25 outdoor things to do before summer ends
Don't let the last seven weeks of sun pass you by without biking, hiking, camping, boating-and yes, relaxing. Here's where to do it all.
Tue Jul 29 2008
|1 through 5: The best bike trail in the city—and out. Plus, climb the New York Times building, sans arrest, and hang with skate rats.|
|6 through 12: Try parkour and kiteboarding, board a sea excursion for sailors of any stripe, and hike through history.|
|13 through 17: Go camping for under a hundo, mount a horse, or roll around in the sand at three quiet beaches.|
|18 through 20: Fire up a hot-air balloon right in Central Park, brave the Beast and tube down the Delaware.|
|21 through 25: Find the most efficient way to burn off the hot dogs and ice cream, and savor the summer nights with a “drinking club with a running problem.”|
Photograph: Dave Sanders
Bike here now
The best biking trails outside the city that you can get to via public transportation.
Route 9W to Nyack
Cross the breathtaking George Washington Bridge, then pedal 44 miles up Route 9W through the leafy, peaceful Hudson River Valley. For trail map, visit nysdot.gov
Harlem Valley Rail Trail
Cruise through lush Dutchess County on a rail bed converted to a butter-smooth paved path. Metro-North Harlem line to Wassaic; for trail map, call 518-789-9591 or visit hvrt.org
North County Trailway
This 22-mile path follows the bygone New York and Putnam Railroad, paralleling the placid Saw Mill and Pocantico Rivers. Metro-North Hudson line to Tarrytown; for trail map, call 914-864-7275 or visit westchestergov.com/parks
Bronx River Pathway
Few rides are as relaxed and lovely as this trail, nestled against the Bronx River. Metro-North to Hartsdale; for trail map, call 914-864-7275 or visit westchestergov.com/parks
This path passes through the Massapequa Preserve’s pine barrens and freshwater wetlands. LIRR to Massapequa; for info, call 516-249-0701; for trail map, visit nysdot.gov
Photograph: Sasha Benjamin
The best bike trail in the city
Wind past bridges, amusement parks and abandoned airfields on Brooklyn’s water-hugging Shore Parkway.
A. 69TH STREET
Enter the Shore Parkway Greenway at the 69th Street Pier, beside the casting fishermen.
B. BRIDGE WATCH
Stop to appreciate the soaring Verrazano-Narrows Bridge.
D. ADVENTURER'S AMUSEMENT PARK
Ride the wee roller coasters at this kid-friendly park. 1824 Shore Pkwy (aapark.net)
E. CONEY ISLAND CREEK
Cross the industrial waterway.
F. TOTONNO PIZZERIA NAPOLITANO
Nab a steaming pie.
Go a couple blocks off course for a pee break at the Riegelmann Boardwalk.
H. FISHING BOATS
Scope out the salty fishermen of the Sheepshead Bay fleet.
Quench your thirst with a milk shake or homemade lemonade.
J. PLUMB BEACH REST AREA
Last chance for a toilet. Also, a truck sells snacks and water.
K. THE CONCORDE
Scope out the supersonic airplane behind the Aviator Sports and Recreation complex. In the food court, there’s thin-crust pizza and kosher sandwiches.
L. FLOYD BENNETT
Visit Floyd Bennett Field, NYC’s first municipal airport.
M. GIL HODGES MEMORIAL BRIDGE
Steel your nerves to cross the narrow Marine Parkway–Gil Hodges Memorial Bridge.
N. HANGAR B
This hangar houses WWII-era airplanes.
O. FORT TILDEN
Explore the time-worn military site.
Fuel up at the drinks and snacks stand.
Q. JACOB RISS PARK
Cool off with a dip in the Atlantic Ocean.
R. ROGERS IRISH TAVERN
Sip an icy beer at Rogers Irish Tavern (203 Beach 116th St at Rockaway Beach Blvd)
Ready to go home? Take the A, S from Beach 116 St–Rockaway Park
Photograph: Dave Sanders
Climb a rock—indoors and out
Never climbed before
For just $60, get a one-hour rope-climbing and bouldering lesson, plus equipment rental at Manhattan Plaza Health Club (482 W 43rd St between Ninth and Tenth Aves; 212-563-7001, mphc.com), one of the city’s most popular indoor walls. According to Bill Baer, MPHC’s climbing-gym director, it’s a misconception that you need superstrong arms. “It’s more about legs,” he says. “If you can do yoga, you can climb.”
Already have some basic experience
Purchase a one-day pass for open climbing at MPHC ($20, equipment rental $8) or at Chelsea Piers Sports Center (Pier 60, 23rd St at the Hudson River; 212-336-6000, chelseapiers.com; $50, equipment rental $10). No gym membership is required at either place.
Ready to hit the great outdoors
Dynamic Outdoors (dynamicoutdoors.com) is running an instructional rope-climbing trip to the Shawangunk Mountains (or the Gunks) in New Paltz, New York, on Saturday 2 for $159. The fee includes instruction for all levels—even complete newbies—plus all equipment, transport, snacks and beer on the way home.
Climb the New York Times Building, sans arrest
The New York Times Building, 748 feet
Photograph: Dave Sanders
How many times would you have to scale these local heights to match the towering New York Times Building?
Shawangunk Ridge in New Paltz, NY3.75 times
Central Park, midpark at 61st St30 times
Central Park, midpark at 109th St57 times
Photograph: Dave Sanders
The top places to skateboard, according to skate rats
The Brooklyn Banks (south side)
A pillar of the New York skate scene since the early ’80s, this collection of ledges, rails and wall-ride columns is great for the intermediate or advanced skater. “There’s so much history behind the spot. This is our home,” says Devon McDermott, 21. “It’s a fun place for skaters, with no hassle. Ironically, the police station is across the street.” Frankfort St at Pearl St (in Manhattan)
The famed step pyramids are next to two clear ridges made of baby-smooth marble and a generous runway. It’s pedestrian-free on Sundays, when stores are closed. “I like to stay away from the big crowds,” says Marco Hernendez, 16. “It’s not a park, it’s a spot. Plus, it’s more challenging, and because of that you progress faster.” Water St at Wall St
Flushing Meadow Park
Thankfully, the fountain around the Unisphere is rarely on. Its slick blue cement surrounds smooth marble surfaces, gaps and long ledges. “It’s a good, historic spot. I like the mellow vibe,” says Matt Evearitt, 27. “It used to be locals only—outsiders weren’t welcome—but, thank God, things are different now.” Flushing Meadows–Corona Park, Flushing, Queens
Under the BQE
The skateboarder-created quarter ramps here are occasionally bulldozed or sledgehammered by police—only to be re-created weeks later. “This is a simple place to gather your crew,” says Jesse Adelson, 28. “Also, it covers you from the rain.” Under the BQE between Lorimer St and Union Ave, Williamsburg, Brooklyn
Tompkins Square ParkAlso known as the Training Facility (TF), the concrete baseball diamond here is everyone’s favorite warm-up area. “It’s the most chill place in the whole world,” says Dito Gil, 12. “That’s where I learned to skate. The older people there are so good and teach you stuff.” E 10th St at Ave A
Which NYC river trips are Love Boat–level romantic?
Cruise: Bateaux New York
Vital stats: You’ll have to dress up a bit; this isn’t your frat’s annual booze cruise. Live piano music and a show-tune singer make this the romanciest of the bunch. $145–$165 (866-817-3463, bateauxnewyork.com)
Grade: 4 of 6
Cruise: World Yacht
Vital stats: There are likely lots of staterooms and poop decks to canoodle in on this huge ship, but the debutantes and their escorts carouse to the DJ on deck. $101–$111 (800-498-4270, worldyacht.com)
Grade: 3 of 6
Cruise: Smooth Cruise
Vital stats: Some people might like to get down to the silky-smoove sounds of Al Jarreau, but we’re not among them. $55 (866-211-3812, smoothjazznewyork.com)
Grade: 2 of 6
Cruise: RTR Cruises
Vital stats: Rockin’ the River Cruises hosts Rhett Miller of the Old 97’s on Aug 22. This lowers RTR’s Stubing count, because Miller broke up Vince and Jen in The Break-Up. $40–$60 (212-630-8888, rtrcruises.com)
Grade: 1 of 6
Cruise: City Lights Cruises
Vital stats: Get your shipmates to drink enough (two bevies are included in the price) and they might be inspired to make out while cruising by Olafur Eliasson’s Waterfalls.$75 (212-822-8880, citylightscruises.com)
Grade: 2 of 6
Try a kayaking tour
90 minutes: Sunset Tour
This breezy ride’s course changes with the Hudson’s current, but the glistening view of Manhattan’s skyline, with swatches of orange, pink and red, is timeless. Manhattan Kayak Company (212-924-1788, manhattankayak.com). $60. See website for schedule.
5–6 hours: Bannerman’s Castle Hard-Hat Tour
Pollepel Island in Fishkill, New York, looks like prime real estate in medieval Scotland—complete with eerie castle. Paddle out and tour the ruins on this six-mile trip for midlevel ’yakers. Hudson Valley Outfitters (845-265-0221, hudsonvalleyoutfitters.com). $120 (includes equipment and lunch). Next tour: Sat 2.
Photograph: Ben Franke
Finally try Parkour
Practice in these spots
A. Heckscher Playground
Central Park, enter at Central Park West and 61st St
B. Brooklyn Banks (north side)
Madison St at Avenue of the Finest, behind Police Plaza at the foot of the Brooklyn Bridge
C. Sara D. Roosevelt Park
Playground at Grand St between Chrystie and Forsyth Sts
D. Rockefeller Park
Chambers St at the Hudson River
E. Teardrop Park
East of River Terr between Murray and Warren Sts
F. Roosevelt Island
Southpoint Park, Roosevelt Island Walk at East River
G. East River Park Amphitheater
FDR Dr at Cherry St, above orlears Hook Park
H. Roberto Clemente State Park
W Tremont Ave at Mathewson Rd, Bronx
I. South Street Seaport
Pier 17, Fulton St at South St
Old Croton Aqueduct Trail (41 miles)
Sight: Architectural remains of the lifeline that helped kill cholera in NYC
Until the 1830s, the city’s water supply was filthy—then we figured out how to siphon fresh H2O from upstate. Follow the aqueduct north through Westchester or south to 42nd Street. Trailhead at Van Cortlandt Park South and Mosholu Pkwy, Bronx (914-693-5259, nycgovparks.org)
Sterling Ridge Trail in Sterling Forest State Park (10.2 miles)
Sight: The origins of some serious NYC bling
In 1778, Revolutionaries strung a massive iron chain across the Hudson to ward off the Royal Navy. Genius. In one of our newest state parks, you can see the foundry where the 125-pound links of “General Washington’s watch chain” were forged. Take NJ Transit bus 197 from Port Authority to trailhead at junction of Greenwood Lake Tpke and East Shore Rd, Tuxedo, NY (845-351-5907, nysparks.state.ny.us)
Harlem Valley Rail Trail (14 miles)
Sight: No big cabooses—just beautiful scenery
In the 1800s, Manhattan’s first railway was so accident-prone that the Tenth Avenue section became known as “Death Avenue.” Now the northerly stretch of the defunct Harlem Railroad track is a paved, car-free path meandering through pastures and wetlands. Trailhead off Rte 343 in Wassaic, NY. Take Metro-North Harlem line to Wassaic (518-789-9591, hvrt.org)
Best International Pickup Soccer Game
For years, this ragtag coalition of footballers from far-flung locales such as Morocco, Grenada, Trinidad, Italy and Brazil has congregated on Prospect Park’s western side (around the Picnic House in Long Meadow). Everyone’s welcome until the games fill up (weekends are more packed), and no equipment is required, though shin guards are highly recommended. Your skills needn’t be World Cup–worthy, but bumbling newbies should look elsewhere. “You’ll get a fair amount of abuse if you constantly mess up,” cautions one longtime player. Enter at Prospect Park West at 3rd St, Park Slope, Brooklyn
Kiteboarding, by the minute
8:14am Snooze button. Again.
8:30am Roll out of bed—too early for a Saturday.
9:39am LIRR from Penn Station to Amityville, NY, then a five-minute cab ride to Best Kiteboarding (334 S Bayview Ave at Victoria Dr, Amityville, NY; 631-691-0793, bestkiteboarding.com).
10:55am Arrive for three-hour beginner “Take Off” session ($299). Get introduction to equipment and safety precautions. Momentarily overwhelmed by all the unknowns. Death by kite?
11:10am Stand in sunshine practicing kite-flying skills. Recall being ten years old.
11:40am Ride a Jet Ski one and a half miles into Great South Bay. Water is calm and only two feet deep. Strap self to a four-line inflatable kite and try letting it drag me through the water, practicing directing kite right and left. Learn that the wind is much stronger than I am.
12:25pm Add a board to the mix. Try to ride on it. Fail.
1:10pm Catch on to whole staying-on-the-board phenomenon. Fifteen seconds of zipping across the water and I’m hooked. This is rad.
2:00pm Regain land legs, give instructor high five and sign up for step two, a “Power Up” session ($299) for next week. Abs and arms are gonna feel this tomorrow.
A two-day package including “Take Off” and “Power Up” sessions is $499 (bestkiteboarding.com)
Salt to taste
There's an excursion for sailors of every stripe.
Celebrate Melville Day with readings related to the Moby Dick author and walking tours at the South Street Seaport, then get your sea legs with a sail aboard the schooner Pioneer. (212-748-8568, southstreetseaportmuseum.org). $45, members $35; Aug 9.
Experience 1890s-style yachting (without having to lift a finger) aboard the sleek sailboats Adirondack and Imagine, or tour The New York City Waterfalls on the Luxury Yacht Manhattan, which offers champagney sunset and brunch cruises. (212-627-1825, sail-nyc.com). $40–$75.
Learn the ropes during a two-hour new-sailors lesson, or cover stem to stern with a three-day intensive course at Offshore Sailing (800-221-4326, chelseapiers.com/masailing.htm). Two-hour lesson $150; three-day course $995, sign up with a friend before Aug 30 and pay $595 each.
Rudderless and yearning for the high seas? The website nycsailing.com connects NYC-area sailors with crews of all levels of experience for everything from local cruising to long-distance trips. (nycsailing.com)
Explore the Hudson
ACTIVE? Hudson River Valley Ramble Hike, bike, paddle or walk during three weekends of guided activities. Many of the 202 rambles are free and accessible by Metro-North. Sept 13, 14, 20, 21, 27 and 28; (518-473-3835, hudsonrivervalley.com/ramble)
ARTSY? Hudson River Ferry-Go-Round A $10 pass gets you a ride on the continuous ferries running among Peekskill, Haverstraw, Ossining and Sleepy Hollow. While the boat ride itself is scenic, the real draws are arts tours, folk fests and car shows. Sept 14 (ferrygoround.com)
Inside the mind of a first-time skydiver
A. “Personal injury”? “Death”? I’m signing this waiver anyway.
B. Damn, two and a half miles up. Instructor just strapped me to him. Tight. Hope my breath doesn’t stink.
C. Ready, set…wow. Parachute open. Floating. This is bliss. (Don’t let me die.)
Skydive Long Island (skydivelongisland.com). $210–$225.
A trio of quiet beaches
Cedar Beach, Long Island This calm stretch of sand features a restaurant, a bar and nightly live music. LIRR to Babylon, NY, then take a taxi to the beach.
Sandy Hook, New Jersey Chalk it up to the swimsuit-optional policy: Sunbathers at this peaceful spot give each other room. Ferry service from Manhattan. Go to seastreak.com for schedule and pickup locations. $45 round-trip.
South Beach, Staten Island In a word: space. Oh, and a boardwalk with playgrounds and bocce courts. From the Staten Island ferry, take the S51 to the beach.
Mount these horses
Photographs: Imogen Brown
Age: Seven years old
Lives: Forest Hills, Queens
Measurements: 16 hands
Love interest: I’m a gelding, so I’ll take what I can get! My owner thinks I may be gay.
Dislikes: White lines on the street: I won’t cross them! And hay cubes suck—they put them in my food to slow down my eating.
Likes: Playing, and doing tricks for carrots. I’m also into nipping and throwing my head around.
Forest Equine Center, 88-11 70th Rd off Metropolitan Ave, Forest Hills, Queens (718-263-3500, forestequinecenter.com)
Age: Ten years old
Lives: Kensington, Brooklyn
Measurements: 16 hands
Likes: Carrots, a good scratch under the saddle, kids, food, attention
Dislikes: I hate my chest being groomed, and I don’t like Fergus, the horse who lives next door to me.
Claim to fame: I appeared in the Children’s Museum parade, and I’ve been on CBS, NBC and in plenty of magazines—I’m a star!
Love interest: Florida (yes, I’m a gelding and yes, he’s a male horse). I get around.
Kensington Stables, 51 Caton Pl at 8th St, Kensington, Brooklyn (718-972-4588, kensingtonstables.com)
Age: 15 years old
Lives: Riverdale, Bronx
Measurements: 15 hands
Likes: People, treats, apples, sugar cubes. I like snuggling and I love rolling and getting dirty in the paddock.
Dislikes: Camera flashes and having my face washed. Oh, and I don’t like other horses and I hate fly spray—ew.
Claim to fame: I’m not ambitious, I’m just a guy who likes to be sat on.
Love interest: There’s no special horse, but I love Javier, the man who feeds me.
Riverdale Equestrian Centre, Van Cortlandt Park, W 254th St at Broadway, Bronx (718-548-4848, riverdaleriding.com)
Not accustomed to roughing it? At Malouf’s Mountain Sunset Camp, you don’t have to.
Includes: campsite; three-person tent (set up for you); valet service (the staff meets you at the trailhead to take your bags to your campsite so you don’t have to hike with them); chairs; firewood, fire-starter brick and matches; a “kitchen cabinet” filled with pans, cooking utensils, foil, plates, eating utensils, salt and pepper, playing cards; ready-to-cook ½-pound burger dinner and egg breakfast delivered to your site in a cooler (chicken or steak costs extra)
Malouf’s Mountain Sunset Camp, along the Red Overlook Trail, Beacon Hill, NY (845-831-6767, maloufsmountain.com). Travel: Metro-North Hudson line to Beacon, NY, then take the shuttle to trailhead and hike for 30mins. For area trail info, visit nynjtc.org.
Or go totally DIY for a night in the East Hudson Trails region.
Estimated costs of a campsite: $45; three-person tent: $150; chairs: $30 each; firewood, fire-starter brick and matches: $5 and a schlep into the woods; pans, cooking utensils: $25; plates and eating utensils: $6; ready-to-cook ½-pound burger dinner and egg breakfast delivered to your apartment by FreshDirect: $17.50; food-delivery charge to your apartment: $5.79
Fire up a hot-air balloon
Not quite ready for complete liftoff? Through August 22—for the 150th-anniversary celebration of Central Park’s original “Greensward” design plan—you can hop in the AeroBalloon and spend ten minutes soaring 30 stories above Olmsted and Vaux’s masterpiece, safely tethered to the ground all the while. Central Park, midpark at Cherry Hill, enter at Central Park West and 72nd St (646-827-6287, aeroballoon.com). $25, children over 40" with adult $17.50.
More advanced, anchorless aeronautics
Above the Clouds What you’ll see: The Hudson Valley How long: 1 hour Location: Randall Airport, 100 Airport Rd, Middletown, NY (845-692-2556, abovethecloudsinc.com) Travel: NJ Transit train to Middletown, NY, then take a taxi to the airport. $249.
A-Lot-A Hot Air Hunterdon Hills Playhouse What you’ll see: Hunterdon County, Delaware River Valley and on clear days the Philly and NYC skylines How long: 1 hour Location: 88 Rte 173, Hampton, NJ (908-996-4233, upnoa.com) Travel: Trans-Bridge bus to Clinton, NJ. $195–$245.
InFlight Balloon Adventures What you’ll see: Hunterdon County, Spruce Run Reservoir How long: 1 hour Location: Meet at Spain Inn II Restaurant, 1045 Rte 173W, Asbury, NJ (888-301-2383, balloonnj.com) Travel: Trans-Bridge bus to Clinton, NJ; call in advance for pickup. $215–$295.
Berkshire Balloons What you’ll see: Long Island Sound How long: 1 hour Location: Panthorn Park, Southington, CT (203-250-8441, berkshireballoons.com) Travel: Metro-North New Haven line to Berlin, CT, then take a taxi to the park. $325.
Brave the Beast
Don’t worry you won’t be the only New Yorker. Besides, how many times do you get to do the YMCA on a boat?
Circle Line Cruises, Pier 83, W 42nd St at Twelfth Ave (212-563-3200, circleline42.com). $19.
Tips for tubing down the Delaware
A. Protect your feet with river shoes, but your ass is safe: The tube raises it above the rocky bottom.
B. Beer and snacks aren’t allowed on the water, so follow the signs to the Famous River Hot Dog Man, an hour and half from the launch point.
C. If you fall in, just stand up: The water ranges from two to four feet deep.
DO IT NOW: Delaware River Tubing, 2998 Daniel Bray Hwy, Frenchtown, NJ (delawarerivertubing.com). $22, weekdays $18.
Burn some effing calories
(per hour, based on the exertions of this writer's paltry 150-pound physique)
We like: Riverbank State Park (Riverside Dr at 145th St)
We like: Central Park Tennis Courts (W 93rd St at West Dr, 212-280-0205; $7 per person per game)
We like: Pickup games in Central Park Sheep Meadow (enter at Central Park West and 67th St)
We like: Wherever you like, baby!
Rollerblade! Fast! Downhill!
Central Park's notorious LASKER HILL is a free-fall S-curve situated midpark bdetween 106th and 108th Streets. "It is a complete decline," says NYC State veteran and instructor Linda Campbell. "Hold your brake and don't let up on your T-stop."
Stretch outside—it’s good for you
“Yoga outdoors helps city folk find ways to connect with nature instead of just gazing at it through a window,” says Ruth Vargas, who leads the Evening Salute to the Sun yoga sessions at Riverside Park South (66th St at Riverside Dr, 212-408-0219; Wed 6:30–7:30pm, free). “Being outside makes a balanced connection between earth, sky and with each other.”
On the Time’s Up! Central Park Moonlight Ride, you’ll bike through a green space once commonly known as a mugger’s paradise. Meet at the corner of Central Park West and Central Park South (times-up.org). First Friday of every month at 10pm. Free.
Take an 11-plus-mile roll through city streets during the Empire Skate Club’s Tuesday Night Skate. Meet outside Blades Board and Skate, 156 W 72nd St between Columbus and Amsterdam Aves (empireskate.org). Tue 8pm. Free.
A combination of sprinting, orienteering and guzzling beer, nighttime hashes will have you careering through the city with other hooligans of the NYC Hash Harriers, a “drinking club with a running problem.” Runs are several nights a month; for schedule and fees, go to hashnyc.com, or call 212-427-4692.
Relax. you've got 7 weeks of sun left.
By Joshua M. Bernstein, Billie Cohen, Tamlyn Davies, Andrew Frisicano, James Y. Lee, Kate Lowenstein, Erin McHugh, Scot Meyer, Olivia Myers, Andy Parks, Alyssa Pinkser, Drew Toal and Becca Tucker/>/>/>/>/>/>/>/>