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Photograph: Courtesy Shakespeare in the Park

Best things to do outside in New York

Looking for things to do outside in New York? Explore parks, beer gardens, outdoor restaurants, beaches and more.

Written by Shaye Weaver in association with City Cruises

There are plenty of things to do outside in New York year-round, but when the weather gets to be just right and you want to spend as much time outside as possible, the city has some amazing options for a fresh air hang. 

NYC parks are beautiful urban oases where you can picnic, play or just relax. Come spring, you can even spot cherry blossoms. All around the city you can find outdoor restaurants, bars and beer gardens. When temps really rise, head further out to cool off at NYC beaches. There’s no shortage of outdoor activities in New York, and after a long winter, it’s important to get out, feel the breeze and soak up some sun.

Read on for the best things to do outside in the city, but if you need a little more nature with your outdoor adventures, check out the best places to go camping near NYC and the best hikes near NYC.

RECOMMENDED: Guides for things to do in spring and things to do in summer in NYC

The top things to do outside in New York

  • Things to do

The best views in NYC are from up or out — whether atop a tall building, up in the sky, or out on the water. These rooftop bars, skyscrapers, bridges and more offer a unique perspective on the city. Experiencing these magical views in NYC, many of which are outdoors, might just be one of the best things to do in NYC. A few of our favorite spots include One World Observatory, The High Line and Green-Wood Cemetery. 

  • Restaurants

Whether you're on a romantic date or hanging with friends, dinner on the water can't be beat. Ocean breezes and beautiful views can only enhance your dining experience. When perfect weather is upon us, grab a spot with a view of the Hudson and East Rivers or the Atlantic Ocean at NYC’s best waterfront restaurants.

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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.

Book NYC tours and attractions.

  • Things to do

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. And if you're looking to stay on the island overnight, consider glamping with Collective Governors Island.

  • Restaurants

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. 

  • Things to do
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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. You don't have to be a pro to play though. There are plenty of tennis courts—including some in the the city’s best parks—that you can reserve without breaking the bank. 

  • Art
  • Contemporary art

New York City is full of free art that you don't even have to go to a museum to see. Sculptures, murals and photographs can be found in its parks, sidewalks and on its buildings. Locations such as the High Line, Central Park, the Metropolitan Museum Of Art, Cadman Plaza in Brooklyn and Socrates Sculpture Park in Queens and other NYC locales all have a wide variety of pieces awaiting you, from massive sculptures to eye-popping murals.

  • Shopping

If you’re a vintage-sifting fan, 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.

  • Things to do
  • City Life

Filled with Victorian mausoleums, cherubs and gargoyles, Green-Wood is the resting place of some half-million New Yorkers, among them Jean-Michel Basquiat, Leonard Bernstein and Boss Tweed. But there’s more to do here than grave-spot: Check out the massive Gothic arch at the main entrance or climb to the top of Battle Hill, one of the highest points in Kings County and a pivotal spot during the Battle of Brooklyn in 1776.

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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! 

  • Things to do

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.

Save on admission to the coolest places in New York City.

  • Attractions

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.

Find the best tours and attractions in NYC.

  • Things to do
  • Festivals

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, you can see beautiful cherry blossoms alongside other amazing blooms. Make sure to check their calendar for news on upcoming exhibits and shows. 

See iconic botanical gardens and other top New York City attractions with a New York Pass.

  • Bars
  • Beer bars

During that most wonderful stretch of the year when it’s neither too hot nor too cold, one of the best places to go for a beer is an outdoor beer garden for some excellent brews with fresh air and fun.  With outdoor tables, games, music and of course amazing brews, they're the perfect alfresco option for sipping a cold one on a gorgeous day.

  • Things to do

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. Beaches open for the season on Memorial Day weekend.

  • Things to do

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. Check ahead for seasonal opening times.

  • Things to do

Contrary to popular belief, the East River and Hudson River are 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.

Looking for things to do on a rainy day?

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