Outdoorsy Ideas for Exploring NYC this Summer

Who said New York City isn’t a place for outdoor lovers and adventurers? Get outside this summer to enjoy the sun, nature, and fresh air while trying these fun activities.

By: The Outbound Collective + Save to a List


Lights. Skyscrapers. Taxis. Hustle. Bustle.

These are the things you might think of when you think of New York City. But, did you know that there are a number of ways to experience and enjoy the great outdoors in NYC? Aside from the paved sidewalks and busy streets, there are some pretty amazing green spaces and ways to slow down and stop to smell the roses.

Get outside this summer in New York and connect with nature while trying these fun outdoor activities by yourself or with friends.

Green. Markets. River. Biking. Exploring.

These are things that define the city too.

Picnic in Central Park

Photo: Central Park

This is a classic must-do activity. Central Park is an iconic sea of green located between the Upper West and Upper East sides of Manhattan. Spanning 843 acres, this is the park to sprawl out with a picnic blanket and a spread of your favorite snacks and a bottle of wine. Kick back, enjoy the sun, read a book, or play some lawn games. You’re sure to have a lovely time relaxing or walking around Central Park to take in the scenery and wildlife. Note: This is a great spot for dog-lovers as it’s an ideal place for people to walk their furry friends. You'll also see many runners in Central Park, but other great running spots include the Hudson River Greenway and right along the East River.

Shop the Grand Bazaar Flea Market

Photo: Grand Bazaar NYC

Located on 100W 77th St at Columbus ave, Manhattan, this exciting flea market is the oldest curated weekly market in NYC. It’s open from 10am-5pm and features local artisans and vendors. Browsing this flea market is the perfect way to get your shopping fix in while also getting your steps in outdoors! You’ll find vintage jewelry, mid-century modern housewate, handmade crafts, and plenty more. Profits from this flea market benefit four local public schools by funding enrichment programs and classroom essentials. Shop with a purpose!

Watch a Movie at The Green on the Rooftop at Pier 17

Photo: The Greens

What’s better than kicking it old school and watching a movie outside on a warm summer night? This is a great date night idea or just a fun experience to do with friends. For $20 you can reserve 8 seats on your own square of private lawn right by the water in the Seaport so you’ll get that river side breeze. Tickets for the movies are released Monday morning at 10am. Some of this summer’s upcoming viewings will include Toy Story, Miracle, and Remember the Titans, just to name a few.

Walk the Highline

Photo: Margo Schmiederer

Get going on this 1.45 mile long unique elevated greenway. The highline, located in Chelsea, was once a New York Central Railroad that got converted into a beautiful walking trail lined with greenery. If you’re in need of a dose of nature, flowers, and a taste of wildlife, the highline is a prime spot to take a stroll. The juxtaposition of the greenery and the surrounding skyscrapers is something that will make you say “Wow!” It’s a pleasant reminder that construction and nature can still come together in harmony. While in the area, also check out the nearby Vessel attraction.

Kayak the Hudson River

Photo: Margo Schmiederer

Take in the city skyline from a new angle. People forget that the Hudson River is right there! And great news, it wants you to enjoy it. Many boat houses along the river offer free kayaking through volunteer-run communities. Pier 96 is one of them and offers free kayaking on a first come first serve basis. For no cost you can find yourself paddling along the river with the most exquisite views.

Tour Your Neighborhood on a Citi Bike

Photo: Taylor Rooney

Get around the city in a fun, active, and low cost way. Instead of opting for the subway, hop on a citi bike instead! Since launching in 2013, Citi Bike now has roughly 12,000 bikes for anyone to use at more than 750 stations. Without worrying about public transportation schedules and crowds, explore local neighborhoods on your own time while getting fresh air and getting active.

Buy Fresh Goods from Tompkins Square GreenMarket

Photo: GrowNYC

On Ave A and East 7th Street in the East Village, choose from a selection of baked goods, artisan breads, fruit, organic vegetables, wild fish, poultry, and more at this outdoor market. Open on Sundays from 9am-4pm, this is the perfect slow Sunday activity to stock up with fresh, healthy foods for the week. It’s also a great way to support local vendors and farmers. There’s a Food Scrap Drop-Off from 9am-5pm as well as a Clothing Drop-off from 9am-1pm.

Surf at Rockaway Beach

Photo: Locals Surf School

The things to do in the city are never-ending, but sometimes all we need is a chill beach day. There are ferry rides from different parts of the city to the nearby Rockaway Beach so you can easily get yourself from city streets to sandy beach. The shortest route is from the East Side and takes roughly 34 minutes. From Wall Street, the ride is about 57 minutes. Rockaway has long been a popular spot for surfers of all skill levels. If you’re just starting out in the sport, the New York Surf School provides surf instruction for eager boardriders. 

Cover Photo: Rob Witt

We want to acknowledge and thank the past, present, and future generations of all Native Nations and Indigenous Peoples whose ancestral lands we travel, explore, and play on. Always practice Leave No Trace ethics on your adventures and follow local regulations. Please explore responsibly!

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