New York City is consistently ranked as one of the most expensive cities in the U.S., and there’s no doubt that it’s easy to shell out a small fortune to have a great time here. But the good news is that there are plenty of ways to take advantage of the many splendors of the city by simply enjoying what the great, urban outdoors has to offer. From food festivals to cultural attractions to exploring some of the city’s beautiful parks, you can get to know New York without spending a dime. And if you are still up for more fun, there are rooftop bars, outdoor concerts, boat rides and more to keep you outdoors and entertained. Here are the 7 best outdoor activities in New York City.
Frolic in the Brooklyn Botanic Garden
The city streets are mesmerizing, but when you want a brief retreat into nature, head to the bucolic Brooklyn Botanic Garden. Located on the northeastern edge of Prospect Park, the garden is a picturesque paradise for nature lovers. It features hundreds of plant varieties and you can see a lot of the gorgeous flowers in full bloom during the summer. Take your time exploring and leave time for the zoo, Lefferts Historic House and the LeFrak Center by the lake.
Walk the High Line
When the sun is shining, there is nothing better to do than walk the High Line. This elevated park is a 1.45 mile-long strip that used to be a rail track and is now one of the most unique outdoor areas in the city. It runs from Hudson Yards to the northern edge of Chelsea and is complete with wildflowers, greenery, and outdoor art installations to check out. Plus, it offers killer views of the NYC skyline. There are plenty of cafes and coffee shops in the area so you can stop for an energy boost during your stroll. And if you visit on a Tuesday night, you can stargaze using the telescopes that the Amateur Astronomers Association sets up at dusk.
Yoga at Bryant Park
Interested in incorporating some exercise into your day? Head to Bryant Park, one of the city’s liveliest summer spots, for all kinds of free daytime activities. The park is always bustling with people and it is a lovely experience to partake in a free yoga class amidst all of the energy surrounding you. Head there on Tuesday mornings at 10 am or Thursday evenings at 6 pm for free classes held either on the lawn or the upper terrace area. Bryant Park is located in Midtown on 40th Street between 5th and 6th Avenues.
Movies in the Park
One of the best things to do outdoor in NYC is to take in a free outdoor movie during the summertime. HBO Bryant Park Summer Film Festival plays a variety of films on certain nights during the summer and so does Syfy Movies with a View at Brooklyn Bridge Park. Check their schedules to see what they have in store. Movies begin when the sun sets, usually around 830pm, and you can catch anything from Goonies to Casablanca. Make sure to arrive early to save a spot on the lawn because they are popular events! You can even bring a picnic basket and dine under the stars while you watch.
Head to the Beach
Most people don’t think of beaches when it comes to New York City – the name more likely conjures up visions of Times Square, taxis whizzing by and crowds of people rushing in every direction. But when the weather is nice, New Yorkers have a number of amazing beaches to visit without having to travel too far. People often head to Coney Island, which has a lovely beach and also the entertainment of the amusement park nearby. Brighton Beach is close by but will be much less crowded – plus you can try some of the fantastic Russian restaurants after soaking in the sun for a bit. And the Rockaways in Queens are a local favorite for the sandy beaches and awesome waves. You can get to all three beaches via subway so you don’t have to worry about driving or expensive travel options.
Tour Central Park
It’s impossible to make a list of New York City’s top attractions without mentioning Central Park. It’s the city’s largest park and was constructed in 1857 under the eye of landscape architect Frederick Law Olmsted. Located between 59th and 100th Streets and Fifth Avenue and Central Park West, it is the most visited park in the United States! Spend a day out here when the weather is nice and check out some of the famous attractions, such as the Central Park Zoo, the Carousel, Sheep Meadow, the Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis Reservoir and the Delacorte Theater – home to Shakespeare in the Park.
Kayak the Hudson River
If you have a hankering for some adventure on your trip, consider taking a kayak out on the Hudson River. All summer through mid-October you can head to Pier 26 in Tribeca or the Manhattan Community Boathouse at Pier 96 in Midtown or in Riverside Park at 72nd Street to rent equipment. Spend a day out on the water cruising up and down the Hudson for awesome views of the city skyline and a great workout!