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outdoors kids winter nyc central park
Photograph: Shutterstock

The best outdoor activities for kids in NYC

Even when the temperature dips, NYC has plenty of outdoor activities to keep your little ones busy

By Danielle Valente, Allie Early and Time Out editors
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After what feels like an eternity of hibernation (we're, of course, referring to 2020), New Yorkers are ready to bust loose. Fortunately, we've rounded up the outdoor activities for kids that will keep families socially distanced and sane.

From sledding hills and ice skating spots to public art and parkour, this list doesn't miss a beat. While our typical routines might be altered, these suggestions will keep you busy, even if you're six feet apart. 

Bundle up in your winter coat, fuel up with hot chocolate and get ready to enjoy a day out (safely). You've earned it.

Best outdoor activities for kids

ice skating at industry city
ice skating at industry city
Photograph: Courtesy Industry City

1. Ice skating

Things to do

'Tis the season to skate! Grab your warm-weather gear and get ready to hit the ice. Things might look a little different this winter—between new health requirements, reduced capacity, and so on—but the fun will go on. Your favorite family attractions like Industry City and Prospect Park are ready to welcome athletes who want to perfect their moves. Always make sure to plan ahead, as reservations are often required. 

 

Photograph: Courtesy Shutterstock

2. Sledding hills

Things to do Quirky events

When a blizzard sets its sights on NYC, you'll want to head for the hills! By that we mean sledding hills, of course. We've mapped out the best spots from Central Park to Van Cortlandt Park. 

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Central Park Bethesda Fountain
Central Park Bethesda Fountain
Photograph: Courtesy Shutterstock

3. NYC parks

Things to do

No matter the season, NYC parks are hoppin'. Between gorgeous views, fun activities and gnarly playgrounds, these outdoor oases are free enterainment in a place where prices generally skyrocket. 

kid bike
kid bike
Photograph: Shutterstock

4. Bike trails

Things to do Games and hobbies

New York, New York, it's a wonderful biking town! From protected bike paths on the Bronx waterfront to the low-key cycling in Battery Park City, we'll help you find the best places to pedal. (Training wheels welcome!) 

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Cheesequake State Park
Cheesequake State Park
Photograph: Shutterstock

5. Hiking trails

Things to do

Just because you live in the Big Apple doesn't mean you can't spend time in the great outdoors. There are amazing family-friendly hikes close to NYC—in fact, the Bronx River Greenway and Inwood Hill Park are right in the middle of the city! So: Check the weather, bundle up and make plans to visit Mother Nature with the fam.

alice in wonderland statue
alice in wonderland statue
Photograph: Courtesy Shutterstock

6. Public art

Although NYC's art scene is difficult to beat, you don't actually have to step foot in a museum to experience some of its most creative pieces. Public art abounds from every corner of the city, and it makes for some Instagrammable family shots along the way. 

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stars in the sky
stars in the sky
Photograph: Courtesy Unsplash + Kyle Gregory Devaras

7. Stargazing

For entertainment, look no further than the cosmos, which are always a dazzling delight. Many NYC parks offer in-person astronomy (at a distance in the Covid world) and the Museum of Natural History offers virtual monthly lessons via Hayden Planetarium.  

Domino Park Playground
Domino Park Playground
Photograph: Courtesy Daniel Levin

8. Kids' playgrounds

Things to do

This is a golden age of playgrounds. In recent years NYC has completely transformed what playtime is like for a city kid, introducing creative playgrounds to every corner of the the five boroughs. There are so many gorgeous playgrounds to visit in NYC, and this list will help you set off on a fabulous adventure.

 

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red cardinal in central park
red cardinal in central park
Photograph: Shutterstock

9. Bird watching

Pigeons might be NYC's unofficial mascots, but trust us when we tell you there are plenty of other species waiting to say hello. Let the rangers in the NYC Parks Department prove it. 

Photograph: Courtesy Shutterstock

10. Snow tubing

Travel

A stone's throw from NYC are great snow tubing spots that will get your adrenaline pumping! A little travel time is well worth it, trust us!

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wavehill01
wavehill01
Photograph: Caroline Voagen Nels

11. Wave Hill

Attractions Parks and gardens The Bronx

Everyone needs a few hours of calm now and then—kids included—and you'd be hard-pressed to find a more serene spot within city limits than Wave Hill. A few stops on the Metro-North Hudson line brings you to the sprawling grounds perched above the Hudson, boasting 28 acres of public gadens, plus woodlands and lawns to wander. You’ll find an elegant 19th-century mansion surrounded by meticulously groomed gardens, featuring abundant wildflowers and shady pergolas. Jump in on nature walks, story times and family art projects, often led by local artists and usually free with grounds admission. 

red panda
red panda
Photograph: Courtesy Pixabay + Pexels

12. NYC zoos

Attractions Zoo and aquariums

Even with limited hours, NYC zoos are a must visit during the wintertime. Greet animals from all around the world, right in your own backyard! (Excuse us, we're visiting the red pandas first!)

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Photograph: Courtesy Shutterstock

13. Family scavenger hunts

Attractions

From cool family attractions to beloved kids' museums, New York scavenger hunts allow you to explore a go-to spot in new ways, working together as friends and family to uncover the clues. Run through Central Park, hit the Museum of Natural History and so much more! Plus, there are fun themes that'll appeal to all interests. Grab your best buds, a smart phone and wear comfy sneakers. It's time to super sleuth by cracking the code of our favorite scavenger hunts in NYC! Always plan ahead before making a trip, as reservations and new rules are likely in place. 

parkour
parkour
Photograph: Shutterstock

14. Parkour

Looking to stay active this winter? Why not give Parkour a try?! The Movement Collective offers a variety of classes—for both kids and adults—at different price points. It's time to make NYC your jungle gym. 

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Photograph: Courtesy CC/Flickr/ Shinya Suzuki

15. Farmers' markets

Things to do Markets and fairs

These exciting famers' market NYC picks are pretty spectacular. You get get everything needed for a farm-fresh meal, including eggs and dairy, freshly-picked fruits, freshly-picked veggies...even freshly-caught fish and locally-made wine (for Mom and Dad, of course)! Farmers' markets in NYC are the best way to get your greens—your kiddos can even meet real farmers!

 

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