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Rockaway Beach
Photograph: David Rosenzweig

The best things to do on a staycation in NYC

Have a fantastic holiday without ever leaving town with our list of the best things to do on a staycation in NYC

By Annalise Mantz

Believe it or not, you don’t need a suite at one of the best hotels in NYC to have the staycation of your dreams. (Though it certainly wouldn’t hurt.) Get into the vacation mindset with this list of the best things to do on a staycation in NYC. Whether your ideal staycation includes checking out all the gorgeous rooftop bars in NYC, getting back to nature in NYC parks or just holing up in your room with some of the best movies on Netflix, we’ve got you covered.

RECOMMENDED: Full list of staycation ideas

Best things to do on a staycation in NYC

Best things to do on a rainy day: New York Botanical Garden
Photograph: Mick Hales

Admire the flora at the New York Botanical Garden

Attractions Parks and gardens The Bronx

Stepping inside the Victorian glasshouse at the New York Botanical Garden transports you around the world: to the tropical waters of Southeast Asia, the arid deserts of Northern Africa and the lush rainforests of South America. Plan to spend an entire day at the 250-acre garden to explore the vast grounds beautifully landscaped with native and exotic plants.

Hudson River Community Sailing
Photograph: Courtesy Hudson River Community Sailing

Take a sailing class on the Hudson

Get a spectacular view of the downtown skyline from the water on a Hudson River Community Sailing class. You’ll learn how to steer the tiller, tie various nautical knots and control the sails as you cruise the Hudson River for two hours. Plus, it’s about as close as you’re going to come to piloting a yacht on a budget!


Relax with a cocktail at Gallow Green

Bars Cocktail bars Chelsea

Gallow Green might just win the contest for city’s prettiest rooftop bar. Its ivy-covered trellises and twinkling lights give the Chelsea watering hole a storybook feel. Bring someone special for a romantic date night, or let the bartenders and expertly crafted cocktails keep you company.

The best helicopter tours in NYC
Photograph: Shutterstock

Soar over the city on a helicopter tour

Talk about an adrenaline rush: This half-hour helicopter tour of Manhattan swoops over the island for jaw-dropping views of the Statue of Liberty, the Brooklyn Bridge and Central Park. The price tag might be a bit steep, but the million-dollar photo opportunities are well worth it.

Horseback riding at the New York Equestrian Center
Photograph: Courtesy Groupon

Go for a scenic trail ride on Long Island

Giddy up, cowboy! Instructors from the New York Equestrian Center will help you saddle your horse before you set off down the bridle path for an hourlong trail ride through Hempstead Lake State Park. The 775-acre oasis contains rolling hills, serene lakes and sandy beaches. It’s hard to believe you’re only an hour outside NYC.

Photograph: Courtesy CC/Flickr/The Pizza Bike

Taste the best mozzarella on a food tour of Arthur Avenue

This Bronx neighborhood has been home to Italian immigrants for generations, and the local shops lining the streets sell some of the finest olive oil, prosciutto and cannoli that NYC has to offer. You’ll sample bites from more than a dozen vendors on this 2.5-hour tour of the area, so come hungry!

Photograph: Courtesy CC/Flickr/The Pizza Bike

The Jacques Marchais Museum of Tibetan Art
Photograph: courtesy Jacques Marchais Museum of Tibetan Art

Imagine you’re in the Himalayas at the Jacques Marchais Museum of Tibetan Art

Museums Art and design Staten Island

Known as Staten Island’s Shangri-la, this Tibetan-style monastery was designed to mimic the look of the Dalai Lama’s mountainside retreat, complete with terraced gardens, lotus ponds and secluded nooks for reflection. The peaceful museum also hosts classes in tai chi and guided meditation for visitors looking for even more serenity. Inside, you’ll discover Tibetan sculptures, scroll paintings, instruments and other cultural artifacts that notable female art collector Jacques Marchais acquired over the years.

Future site of the QueensWay
Photograph: Friends of the QueensWay

Hike around Forest Park

Sports and fitness Queens

Reconnect with the natural world on a guided hike through the woodlands, thickets and knobby hills of Forest Park in Kew Gardens. Self-described “Wildman” Steve Brill will take you through some of the lesser-known parts of the park to forage for fruits, vegetables and herbs. During the warm summer months, you can expect to find black raspberries, sorrel and field garlic growing wild in the park.

Kings County Distillery
Photograph: Courtesy Kings County Distillery

Sample the wares at Kings County Distillery

Bars Brooklyn Navy Yard

This Brooklyn whiskey distillery is the first to operate in NYC since Prohibition, and it still uses traditional methods to craft old-fashioned bourbon, moonshine and single-malt whiskey. Join an hourlong tour of the facilities to learn a little bit about whiskey’s history in the area and taste tipples like strawberry-ginger moonshine and chocolate bourbon.

Roméo et Juliette at the Metropolitan Opera
Photograph: Courtesy Brescia/Amisano/La Scala

Get all dolled up for a night at the opera

Theater Performing arts space Upper West Side

During the opera's golden age in the 19th century, going to the theater was as much about seeing and being seen as it was the music. Even today, spectators still use the luxe surroundings as a good excuse to bust out the formal attire. Don your finest threads for a spectacular show in the ornate Metropolitan Opera House at Lincoln Center. The space hosts the Metropolitan Opera from September to May, with major visiting companies appearing in summer.

Rockaway Water Park
Photograph: Courtesy Rockaway Water Park

Splash around on a floating water park at Rockaway Beach

Give your inner child the beach day he or she has been dreaming of at Rockaway Water Park. This floating jungle gym has it all: slides, swings, trampolines, even a high dive. No wonder it’s known as the Tarzan Boat. And if you get tired of cannonballing into the water, you can kick back and relax in the floats tied to the dock.

Explore Staten Island, NYC’s underappreciated borough

Did you know that Staten Island boasts miles of gorgeous sandy beaches or that a full 40 percent of the island is wooded? Chock that up as two more reasons to explore the city’s most easily forgotten borough. It’s larger than the subway map makes it look—58 square miles—so it’s not exactly walkable once you get off the ferry. Instead, book a guided tour to secure both transportation and information from an in-the-know guide in one fell swoop.

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