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Outdoor adventures in New York City
After a long winter spent covered in snow and ice, watching New York City thaw out for spring is sweeter than ever. So why hightail it to the countryside just as things are getting good? There are plenty of ways to enjoy the great outdoors right here in the five boroughs—all you need is your sense of adventure and a MetroCard.
1. Go ziplining
The thrill of ziplining is something most New Yorkers think they need to travel to a rainforest (or at least the Hudson Valley) to experience. But the Alley Pond Park Adventure Course, often referred to as a Queens "hidden gem," offers that and more. After rock climbing and group obstacle course activities, staff members will assist the brave ones in strapping on a harness, climbing up an elevated platform and soaring about 100 yards through the sky and over a vast open field.
Where: Alley Pond Park, 79-20 Winchester Blvd., (Across the soccer field, to the west) in Queens
More info: nyc.gov/parks
2. Ride a horse
You don't need to be a member of the NYPD Mounted Unit to ride a horse in New York City. For the ultimate scenic route, go to the Jamaica Bay Riding Company. Private and group rides are guided by instructors through wooded trails and along the coastline. Length and prices vary, but lessons are offered seven days a week.
Where: 7000 Shore Pkwy. in Brooklyn
More info: horsebackride.com
(Credit: Jamaica Bay Riding Academy)
3. Fly on a trapeze
Embrace your inner circus performer as you swing high above the city on a flying trapeze at Manhattan's waterfront Trapeze School New York. You can have a one-time experience or perfect your acrobat abilities with a package of classes.
Where: 353 West St. in Manhattan
More info: trapezeschool.com
(Credit: Melanie Monte)
4. Go bird watching
Yes, you can see some amazing birds in New York City if you know where to look… and no, we’re not talking pigeons. In fact, the New York City Audubon Society claims that our shorelines offer some of the best bird watching in the world, including rare owls in the Bronx, hawks and up to 30 warbler species in Manhattan, colorful yellow-crowned night-herons in Queens, orioles and cuckoos in Brooklyn and American woodcocks in Staten Island.
Where: Pelham Bay Park in the Bronx, Central Park in Manhattan, Jamaica Bay Wildlife Refuge in Queens, Prospect Park in Brooklyn and Great Kills Park in Staten Island
More info: nycaudubon.org
5. Take a tour by water... on a jet ski
Sure, the Circle Line is nice, but for true thrill-seekers there's no better way to take in the city sights than aboard a jet ski. Jetty Jumpers' guided tours range from one to three hours and cruise by Coney Island, the Statue of Liberty, Battery Park, some of the city's most iconic bridges and more. Wetsuits and all necessary gear is included, and you can ride your own jet ski or double up with a friend.
Where: 3939 Emmons Ave. in Brooklyn More info: jettyjumpers.com
6. Take your dog for a swim
You know New York City has plenty of dog parks, but there is only one beach just for four-legged fur balls. Long Meadow Dog Beach, in the Pools area of Brooklyn’s Prospect Park, is a hot spot for dog owners, who come bright and early during off-leash hours (5 to 9 a.m.) and let their city-living pets enjoy a rare treat: a refreshing swim. Fido will have plenty of room to work off all that energy, but there’s a fence to ensure he won’t go out too far.
Where: Prospect Park, 9th Street entrance, in Brooklyn More info: fidobrooklyn.org
7. Catch a wave
SoCal’s got nothing on us, (except maybe that year-round warm weather thing), but never to be outdone, New York City offers both indoor and outdoor surfing. In the warmer months, rent or buy a board at Boarders Surf Shop in Rockaway Beach, Queens, where you can also sign up for lessons if you’re not ready to head into the water on your own. If you want to get a surfer’s body in cold weather sans wetsuit, try a Surfset class, offered at select fitness centers throughout the city, and work on core strength, cardio and balance while on a surfboard trainer indoors.
Where: Boarders Surf Shop, 192 Beach 92nd St., Rockaway Beach, in Queens, and Surfset Fitness centers in Manhattan, Brooklyn and Queens
More info: boarderssurfshop.com; surfsetfitness.com (Credit: Anthony Lanzilote)
8. Golf at the nation’s oldest public course
Opened in 1895, the Van Cortlandt Park Golf Course, which saw major renovations under former Mayor Rudy Giuliani, was a popular reprieve for countless New Yorkers during World War II and the Great Depression, and has been visited by Babe Ruth, Jackie Robinson, Willie Mays and the Three Stooges. In the golf house you’ll find original wooden lockers from 1902, and on the course two of the longest par fives in New York City. Another plus? It’s easily accessible from the 1 train.
Where: 115 Van Cortlandt Park South in the Bronx More info: golfnyc.com
(Credit: Facebook/Van Cortlandt Park Golf Course)
9. Hike to one of the highest points on the Eastern Seaboard
The Staten Island Greenbelt offers a range of hiking experiences, but perhaps the most exciting is the Blue Trail, a 12.3-mile trail that starts at Staten Island Boulevard and crosses the top of Todt Hill, which, at an elevation of 410 feet, is the tallest natural point in New York City and one of the highest spots along the Eastern Seaboard. You'll venture through woodlands and see natural ponds and a wide range of plant species, and, of course, a breathtaking view.
Where: Access from Latourette Park at Brielle Avenue and Roanoake Street, or from Deere Park at Staten Island Boulevard in Staten Island More info: sigreenbelt.org