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Are you looking for the best things to do outdoors in NYC? Whether you are keen to engage with nature, stretch your legs, enjoy the sun on your face, update your social media feeds with new photography, or simply just try new things, this guide details fun outdoors activities in NYC for locals and visitors.
In the first section, we discuss free things to do outdoors so you don’t have to spend a cent.
Next, we look at outdoor attractions that are worth paying for and some summer events that take place outside.
Finally, we reveal seasonal outdoor activities that are worth bundling up for during fall and winter.
You can also check out this NYC bucket list guide.
Free Outdoor Things to Do in NYC
Watch the Sunset at The High Line
One of the best free outdoor things to do in New York is to watch the sunset over the city’s skyline.
The High Line (Gansevoort St. to W. 30 St.) is one of the perfect location for this.
As the sun sets, you can admire the picturesque scenery of New Jersey and the Hudson River.
There are also plenty of benches to sit on and enjoy the show.
Midnight Moment at Times Square
The bright lights and giant billboards at Times Square make it an impressive destination at night.
You can wander around its streets lined with neon-lit stores and shops like the Yankee Clubhouse Shop (245 W 42nd St.) and Loft (7 Times Sq).
Visit at 11:57 pm and stick around until 12 am for the unique Midnight Moment- which is one of the cool free things to do in NYC.
This is when the giant billboards in the area take a break from their regularly scheduled programming to showcase a selection of digital artworks for three minutes before midnight.
Sightseeing at the Riverside Park
One of Manhattan’s most spectacular waterfront parks, the Riverside Park, stretches four miles along the Hudson River.
It’s a great place to relax and unwind while taking in the expansive views of the river, New Jersey’s shoreline, and the George Washington Bridge.
The park has a jogging path along the waterfront, making it an ideal spot for a morning run or an afternoon stroll.
There are also a lot of trees that provide ample shade on hot days and benches for sitting and people-watching.
Riverside Park also features in our guide to spring in New York.
Walk Around the Conservatory Garden
The Conservatory Garden (1233 5th Ave) is a six-acre garden located on the east side of Central Park.
The garden is known for its three areas, each with a different theme: the French-themed North Garden, the Italianate Center Garden, and the English-style South Garden.
Because of its gorgeous landscapes, it is a popular destination for photoshoots and even intimate weddings.
Note that the garden is a quiet zone, so activities like running, biking, or playing are not allowed.
Peaceful Walks at Fort Tryon Park
If you want to experience one of the serene outdoor places in NYC, head to Fort Tryon Park (Riverside Dr. To Broadway).
It’s less crowded than most parks in the city and offers stunning views of the Hudson River and the Palisades.
In addition to its outstanding scenery, the park also boasts lush greenery, making it the perfect spot for a run, a walk, or a picnic.
Enjoy the Flowers at Heather Garden
Inside Fort Tryon Park is Heather Garden, a must-see for plant and flower lovers.
You can enjoy the garden’s colorful blooms, especially during spring.
But even in other seasons, you can spend your time exploring the 500 varieties of plants, trees, and shrubs there.
The Heather Garden and Fort Tryon Park feature in our NYC parks guide.
SoHo is a neighborhood in Downtown Manhattan known for its cast-iron architecture.
One of its most famous structures is the Haughwout Building (488 Broadway).
You’ll also see some art galleries in the neighborhood, like the Color Factory (251 Spring St.) and specialty museums like the Ice Cream Factory (558 Broadway).
See Art at the Bowery Wall
Soak up some culture with a closer look at NYC’s street art scene.
You can head to the Bowery Wall (76 E Houston St.) on the Lower East Side of Manhattan to witness the city’s iconic graffiti wall.
In recent years, the mural has featured the work of the greatest street artists such as Banksy, Jean-Michel Basquiat, and Shepard Fairey.
Visit the 9/11 Memorial
The 9/11 Memorial (180 Greenwich St.) is one of the most popular outdoor attractions in NYC.
It’s a beautiful place dedicated to all the heroes and innocent lives lost during 9/11.
The main attraction is the ‘’Reflecting Absence’’ which consists of two black pools where the old towers once stood, surrounded by walls containing the victims’ names.
Be sure to add this destination to your New York bucket list.
Snap Great Photos at the Brooklyn Bridge
Your outdoor adventures in NYC aren’t complete without visiting one of its most iconic landmarks, the Brooklyn Bridge.
The bridge’s architecture and the fantastic view of the city’s skyline make it an excellent location to take amazing photographs.
The classic snaps are often taken against the background of the bridge’s Gothic revival towers.
Staten Island Ferry Cruise
You can hop aboard the Staten Island Ferry for a sightseeing cruise.
This free daily commute between Staten Island and Manhattan is the perfect way to see the city’s sights- from the stunning skyline to the Statue of Liberty.
The ferry has an outdoor deck where you can stand to get a better view of the city from the waters.
Visit Brooklyn Heights
Brooklyn Heights is an excellent introduction to the more residential areas of NYC.
When visiting, you can take time to appreciate its low-rise architecture and many brownstone rowhouses- most of which date back to before the American Civil War.
You’ll also be treated to a beautiful view of Lower Manhattan and the East River.
Other Things to Do Outside in NYC
Some of the best outdoor activities in NYC are worth paying a few extra bucks for if you want to get the most out of your experience in the city.
Here are reasonably-priced tours and activities you can also enjoy if you’re visiting NYC on a budget.
You can click the link to book your tickets.
You can also check this guide about the unique things to do in NYC for more ideas about NYC tours and attractions.
Top of the Rock Observation Deck
Experience the views of New York City from 850 feet above the ground by taking a tour at the Top of the Rock (30 Rockefeller Plaza).
It has three levels of indoor and outdoor decks with expansive viewing areas, bordered by safety glasses.
Plus, its 9,500 square feet of unobstructed outdoor viewing space makes it one of the best sites to take in the stunning panoramic views of the cityscape.
Top of the Rock also has an add-on option to sit on a beam that rides into the air, imitating the iconic photograph of its workers taken in 1932, Lunch atop a Skyscraper.
Edge Observation Deck
If you’re not afraid of heights, you can head to the Edge Observation Deck (30 Hudson Yards).
Its outdoor sky deck platform is suspended mid-air, featuring glass floors and frameless glass panel walls.
You can safely lean over the glass and experience the thrill of viewing NYC 1100 feet above the ground.
Flatiron Food, History, and Architecture Tour
This 3-hour tour offers a unique way to experience some of Flatiron District’s best foods, unique architecture, and history.
This is one of the fun outdoor activities in NYC where you can learn and fill your belly!
Cruise Around the Statue of Liberty and Ellis Island
Get up close to one of NYC’s outdoor attractions, the Statue of Liberty and Ellis Island, with a bit of history told by a local guide in this 1-hour cruise.
You’ll also cruise under the Brooklyn Bridge and get unparalleled views of the Manhattan skyline.
You can choose the outdoor seating to feel the breeze off the water and for the best viewing experience.
Williamsburg Bites Food Tour
Trying out great food spots is one of the exciting outdoor activities in Williamsburg, Brooklyn.
During this 3-hour walking tour, you can feast on some of the area’s best bites.
You’ll also be introduced to the neighborhood’s rich history, favorite hangout sites, and other attractions.
Summer Outdoor Events in NYC
There are tons of fun outdoor activities in New York during the summer season.
So whether you’re a tourist or a local, check out some of these fantastic events!
SummerStage Festival is an annual outdoor festival of the arts held at Rumsey Playfield in Central Park.
It’s one of the entertaining outdoor summer activities in NYC where you can watch over 100 shows- and most are free except for the benefit concerts.
It features a wide range of performers, from famous artists to up-and-coming talents.
Smorgasburg is a food lover’s paradise and an exciting summer event in NYC for locals and tourists alike.
This open-air market features traditional dishes and innovative fusion cuisines from over 100 different food vendors.
The event usually takes place at three different locations in NYC: Smorgasburg World Trade Center (185 Greenwich Street), Smorgasburg Prospect Park (Breeze Hill), and Smorgasburg Williamsburg (90 Kent Avenue).
Outdoor Fall Activities in NYC
Fall is a great time to visit New York City!
The weather is usually mild, with lots of fun outdoor events happening around the city.
Here are some ideas for enjoyable things to do outside in New York this fall season.
You may also want to check this guide to New York in fall.
Watch the Macy’s Thanksgiving Parade
The Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade (usually starts at 77th St and Central Park West) is a holiday staple in New York City put on by Macy’s, one of the largest department store chains in the U.S.
It features a wide variety of performances, floats, and more, attracting millions of spectators each year.
Pumpkin Point at Governor’s Island
One of the interesting outside things to do in NYC during the fall season is to experience the Pumpkin Point, held annually at Governor’s Island.
This event features a vast pumpkin patch where you can pick out your pumpkin to take home for free.
There are also plenty of fall-themed decorations and activities around the island.
Outdoor Winter Activities in NYC
Here are some great ideas for the best things to do outside in NYC during the winter.
You may also like this guide about things to do in New York in December.
Skate at Bryant Park’s Winter Village
In New York City, there’s no better place to lace up your skates than the Winter Village at Bryant Park.
The park features NYC’s only free-admission skating rink, making it an ideal spot to skate on a budget.
And when you’re tired of skating, you can explore the Winter Village Market, filled with holiday gifts and delicious food offerings.
Window Shopping at Fifth Avenue
A stroll down Fifth Avenue is a must-do for any visitor during Christmas time.
This is when the streets’ iconic shops go all out with their holiday window displays.
The windows at Saks Fifth Avenue (611 5th Ave) and Lord & Taylor (424 5th Ave) are always worth checking out.
In fact, the whole city becomes a festive playground, check out the giant red bauble Christmas decor at the Fountain Plaza (1251 Avenue of the Americas/Sixth Avenue) too!
Our NYC Travel Guides
- NYC Bucket List
- Best NYC Observation Decks
- NYC Activities at Night
- Unique Things to Do in NYC
- Free Things to Do in NYC
- Romantic Things to Do in NYC
- NYC at Christmas
- All Our NYC Guides