And though other forms of entertainment and dining have been put on hold for now (thanks, Omicron), outdoor activities are in full swing.
Besides just a walk in your neighborhood or a visit to the park, the city actually has tons of options for getting active in a socially distant way, from hikes to farm visits to biking.
Here are our picks for exploring the great New York outdoors, spanning all seasons:
1. Go for a therapeutic walk or hike
Hiking is usually viewed as an autumn activity, but a light snowfall can turn a casual outdoor stroll into “walking in a winter wonderland” in no time. And even it’s not snowy, don’t let the cold change your mind! There are plenty of hikes within NYC itself (or an easy public transportation ride away) that will help you escape cabin fever in your apartment and enjoy nature. Here’s our list of 10 Low-Key But Magical Winter Hikes In & Around NYC, plus 11 Stunning Hikes Around NYC You Can Get To With Public Transportation.
2. Strap on some ice skates & hit the rink
Ice skating doesn’t just have to be a holiday must-do! It’s the perfect activity all winter long. Check out our 10 Must-Visit Ice Rinks In NYC Perfect For A Winter Day.
3. Go sledding
Yes you’ll need to snow for this, but based on the amount we had last year, that likely won’t be a problem! Don’t miss our top 10 sledding spots in NYC, as decided on by New Yorkers.
4. Visit one of NYC’s beautiful botanic gardens
Though NYC’s gardens are stunning when they are in full bloom, they are still quite magical in the wintertime! Brooklyn Botanic Gardens offers pay-as-you-wish admission on Fridays through the winter, and the New York Botanical Garden in the Bronx has their incredible Orchid Show returning this February, just for a few tips.
5. Get to know the animals at Queens County Farm
This adorable farm & museum is the perfect spot to feel like you’ve escaped the city for a quaint, rural farm town. Stop by and say hello to their farm animals from 10 a.m.–5 p.m. for free admission and no reservations needed. You can also stop by their farm store for a unique selection of items from Queens Farm products to locally-made gifts and farm-inspired toys, books, distinctive personal accessories, a variety of healthy snacks and much more. See more on their website here.
6. Bundle up for some heated outdoor dining
Though outdoor dining was a beautiful solution for warm weather in the city, New Yorkers are not forgetting that the cold is here and they’re still hungry! Restaurants across New York City are solving this predicament by adding heaters to their outdoor spaces in order to keep their customers toasty and their bellies full all throughout the colder months. Dine out and keep warm at these heated outdoor NYC restaurants.
7. Go on a street art tour
Besides museums, did you know there’s a ton of one-of-a-kind art to be seen right on the streets of NYC? We especially love this one since it’s completely free! These are our favorite spots for street art in the city: First Street Green Art Park, The Bowery Wall, Wellington Art Mural Project (Astoria), The Bushwick Art Collective, Freeman Alley (LES).
8. Head out on a reinvigorating bike ride
Okay, so this activity is a bit nicer in warmer weather, but there’s no reason you can’t go biking on a chilly winter’s day (perhaps just when it’s not snowing). Here are our top-voted NYC bike routes, as per Secret NYC followers & readers.
*Note: Most of these activities are currently closed for the season, but this section will be updated once again in the spring/summer time.*
9. Enjoy a mystery foodie picnic tour around NYC
This self-guided food adventure is the perfect way to explore New York City’s best neighborhoods and avoid the crowds. Starting with a picnic basket, have fun solving personally-curated clues and riddles sent to your smartphone that’ll take you on a journey to collect your special gourmet picnic food bit by bit. Each clue you solve will lead you closer to your next picnic food pickup and even closer to your final stunning secret picnic spot. This experience is all-inclusive, all you need to do is select the date and everything will be planned for you. You can expect a 3-4 hour picnic experience where you discover new parts of NYC while supporting small business with this stress-free adventure!Grab your basket here.
10. Learn to surf at the Rockaways
Head out to Rockaway Beach in Queens for some stellar surf lessons with Peter and Edward from Surfs Up NY. The instructors — who are also Certified Lifeguards — begin with 10 minutes of instruction on dry land so students can learn introductory maneuvers and ocean-safety pointers. Teacher and student then take to the waves for at least 60 minutes of dedicated surfing time. Hang 10!Pick up a surfboard here once the season begins.
11. Or for something a little less intense, learn to paddleboard
If you’re not quite ready to go into surfing, Surfs Up NY also does paddleboard lessons! They follow the same teaching technique, with some tips on land first, and then you can glide along the water and take in the beach views for at least an hour. It doubles as a great core workout!Get your tickets here when summer returns.
12. Jetski to the Statue of Liberty, Ellis Island & the Freedom Tower
Tour New York like you never have before: on a jet ski! Choose from a circle tour around New York Harbor, a sunset tour, or coats right underneath the George Washington Bridge. You’re guaranteed to have an amazing experience where you can “make your own waves” and go at your own pace. See all the top sights, attractions, and landmarks from a new vantage point and skip the boring boat and bus tours as you take your tour into your own hands, literally.Grab tickets right here once the season opens.
13. Go kayaking or river tubing (with a delicious BBQ after)
This is not technically in NYC, but it’s the perfect day trip! Delaware River Tubing launches tubes on five-to-six-mile trips down scenic waterways just north of where George Washington historically crossed the Delaware River. You can relax and enjoy breathtaking views of the scenic Delaware River and enjoy a barbecue meal when you get hungry.Grab tickets here.
14. Head out on an exciting scavenger hunt in Central Park
On this highly entertaining one and a half hour adventure, a series of clues will lead you around Central Park, getting you to perform physical and mental challenges along the way. There will be prizes—each member of the winning team will receive a New York City gift package. Spend the day hunting through NYC’s famously massive park with your friends or meet new ones!Sign up right here.
15. Kayak in New York Harbor for incredible views of the skyline
Manhattan Kayak has reopened for the season for kayaking, paddle boarding and more in their beautiful location in the Hudson River. Float on by the massive Intrepid Ship or paddle out farther for incredible views of the Manhattan skyline — which also take place at night for sparkling views of the city lit up. Find out all about it here.
16. Go camping under the stars on Governors Island
Last year, Collective Governors Island Luxury Camping Retreat introduced plenty of new and exciting amenities that included “live music nights, tarot readings, crafting, morning yoga, bike rentals, chair massages, plenty of lawn games, campfires and cocktails” throughout the season—but this year, due to social distancing regulations, the experience has a more private feel. (Which honestly sounds more appealing to us). Find out more here.