5 free outdoors places in NYC to go on the weekend
Seize the last weeks of warmth!
I’m originally from New England, and grew up spending a lot of time outdoors. Whether it was going on hikes with my friends or walking around my town, getting fresh air and being outside was so important to me. When I moved to New York City, I wanted to find fun places to go that are outside and I have generated this list over the last couple of years I have been here.
The High Line is an approximately two mile long elevated walkway in the lower West Side. I have brought so many people there with me because it feels like you’ve escaped the city when you’ve just gone slightly above the ground. The walkway is not just a plain bridge – it is filled with plants, trees, and gardens. There are plenty of weekly events such as stargazing and other festivities for the holidays, as well as food vendors such as a popsicle stand (which is ALWAYS a plus). It is also great for taking pictures, because the greenery works as a great backdrop for the perfect Instagram shot, and the views are amazing.
Speaking of elevated surfaces, another must-go outdoor spot is the Brooklyn Bridge. Something great about this bridge is there is a spot just for pedestrians and bikers, and the view of Manhattan and the East River are unbelievable. It has an incredible history, having opened a whopping 134 years ago, and still remains to this day a popular destination. The walk is not difficult, so it is great for families or people of all ages. You can go across it at any time of day, and if you are coming from Manhattan, the Brooklyn Bridge park is also a necessary place to stop and check out after your walk.
The first time I went to Prospect Park was for Smorgasburg, a seasonal and extremely popular food market for more than a hundred food vendors. It was the springtime, and the trees were blooming in the most beautiful way. Every time I return to the park, I get lost in the nature and beauty of it. Central Park may be the statement park of Manhattan, but Prospect Park is definitely the signature park of Brooklyn. At any time of the year, it is the perfect place to walk around and take in the beauty that Brooklyn has.
I moved to the East Village this year which means I am now closer to the East River walkway, which can not be MORE perfect for me. I’m a frequent lover of long scenic walks (and an *occasional* runner….), something I definitely struggled to find locations for when I first moved to Manhattan. Nowadays, I meet up with friends weekly to walk along the river, and we try to catch it at sunset because it can look so beautiful. It’s also a perfect location to get a late night bite or drink, being right in the middle of the East Village.
Hunter’s Point South Park
Do you love sitting down and looking at the water? If yes, Hunter’s Point South Park in Long Island City is perfect for you! I think we often forget that Manhattan is an island, and it has a myriad of piers offering beautiful views of the surrounding water. The park has a waterfront promenade, basketball and volleyball courts, plenty of green space to take pets or kids, and great food and drink options. It’s also an awesome place to stop at in the middle of a bike ride along the West Side of the city (hint: bring a picnic).
Traveling a bit more North to Central Park, I recently discovered Sheep Meadow this summer. It’s a huge open green space that is so fun to picnic and people watch. It is truly a breath of fresh air to be there, because you feel like you’re in a park in the middle of nowhere. Sunbathing season may be slowly coming to an end, so get there before Autumn comes at full force! You can also bring a frisbee or soccer ball and take advantage of being at one of the very few huge grassy spots in the city.
South Street Seaport
Ending this list with a bang is the South Street Seaport, located not too far from the Manhattan side of the Brooklyn Bridge. It is newly renovated and redeveloped, from being an outdated and historic environment to a staple hub with new restaurants, entertainment, and cultural events. It’s one of those places that is perfect whether you are in your young twenties or bringing your family, because there is something for everybody.
-Laura Schlossman, NYU