Spring is in the air and that means everyone is on the hunt for things to do outdoors now that the weather is warming up and the days are getting longer. I would venture to guess that this year, more than ever, most of us want to be outside as much as possible thanks to a particularly rough winter that had much of the US dealing with snow on a weekly basis as well as the ongoing pandemic.
When you visit New York City the options available for outside activities do not disappoint. In fact – they are so numerous that we realized that whether you are a first-time visitor, a seasoned vet, or perhaps a resident New Yorker – it can be overwhelming to figure out exactly where you want to head when the weather breaks. This is why we have taken it upon ourselves to help you narrow down your options with our recommendations.
So, without further ado – I present you with Beyond Times Square’s top five, which cannot be missed, outdoor tours in New York City.
Prancing Through the Parks
After being stuck inside for the better part of a year, I know a lot of you just want to get out and enjoy Mother Nature. One thing that we thankfully have plenty of across all five boroughs are parks. In fact, most first-time visitors to NYC are surprised at how many green spaces we actually do have. If you want to get a firsthand glimpse of how the city’s residents spend their time when warmer weather makes its appearance, opt for a walking tour of any one of these coveted oases. You will see them playing toss with their kids, throwing a frisbee for their fur babies, immersed in a good book or just people watching. But the parks also offer you beautiful gardens, historical monuments, grand fountains and so much more. From infamous Central Park in Manhattan to her sister park – Prospect Park in Brooklyn, to Flushing Meadows – Corona Park in Queens, to Pelham Bay Park in the Bronx – the largest park in the city to Freshkills Park in Staten Island – and about 1695 more – there are treasures to be found in each and tour guides waiting to help you uncover them. Splendor in the park indeed!
Strolling Where the Stars Once Stood
If you have been glued to Netflix or Hulu or even the Hallmark Channel, you are well aware that both television shows as well as movies make New York City their “studio” of choice more often than not – or so it seems. That being said, by far one of the coolest things that you can do in the city is to visit those sites that you have seen your favorite actors and actresses frequent on-screen for some Instagramable photo ops of your own. And you’re in luck because there are many tours dedicated to showing off these living sound stages. Bonus – if you are looking for a particular genre you can pretty much find a tour to go along with it. Interested in action movies with your favorite superheroes? Got a tour for that. Not a fan of the big screen but love your TV shows? Got that too. Noticed a lot of Central Park spots making appearances in all kinds of movies? There’s a tour dedicated to Central Park filming locations. Have just one TV show in mind that was based in NYC that you want to see its stars hangouts up close and in person? Check! And the list goes on and on. Lights! Camera! Tour!
Flora and Fauna on Foot
Another thing that you may be surprised to discover is that New York City is home to several botanical gardens as well as zoos. And both provide distinctive ways to enjoy the great outdoors. First there is the beauty of the gardens. From cherry blossoms in the springtime to the zen of the Japanese gardens to the aquatic gardens and more, there is something about wandering through fragrant and picturesque landscapes that seems to lessen your stress levels, lower your blood pressure and has you looking at the world through rose-colored glasses – sorry – couldn’t resist that analogy. And once again you will find a botanical garden in each of the five boroughs, so you have your pick of which to tiptoe through the tulips in (oops, I did it again). Then of course there are those oh so entertaining animals waiting to perform for you at the NYC zoos that I personally could watch for hours. I mean who doesn’t love to watch those adorable lemurs as they swing from limb to limb or the brightly colored Caribbean Flamingos strutting around? Both can be found at the Bronx Zoo by the way – which is home to more than 6000 species! And then of course you have those oh-so-endearing sea lions at the Central Park Zoo sunning and swimming for all to see as well as those uber-cute penguins waddling around looking like they are all dressed up in tuxedos headed to a formal event. Cuteness overload!
Walking and Watching Birds
Surprisingly – or not – I know quite a few people who took up bird watching during the pandemic. Perhaps more surprisingly, while doing research for this blog I found out that Brooklyn is quite the popular place for birdwatching due to the fact that it actually lays along the Atlantic Flyway – which is a major migratory bird route that stretches from South America to Greenland – and is considered a unique, natural “bird highway.” Who knew? Well apparently, a lot of people. And come to find out that it’s not just Brooklyn where you can scope them out. I also uncovered private guided bird walks that you can participate in which take place several days a week, year-round in Central Park which happens to be home to over 250 different species. Plus, the NYC Audubon Society holds bird walks as well – with weekend walks scheduled to take place in both the Queens Botanical Garden and Lower Manhattan’s Battery Park this spring. Birds of a feather apparently do flock together!
Sailing and Spotting Whales
Now, if you aren’t into watching the birds how about watching the whales? Yes whales. Not to be outdone by Cape Cod, Nantucket or any other northeastern shore point, NYC is also home to whale watching tours. If you happened to catch any of the major networks’ news coverage of the city this past December, then you probably aren’t surprised because you would have seen one of the big guys taking a leisurely swim down the Hudson River – past the likes of the Intrepid right on down to Lady Liberty herself. Now this is certainly not every day – or month – or year occurrence for that matter. But there are opportunities to head out away from Manhattan and the harbor, where you will indeed have a good chance of spotting these magnificent creatures. And you can do this by booking a cruise right out of Sheepshead Bay on the southeast side of Brooklyn. The cruises run June through December and boast a 90% sighting rate. I should note that figure also includes dolphin sightings – which are another rarity in the Hudson River – although not to be outdone by the humpbacks, they have been known to make appearances there too. Those silly mammals!
Please know that as we welcome in the warmer weather here in New York City we are also looking forward to welcoming back visitors. And what better way to maintain that social distancing we have all become so accustomed to than with a private, outdoor tour in New York City with Beyond Times Square. We can’t wait to see you back here to show off our amazing city so contact us today for a complete list of all your options.