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Best Outdoor Activities in New York

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An emerald expanse in the thriving, concrete jungle that is New York City, Central Park lies in the heartland of the Manhattan borough. It commences its labyrinthine stretch from Midtown, all the way to Harlem. It was created in 1857 by Frederick Law Olmsted and Calvert Vaux, who envisioned a sprawling green space in the center of the island. The park spans 843 acres (341.15 hectares) and bustles with life throughout the day, even as the layered, multi-hued fold of the city's skyline unfolds at its hem. The park's 21 playgrounds are speckled with ornate fountains, sculptures, myriad bridges and arches, together forming an urbane respite where several come to find peace from the city's chaotic pace. Attractions within the park include the Bethesda Fountain, the Conservatory Garden, Belvedere Castle, and Central Park Zoo.

Located on 28 acres (11 hectares) of beautiful gardens and woodlands, this non-profit cultural institution overlooks the Hudson River. Wave Hill is dedicated to exploring the interaction between human beings and the natural environment. It maintains four historic buildings and five greenhouses and has won many awards for its gardens. Its Arts Program presents the work of contemporary artists and landscape professionals. Partake in educational, horticultural and art programs that are held at the cultural center from time to time. Come enjoy the feast of nature in its own arms.

The High Line is an urban oasis filled with beautifully manicured landscapes. It sits above the city on old train tracks that were installed as part of the West Side Improvement Project back in 1929. The line was primarily used to transport goods along the Lower West Side, but with the advent of vehicles in the 1950s and more accessible routes elsewhere, the last train eventually ran in 1980. Thereafter, the elevated tracks fell into disrepair, and the whole structure was nearly demolished. It was instead converted into an innovative public park, delighting locals and visitors alike. Today, the High Line is a cherished sanctuary away from the bustle of city life.

Brooklyn's Coney Island became one of the city's leisure hotspots in the late 19th and early 20th Centuries, following the introduction of the Coney Island & Brooklyn Railroad streetcar line. Since then, the area has been swamped by resorts and attractions. Following the decline of World War II and the years of neglect the park endured after, the area has burst back into life and is home to Luna Park, the Aquarium and of course, the beach. A three-mile-long boardwalk runs the length of Coney Island into Brighton Beach. There is sometimes a circus, but always something strange to see. Also, don't let the non-holiday cooler months deter you from visiting; it is much less crowded, and the stores remain open.

Although its reign as a summer resort destination in the 50s and 60s has long since ended, this lovely beach is set for a come back once people realize how beautiful and close-by this beach truly is. Located on the south shore of Long Island in Queens Rockaway Beach provides New Yorkers with a beach that is accessible by subway. This beach is perfect whether you want to swim, surf, fish, play volleyball, or just enjoy strolling besides the ocean. Don't miss out on visiting the 1908 St. Rose of Lima Church to admire the classic architecture of the Rockaway subway stop.

Brooklyn Bridge Park is an 85-acre stretch of green space that lies between two of New York's greatest landmarks: the bustling Manhattan Bridge and the gorgeous Brooklyn Bridge. There are stunning views of the New York Harbor, the glittering Manhattan skyline and the beautiful Brooklyn Heights Promenade. Pier 1 of Brooklyn Bridge Park opened in the spring of 2010 and has been one of the most frequented tourist spots ever since. A plethora of parks, piers and waterfront attractions are in the vicinity. The sheer beauty of the place makes it worth a visit!

Rich in history, Fort Greene Park’s beginnings emerged in the form of Fort Putnam, which is today located within the park. In 1812, the fort was christened in the name of Major General Nathanael Greene and since there was not any actual worry of conflict or a war at the time, the fort was used by the locals as a recreational space. In the park, there is also a famous memorial, the Prison Ship Martyrs’ Monument, which honors the lives of thousands of Americans who died as a result of imprisonment aboard a ship by the British. A visit to this park gives all its visitors a broader perspective of the history of the city and its residents. The hugely-popular Brooklyn Flea on Saturdays is right across the park.

The largest pool in the city, Astoria Park Pool is a true New York treasure. This pool measures in at 330 feet (100 meters) and was designed to hold 3000 people. With a magnificent view of the Triborough Bridge sitting just along the horizon, a more scenic setting for a public pool is hard to imagine. During a scorching New York City summer day, there are few places more desirable to find yourself in.

Spanning 9155 acres (3705 hectares), the Jamaica Bay Wildlife Refuge is the only wildlife sanctuary run by the National Park Service. This seaside estuary is arguably the best place in New York City for bird watchers to get a glimpse of over 330 migratory avian species nesting here. Its diverse ecosystem with its wetlands, salt marshes, freshwater and briny ponds, fields, dunes and woodland is home to an amazing variety of native amphibians, reptiles and small mammals. You will also find more than 60 kinds of butterflies and the largest horseshoe crab population in the state at the park. The sanctuary offers hikes, boat trips, sunset tours and more that are not only educational but also make for a fantastic outing amidst nature in the city. You will need a walking permit to stroll through the trails which is available for free at the visitor center. You can also hang around the Visitor Contact Station and check their remarkable exhibits of this place. The center is the starting point of all the guided tours and activities. Don't miss this wonderful haven of natural beauty if you are a wildlife enthusiast.

Touted to be one of the largest parks in town, Pelham Bay Park is certainly worth a visit. Spread across a vast area of 2766 acres (1119 hectares), this park is a spacious stretch of greenery. Bounded by the Hutchinson River, Pelham Bay Park features a variety of landmarks that include The Bronx Victory Column & Memorial Grove, Glover's Rock, Bartow-Pell Mansion and Museum and more. Apart from that, there is also the Orchard Beach. The park also has sports facilities like running/walking trails, tennis courts, baseball fields, a softball area and a playground for kids. While the little ones are busy having fun, adults can enjoy a BBQ picnic here. Truly, Pelham Bay Park is an ideal place for a fun day out. For the list of events and nature walks held here, check website.

A short ferry ride from Lower Manhattan takes visitors to the serene and verdant Governors Island, where the city seems as if it is a world away. The island showcases its picturesque self during summers; in fact, it only opened to the public after 200 years of restricted military usage. The island affords some incredible views of it surrounding waterscape, Red Hook, Brooklyn, the Verrazano Bridge and the Manhattan skyline. The island is also home to some stirring historical sites like Castle Williams, Liggett Hall and the Admiral House, which are an escape into the island's past. Having played an integral role in the American Revolution, this island is a coastal paradise par excellence.

McCarren Park Pool is one of the youngest entertainment destinations in Brooklyn. Although the pool has existed in McCarren Park in Brooklyn since 1936, it acquired its new identity in 2012. Next to the historic pool, a recreational facility was created, which has been the venue for several free and ticketed live music performances. Ample space and a well-designed structure make this open-air venue a great place to catch some fun with family and friends. Pool party shows by live bands are held every Sunday for free of cost. And there can be no better romantic setting for an outdoor film festival, that is conducted here for an entire month. The 37,950 square foot pool is a great way to beat the heat, with plenty of room for everyone.

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