Things To Do

The Very Best Kid-Friendly Places to Find Nature in New York City

You don’t have to leave New York to enjoy all of nature’s delights! 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 New York City with the family. Get out and start exploring!

Here some of the best green spaces to find nature in New York City!

Manhattan

Image result for the ramble central park

The Ramble

The Ramble is a 36-acre wild garden where you can walk around and discover forest gardens and get lost within the beautiful scenery. Nestled in Central Park, this was one of the first parks to be built and is surrounded by a thriving wildlife habitat. It is the center of birding activity within the Park with over 230 species spotted.

Neighborhood: In between Upper West Side & Upper East Side

Learn more: centralpark.com

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.

Neighborhood: Harlem

Learn more: centralparknyc.org

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.

Neighborhood: Harlem

Learn more: centralpark.org

The Highline

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, 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. 

Neighborhood: Lower West Side

Learn more: thehighline.org

Conservatory Garden

The conservatory garden is home to Central Park, sitting on 6 acres of land. This blooming garden is known as the “formal” garden to Central Park which has Italian, French, and English style characteristics. You can enter through the Parisian Vanderbilt gate on 104th and 105th Streets to experience these incredible scenes of nature.

Neighborhood: Upper East Side

Learn more: centralparknyc.org

Bosque Garden and Gardens of Remembrance at the Battery

If you are looking for a quick nature escape with just a subway away, visit the Bosque Garden and Gardens of Remembrance at the Battery. Get waterfront views, enjoy the peaceful gardens, and see the cannons that once fortified the walls of Castle Clinton. And, if you want to take the little kiddos to see the Statue of Liberty without the hassle of catching the ferry, this is the perfect place with a clear view from the park!

Neighborhood: Battery Park

Learn More: thebattery.org

Fort Tyron Park

Located above the Hudson River are acres of elm trees, healths, and heathers that are in full bloom during the summer and are still a sight to see during the winter. Escape to this nature nook of New York City that resembles the English countryside.

Neighborhood: Washington Heights

Learn more: nycgovparks.org

Image result for 91st street garden

91st Street Garden

Visit this nature scene that is home to hundreds of flowers, blooming roses of Sharon trees, giant hibiscus flowers, and monarch and swallowtail butterflies. This block has been carefully curated to create a peaceful atmosphere away from the bustling streets of New York City.

Neighborhood: Upper West Side

Learn more: nycgovparks.org

Greenacre Park

This urban park is the perfect cohabitation of nature and New York City. This tranquil hub is the perfect place for first-time visitors, New York natives, and families. Listen to the running water from the 25-foot-high waterfall and enjoy the sunny seating with views of the honey locust trees.

Neighborhood: Midtown

Learn more: greenacrepark.org

Lotus Garden

Located on the roof of a New York City parking garage, this 7,000 square-foot urban oasis is the perfect nature spot that you can be part of. Become a keyholder where you can have access to the garden 7 days a week and get the chance to use your “green thumb.” If you just want to take a peek and the blooming flowers, the garden is open to the public every Sunday afternoon until November.

Neighborhood: Upper West Side

Learn more: thelotusgarden.org

Image result for elizabeth street garden

Sixth Street and Avenue B Community Garden

Become a volunteer at the 6 & B Garden where you can be part of this delightful community that celebrates nature. Come down to this neighborhood garden to mingle and enjoy the sweet aroma of flowers. This community-centric garden hosts several events, so be sure to check them out on their website held the American Community Gardening Association.

Neighborhood: East Village

Learn more: communitygarden.org

Elizabeth Street Garden

Located between Prince and Spring Streets, this unique garden strives to create a more green space in this concrete dense area. Volunteer at this local garden and help make it a place where nature can thrive. As a volunteer, help preserve, renovate and keep this garden accessible to the public.

Neighborhood: Little Italy and SoHo

Learn more: elizabethstreetgarden.org

Image result for washington square park flowers

Washington Square Park

Take a stroll down 5th Avenue, through the iconic Washington Square Arch and into Washington Square Park. Here, there are daffodils, irises, crocuses, and more! Bring a picnic or enjoy a good game of Chess under the Dogwood Trees or under Cherry Blossoms and leaves this spring!

Neighborhood: Greenwich Village

Learn More: washingtonsquareparkconservancy.org

Brooklyn

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.

Neighborhood: Prospect Park

Learn more: prospectpark.org

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.

Neighborhood: Brooklyn Botanical Garden

Learn more: bbg.org

Image result for 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-1990s. This “natural wonder” is Brooklyn’s only forest!

Neighborhood: Between the neighborhoods of Park Slope, Prospect Heights, Prospect Lefferts Gardens, Flatbush, and Windsor Terrace

Learn more: prospectpark.org

Prospect Park: The Penninsula 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.

Neighborhood: Between the neighborhoods of Park Slope, Prospect Heights, Prospect Lefferts Gardens, Flatbush, and Windsor Terrace

Learn more: prospectpark.org

Narrows Botanical Garden

Take your floral nature escape to the Narrows Botanical Garden where there are a variety of flowers and trees. You’ll find weeping willows, roses, linden trees, and water lilies starting to bloom around the month of May.

Neighborhood: Bay Ridge

Learn more: narrowsbg.org

Image result for brooklyn bridge park

Brooklyn Bridge Park

Enjoy Spanish Bluebells and yellow wildflowers along the East River! With a number of piers and gardens, the Brooklyn Bridge Park (BBP) is the place to enjoy the outdoors this season. Whether you want to kick a soccer ball around with the family or wander down a few paths on your own nature expedition, the BBP will offer a breeze on hot days and warm sunshine of cool ones!

Neighborhood: DUMBO, Brooklyn

Learn More: brooklynbridgepark.org

Domino Park

Though there’s a volleyball court, playground, and fun fountain at the park’s southern top, Domino Park is a park that pays tribute to its industrial history. The refinery’s crane tracks various species of plants for the public to enjoy and, stretched along the East River, families can enjoy seasonal flowers and a light breeze off the water while playing a game of bocce or hide and seek on the grounds!

Neighborhood: Williamsburg, Brooklyn

Learn More: dominopark.com

Queens

Image result for jamaica bay wildlife refuge

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 this nature 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.

Neighborhood: Broad Channel

Learn more: nycaudubon.org

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 and nature 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.

Neighborhood: Broad Channel

Learn more: nycaudubon.org

Bronx

New York Botanical Garden: Thain Family Forrest

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!

Neighborhood: Fordham Heights

Learn more: nybg.org

Image result for new york botanical garden azalea

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.

Neighborhood: Fordham Heights

Learn more: nybg.org

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.

Neighborhood: Pelham Bay Park

Learn more: nycgovparks.org

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.

Neighborhood: Pelham Bay Park

Learn more: nycgovparks.org

Image result for 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.

Neighborhood: Hudson Hill

Learn more: wavehill.org

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.

Neighborhood: Hudson Hill

Learn more: wavehill.org

Bartow-Pell Mansion Museum

Take a walk back to the 17th century and see the foundations of the Bronx where Thomas Pell signed a treaty to purchase the borough we know today. Surrounding this historic landmark are several formal gardens where you can also enjoy the beautiful sights of nature.

Neighborhood: Pelham Bay Park

Learn more: bartowpellmansionmuseum.org

Staten Island

Image result for staten island greenbelt

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 nature. Moses Mountain hikers will be rewarded with panoramic views of the Greenbelt and New Jersey’s Atlantic Highlands.

Neighborhood: Egbertville

Learn more: sigreenbelt.org

Snug Harbor Cultural Center and Botanical Garden

Head over to Staten Island to see the expansive nature scene to experience the botanical gardens surrounded by cobblestone streets and paths of Victorian and Tudor homes. The most common attraction here is the Chinese’s Scholar Garden that is inspired by Buddhism, Confucianism, and Taoism with a bamboo forest path and Koi ponds.

Neighborhood: Snug Harbor

Learn more: snug-harbor.org

 

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *