• 16 Places To Enjoy Nature In NYC

    Nurture a love of nature at these picturesque spots

    By Yanchu Zhao, Elyse Carmosino

    You don’t have to leave New York to enjoy all of nature’s delights in the spring and summer seasons! We’ve scoured the five boroughs–from the Staten Island Greenbelt, to the Bronx’s Pelham Bay Park, to the North Woods of Central Park, and everywhere in between–to find some of the best places to enjoy nature in NYC with the kids this spring and summer. Get out and start exploring!

    Interested in stories like this? Sign up for our eNewsletter New York Family Weekly Scoop
    • Brooklyn Botanic Garden: Native Flora Garden
      Brooklyn Botanic Garden: Native Flora Garden

      The Native Flora Garden consists of plants local to the New York metropolitan area and encompasses a variety of plant habitats, such as native woodlands and pine barrens. During the spring, families can relax in the sea of flowers and learn about all the plant communities that are present in the garden. Amidst all of the native fauna, it can really feel like spring in the Native Flora Garden.

      990 Washington Avenue, near Montgomery Street, Brooklyn, 718-623-7200, bbg.org

      Photo by Albert Vecerka-ESTO. Courtesy of Brooklyn Botanic Garden

    • Brooklyn Botanic Garden: Discovery Garden
      Brooklyn Botanic Garden: Discovery Garden

      The Discovery Garden offers children the opportunity to explore plants and ecosystems through hands-on play and scientific investigation. Designed by Michael van Valkenburgh Associates, the garden incorporates three local ecosystems—woodland, meadow, and marsh—and was designed to make children feel totally immersed in the natural world.

      990 Washington Avenue, near Montgomery Street, Brooklyn, 718-623-7200, bbg.org

      Photo by Liz Ligon. Courtesy Brooklyn Botanic Garden

    • Central Park: North Woods
      Central Park: North Woods

      At the Central Park's north end by Central Park's northwest corner is the North Woods, one of the Park's wildest and most secluded areas. At the heart of the North Woods is the beautiful ravine. In this area, fallen trees are left where they land, providing homes for wildlife and nutrients to plants, and giving this portion of the park a very natural feel. Hiking and bird watching are popular activities in the North Woods, and through Central Park's Woodlands Discovery Club families can engage with the area's ecology with hands-on science activities led by Central Park Conservancy educators.

      West Side to Mid-Park from 101st-110th Streets, centralparkync.org

    • Central Park: Harlem Meer
      Central Park: Harlem Meer

      Named after the Dutch word for lake, the Harlem Meer was originally designed to mark the former separate village of Harlem, and is now a great place for families to relax and enjoy nature. Come to catch a glimpse of wildlife, such as fish, turtles, and waterfowl. In addition to enjoying the landscape, families can also have fun with catch-and-release fishing, park-related tours and exhibits, and skating or swimming at Lasker Rink.

      East Side from 106th-110th Street, centralparknyc.org

    • Jamaica Bay Wildlife Refuge: West Pond
      Jamaica Bay Wildlife Refuge: West Pond

      Renowned as a prime birding spot, the 9,000-acre Jamaica Bay Wildlife refuge attracts thousands of land and shore birds who stop there during migration. In the last 25 years, over 330 species have been recorded at the refuge. The wide variety of bird species and the well-positioned benches around the trail at the 44-acre West Pond provide kids and families a remarkable place for bird watching.

      Broad Channel, Queens, 718-318-4340, nyharborparks.org

      Photo courtesy Jamaica Bay Wildlife Refuge

    • Jamaica Bay Wildlife Refuge: Big John's Pond
      Jamaica Bay Wildlife Refuge: Big John's Pond

      Big John’s Pond is significantly smaller than West Pond. However, the duck blind designed specifically for observing wildlife is a very popular place to bird watch around the pond. Another highlight of Big John’s Pond is the wooden nesting box, which barn owls call home in-season.

      Broad Channel, Queens, 718-318-4340, nyharborparks.org

      Photo Courtesy of Jamaica Bay Wildlife Refuge

    • New York Botanical Garden: Thain Family Forest
      New York Botanical Garden: Thain Family Forest

      The beauty of Thain Family Forest is part of the reason why the NYBG's founders selected the Garden's site back in 1895, and today, it's the largest uncut expanse of New York's original wooded landscape. When you visit this thousands-year-old forest, you'll see marks left by glaciers, walk along Native American hunting trails, and see trees that have been growing since the Revolutionary War!

      2900 Southern Boulevard, Bronx, 718-817-8700, nybg.org

      Photo Courtesy of New York Botanical Garden

    • New York Botanical Garden: Azaela Garden
      New York Botanical Garden: Azaela Garden

      The New York Botanical Garden's acres of flora make it a beautiful place to visit any time of year. However, in springtime, and especially around Mother's Day, the peak of the Azalea Garden is a truly beautiful sight. The pink, purple, and white Azalea blossoms combine to form a truly beautiful spring bouquet. Plus, be sure to visit NYBG on Mother's Day Weekend for a special celebration in a picturesque setting.

      2900 Southern Boulevard, Bronx, 718-817-8700, nybg.org

      Photo Courtesy of the New York Botanical Garden

    • Pelham Bay Park: Turtle Cove
      Pelham Bay Park: Turtle Cove

      Pelham Bay Park is New York's largest public park, and boasts miles of bridle paths and hiking trails, as well as the Bartow-Pell Mansion, two golf courses, and a saltwater shoreline that stretches 13 miles along the Long Island Sound. Pelham Bay Park is also home to a diverse array of plant and animal life.

      1 City Island Rd, Bronx, NY, nycgovparks.org

      Photo Courtesy of Pelham Bay Park (NYC Parks)

    • Pelham Bay Park: Twin Island
      Pelham Bay Park: Twin Island

      Located off of the northernmost section of Orchard Beach is Pelham Bay Park's Twin Island. A hike to the top provides beautiful views of the Long Island Sound. A quick loop around Twin Island makes for a nice jaunt for families with young children, (Check out the Kazimiroff Nature Trail on Hunter Island for a longer hike.) Plus, if you head out to the beach before Memorial Day weekend, you’ll skip the parking fees in the beach lot.

      Bronc County Line and Middletown Road, Bronx, nycgovparks.org

      Photo Courtesy of Pelham Bay Park

    • Prospect Park: The Ravine
      Prospect Park: The Ravine

      At the heart of Prospect Park, the ravine features beautiful foliage and calming streams. City kids will delight in the grandiose waterfall trails at the ravine, which has been the subject of restoration efforts since the mid-1990’s. This “natural wonder” is Brooklyn’s only forest!

      Walk east from 95 Prospect Park West, prospectpark.org

      Photo by Elizabeth Keegen Colley

    • Prospect Park: The Peninsula and the Lullwater
      Prospect Park: The Peninsula and the Lullwater

      The Peninsula overlooking Prospect Lake is a fantastic place for families to observe birds and ducks, as well as enjoy the restored, scenic views that are home to park wildlife. Along the north edge of the Peninsula, a footpath gracefully leads you under the Terrace bridge, along which the Lullwater proceeds.

      Nature thrives at the Lullwater, a 16.8-acre wetland in the heart of Brooklyn that leads from the Nethermead into the lake, which houses a variety of waterfowl and green heron. In winter, families can feed the many species of birds at the feeding stations along the trail that runs on both sides of the Lullwater.

      In the southern end of the park off of Well House Drive, prospectpark.org

      Photo by Virginia Freire

    • Staten Island Greenbelt: Moses Mountain
      Staten Island Greenbelt: Moses Mountain

      New York City families will be amazed by the tranquility of Staten Island Greenbelt, which consists of a contiguous series of forests, meadows, wetlands, ponds, and parks away from the city’s hustle and bustle. At the heart of the Greenbelt, Moses Mountain is a premier place for families and kids to enjoy the thrill of the nature. Moses Mountain hikers will be rewarded with panoramic views of the Greenbelt and New Jersey’s Atlantic Highlands.

    • Wave Hill: Wild Garden
      Wave Hill: Wild Garden

      Located at the highest point in Wave Hill, the Wild Garden provides dramatic views of the Hudson River far below and a narrow path for exploration. Along the path you’ll find a charming Gazebo with a scenic view--a perfect place for tired little ones to relax. “As a first stop, families will be happy to walk into the gardens and encounter the expansive views and run-around-in-circles exhilaration of Wave Hill’s Great Lawn,” says Martha Gellens, a staff member at Wave Hill.

      West 249th Street, Bronx,718-549-3200, wavehill.org

      Photo Courtesy of Wave Hill

    • Wave Hill: Herbert & Hyonja Abrons Woodland
      Wave Hill: Herbert & Hyonja Abrons Woodland

      The Woodland runs along the south and west edge of the property, and boasts a half-mile-long path that runs north to the Conifer Slope Wave Hill House. An insider tip: don't miss the beautiful blue "glory-of-the-snow" that blooms down the wood slope in April, or the wildflowers and ferns that come out in May.

      West 249th Street, Bronx,718-549-3200, wavehill.org

      Photo by Joshua Bright

    • The High Line
      The High Line

      An experience that integrates peaceful feelings of nature with stunning city views, the 1.45 mile-long railroad-turned-walkway was first opened to the public in 2009. Perfect for family outings, the High Line winds its way through Midtown Manhattan, allowing visitors to experience the beautiful gardens and various unique features along the way. Situated along the High Line route is the Gansevoort Woodland, the Sundeck and Water Feature, Chelsea Market Passage, Chelsea Grasslands, Seating Steps, Wildflower Field, and the Radical Bench. The site is open June 1-September 30 from 7am-8pm daily.

      Midtown, Manhattan, 212-500-6035

      Photo Courtesy of thehighline.org


    See More Related Articles

    • Current Issue

      Current Issue
    • New York Family Magazine
    • New York Family Guides

      New York Family Guides