fair (Hence the giant globe and sci-fi like buildings. It also later hosted the 1964 World’s Fair too).

However, if you don’t feel like attending a special event, you could always hit up the New York Hall of Science, the Queens Museum (it has a mini, full-scale replica of NYC from 1992), and the Queens Zoo while you’re here.

Whatever you do though, don’t leave without seeing the Unisphere, a giant, 12-story, stainless steel globe with rings around it that symbolize the space orbits of Yuri Gagarin (first man in space), John Glenn (first American to orbit the planet), and Telstar (first American satellite to orbit the planet).

32. Explore Socrates Sculpture Park

If you want to get off the well-trodden tourist trail and experience one of the more unusual outdoor activities in NYC then be sure to hit up Socrates Sculpture Park.

I mean, not only is this outdoor museum/ sculpture park super fun, but it was also built atop an old landfill in 1985 by local artist Mark di Suvero.

As a result, it now features a wealth of awesome multi-media modern art installations that overlook the Manhattan skyline from Astoria- some of which rotate in and out of the park, meaning that you always have something new to see while you’re here.

Pro Tip: Visit at low tide and explore the Socrates Sculpture Park Beach at Hallets Cove. You can also enjoy free kayaking, at the LIC Community Boathouse, during some weekends in July and August. The Noguchi Museum is also right down the block and well worth a visit too.

Best Outdoor Activities in NYC – The Bronx

33. The Bronx Zoo

The main building inside the Bronx Zoo, one of the top outdoor activities in NYC.

Without a doubt, The Bronx Zoo is easily one of the baddest and best zoos in the entire world.

After all, it was first opened in 1899, now covers an impressive 265-acres of land, and is home to 6,000 different animals and 700 different species.

So, as the country’s oldest and biggest zoo, it’s definitely well worth your time to experience things like:

  • The 6.5-acre Congo Gorilla Forest
  • The Wild Asia Monorail (Only open May through October)
  • Bug Carousel
  • Treetop Adventure
  • The Children’s Zoo
  • Jungle World
  • Live feedings of penguins and sea lions
  • Tiger World
  • And more!

Also, be sure to snag a free map before you enter so that you don’t get lost in this enormous park. And if you have the money for it, definitely purchase the full experience ticket since it gives you access to most of the above experiences (It’s also 10% cheaper when you get it online).

Pro Tip: If you arrive by subway, the southwest Asia Gate is just four blocks from the West Farms Sq–E Tremont Ave stop. Wednesdays are also a good day to visit since admission is “pay what you wish”.

The New York Botanical Garden

34. The New York Botanical Garden

The beautiful water lily pond you'll find at the New York Botanical Gardens in the Bronx.

Probably the single most famous garden in all of NYC, the Bronx’s New York Botanical Gardens has been around since 1891 and now encompasses more than 250-acres of land.

And if you take a leisurely stroll along the park’s many trails, you’ll uncover millions of different plants, as well as a 50-acre old-growth forest.

Whatever you do though, don’t leave without admiring Azalea Garden, the Children’s Adventure Garden, the Lilac Collection, the Native Plant Garden, and the Ornamental Conifers.

Also, be sure to enjoy various special events that are regularly on offer here, like themed walking tours, film screenings, children’s book readings, the Holiday Train Show throughout the holiday season, etc.

Pro Tip: Be sure to take some supremely awesome selfies with the gorgeous, Victorian-era, Enid A Haupt Conservatory in the background.

35. Van Cortlandt Park

Van Cortlandt Park in the Bronx, one of the best outdoor activities in New York City.

When you imagine the Bronx, I bet the last thing you think of are enormous, lush green spaces where you can relax on a quiet bench and happily munch away on a delicious bag of Doritos (Okay, that last bit may just be me).

But, that’s exactly what you’ll get when you stop by Van Cortlandt Park, an expansive, 1,1146-acre park that is known for being the third largest park in the entire city.

It’s also home to twenty miles of hiking trails. So, grab a super nifty map and make you way to the Putnam Trail, the Cass Gallagher Nature Trail, the John Muir Trail, the John Kieran Trail, and the Old Croton Aqueduct Trail.

Just keep your eyes peeled for awesome park highlights like the Forever Wild Preserve, the Van Cortlandt Nature Center, the Northeast/Northwest Forests, the Shandler Recreation Area, and the Croton Woods.

Plus if you love history, be sure to go back in time at the Van Cortlandt House Museum, a snazzy, Georgian-style home that dates back to the 18th century and that is now officially the oldest house in the Bronx.

36. Orchard Beach

With its long boardwalk and wealth of basketball/volleyball/handball courts, Orchard Beach provides weary New Yorkers with a much needed respite from the chaos of the city.

I mean, after all, it’s long been considered the “Riviera of NYC” for a reason and is filled with spectacular views of the Long Island Sound, City Island, and Pelham Bay Park.

And while there is a small parking fee (Between $8.00 and $15.00 per car), it’s well worth it to go for a swim and enjoy one of the best outdoor activities in NYC.

So, stop by today and make use of 1.1 miles of sandy beaches that are accompanied by a 90,000 square-foot bathhouse and a 50-foot wide promenade too.

Pro Tip: You can take the 6 train here and be sure to check out Pelham Bay Park while you’re here.

Best Outdoor Activities in NYC – Staten Island

37. The Staten Island Ferry

Take the Staten Island Ferry to NYC's forgotten borough. An essential part of any NYC bucket list.

Honestly, this is probably one of the few outdoor activities in NYC that is actually cheaper now than when it first opened in 1817.

See, way back when, a round trip ticket cost you $0.25. Now, a 25-minute ride is totally free, making this a super cheap way to enjoy stellar views of the Statue of Liberty, Ellis Island, and Governor’s Island.

For the best views though, stand to the right side and sit by a window so that you don’t have to take pictures through a window pane.

You also can’t just stay on the ferry and will need to disembark in Staten Island and then get back on to return to Manhattan.

Pro Tip: Ferries depart from Staten Island Ferry Terminal in The Battery every 15 to 20 minutes and run 24 hours a day. Just try to avoid rush hour since it gets really crowded with commuters.

38. Midland Beach

View of the Boardwalk at Midland Beach in Staten Island, one of the best outdoor activities in NYC.

Easily one of the best beaches near NYC, Midland Beach is both a beach and a lovely little neighborhood in Staten Island.

It also provides you with access to the Franklin D. Roosevelt Boardwalk and even South Beach too!

Although, truth be told, Midland Beach is definitely the more popular of the two since it provides you with sweeping panoramas of the Verazzano Narrows Bridge!

So, stop by this summer and make use of the many playgrounds, volleyball courts, shuffleboard areas, boardwalks, and sandy beaches that abound here.

And if you want, you can even go for a refreshing dip (since there are lifeguards here) before having a meal at local hot spots like Violette’s Cellar.

Pro Tip: Stop by Wednesday evening to see fireworks from the boardwalk.

39. South Beach

Just a hoot and holler away from Midland Beach is South Beach, a large swath of sand that sits on the East Shore and that is also a bit south of the Verrazzano-Narrows Bridge.

While you’re here take a leisurely stroll along the 2.5 mile long FDR Boardwalk, take in the amazing views, and go fishing at the Ocean Breeze Fishing Pier. In fact, it’s an awesome, 835 feet long, making it one of the longest piers in the city.

You can also enjoy beachfront music festivals, several fountains, and make use of several sports fields in the area if you get tired of swimming.

40. Wolfe’s Pond Park

Overlooking Raritan Bay from the South Shore of Staten Island, this park is one of the best outdoor activities in NYC since it’s a relatively quiet place that features a beach, local wetlands, and several scenic walking trails for visitors to enjoy.

The real appeal of a trip here though is going mountain biking through heavily wooded areas that are filled with white oak and hickory trees. After all, this place has some of the best mountain biking trails in the area.

So, be sure to pack a picnic lunch and make the most of your day in the great outdoors while visiting Staten Island.

Map of the Best Outdoor Activities in NYC

Click here for the full map.

Additional New York Resources You”ll Love

There you have it! That concludes this guide to the best outdoor activities in NYC.

Tell me, did your picks for the top outdoor activities in New York City make the list?

If not then let me know in the comments below. And if you loved this post, be sure to join our email list and then pin this post now so that you can read it again later.