35 Best Outdoor Activities in NYC


13 min read
Tall skyscrapers on a city skyline with a river in front of it on a clear day
You can discover an array of memorable things to do outside in NYC

A bucket-list destination for almost every traveler is New York City. This world-famous location offers something for everyone and boasts historical landmarks, cultural attractions, outstanding shops and eateries, and so much more.

When visiting New York, you'll also find a multitude of things to do outside. Some of the best outdoor activities in NYC include strolling through public parks, sunbathing on Coney Island Beach, and shopping for treasures at the Brooklyn Flea Market.

If you love the outdoors, keep reading for 35 exciting things to do outside in the Big Apple.

  • 35 New York City activities

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35 Best NYC Outdoor Activities

New York City Activities Map

A map of New York City. Use the map to explore all the activities.

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One of the best outdoor activities in NYC is going to the New York Botanical Garden
Going to the New York Botanical Garden is one of the best outdoor activities in NYC

Walk through the New York Botanical Garden

One of the most beautiful outdoor attractions in NYC is the New York Botanical Garden. Founded in 1891, the 250-acre site features a variety of gardens with a range of flowers, plants, and water features.

You can also discover vegetable gardens, a children’s garden, and more. Booking a New York Botanical Garden all-garden pass in advance is a great idea to ensure you get access to these stunning gardens.

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A grassy area with a boardwalk and seating and a city skyline and bridge in front
When at South Street Seaport you can sit and take in the city views

Look around the South Street Seaport

A fun place to check out in NYC is the South Street Seaport, located between the financial district and the East River. As you explore, you’ll discover shops and restaurants, plus lots of outdoor seating areas where you can sit and admire the river and city skyline views.

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A bridge going across a river with a park to one side and a skyline in the distance
You can relax on the grass and admire the Manhattan skyline from Brooklyn Bridge Park

Hang out at Brooklyn Bridge Park

The Brooklyn Bridge Park is an 85-acre riverside park located near the entrance to the Brooklyn Bridge. If you’re staying in Manhattan, you can walk along the Brooklyn Bridge to reach the park. Alternatively, you could rent a bike to cross the iconic bridge.

At the park, you can hang out on the grass or wander along the boardwalk. In addition, going to the park is one of the best things to do in NYC at night, and allows you to admire the illuminated skyline.

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Grass with pink cherry blossom trees on either side
Seeing the cherry blossom trees at the Brooklyn Botanic Garden can't be missed

Admire the flowers at the Brooklyn Botanic Garden

Another of the best outdoor NYC activities is going to the Brooklyn Botanic Garden. Wandering through these scenic gardens is also a romantic thing for couples to do in New York City!

As you explore the 52-acre attraction, you’ll get to admire a variety of floral and plant displays. Flowers to see include roses, peonies, and lilacs. In the spring, you can see the stunning cherry blossom trees in bloom too.

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Appreciate the views from Hudson River Park

Opened in 1998, Hudson River Park is one of multiple riverside parks in NYC. As the name suggests, this 550-acre park runs along the Hudson River. At the park, you can stroll along the path next to the river admiring the vistas.

You can also hang out on the grass or attend free events, like outdoor concerts. Hudson River Park is also the ideal place to go for a run or walk your dog.

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A garden with greenery, a patterned tile floor, and a pond
Wandering around the New York Chinese Scholar's Garden is a relaxing activity

Unwind at the New York Chinese Scholar's Garden

The New York Chinese Scholar’s Garden is another of the stunning garden attractions in NYC. Located on Staten Island, the venue houses Asian-inspired gardens that feature Koi ponds, bamboo forests, waterfalls, and more.

The gardens are based on Ming Dynasty Gardens and were originally created in 1998 by 40 Chinese artists and craftsmen.

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A yellow ferry that says on the water with tall buildings on the shore
You can spot some NYC landmarks when riding the Staten Island Ferry

Ride the Staten Island Ferry

One of the best ways to see Manhattan skyline is by taking the Staten Island Ferry. You can board the ferry at the Whitehall Ferry Terminal in Manhattan. You’ll then sail through the New York Harbor, taking in the views of the city and the Statue of Liberty.

Once on Staten Island, you can explore the area and simply take the ferry back whenever you like. Best of all, riding the ferry is free!

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A river with tall buildings on the shore and a sign that says "Long Island"
Gantry Plaza State Park is a charming riverside park with views of Manhattan

Get great views of Manhattan from Gantry Plaza State Park

A slightly lesser-known park in NYC that's well worth visiting is Gantry Plaza State in Long Island City, Queens. The 12-acre park sits on the East River and features manicured gardens and scenic riverside paths.

From the park, you can also get amazing vistas of NYC landmarks like the Empire State Building and the Chrysler Building.

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A stone arch in a square with taller buildings behind it under a blue sky
The Washington Square Arch is a must-see landmark in Greenwich Village

Visit Washington Square Park

One of the well-known public parks in Manhattan is Washington Square Park. Located in Greenwich Village, the park notably features the Washington Square Arch, constructed in 1891 to mark the centennial of George Washington’s inauguration.

Along with seeing the arch, you can admire the park’s fountain and pretty flower beds. If you’re interested in exploring more of the area surrounding the park, consider taking a Greenwich Village history walking tour.

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Stroll around Van Cortlandt Park

Another beautiful park in NYC is Van Cortlandt Park, located in the Bronx. At 1,146 acres, it’s larger than the more well-known Central Park and Flushing Meadows/Corona Park.

When visiting, you can walk or bike along scenic tree-lined trails. You’ll also discover meadows, wetlands, and a wildlife preserve. In addition, there are five playgrounds for little ones, plus three dog runs for your pup to enjoy.

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A brick building with green doors and windows under a bright blue sky
The Art Deco bathhouse is one of the attractions at Jacob Riis Park

Venture to Jacob Riis Park

Located about an hour and a half from Manhattan on the Rockaway Peninsula in Queens, you’ll discover Jacob Riis Park. This attraction is a beach park that is a great place to head to on a sunny day.

Things to do at Jacob Riis Park include sunbathing, playing a game of mini-golf, and seeing the park’s Art Deco bathhouse.

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A path with trees on one side and a river on the other and a bridge in the distance
Biking or walking on the Hudson River Greenway is a great way to enjoy the outdoors

Follow the Hudson River Greenway

If you like to go on bike rides, one of the fun outdoor activities in NYC to enjoy is biking along the Hudson River Greenway. The 13-mile trail runs alongside the Hudson River, offering amazing views of NYC at every point. The path is also ideal for walking and jogging.

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A beach with a sandy shore and ocean water and buildings in the distance
Coney Island Beach is a perfect place to go on a sunny day

Spend a day at Coney Island Beach

If you’re looking for an all-day outdoor activity, going to Coney Island Beach on a sunny day is a great idea. The beach is found about an hour from Manhattan and sits next to another beach, Brighton Beach.

At the beach, you can hang out on the sand and swim in the water. You could also book a Coney Island Beach food tour, which will take you to some of the best beach-side eateries.

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A colorful Ferris wheel and other attractions with sand in front of them
Luna Park is an exciting amusement park that's fun for all ages

Have a fun day out at Luna Park in Coney Island

Another fun attraction in Coney Island is Luna Park. The amusement park features a variety of rides, from those for small children like carousels to roller coasters made for thrill-seekers.

There are also carnival-style games to play, and you can pick up fun-fair snacks, like funnel cake and cotton candy. Adults and kids alike are sure to have an exciting day out at Luna Park!

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View art installation at the Socrates Sculpture Park

One of the best outdoor activities in New York City for art lovers is going to Socrates Sculpture Park. This park was created to transform a former landfill site and is located in Long Island City, Queens.

As you explore the Socrates Sculpture Park, you’ll discover a variety of unique sculptures and other art installations. New art exhibits are added to the park frequently, so there’s always something new to see.

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A bridge with greenery surrounding it and high rise buildings on the other side of it
Central Park is one of the best places to go for a scenic bike ride in NYC

Bike in Central Park

New York's Central Park is one of the most well-known public parks in the United States. As such an iconic location, a list of the best NYC outdoor activities wouldn’t be complete without mentioning it!

If you want to see as much of the 843-acre park as possible, renting a bike to ride in Central Park is recommended. As you bike around, you’ll discover beautiful tree-lined paths, ponds and fountains, and landmarks like Belvedere Castle.

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A pond with a bridge crossing it and green and red trees around it
If you want to see the best parts of Central Park, be sure to book a walking tour

Go on a Central Park walking tour

Another great way to explore Central Park is on a walking tour. You’ll be accompanied by a guide who will teach you some fun NYC facts relating to Central Park. Along with learning more about this outdoor landmark, you’ll get to spot wildlife and visit iconic parts of the park, like Strawberry Fields.

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A tall bronze sculpture with trees in front of it and high rises surrounding it
You can find lots to do at Hudson Yards, like watching outdoor movies and concerts

Enjoy outdoor concerts and movies at Hudson Yards

During warmer months, you can catch outdoor movies, concerts, and even exercise classes at Hudson Yards. These events generally run from the end of April through August or October, depending on the type of event. You can also watch a range of popular sporting events on a 30-foot outdoor screen.

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Times Square in New York with people on the street and lots of billboards
Times Square is a fun outdoor place to explore during the day and at night

Experience Times Square

Another world-famous landmark found in New York City is Times Square. The bustling entertainment venue features shops, restaurants, theaters, and street entertainers. It’s also known for its many illuminated and colorful billboards.

Wandering around Times Square is an outdoor activity that you can’t leave off your NYC itinerary!

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Attend an outdoor workout class

If you like to work out, you’ll find many great places to go for a run in NYC, and many public parks even have workout equipment. Thanks to Shape Up NYC, you can also attend outdoor workout classes.

These classes mainly take place in the summer, with options in all five boroughs. Activities to try include yoga, boot camps, and dance fitness.

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An ice rink with a gold statue and tree behind it and buildings surrounding it
You can ice skate in the winter and roller skate in the summer at Rockefeller Center

Skate at the Rockefeller Center Ice Rink

Ice skating at Rockefeller Center with the famous Christmas tree in the background is a much-loved activity of both New Yorkers and tourists. The rink opens during the colder months, usually from November through April.

If in the city at these times, especially during the holidays, making time to ice skate is a must. The rink has also recently been converted to a roller rink for the spring and summer months.

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Green grass with trees and seating on it and tall buildings behind it
Bryant Park is a popular place to hang out in Manhattan

Try a range of activities at Bryant Park

Bryant Park is a charming 9.6-acre park that sits next to the New York Public Library. At the park, you can find lots of fun activities to enjoy.

Things to do include playing golf on a mini putting green, taking a boot camp workout class, and playing giant chess. There’s also a cute carousel and ping pong tables, among other games and activities.

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A lake with green trees around it and some buildings behind the trees
Inwood Hill Park is a quiet park that's home to bald eagles and other wildlife

Spot bald eagles at Inwood Hill Park

Inwood Hill Park sits on the far end of Manhattan and features scenic trails and the largest old-growth forest on Manhattan Island. Wildlife enthusiasts will especially want to visit this park as it’s one of the top places to see bald eagles in NYC.

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A red cable car that says "Roosevelt Island" with a bridge to the side
Taking the tram to Roosevelt Island is a unique thing to do in NYC

Take the Roosevelt Island tram

Located in the East River, Roosevelt Island is a small island that’s part of the borough of Manhattan. One of the fun things to do outside in NYC is heading over to the island on the Roosevelt Island tram.

The aerial tramway runs from 59th Street and Second Avenue approximately every 15 minutes. Once on the island, you can walk along paths, admire the cherry blossoms in the spring, and see the Manhattan skyline.

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Let your dog play at the 72nd Street Dog Run

It's not just the humans of New York that enjoy outdoor activities! If traveling with your dog or living in NYC with a dog, you'll discover a variety of great parks for them to play at.

One of the best is the 72nd Street Dog Run at Riverside Park. There are two runs here, one for small dogs only and one for all dogs. As your pets play, you can meet other dog owners and enjoy views of the Hudson River.

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The Statue of Liberty surrounded by water with Ellis Island and a skyline behind it
A day cruise will take you to landmarks like the Statue of Liberty and Ellis Island

Sail to the Statue of Liberty and Ellis Island

The Statue of Liberty is a world-famous landmark located in NYC. If you want to get an amazing view of the iconic statue, going on a Manhattan waterfront cruise is recommended.

After passing the Statue of Liberty, you’ll stop at Ellis Island, where you can learn more about US immigration from 1892 to 1924.

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A globe structure with US flags, water fountains, and trees around it
The iconic World's Fair globe can be found at Flushing Meadows Corona Park

Check out Flushing Meadows Corona Park

Another must-visit outdoor spot in Queens is Flushing Meadows-Corona Park. The 897-acre park has previously hosted the 1939 and 1964 World’s Fairs.

Today, you can walk or bike in the park, enjoy the gardens, and see wildlife. There’s also a lake to kayak on, and you can see the well-known globe sculpture that sits in the park.

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A baseball stadium with a game in play and fans in the stands
Watching the Yankees play is one of the favorite outdoor activities of New Yorkers

Catch a New York Yankees game

Going to a New York Yankees baseball game is an outdoor activity that’s popular with locals. The Yankees play at Yankee Stadium in the Bronx, with the regular season generally running from April to the beginning of October.

Whether you’re a big baseball fan or not, catching a Yankees game is a guaranteed way to make you feel like a New Yorker.

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An outdoor flea market with stalls and people shopping
You can find an array of treasures at the Brooklyn Flea Market

Find unique items at the Brooklyn Flea Market

Shopping for unique and interesting items at the Brooklyn Flea Market is one of the non-touristy things to do in New York City. The open-air market has a variety of stalls selling items like vintage clothing and jewelry, antique decor pieces, and a host of other offerings.

Even if you don’t plan to purchase anything, exploring the quirky market is a must when in the city.

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Read at the New York Public Library Outdoor Reading Room

Officially called the New York Public Library for the Performing Arts' Outdoor Reading Room, going to this attraction is one of the more unique NY outdoor activities. At the library, you can pick out a new book and head outside to the tables on the balcony to read in the fresh air.

It’s also a quiet and relaxing place to study or get some work done.

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A football stadium with fans in the stands in blue jerseys
You can watch either the New York Jets or the New York Giants play at MetLife Stadium

Watch a New York Jets or New York Giants game

Another fun outdoor sporting event to attend is an NFL game. New York has two football teams, the New York Jets and the New York Giants, and both play at MetLife Stadium. While the stadium is in New Jersey, it’s just across the Hudson River from NYC.

You can catch a game from September to the start of January in the regular season. If going to a game during colder months, be sure to wrap up warm!

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A view across illuminated buildings in Manhattan at sunset
230 Fifth is the perfect place to enjoy a drink and incredible views

Sip cocktails at 230 Fifth rooftop bar

While a lot of these fun outdoor things to do in NYC are daytime activities, going to a rooftop is the perfect thing to do outside at night. One of the best spots in Manhattan is 230 Fifth.

The chic bar offers breathtaking vistas across the city and even has heated pods on the terrace in the winter, allowing you to enjoy the bar all year. Specialty cocktails, plus beer and wine are available, and you can also order sushi and bottle service.

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The Manhattan skyline with skyscrapers on a clear day
The views from Governors Island are some of the best in NYC

Escape to Governors Island

Another island that’s still within the borough of Manhattan is Governors Island. The 172-acre island has lots of green space and stunning views of Manhattan landmarks, like One World Observatory.

Governors Island also has a kids’ playground, and many events are hosted throughout the year, like concerts and markets.

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A converted railway track with a garden on it and red brick buildings across from it
Walking along the High Line is an ideal way to escape the bustle of the city

Wander along the High Line

Walking along the raised park, the High Line, is one of the most relaxing things to do outside in New York City. Built on a former railway track, the High Line covers 1.45 miles and features pretty flowers and plants.

As you wander through the park, you’ll also be able to take in the views of the high rise buildings around you. Going to the High Line is definitely one of the best ways to unwind and escape the bustle of the city without leaving Manhattan.

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A lake with grass and trees surrounding it and a building to the side
Prospect Park has lakes, scenic trails, and lots of wildlife

Bird watch at Prospect Park

Prospect Park in Brooklyn features wetlands, forests, and trails. It’s also a great place to bird-watch. Birds to see include red-tailed hawks, warblers and other songbirds, and herons.

You may also spot creatures like chipmunks and snapping turtles. Another fun thing to do in the area is taking a Prospect Park tour.

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In Summary

No matter what you enjoy doing, this list of the best outdoor things to do in NYC should have provided you with a multitude of fun activity suggestions that get you out in the fresh air.

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Written by Alli Sewell

allisewell WRITER Currently based in Canada, I've also lived and worked in the UK and Brazil and travelled in North and South America, Europe, Australia, and Asia. I love finding the best photo-ops and food and drink locations wherever I go!


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