New York City is known as the “city that never sleeps” for good reason. At any given time of the day, you can experience the sights and sounds that are not like any other. Sure, there are plenty of awesome museums, landmarks, and restaurants to experience, but when visiting, be sure to pencil in time to spend outdoors. If you don’t, you’ll be missing out on some of the authentic cultural and visual aspects of the city.
Fun outdoors places to explore in New York
Amongst the tall skyscrapers, catchy billboards, and busy city streets, there are surprisingly many quieter outdoor spaces where you can enjoy the fresh air and get in touch with nature. Here are a few terrific outdoor places in New York you shouldn’t miss.
- Central Park – A famous landmark in itself, there are plenty of walking and biking paths, not to mention, there are about 230 different species of birds found in Central Park if birdwatching is of interest. Go fishing, catch a concert, or simply go for a walk or jog.
- Roosevelt Island – This two-mile stretch of land once housed prisons, smallpox hospitals, and insane asylums, but today has been transformed. Explore historic landmarks, see wildlife (including a feral cat community!), or enjoy following the Roosevelt Island Greenway to get your walk, run, or cycle in.
- The High Line – Once an elevated railroad track, this manmade segment serves as a beautifully transformed outdoor space. This “walking park” has plants, art displays, walkways, and fantastic views of the Hudson River and the city’s skyline.
- Governor’s Island – With plenty of outdoor activity to enjoy on Governor’s Island, one thing you won’t find anywhere else is an opportunity to go ziplining at this outdoor hotspot (seasonal).
If you’re looking to get some exercise and sightseeing at the same time, you can also take a kayaking, walking, or bike tour. There are plenty of different companies offering these tours, either free or paid. Each one will offer a unique experience and opportunity to explore different corners of The Big Apple.
Places to walk, hike, and bike
Aside from taking a tour or visiting a specific park, there are plenty of other different places to walk, hike, and bike in New York City.
- Bronx River Greenway – Home to an 8-mile trail, visitors to the city can enjoy the green lush surroundings.
- Eastern Queens Greenway – A 15-mile span that meanders through parks, residential areas, and wetlands, and woods, it’s easy to forget the hustle and bustle of the city while exploring parts of this greenway.
- Giraffe Path – Located in Upper Manhattan, this 6-mile stretch allows you to see city landmarks and experience the city’s only true forest – along with one of the most elevated points in the city.
- Staten Island Greenbelt – Take the Staten Island Ferry (an experience in itself) to the 8-mile trail found on the island, including a path that takes you to another of the city’s most elevated points.
- Brooklyn Bridge – While technically not a trail, it’s hard to deny that walking across a major city bridge and seeing the sights from this elevated angle wouldn’t be a cool experience.
These are only a handful of places you’ll find you can bike, walk, or go for a run. To find other interesting nooks throughout the city, there are some great apps that can help you identify bike trails, restaurants, attractions, landmarks, public transportation options, and other ways to travel throughout the city.
Tips to stay safe and have fun at the same time
New York City is far safer than it was a few decades ago and currently ranks as one of the top safest major cities in the country. But like any other city, you need to be aware of the many dangers you might encounter. Here are some tips to help you stay safe (and have fun at the same time!) while avoiding serious injury.
- Wear light-colored and reflective clothing if walking or cycling at night.
- Stay in designated bike lanes because there are many cycling hazards found on sidewalks and streets.
- Use crosswalks when navigating city streets on foot – don’t ever jaywalk.
- Never get into an unmarked cab, it’s important to know all NYC cabs are clearly identifiable.
- Verify any car that identifies itself as rideshare, especially be leery if you haven’t called for one.
- Watch out for pickpocketers as they are a real threat in the city, and often work in teams. Keep your wallet in your front pocket, or your purse in front of your body.
- Never go out walking or cycling alone at night, there is truly safety in numbers.
- Try to blend in as a local because you’ll be less of a target if you aren’t clearly identifying yourself in the street as a tourist.
- Draw attention and make noise if you find yourself in a dangerous situation.
If you’re feeling unsafe or worried, there are several apps that can help you to stay safe. Options include the Red Panic Button (free), Circle of 6 (free), Find My Friends (iOS), and SafeTrek ($2.99 a month, iOS and Android). Additionally, the New York City Police Department has an app you can use to identify any hot crime spots in the city’s five boroughs. Before visiting any area, get a feel for what types of major crimes have taken place in recent history and where (misdemeanor offenses are not listed) to help you to determine if it’s a place you want to see or to help you choose the best time to do it.
The Big Apple is an amazing place to visit with it’s historic, cultural, energetic, diverse, and, yep, even adventurous vibes. There is truly no shortage of fun things to see and do as you take in the sights and sounds of this incredible city. While visiting, however, you want to be smart and stay safe, just like you would in any other city. Always be aware of your surroundings, know your options, and have fun!