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, lush parks. You’ll never want to eat in 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 for shaved ice.
Governors Island already has an impressive playground (including slides for adults), but the landmark’s Adventures 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 kitsch playground. Look anywhere for a good time: the newly-revamped 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 just for 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.
If you’re strapped for cash and sick of burning through your mom’s Netflix account, then all you need is subway fare and a towel to enjoy some of the best beaches in NYC. There’s likely a spot for whatever mood you happen to be 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 packs all the shore-side carnival festivities you could ask for.
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 can actually 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.
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 Fort Greene, LIC Flea and Food and the Queens International 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.
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.