kid bike
Photograph: Shutterstock

The best bike trails for families in NYC

Our curated list of family-friendly biking in all five boroughs takes you off the beaten path, and away from the crowds.

By Oliver Strand
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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 bike trails for families in NYC.

When the weather warms up, there's nothing quite like going for a bike ride with the kiddos—it's one of the best things a family can do in New York City right now. The key? Pick the right bike path. Brooklyn Bridge bike trail? It has one of the best views in the world, but it's steeper than you think—and might be too much for tiny legs. Prospect Park? Glorious setting—and the loop is dominated by super-pumped peletons zooming at top speed.

Our curated list points you to places like the semi-secret bike paths in Central Park, Erie Basin in Red Hook, and Governor's Island, a car-free paradise with 7 miles of bike paths and breezy skyline views. How do you top off a biking adventure like that? Why, with a visit to one of the best ice cream shops in NYC for kids! It's just a day in the life of a real New Yorker kid.

RECOMMENDED: A full guide to outdoor activities for kids

Bike trails for families

Biking on Governor's Island
Photograph: Donald Yip

1. Governor's Island

One of the greatest urban parks anywhere in the world, Governor's Island is 172 acres of bucolic landscapes with a whopping 7 miles of car-free bike paths. Getting there is a commitment, but the payoff is well worth it: Bring your own bikes on the ferry, or rent one on the island (there are even three CitiBike docks), and enjoy what is surely the best family-friendly biking in NYC! Visit the Hammock Grove, check out the longest slide in New York, catch a free concert or simply explore one of the best public spaces in the city.

Rockaway Park and Playground
Photograph: Marielle Solan

2. Rockaway Beach Boardwalk

The Rockaway Beach Boardwalk got a much-needed restoration after Hurricane Sandy devastated the area, and now the waterfront has one of the best family-friendly bike paths in NYC. The waterfront bike path shares the boardwalk with pedestrians, which means two things. One, you need to be mindful of foot traffic. Two, cyclists can't get too speedy, making this perfect for young bikers. The path is basically flat and goes for miles, from Beach 19 to Beach 126, with tons of water fountains, bathrooms and concessions on the way. Oh yeah: There's a beach, too. If you want to make this even more of an adventure, you can get to the Rockaways on the bike-friendly NYC Ferry!

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Central Park
Photograph: Hector Argüello Canals/Unsplash

3. North Meadow, Central Park

Straight talk: Central Park can be a nightmare for cycling families thanks to the biking bros shooting by at 35 mph and shouting "move to the side!" So here's the plan—ignore the loops and head up to the North Meadow, where cyclists and pedestrians share the paths at 96th St, W 106th-108th St, and E 102nd St. It's a mellower scene, with interesting terrain and almost no tourists. The 102nd St Crossing is also family-friendly, and always free of crowds. 

Pelham Bay Park; Photograph by David Rosenweig
Photograph: David Rosenweig

4. Pelham Bay Park

Pelham Bay Park is New York's largest city park: Three Central Parks could fit inside this 2772-acre greenspace! Once you pick your jaw up off the floor, make plans to take advantage of the more than 5 miles of bike paths that lead from the urban bustle of the Bronx to the sandy shore of Orchard Beach.

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7.x190.ft.travel.soundview.jpg
Photograph: Jeff Heatley

5. Soundview Park

Now that this 205-acre greenspace on the Bronx waterfront is getting a much-needed overhaul, it's on its way to becoming one of the city's great parks. The mostly flat landscape hugs the shoreline where the Bronx River empties into the East River, and the network of kid-friendly bike paths have water views of the city skyline.

Sunset, Louis J. Valentino Pier Park, Red Hook, Parks, 2048x1365
Photograph: Alex Strada

6. Erie Basin Park and Columbia St Esplanade

The Erie Basin Park that surrounds the Ikea in Red Hook is a quiet and pleasant greenspace with a dedicated bike path that's perfect for the youngsters. It links up with the Columbia St Esplanade, a long peninsula that's part protected bike path, part working waterfront, and that culminates in a knockout view of New York Harbor with Lady Liberty in the distance.

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Roosevelt Island
Photograph: Courtesy CC

7. Roosevelt Island

Officially, Roosevelt Island is a part of Manhattan, and even though it has the best views of Midtown this side of a postcard this slender island is really a world unto itself. If you decide to bike around this lightly-trafficked island, make the Four Freedoms Park your destination: Take in the East River tugboat traffic and the sweeping view of the Queensboro Bridge, and pay homage to Franklin D. Roosevelt's hope that everybody should have freedom of speech, freedom of worship, freedom from want and freedom from fear.

Silver Lake Park
Photograph: Courtesy NYC Parks

8. Silver Lake Park

Staten Island's answer to Central Park and Prospect Park, Silver Lake Park is a 209-acre park with a stately lake at its heart. A one-mile-long bike path runs along one side of the lake, and there are other places to pedal for tinier cyclists. Eventually, the North Shore Waterfront Esplanade Park will be upgraded, giving Staten Island the harbor-view bike lanes it deserves. Until then, enjoy the charms of Silver Lake Park.

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Battery Park
Photograph: Lauren Foy

9. Battery Park City

Don't bother with the bike path along West St—that's for speedsters and commuters. Instead, go along the Battery Park City waterfront on a path shared with pedestrians—the view is better, and the foot traffic calms things. Start at Pier A at Battery Park, then head up along the South Cove and the North Cove, before cutting around to the back of Stuyvesant High School. You'll find breezy air, tastefully landscaped parkland, places to stop and snack, plus plenty of water fountains and bathrooms.

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