Best things to do outside in NYC
Say sayonara to ridiculous brunch lines and leave the ramen at home for once, because you have the chance to make an epic sandwich and lay back on the grass at one of the city’s lovely and lush parks. You’ll never want to eat indoors again after dining alfresco by the shore at Clove Lakes Park, under the bridge at Astoria Park or on one of Governors Island’s man-made hills. And don’t forget to bring a few dollars so you can hit the shaved ice cart!
Governors Island already has an impressive playground (including slides for adults), but the landmark’s Adventure zone—a destination for recreational entertainment— makes summer in NYC extra fun. Enjoy thrilling attractions such as a Flywire Zip Line (just imagine those killer views of the Statue of Liberty while soaring through the island breeze), a 3D Climbing Challenge and the Amazen' Maze.
Contrary to popular belief, the Hudson River is not yet radioactive, and hitting the water can provide a riveting time and some one-of-a-kind views of the city. Many of the city’s most popular boathouses provide free rides, so there’s no reason for you to resist the 20-minute rush of riding on the water.
Live like Robert Mapplethorpe and Patti Smith for just a day and take a fabulous spin around this nationally beloved kitschy playground. There's a good time to be had wherever you turn: Luna Park features some mighty roller coasters, including the nearly century-old Cyclone, and the dames of Burlesque at the Beach perform wild routines year round. The trip is worth it alone for stuffing your piehole with an authentic Nathan’s Hot Dog.
For those looking to experience NYC like the locals, hop on two wheels and join of the best bike tours NYC has to offer. Bicycle tours are the ideal option for first-time visitors to explore a specific area or see the top New York attractions at their own pace. From a breezy ride down the idyllic Brooklyn waterfront to a cruise through Central Park, grab your two-wheeler and disover the city at a different speed.
You don’t have to be a tourist to explore the bastion of history and culture that is NYC. And with niche walking tours springing up at every corner—including ghost hunts in the Upper East Side, Harlem foodie adventures and literary pub crawls in the East Village—there’s plenty of incentive to make your parents proud and actually learn something about the city you call home.
New Yorkers love eating outside, whether it’s at one of the city’s best waterfront restaurants, elevated rooftop bars or open-air food flea markets like Brooklyn’s famed Smorgasburg. A favorite amongst locals and tourists alike, Smorg features nearly 100 vendors selling seriously delicious and graciously cheap snacks. This is your handy guide to everything Smorgasburg 2019 has to offer.
If you’re strapped for cash and sick of burning through your mom’s Netflix account, all you need is subway fare and a towel to enjoy some of the best beaches in NYC. There’s likely a sandy shore for whatever mood you're in: partygoers can have a drink at Jacob Riis Park Beach, those looking to relax and get away from summer crowds should hit Fort Tilden; and Coney Island Beach is jam-packed with all the shore-side carnival festivities you could ask for.
Sure, the New York Botanical Garden, Queens Botanical Garden and Brooklyn Botanic Garden are open year-round, but there is a lot more flora and greenery to see during the warmer months. Staring in spring, these attractions host can't-miss events like the infamous Cherry Blossom Festival, which celebrates Japanese culture, at the Brooklyn Botanic Garden. Make sure to check their (and our) calendar for news on upcoming exhibits and shows.
NYC seems to have the monopoly on psychics, vintage comic book salesmen and incense peddlers at just about every corner, but its signature street fairs take the fun-finds to a whole new level. Whether you’re saving your cash for Smorgasburg, Crafts on Columbus or the Washington Square Outdoor Art Exhibit, you’re guaranteed to leave with a full belly and bags of rare tchotchkes, jewelry and bizarre creations.
Apparently, not all NYC pools are hidden in expensive sports clubs you can’t afford to join. Dip into the nostalgic rapture of childhood swimming at outdoor pools in every borough—including the sprawling Astoria Pool or the fun-sized Tony Dapolito Recreation Center—before learning (the hard way) that New Yorkers still get sunburns.
From Fort Greene to the Bronx, there are plenty of stellar outdoor gatherings of local and organic vendors in town. Rather than lose your sanity in traumatizing Sunday Trader Joe’s lines, head to your local market and smell the fresh fruits and veggies. After restocking your pantry, make sure to pick up a bouquet of blooms so you can bring a bit of the outdoors inside your humble abode.
If you’re a vintage-sifting feign, a foodie or, hell, a New Yorker, then you need to hit one of the best flea markets in NYC. We have a full-guide about how flea-goers can navigate the city’s bazaar scene, so satisfy the itch and start shopping for craft jewels and antiques and indulge on gourmet eats from our favorites such as the Brooklyn Flea, LIC Flea and Food and Queens Night Market.
This beautiful, one-of-a-kind park has locals and tourists alike flocking to take in its scenic views and greenery. And you never know what kind of outdoor artwork, nearby food trucks or performances you might stumble upon while you’re there! Running a span of more than 15 blocks, the High Line allows for tons of opportunities to stop by an adjacent fun-having spot.
Escape to Randalls Island and bask in some outdoor fun while enjoying killer views of the East River. Islanders of all ages can bring a blanket and pack a picnic for free movie nights starting in May. Art lovers can peep—and actually touch—the works on display during the island’s outdoor exhibition dubbed “Flow.17”, which features interactive projects by Bronx Museum artists. And fitness junkies can take advantage of the park’s gratis yoga and dance bootcamp classes held along the water.
On top of being the greatest city on earth, New York is also home to one of the world’s biggest sporting events: the U.S. Open tennis tournament. Don’t just be a spectator, though! There are plenty of tennis courts—including some in the the city’s best parks—that you can reserve without breaking the bank.
Cocktails above the clouds? Alcohol is scientifically proven to taste better from higher altitudes (okay, we’re just joshin’ you). But it’s undeniable that when the weather is gorgeous, New Yorkers instantly flock to the best outdoor rooftop bars for a beverage (or six). We can’t get enough of the views at spots such as Northern Territory in Greenpoint and Gallow Green in Chelsea.
There’s nothing like popcorn and Bill Murray movies under the stars. Thankfully, NYC’s Parks Department and several independent purveyors know how to throw an outdoor show. From Rooftop Films’ high-art indies to crowd-pleasing classics at Brooklyn Bridge Park, NYC has options for any kind of film buff in town.
New York’s coveted (and free-of-charge) outdoor theater—Shakespeare int the Park—returns for the warm-weather season. This year, Tony Award winner Kenny Leon directs a modernized version of Shakespeare’s Much Ado About Nothing, a comedic tale about romantic retribution and miscommunication (y’know, themes not unfamiliar to our dating-app culture). Tickets are distributed each performance day at noon at the Delacorte Theater, but the line for tickets is always bananas. Our advice? Get there by no later than 10am.
Aside from the gratis yoga and tai chi classes held on the lawn of Bryant Park, the green space coaxes toe-tappers to its nearly 10-acre expanse with a fun and free Dance Party on Wednesday evenings starting in May. Folks can cut a rug and learn new styles led by experts starting at 6pm, when instructors walk you through how to swing, tango, salsa or bachata. An hour later, a live band plays the appropriate tunes so you can show off your new steps under the stars.